[4.0] ASTOR & The Future Of Battlefield Surveillance

v1.1.1 / 4 of 4 / 01 jun 02 / greg goebel / public domain

* In the four decades since the introduction of the Grumman Mohawk, technology for battlefield surveillance has greatly improved, becoming an even more central element in battlefield operations, and state of the art battlefield surveillance platforms are now "must-have" asset for any modern military force. This chapter discusses the present and future of battlefield surveillance aircraft.

[4.1] UK ASTOR

[4.1] UK ASTOR

* In the spring of 1999, Raytheon was awarded the contract in the $1.3 billion USD "Airborne Stand Off Radar (ASTOR)" competition for the UK. The ASTOR program is intended to develop a surveillance aircraft carrying air-to-ground radar for battlefield surveillance, similar in concept to Joint-STARS. Program costs are given as $1.2 billion USD.

Raytheon's competitors for the ASTOR contract included a team led by Lockheed Martin partnered with British Aerospace; and another team led by Northrop Grumman, which proposed a joint US-UK Joint-STARS update development program. Raytheon's winning ASTOR bid will give the company an edge in sales of similar systems to other countries.

ASTOR is a joint program of the British Army and Royal Air Force (RAF). The program had its origins in the 1980s in the form of the "Corps Airborne Standoff Radar (CASTOR)" requirement for the British Army, which wanted to obtain the capability to observe Soviet military movements in Central Europe. The fall of the Soviet Union threw CASTOR into confusion, but the clear usefulness of the US Joint-STARS during the Gulf War greatly impressed the British, leading to the issue of the ASTOR requirement in the mid-1990s.

The UK will obtain five ASTOR systems based on modified Bombardier "Global Express" business jets, along with two portable ground sites and six tactical ground stations mounted on trucks. Raytheon selected the Bombardier Global Express over the comparable Gulfstream V because the Global Express has greater cabin volume and electrical power capability.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                28.5 meters         93 feet 6 inches
   length                  30.3 meters         99 feet 5 inches
   height                  7.57 meters         24 feet 10 inches

   empty weight            25,400 kilograms    56,000 pounds
   max loaded weight       42,400 kilograms    93,500 pounds

   maximum speed           935 KPH             580 MPH / 505 KT
   service ceiling         15,550 meters       51,000 feet
   take-off field length   1,700 meters        5,575 feet
   range, max payload      9,575 kilometers    5,945 MI / 5,170 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   The Global Express is powered by twin BMW Rolls Royce BR710-48C2
   turbofans with 6,690 kilograms (14,750 pounds) take off power.

Each ASTOR aircraft will be able to operate at altitudes of 15,250 meters (50,000 feet) or higher for 11 hours. Initial plans to add inflight refueling capability were cancelled. ASTOR will two pilots and three electronics system officers, and will have have additional seats and bunks for relief crews.

ASTOR's primary payload will be a SAR-MTI system based on the Hughes "Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar Type 23 (ASARS-2)" radar system, used on the US Air Force U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Marconi Radar & Countermeasures systems will develop the new, larger 4.6 meter (15 foot) antenna for the ASTOR SAR system, with the antenna accommodated by a canoe fairing under the forward fuselage of the aircraft.

The ASTOR SAR will have a low-resolution wide-area swath mode, and a spot mode for high resolution imaging of specific targets. Best resolution in spot mode from operating altitude will be under 30 centimeters (1 foot). The antenna will be electrically steered, though it will have a narrow "blind spot" in front of and behind the aircraft. Although there has been talk of fitting electro-optical sensors as well, that is not part of current ASTOR plans.

ASTOR will have Ku-band and X-band data links for transmitting reconnaissance data, as well as a capability for "off tether" operation, storing data on board for download later. It will operate in conjunction with either the truck-mounted ground stations or large corps-level mobile sites. Along with increased automation, this "offload" strategy is why ASTOR only requires three systems operators, while Joint-STARS requires 17.

