Special Mission at Paris Air Show

Alan Warnes takes a stroll around Paris Air Show to view some of the exhibits and talk to some of the companies working on special mission aircraft.
First Bangladesh Navy Do228NG delivered to Bangladesh Navy

RUAG Aviation displayed one of their Do 228NG new generation aircraft in the static display. The Swiss company delivered the first of two Do228NGs (314-01 c/n 8306 ex D-CBNF) to the Bangladesh Navy on May 26, which arrived at Kurmitola Air Base on June 3.

Equipped with a 360° Telephonics RDR 1700B radar, integrated with a moving map display, the aircraft will be used primarily for maritime surveillance, but with a secondary Search and Rescue role, equipped with air deployable dinghies and two life rafts. A second, serialled 314-02 (c/n 8307 ex D-CBNG) is due for delivery in late June.
Three pilots have already been trained in Germany and the co-pilots will be trained in Bangladesh by a company pilot after they have completed basic training in Germany.


Piaggio’s new MPA

Piaggio Aero, with financial support from Ferrari, UAE’s Mubadala Aerospace and Tata Limited – a subsidiary of the Indian steel giants Tata are now focusing their P180 Avanti efforts into the special mission role.

According to Piaggio, work is progressing on their two prototype P180 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, with the first aircraft undergoing taxi trials in February, 2013.  The aircraft is expected to make its first flight sometime in 2014’ according to Piaggio.

The order was announced at Farnborough International Airshow on July 10, 2012, when Piaggio Aero revealed it had signed a contract for two prototypes with ADASI (Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments) a subsidiary of Tawazun Holding, an investment firm focused on long-term development of Abu Dhabi’s industrial manufacturing and technology capabilities and knowledge-transfer with a specific focus on the defense sector. The two prototypes will eventually enter service with the UAEAF.

Saab was selected as the systems supplier on December 27, 2012 when the Swedish company announced it had signed a framework agreement to develop and integrate a full suite of sophisticated airborne sensors and surveillance systems.  It isn’t surprising, Saab were selected as they are also working closely with Tawazun on an airborne early warning system, revolving around a pair of Saab 340 Erieyes.

The first P180 MPA is now almost complete and the configuration has been frozen with the Saab system and a new Telephonics RDR 1700 G(v)2 radar.  According to Telephonics’ Corporate Business Director, George Roussos the RDR 1700 G(v) 2 is “a 1700B (v) 1 with Ground Movement Target Indicator (GMTI) mode that allows the aircraft to track vehicles once it has moved from sea to ground surveillance”.

The sensor package will also include a FLIR Systems Star Safire 380HD.

The MPA’s mission computer system will have an AIS integration, to identify and monitor ships as well as a Line Of Sight (LOS) and Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) data link system with encrypted data transmission via a redundant, multi-frequency, high bandwidth RF links and via Ku/Ka Band SATCOM. Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW) of the new P180, with its new composite technologies will be increased from 12,000 to 16,100 lbs.

A pair of new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turbine engines integrated with low noise 5 blade scimitar propellers and a modified exhaust, will provide the platform with a more reliable and powerful powerplant.

With two additional fuel tanks and longer more efficient wings, Piaggio is hoping to increase the mission time of the aircraft to 6 1/2 hours below 5,000ft and reach an impressive 11 hours during cruising attitude.

Longer term, Piaggio are bidding to replace all the Legacy P180s currently serving e Air Force (17), Navy (3), Army (3) and Police (3) as supply up to six P180 MPAs to the Air Force, Coast Guard and Navy.  It is likely they will all be included in any buy-back’ arrangement.


A model of the Piaggio Maritime Patrol Aircraft could be found in the Piaggio Stand. The first of two ordered by the UAEAF is expected to fly next year.  All photos, Alan Warnes

Airborne Technologies show off a trio of work

Airborne Technologies positioned three aircraft in their static display, one of them was a Vulcanair P68TC Observer with a Cassidian Optronics surveillance camera. The system is attached to the P 68’s internal elevator system allowing the camera to be stowed for take offs and departures.  Vulcanair’s CEO Remo de Feo, whose father founded the company, believes that the aircraft’s endurance of around 10.5 hours will appeal to agencies such as the Police, Coast Guard who have previously used helicopters for surveillance tasks.  A sentiment that Airborne Technologies, Chief Sales Officer, Marcus Gartner has been promoting for several years.

The Austrian company exhibited the cabin of a Eurocopter EC135 to promote the new more modern surveillance system it has recently installed on two German Police examples. The system includes a L3 Wescam MX-15 with digital recording integrated into a new mission control system.  With carbon fibre used wherever possible, making it lighter, an extra 20 minutes has been added to the EC 135’s mission time.

A Tecnam P2006T was also found tucked in the corner of their display, which the company is now promoting as an affordable surveillance aircraft.  Airborne Technologies has recently worked with Indra on an example that has been delivered to the Spanish Coast Guard.

The company is now working on an Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) version of the Tecnam MMA with the impressive Selex 5000E Seaspray maritime surveillance radar. He expects the OPV will be able to stay airborne for 10+ hours.

