At the same time as the engineering development platform of the Iomax Archangel Block 3 is on display at the Paris Air Show (Static A5), the company is delivering the first production aircraft to the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf nation has ordered 24 of the Block 3 armed ISR/border patrol aircraft (BPA), and delivery of the first of them is being undertaken on time–just seven months after contract signature.
The earlier Block 1/2 BPAs were based on the Air Tractor AT-802, but the Block 3 uses the Thrush S2R-T660 airframe, which has been substantially adapted to meet mission requirements. The production version of the Archangel differs in several key aspects from the prototype on show at le Bourget.
The fuselage has been redesigned with a purpose-built fuel tank instead of the previous hopper-based unit, while the cockpit has been moved forward 43 inches and the nose re-profiled to create a larger windscreen, affording the pilot a much better view. The aft cockpit has been elevated to improve the view for the rear crew.
The cockpits, engine and fuel fuselage tanks can be protected with bolt-on armor plates, which can be installed or removed in a matter of minutes, while the self-sealing tanks offer Level 2 protection against ballistic threats.
Other changes include redesigned wingtips and an enlarged fin and rudder that provide greater directional stability. The aircraft has a digital autopilot, and new throttle quadrants in both front and rear cockpits. Night vision goggle-compatible exterior lighting is fitted, including landing/navigation lights that have an infrared capability for covert operations as well as visible light operation.
The Block 3 also has a new propeller, a scimitar-blade unit from MT-Propeller in Germany. These refinements have improved safety and reduced pilot workload as well as enhancing mission effectiveness.
Archangel is currently cleared to employ Hellfire missiles, Roketsan Cirit laser-guided rockets, and GBU-12 and GBU-58 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. Iomax has a close relationship with the Turkish missile house, and this summer two further Roketsan weapons will be test-launched from the Archangel in the form of the UMTAS laser-guided anti-armor missile and the Teber GPS-guided bomb that was unveiled during the Paris show. Next summer Iomax plans to perform trials with the Thales FF-LMM small precision-guided glide weapon.
In terms of sensors Iomax has developed a multi-purpose pod that mounts an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical sensor turret, although other systems could be integrated if required. The company also plans to begin trials of a radar system soon.
The UAE was the launch customer for the first-generation Block 1/2 BPAs, and is replacing them on a one-for-one basis with the Archangel Block 3. Jordan operates six of the earlier aircraft. Iomax’s president and CEO Ron Howard is excited about future prospects for the Archangel. “Border security has never been more important,” he said, later adding that, “We believe that there’s a greater demand than we could ever meet.”
With a low acquisition cost and a per-hour operating cost of “well below $1,000,” the Archangel BPA represents an attractive proposition for many air arms with border patrol, ISR, close support and counter-insurgency needs. Howard noted that there were a number of requirements under consideration in which Iomax is involved, which might lead to further contracts. “Maybe before the end of the year there will be an announcement,” he added.