Lockheed Martin says the lack of open competition for the UK’s newly-selected maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) is disappointing, but says there are other opportunities worldwide for its Vigilance mission system on a variety of aircraft types.

The company was offering to convert the Royal Air Force’s 10 short-fuselage C-130J Hercules transports into an SC-130J configuration, incorporating a mission system and a variety of sensors for the MPA role.

However, the government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), released on 23 November, indicated the selection of nine Boeing P-8 Poseidons, bypassing an open competition.

“I think we fought a fair and compellingly logical argument,” Keith Muir, international business development manager for Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems, told a media briefing the day after the release of the SDSR.

“As far as the government was concerned, the decision-making strata knew what we were offering and proposing, and the benefits of it. The only thing that was disappointing is that there wasn’t a competition. The fairest way, for me, would have been an open competition.”

Muir says the SC-130J offer was “cost-effective and capable, and most people that we briefed thought it sounded great, but wondered what the catch was”.

SC-130J missile - Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin

However, despite the disappointment, Muir says there are “one dozen viable and credible opportunities” remaining for the mission system, which can be integrated on a variety of airframes.

“Increasingly, people want to monitor their borders because they are huge, just thinking of some of the Latin American countries and the issues they have there with porous borders, particularly from south to north,” Muir notes.

“But also central and eastern Europe, not to mention Asia-Pacific, which has a real dynamic. A complex terrain that is very maritime, but they want to be able to cross the environment from sea to land without having bespoke capabilities for each.”

Lockheed can offer the MPA capability on a number of platforms and customers are showing interest in the Gulfstream and Bombardier families of business aircraft, both new and second-hand.

“For governments with suitable airframes we can bring the capability into that airframe. But if a government doesn’t have it, then of course we can provide it,” Muir says. “One customer I’m talking to wants a bespoke system from the ground up, so we would provide the airframe, mission system in one capability.”

Multiple suppliers can offer an active electronically scanned array radar for the system, with Elta, Selex ES and Northrop Grumman systems all approved. All but one discussion includes an AESA radar and not a mechanically-scanned radar, Muir notes.

Despite the disappointment of the MPA outcome, Lockheed can take solace from the commitment in the SDSR to the full planned acquisition of 138 F-35s.

It also benefits from the decision to keep the 14 stretched variants of the C-130J in service until 2030 with the help of an upgrade. These were previously due to be phased out between 2017 and 2022.

Source: FlightGlobal.com