ISR collection and distribution is a critical part of operating a fighting force by providing personnel, vehicles and systems across a network with actionable insight in the battlespace in real time.
With this in mind, the US Army’s Theater-Level, High-Altitude Expeditionary Next Airborne ISR-Radar programme, known as Athena-R, will integrate sensor nodes and a command and control hub on two Bombardier Global 6500 aircraft.
The Army has turned to defence contractors to develop its aerial sensing needs as it transitions from its existing fleet of turboprop ISR aircraft to a more modern and capable fleet based on long-range business jets.
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For this reason, the Army has established three projects: first, the Airborne Reconnaissance Targeting Exploitation Mission Intelligence System (ARTEMIS); second, the Airborne Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare System (ARES) programmes; and lastly, the Army Theater Level High-Altitude Expeditionary Next Airborne (ATHENA) programmes.
There are two variants of the Athena programme: signals (intelligence derived from electronic signals and systems) and a radar-capable variant. While MAG leads the radar programme Leidos leads the signals, for which L3Harris serves as a teaming partner in both.
Athena-R is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar that tracks moving targets on the ground while Athena-S, also known as the ‘sigint’ variant, provides electronics detection and identification of assets such as air-defence radar and communication nodes.
According to the original equipment manufacturer of the jet the multi-role aircraft has over 18 hours of endurance, proven reliability with class-leading maintenance intervals and ample cabin space for workstations and mission equipment.
L3Harris and MAG are defence contractors with expertise in developing sophisticated sensor suites. Besides winning a contract in September 2022 to develop Phase 2 of the Army’s Multi-Domain Sensing System programme, L3Harris supports an additional Army ISR mission: the Airborne Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare aircraft known as ARES.
Likewise, MAG is currently the prime contractor for the Army’s Sensor Technology Operations and Readiness (STORM) contract. Being deeply embedded in these critical capabilities is core to MAG’s mission of making the world smaller and safer.
“Current geopolitical circumstances dictate a need for an adaptable and resolute ISR solution that can adequately address near-peer threats and future contested environments, and [MAG is] prepared to execute,” said Joseph Reale, CEO of MAG Aerospace.