Saab’s confidence in a growing sector has resulted in the company investing in a demonstrator platform for its 340 maritime security aircraft (MSA) offering. The aircraft’s conversion was completed last month, in time to begin customer demonstrations and appearances at a series of trade exhibitions, beginning with this week’s Farnborough International Airshow.
Starting with the 340 airborne early warning aircraft now in service with Sweden, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, Saab has developed a range of special-mission aircraft based on its 340 and 2000 turboprop-powered airliners. Although neither type is in production, both are plentifully available, while the Swedish group offers a thorough refurbishment that effectively zero-lifes the airframes, giving them another 30 to 40 years of service life. Good performance and cost-effective, reliable operations carried forward from the types’ airliner roots make both ideal for a range of missions.
The larger 2000 model forms the basis of the current airborne early warning solution, the Airtracer signals intelligence platform and the recently named Swordfish MPA (maritime patrol aircraft). However, Saab sees a growing market for the smaller 340 in the MSA category, targeting coast guard and customs agencies, as well as military forces.
Envisaged roles include maritime surveillance, fishery patrol, anti-smuggling and anti-piracy missions, search and rescue, surface traffic monitoring, border and embargo enforcement, and pollution control. Although the 340 MSA is purpose-designed for these primary roles, it also has options for transport and medical evacuation duties, and environmental surveillance.
At the heart of the 340 MSA is a mission management system with a single operator in the baseline configuration. Up to three more operators can be added if required. Principal sensors include a retractable electro-optical/infrared sensor turret and a 360-degree surveillance radar. The demonstrator aircraft is fitted with a FLIR Systems Star SAFIRE sensor and Telephonics RDR-1700B radar. Also included is AIS (automatic identification system, the maritime equivalent of identify-friend-or-foe) and satellite communications. This baseline configuration is priced at less than $20 million.
A range of options is available. Large observer windows can be fitted, and an air-drop door can be installed in the rear port side of the cabin. These options are particularly applicable to the search-and-rescue mission, as is that for a V/UHF direction-finder. Another option is the installation of auxiliary fuel tanks that raise endurance from 6.5 to 8.5 hours. For environmental monitoring missions, the 340 MSA can be fitted with sensors such as side-looking airborne radar and ultraviolet/infrared line scanner.