Maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) were key themes at this year's Imdex Asia maritime defence show in Singapore.
The show, held in the same facility as the biennial Singapore air show, focused primarily on warships and other naval equipment, but several contractors told Flightglobal there is a good deal of interest in the region for aircraft to perform maritime patrol missions.
Lockheed Martin had a significant presence at the show, partially owing to the recent arrival of the US Navy's first littoral combat ship, the USS Freedom, in Singapore. The ship will be based in Singapore, and carries a single Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R ASW/anti-surface warfare (ASuW) helicopter.
After winning a major competition for 24 ASW/ASuW helicopters in Australia in 2011, Lockheed hopes to capitalise on this and seize other ASW contracts in the region. Malaysia has a requirement for ASW helicopters, and New Delhi's naval multi-role helicopter competition could lead to a contract for 56 or more shipborne rotorcraft - although a request for proposals has yet to be issued.
Lockheed points to the MH-60R's effectiveness against both diesel-electric and nuclear submarines as key selling points.
Lockheed also displayed a model of the SC-130J - a maritime patrol/ASW variant of the C-130J - on its stand. The aircraft carries four torpedoes in extended wheel sponsons as well as four anti-ship missiles on wing hard points. Crew stations are not fixed, but are placed inside a roll-on/roll-off pallet. This allows the aircraft to be used for other missions such as cargo transport and humanitarian relief.
Saab, a major player in the naval systems market, pitched maritime patrol variants of the Saab 340 and Saab 2000 aircraft. Israel Aerospace Industries, on the other hand, showed its ELI-3360, a maritime patrol system that can be added to a number of turboprop or business jet platforms.
An executive at one airframer noted that there are a range of MPA/ASW requirements across the region, but overcoming budget constraints is the key challenge for most governments.
Canada's Viking Air and aircraft modifier Field Aviation were at the show to promote an MPA variant of the DHC Twin Otter Series 400, designated the Guardian 400. In 2011, the Vietnamese navy ordered six examples of the type.
Field Aviation non-executive director Joar Gronlund says the non-pressurised Guardian 400 is ideal for nations with limited funds.
The Guardian 400 can take off from rough airstrips as short as 400m (1,310ft), and can be converted to a floatplane in 10h. It can be equipped with a nose mounted radar, and electro-optical/infrared sensors and other equipment depending on customer requirements.
The Guardian 400, however, carries no weapons. "The last thing you want to do is engage guys with bazookas and machine guns with a slow-moving aircraft," says Gronlund.