Germany is to phase out its Atlantics from 2005

Andrzej Jezorski/MUNICH

German system-development house ESG has been given a Government contract to carry out a feasibility study to look at potential airframes and systems for a new German maritime-patrol aircraft (MPA).

The German navy's Dassault Atlantic Mk1s are to be phased out of service between 2005 and 2010, and the study is examining potential successors.

According to project sources, the aim of the study, which is due to be completed in the first quarter of 1997, is to determine a preferred airframe, systems architecture and cost for the aircraft.

While ESG is the prime contractor co-ordinating the study, other German companies are involved, including Bodenseewerk Gerätetechnik (BGT), Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA), Litef, STN Atlas and VDO Luftfahrtgeräte.

DASA has recently issued requests for information (RFIs) to airframe manufacturers and avionics companies, including GEC-Marconi Avionics of the UK, for elements of the package.

DASA is believed to be interested in the Thomson-Marconi Sonar AQS-960 acoustic processor, which interprets and displays acoustic information from up to 32 sources, such as sonobuoys.

German company BGT is understood to be handling flight controls, while Litef is looking at navigation systems and the mission computer,. STN Atlas is focusing on maritime avionics, and VDO is concentrating on displays.

DASA says that Italy may join the study "in due time". The Italian air force's Dassault Atlantic Mk1s are to be retired at the same time as Germany's aircraft, and officials from both navies are discussing the possibility of a joint programme.

Some sources close to the programme say, however, that Italy is unlikely to commit itself to the project before examining a possible joint solution to both its transport and MPA requirements based on the Lockheed Martin C-130J and P-3 Orion airframes. Another likely MPA airframe candidate which both countries are considering is the Dassault Atlantique Third Generation (ATL3G).

Because of tight budgets in both countries, a basic goal of the study is to create an advanced MPA, using a certificated "off-the-shelf" aircraft, and equipment which requires a minimum amount of development work, says DASA. The company's RFI specifies an aircraft and systems which are to be certificated and operational around the end of the decade.

Germany now operates 14 Atlantic 1s for anti-submarine warfare, and another four in the electronic-intelligence role. All are being upgraded in a programme designed to extend their available operational life beyond 12,000h.

Source: Flight International