Boeing's maritime surveillance aircraft packs the mission systems of a P-8A Poseidon into a Bombardier Challenger 605 airframe. The system has been developed with Field Aviation. (Getty Images/Field Aviation)
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DUBAI — Boeing let everybody in on one of its worst-kept secrets at the Dubai Airshow on Monday, naming the Bombardier Challenger 605 business jet as the platform for a new maritime surveillance aircraft program.
With maritime surveillance requirements in the Arabian Gulf region on the rise, Boeing Defense, Space & Security used the show to announce a tie-up with Bombardier and aircraft modifier Field Aviation to offer an aircraft based on the mission system used in the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol platform system it developed with the US Navy.
A Challenger jet — which Boeing says would be a third of the cost of a P-8 — is being modified with mission systems by Field and is scheduled to make its first flight next year ahead of trials and demonstration flights for potential customers.
The modified aircraft features a Selex ES Seaspray radar, a FLIR Systems electro-optical/infrared imaging system and electronic support measures.
Systems availability, though, can be adapted to fit customer requirements.
Tim Peters, Boeing vice president and general manager for mobility, surveillance and engagement, said the aircraft in its current configuration would not be armed, but there is nothing to prevent that from happening if a customer required it.
The Boeing executive said the company has been talking to a number of countries in the Arabian Gulf region and elsewhere about an aircraft that could be ready for fielding in 2015.
Peters said the aircraft provides the “power, payload capacity, range, speed and endurance that our customers tell us they need for missions such as anti-piracy; coastal and border security; and long range search and rescue.”
The Challenger has already been widely sold by Bombardier as a special mission aircraft, often with Field being responsible for the modifications.
Bombardier has already supplied a number of maritime surveillance aircraft for customers prior to the Boeing collaboration, including Denmark and South Korea.
Early next year it is scheduled to hand over two aircraft to Hong Kong authorities for maritime duties.
Peters said the aircraft is roughly a third of the cost of the larger anti-submarine warfare capable P-8A aircraft, based on the 737 airliner.
The P-8A is performing in the flying display at the Dubai Airshow this week and the company is seeking to interest customers in the region primarily concerned about the Iranian submarine threat.
The aircraft has already been sold to the US Navy and India.
Evidence of a growing requirement in the Middle East for maritime surveillance didn’t attract only Boeing to the show. Other potential suppliers were also present, most notably Saab with a modifed 340 twin turboprop airliner on display in the Dubai static park.
Saab marketing vice president Rickard Hjelmberg said its surveillance aircraft was available at a cost of “$19 million-$20 million ... a 10th of the price of a fully equipped maritime patrol aircraft.”
A Saab demonstration aircraft kitted out with a Telephonics surveillance radar, a retractable FLIR EO/IR turret and other systems made its Dubai debut this week.
Hjelmberg said the 340 maritime surveillance machine was best suited to coast guard and light military duties such as anti-piracy, search and rescue, smuggling and illegal immigration.