They’re derived from Hawker-Beechcraft’s popular King Air B200 twin-prop planes, and they look like a dog that just finished chasing a family of porcupines. Their specialty is intercepting enemy communications, and snooping on electronic emissions. At one time, these light “RC-12 Guardrail” aircraft were one of the 3 electronic eavesdropping and surveillance planes slated for replacement by the joint Army-Navy Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) jet, after many years of service in remote trouble spots and large-scale wars around the globe. Now, they’re getting a new lease on life.
The $8 billion ACS program’s suspension, “back to square one” delay, and joint status uncertainties, have turned the Guardrails into a critical asset that need to continue serving. That requires performance improvements and modernization of their electronics to match a quickly-evolving field. To that end, long-standing Guardrail fleet prime contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation has been asked to create the latest entry in the Guardrail family.