A range of modernisation projects – to include a potential re-engining and avionics upgrades – are under discussion with the US Army to preserve the life of the two aircraft types now tasked with collecting battlefield intelligence.

The army had planned to start fielding the Lockheed Martin Aerial Common Sensor in 2010. Retirements would have soon followed for both the de Havilland Canada RC-7 Aerial Reconnaissance Low (ARL) and Beech RC-12 Guardrail, but they are now required to be in service for another six years.

The focus of the upgrade activity is on the Northrop Grumman Guardrail Common Sensor system, which combines communications and electronic intelligence on the same payload, and which was initially deployed to South Korea in 1988. A re-engining programme to extend the range of the RC-12 and boost its time on station is being seriously considered within the army.

“There is an ongoing effort to look at what things can be done to improve the platform itself in terms of endurance,” says Edward Bair, programme executive officer of intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors.

The army has also been investing in quick-reaction technology insertions prompted by the needs of army intelligence in combat theatres, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Bair says those quick-reaction insertions will be continued. Another part of that effort is a new programme to begin standardising the sensor payloads across the Guardrail fleet, so that the technologies gained from the quick reaction insertions will be spread across the fleet.

Source: Flight International