The US Army may soon be in the market for 50 fixed-wing surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, worth $2 billion, to be fielded between 2006 and 2010. It also wants to acquire replacement short and medium range transports.
The Airborne Common Sensor (ACS) aircraft would replace 51 ageing Raytheon RC-12 Guardrail, seven de Havilland RC-7B Airborne Reconnaissance Low turboprops and three RC-12G Crazy Horse surveillance aircraft.
More will be known about the ACS procurement when the operational requirements document is finalised, possibly by the end of this year. The US Army says a study is under way to determine how many turboprop or turbofan powered ACS aircraft will be acquired. The mission packages will determine payload and aircraft performance parameters.
European tactical turboprop transport manufacturers, including CASA with the new C295 (above) and CN235, are awaiting the ACS request for proposals. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin Alenia Tactical Transport Systems hopes to justify a C-27J assembly line in North America with a sale of up to 80 aircraft to the US Army and Army National Guard for the ACS mission and as a Shorts C-23A Sherpa replacement.
Meanwhile, the US Army has 19 aircraft on the auction block, including all three of its Bombardier C-21 Learjets. On an interim basis, the service may trade surplus Raytheon C-12s for additional RC-7Bs. In July, the US Army lost an RC-7B in southern Colombia on an anti-narcotics mission. Nearly 125 short-range C-12 King Airs remain in service with the US Army and reserve forces, but they will begin to be retired in 2010, and replaced.
The US Army fields 17 medium-range Cessna UC-35 Citation V Ultras and will acquire five more this year. The service hopes to buy up to 67 and a study is under way to determine whether the UC-35 should take over short-range transport missions. There is no longer a plan to acquire a multi-mission medium tactical transport for medical evacuation, intelligence gathering and intra-theatre cargo transport.
The service also operates three C-20 Gulfstreams and the Army will take possession of a C-37 Gulfstream V in November.
Source: Flight International