Photo: JGSDF LR-2 in Okadama STA.
This isn’t the first time this airfame has been used as a maritime patrol aircraft. It is used by several navies and coast guards including Japan and Malta. It is also used by the Argentine Navy, Ecuadorian Navy, and Indian Boarder Security. (A flight report on the civilian version is here.)
The Beech King Air is used by all four DOD armed forces under the designation C-12. including a new MC-12 ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) aircraft deployed to Afghanistan. It is also used by the FAA and by NOAA,
Perhaps most significantly, the type is also being used to recapitalize the Customs and Border Protection air fleet and includes an air to air intercept as well as maritime surface search radar capability.
In some respects, this might fill the void in the Coast Guard’s aviation program left by deferment of the land based UAV program. With performance similar to the HC-144, lower operating costs, and endurance of up to twelve hours, while it may not have the ultimate endurance of some UAVs, it has a greater useful load than all but the largest UAVs and consequently can carry more capable sensors, and would require no special dispensation, to function in the national airspace, as UAVs currently do.