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Legacy

National defense activities were re-energized during the Reagan Administration. In 1983, Aeromet was awarded a contract to conduct research and development for the Homing Overlay Experiment. Aeromet modified a Cessna Conquest to carry 12 different visible and near-infrared still and motion cameras for this test. Aeromet captured the first ever “hit-to-kill” intercept of a missile by another missile on film during this contract. The data collected by Aeromet demonstrated the feasibility of exo-atmospheric missile interception, leading directly to the formation of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.

In 1984, Aeromet developed the first airborne, dual-polarized, Doppler Ka-Band radar, permitting much-improved characterization of cloud formations during missile tests. During that year, Aeromet was also awarded a contract to upgrade, modernize, and operate the weather station at the Kwajalein Missile Range, now called the Reagan Test Site.

In September 1985, Aeromet received a contract to develop an airborne optical data collection system to support the Delta 180 mission – an orbital hit-to-kill test. The contract was very ambitious in its ultimate goals, and permitted a development schedule of only six months until the planned date of the intercept. Aeromet modified a Learjet 35 to include a fuselage porthole with custom-fabricated optical glass. This Learjet became Aeromet’s first High Altitude Observatory (HALO) aircraft. The HALO boasted one of the earliest gyroscopically stabilized, computer-controlled camera platforms in existence. Aeromet developed this stabilization system, which permitted the cameras to be pointed at a target with a stability and accuracy greater than realized in previous airborne optical data collection. In 1986, a second Learjet was acquired and modified to collect infrared data. In total, HALO aircraft supported 27 missions at eight locations before being upgraded in early 1990.

In 1986, the U.S. Air Force Ballistic Missile Organization (BMO) sought an aircraft capable of operating in the re-entry corridor (hazard area) during missile tests. Aeromet developed the Autonomous Unmanned Reconnaissance Aircraft (AURA) in answer to this request. The AURA was an unmanned vehicle that transitioned from manual control during takeoff to automatic operation during flight and landing. AURA possessed the ability to receive updated mission instructions while in flight. The AURA was the first auto-landing, remotely-piloted vehicle ever developed. Three AURA aircraft were developed and tested before the program was discontinued by the military.

In 1989, the government accepted Aeromet’s proposal for the transfer of the HALO capabilities from Learjets to the Gulfstream IIB aircraft, which have more payload capability and larger windows. In 1990, we acquired and modified a Gulfstream IIB aircraft, later to be called HALO-I.

During the early 90’s, a Learjet was extensively modified and called the High Altitude Reconnaissance Platform to continue forecasting and documenting cloud physics that effect launch and re-entry operations at national ranges. HARP continued to collect data after HALO was upgraded to the GIIB platform.

In 1999, the evolution of the HALO fleet continued with the initial design and development of the HALO-II aircraft – featuring a variety of infrared and visible sensors in a large pod mounted on top of the fuselage. HALO-II has since become a primary data collection asset for the Missile Defense Agency.

Another significant advance in the company's history is its venture into military applications, specifically the Intelligence Surveillance & Reconnaissance market. Aeromet's Airborne Infrared Surveillance program is a congressionally supported program to explore and demonstrate the military utility of Aeromet's approach to missile defense surveillance and other high-priority military applications.

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