Airborne Systems in Austria have developed what I think is a very interesting product aimed at the lower end, it is not designed to replace products like the Rafael Lightning that can work at high speeds and high G loads but offer a quick and easy way to turn any light aircraft or helicopter into a ISTAR system.
The S.C.A.R (self contained aerial reconnaissance) Pod is a self contained carbon fibre pod that can accept a variety of payloads. The main sensor is a single electro optical sensor turret from the likes of FLIR, SELEX or Wescam and this can be augmented with moving map display, augmented reality and up/down link communications equipment. A SIGINT/COMINT payload is also available.
OK, so not that impressive!
However, what makes the idea so interesting is it is designed to be completely self contained, not needing any power or data communication cabling on the aircraft.
All it needs is a NATO standard pylon lug and that’s it.
Power is provided by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack that is good for 10 hours continuous operation.
Up and down link communications are managed by the equipment inside the pod.
The sensor feed and two control information is ‘beamed’ into the aircraft cockpit using low power WiFi.
In the aircraft the operator station uses standard off the shelf computing equipment like ruggedised tablets.
This means you can enhance pretty much any aircraft with a very capable day/night ISTAR capability.
Although Wildcat will replace the Lynx and Gazelle is going out of service this shows the existing method of fitting similar sensors
There are two sizes of SCAR pod in order to accommodate different size turrets but they can both carry about 160kg of payload.
Installation is said to take less than 30 minutes.
A useful niche capability for this might be a surrogate RPAS. Even on segregated training areas obtaining permission to fly unmanned systems has been extremely challenging, whilst this is resolved the personnel on the ground are denied the opportunity to train with it.
Putting the mission system, i-Master radar and CoMPASS optical sensor into this pod (the weight is pretty much the same as the SCAR pod payload) would allow a very low cost to operate manned aircraft to act as a surrogate for Watchkeeper, for example.
The augmented reality system from Churchill Navigation is also very interesting.
So, not for fast jets but cheap, flexible, easy to integrate with most aircraft and as capable as you want it to be, what’s not to like?
Higher up the scale is Moog’s ProtectIR Targeting Pod, click here to read more