The Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) for the UAE passed its critical design review phase, keeping the program on schedule. The first of two aircraft being converted by Provincial Aerospace Ltd. (PAL) of Canada are to be qualified in the first half of 2011, with service entry slated for later in that year.
PAL and Thales signed the contract for the conversion of two UAE-owned Dash 8 Q300s in late 2008, but the deal was not made public until the IDEX show this February, by which time work was already under way. The deal brought to a close a long-running saga concerning the UAE’s MPA requirements in which Thales and later EADS-CASA had proposals accepted but not continued.
In its third incarnation the MPA requirement began with the UAE choosing the Dash 8 Q300 as the platform, before staging a competition between teams comprising Field Aviation/L-3 and PAL/Thales for the mission conversion. PAL/Thales was ultimately selected.
Thales is leading the mission system integration using its proven Amascos modular maritime surveillance suite. The UAE aircraft will feature the latest Ocean Master 400 360-degree search radar, communications/identification system and TMS2000 acoustics processing from Thales, FLIR Systems' optronics turret, with electronics support measures (ESM) and a self-protection suite provided by Elettronica. The mission suite will be fully integrated on the ground by Thales before the company supports PAL in fitting it in the aircraft.
As well as catering for sensor installations, PAL’s airframe conversion includes adding an air-drop hatch in the lower rear fuselage, air-operable side door, observation windows and an extended-range fuel system. While the UAE’s airplanes will be extremely well-equipped for the MPA mission, they will remain unarmed, leaving the attack mission to other platforms.
The UAE program represents the first time that the Thales Amascos system has been applied to a Dash 8, and this could be offered for other customers. Oman, for instance, has a competition for an MPA. In this case, Thales has proposed a mission system independent of the airframers, as Amascos is applicable to a range of types.
Working closely with the UAE on the MPA aircraft may give Thales a springboard for other related programs. One sensitive area is Sigint, for which Thales has been awarded a research-and-development contract by the French authorities. Known as Matrice, the program is exploring potential technology to provide a follow-on capability to the Transall Gabriel airborne Sigint platform, which is scheduled for retirement around 2017. When matured, this technology could be made available to France’s strategic partners, such as the UAE.