Dubai Air Show

LM intelligence lab is airborne

 - November 12, 2009, 8:03 PM

Lockheed Martin is showing off its Airborne Multi-intelligence Laboratory (AML) here at the Dubai Airshow as part of its campaign to offer the aircraft’s unique talents to a variety of users, both in the U.S. and overseas. In August, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued the OEM an experimental airworthiness certificate for its AML, based on a Gulfstream III business jet.

Today’s battlespace is dominated by an increasing number of sensors as the military strives for more time-sensitive data, higher quality information and quicker dissemination of actionable intelligence. Fusing the data from various sensors is seen as a key driver to future development in the world of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR). Just as important is the need to evaluate processing techniques, and the means by which fused intelligence is distributed to the end-users.

While modern systems offer significant enhancements in the field of intelligence, development can take time. Lockheed Martin has spotted the need for platforms that can take so-called multi-intelligence capabilities into real-world exercises and scenarios, so that performance can be evaluated and operating concepts developed in a fraction of the time taken by traditional methods. Building on a fixed-site multi-int laboratory, the company has produced a transit case system and an instrumented Humvee vehicle. Now Lockheed Martin has introduced an airborne laboratory.

Conversion of the Gulfstream III to AML configuration took around six months and involved stripping out the cabin to fit four operator consoles and two seats for observers. The consoles can be removed or installed in less than 30 minutes, allowing the AML to be rapidly tailored for new missions.

The two companies that form the Ikhana Group modified the airframe. Total Aircraft Services Inc. was the prime contractor, developing the engineering data package and providing the certification oversight. RW Martin Inc. built the parts and modified the aircraft in their plant at Murrieta, California. 

Under the forward belly of the AML is a strongback attachment to which a radar sensor can be attached, housed in a detachable dielectric fairing. The flying laboratory is also fitted with signals intelligence-gathering equipment and an electro-optical/infrared turret. A full suite of communications is installed, including tactical datalink and satellite communications.

Onboard computer capability supports a variety of commercial operating systems. The AML permits analysis and processing to be performed both on the aircraft and by ground stations.

AML’s open architecture allows it to be configured rapidly in a short space of time. It can be used in a variety of functions, from demonstration of the benefits of generic multi-int as a concept, to detailed evaluation of multi-sensor systems and individual components within a system. Taking systems into exercises and live scenarios allows technicians to evaluate how these systems perform in the real world. The flying laboratory has already taken part in a number of trials, including the U.S. Army’s C4ISR On-the-Move exercise at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Research into new techniques and processes can be undertaken with AML, greatly reducing the time taken to mature them to the point of operational employment. The AML also allows researchers to study the optimum ways in which disparate information from various sensor types can be correlated into single, actionable “nuggets” of useful knowledge.

Lockheed Martin (Stand E450) is exploring other possible applications for the AML concept, including other business jet types such as the Gulfstream G550 and a roll-on, roll-off palletized version for carriage by a transport aircraft such as the EADS-CASA C-295.