The Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) – popularly called the Poseidon Lite – is ready to show what it can do, the American aircraft manufacturer said on 22 January 2015.
Fitted onto a Bombardier Challenger 604 is a basic version of the sensors and capabilities of the Boeing 737 derivative P-8 Poseidon, of which the US Navy, the Indian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy are purchasing up to 137 aircraft.
The aircraft went through its baseline ground, flight and system testing. The process included hundreds of scenarios to confirm performance of the Automatic Identification System, radar, Electro-Optical Infrared camera, communications radios and data links, Communications Intelligence System and the Electronic Support Measures.
Potential customers can choose a wide variety of aircraft to fit the MSA-platform into and are not bound to the Challenger 604. However, by using the Bombardier jet Boeing does somewhat preach the reliability of the jets of the Canadian aircraft manufacturer. The ‘Poseidon Lite’ made its first flight in February 2014.
The Boeing/Bombardier Challenger 604 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft Demonstrator completed its first flight on 28 February 2014 from Toronto Pearson International Airport in Canada, the Boeing company revealed on 5 March.
Also dubbed ‘Poseidon Lite’ the adapted bizjet is meant for naval forces who don’t have the cash to afford themselves a full-scale P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, but like to have some similar capabilities capabilities in a jet powered aircraft for search and rescue, anti-piracy, coastal patrol and border security.
Field Aviation conducted the first four-hour flight. Field Aviation is the Boeing Phantom Works partner that modified the Challenger 604s structure and systems.
Additional airworthiness flights are scheduled for the next two months. Once they are complete, the aircraft will fly to a Boeing facility in Seattle where the MSA mission systems will be installed and tested. Those P-8A based technologies include an Active Electronically Scanned Array multi-mode radar, an Electro/Optical/Infrared sensor, Electronic Support Measures, a Communications Intelligence sensor and Automated Identification System.
UPDATE 5 MARCH 2014, 12:30 UTC | Swedish armed forces have decided to immediately increase their military readiness levels at Gotland on Tuesday 4 March 2014. The island is strategically located in the middle of the Baltic Sea near the shipping lanes from and till Russia. Although the military headquarters in Stockholm doesn’t want to disclose how the defences will be bolstered, standard “incident readiness” deployments normally consist of six to eight SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen fighter jets. Budget restrains might lower the number this time.
In fact, a defence ministry spokesperson confirmed Tuesday evening that only two Gripens plus supporting personnel landed at Visby during the day. But the number or the type of readiness might change depending on the situation, he adds. In fact, during crew changes there could be temporarily be four Gripens on the island. According to a Swedish armed forces spokesperson the transfer of units to Gotland is “very normal considering the amount of Russian military movements in the Baltic Sea region”. However, during many earlier Russian actions the Swedes didn’t leave the mainland.
In April 2013 there was even a political outcry, when Swedish airborne defences remained on the ground when a pair of Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers simulated attacks on military targets in the Stockholm area. Escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27 Flankers they came within 40 kilometres (22 nautical miles) of Swedish aerospace, quite close to the rock Gotska Sandön north of Gotland. Only after the Russians were long gone, the Swedish Flygvapnet sent Gripen planes to Gotland for a temporary deployment. They were later drawn back.
TP 84 Hercules
There is even a possibility that Sweden will activate its tank platoon at Gotland. Fourteen Leopard 2s are stored in a depot at Gotland since 2013, after the Swedish parliament demanded reversal of the withdrawal of those main battle tanks. They were just transported there in 2013, after the Swedish parliament expressed its concerns about the Russian military threat.
Tank crews and maintenance personnel just have to be flown in from Skövde deep into the main land. So if the tank platoon will be activated, it would mean Flygvapnet Lockheed TP 84 Hercules aircraft will ferry troops from the local Skövde airfield or F7 Såtenäs Airbase, home of the Skaraborgs Flygflottilj (Skaraborg’s Wing F7) and its Hercules fleet. Other assets to be flown in are likely Saab Dynamics RBS 70 short-range surface-to-air missile systems and their three man teams.
