Commuter Air Technology is developing an enhanced special missions derivative of the Raytheon Beech King Air 350 aimed at surveillance, maritime patrol, search and rescue, counter-terrorism and electronic reconnaissance roles.

The upgrades, which will be delivered to the first customer early next year, will be based on an enhancement package already offered as the Commuter Air Technology performance and safety systems (Catpass) 250 package. This improves the King Air 200's payload and performance through aerodynamic, structural and systems changes.

"Based on our studies of the King Air 200 [Catpass 250] we hope to get a 1,500lb [680kg] gross weight increase and an extra 188USgal [710 litres] in fuel," says international sales vice-president James Marett.

"On the 350 this should increase endurance from 5.2h to around 8.2h, and at low altitude this is more critical where we should see endurance of 5-6h at around 15,000ft [4,575m]." The 350 will be configured with up to four integrated console positions and seats for up to seven systems operators.

Israel Aircraft Industries subsidiary Elta Systems, which equipped a special mission-configured Catpass 250 for an undisclosed customer in 2002, is a "strategic" partner in the programme and a driving force behind the development of the enhanced capability Catpass 350. Typical special mission payloads include mari-time surveillance radars, infrared and electro-optical sensors and electronic surveillance systems. Marett says, pending completion of engineering analysis and design work and US export approval, "we hope by the end of the year to be building the first Catpass 350". Although the identity of the launch customer is being withheld, the company says Catpass 250and 350are being offered to the US government as low-cost solutions for homeland defence needs.

Source: Flight International