The Japan Defence Agency (JDA) and US Navy will decide by December whether to extend their maritime patrol aircraft avionics and mission system study following the completion of key tasks defined under a March 2002 memorandum of understanding (MoU).At the third meeting of the project's joint working group (JWG) in late August, a report on the potential for co-operative development of a mission system was completed and signed off by the two sides. The collection of avionics and mission system data has also been finished.

The next meeting of the JWG is scheduled before year-end and is due to complete a comparison of the "operational and material requirements" of the two countries and a report on avionics and mission system interoperability, say US government officials.

The USA needs a mission system to equip its proposed Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) while Japan is developing the P-X maritime patrol aircraft, based on an indigenous airframe, to be built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI). Both nations are now aiming to achieve initial operational capability between 2011 and 2012 after the P-X programme slipped by about a year.

The fourth JWG meeting will decide whether to extend the study under the terms of the existing MoU to allow more time to update the data collection report, say officials. A follow-on MoU may be required to cover any co-operative development work after the US MMA project enters system development and demonstration.

Last week Boeing, offering a 737-based solution, and Lockheed Martin proposing a new-build P-3 Orion, were awarded US Navy contracts for the next phase of MMA. KHI was named prime contractor for the Japanese P-X and its sister C-X cargo aircraft late last year.

Source: Flight International