L-3 Offers Multi-sensor King Air 350 for Export

 - July 25, 2011, 5:00 AM

L-3 Communications has unveiled another ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) conversion of the Hawker Beechcraft King Air series, which will be available for export with a contractor-operated option.

The Spydr demonstrator aircraft made its debut at the Royal International Air Tatoo (RIAT) at Fairford in the UK in mid-July. The name is derived from the Spiderworks quick-reaction team at L-3’s Mission Integration Division (MID). Under Project Liberty, the Spiderworks developed and delivered 37 King Air 350ERs (designated MC-12Ws) to the U.S. Air Force from 2008 to 2010. Compared with the MC-12W, which features full-motion video (FMV) and Sigint systems, the Spydr can additionally include a second FMV and a surveillance radar.

The Spydr  demonstrator shown at RIAT will return to the U.S. to have the second Wescam MX-15Di FMV sensor ball installed in an extended nose. L-3 MID will also add the Selex-Galileo PicoSAR AESA radar (a high-resolution, synthetic-aperture, active, electronically scanned-array radar). The Sigint suite is named Rio and was designed by L-3 MID itself, using its experience with the RC-135 Rivet Joint system. The tactical, common, data link (TCDL) is also an in-house product, from L-3 Communications West, but the Ka- or Ku-band satcom system is provided by ViaSat. L-3 MID’s tactical, video-exploitation suite (TVES) is also included.

“The Project Liberty aircraft have succeeded because their FMV systems can be cued by their Sigint systems,” an L-3 official told AIN. “By adding a radar, the different phenomenology helps to detect more targets,” he added. [According to the Concise Dictionary of Physics, phenomenology expresses mathematically the results of observed phenomena without paying detailed attention to their fundamental significance.]

L-3 says Spydr’s modular environment enabled swift and uncomplicated integration of alternative sensors. These might include wide-area and hyperspectral imaging systems. L-3 MID is already talking to one prospective customer that would prefer to use a Zeiss EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared) system and a Telephonics radar. L-3 also told AIN that because the Spydr is platform-independent, the Bombardier Dash 8 twin turboprop would be an alternative candidate airframe.