Raytheon Anticipates Burgeoning Demand for Special Mission Aircraft

A Royal Air Force Sentinel in flight in December 2013. Photo by UK MOD Crown.

Le Bourget, France—Raytheon anticipates that company sales in the special mission aircraft (SMA) area will steadily grow over the next few years as demand for multispectral ISR continues to expand. Raytheon serves as an integrator for a variety of special mission aircraft, midsize manned aircraft that host advanced, multispectral intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance packages.

“Multi-int ISR has never been more important,” said Jim Hvizd, Raytheon’s vice president of business development, at a Paris Air Show briefing. Hvizd said Raytheon has generated roughly $2 billion in SMA business over the past four years, but he anticipates revenue to grow by “significant single digits” in upcoming years.

The company has either done business with or is in product negotiations with six nations, but Raytheon is only able to name the United Kingdom as a customer in this area. Both the customers and the capabilities Raytheon is helping deliver are often “withheld,” he said.

What Raytheon can say, however, is that it focuses on “tailored” products, not off-the-shelf commodities. These tailored products are developed through consultations with customers, and tend to be high-end solutions.

Raytheon integrates tactical ISR packages on the Beechcraft King Air family of aircraft, and strategic ISR packages on business jets, such as the Gulfstream 550. Hvizd said the strategic side of the portfolio has seen more of the recent growth.

The public success story is the RAF’s Sentinel R1 program, for which Raytheon brought together a “powerful active electronically scanned array (AESA) ‘dual mode’ surveillance radar, combining the best in ground moving target indicator (GMTI) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery, for unparalleled situational awareness,” according to a company fact sheet. Hvizd noted that Sentinel, carried aboard a Bombardier Global Express biz jet, is essentially “flying every day” for the Brits.

“Using the aircraft’s powerful radar the mission crew can identify and track numerous targets over great distances, passing the information in near real time to friendly forces,” according to the RAF.

Sentinel has flown operationally over Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali since 2009.