France and Germany are to jointly develop a future maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), with a letter of intent covering the programme to be signed by the nations' defence ministers on 27 April.

Destined to replace the countries' respective fleets of Dassault Atlantique 2 and Lockheed Martin P-3C Orions, the new aircraft will be available to coincide with the out-of-service dates for both models, says the German navy. This is likely to be in the 2030s.

In 2017 the two sides indicated that they would seek a "European solution" to renew their MPA fleets, and would co-ordinate their capability requirements toward a common model.

Berlin has a fleet of eight Orions, which entered service from 2006. A recent operational readiness report indicated that in 2017 an average of two aircraft were in a deployable condition.

Germany plans to upgrade its P-3C fleet with new wings, avionics and mission systems, with the modernisation due to be completed by 2023-2024.

Flight Fleets Analyzer records France as operating 23 ATL-2s which have an average age of 23.8 years. Dassault is currently upgrading the fleet with new systems and sensors under a project running until 2023.

At the time of the contract award in 2013, Dassault suggested that the modernisation would keep the aircraft operating into the 2030s.

In its most recent defence white paper, covering the period 2019-2025, Paris indicated that it would begin the process of replacing the ATL-2s and intended to order an initial batch of seven MPAs.