US Army ATHENA programme credit MAG Aero

Early-September 2023, Scramble Magazine first reported that MAG Aerospace was awarded a contract under the ATHENA-R programme. ATHENA is short for Army Theatre Level, High-Altitude Expeditionary Next Airborne, and there are two sub-projects under this name. ATHENA-R (Radar) and ATHENA-S (Signals).

On 14 November 2023, it was announced that the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) was selected to deliver two modified Global 6500 aircraft under the ATHENA-S project. SNC managed to beat Leidos with their RAPCON-X solution. This is short for Rapid Configurable to any mission (X), which is an Aerial Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (A-ISR) platform.

The contract for the two aircraft is valued at USD 554 million, and work is already underway at the Hagerstown (MD) SNC facility since mid-2022. Once completed the aircraft will have a modular system with an open architecture. This will allow the aircraft to be configured rapidly with different sensors depending on the mission parameters. The ATHENA-S main mission can be described as cuing in on electronic transmissions and collecting target signatures on the ground.

Besides mission equipment, the Global 6500 aircraft will also be fitted with mission stations, berthing quarters for crew rest, lavatories and a galley allowing long endurance missions. The aircraft have an endurance of about 14 hours, and a range of approximately 6,000 nautical miles. It can reach an altitude in excess of 45,000 feet.

Both N650RX (c/n 60083) and N650SN (c/n 60089) are believed to be the aircraft involved.

Image Globale 6500 by MAG Aerospace

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