Lockheed Martin’s Airborne Multi-INT Laboratory: Innovation in the Air
Security concerns throughout the world today reflect the need for diverse airborne C4ISR solutions that provide continuous awareness of one’s environment. Different environments, however, require different solutions. Plus, system development is expensive and time consuming. Answering the need for expedited C4ISR solutions is the key role for Lockheed Martin’s Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory or AML.
An innovative flying laboratory, the AML, known as Dragon Star, is a Gulfstream III business jet that has been modified into a test bed for testing and fielding C4ISR capabilities. The Gulfstream III was chosen as the AML platform due to its ability to support a multitude of sensors, broad flight regime and long range.
Since its introduction in 2009, the AML has been used to evaluate how sensors operate - alone and in combination - in real-world exercises and scenarios. It has participated in customer demonstrations and experiments in Europe, the Pacific Rim and the United States.
“We’ve used the AML to help customers test sensors, communications packages, exploitation sub-systems, and even develop concepts of operation,” said Charles Gulledge, with Lockheed Martin’s airborne reconnaissance business development. “With the AML, we’ve been able to show how ISR capabilities can be rapidly integrated into operational scenarios and mission systems with minimal development time.”
In addition to a full suite of intelligence computing capabilities that supports most commercial operating systems, a “canoe” on the underside of the aircraft can house many types of sensors. An open architecture and the aircraft’s configurable exterior physical structure allow C4ISR components (software and hardware) to be integrated and switched in a matter of hours, rather than days. The aircraft’s open architecture design also makes it simple to integrate the AML with existing sovereign ground architectures while maintaining interoperability during coalition engagements.
“We made the AML’s architecture platform agonistic,” said Gulledge. “This has allowed us to test a myriad of intelligence sensor combinations on different aircraft platforms to address the needs of our diverse customer set.”
In just a few years the AML has grown in functionality, with new capabilities being added from a variety of industry partners. New sensors provided by Rockwell Collins and DRS Defense Solutions have been integrated into the AML’s mission system. The AML also has providing High Definition Electro-Optical/Infrared sensors from FLIR Systems and wideband data links provided by L-3 Communication Systems-West. Lockheed Martin is continuing to work with industry partners interested in fielding their systems on the AML to improve operational functionality.
“The AML has proved itself to be the perfect test platform for testing and fielding intelligence capabilities,” added Gulledge. “We’re continually investigating innovative ways to use the AML to respond to customer needs.”
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