Boeing and the U.S. Army completed the first flight of an enhanced medium-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance system (Emarss) aircraft in late May. The modified Beechcraft King Air 350ER is the first of four Emarss engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) aircraft that Boeing is developing for the Army.
The twin turboprop flew for more than four hours from the Beechcraft facility in Wichita, Kansas, on May 22. The flight tested aerodynamic handling qualities, aircraft systems and autopilot functions and was a “key event” leading to limited user tests and a Milestone C low-rate initial production (LRIP) decision, Boeing said. The Army’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget submission contains $142 million to procure four LRIP aircraft and convert the four EMD aircraft to production standard. The service seeks another two LRIP aircraft in Fiscal Year 2015.
Emarss is a “multi-int” platform designed to detect, identify and geolocate surface targets. The aircraft is equipped with a retractable electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor ball with full motion video, a communications intelligence (Comint) collection system, aerial precision geolocation system, line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight communications suite, two distributed common ground system-army (DCGS-A) operator workstations and a self-protection suite. Last October, Boeing flew a “risk-reduction prototype” to test the effects of added fairings for sensors on the aircraft’s aerodynamics.
The Army awarded Boeing a contract to produce four EMD systems in November 2010. Work was stopped two months later after losing contractors L-3 and Northrop Grumman filed protests with the Government Accountability Office, which later dismissed the protests. The army plans to assign Emarss aircraft to aerial exploitation battalions operated by its Intelligence and Security Command.