But the activation of the ground forces are more of a phase 2 of readiness. It is more likely the deployment will be limited to Gripen fighters at first, maybe backed-up by a Airborne Surveillance and Control aircraft and possibly a SAR or ASW helicopter if the presence will be maintained for a longer period of time.
Gotland is about 170 by 35 km (105 by 21 miles) big, a 3.5 hour cruise from Stockholm. Since the end of the Cold War the Baltic Sea Island is largely demilitarized. A small group of about fourty military personnel, of which only 25 are civilians, is located on the island, mainly to prepare the arrival of forces from the mainland. Moreover about 250 armed reserves and another 200 unarmed reserves can be called in (equivalent to the US Army National Guard). The only usable airfield is located near the island capital of Visby, of which its walled-in Medieval innertown is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Although there is a small secondary landing strip near the former garrison town of Färösund and at least one public road that can be turned into landing strip.
Gotland has been repeatedly in focus during planned large scale readiness exercises of the Swedish armed forces. In September 2013 the island was a strategic location in the international exercise Northern Coasts as well and German paratroopers jumped from a Luftwaffe C.160 tactical transport aircraft on a field in Fole to move towards and secure the airport of Visby. A regular part of those exercises and the Swedish “incident readiness” is to send up the SAAB ASC 890 Airborne Surveillance & Control aircraft with Erieye radar boom on the back.
The Australian Government has approved the acquisition of eight Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft from the United States. The aircraft will replace the Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orions that served the continent nation for over four decades, the government announced on 21 February 2014.
“These state-of-the-art aircraft will dramatically boost Australia’s ability to monitor its maritime approaches and patrol over 2.5 million square kilometres of our marine jurisdiction – an area equating to nearly 4 per cent of the world’s oceans”, writes a government spokesperson in a press release.
The first aircraft will be delivered in 2017, with all eight aircraft fully operational by 2021. The Government has also approved an option for a further four aircraft subject to the outcomes of the Defence White Paper review.
Australia will augment the Poseidons with high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles. The P-8A will in Royal Australian Air Force service conduct search and rescue, anti-submarine and maritime strike missions using torpedoes and Harpoon missiles. The acquisition of the eight P-8A aircraft will cost approximately US$4 billion, including support facilities.
Modernising the RAAF
Australia is modernising its air assets over the last decade creating one of the most modern air forces worldwide. The orders/deliveries to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) since the beginning of the century include 5 Airbus KC-30A MRTT tanker/transport aircraft, 6 E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C), 14 Lockheed F-35A Lightning IIs with a requirement for 58 of these 5th generation multi-role fighters, 24 Boeing F/A-18EF Super Hornet multi-role fighters, 12 Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, 10 Alenia Aermacchi/L-3 C-27J Spartan to complement the six C-130J Hercules tactical airlifters, 6 Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlifters, 3 CL-604 Challenger VIP-jets and 2 Boeing 737 Business Jets (BBJ).
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has 24 Sikorsky MH-60R Sea Hawk maritime helicopters on order with three Bell 429 training/utility helicopters flying within the RAN since 2002. The RAN and the Royal Australian Army (RAA) also are to receive a combined total of 46 NH Industries MRH90 Taipan helicopters, with 6 for the Navy. The RAA is further getting seven new Boeing CH-47F Chinook medium-lift helicopters with the delivery of 22 Eurocopter Tiger ARH attack helicopters completed in 2011.
Swedish inventions go a lot further than just the bits and pieces that come in your regular Ikea furniture package. It is part of the Swedish psyche to re-invent to re-earn money. Take the out-of-production Saab 340 and newer Saab 2000 passenger aircraft. Produced a long time ago, but fairly hot again in a world that might only just be warming up to the type.
The Swedish aircraft manufacturer is actually looking to get its hands on its own aircraft, despite the fact the last turboprop left the Linköping production plant in 1999. The big plan: get them, move ownership and let the new owner pay for that, get him to pay even more money to pimp the planes and get them out in the wild to make name and fame to sell even more.