IOMAX goes for Thrush 710

North Carolina based IOMAX unveiled its new Archangel armed surveillance aircraft, based on the Thrush Aircraft S2R-T710P tandem-seat crop duster.  The prototype N7555A was handed over to the company in March and delivered to the company’s Mooresville facility in North Carolina on May 15.

Fresh from completing integration of systems on the last of 24 AT 802U Air Tractors for the United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF), the company is now looking at other robust platforms to work with.  One of the primary reasons is that it can make modifications on the aircraft while it is on the production line, which was not possible with the Air Tractor.

The Archangel features an Esterline CMC Cockpit 4000 and Honeywell GPS/IRS (Inertial Reference System) with a video/datalink system and is designed to perform border patrol, intelligence and surveillance reconnaissance (ISR) missions.  There are three multi-function displays in the front cockpit and one in the rear.

The former agricultural aircraft was seen at Paris equipped with an L3 Wescam MX 15 EO/IR sensor mounted just forward of the undercarriage, that can be operated from both the pilot and the Weapon Systems Operator in the rear seat.
“With a capability of carrying 500 gallons of fuel, the Archangel can stay in the air for 8+ hours with a 4,000 lb mission load” Ron Howard, CEO of IOMAX told me.
According to IOMAX the aircraft can carry a wide range of mission payloads and electronic suites, whilst six under wing pylons enable carriage of some 5,340 lbs (2.422kg) of external stores. It was seen in the static armed with a AGM-114 Hellfire air to surface munition (ASM), which completed its first fixed wing firing [from an AT 802] in January, leading to its first qualified firing in UAE more recently.

Adding teeth to the Thrush 710P is the Roketsan Cirat 2.75 inch laser guided rockets, which is currently going through qualification trials on the AT 802U in the UAE.  Also found on the wing pylons were a couple of 250 lb laser guided bombs and a FN Herstal pod mounted gun on the port outboard pylon.
Ron Howard the CEO of IOMAX told the author, “we learned lessons from the Air Tractor and blended them into the Thrush.”
A Flexible Pod procured by the UAE, was displayed next to the Archangel, for customers who find their wing pylons full but want more payloads like an EO/FLIR sensor.  The pod is flexible enough to house a SAR/MTI radar, SIGINT sensors, data links, missile and radar warning receivers and can be mounted on the centre-line hardpoint.
To get to Paris the Archangel took an epic 7 hrs 15 minute flight from Canada to Azores over the Atlantic before heading on to Spain and up to Paris.  “We had good tailwinds, but let’s hope they don’t persist for the flight back!” exclaimed IOMAX’s Doug Klevisha, Director Aircraft Integration and Modification.


After successfully converting 24 AT-802U Air Tractors into an irregular warfare role for the UAEAF, North Carolina based IOMAX were exhibiting their new project, the Archangel.

Patroller UAV with COMINT system

SAGEM (SAFRAN) announced at the Paris that, between June 10 and 13, the company had undertaken a new series of flight tests of its Patroller UAV system. First flown in June 2009 the Patroller is in multi-sensor, multi-mission configuration and incorporates an airborne communications intelligence (COMINT) system.

Designed for military missions, the COMINT system was integrated by Sagem in an underwing pod.  It provides interception and positioning functions, along with technical analysis of V/UHF communications, including for frequency-hopping transmitters.
This series of seven test flights validated the Patroller’s ability to easily integrate a COMINT type electronic warfare system in a pod, complementing the Euroflir 410 day/night optronic observation system, also made by Sagem.  Operated from the ground, the COMINT system helps direct the Patroller’s optronic sensors in real time to provide visual target identification, along with quick, precise position-determination within large zones of interest.
These flight tests were conducted at Sagem’s UAV research and development centre in Eragny, near Paris.  They follow a series of tests in a desert environment, in May 2013, during which the Patroller was successfully integrated in an air-land and air-naval exercise.
Developed by Sagem, the Patroller is a one-ton class UAV based on the EASA-certified Stemme S15 aircraft, designed to meet military or security requirements.  It draws on Sagem’s extensive experience with its Sperwer tactical UAV system, including nine years of feedback from operations in Afghanistan.
The Patroller system is designed to keep operating costs under control.  It calls on French and European technologies, especially for the airframe and sensors.  Because of its modular design, the Patroller can carry a payload in its bay or in pods, on flights of 20 to 30 hours, at an altitude up to 25,000ft (7,620m).


The Patroller, in multi-sensor, multi-mission configuration, including a payload with optronic and COMINT systems, along with its ground segment was on show.

French Customs King Air with Cassidian system

Recently delivered Douane Français (French Customs) King Air 350ER F-ZBGN was displayed in the static park as part of the exhibition showing off the current Beechcraft portfolio.  This new production aircraft had left the factory in Wichita, Kansas, on September 1, 2012, on delivery to France. After completion of its mission equipment installation, it entered service with the Customs in December 2012.

