Localized and distributed guided ultrasonic wave array systems allow for the efficient structural health monitoring of large structures, such as aircraft, ship hulls, or oil storage tanks. Permanently attached sensor arrays have been applied for the detection of corrosion and fatigue damage. A hybrid model has been developed for the efficient prediction of the sensitivity of guided waves array systems to detect through thickness and part-through fatigue cracks at different locations in plate structures. Using a point transmitter and receiver model for the wave propagation along the structure, the distances between sensor elements and potential defect locations are taken into account. The influence of the orientation of the crack relative to the transducer elements has been predicted from localized 3D Finite Element simulations. The directivity pattern of the scattered guided wave field has been shown to depend on the defect orientation and on the ratio of the characteristic defect size and depth to wavelength, and has been verified from experimental measurements. Good agreement was found and the localized amplitude and directivity patterns provide the basis for the quantification of the detection sensitivity for fatigue cracks. Using a hybrid model, the relative amplitudes of received pulses for different sensor array layouts can be calculated. From a comparison with the signal to noise ratio of the array system, detection capabilities can be predicted for various defect sizes and orientation. This provides a rapid tool for the development and optimization of guided wave array SHM systems.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.