Air International 2013-06
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J.Dorschner - Setting the Standard /Military/
A large cabin, good performance, low airframe and operating costs and wide choice of sensors make the Beechcraft King Air family popular for special mission applications. This aircraft is one of five Shadow R1s serving with the RAF.
Like many of the special missions Beech 350 variants, little information has been released on the RAF's Shadow R1s. The long term future of the fleet is uncertain, as they were acquired to support operations in Afghanistan and funding cutbacks after the UK pulls out in 2014 may see them withdrawn.
The Spyder demonstrator later had a longer nose fitted to house additional sensors
Initially assigned to No.5(AC) Squadron, the RAF's Shadow R1s currently serve with No.14 Squadron.
Although no orders have been announced for the Spyder, L3 has promoted the system in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The system was designed to be platform independent and can be tailored to the requirements of the customer.
Several companies have offered special mission variants of the Beech 350, all of which take advantage of under fuselage panniers to accommodate mission sensors.
L-3 is offering the Spyder, based on the Beech 350 airframe.
C-12D 81-23545 was one of the aircraft modified to the Horned Owl configuration.
US Air Force MC-12W.
The largest fleet of special missions Beech 350s is operated by the US Air Force. Its MC-12Ws have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing persistant ISR to ground forces.
The RAF's five Shadow R1s were acquired under an Urgent Operational Requirement and serve in Afghanistan.
Artist's impression of the US Army's EMARSS configuration, developed as a successor to the cancelled Aerial Common Sensor.