Hawker Beechcraft is displaying for the first time the latest addition to the company’s customer demonstration fleet, a King Air 350ER configured to highlight the type’s adaptability to a variety of special missions. Appropriately, the aircraft carries the registration N1459, corresponding to the number of special mission turboprops that had been sold by this spring.
“This aircraft represents our commitment to the worldwide special-mission market,” said Jay Gibson, recently appointed as HBC’s v-p special missions. “The unique configuration is designed to showcase the outstanding flexibility and versatility of the King Air 350ER.”
N1459 has four specific equipment sets installed–two externally and two internally–all of which are FAA-certified and available from the factory. The external equipment includes a belly-mounted radome for digital search radars, which can be optimized for either maritime or overland use, and a lift platform for carrying electro-optical/infrared sensor turrets, such as the Star Safire HD or MX-15. This platform allows the turret to be retracted to minimize drag during transits to and from the operational area.
Internally, the demonstrator has a troop-carrying fit on the port side, with five Aviation Fabricators seats to demonstrate the full 11-seat configuration. The interior can be rapidly reconfigured for other uses. Among those tasks could be aeromedical evacuation, for which the starboard side of the demonstrator’s cabin is outfitted with two Spectrum Aeromed medical sleds and a medical cabinet.
After its appearance in Paris, the demonstrator will embark on a sales tour around Europe, Africa and Latin America. Hawker Beechcraft has achieved significant sales in the special-mission sector with the King Air 350ER, and demand continues to grow.
A number of contractors offer intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment fits based on the aircraft, which itself has increased fuel that allows a California-Hawaii sector to be flown. ISR-configured King Air 350ERs are in use with the Iraqi air force, and the type is the platform for the similar MC-12W Project Liberty aircraft, outfitted by L-3 Communications for the U.S. Air Force.
L-3 is one of four contractors–along with Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin/Sierra Nevada–vying for a major contract from the U.S. Army. The Emarss (enhanced medium altitude reconnaissance and surveillance system) program aims to provide around 36 ISR aircraft, originally intended to enter service in Afghanistan next year. Boeing was announced as the winner last November, but the losing bidders protested and a new award will be made. Whichever systems contractor is chosen, Hawker Beechcraft will provide the King Air 350ER as the platform.
As special-mission King Airs proliferate, Hawker Beechcraft is expanding its customer-support organization. The company has established a service center in Baghdad to support the Iraqi air force’s six King Airs, as well as to provide a base from which to support T-6/AT-6 Texan international customers in the future.
The company recently was awarded a follow-on contract for training as part of its contractor logistic support (CLS) provision role for the Iraqi air force’s Peace Dragon aircraft (five configured for ISR, plus one for light transport). In addition to its maintenance support, HBC will provide three technicians and two instructors at New Al-Muthana air base to train Iraqi air force personnel. The Peace Dragon fleet typically flies six sorties each day, and has racked up some 2,750 hours in more than 1,200 sorties since HBC’s CLS role began in July last year.