The US Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Surrogate Predator Programme has modified a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Cessna 182 aircraft for use in military training exercises.
The Cessna 182 is located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. It was integrated with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors to mimic a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Called Enhanced Surrogate Predator 3, the modified aircraft was recently handed over to CAP, which is the official auxiliary of the air force with approximately 60,000 members nationwide.
Surrogate Predator Programme programme manager J P Sena said: "The Enhanced Surrogate Predator 3 is a redesign of the first two surrogate predators, which had a wing-mounted turret.
"We designed the Cessna 206T with a retractable turret stowed in the belly of the aircraft that allows for longer flight times by reducing drag when the turret is not in operation.
"The operator station was also designed with ergonomics in mind to allow for more leg room, ease of controls, central location for all the equipment and a plethora of capabilities for the sensor operator."
The previously developed Surrogate Predators are used in Green Flag exercises, where the USAF and its allies engage in air-land integration combat training exercises.
Sena said: "With the use of the Surrogate Predator during Green Flag exercises, troops training for deployment get experience with what they will see overseas, while the government can keep the high-value assets overseas to continue to complete missions."
Apart from serving as a military training aircraft, the Surrogate Predators 1 and 2 were also used by CAP in relief efforts for disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
With a fleet of 550 aircraft, CAP performs approximately 85% of continental US inland search and rescue missions, as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, and is claimed to be saving an average of 70 lives each year.
In addition, CAP members perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.
Image: An enhanced Surrogate Predator 3 aircraft prepares for takeoff. Photo: courtesy photo.