Beechcraft has a long history of providing special-mission platforms for military intelligence and security programs, reaching back to the late 1950s. Today this business remains highly important to the company, based largely on the King Air family that has become a popular choice of platforms for special-mission duties. Now the company is broadening its portfolio by offering the smaller and cheaper Baron G58 as an ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platform, and has already delivered the first example to a customer.
Beechcraft (Chalet, Static I, 500) launched the Baron ISR program at last year’s Farnborough Air Show and recently the company supplied an aircraft to the Fuerzas Unidas de Rápida Acción (FURA), an element of the Puerto Rico Police Department. The aircraft is being used for law enforcement surveillance missions, for which it is equipped with a FLIR Systems Star SAFIRE 230-HD electro-optical/infrared system in a nine-inch turret ball. The onboard operator console incorporates a mapping/mission management computer that provides a visual representation of the target location to the sensor operator. The console includes a recorder that provides court-admissible evidence. A multi-band communications radio system allows the operator to communicate directly with a variety of agencies on the ground or at sea, and a datalink is provided for relaying sensor imagery.
Having delivered the first aircraft, Beechcraft is preparing a Baron ISR demonstrator aircraft to begin marketing duties in the fourth quarter of this year. Beechcraft highlights the suitability of the Baron G58 for the ISR role due to its rugged airframe, large doors that easily allow the installation and removal of equipment, Garmin 1000 integrated avionics suite and all-weather capability with digital, four-color, vertical-profile weather radar. ISR mission equipment is available commercially, with correspondingly short lead-times. It can also be installed and integrated without any requirement for customized software.
Beechcraft, meanwhile, continues to promote the proven King Air and has brought its 350ER special-mission demonstrator to le Bourget as part of a year-long world sales tour. It is configured with a representative maritime patrol console, some airline-style seating and a fully functioning medical station with side-facing attendants’ couch.
Also on show here is another King Air 350ER, the fourth aircraft to be delivered to the French customs service. This aircraft has a Star Safire III HD, Thales Ocean Master 400 radar, IR/UV scanner and a Terma side-looking airborne radar.