From the outset, the US Navy's Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft was intended to have an unmanned adjunct - the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance system. And Boeing is drawing heavily on its position as P-8 prime contractor in its bid for the BAMS development contract to be awarded in October.

"The BAMS objective is to be an adjunct sensor to theP-8, to take away the long-dwell, persistent-ISR mission and allow the P-8 to focus on the ASW mission," says Tim Norgart, director of business development for anti-submarine warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "As prime for the P-8, we are uniquely qualified to provide interoperability, to move data seamlessly so that both systems contribute to the overall operational picture."

The P-8 and BAMS are to fly out of the same bases, using the same operators. "When they are not flying in a P-8 they will operate a BAMS," Norgart says. "We have the same operator-machine interface. Our BAMS ground station looks like the back end of a P-8. You train the operators one time, reducing time and cost."

Boeing is offering the BAMS 550, a derivative of the Gulfstream G550 long-range business jet and the only contender with the option of being manned. The outer mould-line changes to the G550 - including the canoe radome under the fuselage and satcom antenna on top of the fin - are already FAA-approved and flying, says Norgart, adding: "We know the sensors fit inside and we know aircraft's performance with the modifications."

Exploiting the G550's substantial payload, the sensor fit is extensive. An APG-79 active electronically scanned array radar from Boeing's F/A-18E/F fighter is mounted in the nose and two more AESAs are carried back to-back in the canoe. Raytheon would supply all three multi-function arrays, which are integrated to perform surveillance while the APG-79 also provides a sense-and-avoid capability.

"Similar to the P-8 and 737, the G550 is in rate production and is a highly reliable aircraft, with 99.9% despatch reliability," says Norgart. Boeing does not see a great challenge in "unmanning" the G550, based on its experience with the X-45 unmanned combat air vehicle. It would retain the existing Honeywell avionics and add redundancy where required.

The baseline proposal is for an unmanned aircraft, with the capability to put poilots on board offered as an option. "No-one else [in the competition] can do an optionally manned aircraft," says Norgart. Boeing sees advantages for deploying BAMS without needing permission to fly an unmanned aircraft in civil airspace. "It would also help us get through flight test faster," he says.

Source: Flight International