US manufacturer repackages failed US Navy MMA bid for international customers

Lockheed Martin is unveiling plans at the show to repackage elements of its failed bid to capture the US Navy's Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA), and offer them to export customers.

A 40% more powerful version of the P-3C Orion, Lockheed Martin's Orion 21 proposal lost the MMA prize last month to the Boeing 737-800ERX. The navy has not fully disclosed the reasons for its decision, but has credited Boeing for submitting a lower bid and potentially accelerated production schedule.

Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, has recast the Orion 21 concept as a new package of options that can be selected individually or taken as a whole by international customers, says Tom Weatherall, director of P-3 programmes. The strategy is based on providing lower-cost, but proven, alternatives to the navy's more advanced Boeing MMA platform.

Several elements of the Orion 21 are already available separately to a variety of customers. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has successfully modified its P-3 fleet with glass cockpits and digital mission systems. Lockheed Martin also has international orders for other Orion 21 features, including new wings and horizontal tail surfaces.

The navy's two-year concept advanced development phase for MMA provided Lockheed Martin with $30 million to perform risk reduction on overall integration and design issues.

Weatherall says most potential buyers in the international marketplace would be satisfied with the export Orion 21's cheaper, incremental improvements rather than an all-new design. The Orion 21's proposed 7,000shp (5,215kW) turboprop - the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A - with Hamilton Sundstrand NP2000 propellers will also be offered as an option.

Meanwhile, the USN's plan to retire nearly 80 P-3Cs over two years due to fatigue stress concerns is driving rising interest in refurbished aircraft, says Weatherall. The navy has cleared the first 12 retired P-3Cs for a potential foreign military sales deal, which matches an existing requirement by Taiwan's navy.

Source: Flight International