American aerospace firm Sierra Nevada announced Tuesday that it is investing more than $200 million to produce two prototypes of its RAPCON-X intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.
The announcement comes as the US Army continues to search for a replacement for its aging fleet of Beechcraft RC-12 Guardrail signals intelligence collection aircraft.
According to a report by Breaking Defense, the service is still evaluating whether or not to proceed with its High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES) aircraft program as its next fixed-wing ISR plane.
Sierra Nevada senior official Tim Harper said the company intends to be ready with its solution if the US Army decides to proceed with the initiative.
He further revealed that the Nevada-based company had already started working on its RAPCON-X ISR aircraft a year ago in a push to build “something that the Army and the DoD (US Department of Defense) need before they need it.”
“The way we designed it is going to be rapidly configurable,” Harper stressed. “Instead of being tied down to a specific system, and then the Army changes something… and they’ve got to come back and it takes a year or so to redesign it, we can get in and change it on the fly.”
Modified Global 6500 Commercial Jet
The RAPCON-X ISR aircraft is based on Bombardier’s Global 6500 business jet.
Two Global 6500s will be modified to accommodate a radar and signals intelligence package needed for ISR operations.
Sierra Nevada executive vice president Tim Owings said that the company has already ordered parts and long lead items to begin the prototyping phase.
The first Global 6500 business jet will be delivered to the American firm later this year, with initial flight tests slated to begin next summer.
Sierra Nevada said the RAPCON-X will have an open architecture for future integration of cutting-edge technologies.