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L-3 Aims For Army 'Liberty'

L-3 Communications is hoping to capitalize on its rapid production and fielding of an ISR plane for the Air Force to snag a similar Army contract perhaps as early as this month.

The company announced Sept. 13 that it has just delivered the 37th and final MW-12 Liberty surveillance plane to the Air Force. The delivery came about 14 months after the first delivered Liberty began flying operational missions in Afghanistan. The plane, a modified Hawker Beechcraft, has a crew of four, including pilot, co-pilot, signals intelligence systems operator and a full-system video operator.

The Army is looking for a fleet of 37 similar planes for its Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System, Lionel G. Smith, director, Strategic Development Special Programs for L3, told DoDBuzz. The Army already has been using modified civilian aircraft for ISR missions for several years, since it put together Task Force Odin in Iraq, according to Jason Decker, a spokesman for L-3. The C-12 planes, equipped with cameras and sensors, identified targets for attack by Army Apache helicopters.

In December the Army put out a solicitation for a new ISR plane that would be adapted from a commercially available aircraft. The Army said it wants delivery of four of the planes within 18 months of awarding a contract. In addition to L-3, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and a Lockheed Martin-Sierra Nevada Corp. team are competing for the contract.

L-3 is counting on the Army’s wanting the planes fast and its own rapid turnaround of the Air Force Liberty planes to be a factor.

“Others can do it, but we have demonstrated the ability to build and field them quickly,” Smith told DoDBuzz.

With all of the Air Force’s Liberty planes now operational, the first seven that were rolled out will be headed back for some upgrades, according to Smith. This group will be retrofitted with equipment made standard on the later planes -– satellite communications capability, extended-range fuel tanks and winglets, he said.

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