Saab is hoping the critical seaways that link Asia’s trading partners will prove to be lucrative hunting grounds for its Saab 340 Maritime Security Aircraft (MSA).
The company has bought its demonstrator aircraft to Singapore to show the aircraft’s capabilities to potential customers, using the country’s busy shipping lanes to provide targets for the miscellany of sensors onboard.
The aircraft is currently equipped with a Telephonics RDR-1700B maritime surveillance radar and a FLIR Systems Star Safire HD turret with a seven-sensor fit. The radar provides multi-mode coverage out to 120 nm. The turret has multi-sensing functions with high-definition TV, infrared and laser capabilities. The sensors are integrated with displays, radios and other mission equipment.
Saab’s concept is that the two pilots and sensor operator function as a single crew. They can all see the same data and they are on the same comms network. Anyone else on board has Ethernet and Wi-Fi for internal and external connectivity. The aircraft has a satellite communications link to provide a phone connection with the outside world, and full Internet access in the cabin.
The aircraft can, however, be upgraded, allowing more mission operators to work the sensors. In its basic configuration, the aircraft has an endurance of about six hours, but with auxiliary fuel tanks this could be increased to as many as nine.
Saab defines the 340 MSA as a surveillance aircraft and differentiates between it and the more sophisticated maritime patrol aircraft concepts it has for the larger Saab 2000 Swordfish. One big difference between the two is that the Swordfish can launch deployable sensors (such as sonobouys) and weapons. Though the Saab 340 MSA is unarmed, Saab is looking to expand its airdrop capability.
The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) already operates a pair of Saab 340s to support search-and-rescue missions in the Japanese waters. The company has used its experience on those JCG aircraft to develop this new version.
A used Saab 340 costs about $2.5 million and there is no shortage of available aircraft. Airframes are fully overhauled and delivered with full warranty and support from OEMs such as Saab and General Electric, the company says.