T h e J o u r n a l o f E l e c t r o n i c D e f e n s e | J u n e 2 0 1 1
on to capitalize on both this conceptand modern open plug-and-play archi-tectures to create its Dragon family of platform agnostic intelligence, surveil-lance and reconnaissance (ISR) solu-tions. Ranging in size from UAS podsto roll-on/roll-off systems for aircraftsuch as the C-130 and C-295 transports,Dragon sensor suites can include com-munications intelligence and electronicintelligence (COMINT/ELINT) systems,radars, EO imagers (including wide areasurveillance equipments) and measure-ment and signature intelligence (MAS-INT) sensors, with the number and typesof sensors being mixed and matched tomeet the specific requirement. Withinthe specific SIGINT field, Finland’s on-going SIGINT C-295M “ferret” project isthe first known Dragon series solutionto have been sold.
EUROPE’S AIRBORNESIGINT PROGRAMS
Staying in the Nordic region, Swe-den’s Saab has also developed a roll-on/roll-off SIGINT solution under the des-ignation AIRTRACER FLEX. Suitable foraircraft such as the C-130, AIRTRACERFLEX makes use of a so-called crew con-tainer which is inserted into the hostaircraft’s cargo bay and which housessix operators, each of whom sits at aworkstation that features three dis-play screens. Overall, the architectureprovides integrated COMINT and ELINT,Electronic Support Measures (ESM) andself-protection capabilities, real-timeonboard analysis, emitter geo-locationand a dedicated antenna array. Else-where, Saab offers the AIRTRACER as acustomized solution aboard a custom-er’s choice of aircraft or as a completepackage mounted in its own Saab 2000regional airliner airframe. In the lat-ter application, ELINT and ESM/radarthreat warning are provided by Saab’s0.7- to 40-GHz band HES-21 sub-systemthat features digital receiver technol-ogy and interferometric direction-find-ing capabilities.Staying in Europe, the French armof the Thales conglomerate has also ad-dressed multiple platform use via an au-tonomous podded ELINT system that canbe carried by a C-130 transport duringthe course of its regular missions. Pack-aged in an external fuel tank envelope,the system covers the 0.5- to 18-GHzband (expandable to 0.1 to 40 GHz) andcan identify, finger print and geolocateemitters and record their parametricdata for post-mission analysis. As such,the architecture features digital receiv-ers and interferometric direction-find-ing and requires no crew interventionand minimal interfacing with its host.
“AFFORDABLE” SIGINT FORMID-SIZED AIRCRAFT
That affordability (a relative termwhen applied to sensor systems in gen-eral) can successfully be combined withan effective operational multi-sensorsystem as illustrated by the rise of theMC-12W “Liberty” system. Born out of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ frus-tration with the lack of airborne ISRcapability in Southwest Asia, the KingAir-based MC-12W was brought in justabout on time (use of pre-used airframesfor the first seven aircraft requiredstandardization that took longer than
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