The French Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) has contracted Sabena Technics and Thales to supply light aircraft for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
Under the contract, the companies will deliver two operating systems, each consisting of a Beechcraft King Air 350 airframe and stations for mission preparation and the collection and processing of information.
As per a statement posted on DGA's website, the airframe will be equipped with various payloads intended to gather signals intelligence (SIGINT) and original intelligence imagery (IMINT).
The French Air Force will operate the aircraft on behalf of the nation's military intelligence.
The aircraft will provide additional intelligence-gathering with respect to MALE drones.
They are capable of conducting intelligence and surveillance missions with a low-logistical footprint and are easily deployable.
Delivery of the first system under the contract will take place next year, followed by the second system in 2019.
Additionally, the air force is planning to replace electronic intelligence C-160 Transall 'Gabriel' with a larger aircraft, defense-aerospace.com reported.
Thus, the two King Air aircraft will serve as an interim replacement for the C-160 Transall.
Beechcraft said that every King Air model is equipped with a large, pressurised cabin and fuel-efficient turboprop powerplants, making it suitable for aerial surveying.
The aircraft's aerial survey sensors include digital mapping products, LIDAR and multi and hyper-spectral cameras.