Yet More King Airs for U.S. Recon Operations over Afghanistan
Boeing has won the enhanced medium-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance systems (EMARSS) competition to supply low/medium-altitude airborne reconnaissance systems to the U.S. Army. The Army pre-specified the Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350ER as the platform for EMARSS, as well as the basic specification. The initial contract award is worth $88 million for four development aircraft, but up to 30 subsequent production aircraft could be worth another $250 million. The EMARSS program is remarkably similar to the previous U.S. Air Force Project Liberty acquisition of 37 MC-12W aircraft. That was an expedited program to provide more manned reconnaissance over Afghanistan. L-3 Communications won that contract, and is one of two companies–Northrop Grumman is the other–to formally protest the EMARSS award. The EMARSS King Airs will carry EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared) video and communications intelligence sensors, the latter with geolocation ability, as well as line-of-sight and satellite datalinks. There will be two pilots and two operator workstations.