Crazy Hawks, Fit for a King
The US military’s Dash-7 derived “Crazy Hawk”/ Airborne Reconnaissance Low aircraft use their short-field takeoff capabilities and array of imaging, signals collection, and radar sensors to monitor developments on the ground. The planes made the news briefly in 1999 when one went down in Colombia, but the capability was needed, and that aircraft was replaced. Fort Bliss, TX reportedly hosts several aircraft, and in 2011 one of the planes based in South Korea was reportedly forced to return to base by North Korean GPS jamming.
The modernized ARL fleet remains a valuable asset, with an estimated 8 ARL-M/EO-5C planes. In December 2011, King Aerospace, Inc. in Addison, TX won a $28.2 million firm-fixed-price contract, for life cycle contract support of the USA’s Airborne Reconnaissance – Low fleet until Dec 31/14. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 3 bids received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-05-C-0302).
The ARL-Ms will serve alongside aircraft bought for similar programs, as surveillance needs have grown. Programs like MARSS have added similar contractor-operated aircraft. In parallel, smaller twin-engine Beechcraft King Airs were bought (MC-12W) and refurbished (RC-12X), to serve in similar surveillance and COMINT/SIGINT roles.