King Airs carry ISR equipment to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
ASSI teams with Stevens to outfit KA350s with sensors. Customers for SkyEye aircraft are in the US and overseas.
Stevens provides mx and ASSI trains pilots and tech reps
USAF's new Beech King Air 350 MC12 Liberty aircraft and the 1st one deployed in-theater taxies onto the ramp June 8 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. A medium-altitude manned special-mission turboprop aircraft designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, Beech King Air 350 MC12 aircraft support coalition and joint ground forces. Their ISR use has been praised by field commanders and has led to a steady stream of new MC12 King Air orders for Beechcraft.
Stevens also provides maintenance and troubleshooting instructions to supplement those provided by the various ISR equipment manufacturers. MRO facilities in far-flung operational areas can maintain the onboard systems mission-ready, analyzing problems and replacing components as necessary.
Depending on the contract ASSI can lease their aircraft with or without aircrew. When needed, ASSI's personnel are drawn from former military pilots and mission specialists who have the training and experience essential to successful ISR operations.
As well, these crew-members have the security clearances necessary for them to work with the worldwide intelligence community, sharing data, operational plans and mission analyses. Most of the pilots employed by ASSI have flown King Airs or similar aircraft, so training in preparation for deployment consists of recurrency as appropriate, along with updates on the ISR equipment onboard ASSI's aircraft.
A typical ISR duty day starts with the oncoming crew briefing with the crew going off duty. The mission specialists will discuss the activity they've been working, any intel they may have and the status of the mission systems, while the pilots will brief on the status of the airplane, squawks, and the weather in the op area.
Turkey's Defense Dept recently bought 5 of the SkyEye 350 King Airs designed by ASSI and outfitted by Stevens. Shown on the ramp at their base in Turkey are 2 of the SkyEye 350 King Airs. All 5 are now repainted in Turkish military colors and deployed along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Then, after a preflight brief with weather specialists, maintenance crews, and operations staff, they take off and fly to their assigned sector. Once on site, they will reduce to maximum endurance speed, nominally 140 KIAS, depending on aircraft weight. Once configured, they can remain on station for as long as five hours, with fuel to return to base and required reserves.
That crew can plan on two such flights per shift, with post and preflight briefs with intelligence specialists in between each flight, and a rest period.
Future ISR plans
What does the future hold for ASSI and the Stevens partnership? Donahoe and Williams are working on a number of additional contracts that will require more King Airs as well as Cessna Citations and even Bombardier Dash-8s.
"We're working together to customize the ISR package so that it's compatible with these other planes," Danahoe said. As to where these new programs might be located, Donahoe just smiles and says, "As you can well imagine, we can't talk about that."
Woody McClendon has written for Pro Pilot for 20 years. He flies jets and helicopters and is currently a sales manager for FlightSafety Intl.