Pakistan offered AEW Lockheed Martin P-3C Orions

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Refurbished P-3Cs for navy would carry Northrop E-2C Hawkeye mission system

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will develop an airborne early warning (AEW) version of the P-3C Orion if the proposed $855 million sale of three refurbished and modified aircraft to the Pakistani navy goes ahead.

US Congress has been notified of the proposed sale of three ex-US Navy Lockheed P-3Cs equipped with the AEW mission system from Northrop's E-2C Hawkeye 2000. This includes the Lockheed-built APS-145 radar and rotodome.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency flies P-3Bs equipped with APS-138 and -145 AEW radars, but this would be the first time that the P-3C would be combined with the current production Hawkeye 2000 mission system.

Notifying Congress of the proposed sale, the US Department of Defense says the command-and-control capabilities of the AEW P-3s will improve the "ability to restrict the littoral movement of terrorists along Pakistan's southern border". Eight ex-USN maritime-patrol P-3Cs are already being refurbished for the Pakistani navy.

Islamabad already has a deal in place with Sweden for six Saab 2000s equipped with Saab Microwave Systems Erieye phased-array AEW radars, with deliveries to the Pakistani air force expected to begin in 2009.

In November, the air force and China's CETC International also signed an agreement to co-operate on developing airborne warning and control systems.

The timescale for developing and fielding the P-3C AEW is not clear. If it goes ahead, the programme will be led from Northrop's St Augustine, Florida site, where the Hawkeye is produced, and Lockheed's modification centre in Greenville, South Carolina, where P-3 depot maintenance is performed.