In April, 2006, Lockheed Martin Corp. was awarded an initial $6 million contract to begin upgrading P-3C aircraft purchased by Pakistan, the US’ on-again, off-again ally in the War on Terror. Pakistan has ordered nine of the aircraft from the US Navy’s surplus fleet, although the US’ own P-3C felt is deteriorating so fast under the load of high use and its abusive low-level salt water environment that the Navy is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain its own squadrons. In fact, the US Navy is decommissioning its six remaining Reserve patrol squadrons so that their aircraft can be sent to active duty squadrons (the last Reserve VP squadron will be gone by 2008). Approximately 140 US Navy P-3Cs have been prematurely retired since 2003 because of deterioration as well as to make available money for the P-8A Multimission Maritime Aircraft being developed for introduction to the US fleet in the 2012-2014 timeframe. In the past three years the Navy has been flogging itself under an intense program of re-winging its lowest time P-3Cs as well as bringing all of its P-3Cs up to the latest tactical capabilities.
In November, 2004, Pakistan had given Portuguese aircraft refitter OGMA a contract to refurb its two P-3Cs, which had been grounded since 1999 following the crash of a third during training. At that time, Pakistan was considering purchasing eight older P-3B aircraft from the US’ “boneyard” at David Monthan AFB, where scores of older P-3As and P-3Bs suffer silently under the relentless Arizona sun. The most modern version of the P-3B – the P-3B TACNAVMOD “Super Bee”-- uses the same airframe, engines, and flight systems as the original P-3C, but the mission systems, sensors, sensor stations, and interior layout are very different.
Subsequently, In May, 2005, Pakistan decided to obtain P-3Cs. The P-3Cs are to be upgraded to a warfare capability similar to the US Navy's Anti-Surface Warfare Improvement Program (AIP) and the Block Modification Upgrade Program (BMUP). This upgrade includes the Maverick guided missile; the AN/AVX-1 electro-optical sensor system; the AN/APS-137B(V)5 synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), which also has an inverse-SAR mode; the AN/AAS-36A IR detection set; the EP-2060 pulse analyzer; high-resolution color displays; the Over-the-Horizon Airborne Sensor Information System (OASIS) III, and the OZ-72(V) Multimission Advanced Tactical Terminal (MATT) system; the AN/AAR-47 missile-warning receiver; the AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser; the AN/ALR-66C(V)3 electronic-support-measures system; a new data-processing subsystem based on the CP-2451/ASQ-227 digital computer; a new acoustic subsystem based on the USQ-78B display and control and the capability to carry the Standoff Land Attack Missile - Expanded Response (SLAM-ER). In addition, Pakistan has also expressed the intention of adding modifications to the aircraft to allow it to employ the French Exocet and Chinese C-802 anti-ship missiles, as well as the French-Italian A244 torpedo.
Pakistan took delivery of its first new P-3C in October, 2005, and began its replacement of its fleet of creaky Atlantique and Fokker F-27-200/400 maritime-patrol aircraft. The new aircraft are ostensibly to be used in the War on Terror, although only a nugget would not also expect them to be used to keep an eye on India as well.
Pakistan’s arch rival India had been looking at the eight ex-US P-3Bs to replace its outdated fleet of ex-Soviet Bear aircraft but earlier this year announced that, instead, it was pursuing talks to acquire the smaller, cheaper, and far less capable Falcon 900 maritime patrol aircraft derivative. The Indian Navy's eight Tu-142 maritime patrol aircraft are obsolete and cost a small fortune to continue to operate. India had approached several Israeli companies to upgrade its Bears. However, this negotiation was ended when Russia – another US “ally of convenience” whose loyalties seem up for the highest bidder – warned that any contracts with Israeli companies would result in Russia’s suspending any support for the India’s Tu-142s.
The initial $6 million contract is just the start. The P-3C aircraft for Pakistan will be paid for, in part, through US military assistance as part of the global war on terror, and the total cost for the eight airplanes plus upgrades is initially estimated to be $970 million. The P-3Cs are to be part of a weapons acquisition contract expected to be worth $1.3 billion. Other weapons included in the package are 2,000 TOW-2A missiles, 60 Harpoon missiles, six Phalanx 20mm guns, and the upgrade of six additional gun systems.
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