Mission aircraft – not just for tackling smugglers

Mission aircraft are becoming a key tool for enforcing a country’s‫ ‬sovereignty in the defined space inside its borders. As a result, this releases budgets that in the past would not have been available.

Countries want to monitor their borders efficiently, not only to detect intrusions but also to detect more sophisticated threats.

Latin America has emerged as a region with a big demand for such tools -  namely mission aircraft.

Brazil and Chile are two of the most promising markets for Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) mission aircraft.

The company is negotiating with a number of other countries in the region. A company source said potential clients understand that compact platforms like the Gulfstream G-550 – packed with AEW Elint and Comint sensors – are the right solution.

The mission platforms, the source said, will be mostly unmanned in the future, but in the meantime business aircraft-sized platforms are on the top demand list.

Last year, IAI subsidiary Elta – which is converting such platforms to mission aircraft – delivered an additional compact intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to a Latin American customer. Several such ISR aircraft, designated ELI-3120, are in service with customers worldwide. Those contracts amount to approximately $100 million.

This ISR aircraft is equipped with systems that support law enforcement’s mission to prevent drug production and smuggling as well as tackling contraband weapons, illegal logging, deforestation, illegal mining, border crossing, river contamination and more. This is of course a partial list – but a very “politically correct” one.

According to Elta, a manned ISR aircraft is a preferred solution in areas with air traffic control limitations that may affect unmanned aerial systems’ operations.

The delivered compact ISR aircraft is based on a Beechcraft B-350 platform equipped with IAI-ELTA’s Communication Intelligence (COMINT) system, a microwave data-link for real-time communication with a command and control center and IAI/Tamam Division’s MOSP stabilised day/night electro-optic sensors.

The ELI-3120 is modular and allows the addition of systems such as airborne maritime surveillance radar, an SAR system for imagery intelligence missions, satellite communications for long-range missions and more.

Brazil and Chile seem to be interested in larger platforms, but other countries in the region may go for the smaller ones. Anyhow, the potential seems to be very big.

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