A US Army requirement for an Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) aircraft could be met with a mix of long-range/high-endurance fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). ACS will combine the capabilities of three aircraft types into one or more platforms, offering corps-level airborne intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition capabilities.

Maj Gen David Gust, the US Army's programme executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, says the US Army has established a requirement for 40 surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, worth about $2 billion, which will enter service from 2007.

Gust expects Boeing, Lockheed Martin, a Raytheon/SAIC/Motorola team and a TRW/Northrop Grumman team to respond to an ACS draft request for proposals to be issued shortly.

While allowing the bidders to define their ACS systems, including the aircraft, payload and ground station components, Gust believes the replacement airborne platform will have to operate routinely above 20,000ft (6,060m) and have much greater endurance than the fixed-wing turboprops which are being replaced.

Gust says procurement of piloted and unmanned aircraft is feasible. He says a long-endurance UAV outfitted with electro-optical/infrared sensors or a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) might perform some of the ACS missions.

An initial 12-month ACS concept exploration study phase will involve modelling and simulation by up to three bidders.

The ACS winner will replace Raytheon RC-12 Guardrail, de Havilland RC-7B Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) and RC-12G Crazy Horse surveillance aircraft.

Potential candidates are the Lockheed Martin/Alenia C-27J, the CASA CN235 and C295, and the de Havilland Dash 8.Turbofan-powered platforms could include the Gulfstream V, Boeing Business Jet and Raytheon Hawker Horizon. Suitable UAVs would include the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk.

Source: Flight International