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CASR Aerospace – Canadian-made Airframe for Maritime Patrol – July 2013

Maritime Surveillance Aircraft: Boeing selects a Bombardier 'Bizjet', the Challenger 605, as the preferred airframe for its proposed MSA

Update: March 2014, Field Aviation's Challenger 604  Boeing MSA demonstrator first flew on 28 Feb 2014 from Pearson Int'l before being transferred to a Boeing facility at Yuma, AZ. According to Field Aviation, Challenger 605-based MSAs will sell for $55M-to-$60M each. Aside from P-8A sensors, Boeing MSA options include a SLAR as on RDAF Challengers.

Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft project partner, Field Aviation, of Toronto began work on this Challenger 604 MSA prototype conversion in 2013. Production MSAs will be based on Challenger 605 airframes. Field Aviation also did the Challenger 604  MMA conversion.

In July 2012,  Boeing made an announcement: it intended to develop a Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) derived from the sensor suite carried by their P-8A Poseidon Multi- mission Maritime Aircraft (737 MMA). The surprise was that this MSA sensor suite would now be carried by a 'medium-sized' business jet – a 'platform' type that Boeing itself does not build.

Boeing's reasoning was obvious – to provide an aircraft with many of  the P-8A Poseidon's capabilities but with a much lower purchase price plus reduced operating costs. The P-8A is based on the B737, Boeing's smallest airliner. [1]  To achieve further economies in purchase price or operating costs, a much smaller airframe than the B737 was required.

Initially, no specficic airframe was mentioned. Boeing insisted that its Maritime Surveillance Aircraft suite was "platform agnostic". In other words, the MSA systems would fit into any medium-sized bizjet airframe. That has now changed (or, at least, a most preferred candidate has now been selected). In June 2013, Boeing revealed that the Canadian-made Bombardier Challenger 605 mid-sized business jet was the airframe of choice for their proposed MSA.

Of course, Boeing's choice of the Challenger wasn't a complete surprise. Concept artwork of the Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (at left) had been released by Boeing back in July of 2012. And that MSA concept art was clearly based on a Challenger variant. Boeing also has experience operating Bombardier's bizjet. Challenger 605  N549BA (c/n 5775)  is used as the Boeing Company's own corporate jet.

A Challenger 605 is now to be converted as a prototype, with the installation of  the MSA sensor suite.[3] The concept art shows a Challenger fitted with a Raytheon AN/APY-10 [4] multi-mode radar from the P-8A in a 360° belly radome, a substantial 'antennae farm' beneath the wing centre section, and a retractable electro-optical sensor turret in the rear fuselage.

The MSA's E/O turret seems too small to be the Poseidon's Canadian-made MX-20HD – more likely the 'half-sized' Wescam MX-10 series E/O is intended. The concept artwork also appears to show another Canadian-made sensor – the CAE advanced, integrated magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) boom attached to the underside of  the Challenger 605's tail cone.

Update: Jan 2014 – In fact, the electro-optical turret intended for the Field conversion isn't a Canadian system at all. The Challenger MSA's EO/IR will be the US Star Safire 380 system.

In its general concept and layout, Boeing's proposed Challenger 605-based  Maritime Surveillance Aircraft is not all that different from modifications made to the Challenger CL-604 Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA) by Canada's Field Aviation over a decade ago. (That Challenger 604 MMA built on work done on the CP-144 maritime patrol variant for the CF  but later abandoned by DND.)

So why all the fuss? The main difference between the earlier Challenger MMA and Boeing's proposed MSA is that the US aerospace giant will be 'leveraging' its P-8A Poseidon mission systems integration experience and installing the latest naval airborne search radar set – the Poseidon's multi-mode AN/APY-10 (just now entering service with US Navy P-8As).

Perhaps the biggest distinction between the Challenger MMA and the proposed MSA is that the latter will bring with it Boeing's imposing global support system. As the P-8A (and Poseidon export variants like the P-8I for India) enter more widespread service, [5]  support coverage for the P-8's mission systems (and any future upgrades) will inevitably expand.

With Boeing covering integration of its P-8A Poseidon sensor system, Raytheon upgrading its APY-10 radar, and  Bombardier supporting the Challenger 605 airframes [6], the Maritime Surveillance Aircraft should have a very promising future.

[1] The P-8A Poseidon airframe was based on the B737-700 (with elements of the B737-800). There are slightly smaller B737 variants – eg, the BBJ1 executive jet – but those would not provide the degree of cost savings Boeing sought for the Maritime Surveillance Aircraft.

[2] While Boeing has committed to the Challenger 605, the MSA prototype conversion will not necessarily be made to their corporate bizjet, N549BA, as shown at the top of  the page.
[Update: Conversion is underway at Field Aviation using a Boeing-owned Challenger 604.]

[3] There is also the Boeing P-8 AGS which will retain the APY-10 radar in the nose but adds a belly-mounted Airborne Ground Surveillance sensor (Ground Moving Target Indicator and synthetic aperture radar). The P-8 AGS is intended to replace the USAF's E-8C JSTARS fleet.

[4] The demonstrator will have Selex Seaspray 7300 AESA radar and P-8A mission computer.

[5] Eight P-8Is were ordered for the Indian Navy in Jan 2009, the first delivered in May 2013.

[6] To date, Bombardier has delivered more than 200 of  the Challenger 605 sub-type bizjets.

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