The Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) announced on 12th February that Lockheed Martin’s DRAGON SHIELD Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) system has entered service onboard a modified Airbus C-295 turboprop freighter. Sources informed the author that the roll-on/roll-off DRAGON SHIELD provides combined Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and Communications Intelligence (COMINT) functions. The system can accommodate up to 12 workstations and, although not revealed by Lockheed Martin, could be capable of collecting COMINT across a 30 megahertz/MHz to three gigahertz/GHz frequency range, with ELINT being gathered vis-à-vis radars emitting in a circa 30MHz to 18GHz waveband. This would give the aircraft the capability to collect ELINT regarding most ground-based air surveillance and Fire Control/Ground Control Interception radars, and naval surveillance radars and FC/GCI systems. The author’s sources state that the Dragon Shield was procured in 2010 as part of a $100 million deal to modify the C-295 into a SIGINT platform.
The adoption of the DRAGON SHIELD-equipped C-295 enhances the Finnish Air Force’s SIGINT gathering capabilities which currently includes a Fokker F-27 Mk.400 turboprop transport. Few details are available regarding this platform, although it is known that it is configured to collect SIGINT with publicly available reports noting that the aircraft is optimised to collect COMINT, and that the aircraft is primarily focused on gathering SIGINT regarding the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet. Several ELINT/COMINT systems may equip this aircraft including Israel Aerospace Industries’ EL/L-8300 combined COMINT/ELINT suite and/or Elettronica’s ELT-263 Electronic Support Measure. This aircraft was procured in 1980 and is thus reaching the end of its service life, hence the procurement of the Dragon Shield system as its potential replacement.