Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus Aircraft is displaying the Spectre, a variant of its popular PC-12 NG single-engine turboprop reconfigured for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisance (ISR) missions, at the NBAA 2011 static display area ouside the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“We want to get the word out about its ISR capabilities to potential customers,” said Bryan Anderson, Pilatus’s senior manager of government programs. “We’ve talked to some people who said, ‘The PC-12 is too nice’ to serve as an ISR platform. But it’s also a workhorse.”
Anderson noted that in an era of declining budgets, the PC-12 NG Spectre is the best choice for agencies looking for cost-effective ISR solutions, particularly when measured against the cost of a twin-engine solution or the more limited capabilities of a non-pressurized single-engine turboprop.
The Spectre has two primary features that distinguish it from a standard PC-12 NG: an electro-optical sensor concealed in the tailcone that is lowered during ISR operations and an onboard operator’s station where the images can be monitored. The data can also be archived, and sent via datalink to ground stations in real time.
Pilatus began selling the Spectre in the 1990s, but sales have increased in recent years as the need for ISR platforms, and the Spectre’s suitability for the role, have been recognized.
Tom Aniello, the company’s vice president of marketing, said Pilatus has a goal of selling five to 10 Spectres per year and is on a mission of its own to boost those sales. “We’re shifting a lot more focus to the military and law enforcement markets,” he said.
Clients have included law enforcement agencies, customs and border patrol services, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Canada’s RCMP and other government entities, “some that we can’t name,” Aniello said.
Conklin & deDecker calculates the Spectre’s operating costs are less than $600 per hour. The aircraft’s high-speed cruise of 280 knots, loiter time in excess of eight hours and ability to operate on unimproved airstrips provides operators with great mission flexibilitiy, said Anderson, who, as a former U2 pilot, knows something about ISR platforms.
An additional operator’s station can be installed on the Spectre, and many customers install customized ISR equipment and communication gear after delivery. For the first nine months of this year, the mission-capable rate for the global Spectre fleet was more than 99 percent, Anderson said. Sold as an option on the stock PC-12 NG, the Spectre is priced at a little less than $500,000 more than the standard version.