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A U.S. Army signals intelligence aircraft, the RC-12 GUARDRAIL (RC-12K/N/P/Q) is unusual among manned ISR aircraft in that it has no onboard capability to analyze the data it collects. The aircraft fly in units of three to give multiple bearings on a target, but transmit all data, in near-real-time, to a ground station.

It has been assigned to intelligence units at Corps level. Current versions include several systems:

  • Improved GUARDRAIL V (IGR V)
  • Communication High Accuracy Airborne Location System (CHAALS)
  • Advanced QUICKLOOK (AQL) into the same SIGINT platform

These systems are collectors for the Precision SIGINT Targeting System (PSTS). PSTS is a joint-service and defense-agency effort that uses both tactical and national systems to provide a near real-time, precision-targeting, sensor-to-shooter capability. [1]

The RC-12, Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL), and EP-3 ARIES II aircraft are all obsolescent, and due to be replaced by a future Airborne Common Sensor.


  1. "Guardrail Common Sensor", Globalsecurity.org