King Air 350 Saddle Tanks

Its the little things that can sometimes deliver extra capability for not a lot of money.

The US company Cen-Tex Aerospace has just had their King Air 350 saddle tanks certified that provide the aircraft with an additional 190 gallons of fuel or a split configuration of 120 gallons and a lockable storage container.

King Air 350 Saddle Tank
King Air 350 Saddle Tank

The King Air 350 is of course the base aircraft for many manned ISTAR conversions such as the RAF Shadow R1’s

Shadow R1 5(AC) Sqdn RAF Waddington
Shadow R1 5(AC) Sqdn RAF Waddington

UPDATE

One of our commenters points out that the Shadow R1’s utilise the 350ER model, which already has saddle tanks.

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Hohum
Hohum
December 7, 2014 11:10 am

IIRC the Shadow R1 is based on the 350ER airframe which already has nacelle mounted tanks in a similar configuration to the Cen-Tex Aerospace ones (you can actually see the hump on the nacelle in the photo posted above) so such a change would probably make little difference to those aircraft.

Hohum
Hohum
December 7, 2014 1:20 pm

A quick bit of digging around tells me the following; the nacelle tanks on the ER hold 118 US Gallons with no additional stowage compared to 190 gallons in the CenTex Aerospace tanks so theoretically if you could fit the CenTex tanks to the ER in place of the factory fitted nacelles you would get a combined 144 extra gallons.

Mark
Mark
December 7, 2014 3:41 pm

Great a/c shows what can be done in getting istar a/c into service if you use the right airframe, people who know what there doing and be sensible with what you want it to do. They don’t all have to cost billions and take years to deliver real capabilities.

TAS
TAS
December 7, 2014 6:10 pm

Mark, what a strange comment. This aircraft has a minimal range/endurance and cannot be air-refuelled. It’s a hangover from Afghanistan. Should have chosen a bigger airframe, like any of the CASA twin turbos. Shadow is fundamentally reliant upon a friendly host nation base, with the associated cost of establishing a force protection footprint. And in any case, such an otherwise highly useful airframe could do so much more, but it’s too small. A triumph of cheap over sensible.

Hannay
Hannay
December 7, 2014 7:13 pm

@TAS

Shadow is a niche aircraft doing a very niche role. Its nothing like the other Air ISTAR platforms in UK service and can’t begin to do any of their roles. However, for what it does, small size and footprint are good qualities to have.

I’m not surprised its ‘cheap’ given that the systems on it are integrated in a very austere manner. Success is down to it having a narrow role, and the proficiency of the crews – very much a ‘good enough’ solution but you can’t make it do much more.

The Other Chris
December 7, 2014 7:26 pm

@TAS

The King Air is often used as a surrogate drone, most frequently you see it taking the place of an MQ-9.

Three common reasons for this in the UK and US generally (also specifically in GA’s own usage) are where the package being carried is particularly sensitive (q.v. suspected carriage of ARGUS-IS), where the package is undergoing testing or where geographical operation limits ground station availability and/or satellite bandwidth.

In the latter scenario, operators can be present on-board.

Upwards of the 2,500nm range mark is nothing to be sniffed at in this context and 12 hours endurance is pretty much the limit of the single crew available.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
December 7, 2014 8:02 pm

RE. “other Air ISTAR platforms in UK service and can’t begin to do any of their roles. However, for what it does, small size and footprint are good qualities to have.”

A bit like the bell 212s we use in training areas. Support tail for systems onboard only needs to be brought along, servicing the a/c and parts canbe done low key on a commercial basis when getting into a geography.

Vetting such providers/ their staff and force protection are another matter.

TAS
TAS
December 7, 2014 8:46 pm

Shadow is indeed a niche aircraft, but it represents a capability that should be mainstream military not an Afghanistan hangover.

Truth be told Shadow pisses me off. Only a year or so ago, we had an opportunity to acquire a much more capable airframe, capable of doing the Shadow role and much more. Commonly known as COMMANDO SOLO. It was vetoed by the RAF. They were, quote, not interested. So Shadow gets touted as a ‘solution’ when we should be doing much more in the way of enduring information operations and PSYOPS, especially against DAESH.

RANT COMPLETE.

mike
mike
December 7, 2014 9:38 pm

@TAS

Since when was the RAF/UK MoD ‘offered’ the commando solo C-130 derivative?
Genuine question. Considering the sensitive tech they use.

TAS
TAS
December 8, 2014 9:10 pm

Sensitive tech? What, unlike RIVET JOINT?