UTC Aerospace Systems - Global Leader in the Long Range Reconnaissance Market, DB-110 Reconnaissance System & TacSAR

Issue 65 - February 2016

UTC Aerospace Systems, one of the world’s largest suppliers of technologically advanced aerospace and defense products. The representatives of UTC Aerospace Systems met with Defence Turkey Magazine to discuss the DB-110 Reconnaissance Pod and the TacSAR pod.  The meeting attendees were Mr. Kevin Raftery - Vice President ISR & Space Systems, UTC Aerospace Systems, Mr. Larry Mayer - Director, Business Development Airborne Systems, Mr. Michael Don - Director, Tactical Reconnaissance Systems, Dr. Richard Wileman - Director of Business Development International.

UTC Aerospace Systems shined as a market leader at this event.  They discussed their strategic partnership agreement with Selex ES, how theircustomer centric approach and focus on market expertise has given rise to a portfolio product providing the customer with day night and all weather capability.   


Developing Customers for the Future

UTC Aerospace Systems currently has 13 international customers that operate on the DB-110 system on various platforms, F-16 being the largest.  The DB-110 Reconnaissance Pod and the TacSAR pod provide seamless integration into existing operations using the same aircraft interfaces, real-time data links and intelligence exploitation systems.


ISR Systems - Significant and Growing Presence in Global Defense Programs

UTC Aerospace Systems’ Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) business has contributed to significant advances in ground, air, space and imaging technology for over 85 years.  ISR Systems have a significant and growing presence in global defense programs, in air and ground environments as well as space. Mr. Kevin Raftery, Vice President ISR & Space Systems, shared with us the history behind DB-110, its development, application growth and customer growth. 

“The thrust of our product in tactical reconnaissance is built off of our for purpose export sensor called DB-110.  That sensor was developed about 15 years ago; predominantly the launch customer was the Royal Air Force, for a program called RAPTOR. The system has gone through multiple upgrades and in 2005 we developed the upgrade and integration path for the largest application users, that’s the F-16.  In fact, most of the growth in the market segment has been putting our sensor on to an F-16. If we fast forward a decade of very robust sales, of various versions, we would enhance the DB-110 first generation, second generation and each time we would listen to our customers and determine what they were actually seeking, resulting in tremendous amount of growth, application and customer growth. Right now we have 13 international customers that operate on the DB-110 system on various platforms. F-16 is the largest. This region has many customers.  Today, as well as this team here at the Dubai Airshow, we are working on developing these customers for the future.” He continued, “Based on the voice of the customer, listening to what the customers needed and in parallel working with the state department for export approval, it took about 3 years and 3 products were introduced.”


Establishment of a Strategic Supply Agreement with Selex ES in Edinburgh, Scotland

The first major thrust stemmed from the fact that the systems worked exceptionally well day/night, but they lacked performance in all weather conditions. Mr. Kevin Raftery elaborated, “If you’ve got cloud coverage you’re not going to see through the clouds with optical imagery, so with that we introduced a radar version of the system “TacSAR”. We conducted a worldwide search of current radar suppliers as a development partner.  At UTC, we did not want to develop our own radar; we wanted to seek out a proven leader in the industry.   We did this both foreign and domestic, in the same time we obtained export approval, we knew the system size we wanted, we wanted the range in performance to closely match the range in performance of our DB110 system.  A few years ago we established a strategic supply agreement with Selex ES in Edinburgh with their product portfolio; we take our DB110 system, take out the imaging sensor and we replace it with the radar sensor and now we can offer a portfolio product where the customer gets day/ night and all weather.  Selex ES is the prime subsystem technology, radar provider.  We rely on their expertise.  The size of the investment they’ve made and the core of their technology is so huge we would not want to recreate that. The segment that we are in is imaging radar for ISR.  It’s not combat radar it’s intelligence radar.  With a combat radar or fire control radar the pod is on the nose and they are looking ahead and doing air-to-air and some airtoground. In our business we’re looking side to side, left to right and we are standing and collecting information and mapping it, and we overlay that intelligence that we get from the SAR with map data and prior electro optical imaging data; so it’s an exceptional fit, it allows Selex ES introduction into markets that they would not normally have entered because we are the airborne integrator, we have the F-16 integration approach, the F-15, it potentially provides them inroads into the US market because we are a US based company, and at the same time we get access to some very good technology.”  

Mr. Raftery continued “Another key part of the market is that UTC’s existing customers do not have to make a huge investment into this capability because they can reuse the ground exploitation that we produce in the UK, the data links to get the information to the ground, most of the training and ground support and test equipment and a handful of the spares that are common are all reused.  These factors really excited our customer.   We began in earnest about a year and a half ago of just targeting one or two customers to get the expression of interest because we don’t want to do is introduce a ‘first to the market product’ even though we’ve been working on it for three years, and everyone comes up and says they want one. It is in the integration stage right now. Currently we are negotiating with our first customer and then it will likely be followed 6 months later with our second customer and so on. The first customer would get the operational system around 2017. Right now there are at least a half a dozen existing customers that have expressed a desire to learn more about the new product.”

In September 2015, UTC Aerospace Systems held its second users conference with their customers, also known as the ‘the DB-110 Operators Conference’ which is held approximately every two years. This year’s event was held in Krakow, Poland; chosen for its central location. At this event, all of their existing customers are invited.  Mr. Rafterysaid “If there is a strong desire by a new or potential customers to attend, an expression of interest, we will invite them too.  Customers really value this event because they get an opportunity to say what they like about the product what they don’t like, and we put together an action plan and report back to them, in a big open forum, and discuss strategies about how best to use the system, we use this forum to introduce pre-products.”


