Australia's Department of Defence has signed an initial agreement with Raytheon E-Systems to market internationally upgrades for the Lockheed Martin P-3 and other types of maritime-patrol aircraft.

The agreement, the first of its kind between Australia and a foreign company, is intended to promote the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) upgraded AP-3C solution to other P-3 operators worldwide. The two sides hopes to finalise the tie-up in time for the Paris air show in June.

"By promoting this capability to other nations, we strengthen our industry and support for the Australian defence force-We believe in a practical sense and economy of scale - the more users there are, the cheaper it will be for us to support and improve the system," says RAAF assistant chief-of-staff, Air Vice-Marshal Douglas Riding.

Raytheon E-Systems, with local partners Boeing Australia (formerly Aerospace Technologies of Australia), British Aerospace Australia (formerly AWADI) and Honeywell of Australia, is undertaking an A$600 million ($470 million) upgrade of the RAAF's 18 P-3Cs. Work includes fitting and integrating Elta 2022 radars, Canadian UYS-503 acoustic processors, Lockheed Martin DDC-060 data-management systems and improved navigation and communication systems.

The RAAF, in addition, is heavily involved in the development of a software-support laboratory, as part of a planned integrated test and training installation for the Edinburgh air base. Raytheon E-Systems Greenville division is scheduled to deliver the first AP-3C in September 1998, with work on the remaining 17 to be completed locally by 2003.

Raytheon E-Systems estimates that there is a potential P-3 upgrade market for up 250 aircraft worldwide. Immediate attention is focused on New Zealand, which is expected to issue a request for tender this year for an airframe and systems upgrade of its six P-3Ks. The Royal Netherlands Navy is also in the process of defining an upgrade for its 13 P-3Cs, as is the Canadian Defence Forces for its 18 CP-140 Auroras, which are derivatives of the P-3.

"The system provided does not necessarily have to be for a P-3 airframe only," says Raytheon E-Systems vice-president and general manager Alan Doshier. He adds that the basic AP-3C package could be adapted for other aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin C-130, CASA/IPTN CN.235 or Dassault Atlantic.

Source: Flight International