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US Armys ARES ISR demonstrator aircraft takes to the skies for first time

US Army ARES demonstrator for HADES ISR solution
Photo: L3Harris

The US Army’s Airborne Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare System (ARES) aircraft demonstrator for the service’s next-generation intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities has completed its first flight.

The milestone was announced by L3Harris Technologies, one of the two companies that received contracts in June this year to develop prototype electronic intelligence (ELINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT) sensors which will eventually be integrated onto the High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES), the Army’s future airborne ISR system.

ARES is a technology demonstrator for the HADES program, which will integrate capabilities from the Army’s existing ISR fleet with capacity to add payloads, sensors and increase standoff ranges.

“L3Harris is helping the Army rapidly expand its ISR capabilities with ARES,” said Luke Savoie, president, Aviation Services, L3Harris. “Our design, fabrication and integration team turned a green airframe into an initial single sensor capable platform with new sensing technology in six months.”

According to L3 Harris, ARES can fly at mission altitudes above 40,000 feet for as long as 14 hours and can activate Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) to counter long-range threats. Flight operations above 40,000 feet enhance aircraft survivability and line-of-sight, making ARES and HADES key sensor to shooter (S2S) network enablers, the Army’s top modernization priority.

ARES is hosted on the Bombardier Global 6000/6500 class business jet, which can host up to 14,000 lbs. of mission payload and has the power to run the Army’s longest-range sensors, along with the size, weight and power capacity to accommodate future growth.

The US Army has also started early testing for the HADES program with the Artemis intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance technology demonstrator, which is based on the Bombardier Challenger 650 jet and delivered by Leidos under a contract from 2019.

HADES has the objective of replacing the Army’s aging Guardrail ISR aircraft fleet, which has been in service for more than 45 years.

The new system is expected to provide a multi-faceted sensing capability at higher altitudes and longer ranges, and with longer endurance than is currently available from the Army’s RC-12 Guardrail, MC-12 Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS), and EO-6C Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) aircraft.