SAR, UTC, Defence Turkey, POD, SAR Image, United Kİngdom


DB110 Already Moving to the 4th Generation  

The second major thrust involves the offering of multispectral imagery for some customers. DB-110 refers to dual band 110-inch focal length. The US has been operating multispectral imagery, providing more intelligence out of the same imagery, getting spectral content, which enables the identification of materials of interest, viewing through haze, determination of whether a product is man-made or natural.   All of these elements have been used by the US in their ISR.  Following a three-year process, the State Department granted license approval to UTC Aerospace Systems, so that this is technology can be shared with allied partners.  

“We introduced this product at our global conference, and now we are working with a customer now for the launch of that product, that product will also be fielded in 2017.  The DB-110, which is now in its 3rd generation, is now moving to the 4th generation, from a two-band DB to multispectral 6-7 band, depending on which customer.  Our customers get to procure new systems, they can send the DB-110’s back to our facility, getting a full retrofit up to multispectral standards so there’s real affordability” stated Mr. Raftery.

Mr. Mike Don - Director, Tactical Reconnaissance Systems, said, “Our only competition for a multi-spectrum provided commercially today is what countries can buy from satellite assets.  There are some satellite providers that are providing multi-spectral capability, but that has some weaknesses because you have to rely on positioning the satellite and the time of the day and so forth. There’s much greater flexibility to the user when they have the capability on a platform that they can control. We are currently flying on F-15 and F-16 Fighter Aircraft. We’ve looked at other FighterJet possibilities, French Aircraft, Gripen, F-18 Super Hornet, the technology to be able to attach our pod is not necessarily difficult it’s more of a question of the desire and the mission requirements of the customer.”


“Our Business is Really About Providing Customers with Information”

Mr. Kevin Raftery shared details about the third part of their strategy.  “We can build the best sensors in the world but our business is really providing customers with information. Our UK entity does the information, they build network clustered exploitation tools and hardware and software solutions, such as the new product SCI toolset (displayed at the show) which provides the customer ease of rapid collection and rapid dissemination of information.”  The use of technology and working with subsystem providers is building momentum. “When you consider when we go to TacSAR and we go to multispectral, we are delivering up to 5 times more information than previously received with prior systems and our UK entity is prepared to give them transparency.  It’s going to be an exciting 2 years.”  

Designed for Precision and Quick Flexibility to Respond; Mr. Raftery Discusses the ‘roll on roll off design’

“Tactical speed is brought to the customer, as weather changes over a target area, because all of these are in the same pod configuration they can roll on and roll off very quickly, which means their time to target is reduced, as soon as the weather changes they can swap one pod for another and when they collect the intelligence over the target and overlay it with the previously collected imagery and identify the contexts that the targets are now sitting in. Because of the accuracy of the imagery, every pixel has its coordinates, overlay of the imagery can occur very quickly, very precisely and it gives quick flexibility to respond, and from a military point of view it is very important, there’s no delay.”


Global Leader in the Long-Range Reconnaissance Market

In closing, Mr. Kevin Raftery shared details about their team’s readiness for a growing customer base “The ground architecture is done in the UK, airborne is done in the US, the radar is done in Edinburgh, we are truly a global footprint. We are considered the global leader in the long-range reconnaissance market. Our customers will either purchase directly or procure through the US government’s foreign military sales, we can provide support either way, and we have a dedicated team as well a global support center to work with these customers in the region. Traditionally a program takes two years from inception to when they start getting capabilities and by the time they are done with entry into service it’s three years.  After equipment and training, we are alongside with the customer supporting that integration 24/7, then they decide if they will maintain the system themselves or do they want to contract with UTC to support that. About half of the customers say they want UTC to stay with them, so we will establish an in country field service location, providing logistics.”

UTC Aerospace Systems is a Supplier to the Turkish Air Force and Industry

“Turkey is a proud user of the DB110 system and in fact Turkey is looking to expand it into not only the product we have today, which they want more of, but also into next generation products” said Mr. Kevin Raftery, Vice President ISR & Space Systems, UTC Aerospace Systems. He added “Turkish industry is exceptional with network ground exploitation ISR ground systems, these are the areas we’ve looked at and as we continue to grow. There was an immediate need for this program, very fast. It’s been a desire to have Turkey as a customer and from the time we went to contract. It was a quick and successful project. “



DB-110 Reconnaissance Pod

UTC Aerospace Systems offers a SEEK EAGLE certified pod for F-16 and other fast jet applications. The UTC Aerospace Systems pod offers advantages over competing systems by relying

on dual environmental conditioning systems, to provide robust ground cooling and multi-altitude operations. Full-size fore and aft data-link antennae enable maximum data-link range throughout a full 360° azimuth.

UTC Aerospace Systems also offers a smaller, lighter weight pod designed for long-endurance

UAV operations. Housing the same DB-110 reconnaissance system, this pod provides stand off and vertical imaging capabilities and air-to-ground communication over constrained bandwidth systems.


A True Force Multiplier Providing Battle-Winning ISR – TacSAR

UTC Aerospace Systems offers the new TacSAR Airborne Reconnaissance System. Built on the operational pedigree ofthe DB-110 EO/IR system, in partnership with SelexES,TacSAR provides commanders with a vital all-weather ISR capability. The TacSAR pod has seen the integration of the Selex-ESAESA and offers 24/7 mission effectiveness for multiple combatI SR missions. The multi-mode TacSAR allows commanders to use their existing fast jets for true multi-role combat operations.