Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) will provide the US Army with a new airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (A-ISR) platform under the terms of a $554m contract that was awarded on September 28.
Based on Bombardier’s Global 6500 business jet, SNC’s RAPCON-X rapidly configurable jet will be equipped to support the Army Theater Level High Altitude Expeditionary Next Airborne-Signals (ATHENA-S) project. SNC will modify two contractor-owned, contractor-operated (COCO) aircraft for the ATHENA-S project at its facility in Hagerstown, Maryland. The ATHENA-S will detect and intercept electronic transmissions and collect target signatures on the ground.
The Army had previously selected MAG Aerospace and L3Harris Technologies to develop the ATHENA-R (Radar) aircraft in August 2023. The ATHENA-R will also be carried by a pair of COCO Global 6500 aircraft. ATHENA-R will feature a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) designed to track moving targets on the ground. This contract was valued at around $552.4m.
The ATHENA project is the Army’s third A-ISR programme and follows the earlier development of the Airborne Reconnaissance Targeting Exploitation Mission Intelligence System (ARTEMIS) and the Airborne Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare System (ARES) by Leidos and L3Harris. These programmes will each support the Army’s development of requirements for its planned High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES) project, which will be carried by a fleet of approximately 14 Global 6500s.
Capable of operating at altitudes greater than 50,000ft (15,240m) for long periods of time and offering faster transit speeds, the Global 6500-based platforms will replace the Army’s current fleet of turboprop-powered MC/RC-12 A-ISR aircraft.