The aircraft, with its high wing and T-tail configuration, is ideal for air-to-air refueling (A2R) operations and BAE Systems Regional Aircraft unit has already carried out proximity flight trials using a BAe 146-200, Avro RJ85 and Hawk jet trainer.
"We believe that the A2R version of the BAe 146/Avro RJ is a sound business proposition for military planners and air forces that need this capability but who are having to face the financial realities of defense budget cutbacks," said Mark Taylor, BAE Systems Regional Aircraft's business director, Engineering. "Whether to provide A2R tactical tanker capability or, in particular, to provide realistic A2R training instead of using expensive existing assets, the acquisition of a fleet of these aircraft can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost of current refueling aircraft, while delivering excellent performance."
Taylor announced the proposal Tuesday in London at the Defense Services Equipment International exhibition.
BAE said its regional jet business has carried out design concepts for a hose and drogue unit (HDU)-based system for the refueling variant of the 146/Avro RJ, including a concept in which additional fuel tanks are located within the aircraft's cabin. The standard tankage on the BAe 146/Avro RJ allows as much as 15,400 pounds of fuel for transfer and tanks in the cabin could increase the transfer capacity to nearly 39,700 pounds.
The 146's wide airspeed range would allow for refueling of a variety of fixed and rotary wing aircraft, BAE said.
The new HDU-equipped variant for flight trials would take about 18 months to produce. Production of the 146 and 146 Avro RJs ended in 2002 but BAE noted there are pre-owned aircraft available in the marketplace at prices ranging between $1 million to $6 million.
BAE Systems Regional Aircraft has already designed and delivered two converted BAe 146 C Mk.3 passenger/freighter transports to the Royal Air Force.
Pricing for converting the aircraft would be competitive, BAE said, and optional fits such as defensive aids (missile protection, flight deck armor) would be available.
In other news, BAE systems announced its new 3D radar for British aircraft carriers has entered integration trials at an electromagnetic radar testing facility.
The Artisan 3D system is capable of cutting through interference equal to 10,000 mobile phone signals to provide air surveillance, target identification and air traffic management functions for new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.
The radar has the capability of tracking more than 900 targets simultaneously and can spot objects as small as a tennis ball traveling faster than the speed of sound.
The integration trials are taking place at a secret location on the Isle of Wight, BAE Systems said.
So far, Artisan 3D is successfully providing 'real world' tracks and radar video to the carrier class' combat management system while receiving simulated 'own-ship' data in the mission system test facility.
"I am delighted that the ARTISAN 3D Radar is producing excellent results as predicted for the QEC, it is an exciting milestone not only in the development of BAE Systems radar program but for the future of Royal Navy warships," said Les Gregory, Product and Training services director, BAE Systems