German/Italian competition to replace ageing Dassault Atlantics also attracts Boeing and Lockheed Martin

EADS and L-3 Communications have signed two memoranda of understanding (MoU) to support each others' bids for the joint German/Italian competition to supply up to 24 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA)to replace ageing Dassault Atlantic 1s.

The bidders are: Boeing with a 737-based solution; Lockheed Martin offering P-3Cs; L-3 with remanufactured P-3A/Bs; and EADS/Alenia offering Airbus A320s.

Industry sources say EADS was not sure whether Alenia would participate in a joint bid until the day before the proposals were due to be submitted in late July, despite the German/Italian project office demanding a combined submission from the two companies.

Under the MoUs - signed by L-3 with EADS Military Aircraft and EADS Defensive Systems - the US company will support the A320MPA bid. Italy's Galileo Avionica, Alenia's sister company, has also signed an MoU with L-3. EADS and Galileo are to support the US company's P-3-based Procyon programme.

L-3's support for the A320-based bid is primarily to offer its Integrated Data Handling System as the heart of the mission system. If Procyon is selected, EADS and Galileo would support L-3, while the remanufacture and upgrading of the ex-US Navy P-3s would also be gradually transferred to Europe. The Procyon proposal includes new Rolls-Royce AE2100 turboprops and a glass cockpit.

The EADS/Alenia combination is offering the A320, but the A321 was considered. EADS Military Aircraft senior vice-president programmes Erwin Obermeier says a green A320 airframe should be cheaper than the larger A321 and the "A320 fits the requirement nicely".

The proposed A320MPA would have an internal weapons bay in the forward part of a modified wing-fuselage fairing. EADS is continuing to consider whether external stores are needed as well.

An electro-optical sensor would be mounted in the nose and a maritime radar under the forward end of the weapons bay. It is to be decided whether the radar will be retractable or fixed, and whether it will remain in the same location as in the concept, says Obermeier.

Internally, the concept has a crew rest area in the forward cabin, with seven mission consoles on the starboard side facing outwards and the systems racks on the port side in the central area. At the rear of the cabin are observer positions and sonobuoy launch systems.

EADS and L-3 are also courting Alenia, but European sources say the Italian company is talking to Boeing to support its 737-based bid.

EADS Casa also supplied data on the C295 equipped with its Fully Integrated Tactical System as an interim solution, "but it was not an official proposal", says a company source. Alenia is also understood to have offered an ATR 42MP-based interim solution.

A downselection is expected by January and a contract by next July, but this is subject to German budget approval and is already in danger of sliding six months.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin and L-3 are competing to upgrade eight ex-USN P-3As for South Korea.

Source: Flight International