From Test Jet to Money-Maker: Lockheed’s AML “Net Dragon”

Mar 23, 2016 00:55 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff

Lockheed is more aggressive than most defense firms in self-funding projects that make sense to them, and the Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory (AML) was their response to the rising popularity of small manned surveillance planes like the USA’s MC-12W Liberty, the MARSS program, etc. Now, their AML is moving from a privately-funded surveillance variant of the Gulfstream III business jet, to a money-making platform, courtesy of the Italian Ministry of Defence.

Under an agreement for an undisclosed sum, Lockheed Martin will provide its AML as a contracted ISR(Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) service “in a live operational environment,” which probably means Afghanistan. The service goes beyond the jet…

Italy’s contract includes full flight crew and maintenance personnel, plus 3 intelligence-processing ground stations, for 1 year. An option could extend the contract to 2 years. The sensor package will include day/night cameras and SIGINT electronic eavesdropping gear, other undiscussed communications and sensor packages, plus any new equipment the Italians choose to add and integrate.

Lockheed Martin says external link that its AML team includes L-3 Communications Systems-West, Rockwell Collins, FLIR Government Systems, and Finmeccanica’s DRS.

To date, the Gulfstream III AML has been used as a test platform to develop the architecture for swappable sensors that could be packaged in different mounting assemblies, and installed on a wide variety of planes. The firm now markets this offering as its Dragon series external link, with “Dragon Star” marketed as the modification for Gulfstream III sized jets, and “Net Dragon” external link as the name for the kind of rent-a-capability service the Italians are buying.

The Italian order will help the firm refine its core architecture, broaden its sensor choices, hone both parties’ understanding of how to operate and use a service like this, and give its Dragon line some operational credentials.

Those credentials may be a useful selling point in non-military markets as well. The mineral surveys of Afghanistan that recently found huge resource deposits used military assets, including magnetic imaging sensors on board P-3 maritime patrol aircraft. Unmanned drones have also shown considerable flexibility, with hunter-killer platforms like the MQ-9 Reaper refitted to take on roles like firefighting assistance. Manned aircraft with packages like the Dragon series offer similar potential, without the issues drones have getting permission to fly in civil airspace.


March 23/16: Lockheed Martin is to go ahead with its Net Dragon upgrade external link planned for the USAF’s U-2S fleet. The system will equip the fleet with a beyond-line-of-sight communications relay capability for forward-deployed forces on the ground or in the air. At present, the aircraft uses a Dragon Fly modem that will allow a soldier on the ground to relay full-motion video to another soldier miles away. The new upgrade increases the difficulty for competitors to get ahead of Lockheed, with a planned L-3 Communications upgrade due on the plan within the next few months. An L-3 Communication satellite modem will allow the same forces on the ground to call up imagery and other information from intelligence databases, such as the distributed common ground system.


Lockheed Martin Offers ISR Dragons With Different Scales

Posted by Chris Pocock  – July 9, 2012


The U.S.-based group has named the core offer Net Dragon. It consists of a contractor-owned, contractor-operated (CoCo) model that pitches Lockheed Martin (LM) into a market that has traditionally been serviced by smaller, specialist outfits. Customers can choose from various Dragon options according to their requirements, and quickly field an affordable ISR capability.

DENVER, Sept 13, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — A flying ISR laboratory developed by Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) recently demonstrated advanced capabilities to disseminate real-time intelligence data, including streaming video, imagery and communications feeds to a ground station. Lockheed Martin’s Airborne Multi-INT Laboratory (AML) flew several flights using previously collected data to demonstrate intelligence collection, analysis, processing and dissemination.

The Italians are also using another branded offer from IS&GS called Dragon’s Den. This is the ground station component, which comes in various configurations from a single computer workstation up to a trailer-like shelter. LM is providing the flight crew and maintenance personnel for both the aircraft and three intelligence-processing systems.

LM’s Italian contract lasts for one year, with an option to extend to two years. The AML–a converted Gulfstream GIII business jet–is fitted with equipment from Flir Government Systems, Rockwell Collins, DRS and L-3 Communications. “With its open architecture and configurable exterior, the Italian air force can integrate additional C4ISR software and hardware in a matter of hours rather than days,” said LM. Source

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