The Portuguese defence ministry has launched a competition worth almost €260 million ($320 million) for the purchase of 12 new medium transport aircraft. The two leading candidates expected to contest the requirement are EADS Casa's C-295 and the Lockheed Martin Alenia Tactical Transport Systems C-27J Spartan.

Portugal will dedicate seven of its new aircraft to transport duties, with the remainder to be configured for maritime patrol applications, according to the country's defence ministry. The selected platform will replace the Portuguese air force's current 24 EADS Casa C-212 transport and surveillance aircraft and augment the service's six Lockheed Martin P-3POrion maritime patrol aircraft.

Bidders have until 15 December to submit proposals for the requirement, says the defence ministry. A platform selection is likely to be linked to a decision to privatise up to 65% of state-owned maintenance and component manufacturing company OGMA, which Alenia is bidding for in competition with a joint bid from EADS and Embraer (Flight International, 24-30 August).

The deal to secure a stake in OGMA should be concluded by the end of 2004, says Paolo Pozzessere, Alenia's vice-president international markets development.

Lisbon was previously a partner in Europe's Airbus Military A400Mairlifter project, but last year cancelled its requirement to buy three of the aircraft, eliminating its national industry from securing workshare on the multinational project.

Airbus Military says Portugal is welcome to return to the A400Mproject at a later date under a conventional procurement. The design - in development for eight European partners - is viewed as a potential long-term replacement for Portugal's six Lockheed Martin C-130H transports.

Source: Flight International