AIRSHOW-Unassuming aircraft a drawcard at Asia's arms bazaar

Tue Feb 11, 2014 9:01pm EST
 
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By Raju Gopalakrishnan

SINGAPORE Feb 12 (Reuters) - The star attraction at Asia's biggest arms and aerospace bazaar is an outwardly unassuming aircraft parked in a distant corner of the tarmac, past the sleek jet fighters and menacing attack helicopters.

An operational P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft is on public display for the first time, with its manufacturer, Boeing , hoping for rich sales in a region that has two of the world's most tense maritime disputes.

Many of the uniformed officers from Asia's militaries who are visiting the biennial Singapore Airshow make a beeline for the aircraft.

For the most part, the Poseidon is a Boeing 737, the world's most commonly seen passenger jet. But first looks can be deceiving - this plane can be fitted with torpedoes, depth charges and anti-ship missiles. Inside are packed some of the world's most advanced avionics, radars and sensors, making it the only long-range marine patrol aircraft that can hunt and destroy submarines.

"When you want the best long-range anti-submarine warfare aircraft in that class, we have the product that's most developed," said Chris Raymond, an executive vice president in Boeing's defence, space and security division.

Defence analysts say maritime surveillance is the most pressing security need in East and Southeast Asia, made up of predominantly littoral states. Rival maritime claims that have pitted China, which has one of the world's fastest growing militaries, against Japan and other Asian nations have made the South and East China Seas dangerous flashpoints.

Piracy and smuggling are also rife in the region. And natural disasters strike with depressing regularity, leading to a need for search and rescue aircraft.

"Maritime patrol is the buzzword at the moment, especially in Singapore," said Gareth Jennings, an aviation expert at IHS Jane's.   Continued...