Boeing has another oceangoing patrol airplane up its sleeve.
The defense contractor this week said that its descriptively named Maritime Surveillance Aircraft demonstrator recently made its first flight, a four-hour test of airworthiness from Pearson International Airport in Toronto. The next two months will bring additional airworthiness tests.
A little more than a week ago, Boeing was talking up its other, and bigger, maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, saying that it was shifting to full-rate production of the plane under a $2.4 billion contract from the US Navy. Boeing has delivered 13 of the Poseidons to the the Navy to date, some of which are already deployed to the western Pacific in support of the US 7th Fleet.
The MSA will draw on technologies developed for the P-8A Poseidon program for its surveillance operations, Boeing said, and its baseline configuration will include various sensors, an automated identification system, and an active electronically scanned array multimode radar. Its missions will center on search and rescue, antipiracy patrols, and coastal and border security.
Where the Poseidon is based on Boeing's own commercial 737-800 design, the MSA demonstrator is a modified version of the Bombardier Challenger 604 business jet, from Boeing's own fleet of corporate jets. But it is the similar Challenger 605 that Boeing has named as the MSA platform.
"The aerodynamic performance was right on the money," MSA pilot Craig Tylski said of the test flight, in a statement, "and even with the additional aerodynamic shapes, such as the radome, the demonstrator performed like a normal aircraft. The control and handling were excellent."
After the airworthiness tests conclude, the aircraft will eventually end up at a Boeing facility in Seattle for installation and testing of the mission systems. At about 68 feet in length and with a wingspan of around 64 feet, the Challenger is about half the size of the Poseidon.
Boeing expects to shop the MSA around to potential customers this year. The aircraft could sell for around $60 million, while the P-8A is more than three times that cost, according to the Seattle Times.