M A I N   N E W S

Navy all set to acquire Orion P3-Cs
Lockheed also keen to sell F-16s
Sridhar K. Chari
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 9
India is looking to procure eight to 12 units of the Orion P3-C, the maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft made by the US company Lockheed Martin, and a team with representatives from the company, the US Navy and the US government, will be in New Delhi next week for “price and availability” talks.

Mr Jim Kingsley, Business Development Director of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, acknowledged that the aircraft to be supplied to the Indian Navy will be from US armed forces surplus, but would be “re-winged.” The mission systems would be upgraded and along with airframe modernisation, the craft is to have a service life of 20 to 30 years.

“All negotiations on price and other aspects will be taken up next week,” he said. An aircraft with configuration similar to what the Indian Navy has asked for is now currently at Aero India here. The US Navy craft was doing duty off Japan.

Pakistan had also purchased two Orion P3-Cs, and lost one in an accident.

The US armed forces currently field about 420 to 440 of the Orion P3-Cs, he said, with the US Navy alone flying 223. The Orions are actually scheduled to be phased out by about 2012 in the USA, and a contract has already been awarded to Boeing to develop the next generation Maritime surveillance aircraft currently designated the MMA — Multi-Mission Aircraft. “But some countries like Canada intend to fly the Orion upto 2019,” Mr Kingsley stated.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics has signed a ‘Technical Assistance Agreement’ with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for maintenance and upgrade work on the airframes of the Orion P3 range of aircraft. “Export controlled data on P-3 airframe component design, manufacturing, and overhaul will be shared under this TAA, approved by the US Department of State,” Mr Dennys Plessas, regional Vice-President of the company said. The agreement does not cover any of the sensor and communications systems on board the aircraft.

“We project a robust market for P-3 sustainment and upgrade work. Over 450 aircraft are in service with 16 countries.” he said.

The aircraft is equipped with sonar buoys which will be dropped into the ocean to pick up the movement of submarines. After detection, the aircraft can engage the submarine with a torpedo. The plane has 10 hard points to carry air-to-surface missiles and torpedos. It is also equipped with a radar, an ESM (electronic support measures) pod and other systems for signals and communications intelligence. “Even cell phone calls can be picked up by the ESM pod, so air show visitors had better be careful about what they speak on their cell phones!” grinned a Lockheed Martin official.


C-130 J Hercules on offer

The entire aeronautics world had taken note of the Indian Air Force (IAF) requirement for 126 Multirole Combat Aircraft (MCRA) and Lockheed Martin was keen to ensure that the F-16 becomes a leading contender, company regional vice-president Dennys Plessas stated.

On worries about the sanctions issue casting a shadow over possible US arms supplies to India, he said: “This is a government to government issue, but I can assure you that India and the US now have a very deep and strong relationship. Mistrust is a thing of the past.”

Lockheed Martin was also offering the C-130 J Super Hercules transport aircraft to the Indian Air Force.

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