U.S. Army Expects High-Altitude Sensing Aircraft RFP Next Year

Challenger 600


Credit: U.S. Army

The U.S. Army plans to release a request for proposals (RFP) within the next year for an aircraft that will perform high-altitude surveillance and targeting missions, as it continues to learn from prototypes that have been flying real-world missions across the globe.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Oct. 10 at the Association of the United States Army annual conference that the RFP will be released “sometime in the coming year” for an aircraft that will carry the High-Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES), a payload with multiple sensors that will detect targets using electronic and communication signals, identify them with a synthetic aperture radar and track them with ground-moving target indication.

Wormuth says the lessons learned from current prototypes are shaping what the Army believes it will need in its future crewed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform. The prototypes are currently the Leidos-developed and operated Airborne Reconnaissance Targeting and Exploitation Multi-Mission Intelligence System (ARTEMIS); a Bombardier Challenger 650 with Sierra Nevada Corp.’s SS-4000 signals intelligence payload; and the L3Harris-owned Airborne Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare System (ARES), a Bombardier Global 6000 with its own sensing payload.

Earlier this year, Sierra Nevada Corp. announced it was developing another prototype, spending $200 million to build two Global 6500s with antennas, radars and operator stations it calls Rapcon-X.

The Army has said it wants a business-class jet capable of flying higher and at a longer range than the existing Beechcraft RC-12 Guardrail it could eventually replace—the Army has not yet created a program of record for this replacement. 

The crewed aircraft will be combined with uncrewed aircraft for the overall high-altitude sensing mission, which the Army is calling the Multi-Domain Sensing System.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.