Aerial Military Intelligence Level-Up: HADES by Leidos

The Army’s mainline ISR platform, the RC-12X Guardrail, has been the main electronic warfare system and airborne reconnaissance asset for over fifty years now. You read that correctly: the first RC-12 Guardrail has been in continuous service for nearly 53 years, first entering the ranks in 1971. 

In that five-plus decades of service, the RC-12 Guardrail has proved to be an invaluable asset, serving in countless conflicts over the years. But it is outdated, and it is at the point of diminishing returns, as sourcing parts is becoming a real challenge. The Army has partnered with Leidos to create and operate the High Altitude Detection, Exploitation System (HADES) program, which modifies a factory-stock business jet for ISR as a detection and exploitation system.   

A vintage RC-12 awaits its next mission.

At Greenwood Aerospace, we provide top-notch government procurement for almost all forms of military and government agencies. Our 41 years of experience serving all branches of the U.S. military—along with some of the largest defense contractors in the country—have enabled us to provide excellent supply chain logistics and aircraft sustainment. Our expert services include:

This Bombardier Challenger 650’s Interior Has Been Outfitted With Routers, Computers, and IT Equipment

The RC-12 Guardrail has been the core aerial Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance asset for Army military intelligence staff and has been a reliable aerial exploitation mission intelligence system for many years, but the C-12 platform is aging and is one of the legacy turboprop platforms slated for retirement. 

Deep sensing and electronic warfare are tough to accommodate when the aircraft is frankly slow and unable to fly at altitudes. The Army fixed-wing aircraft are well known to pull multiple duties; additional aircraft incur increased costs in terms of 

  • Training
  • Parts supply
  • Logistics

But warfare has certainly changed in the past five decades, and the Army needs an ISE aircraft that can sense farther, has increased range, and can cruise at higher altitudes. The most cost-effective way to do this is by adopting a commercial aircraft rather than going through the prototyping efforts usually associated with the defense industry. This is a modernization priority, and Leidos was selected to develop a multi-mission system.

So, Leidos opted to select a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) option, putting sensors on a commercial Bombardier Challenger 650 and creating a multi-domain sensing system.  

Leidos ARTEMIS in flight.

A Business Jet Entering America’s Spy Services

In almost every way, it makes sense to transfer the long-range precision fires mission, high-accuracy detection, and exploitation system program to a jet. Higher altitudes equate to more area covered in a shorter time. 

Rather than go through the design process for a unique aircraft, Leidos opted for a jet that could be easily procured. Support prototyping efforts are substantially reduced through this model, so the money and time can be better invested in platform performance instead of platform design. 

And the great thing about the HADES is that different sensor packages can be predesigned and installed in the aircraft to accommodate Army plans. A commercial business jet for airborne reconnaissance is the solution for optimal accuracy detection, exploitation, and aerial intelligence gathering.  

The Major Players in the HADES Program

The HADES program is a joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance program between three familiar faces in the industry.

L3Harris Technology

L3Harris Technology (NYSE: LHX) is one of the major military contractors and a familiar face in the industry. They partnered up with Leidos on the HADES project to create ARTEMIS. L3Harris has extensive experience in reconfiguring airplanes using business jet platforms, including open architecture, aircraft modifications, and complex mission integrations. They were a natural choice.    


Leidos is the project manager and lead on the ARTEMIS project. Leidos really did a remarkable job on this project, taking a turnkey COTS aircraft and making it available to the Pentagon at a huge saving. They did so by saving millions of dollars in development fees, and ARTEMIS is one of the greatest aerial technology demonstrators for airborne reconnaissance and electronic surveillance, as well as advanced deep sensing capabilities.  

MAG Aerospace

MAG Aerospace connects C5ISR assets across land, sea, and air to provide ground commanders with the best overview of the entire battlespace. They are experts in both manned and unmanned data collection platforms, so their services were a natural fit for ARTEMIS.  

What Is the LMSA Platform?

LMSA is an acronym meaning “Leidos Special Mission Aircraft.” As you may now be aware, the ARTEMIS does not carry the usual nomenclature used on all military aircraft (e.g., RC-12X Guardrail, E-11A, etc.). That’s because the ARTEMIS is contractor-owned and contractor-operated. Leidos handled the entire mission from cradle to grave, which ended up saving the Pentagon a lot of money. 

Leidos is responsible for the entire aircraft lifecycle this way, including that of the crew. They are essentially providing Intelligence as a Service to the Army with a reconnaissance aircraft as the vehicle and long-range precision fires as one of the services. All of this is made available through an attractive firm fixed-price contract.

Of course, one major hurdle remains: logistics and parts procurement, as well as subcontracting repairs for rotables, etc. This aircraft will rack up serious flight hours over the course of its lifecycle, and Government Procurement is the solution to sourcing, procuring, and even warehousing these assets. We are also your MIL-SPEC packaging experts, so shipping components is a breeze with us.   

The Leidos ARTEMIS jet in flight.

Parting Thoughts

As the ARTEMIS program ramps up, the RC-12X will still remain in service for some time. Greenwood Aerospace is your parts procurement expert for the King Air platform, Challenger 650 airframe, and many others. Whatever your mission is, we are here to serve you with

Call us to talk about your mission needs and requirements, and we will help you with your procurement and storage needs!