Peter La Franchi/CANBERRA

The New Zealand Ministry of Defence has released an invitation to register (ITR) for the Project Sirius tactical sensor suite upgrade for its six Lockheed P-3K maritime patrol aircraft, aimed at extending the P-3's life by at least 20 years. The ITR is expected to be followed by a restricted request for tender next year.

Raytheon officials have confirmed that the company will be bidding for the upgrade project, with other contenders expected to include Israel Aircraft Industries and Lockheed Martin.

Air New Zealand and Marconi Electronic Systems are also likely to pursue the project as part of a recently concluded teaming arrangement to contest military aircraft integration requirements throughout Asia Pacific.

The ITR calls for the replacement of existing data management systems, the APS-134 radar, ULA-2 and ALD-2B electronic support measures equipment, surveillance sensors, new navigation and communications suites and improved armament support capability.

Also required are a replacement for the existing ASQ-10 magnetic anomaly detector system, and a new electro-optical suite to replace the existing AAS-36 equipment. A new acoustic processor is sought to replace the existing AQA-5 suite.

A replacement communications suite is required to support encrypted and unencrypted Link 11, HF, V/UHF and satellite communications capabilities and there will be a new mission support facility for the upgraded aircraft.

Emphasis is placed on the use of commercial off-the-shelf equipment, and the preferred prime contractor is to undertake full system design and integration.

The contract calls for an initial prototype installation and qualification, followed by the upgrade of the remaining five aircraft.

The six Royal New Zealand Air Force Orions are already undergoing airframe life extensions, incorporating replacement wings and tailplanes, under the $NZ109 million ($55 million) Project Kestrel. The wing refit is also believed to include pylons for an anti-ship missile, which has yet to be chosen.

Project Sirius is seen as having close parallels with the Royal Australian Air Force's AP-3C Sea Sentinel upgrade being undertaken by Raytheon Systems in conjunction with Boeing Australia.

Source: Flight International