(c) K.B. Sherman, 2002
Bombardier Aerospace (North Bay, Ontario) recently completed the first flights of the 415 MP (Multi-Purpose) aircraft at its test facility in North Bay. The two and a half hour flight tested the aircraft in its search-and-rescue configuration for handling qualities with different external shapes. Approximately 200 flight hours will be done before the testing is completed. A variant of the Bombardier 415, the 415 MP incorporates a variety of features for maritime patrol, search and rescue, coast guard, fisheries protection, pollution tracking, and drug and illegal immigration interdiction duties. Available sensors aboard the 415 MP include a forward-looking infrared (FLIR), side-looking airborne radar (SLAR), nose-mounted search radar, and low-light video system. Typical of the systems available for the 415 MP is the Maritime Surveillance System (MSS) 5000 (Swedish Space Corporation, Solna Sweden). The MSS 5000 includes a tight integration of SLAR, IR/UV, cameras and other sensors with a digital map database, giving a full overview of the area under surveillance. The MSS 5000 has increased SLAR coverage, real time geo-correction of sensor imagery, easy and air-to-ground transfer of reports and imagery to ground stations. (The Indian Coast Guard has also recently purchased the MSS 5000 for use aboard its Dornier 228 patrol aircraft). The 415 MP also carries a searchlight and still/motion video recording system with automatic date/time/position logging. The 415 MP is also designed for air drops of medical and survival supplies to survivors when a water landing is not possible.
The aircraft being tested is the first of two Bombardier 415 MP that will be delivered to an unnamed European customer following the completion of the certification program in May, 2003. Fifty six earlier versions of the 415 have been ordered by France, Canada, Italy, Croatia and Greece.
The 415 MP joins the Russian Be-12 “Mail” as the only other amphibious military patrol airplane in use (the Be-12 remains in service with the Russian Navy after 42 years). With a 600 NM range and 203 K high cruise speed, the 41,000 pound 415 MP is aimed especially at patrol duties along coast lines and in littoral waterways of smaller nations seeking to enhance coastal security. Based upon the airframe of the 415 firefighting amphibian variant, the 415 MP is particularly rugged and designed to operate from unimproved fields under a variety of conditions. This, combined with its ability to operate from the water and investigate surface contacts close up and personal, makes the 415 MP ‘one of one’ in the category of such patrol aircraft in current production and thus especially attractive to some customers. According to Bombardier Aerospace’s Patrick Gilligan, the 415 MP will be built in Montreal and carry a base price of $ 35 million.
The 415's extremely rugged build makes it suitable for operations far from sophisticated support.