Lockheed Martin has identified a possible new business modelin the global market for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)aircraft: leasing platforms that carry reconfigurable suites ofmulti-intelligence payloads.
The strategy is based on Lockheed’s airbornemulti-intelligence laboratory, a company-owned Gulfstream III (G-III) modifiedto carry three sensors – electro-optical/infrared cameras, low- and high-bandsignals receivers and a synthetic aperture radar – and an on-board processingsystem.
Lockheed officials previously advertised the aircraft assimply a testbed. US and foreign militaries could pay Lockheed to experimentwith unfamiliar techniques, such as using the signals intelligence system tocue the camera onto a potential target.
But Lockheed also now sees the platform possibly ushering avery different kind of business model for a traditional defence contractor.
“We are also investigating the possibility of offering theAML as an ISR platform that customers can lease to meet their ISR needs,” JimQuinn, a Lockheed vice president. “We would reconfigure the aircraft to meetthe customer’s specific requirements, then lease the aircraft for a period oftime to that customer.”
Quinn also said the system could be installed on differentplatforms, ranging at the high end from Gulfstream 550s and Bombardier Q400wwith roughly 9,070kg (20,000lb) payload capacity to Hawker Beechcraft King Air350s with roughly 900kg payloads.
The strategy could expand Lockheed’s original concept beyondthe laboratory stage and into the operational arena. Several small
Lockheed plans to partner with such companies to brokeraircraft for the leasing deals, taking advantage of their lower overhead andexisting relationships, Quinn said. In turn, Lockheed would provide themulti-intelligence suites and perform the integration on the aircraft, headded.
Platforms carrying multiple intelligence payloads that cancross-referenced in real-time by on-board processing equipment and specialistsremains an operational novelty.
The US Army signed a $2 billion deal in 2004 toacquire the Aerial Common Sensor (ACS), but the contract with Lockheed wasterminated two years later after the multi-intelligence sensor payload outgrewthe capacity of the selected platform, a modified Embraer ERJ-145.