The datalink systems have been designed with interoperability with US and NATO systems in mind. ASTOR ground systems are expected to be part of a larger network that can fuse data from other British intelligence assets on land, sea, air, and space under a scheme known as "Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, & Reconnaissance (ISTAR)".

ISTAR will merge data from sources such as RAF Boeing E-3D Sentry AWACS aircraft; Royal Navy Sea King AEW.7 helicopters; RAF BAE Nimrod R.1 SIGINT platforms; RAF & Royal Navy tactical aircraft such as the Tornado or Harrier carrying reconnaissance pods; and the British Army's "Watchkeeper" unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), now in program definition. The merged intelligence will provided directly to command and combat elements.

Britain hopes to have ISTAR in operation by 2005. The British have been very interested in work conducted by the US with Joint-STARS along this line during operations in the Balkans, and will leverage off American experience.

* Initial flight of a Global Express modified with the appropriate fairings but lacking operational electronics systems took place on 3 August 2001 from the Bombardier Flight Test Center in Wichita, Kansas, with Bombardier test pilot Mark Schlegel at the controls. The initial test flights were to validate the aerodynamics of the modifications. Ventral fins were fitted under the tail to compensate for the canoe fairing.

After the initial flight, the crew reported the aircraft showed no handling peculiarities. Flight trials continued into mid-2002. Apparently this aircraft will never be fitted with operational systems. An initial production aircraft will be delivered to Raytheon's Greenville, Texas, facility, where it will be brought up to operational specification, leading to British trials and evaluation beginning in early 2004.

Airframe modifications to the other four Global Express aircraft will be performed by Bombardier's Short Brothers subsidiary in Northern Ireland, with operational systems installed by the Raytheon facility in Wales. Initial operational capability is expected in 2007, with the full fleet in operation in 2008.



* The Raytheon win for ASTOR complicated US planning for Joint-STARS upgrades. The US Air Force was disappointed that their bid for a collaborative program to fulfill the ASTOR requirement with an updated Joint-STARS was rejected, but the UK needed the ASTOR capability quickly and the updated Joint-STARS program would have led to additional delays and costs.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, the Pentagon had been working on an upgrade program, the "Radar Technology Insertion Program (RTIP)", with the original intent to improve the capabilities of Joint-STARS, but technology and politics worked to change the scope and direction of the program.

The fact that the British selected a "bizjet" like the Global Express for ASTOR demonstrated the impact of technology improvements in battlefield surveillance aircraft. New electronic reconnaissance systems are lighter and more compact than those of a decade ago, allowing them to be carried on smaller aircraft, and such new systems are more automated, reducing the number of crew needed to operate them. Given that modern bizjets are highly refined aircraft with excellent range, performance, reliability, and low operating costs, they are now an attractive complement to larger battlefield surveillance platforms.

Similarly, the US Air Force has become increasingly committed to UAVs, particularly the service's ultra-long-range Northrop Grumman "Global Hawk". The USAF increasingly sees the Global Hawk as a valuable platform for a wide range of missions, including battlefield surveillance.

The result of this three-way tug was a change in the direction of RTIP towards "multi-platform" support, with the program's name changed appropriately to "MP-RTIP". A contract for the MP-RTIP system was awarded to Raytheon and Northrop Grumman in late 2000. Raytheon was to build the radar system itself, while Northrop Grumman handled systems integration. The Global Hawk will be the first platform to be fitted with MP-RTIP.

The goal of MP-RTIP is to build a "scaleable" system that can be used on UAVs, bizjets, or a Joint-STARS-class platform. The antenna size will range from 2.5 meters (8 feet) to 7.3 meters (24 feet), with antenna size roughly proportional to the size of the operational platform.

The current Joint-STARS SAR system is designed to track targets moving on the ground at low speed, 56 KPH (35 MPH) or less. MP-RTIP will be based on a next-generation X-band "active electronically scanned array (AESA)" system that could also track low-flying, stealthy, fast-moving missiles hundreds of kilometers away. Even the Global Hawk version of MP-RTIP is expected to be superior to the existing Joint-STARS SAR in terms of target resolution and revisit times, due to AESA technology.