The aircraft has been fitted out by Cassidian, in an architecture the EADS company calls the Samsara 200, which includes a FLIR Star Safire III HD electro-optical and infra-red (EO/IR) system, a Thales Ocean Master 400 radar, IR/UV scanner and a Terma SLAR. This is the fourth King Air 350ER delivered to the French Customs since 2010.  The previous three comprise F-ZBGK (c/n FL-682), F-ZBGL (c/n FL-746) and F-ZBGM (c/n FL-752) and another four are thought to be on order, that will lead to the retirement of the Cessna F 406.


This French Customs King Air 350ER has recently been fitted out with Cassidian’s Samsara 200 system.

Aero Data fitting out Argentinian Coast Guard Beech 350ER 

Sitting opposite the French King Air was a Beechcraft 350 demonstrator, housing Aero Data’s AeroMISSION system.  This is currently being integrated into a Beech 350ER on order by the Argentina’s Perfectura Naval Argentina (Coast Guard). Sensors and equipment on board include the belly-mounted RDR-1700B 360˚ radar, elevator mounted Star Safire III system, AIS Transponder and SAR direction finder, broadband Inmarsat communication link, multi-station mission-intercom system as well as the ability of dropping SAR equipment.

The aircraft is currently being modified at the company’s Braunschweig facility in Germany and is expected to start flight trials in late July and will be delivered by the end of September after training of system operators.

MC-27J Gunship arrives from USA

Arguably the star of Finmeccanica’s static display was the Alenia Aermacchi MC-27J gunship. Since making its public debut at Farnborough International Airshow last July, the demonstrator aircraft has been painted in a new sinister looking black colour scheme worn by US Special Operation Command gunships. The scheme is connected to the MC-27J’s recent live firing trials in the USA.

Alenia/ATK announced just before Paris Show that they had successfully completed the first phase of ground and flight tests of their MC-27J, which took place at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.  This included six live-fire tests spanning 14 hours and a timed demonstration of the ability to quickly convert from cargo configuration to the weaponised version.

According to ATK’s Director Business Development, Special Mission Aircraft, Brad Hayes, “getting the Roll-On-Roll-Off pallet system, which houses the GAU-23 30mm cannon, took one hour and two minutes. Once in we just hook up to the EO/IR system and the cockpit. Then we are ready to go.”

The trials took place in the EglinRange and once completed, the aircraft was flown to ATK’s Fort Worth facility where it stood until flying to Paris.

Brad added, “Phase 1 commenced last summer with a mock up system seen at Farnborough and progressed to the evaluation in March. With that now complete, the aim is to move on with Phase 2 – integrating the mission management system including the EO/IR sensor then further flight testing by the end of Spring 2014.  Phase 3 will commence with the integration and subsequent firing of precision guided munitions like the Raytheon Griffin or MBDA Viper E by late 2014.”


Alenia/ATK’s sinister looking MC-27J completed Phase 1 of its ground and flight test trials in March, and was being exhibited prior to entering the Phase 2 stage.  Alenia believe there is a market requirement of up to 50 aircraft in Middle East, Far East and North Africa.

ATK Ready to Launch Jordanian Light Gunship

Meanwhile, ATK is persevering with its work on two Royal Jordanian Air Force CN 235 light gunships. The company announced in February 2011 that it had been contracted by the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) the RJAF’s two CASA 235 transport aircraft into a light gunship configuration/special mission aircraft. The first modified aircraft, will be exhibited by ATK at the Dubai Air Show in November according to the company.

ATK’s special mission aircraft offerings integrate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors, fire control equipment, and a LW30mm link-fed gun system.  These capabilities are controlled by ATK’s STAR Mission System which provides both day and night reconnaissance and fire control capabilities, and the ability to acquire, monitor and track items of interest.  The CASA-235 gunship provides customers an enhanced capability to conduct responsive defense, counterinsurgency, and border surveillance and security missions.

For the KADDB on behalf of the Jordan Armed Forces, ATK will install and integrate electro-optical targeting systems, a laser designator, aircraft self-protection equipment, and an armaments capability that includes Hellfire laser-guided missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, and a M230 link-fed 30mm chain gun.  ATK’s M230 family of guns serves on the Apache helicopter.

ATK is also about to deliver the second Hellfire capable Cessna AC 208B to the Lebanese Air Force, some four years after the first was delivered in April 2009.  Both aircraft are configured for reconnaissance and precision strike although ATK’s Brad Hayes revealed that the first example has not yet fired in anger.

ATK has worked on 86 aircraft in recent years including half of the USAF’s Project Liberty MC-12Ws, as well as integrating ISR kits on eight Scathe View’ C-130Hs of the 192nd Airlift Squadron/Nevada Air National Guard based at Reno IAP; Cessna 208s for Iraq Air Force (3) and Lebanese Air Force (2); five EO/ISR conversions of Colombian Air Force SR560 Citation 5s transferred from USAF; three Roll-On-Roll-Off medevac systems for Colombian Air Force UH-60L Angels; a single ISR Beech C90GTx King Air for Colombian Air Force as well as two Cessna 208 Caravans.  Other work includes PC-12s, Dash 8s of the US Customs and Border Patrol and five RoKAF UH-60Ms.