The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is responsible for national maritime and aviation search and rescue across an internationally agreed region covering approximately one tenth of the world’s surface.
In October of 2014, Adelaide-based Cobham Aviation Services was awarded a 12-year contract to procure, modify, crew, operate, and maintain four Bombardier Challenger 604 aircraft for AMSA. These aircraft will replace the Dornier Do328-120 turboprop aircraft currently in service. Three aircraft have already undergone initial structural and aerodynamic modification by Field Aviation and are currently having their sensors and mission management systems integrated by Cobham in Australia. The first aircraft enters service in August 2016 with all four aircraft on line by Q1 2017. They will be based in Perth, Cairns, and Melbourne, with the fourth being used as an operational spare and training aircraft.
Field Aviation has a long history with Cobham, having modified their current fleet of ten DHC-8 surveillance aircraft that provide services for the Australian Border Protection program. This history, along with our experience modifying Challenger series aircraft for the Royal Danish Air Force and the Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft program, made Field Aviation the ideal choice for Cobham when selecting a modification centre for this new project.
The cooperation between Field Aviation and Cobham allowed a turn-key solution wherein Field Aviation modified the interior and exterior of the aircraft for the mission system installation. This included an interior reconfiguration of the lavatory, galley, and cabin area, installation of the sensor provisions, and all exterior aerodynamic modifications. The jets have been specifically modified to meet AMSA’s requirements and fitted with new generation sensors and SAR equipment, including:
- Belly radome to accommodate search radar and other sensors
- Retractable EO/IR turret located in the tail of the aircraft
- Direction Finding system
- Conformal enlarged observation windows
- Missionized interior
- Air operable cargo/baggage door for aerial deployment of survival equipment
With a range of more than 3,000 NM and 8 hr of endurance, the Bombardier Challenger 604 allows AMSA to deploy faster, with a longer-range, and improved loiter and search times when compared to the turboprop aircraft currently filling these roles. One of the key capabilities of this missionized aircraft is its state-of-the-art Mission Management and Communication system that includes broadband satellite communications with the ability to transmit streamed video directly to AMSA’s Canberra headquarters, allowing for real time coordination of rescue operations.