An AESA can be thought of as a radio-frequency (RF) "array processor", composed of a grid of interconnected "transmit-receive" modules, each with its own RF, processing, and control electronics. The modules can work with each other to perform a wide variety of tasks. One of the advantages of an AESA is that it lends itself to a scalable design, since the array can be sized to a UAV, bizjet, or Joint-STARS-class platform by fitting fewer or more modules as required, with capability proportional to size.

Development costs will be reduced by the fact that Raytheon is currently designing similar AESA systems for US fighter aircraft, and the MP-RTIP system should be able to use much of the same technology. Total system development costs for the Global Hawk MP-RTIP system, excluding aircraft costs, are estimated at $2 billion USD.

In early 2001, the scope of the MP-RTIP program was expanded considerably. While the current focus of development efforts is still focused on an AESA-based SAR-MTI system for battlefield surveillance, the technology is seen as applicable for a wide range of applications, including surveillance or air defense based on satellite, aircraft, naval, or ground platforms.

While this expansion of scope could well overwhelm the effort through "gold plating" and "creeping featurism", hopefully the current effort will remain focused on the battlefield surveillance mission, simply ensuring that the current system has "hooks" for expansion that can be exploited in incremental follow-on development efforts.

Current schedule envisions initial flight tests of MP-RTIP on the Global Hawk in late 2005, with flight tests for a manned platform in 2007. Five Joint-STARS are now scheduled to be fitted with MP-RTIP. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has reportedly pressured the Air Force to push up the schedule, but the USAF does not feel the need is so immediate that it is worth adjusting their budget at the present time.

* MP-RTIP is also intended for possible use in parallel NATO efforts to procure a battlefield surveillance aircraft, oriented towards filling the long-standing "NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS)" requirement. One program is known as the "NATO Transatlantic Advanced Radar (NATAR)", which would leverage off MP-RTIP. NATAR concepts have envisioned an Airbus A300 equipped with MP-RTIP gear. The US is pushing this concept to ensure NATO interoperability with US platforms, and Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and Luxembourg are involved.

Another group, including Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, are working on another effort, designated the "Stand-Off Surveillance Targeting & Acquisition Radar (SOSTAR)", which follows earlier efforts designated "Horizon" and "CESO". The current focus of SOSTAR is to develop a multifunction reconnaissance AESA radar system by 2005.

A multinational consortium named "SOSTAR GMBH" with headquarters in Germany has been formed to develop this radar, with participation by EADS, Thales (formerly Thomson-CSF), FIAR of Italy, Indra of Spain, and Fokker Space of the Netherlands. The consortium plans to perform a demonstration designated SOSTAR-X of their AESA system on a Fokker 100 jetliner. The airliner will also carry a high-speed datalink to perform relay of reconnaissance data to ground stations.

The NATAR and SOSTAR groups are talking with each other and hope to come to a compromise position, rather than end up competing with each other.



* The development of MP-RTIP and related modern "electronic warfare (EW)" systems has led military services to wrestle with the issue of what mix they want of UAV, bizjet, or large jet platforms, and what range of surveillance and other EW functions they want these platforms to perform.

Currently battlefield surveillance, airborne early warning (AEW), jamming, and SIGINT missions are generally performed by different aircraft types, but now there is a push towards generalized EW platforms that combine some of the functions, or can be reconfigured for different EW missions.

A UAV is the cheapest option, but also the most limited. Such machines are relatively small and cannot carry large payloads, restricting the size and sensitivity of SAR and other EW systems they carry. Most of the data acquired by a UAV will have to shuttled over high-speed datalinks to a ground, air, or sea based command center.

A bizjet can carry larger sensors and do some onboard processing, but at present it is unclear just how much can be handled from the aircraft and how much will have to be offloaded to a command center elsewhere.

