Lockheed upbeat on MPA contracts

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US manufacturer confident of clinching Asian sales

Lockheed Martin is confident it can seal several maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) deals in Asia over the next two years, including selling P-3 Orions to India, Pakistan, Taiwan and Thailand and S-3 Vikings to India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Maritime patrol is a top requirement for several Asian countries as they look to improve their anti-piracy and economic zone protection capabilities. Numerous airframe manufacturers are looking to tap into this fast-growing market, but several Asian navies require large aircraft, narrowing the field to the P-3, Ilyushin Il-38 or Boeing’s future P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft. “Nations looking for persistence and long range will look at large turboprops like P-3s,” says Richard Kirkland, vice-president of Lockheed’s newly created maritime surveillance enterprise.

Pakistan is now working with Lockheed and Portugal’s Ogema to restore two of its P-3s and plans to take another eight ex-US Navy aircraft, the first of which will be refurbished at Lockheed’s South Carolina facility starting this month and delivered next year. Kirkland says Thailand has also requested a second P-3, while Taiwan is still looking to buy 12 for anti-submarine warfare missions under a stalled deal that may finally go forward later this year. Lockheed will this month send a team to reassess the four local companies vying to refurbish the aircraft – Aerospace Industrial Defence Corporation, Air Asia, China Airlines and Evergreen Aviation Technologies.

The Brunei and Philippine air forces, Indian and Malaysian coastguards and Indonesian fisheries ministry are, however, looking for less expensive solutions. Lockheed is offering the C-130J in Brunei, but for the other requirements is promoting the smaller S-3, which offers half the range and endurance. Rivals to the Viking include the ATR 42, Bombardier Dash 8, Dassault Falcon 900, EADS Casa/Indonesian Aerospace CN-235, Embraer ERJ-145, Fokker 50 and Beechcraft King Air 350.

Kirkland says four non-Asian countries have already requested pricing and availability for some of the 100 ex-USN S-3s which will be available over the next four years and said at Asian Aerospace last month that Lockheed “spent a lot of time educating potential Asian users on the availability of the S-3”. He says the S-3 can be delivered “almost instantaneously” with 11,000h of service life remaining, while excess P-3s must be equipped with new wings to provide 15,000h or at least receive new critical wing parts to provide 5,000h of use.

The Indian navy, which plans to purchase eight long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, will receive bids later this month for the Il-38, P-3 and P-8A.

BRENDAN SOBIE / SINGAPORE