Thales is in discussions with possible users of surplus maritime search radars acquired for the UK's BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 surveillance aircraft, with remanufactured Lockheed P-3 Orions having emerged as lead candidates for the system.
The UK Ministry of Defence ordered 21 Searchwater 2000 MR radars for its MRA4 fleet in 1996, but has so far signed a production order for just nine of the delayed aircraft, which were originally to have entered service in 2003. It also has options to productionise its three development aircraft.
Radar deliveries have already been completed, and although some software development work is continuing to enhance the sensor’s ability to detect large maritime targets and perform other, undisclosed applications, several systems have been deemed surplus to requirements.
“We are now discussing with our prime to see if they want to deliver [radars] to other customers,” says Mike Attfield, head of product marketing, radar systems for Thales UK. “We are mainly talking to American customers to provide equipment, and the first four or five could be [delivered] very quick.
“We are talking to L-3, and they say they have a market. They are very optimistic about further sales of P-3s,” says Attfield. Integrating the sensor with the new platform would be “quite straightforward,” he adds. The system could also be of potential interest to future export buyers of Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft, believes Thales.
The company is also offering its Oceanmaster maritime radar for less specialised surveillance tasks, such as economic exclusion zone monitoring, says Attfield.
BAE expects to achieve the power on milestone for its first production MRA4 by September, and will deliver the first four aircraft to the Royal Air Force by late 2010.