* The USAF has clearly decided that a large platform best fulfills their requirements. The Air Force was considering a follow-on to Joint-STARS designated the "Wide Area Surveillance (WAS)" aircraft, to go into initial service in 2010, but this scheme was gradually seen as too limited.

What complicated the issue was the USAF's parallel effort to obtain a replacement for their current Boeing KC-135 aerial tanker fleet, with the Boeing 767 jetliner selected as the best option. Given that tankers are often tasked to remain just outside battle areas to refuel aircraft entering and leaving combat, it was a simple logical step to suggest that tankers might be able to carry useful electronic payloads as well.

The first idea behind such a "smart tanker" was to fit the machines with a removeable pallet of communications electronics to allow strike elements from different services and different nations to relay communications between each other. This quickly led to the realization that other payloads, such as SIGINT or surveillance gear, could be carried as well. The Air Force is now considering development of such pallet loads for a portion of the existing KC-135 fleet to provide an interim capability and to evaluate the concept.

The smart tanker idea neatly dovetailed with the concept of using the Boeing 767 as a "Multi-Sensor Command & Control Aircraft (MC2A)" that could be configured to perform airborne warning, ground surveillance, SIGINT, or countermeasures tasks. With an AESA system, it may be possible to perform many of these functions using the same gear.

The vision that emerges from all this multidirectional thinking is of a fleet of Boeing 767 platforms, with different variants focused on different roles but capable of a degree of interchangeability, and with roles changed by switching payloads.

The MC2A concept has now advanced from a paper project to preliminary development. A Boeing 707 jetliner, configured as an experimental "MC2A-X" prototype of the production MC2A, performed its first flight on 18 April 2002. The machine was given the name "Paul Revere" to reflect its mission to provide warning of attack. Current schedule for a prototype 767-based MC2A is unclear.

* Meanwhile, the US Navy is searching about for a replacement for the P-3C Orion antisubmarine warfare aircraft, which was used as a battlefield surveillance platform over Afghanistan, and the EP-3 Aries SIGINT aircraft, and is coming to broadly similar conclusions to those of the Air Force. The Navy is now trying to obtain a "Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA)", possibly based on the latest generation of Boeing 737 airliners, that could perform ocean patrol, surveillance, and intelligence functions.

The complexity of military requirements in this matter is further complicated by the dominant issue of where the money is going to come from to pay for these new platforms. At present, matters are in such a state of flux that trying to document current plans in detail is like trying to nail down sand. Exactly how this plays out over the next few years promises to be interesting, but until hard commitments are made it should all be taken with a grain of salt.



* The US military has not abandoned the idea of using a mid-sized bizjet platform for surveillance and other roles. As mentioned, the Army's Aerial Common Sensor platform will probably be based on a bizjet, and the Air Force may need to acquire a bizjet platform to complement the MC2A fleet.

Bizjet-based "special mission" aircraft are already in operational service, and are clearly headed for increased use. The Gulfstream series of business jets is a prominent player in this trend, due to its value, capability, and widespread use with military forces all over the world.

* The Gulfstream has been in use for military special missions for decades. In 1979, the Danish government ordered three of the early "Gulfstream III" business jets for fisheries patrol, fitting them with sea search radar in a modified nose and improved navigation and communications gear.

Except for the custom gear, the Danish Gulfstream IIIs were configured as cargo-transport aircraft and are sometimes used in that role. However, in 1984 Grumman introduced the "SRA-1", a modified Gulfstream III intended to advertise the type's adaptability to more warlike roles.

The SRA-1 featured a mockup of a Motorola "Side-Looking Airborne Multimode Radar (SLAMMR)" system in a pod under the fuselage; three mockup stores pylons under each wing for a total of six; and small mockup pods on the wingtips for an "electronic support measures (ESM, or emitter targeting)" or other EW system. The SRA-1 also featured a new, large cargo door, apparently not only to support getting large pieces of electronics gear in and out, but to give the aircraft a secondary cargolifter role.

