Lockheed envisions leasing spy plane fleet worldwide

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 video

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 US companiesalready operate in this space, including Avenge Inc. and Dynamic AviationServices. These firms lease King Airs and Cessna caravans and private crews toUS military and intelligence agencies in Afghanistanand Iraq.

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.


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5 Responses to Lockheed envisions leasing spy plane fleet worldwide

  1. Tim D-T 15 October, 2009 at 5:12 am #

    Stories like that make the ITAR hairs on the back of my neck stand up!

    And Stephen, can we use “reconnaissance aircraft” or similar in such story headlines in an industry blog? Using overdone terms like “spy plane” is something I’d expect from USA Today or Newsweek . . .

  2. Stephen Trimble 15 October, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    Tim, Absolutely not! ‘Reconnaissance aircraft’ is for my stuffy pals at Aviation Week. Flight calls ‘em spy planes (at least in headlines), and that’s what they are.

  3. airplanejim 15 October, 2009 at 7:08 pm #

    A rose by any other name………………..

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  5. Alarms and Detectors 23 September, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    Where would be the best Place how to hide a spy camera in a Motorbike? Please!Where going on a 1999 Harley Davidson,Heratige softail custom may a evil,vindictive,jerk, x boyfriend stalker,disguise a spy camera and also i dont acknowledge went its attatched or not but i hear his voice trying how to scare me approaching out of behind the windshield.My hearing is off foom working on a gadget look,I’m never CRAZY either.

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