U.S. Army Saturn Arch Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) configured Dash-8 aircraft
U.S. Army Saturn Arch Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) configured Dash-8 aircraft

Saturn Arch Completes Final US Army Central Command (CENTCOM) Mission

Project Director Sensors-Aerial Intelligence (PD SAI) successfully completed the final mission for the Saturn Arch Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) aircraft in support of the U.S. Army Central Command (CENTCOM) on July 31. Initially developed by Joint Improved Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to support emerging immediate requirements in CENTCOM in the beginning days of the Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) conflicts, the Saturn Arch program advanced geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) capabilities included hyperspectral, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), and high-resolution imagery (HRI) sensors. As the drawdown in CENTCOM occurred, the Saturn Arch sensors and aircraft were slowly retrograded from theater.

“The Saturn Arch QRC program was so successful that the Army funded it to build up to a fleet of 10 total aircraft over the past 10 years,” said Michael Payne, Product Manager Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System. “Additionally, the Army successfully enhanced the sensors and architecture of the system to enable remote processing, exploitation, and dissemination capabilities of the hyperspectral and GEOINT data collected on the platform allowing personnel on the ground to perform near real-time data analysis enabling intelligence products being more rapidly provided to the warfighter.”

The Saturn Arch completed its final mission in US Central Command (CENTCOM) on July 31, 2022.
The Saturn Arch completed its final mission in US Central Command (CENTCOM) on July 31, 2022. (Photo by U.S. Army)

Since the program transitioned to the Army in 2012, PD SAI has worked with the user community and partner program offices to maintain and build upon the extremely successful performance of the Saturn Arch hyperspectral and GEOINT sensor capabilities. Under the Army’s management, the program proved to be one of the most highly sought-after assets in CENTCOM. Saturn Arch successfully performed missions for more than 10 years resulting in about 72,500 mission hours flown and more than 18,000 intelligence products generated saving countless warfighter lives. With the Army’s change in focus to Multi-Domain Operation requirements, PD SAI is working with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command and development lab partner communities to transition the sensor capabilities to other efforts.

Leidos has been awarded a US$27 million contract for Saturn Arch Quick Reaction Capability Aircraft, the US Department of Defense announced on August 27, 2018. In 2013, Saturn Arch was tranfserred to the US Army Intelligence and Security Command. In April 2015, the US Army ordered six new Dash-8 to serve as ISR platform for Saturn Arch under a $39.2 mn contract awarded to Dynamic Aviation Group. The Dynamic Aviation Group already provided the U.S. Army with 30 ISR aircraft, including at least four Dash-8-300s in either Saturn Arch or Desert Owl configuration. Saturn Arch aircraft are all fitted with a range of ISR devices, including high-resolution electro-optical-infrared imagers, full-motion video, foliage-penetrating radar, synthetic aperture radar, digital mapping tools, and signals intelligence and communications intelligence capabilities.

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