Hawker Beechcraft is evaluating whether the long-serving but still popular Baron 58 piston twin could be adapted for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Jay Gibson, vice president of special mission aircraft, told the Airborne ISR conference organized by Defence IQ in London last week that “we may develop and demonstrate a ‘light ISR’ configuration that could be an attractive platform to new customers.” The Baron would complement the company’s larger King Air twin turboprop, which is widely employed as an ISR platform. The recip would offer up to seven hours’ endurance, compared with up to 12 hours for the King Air 350ER.
Gibson noted that technology is developing in the company’s favor, as the size, weight and power requirements for airborne sensors and datalinks continue to shrink. “The King Air 350 is doing missions that previously required a 737-size platform. The King Air 250 could be a future candidate, as well as the Baron and the 900XP. We’re bullish on the future of manned ISR, and we think that the big market will be international,” he added. The company recently has developed an additional, 400-amp power kit for the King Air, and it expects it to be certified by the end of this month.
Gibson confirmed that Hawker Beechcraft will continue to work with systems integrators to adapt the company’s airplanes for ISR missions. Although Hawker Beechcraft was prime contractor for the supply of six King Air 350s to the Iraqi Air Force, the work to adapt most King Airs for ISR missions has been done by other primes, such as L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. “We focus on making airplanes. We assist in the installation of systems, but we’re sensor agnostic,” Gibson added.
Hawker Beechcraft is also hoping to sell more Hawker 800/900XP business jets for special missions. Japan and Korea previously acquired 800s for maritime patrol/SAR and ISR duties, respectively. Gibson said that multiple customers have expressed interest in the 900 for use in maritime surveillance and air ambulance roles.