Lockheed Martin in Pursuit of Border Surveillance Market
The contractor expects an invitation to tender from Frontex, said Mark Grablin, the company’s director of airborne reconnaissance systems. He spoke with reporters at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington, D.C.
Last year, Lockheed Martin demonstrated its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to the border security organization using its DA-42 equipped with a FLIR Electro Optical/InfraRed camera. Once an invitation to bid is given, companies will be asked to demonstrate their technologies.
As budgets shrink but the demand for ISR grows, customers are increasingly looking to buy those capabilities as a service from contractors, instead of having to invest in the hardware and infrastructure.
“Multiple international customers are interested in ISR service capabilities, and the reason is you can just start paying the bill in small increments and not have to pay the large acquisition costs associated with putting together an airborne ISR capability,” Grablin said.
Lockheed currently offers seven ISR service packages as part of its Dragon family, including “Dragon Stare” sensor pods that are configured on manned or unmanned aircraft or “Dragon Den” ground processing systems.
The Dragon series operates like a menu where customers can custom order what capabilities they want, from services both owned and operated by Lockheed Martin to arrangements where the customer owns the equipment, but outsources the ISR duties to the contractor, Grablin said.
Frontex is seeking contractor owned and operated services, he said. However, because it is illegal to use UAVs in European civil airspace, capabilities would be restricted to manned aircraft.
The newest configuration is the Dragon Sentinel. It provides persistent surveillance capabilities from airborne and ground sensors that are tethered to an aerostat or tower system.
Such technology is already in use in Afghanistan, where it provides broad area security around military bases, Grablin said.
"What the insurgents learned is that this is very effective capability, a very good defensive system,” he said. “So now what happens is every time the balloon comes down for maintenance, it's an attack target."
Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin