Recent Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Retrofits

by Matthew Beres, Airborne Retrofit & Modernization Analyst, Forecast International.

Special Mission King Air 350ER. Source: Textron Aviation

GDC Middle East was recently awarded a contract by Sierra Nevada Corporation to upgrade two King Air 350 aircraft to Special Mission (ISR) aircraft. The two King Air 350s will receive radar, secure communications, datalinks, and optical sensors as part of the upgrade. Further modifications will be made to the aircrafts’ cabins, wiring harnesses, and cockpits.

In other news, a number of airliners are already being line-fitted or retrofitted for ISR capabilities, including the 737, 767, A330, and ATR.  Lighter platforms, such as the Falcon 2000, are now being used for ISR missions. For this capability, Dassault offers the 2000 MRA (Maritime Multi-role Aircraft), which is equipped for various missions, such as maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, aerial photography, and electronic warfare. In 2017, Japan ordered its third and fourth Falcon 2000 MSAs, while a South Korean Falcon 2000 SIGINT has been observed flying from Seongnam Air Force Base.

Elsewhere, the Argentine Air Force has modified a Learjet 35A with a Thales Vigile electronic support system, antennas on the aircraft’s wingtips, and a radome on the tail. L3 and Phoenix Air have offered Learjets modified with electronic warfare capabilities for threat simulation training.

For nations that cannot afford an ISR retrofitted airliner, lighter aircraft such as the King Air 350, Falcon 2000, or Learjet may provide an attractive option. It is certain that as ISR and electronic warfare capabilities become more advanced – and more widely utilized – the market for retrofit conversions will continue to grow.

Forecast International’s Airborne Retrofit & Modernization Forecast provides operators in the military and commercial aviation sectors with the information they need to maximize their current investments rather than expand their fleets, a trend that is opening up multiple opportunities for the expansion of retrofit and modernization programs. It offers a one-stop service for tracking the status of commercial and military R&M programs in progress worldwide, and pinpoints key developments in the aviation industry that will impact the market in the future.