The SRA-1 was displayed at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK in September 1984, with the dummy stores pylons fitted with dummy stores such as torpedoes, missiles, and bombs. One of the few pieces of real gear that the SRA-1 carried was a "Long Range Optical (LOROP)" camera for photographic reconnaissance. Grumman proposed a wide range of possible configurations to potential buyers of the SRA-1, and used the demonstrator to try out fits such as countermeasures gear, including warning receivers and chaff-flare dispensers; mockup inflight refueling probe; and even tanker operation using an external refueling pod.

Nobody bit on the armament or other exotic options, but the Indian Air Force did buy two Gulfstream IIIs for special missions, with the aircraft delivered in 1986. The exact configuration and use of these two aircraft remains mysterious, but they appear to be fitted with long-range reconnaissance cameras and may have had some ELINT gear.

The improved "Gulfstream IV" was introduced in 1985, and Grumman promoted an "SRA-4" special mission configuration for the type. This led to a 1992 purchase by Sweden of two Gulfstream IVs configured as SIGINT platforms, with a canoe fairing under the nose. These two aircraft were given the designation of "S-102B Korpen (Raven)".

The "Raven" name for the S-102B does reflect the common nickname for EW crews as "crows" or "ravens", but it has special significance in Sweden, since in Norse mythology ravens were the eyes and ears of the uber-god Odin. He would send his two ravens, "Hugin" and "Munin", to the corners of the Earth, and they would return and whisper what they had seen in his ears. Of course, the two S-102Bs were given the names of Thor's ravens.

The Gulfstream V has continued in this tradition of small-scale Gulfstream sales for special missions. Two were sold to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in November 2001 as coastal patrol aircraft, and in December 2001 three were sold to Israel as special "electronic mission" platforms, with payloads installed in Israel.

* The exact configuration of the Israeli Gulfstream Vs is secret. It is unclear if they are ELINT aircraft, surveillance aircraft, or some combination of the two. They may very well follow General Dynamics concepts for a Gulfstream V EW variant, designated the "EC-37 Special Missions Aircraft (SMA)" and clearly a descendant of the SRA-1.

The EC-37 concept envisions an aircraft with accommodations for 12 to 15 battle staff and EW operators, with payloads stowed in blisters or attached to underwing pylons. General Dynamics believes they could sell an EC-37 for $100 million USD.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                28.5 meters         93 feet 6 inches
   length                  29.4 meters         96 feet 5 inches
   height                  7.87 meters         25 feet 10 inches

   empty weight            24,200 kilograms    53,350 pounds
   max loaded weight       40,370 kilograms    89,000 pounds

   maximum cruise speed    925 KPH             575 MPH / 500 KT
   take-off length         1,790 meters        5,870 feet
   service ceiling         15,500 meters       51,000 feet
   range                   12,050 kilometers   7,475 MI / 6,500 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   The Gulfstream V is powered by two BMW Rolls-Royce BR710 turbofans with a
   thrust of 6,690 kilograms (14,750 pounds) each.
An illustration of the EC-37 displaying a "notional configuration" shows it with a pod mounted on top of the tail to house a wideband satellite data communications link; a canoe fairing under the forward fuselage for SIGINT gear to perform eavesdropping and direction finding; and six detachable pods carried under the wings, including:

While this is likely a more diverse payload than would be carried on typical operational missions, the idea of carrying SIGINT and jammer gear on the same flight is practical. Using fast digital control systems, the jammer systems are switched off for a few milliseconds, allowing the SIGINT gear to spot a target, and then the jammer systems are turned back on to electronically attack the new target. The technique is called "looking through".

The EC-37 SMA would also be compatible with current and emerging EW system standards, such as:

General Dynamics is also investigating integration of an AESA-based multipurpose EW system, either built into the fuselage or into the 1.8 meter (6 foot) tall winglets at the tips of the Gulfstream V's wings. They also suggest that the EC-37 SMA could be used as an auxiliary GPS signal source to help defeat GPS jamming and enhance GPS target location.

