The U.S. Army’s First Ever Manned ISR ARTEMIS Jet Has Carried Out Missions Over Georgia And Abkhazia

The U.S. Army ARTEMIS jet. In the box, the route flown by the aircraft N488CR on Sept. 23, 2020. (Image credit: U.S. Army/ editing by TheAviationist).

After Flying Multiple Missions From Kadena Air Base, Japan, the experimental ARTEMIS (Airborne Reconnaissance and Targeting Multi-Mission Intelligence System) Deployed to the Black Sea Region.

The ARTEMIS, is the U.S. Army’s first ever Manned Aerial ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) jet. The aircraft was officially revealed on Aug. 6, 2020, by the Army’s Program Executive Office that posted some details about the platform on Facebook: “it provides high-altitude sensing capabilities against near peer adversaries and bridges gaps in the Multi Domain Operations mission. The joint investment between the Army and industry partners started in May 2019 and recently completed aircraft and sensor system engineering, airworthiness qualification, information assurance accreditation, integration and testing requirements and deployed to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.”

“ARTEMIS is COCO (contractor-owned, contractor operated) but U.S. Soldiers will have the opportunity to operate both the mission equipment in the back of the aircraft as well as the platform itself in order to provide feedback that will inform future development efforts for follow-on programs.”

Two modified Challenger 650s, N488CR c/n 6140 (LASAI AVIATION LLC, VA) and N9191 c/n 5312 (TENAX AEROSPACE LLC, MS), with different ISR lumps and bumps, deployed to Japan at the end of July to carry out surveillance missions from Kadena, Okinawa.

One of the most interesting things about ARTEMIS, is the fact that it is equipped with a High-Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System, or HADES, a sensor suite part of the Army Multi-Domain Sensing System (MDSS), “intended to address the Army’s deep sensing requirement by providing platform agnostic sensors that support Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), including Large Scale Ground Combat Operations, and fill sensing gaps for Indicators and Warnings, Long-Range Precision Fire targeting and Situational Understanding.”

Based on the details included in an RFI issued earlier this year, HADES “is part of the overarching Army MDSS system of systems and will provide multiple sensing capabilities by developing and integrating sensor capabilities on different platforms that as a system will comprise a survivable sensing suite in MDO. These will allow stand-off operations to detect, locate, identify and track critical targets for the ground commander. Presently, sensor priorities for HADES are focused on Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communications Intelligence (COMINT), and Radio Assisted Detection and Ranging (RADAR).  This RFI is specifically looking for information on ELINT, COMINT, and RADAR sensor technologies.”

In other words, HADES should combine, electronic and communication intelligence receivers as well as ground-scanning radar to detect and pinpoint enemy emissions and targets, from significant distance. Although we don’t know the scope of the missions the ARTEMIS aircraft are flying in this period, these should be part of a Proof Of Concept of the technology: the Army plans to field around 10 larger Artemis planes, possibly based on the B737/P-8 or G.550 airframes, starting in 2028. They are likely assessing some of the plaform performance, ahead of the planned Sensor Fly-off meant to evaluate sensor performance and limitations next year.

Black Sea operations

Interestingly, after conducting missions in the Pacific region, at least one of the ARTEMIS aircraft, the one registered N488CR, deployed to Mihail Kogălniceanu Airport, in southeastern Romania, via Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Sept. 16, 2020.

The aircraft has started flying missions from Romania to the Black Sea region on Sept. 18. Most of the missions flown by the aircraft using callsign “DAGGER 1” could be tracked online by means of its ADS-B transponder.

After some operations off Romania over the Black Sea, the ARTEMIS aircraft has also started flying over Georgia:

Interestingly, the missions over Georgia were flown not too far from Vaziani, a military base located about twenty kilometers outside the capital town Tbilisi.
Vaziani is a former Soviet military airbase and today is one of the main military bases for Georgia often used for joint training with the United States and NATO. Vaziani Training Area has recently hosted allied and partner nations for the fifth iteration of the biannual Noble Partner exercise. Running from Sept. 7 to 18, Noble Partner 20 was a Georgian Defense Force and U.S. Army Europe cooperatively led exercise hosted at Vaziani and Camp Norio training areas. The drills were designed to enhance Georgian, regional partner, and U.S. force readiness and interoperability in a realistic, multinational training environment.

All the missions flown by N488CR since it deployed to Romania. (Image courtesy: reader who wishes to remain anonymous)

Active duty U.S. Army units training in the exercise included the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, 12th and 101st Combat Aviation Brigades, and 18th Military Police Brigade. Components from the Georgia National Guard in the exercise included the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 78th Troop Command, 78th Aviation Troop Command, and 165th Airlift Wing.

Noble Partner exercise aside, the U.S. Army units are costantly deployed to Georgia as part of the Georgian Defense Readiness Program – Training, an enduring mission that began in 2018 with the primary objective of helping to mentor and advise the modernization of the Georgian Defense Force’s light infantry battalions thus improving their combat readiness while augmenting Georgia’s ongoing defense reform efforts.

While the presence of the U.S. Army’s ARTEMIS over Georgia is not surprising, it’s at least worth of remark the fact that the new modified Challenger also flew (at least based on ADS-B) over Abkhazia, a region that fought and won a war of secession with Georgia in 1992-93, and formally declared independence in 1999. After a five-day war over the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions in 2008, Moscow recognized the region as an independent state while Georgia responded by declaring Abkhazia “occupied” by Russia. Russian troops, which had been there as peacekeepers, remain there to this day, occupying roughly one-fifth of Georgian territory.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.