LOCKHEED MARTIN spoke to Tangent Link at Dubai Air Show in late November about its Dragon Scout Gulfstream III currently being leased by the Italian Air Force as a high speed ISR platform. According to LM’s BD Principal, Wes Clark: “they have been using a Gulfstream III [N30LX] as a leased service with their own operators on board, for just over a year now,” and adds “It’s a service they are hiring and fine tuning to meet their own specific needs, with a view to buying a system.”
The Gulfstream III known as an Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory (AML) and operated by 14° Stormo at Pratica di Mare south of Rome, is fitted with multiple sensors for monitoring Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) – (ELINT, Electronic Intelligence and COMINT, Communication Intelligence) as well as Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) via EO/IR and Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator) allowing it to read e-mails, websites, computers and telephones as well as monitor ground targets even if mobile. This can be done at high altitude out of the way of danger. The information can then be relayed to a ground station via several options including a common telephone system, common data-link, SATCOM and tactical datalink.
According to Clark, the Gulfstream “can cover a large area of interest and be completely interoperable with national, joint and national coalition forces”.
The Italians opted to hire the service in mid-2012, just a few months before retiring their G222VS SIGINT aircraft in late 2012. A one year agreement was signed with an option to extend to two years, which appears to have happened.
When Lockheed Martin announced the deal back in June 25, 2012, the company disclosed the agreement would also include flight crew and maintenance personnel for the AML aircraft, with the Italian Air Force using their own analysts/interpreters in the rear of the jet.
“Lockheed Martin will use insight gained from the AML’s performance in this live operational environment into future Dragon ISR configuration offerings,” Charles Gulledge, airborne reconnaissance systems business development lead for Lockheed Martin IS&GS-Defense said at the time. “This contract with the Italian Air Force also marks the first deployment of Lockheed Martin’s Net Dragon ISR as a Service’ concept.”
“The Dragon configurations offer a unique approach for customers to match mission requirements and budget to their specific sensor, communications and airframe needs” Clark adds. Lockheed Martin are offering a variety of Dragon ISR options – Dragon Shield is a cost efficient option for customers, needing an aircraft for multiple missions, such as ISR or airlift. The company claims it has configured C-130s and CASA 295s into a dual role ISR aircraft for domestic and international customers although it declined to name any of them. “We can install parts of the system in wheel wells and the EO/IR pods on the wings” Clark continued.
Dragon Sentinel is a tethered aerostat or a tower-based multi-sensor configured platform, while Dragon Stare is based on providing sensor systems, integrated into the aircraft or into a pod attachable to the exterior structure, for manned aircraft such as the F-16, Beech 200/350, Diamond DA42 and unmanned aircraft. One source told the author the Qatar Air Force is being offered a mixed Beech 350 and DA42 fleet, but would not disclose if this was a leased option or a purchase. Alan Warnes