WASHINGTON — L3Harris Technologies said it has flown for the first time a new U.S. Army technology demonstrator aircraft that will be capable of conducting both reconnaissance and electronic warfare, according to an Aug. 27 announcement.
The Army’s Airborne Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare System, or ARES, aircraft will help the service modernize its airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and will feed into the High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System program, which could produce an aircraft to replace the Army’s aging Guardrail ISR aircraft fleet with greater capability and increased standoff ranges.
Guardrail, a turboprop aircraft based on the King Air, is becoming obsolete in both operational capability and maintenance. The Army has reached a point where it is pulling parts from the boneyard to keep the aircraft operational, Defense News previously reported.
“L3Harris is helping the Army rapidly expand its ISR capabilities with ARES,” Luke Savoie, company president for aviation services, said in the statement. “Our design, fabrication and integration team turned a green airframe into an initial, single sensor-capable platform with new sensing technology in six months.”
The aircraft is capable of flying above 40,000 feet for as long as 14 hours and “can activate” long-range precision fires to counter distant threats as a “key sensor-to-shooter network enabler.”
ARES uses the Bombardier Global 6000/6500-class business jet that can a mission payload of 14,000 pounds. The aircraft can also accommodate enough power to run the Army’s longest-range sensors with room for growth, according to L3Harris. The aircraft could be a candidate platform for the High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System program.
The company won the contract to build ARES in November 2020.
While the name “ARES” implies the technology demonstrator would have an electronic warfare capability, it won’t start out with the capability and may never have it, Col. James DeBoer, the Army’s project manager for fixed-wing aircraft, told Defense News in an interview this year.
The Army is also flying another technology demonstrator called Artemis — or Aerial Reconnaissance and Targeting Exploitation Multi-Mission Intelligence System. The service awarded a contract to Leidos in November 2019 to integrate sensors and payloads onto a Bombardier Challenger 650 jet.
Artemis also participated in the Army’s aviation-geared exercise Edge 21 at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, in May. New communications sensors were evaluated on the platform.
The ARES platform is larger and has more electrical capability and more payload capacity than Artemis, according to DeBoer.
“The conversation comes back to: Where’s the smart place to invest? How much payload do we need? We always want to look at the ability to grow over time; we always add more capability to aircraft,” he said.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.