’s Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) demonstrator, a modified Challenger 604 business jet, has been flown to Boeing’s Yuma, Ariz., facility for initial certification flight tests following extensive conversion work by Ontario, Canada-based Field Aviation.
The aircraft forms a prototype platform for development of the MSA, which is baseed on the improved Challenger 605 variant and aimed at nations seeking a lower-cost surveillance and patrol capability without the full anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface vessel warfare (ASuW) capacity of the P-8. Boeing, which officially confirmed the selection of the Bombardier platform for MSA in November at the Dubai air show, estimates a potential market for more than 150 aircraft worth around $10 billion.
Field Aviation, Boeing’s teammate on the MSA program, modified the 605 at the company’s Toronto site following its arrival there in early 2013. The aircraft has been provisioned for a multi-mode search radar beneath a belly-mounted radome, a retractable electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) camera, and sensors and mission suites for secondary missions including electronic warfare and communications intelligence.
The demonstrator, which made its first flight in Canada on Feb. 28, is also modified with ventral strakes to augment lateral stability and offset the effect of the radome, located under the forward fuselage. Field Aviation says a nearly 4-hr.-long, post-modification check flight verified that the aircraft’s handling qualities had not been affected by the airframe modifications. “Field Aviation test pilot Craig Tylski reported that there were no issues with aerodynamic performance throughout the envelope and the external shapes on the aircraft did not affect the handling or control of the aircraft whatsoever,” the company adds.
The MSA demonstrator will completeand certification at Yuma before being delivered to Boeing Field in Seattle for integration of the MSA’s sensors and communications subsystems. Largely based on a subset of the basic P-8 sensor and mission suite, the MSA is expected to offer around 80% of the larger, 737-based aircraft’s capability. The MSA is under development by Boeing as part of a broader series of maritime patrol and surveillance offerings ranging from the Insitu and Integrator tactical unmanned aerial vehicles to the P-8. The range also includes Boeing’s Beechcraft King Air 350-based Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System, which was flight tested in October.