Boeing's enhanced medium altitude reconnaissance and surveillance system (EMARSS), a heavily modified Beechcraft King Air 350ER, has conducted its first flight.
The flight, from Beechcraft's facility in Wichita, Kansas, lasted 4h and checked various systems, not including the sophisticated sensor suite.
Boeing is building four aircraft, as part of engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) testing, which will later be delivered to the US Army to partly fulfil its 12-strong order.
EMARSS was designed to replace the Beechcraft 200-derived RC-12 signals intelligence aircraft, which have been heavily used in Afghanistan and elsewhere to monitor communications. The programme has been curtailed and will now serve as only a partial replacement. The aircraft is equipped with full-motion video, Wide Area Surveillance System (WASS) and a direct feed into the army's Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS).
The King Air 350ER is the platform of choice for manned US intelligence-gathering, carrying a variety of sensors and tasked with many roles in programmes such as Javaman, BUDDLIGHT and many others.
The army did not respond to questions.