Props to my competitor Paul Richfield, editor of C4ISR Journal, for scooping us on BAMS in this month’s issue. Richfield got Boeing to publicly acknowledge that it will partner with Gulfstream to offer the G550 business jet as optionally manned/unmanned aircraft for the US Navy’s BAMS program. (BAMS=Broad Area Maritime Surveillance).
In Seattle last month, I directly asked Boeing’s people if they were ready yet to publicly confirm that they would offer the G550 for BAMS, which has been speculated ever since Boeing and Gulfstream each received study contracts from the navy in 2005. Alas, Boeing refused to answer me. Maybe my buddy Paul has pictures of them cavorting with sheep? Who knows. But here’s a good excerpt of his interview with Boeing’s Tim Norgart:
“When you look at theload-carrying requirements optimized for BAMS, the G550 became theobvious choice,” Norgart said. “We did the same thing when we chose the737 for the P-8A program. We looked at all the available air vehiclesand determined that for BAMS, we need a regional jet-sized airplane.The G550 is just superb in every way.
“With it,we have the flexibility of being optionally manned but we’re pitchingthis as an [unmanned aerial system]. We have commercial aircraftreliability and can fly all day, every day. And we have speed; we canget to where we need to be very quickly.
“Ourpayload capacity is another huge discriminator. When we’re on station,we have all the possible tools in the tool belt; all the sensors allthe time, and we get there first. The other, small unmanned systems canonly carry so much.”
Boeing declined to go intodetail regarding just how the G550 will be configured for BAMS. Norgartdid say, however, that the aircraft would include “two basicFAA-certified modifications” that Gulfstream has delivered on otherspecial mission G550s.
Two key technologiesstill in development for the G550, however, are the aircraft’s unmannedflight control and collision avoidance systems.
“Those are the easy part,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount ofexperience, as do our teammates, and we plan to leverage all thatcapability as we have in the past on other programs.”