France accepts first King Air 350 ISR aircraft

The General Directorate of Armaments – France’s military procurement agency – accepted the first intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)-configured Beechcraft King Air 350ER on behalf of the French Air Force on July 31.

This aircraft – registration F-ZACG (c/n FL1018) – is the first of two examples that were ordered by the French government in June 2016. Known locally as the Avion Léger de Surveillance et de Reconnaissance (ALSR, Light Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft), the platform is capable of undertaking intelligence gathering missions while maintaining a small logistics footprint and ease of deployment.

King Air 350ER ISR [French Air Force]
Beechcraft King Air 350ER - registration F-ZACG (c/n FL1018) - was handed over to France's General Directorate of Armaments on July 31. The highly visible belly fairing houses the aircraft's Thales-developed sensor suite. French Air Force

The nation’s 2019-2015 Military Programming Law provides funding for a fleet of eight King Air 350 ALSRs, all of which will be delivered by 2030. All eight examples will feature a suite of Thales-developed ISR sensors and are being modified by Sabena Technics at Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport in France.

The second King Air 350 is currently in flight testing. So far, just the first two aircraft have been officially ordered. France has recently brought forward the scheduled delivery of the third example to 2023 from 2027, as part of the defence side of its support plan for the aerospace sector, which was enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.