US Army completes final Saturn Arch mission

US Army Project Director Sensors-Aerial Intelligence (PD SAI) successfully completed the final mission for the Saturn Arch Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) aircraft in support of US Army Central Command (CENTCOM) on July 31.

The Saturn Arch system is housed in the de Havilland Canada RO-6A (a military derivative of the twin-turboprop Dash 8 commercial airliner), ten of which have been acquired in the last decade, primarily operated by Company D of 204th Military Intelligence Battalion.

US Army RO-6A Saturn Arch
A US Army de Havilland Canada RO-6A Saturn Arch Quick Reaction Capability aircraft. The type completed its final CENTCOM mission on July 31 as part of the CENTCOM drawdown of operations. US Army/Daniel Baldwin

Saturn Arch was initially developed by the Joint Improved Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to support emerging immediate requirements in CENTCOM in the early days of the Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Enduring Freedom conflicts. The programme’s advanced geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) capabilities included hyperspectral, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), and high-resolution imagery (HRI) sensors. It was initially designed primarily to assist in locating and neutralizing improvised explosive devices. Saturn Arch successfully performed missions for more than ten years resulting in about 72,500 mission hours flown and more than 18,000 intelligence products generated.

As the drawdown in CENTCOM occurred, the Saturn Arch sensors and aircraft were slowly retrograded from theater. With the US Army’s change in focus to Multi-Domain Operation requirements, PD SAI is working with the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command and lab partner communities to transition sensor capabilities to other efforts.