Lockheed Martin may exhibit its newly certificated Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory (AML) at the Dubai air show in November, with the modified Gulfstream III business jet having recently completed its first exercise in support of the US Army.
Intended to serve as a testbed for emerging sensors and data processing techniques, the experimental aircraft represents a $20 million investment for Lockheed, which acquired and modified the aircraft within a six-month period.
Speaking at the DSEi show in London on 8 September, Charles Gulledge, programme manager strategic programmes for Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services, said the AML technology has already attracted interest from several potential customers. Other candidate airframes for the company's "multi-int" system include the Gulfstream G550 and a transport "in the [Airbus Military] C-295-class", he says. The latter would be equipped with palletised mission equipment.
© Lockheed Martin
Lockheed has modified the GIII with a "strong back" mounting in a "canoe" fairing beneath its fuselage, with this now carrying a synthetic aperture radar and an electro-optical/infrared sensor. Other systems integrated with the aircraft enable it to perform communications, electronic and signals intelligence tasks. "The intent is to rotate sensors as necessary to answer specific requirements", it adds.
The current aircraft has on-board processing equipment, four operator workstations and two observer seats, but Lockheed says its drive is to increase system automation for an operational standard. The configuration includes tactical radios, datalink and satellite communications to enable data to be transmitted to the ground.
Lockheed received an experimental airworthiness certificate last month from the US Federal Aviation Administration, enabling the AML to participate in the US Army's "On-the-Move" exercise at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Gulledge says the platform used its SIGINT equipment to detect activity for inspection using its EO/IR sensor during the manoeuvres.
"We have offered customers the opportunity to work with us on the AML, to develop how they would use an aircraft like this," Gulledge says. "Now we can leverage a flying platform to show them that investment into multi-int is going to pay off."
The company also hopes to demonstrate the asset to undisclosed European nations if it commits to deploying the aircraft for the Dubai show, he adds.
Lockheed also believes that the current AML design could meet near-term requirements for military users. "You could take this model and fill an operational need quickly," says Gulledge. "It's a capability that we could bring to market very quickly."