Sierra Nevada Unveils Rapcon-X For U.S. Army Fixed-Wing ISR

Credit: Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada has unveiled a concept for a new special missions variant of the Bombardier Global 6500 business jet, which the company would modify into a contractor-owned, contractor-operated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) jet for the U.S. Army. 

The unveiling of the Rapcon-X concept comes nearly two years after the Army started flying the Airborne Reconnaissance and Targeting Multi-Mission Intelligence System (Artemis), a Leidos-owned Challenger 650 equipped with a Sierra Nevada SS-4000 electronic intelligence payload. 

The Rapcon-X would fly slightly higher at an altitude of 45,000 ft. and carry Sierra Nevada’s Next Generation Mission System and “signal-intelligence products for multidomain operations,” a company spokesman says. 

The mission systems also would use the SNC TRAX software and a Modular Open Systems Approach in the avionics architecture, with the goal of easing the integration process for hardware and software applications offered by other companies, Sierra Nevada says. 

Sierra Nevada is financing development of Rapcon-X but is not disclosing the amount of the investment. 

“Rapcon-X demonstrates SNC’s willingness to have skin in the game to help the Army solve tough challenges,” a spokeswoman says. 

More than 16 years after the cancellation of the Aerial Common Sensor program, the Army’s fixed-wing ISR community is again seeking to invest in jet-powered ISR aircraft to operate at higher altitudes and carry larger payloads. 

The Army is currently evaluating offers by several companies to develop a High-Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES) payload, offering communications and electronic intelligence functions. A synthetic aperture radar with a ground moving target indication mode also is being considered for the HADES mission suite. 

The concept is being developed as part of the Multi-Domain Sensor System (MDSS), which seeks to field a new fleet of high-altitude ISR aircraft by 2028.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.


When the shooting starts, do the contractors take their aircraft and "go home"? Just curious.
I very much agree with GWROBLE'S implied concern: Having to rely on contractor good will and associated trade unions to enter and stay in combat zones, especially, when incurring equipment losses and wounding or death of personnel, is not a sound approach to successful warfare.