Now don’t expect the Saabs going in guns blazing, rockets firing and bombs away. But the 340s and 2000s will make excellent surveillance, patrol and anti-piracy platforms for any naval air arm that is short on cash but big in responsibility. A maritime surveillance (MSA) or patrol (MPA) Saab competes easily with the popular CN235 and C295 developed by Spanish CASA/EADS and will be more cost-efficient than yet powered Gulfstreams and Embraers.
That’s why Saab has been working on its Saab 340 MSA the last couple of years. The potential market could be anywhere from 15 to 400 aircraft, depending on how many of the 63 Saab 2000s and 459 Saab 340s produced could be transferred from their current owners to a military force. For about a 120 Saab 340s and 2000s the task is fairly simple, since they are managed by Saab Aircraft Leasing.
A second hand Saab turboprop with at least 40,000 hours of air time on the structural airframe left, updated with the newest software and mission gear is not a dumb investment. The Saab 340s can stay on top of things for 7 hours, the Saab 2000s have an on-station time up till about 9 hours.
The Saabs do have some positive reputation to keep. Both the Swedish, Thai and Pakistan air forces fly an airborne radar and control Saab turboprop, with the boom-like Erieye antenna developed by Swedish IT giant Ericsson (Saab Electronic Defence Systems) literally on its back.
The Flygvapnet ordered four fully equipped Saab 340 AEW&C and another two for transport duties to be fitted with a radar boom during war time. They were designated S 100B Argus, with subtype FSR (Flygspaningsradar) for the radar equipped version and TP for the transport twins.
Of the four fully equipped versions, two were further developed into the S 100D Helas in a bid to please the Hellenic Air Force. The Greeks choose the Erieye, but onto an Embraer EMB-145.
The ‘Greek’ Saabs subsequently became operational with the Swedish Defence Materiel Command (Försvarets Materielverk; FMV) in 2009 and 2010. The Swedes updated the radar to ASC890 standard (Airborne Surveillance and Control) and even named the aircraft Saab ASC890. These most modern Swedish version also got a Link 16 data share system, a new IFF system and Secure Voice plus other sensor systems and software according to NATO standards. The 72. Ledningsflygdivisionen (72 Airborne Control Division) flies the ASC890s out of Såtenäs Airbase, although they are regularly spotted at Linköping-Malmen Airbase.
Of the four older Swedish Air Force S 100B Argus, two were sold to the Royal Thai Air Force, delivered in 2011 and 2012 to serve besides the Saab JAS 39 Gripen multi-role fighters of the RTAF. The remaining two (ex-)SweAF S 100Bs are to be delivered to the United Arab Emirates Air Force as the Saab 340/Erieye AEW&C. That’s right, with the Erieye.
Pakistani Saab 2000 destroyed
The Pakistani Air Force received four Saab 2000 AEW&C (Erieye) aircraft, plus a ‘bare’ Saab 2000 for training. The PAKAF ran in some trouble in August this year, when the Taliban attacked Minhas Airbase in Pakistan, destroying one Saab 2000 AEW&C and severely damaging another two. According to several sources the damaged aircraft need to be repaired for millions to bring the aircraft back to operational status.
Saab SAR and transport
The Japan Coast Guard flies four Saab 340B as SAR-200, especially configured for search and rescue tasks with a 360 degree scanning radar, a FLIR, wide observer windows, rescue equipment like drop systems for self-inflatable lifeboats, special operator and communications systems plus the possibility to carry either passengers or cargo in the rear. Four Saab 340s serve as dedicated transport aircraft within the Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Argentina).
Meanwhile Saab is showcasing its 340/2000 platforms whenever it can. At the 2013 Dubai Airshow the Maritime Surveillance Aircraft was a coming star, with official certification of the type pending before new year’s celebrations. The ASC890s have been flying around the international theatre of the Nordic countries and highlighted themselves somewhat during Arctic Challenge Exercise 2013 (ACE13).