Singapore Air Show

UTC Provides End-to-End Airborne Recce

 - February 12, 2014, 9:35 PM
Illustrating the long-range standoff capability of the DB-110, this image of Long Beach, California (left) was taken by an F-16 flying at 40,000 feet and 130 kilometers away.

A team from UTC Aerospace Systems (Chalet CD07) is here promoting the DB-110 dual-band airborne reconnaissance sensor, and talking of a multispectral upgrade to come. The podded sensor flies on the F-16s of nine air forces, on the new Saudi air force F-15s, and on Japan’s P-3s. It first entered service on the Tornado strike aircraft of the UK Royal Air Force, where it is named the Raptor system.

The DB-110 derives from a much larger system flown on the U.S. Air Force’s U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, which has already been upgraded to a seven-band configuration. Its unique design offers three different fields of view, allowing for long-range standoff missions as well as medium-range operations and direct overflight at low level. A generic recce interface allows today’s digital combat aircraft to recognize the DB-110 pod as a weapons store, thereby eliminating the need for a cockpit control panel–a boon for pilots of single-seat fighters flying busy, low-level missions.

But no airborne reconnaissance mission can be successful without good exploitation to turn imagery into actionable intelligence. UTC’s ISR Systems division, based in the UK, has been developing such systems for years, ever since the RAF first chose the Raptor. The latest version is named Merlin 2, and also includes an intelligence reference library. Planning, collection, processing, analysis and dissemination are all handled by Merlin 2, which is therefore a true “end-to-end” system. It can handle multiple types of imagery, for instance allowing analysts to correlate full-motion video (FMV) with electro-optical, infrared or radar-framing imagery. (In a recent trial in the U.S., the DB-110 was flown on a Reaper UAV–the best-known and most-used platform for FMV).

The DB-110 should be of interest to Asian air forces, including the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) here. AIN believes that the RSAF currently flies a pod on its F-16s that was provided by the Elop subsidiary of Elbit Systems. Of note, UTC is prepared to sell the Merlin 2 imagery exploitation system as a stand-alone product, independent of the DB-110.