Taiwan is considering several small aircraft for its maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) requirement after rejecting a Lockheed Martinnew-build P-3COrion offer.

Industry sources say Taiwan is leaning towards acquiring large twin-turboprop aircraft such as the ATR 42, Bombardier Dash 8 or EADS Casa C295, but an acquisition is not expected until 2005-6.

Taiwan ruled out purchasing 12 P-3Cs earlier this year because the cost of restarting the production line was too steep. Lockheed Martin believes it has an opportunity if the US Navy selects new-build P-3s for its Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) programme. Refurbished ex-USNP-3A/Bs are also being examined.

Boeing hopes to export a 737 MPA to Taiwan if it wins the MMA competition. The USN plans to select a winner early next year, with Italy and Taiwan possible follow-on customers.

Taiwan is also trying to determine if a smaller platform would be suitable or if it is best to shelve the requirement in favour of higher-priority procurements.

Taiwan insists any aircraft it acquires must have an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability, which rules out smaller platforms. But a large turboprop should be able to accommodate an ASW suite, while its relatively low acquisition cost could make it more feasible than the 737 orP-3C. Taiwan also may not need the speed and range of a jet.

Business jet manufacturers have increased their marketing efforts, hoping the requirement will be downsized. Dassault is pitching its Falcon 50 maritime surveillance aircraft and hopes its relationship with Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation, which produces rudders for the Falcon family, could give it an advantage.

Small twin-engine turboprops and some single-engined aircraft have been offered, but a business jet may be too expensive, while a small turboprop cannot accommodate the required equipment.

Source: Flight International