General Dynamics says the EC-37 SMA has plenty of engine power and can easily operate at altitudes high enough to give its payload suite a clear view of a battle theater. In a typical mission profile, the aircraft could reach operating altitude in 25 minutes, fly 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles), and remain on station for 10 hours at 14.3 kilometers (47,000 feet), without mid-air refueling.

The EC-37 SMA would offer a shirtsleeve environment for its crewmembers. Advocates also point out that the tail-mounted turbofans of the Gulfstream V do not block the view of underwing electronics pods, as would be the case for an EW platform based on the Boeing 737 or Airbus jetliners, which have turbofans mounted under the wings. Critics suggest that the Gulfstream V is too small an aircraft to mount antenna arrays or carry gear with really adequate capability.

The EC-37 SMA notional configuration does not include armament, but the Navy is also interested in an aircraft with the capability to carry the Harpoon antiship missile, the similar SLAM land-attack cruise missile, or other long-range precision strike munitions, allowing the EW aircraft to not only identify and locate targets, but to attack and destroy them as well.



* Although the Grumman Gulfstream has likely the highest profile as a platform for bizjet-based special missions aircraft, of course there are plenty of similar aircraft that can do the job as well.

In 1996, the South Korean government awarded a contract to Raytheon for four Raytheon Hawker 800XP (Extended Performance) bizjets configured for the surveillance role, with four (some sources say six) more obtained later. Initial deliveries were in late 1997.

The Raytheon Hawker 800XP is of conventional bizjet layout, with twin AlliedSignal TFE731-5BR turbofans providing 2,115 kilograms (4,660 pounds) thrust each, mounted at the rear. The aircraft is less than half the size of a Gulfstream V, and is normally sold as an eight to twelve seat executive jet.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                15.67 meters        51 feet 5 inches
   length                  15.58 meters        51 feet 1 inch
   height                  5.3 meters          17 feet 5 inches

   max takeoff weight      12,700 kilograms    28,000 pounds
   max payload weight      5,440 kilograms     12,000 pounds

   max cruise speed        860 KPH             535 MPH / 465 KT
   service ceiling         12,500 meters       41,000 feet
   range                   4,850 kilometers    3,000 MI / 2,615 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The South Korean Hawker 800XPs have been delivered in at least two configurations, with visibly different sets of antenna fairings. Sources give confusing data on them, and it appears that one variant is focused on the SIGINT mission, while the other carries a SAR-MTI system and possibly other sensors. They have high-speed datalinks to transfer data to associated ground systems, also provided in the Raytheon contract. The name "Peace Krypton" has been used in connection with these machines, but it is unclear if it applies to one or both variants.

* The Embraer company of Brazil is now offering a set of special mission aircraft based on their "Embraer Regional Jet 145 (ERJ-145)" small jetliner. The ERJ-145 is twin-turbofan aircraft with a configuration generally similar to that of the Global Express or Gulfstream V, and has a passenger capacity of 50 seats. Embraer announced development of the type in 1989, though due to various problems first flight wasn't until 1995. Initial deliveries were in 1996.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                20.04 meters        65 feet 8 inches
   length                  29.87 meters        98 feet
   height                  6.75 meters         22 feet 2 inches

   empty weight            11,150 kilograms    24,585 pounds
   loaded weight           20,600 kilograms    45,425 pounds

   cruise speed            833 KPH             520 MPH / 450 KT
   service ceiling         11,275 meters       37,000 feet
   range                   2,450 kilometers    1,520 MI / 1,320 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   The ERJ-145 is powered by twin Allison AE-3007A turbofans with 3,190
   kilograms (7,040 pounds) thrust each.  Data is for the standard ERJ-145,
   though there is a slightly heavier "long-range" variant.

The Brazilian Air Force found the ERJ-145 to be an attractive electronics platform, and wants to obtain five "RB-99A" AEW variants fitted with Swedish Ericsson Erieye AEW radar, featuring a long antenna carried on the back of the aircraft. Embraer is also promoting an "RB-99C" maritime patrol version of the ERJ-145, and is building three "RB-99B" surveillance variants for the Brazilian Air Force.

