C4iSR: Air

Boeing completes MSA systems fit ahead of trials and customer demos

26 June 2014
Based on the Bombardier 605 business jet, the MSA is being pitched to those operators looking for a maritime surveillance platform but without the high-end anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities. Source: Bombardier Aerospace

Boeing has recently completed missions systems and sensor installation of the Bombardier Challenger 604 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) testbed, ahead of ground and flight trials which in turn will lead onto customer demonstrations, a Boeing official disclosed on 27 June.

Speaking at the company's Puget Sound facility near Seattle, Bob Schoeffling, senior manager of business development for MSA, said that the mission systems and sensor installation that took place with partner Field Aviation during the week beginning 15 June "went very smoothly and everything fits as it should do".

With the military systems now fitted, the aircraft will undergo preliminary flight trials ahead of being flown to the United Kingdom where it will be displayed at the Farnborough International Airshow (FIAS) from 14 to 20 July. "After Farnborough, we will continue ground and flight tests and then take the MSA out for market demonstrations for potential customers to see the sensors in operation," Schoeffling said.

First revealed during FIAS 2012, the MSA is billed as a 'lite' version Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft, in that it utilises the same mission systems but configured for those operators that do not require a top-end anti-submarine (ASW) or anti-surface warfare (ASuW) capability. While the demonstrator aircraft utilises the Challenger 604 airframe, the MSA will be built around the Challenger 605.

"The MSA is a low risk, non-developmental programme as it shares the P-8's mission systems. It is an adjunct to the P-8, in the mid-size market (50,000 lb maximum take-off weight class) with aircraft such as the [Airbus] C295, ATR72, and Dassault Falcon, etc. We feel the MSA is very well positioned [in this market]," Schoeffling noted.

The primary system that the MSA shares with the P-8 is the Selex ES Seaspray 7300 active electronically-scanned array radar which, when combined with synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI), communications intelligence (COMINT), and the FLIR Systems Star Safire 380 electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret, affords the MSA an overland as well as maritime capability.

According to Schoeffling, the MSA's all-in-one package of radar, EO/IR, COMINT, etc, does not currently exist in this class of business-jet aircraft, and he noted that a customer would be able to integrate its own specific sensor suite if required.

Internally, the MSA has three fully interchangeable and interoperable mission work stations, although this can be increased to five if required by the customer. These stations can be folded away within the aircraft, enabling the cabin to be easily reconfigured for other roles, such as medical evacuation or executive transport.

While modifications to the basic airframe have been minimal, an under-fuselage radome that is designed to take several different types of radar has been fitted, as have antennas and a pressure box for EO/IR turret.

Schoeffling explained that Boeing settled on the jet-powered Bombardier 604 as the host platform for the MSA as it can get on station very quickly, and then remain on station once it gets there. The basic airframe is already in service with a number of maritime operators, such as the South Korean coast guard, and so is well proven.

While Schoeffling said that multiple customer discussions were ongoing, he declined to give details, except to say that these were being conducted in the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East, and in the Americas. And while he also declined to give possible timelines as to contract completions, Schoeffling did say that Boeing anticipates it to take "36 months or less" from contract signature to delivery.

In terms of the global market for the MSA, Boeing is looking at a potential for USD10 billion in sales over the next decade, with between 125 and 150 aircraft of this type needing to be replaced over the same time period.

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