Apple’s product strategy serves to describe the similarities between the high-end P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft the U.S. Navy uses and the new, smaller maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA) being developed for international customers, according to Boeing Defense. Both aircraft are on display here at the Farnborough International Airshow this week.
“Think iPad–iPhone, where one has more capability at a different price point that’s focused on the United States Navy mission,” said Chris Chadwick, Boeing Defense president and CEO. “And one takes the benefit of that capability and ports it into a different platform,” the MSA, minus the P-8’s weapons and antisubmarine warfare capabilities.
Boeing (Chalet B1-6) revealed the MSA project at the 2012 Farnborough show and this past November introduced the Bombardier Challenger 605 super mid-size business jet as its host platform for P-8-derived mission systems. A Boeing-owned Challenger 604, modified by Field Aviation as an MSA demonstrator, made its first flight from Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada, on February 28. Boeing installed mission systems in Seattle and late last month readied the aircraft for its Farnborough debut. The demonstrator will be available for viewing on the ground, with some of its sensors activated and others simulated to illustrate its capabilities.
The Boeing offering enters a crowded field of jets and turboprops developed for maritime surveillance and search-and-rescue missions at lower cost than the high-end P-8, a Boeing 737-800 derivative. Boeing sees the MSA competing against missionized Dassault Falcon 900/2000 and Gulfstream G450/550 business jets and ATR 72 and Airbus Military C-295 turboprops. “We did extensive research as to what airplane we thought best fit this need, and the Challenger 604/605 series really stood out in terms of payload, speed, the endurance that it has, its versatility and its competitive advantage price-wise, both in acquisition and in operating it,” said Bob Schoeffling, Boeing Defense senior manager of business development for mobility, surveillance and engagement.
Beyond the platform itself, what differentiates the MSA is the P-8 mission system architecture, under development since that program’s inception in 2004 and beneficiary of more than $1 billion in technology investment by the U.S. Department of Defense, according to Schoeffling. “Within that class, for what we bring in performance, platform, mission systems and sensors, we feel we are very well positioned,” he added.
The MSA can be fitted with different radars for overwater or overland surveillance, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) cameras, electronic support measures (ESM), communications intelligence (Comint) and the automatic identification system (AIS). Boeing had equipped the demonstrator with a Selex ES SeaSpray 7300 maritime surveillance radar, FLIR Systems Star Safire 380-HD EO/IR sensor turret, Shine Micro AIS and Boeing-supplied ESM and Comint sensors. The data from sensors is displayed at three mission crew workstations–expandable to five workstations–with two 24-inch monitors in clamshell, foldable configuration that can be stowed at the sidewall. The workstation displays are interoperable and interchangeable among the operators.
Boeing has an agreement with Bombardier Aerospace to procure Challengers and have them modified by Field Aviation, which has previously modified the business jets into military configurations. It has big plans for the MSA.
“Before we started this process, we took an exhaustive look at the market itself,” related Schoeffling. “We looked at countries that were going to need to replace maritime assets in the ‘mid’ market, and we projected that over a 10-year period it’s about a $10 billion market for 125 to 150 aircraft.”