The US Army has contracted MAG Aerospace and L3Harris Technologies to deliver two enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.
The aircraft will be based on the Bombardier Global 6500 business jet as part of the Army’s Theater-Level, High-Altitude Expeditionary Next Airborne ISR-Radar (ATHENA-R) program.
Bridging the gap between the army’s medium and high-altitude ISR aircraft fleet, the new platform will provide “greater endurance, more payload capacity, longer standoff ranges, and leading-edge sensor technology,” L3Harris explained.
To Replace SIGNIT Platforms
The multi-year program intends to replace the Beechcraft King Air RC 12X Guardrail Common Sensor and other signals intelligence aircraft.
Introduced in the 1980s, the Guardrail’s flight range is 2,075 miles (3,338 kilometers), with a ceiling of 32,800 feet (10,700 meters).
In comparison, the Global 6500 can fly for 5,984 miles (9,630 kilometers) and has a maximum altitude of 51,000 feet (15,545 meters).
“Foreign adversary air defenses continue to reach breakthrough ranges, target processing speeds, multi-frequency detection and high-fidelity radar tracking, a threat circumstance which continues to drive the US military services to continuously upgrade and refine high-altitude, long-range surveillance,” Center for Military Modernization president Kris Osborn wrote in Warrior Maven.
“Upgraded with high-resolution, long-range multi-functional sensors and radar systems,” Osborne said that the new aircraft “can now detect much smaller threat objects from farther distances with great image fidelity.”
The program has two variants: the Leidos-led ATHENA-S (signals) program, which derives intelligence from electronic signals and systems, whereas the radar-capable ATHENA-R (radar) is led by MAG.
The ATHENA-R will reportedly be equipped with a synthetic aperture radar and have an endurance of 18 hours.
“Current geopolitical circumstances dictate a need for an adaptable and resolute ISR solution that can adequately address near-peer threats and future contested environments, and we are prepared to execute,” MAG Aerospace CEO Joseph Reale said.