The RB-99B is referred to as the "ERJ-145RS" by Embraer and is the centerpiece of the Brazilian Air Force's SIVAM ("Surveillance of the Amazon Region" in its Portugese acronym) project. The prototype RB-99B was rolled out in 1999, with initial aircraft delivery scheduled for early 2001 and final delivery in the spring of 2002.

The primary sensor of the RB-99B is the Canadian-built MacDonald-Dettwiler "IRIS (Integrated Radar Imaging System)" SAR with three-dimensional imaging capabilities, with the antenna installed in a fairing under the belly; a Daedelus multispectral scanner; a "Skyball" EO/IR turret, and other electronic subsystems.

The RB-99B is not actually a "battlefield surveillance" aircraft, although its configuration closely matches such a platform. It is instead intended as a "remote sensing" platform for resource mapping, pollution monitoring, and security in Brazil's Amazon region. How much this different emphasis amounts to semantics rather than a distinct mission is difficult to say.



* I got into the subject of battlefield surveillance aircraft by a somewhat indirect route. They're something of a hot topic in aerospace at present, and I took some notes from articles on the subject.

Over time, I became increasingly interested in the entire range of airborne electronics platforms, such as battlefield surveillance, AEW, SIGINT, antisubmarine warfare (ASW), and jammer platforms, and started to accumulate more information on them. I finally obtained enough information to start piecing together bigger pictures.

This effort was driven partly by the fact that at the time I was focused on updating old documents and writing materials on helicopters, which meant I didn't have the time to write the longer documents required to adequately describe more prominent aircraft.

The chapter on the RC-7 was originally released as a stand-alone document in July 1998, and the chapter on the Grumman Mohawk was similarly released as a stand-alone document in February 2001. A month later I was acquiring notes on Joint-STARS and realized I had enough to nail down battlefield surveillance aircraft, and I took everything I had on the subject and rolled it into this document.

I expect to write a similar document on AEW aircraft, and a longer document titled "Sub Hunters" on ASW aircraft. In fact, several installments for "Sub Hunters" have already been written. I do not expect to write a specialized document on SIGINT aircraft, since they will be discussed in documents on aircraft such as the Boeing KC-135 and the Lockheed P-3 Orion, and for the same reason I will not write a specialized document on jammer aircraft, discussing them as in documents on aircraft such as the A-6 Intruder and F-111 Aardvark. I expect this to take some time, but I'm in no great rush.

Incidentally, I was taken to task after releasing the first version of this document for not discussing helicopter-based battlefield surveillance platforms. However, the focus of this document is on fixed-wing aircraft and I think it best to discuss rotorcraft in a separate document.

* I have actually never seen any of the aircraft described in this document except for the Grumman Mohawk. I have a clear memory of seeing one minus its wings parked at Fort Gordon, Georgia, in the winter of 1972:73. I have less memories of seeing Oregon National Guard Mohawks flying around while I was a student at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, in the late 1970s.

I had a fun adventure with the initial release of the RC-7 document. The week after the crash of the RC-7 in Columbia, an assistant newspaper editor emailed me and asked if he could interview me about the aircraft. I politely replied that the suggestion was very flattering, but an interview would not prove useful to him, since once he read the document he knew as much about the subject as I did.

He thanked me kindly and went about his business. Later in the day, however, he sent me another message. He'd contacted the Pentagon on the matter as well, and as background information they faxed him a printout of this document. Nice of him to tell me that.

* Sources include:

Other materials were also found on the Federation of American Scientists website and US military sources found on the web.

* Revision history:

   v1.0   / 01 apr 01 / gvg
   v1.1.0 / 01 apr 02 / gvg / General cleanup & improvements.
   v1.1.1 / 01 jun 02 / gvg / Added comments on MC2A & "Paul Revere".
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