Lockheed Martin Offers ISR Dragons With Different Scales

 - July 9, 2012, 2:40 PM
The Dragon Star Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory aboard a Lockheed Martin-converted Gulfstream GIII is now working for the Italian air force.

The pressure on government spending is forcing even the defense industrial giants to adapt. One example is Lockheed Martin’s IS&GS division, which is promoting a supermarket-style choice of intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) products and services, with trademarked branding to match.

The U.S.-based group has named the core offer Net Dragon. It consists of a contractor-owned, contractor-operated (CoCo) model that pitches Lockheed Martin (LM) into a market that has traditionally been serviced by smaller, specialist outfits. Customers can choose from various Dragon options according to their requirements, and quickly field an affordable ISR capability.

“Security budgets are decreasing, yet the demand for ISR remains constant,” said Jim Quinn, vice president of C4ISR Systems for IS&GS. “We can provide the ISR capability that customers need without them having to incur the expense of owning the assets.”

For instance, the Dragon Star Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory (AML) that was displayed here at the Farnborough International Airshow two years ago, has recently gone under contract to the Italian air force, which is using it to develop ISR concepts of operations and validate future requirements. The Italians are also using another branded offer from IS&GS called Dragon’s Den. This is the ground station component, which comes in various configurations from a single computer workstation up to a trailer-like shelter. LM is providing the flight crew and maintenance personnel for both the aircraft and three intelligence-processing systems.

LM’s Italian contract lasts for one year, with an option to extend to two years. The AML–a converted Gulfstream GIII business jet–is fitted with equipment from Flir Government Systems, Rockwell Collins, DRS and L-3 Communications. “With its open architecture and configurable exterior, the Italian air force can integrate additional C4ISR software and hardware in a matter of hours rather than days,” said LM.

The Dragon Star concept extends to smaller platforms, such as Dash 8 or King Air twin-turboprops. LM says any of these types of aircraft can be equipped with a variety of sensor combinations and multiple communication systems configured for a particular mission. According to Mark Gablin, director of the airborne reconnaissance systems division at IS&GS, the company is completely sensor agnostic. “We have designed a very agile service architecture…a ‘hardback’ to which you can plug and play,” he explained.

Gablin told AIN that IS&GS expects to bid for a contract from the European Union’s Frontex program, which will be a CoCo operation. The company will team with Diamond Aircraft of Austria, with which it demonstrated a DA42 light twin equipped with a Selex Galileo radar to the EU last year.

The Dragon Shield concept adds palletized or containerized ISR installations that can be added or removed from aircraft according to requirements. For instance, LM designed a roll-on, roll-off signals intelligence (Sigint) package for the Airbus Military C295 aircraft operated by the Finnish air force. This follows the company’s earlier experience in designing the Senior Scout Sigint pallets for U.S. Air Force C-130 airlifters.

Dragon Stare covers the addition of (typically) electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) video systems into aircraft or into pods attached to their exterior. But it also includes radars such as LM’s own AN/APY-12.

Separately, Dragon Scout is a multi-sensor configuration for customers with enduring requirements and large geographical areas of interest. This concept has not yet been converted into hardware. Gablin told AIN that the new Gulfstream 650 jet is the favored platform.

Phoenix Eye Radar Expertise

Although Lockheed Martin says the Dragon series of ISR offerings is sensor-agnostic, the company does have significant in-house capability. This includes a reconnaissance radar business in Phoenix, Arizona, that is currently marketing a multimode system called Phoenix Eye, also designated AN/APY-12. The radar is cleared for export to countries that include Italy, Korea, Sweden and Taiwan.

The Arizona facility traces its heritage to the original development of imaging synthetic aperture radar (SAR) by Goodyear in the early 1950s, and to the system that was designed for the SR-71 Blackbird. The company has developed more than 500 SARs that have been installed on 30 different aircraft. Today, it produces SARs in three frequency bands, and has annual sales of more than $50 million.

Phoenix Eye is an X-band sensor that derives from the system that was fitted to the Hawker 800 reconnaissance jets that were sold to the Republic of Korea Air Force some years ago. Phoenix Eye offers three SAR modes plus two GMTI (ground moving target indicator) modes. One of these is a wide area moving target indicator (WAMTI) that can scan thousands of square miles and overlay the MTI onto a map in less than a minute, according to LM.

Phoenix Eye has been repackaged as a smaller system “because today’s customers are asking for multi-intelligence capability so we need to save space,“ according to Robert Robinson, LM’s senior manager for tactical reconnaissance systems.

Robinson told AIN that the company can adapt the sensor’s aperture and power requirements to the customer’s specification, while retaining the core digital receiver/exciter and processor. Phoenix Eye has been demonstrated on pods fitted to an F-15 and an F-16, and sold to the U.S. Army for the Airborne Reconnaissance Low-Multifunction (ARL-M) program. This is a surveillance adaptation of the Bombardier Dash 8 airliner that serves in Korea.

LM’s sensor replaced a similar one supplied by Raytheon because it offered, “much improved resolution and far greater range. The GMTI is the best-in-class for its price,” Robinson claimed. The radar data is processed onboard, including the GTMI, then data-linked to ground stations. LM was able to adapt its sensor to the existing aperture on the ARL-M, and phase it in over four years, Robinson noted.

Tracer is a low-frequency SAR that LM began developing within the foliage penetration (FOPEN) research effort sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). Operating in VHF or UHF bands, it overcomes the obscuration that hampers the detection of camouflaged targets in X-band. The sensor was further developed as an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator (ACTD), and has since been fitted to the Ikonos, a version of the MQ-1 Predator that is operated by NASA.

LM has also developed a Ku-band radar at Phoenix, but that is for a potential classified application.