L-3 offers low-cost version of Procyon, but two countries may abandon programme

L-3 Communications has forwarded a revised lower cost Procyon Quick Reaction (QR) proposal to Germany and Italy as plans by the two countries for a joint maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) programme appear to be coming apart under German budgetary pressure.

The Procyon QR proposal is still based on surplus US Navy Lockheed Martin P-3A/B Orions, but unlike the company's earlier bid, the aircraft would retain their Rolls-Royce T56 turboprops rather than having new R-R AE2100 powerplants. This makes a "significant difference" in the cost, say industry sources.

By dropping the re-engining element, L-3 hopes to be able to match Germany and Italy's reduced defence budgets, which are threatening to undermine the programme after a succession of delayed decisions The aircraft would still be upgraded with new three-man glass cockpits, wings and equipped with L-3's Integrated Data Handling System (IDHF).

Lockheed Martin has been proposing new-build P-3 Orion 21s and Boeing the 737-700 MPA, while EADS (which has a joint bid with Alenia) and L-3 have also signed a memorandum to mutually support the other offerings of either an Airbus A320-based MPA or re-engined Procyons respectively.

Boeing had been seeking to partner Alenia with the potentially more lucrative inducement of participating in its 737-based offering for the US Navy's future Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft programme.

Germany and Italy have postponed a decision until June, at which point the memorandum of understanding between the two nations will expire and many expect the joint programme to be abandoned. Germany and Italy's options include retaining their Dassault Atlantic 1 fleets, which have limited lives, or pursuing cheaper alternatives.

France is understood to have some surplus Atlantic ATL2s but not enough to satisfy both countries' needs.

The number of surplus P-3s has recently been bolstered by the USN's release from its war reserves of 27 heavyweight P-3Bs and 13 P-3Cs, in addition to around 35 remaining lightweight P-3A/Bs. South Korea has been offered nine P-3Bs and the Brazilian navy plans to take another 13.

Other countries looking at the surplus aircraft include India and Taiwan.

Source: Flight International