On April 1, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the sale of two King Air 350ERs to Saudi Arabia. Typically, that would not be a very noteworthy occurrence, but this particular contract was awarded to Sierra Nevada of Hagerstown, Maryland, a significant provider of defense electronics and a partner with the U.S. Army on a high-profile King Air 350 program.
Under the $71.5 million firm-fixed-price, undefinitized award, Sierra Nevada will outfit the two King Airs with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance/synthetic aperture radar capabilities. Additionally, the company will provide a transportable ground station, a fixed ground station, and a mission system trainer for the ISR/SAR King Airs.
The DoD announcement did not detail the equipment set that would outfit the King Airs, but Sierra Nevada is a prominent part of the U.S. Army’s Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (EMARSS) program. The EMARSS program outfits King Air aircraft with one of several equipment sets, all designed for ISR missions. Sierra Nevada specifically provides contractor support for and design of the EMARSS-V variant.
Sierra Nevada’s EMARSS-V is equipped with – among other specialized mission electronics – the Northrop Grumman VaDER (Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar). The VaDER is optimized for ground moving target indicator (GMTI) and SAR imaging operation. These are exactly the features of the King Airs that Saudi Arabia has ordered, so Sierra Nevada’s EMARSS-V is quite probably the aircraft involved in this purchase. Of course, another ISR/SAR mission package is always a possibility.
Under the terms of the April contract, Sierra Nevada will finish work on the King Air 350ERs and provide delivery by April 30, 2020. The U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, will be the contracting activity during project execution. For reference, the U.S. DoD contract number for this deal is FA8620-16-C-4003.
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