Sense and Sensitivity

Boeing’s MSA and IAI’s ELI-3360 MPA usher in a new era in maritime surveillance

Atul Chandra

A new generation of maritime surveillance platforms, offering state-of-the-art sensors and systems, installed on high performance business jets; offering relatively more affordable operating costs are soon to enter service. The newest of these are Boeing’s Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) demonstrator, based on a modified Bombardier Challenger 604 and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with its Bombardier Global 5000 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA).

Ocean Watch Boeing’s MSA is already attracting interest for its sophisticated sensor suite and exceptional operating economics

Boeing’s MSA programme seeks to offer a capable, low-risk and cost-effective maritime surveillance solution for coastal and border security, anti-piracy patrols and search and rescue (SAR). Based on Boeing’s proven P-8A Poseidon and the Airborne Warning and Control System Block 40/45 aircraft mission systems, the MSA brings the latest in proven maritime surveillance technology to a more affordable platform. The fully integrated, modular, open architecture solution on the MSA uses the latest military and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) systems to deliver an unbeatable capability to cost ratio. The combination of state-of-the-art precision sensors, datalinks and high bandwidth line of sight and satellite communication options allows the MSA, ”to collect, process, exploit and disseminate actionable intelligence products”.

The baseline MSA configuration features an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) multi-mode radar, Electro/Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensors, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and a Communications Intelligence sensor along with an Automated Identification System (AIS). The MSA offers a sophisticated sensor suite, long range and high speed capability, and the reliability and operating economics of a business jet. Boeing announced last month that it had completed the MSA’s demonstrator’s first flight to verify airworthiness. Work is now underway at Boeing’s facility in Yuma, Arizona to complete the flight test programme, before obtaining certification from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada. Boeing is already looking at demonstration flights for potential customers and the MSA demonstrator was on display at the Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) held in Malaysia last month.

Modification work on the MSA demonstrator is being performed by Field Aviation to incorporate sensors including search radar, retractable EO/IR, ESM, COMINT, operator workstations and equipment mounts. Boeing completed the maiden flight of its newest surveillance aircraft in quick time with a lot of support from Boeing Phantom Works on rapid prototyping and lean manufacturing techniques. Bombardier’s Challenger 605 business jet can travel 7,408 km (4,000 nautical-miles) with the ability to high-speed cruise at Mach 0.82. Operating economics and reliability are underscored by its two General Electric CF34-3B turbofan engines with the first unscheduled shop visit required only after 9,000 hours (on average), the equivalent to two decades of typical operation.

IAI’s Bombardier Global 5000 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) is the other new offering targeting the maritime surveillance segment. The new generation ELI-3360 MPA will offer maritime domain situational awareness with sophisticated surveillance and reconnaissance systems with weapon options as well. IAI’s new offering taps into its three decade long experience “in supplying advanced maritime domain sensors and integrated systems to leading customers worldwide” informed the company. IAI offers a number of business-jet based Special Mission Aircraft (SMA) which includes the operationally proven Gulfstream G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW), and the G-V Signal Intelligence Aircraft (SEMA) - the world’s first business-jet based mission aircraft.

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