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Germany and France to Jointly Develop P-3 Orion / ATL2 MPA Replacement

During ILA airshow held this week near Berlin, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her French counterpart Florence Parly signed a letter of intent to jointly develop a replacement to their respective maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).


During ILA airshow held this week near Berlin, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her French counterpart Florence Parly signed a letter of intent to jointly develop a replacement to their respective maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).


Germany and France to Jointly Develop P 3 Orion ATL2 MPA Replacement 1The "Maritime Airborne Warfare System" or MAWS will replace the German P-3C Orion and the French Atlantique 2 (ATL2). NATO picture.


The "Maritime Airborne Warfare System" or MAWS - the temporary name of the intended development program - will replace the P-3C Orion and the Atlantique 2 (ATL2), which are currently in use with naval aviation units of the German Navy and the French Navy (Marine National). Once both types of aircraft are decommissioned, the joint successor MPA is expected to replace them.

The German-French Defense and Security Council had already decided in Paris on 13 July 2017 to seek a "European solution" to renew the naval and maritime intelligence capabilities of the German and French navies, with a "common roadmap" expected to be established in 2018. Part of the planning will be that both sides coordinate their capability requirements to the possible common model.

According to a statement by the French MoD, the goal of this LOI is to study the conditions for the development of a European solution enabling an autonomous and efficient maritime patrol capability in Europe.

It has to be noted that German Navy requirements (focused on the Baltic Sea) and French Navy ones (focused on blue water operations) are quite different. In addition, this program will have to find export customer because as is, the need appears to be for 20 to 25 airframes maximum (German and French needs combined). However according to the French MoD, meetings held at working level between the French and German navies showed a similarity of operational needs, calendars, and general philosophy.


Germany and France to Jointly Develop P 3 Orion ATL2 MPA Replacement 2 The "Maritime Airborne Warfare System" or MAWS will replace the German P-3C Orion and the French Atlantique 2 (ATL2). NATO picture.


The German Navy acquired 8 P-3C Orion MPA from the Netherlands in 2006. In November 2017, Lockheed Martin received a $158.5 million contract for the second phase of the German Navy P-3C Mission System Refresh program. The program will upgrade the mission system processing suites on the fleet of eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft to support operations through 2035. The Mission System Refresh is part of an overall fleet upgrade that includes structural mid-life upgrades as well as an upgrade to the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) cockpit capability.

The French Ministry of Defence awarded a contract to modernise 15 French Navy ATL2 MPA in October 2013 to Dassault Aviation and Thales. The main aims of the programme are to develop, then integrate on board the aircraft, next-generation technologies for a new tactical mission system and state-of-the-art sensor subsystems and display consoles. It was recently announced that 3 more aircraft will be modernized for a total of 18.

Last year eight NATO members (including France and Germany) agreed to cooperate on “multinational maritime multi-mission aircraft capabilities”.The programme also includes Canada, Poland, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Greece. It aims at modernising equipment an increased Russian presence, including a high level of submarine patrols in the North Atlantic.

In July 2017 the UK Ministry of Defence confirmed the deal to purchase nine Boeing P-8A Poseidon MPA for the Royal Air Force (RAF). The new aircraft, which will be based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, will play a vital role in protecting the UK’s nuclear deterrent and the UK’s two new aircraft carriers. They will also be able to locate and track hostile submarines, and will enhance the UK’s maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) capability. The Norwegian Ministry of Defence announced in November 2017 its intent to replace its ageing fleet of six P-3 Orion (four P-3C for ASW & two P-3N for SAR) and its three Dassault DA-20 ECM aircraft with five P-8A Poseidon MPA.


Germany and France to Jointly Develop P 3 Orion ATL2 MPA Replacement 3 A320neo MPA concept unveiled earlier this year. Airbus image.


During the Singapore Airshow held earlier this year, Airbus unveiled a (conceptual) military variant of its A320neo single aisle aircraft. One of the military variant is for maritime patrol mission (the other one for ISR). It is highly likely that Airbus has the German-French “Maritime Airborne Warfare System" in sight when it unveiled the A320neo MPA concept earlier this year.


Germany and France to Jointly Develop P 3 Orion ATL2 MPA Replacement 4 Another potential MAWS candidate is the P-1 MPA from Japan. JMSDF picture.


Another potential candidate is the P-1 MPA from Japan according to Reuters citing Japanese government sources.

Discussion between the three governments began last year. Japanese officials also asked Kawasaki Heavy Industries , which makes the P-1, to discuss possible partnerships with France’s Dassault Aviation and Thales SA , said the sources, who have direct knowledge of the proposal but are not authorised to speak to the media.

According to a French MoD fact sheet on MAWS program:
Is the project open to other partners?
Our logic of cooperation is indeed aimed at opening up our programs to other partners. However, it is first necessary to consolidate a Franco-German approach, facilitating subsequent analysis steps, as we propose for other projects. In this context, we are studying in a concerted manner what could be an observer status in such projects to facilitate subsequent integrations.