A jet once used by executives at Jack Daniel’s may improve military intelligence-gathering operations.
Lockheed Martin spent $18 million to buy and modify a Gulfstream III business jet, which once belonged to a semi-pro hockey team and the Jack Daniel’s company. The plane is now a flying laboratory in which customers can test and update intelligence-gathering technologies.
The Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory (AML) has been making stops domestically and overseas. During a recent visit to the United Kingdom, the plane demonstrated its ability to disseminate real-time intelligence via streaming video, imagery and communication feeds to a ground station.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown the need for sensor systems that can detect, identify and track small groups operating outside a traditional military structure. The AML has been designed with those situations in mind, said John Beck, transformation programs manager at Lockheed Martin.
“We took a private executive jet with a wet bar and made it into an operational [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] platform,” said Charles Gulledge, strategic programs manager at Lockheed Martin. “Now we know what it takes.”
The transformation from swank corporate jet to intelligence lab took just 10 months. While intended to provide an airborne platform to test and update sensors, the plane is fully operational and contains four on-board work stations. “If a customer came in tomorrow with the right checkbook,” Lockheed could sell them the plane as is, Gulledge said.
The Finnish Air Force has committed $100 million for Lockheed Martin to outfit an EADS CASA C-295 aircraft with the same configuration. The contract also calls for the company to provide ground stations and communication terminals to support the airborne system.