15 June 2015
For Immediate Release:
IOMAX Introduces All New Archangel Precision Strike / Reconnaissance Aircraft at the 2015 Paris Air Show
IOMAX, based in Mooresville, North Carolina USA is introducing a new armed reconnaissance variant of the Thrush S2R-T660 turboprop at the 2015 Paris Air Show. The design and development of the aircraft, trademarked the Archangel, began in November of 2012 and builds on IOMAX’s history of delivering the only currently fielded, heavy precision strike / Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) equipped Border Patrol Airplane (BPA) in the world.
The employment of the first generation BPA developed by IOMAX, based on the Air Tractor (AT-802), proved to be a force multiplier for a Middle East customer. The idea to convert the airplane’s two greatest strengths, its ability to carry an extremely large payload with its simplicity of design, fulfilled a critical void which had existed in the aviation battle space for decades. Although the strategy of designing and employing an extremely sophisticated precision strike / ISR capability on board an aircraft designed for agricultural spray operations seemed to contradict current worldwide trends towards unmanned air vehicles, the concept has proven extremely effective in various combat environments over the past five years.
During the process of fielding the first generation BPA, IOMAX encountered several limiting factors, as would be expected with any first generation product. During the integration of the Block 1 and 2 AT-802 based BPAs, the aircraft mission capability was hindered due to the many modifications required to transform the aircraft from a crop duster to a medium altitude, weaponized, ISR platform. During this developmental process, it became obvious that in order to maximize the many benefits associated with this type of airplane – such as simplicity of design and the ability to carry large amounts of fuel and weapons – the design and integration process should run parallel to the manufacturing process. This would allow the airplane to be purpose-built around the mission versus the mission being built around the capabilities and limitations of the airplane.
“We wanted to design and offer our clients an affordable platform for the border security mission which would holistically address the performance and safety deficiencies of the first generation BPA. In order to achieve this in the future, we realized that we would have to partner with the aircraft manufacturer throughout the design, integration and manufacturing processes,” explained Ron Howard, IOMAX President and CEO.
To this end, IOMAX selected Thrush Aircraft’s S2R-T660 aircraft as the basis for the next generation BPA. IOMAX also established an exclusive relationship with Thrush Aircraft and jointly invested in the design and development of the Archangel, the next generation, purpose-built BPA.
The Archangel improvements include an elevated rear cockpit ergonomically designed as a functional crew position by repositioning the cockpit forward on the airframe. This yielded pilot visibility and ergonomics more suited for long endurance flight operations. Additionally, IOMAX improved the man machine interface, added self-sealing fuel tanks, ballistic protection, an enhanced composite propeller to reduce audible signature and provide better high altitude performance, an oxygen supply system and increased the cruise speed. The result is a mission aircraft that allows operations in medium threat environments, with a service ceiling of 25,000 feet, speeds in excess of 210 KTAS (clean, 10,000 ft), over 9 hours loiter at altitudes that make it inaudible to ground threats, and highly integrated military mission avionics.
The Archangel’s design supports air component requirements for counterinsurgency (COIN), armed reconnaissance (AR), close air support (CAS), forward air control (airborne) (FAC(A)) and combat search and rescue (CSAR). It is a very affordable platform with low acquisition cost and a typical flying hour cost well below $1,000. The Archangel has commonality in communications, datalinks and weapons with other military aircraft around the world. This provides for interoperability and reduces the cost of acquisition, sustainment and integration with partner nations. Communications options include at least three secure radios, HF radio and streaming video datalink compatible with the Remote Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER).
The Archangel is uniquely equipped with a high performance EO/IR reconnaissance and targeting capability combining a suite of precision strike weapons that can execute precision strike missions with low collateral damage against both moving and fixed targets. The EO/IR system allows for wide area search and also magnification for identification. The Archangel carries munitions similar to existing fixed wing attack aircraft and helicopters, including 2.75” (70 mm) Laser Guided Missiles, Hellfire AGM-114 Missiles, and GBU-58 and GBU-12 Paveway II Laser Guided Bombs.
With all six wing store stations carrying weapons, the Archangel provides the ability to engage a broad spectrum of both soft and hard targets. From patrol boats to ground vehicles, the Archangel provides the crew the means to locate, identify, track, destroy and conduct battle damage assessment. Load out examples include 48 precision laser guided 2.75” missiles or 12 Hellfire missiles or 6 Paveway II guided MK81 or MK82 bombs. No current military platforms are known to accommodate this variety of weapons needed for the precision strike and CAS roles.
With over 750 hours operating armed / ISR versions of the Block 1 and Block 2 BPAs – including delivery of over 150 laser guided bombs, missiles, and rockets – the IOMAX Director of Aviation Operations, William Challancin, is likely the most experienced pilot operating the current BPA fleet worldwide. “The Archangel platform provides significant performance and safety improvements over the other missionized agricultural (AT-802) aircraft that I have operated in the past,” said Challancin. “Although the Block 1 and 2 BPAs have proven to be extremely effective combat aircraft, there are significant enhancements on the Archangel which set it apart from the earlier BPAs. First, the aircraft systems and avionics are superior in every way. The Archangel offers a fully integrated Flight Management System (FMS), Heads Up Display (HUD), Wescam MX-15 EO/IR sensor, Tactical System Computer (TSC) and video downlink. All of these systems along with internal and external lighting are fully Night Vision Goggle (NVG) compatible. All of the information needed to navigate, target, and attack is presented in a simple and efficient manner. This approach lowers aircrew workload and shortens the kill chain, while significantly improving safety.”
“Secondly, the aircrew visibility and aircraft handling qualities of the Archangel have been specifically designed to overcome the shortcomings we faced while flying and instructing in the Air Tractor AT-802,” Challancin continued. “We moved the cockpit forward about 40” in an effort to improve both pilot and Weapons System Operator (WSO) forward and lateral visibility. This increased visibility is critical to the instructor pilot tasked with training new pilots in the operation of large, powerful tailwheel aircraft. Since the rear position in the earlier AT-802 BPAs was not designed as a functional crew position, there was very limited forward visibility from the rear seat.”
“Finally, Archangel’s handling qualities have been greatly improved through the overall reduction of drag and the incorporation of a larger vertical stabilizer and rudder. This modification greatly improves ground handling, takeoff and landing controllability and lateral (yaw) stability in the air. These attributes, combined with the improved visibility, have proven to decrease pilot transition time into the mission aircraft, reduce pilot workload and significantly improve safety.”
Howard believes the Archangel fills a broad void in border defense worldwide. “Border security has never been more important. Archangel is a quantum leap forward in terms of performance and safety as it employs the lessons learned from the earlier BPA aircraft. We are proud of what we have accomplished with the Archangel – it is truly unlike any aircraft in the world.”
IOMAX is a privately held company located in Mooresville, North Carolina and employs 150 personnel.