Savannah – I’ve finally had the chance to research a mystery aircraft that has been in the area for the last month and a half or so. In August, I began to hear and see (on Mode-S) a Beechcraft King Air 350 operating out of Hunter AAF using the callsign SUNNY, which is the callsign used by B/224 MI Bn at Hunter. The aircraft didn’t show up on Mode-S like the unit’s RC-12s have and I eventually realized that it was showing up on Mode-S as: A87E06 – King Air 350, N6461F, PM/ARES/US ARMY. I wasn’t familiar with the US Army PM/ARES so I had to do a bit of research and discovered it stood for Project Manager Airborne Reconnaissance and Exploitation Systems. Further research led me to discover that this aircraft is probably a EMARSS aircraft.
EMARSS is based on the C-12/King Air 350 airframe and is one of the Army’s latest Special Electronic Mission Aircraft. Unlike the RC-12, which is a COMINT/ELINT platform, the EMARSS adds electro-optical, infared, and video capability along with other communications capabilities. I also came upon an unclassified budget document on the web that indicated with the FY15 budget, funds were being allocated to assign 2 QRC EMARSS aircraft with two the three US Army Aerial Exploitation Battalions, of which the 224 MI Bn is one. Based on a wikipedia article, in August 2013, two EMARSS aircraft were delivered to the Aberdeen Testing Ground for testing and calibration prior to delivery.
I haven’t been able to find anything to definitively state that N6461F is an EMARSS aircraft but looking at the above, it isn’t very hard to add 2+2 and get 4. I’m guessing that 224 MI Bn is one of the two AEBs to get one of the EMARSS aircraft. This is definitely one to follow if you’re an aviation geek.