Brazil's maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) programme appears to be back on track after the Brazilian air force and EADS Casa completed negotiations over the full mission system modernisation and overhaul of eight Lockheed Martin P-3A Orions. A contract signature is expected in the third quarter of this year, with the air force expecting to take delivery of its first updated aircraft in mid-2007 - nearly three years behind its original scheduled entry into service.

Brazil launched its P-XBR programme in 1998 and issued a formal request for proposals for the requirement in 2000. Twelve ex-US Navy P-3A airframes were acquired from storage in the USA and Brazil announced the selection of a bid from EADS Casa in late 2002.

Nine P-3As will undergo extensive airframe overhaul, all but one to be equipped with the European company's fully integrated tactical system maritime surveillance suite plus synthetic aperture radar (SAR), inverse SAR and forward-looking infrared sensors. Originally to have cost $270 million, the work could now reach more than $320 million due to changed air force requirements, say industry sources.

Designated as P-3BRs, the eight modernised Orions will have new acoustic and non-acoustic sensors to conduct anti-submarine warfare missions. Additional modifications will include the installation of 10 underwing hardpoints and higher-rated Rolls-Royce T56-A-14 engines.

Negotiations between the Brazilian air force and EADS Casa slowed down after president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office in January 2003, partly as a result of an Embraer bid to overturn the P-3 selection in favour of acquiring a P-99 MPA variant of its own EMB-145 regional jet.

Source: Flight International