Every cloud has a silver lining: Lockheed Martin believes that failure to win the US Navy's Multimission Maritime Aircraft competition will create an increase in export demand for used P-3 Orions.

Lockheed Martin says it sees a substantial continuing market for its long-serving maritime patrol aircraft, despite its updated Orion 21 design losing out to Boeing's 737-800ERX in the US Navy's Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) competition last month.

Lockheed Martin will be giving a briefing on 'P-3/CP-140 Worldwide Sustainment' at Farnborough on Thursday.


While losing the $3.9 billion development phase award and potential $20 billion, 108-aircraft order for a successor to the USN's P-3 fleet was obviously a blow, the company says it actually expects to see an increase in the member of nations flying the type in coming years. At present, there are 15 foreign operators.

It believes that the lead time required for the Boeing aircraft to enter service - initial operational capability is due around 2012 - will mean that, for the next decade at least, any nation looking to create or increase its fleet of long-range maritime patrol aircraft will be looking for P-3s.

"There's a significant market that we plan to pursue," says Tom Wetherall, Lockheed Martin's director, P-3 / S-3 Programmes. By way of illustration, he says South Korea, Pakistan and India are all looking to increase the size of their fleets or create new ones.

Nearly 80 US Navy P-3Cs are being retired over the next three years after an airframe fatigue inspection revealed the potential for cracks to begin rapidly developing on the oldest aircraft. With the US Navy drawing down its P-3 fleet more quickly than originally planned due to this development, there will be plenty of candidate aircraft available for rewinging and other upgrades, believes Lockheed Martin.


This is where Lockheed Martin's development work on the Orion 21 bid could yet find a use, says Wetherall. "We will be able to do anything operators want. Operators are looking at the whole gamut of Orion 21 [features], from structural upgrades to an all-glass cockpit.

"What's been exciting for us following the MMA decision is that the operators have been coming to us," says Wetherall. Phones at the company started ringing within 24h of the MMA decision and Lockheed Martin has been working flat out since then to respond to requests and enquiries from current and potential customers.



Source: Flight Daily News