A vivid example of the way off-the-shelf elements can help speed up aerospace programs can be seen on the static display here at Dubai Airshow. Here, two years ago, Boeing announced it had selected the Bombardier Challenger 605 business jet as the platform for its MSA (Maritime Surveillance Aircraft) program; this year, the demonstrator aircraft is at the show.

"It's kind of a difference for us," says James Detwiler, vice president of business development for Boeing's maritime surveillance platforms. "In the past, we've relied on a major U.S. program, like the U.S. Navy's P-8, then we go and sell it internationally. For this one, we took a commercial off-the-shelf solution for the mid-size part of the market, built a demonstrator, and now we've taking it around the world."

Unlike the weaponized P-8, the MSA does not deliver a comprehensive sub-surface capability and cannot prosecute strikes. "The armed ASW [anti-submarine warfare] is the discriminator between the two," Detwiler said, during a presentation at Defence IQ's Maritime Reconnaissance and Surveillance conference in London earlier this year. "MSA is more geared towards anti-piracy, anti-terrorism and border security."

The mission systems leverage experience from across Boeing's airborne surveillance platforms, with elements of the 777-based AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning and Control) and P-8 finding their way into the MSA's cabin. There are three crew workstations, one of them in a closable clamshell configuration that can be stowed when not in use. The workstations feature high-resolution multi-touch dual screens. The mission system will run the same software as the P-8.

The sensor fit includes active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, an electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR) turret, Electronic Support Measures (ESM), communications intelligence equipment and Automatic Identification System (AIS). The demonstrator uses a Selex Seaspray 7000 AESA and a Star Safire 380 EO/IR turret.