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 the load-carrying requirements optimized for BAMS, the G550 became the obvious choice,” Norgart said. “We did the same thing when we chose the 737 for the P-8A program. We looked at all the available air vehicles and 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 pitching this as an [unmanned aerial system]. We have commercial aircraft reliability and can fly all day, every day. And we have speed; we can get to where we need to be very quickly.
“Our payload capacity is another huge discriminator. When we’re on station, we have all the possible tools in the tool belt; all the sensors all the time, and we get there first. The other, small unmanned systems can only carry so much.”
Boeing declined to go into detail regarding just how the G550 will be configured for BAMS. Norgart did say, however, that the aircraft would include “two basic FAA-certified modifications” that Gulfstream has delivered on other special mission G550s.
Two key technologies still in development for the G550, however, are the aircraft’s unmanned flight control and collision avoidance systems.
“Those are the easy part,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount of experience, as do our teammates, and we plan to leverage all that capability as we have in the past on other programs.”