DUBAI – As the UK considers how to fill its maritime surveillance gap, Lockheed Martin is pitching a modified version of its C-130 multi-mission aircraft as a cheap alternative to Boeing's costly P-8 Poseidon.
The UK is currently weighing whether to buy the P-8 after the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review scrapped plans to buy BAE Systems' long-delayed Nimrod MRA4 jet. With the release of the new SDSR just a few weeks away, Lockheed representatives told reporters Nov. 9 the company could modify the UK's 10 existing C-130s to fulfill the submarine-hunting mission at significantly lower cost.
Lockheed's solution will be about 40 percent of the price of the competition, Ruddock said, estimating that the team could get the first four aircraft to full capability in just 41 months.
"We're not knocking the P-8," Ruddock said. "I think what we are saying is we can give you P-8-type capability at a much lower cost point because you already have the airframe."
The UK MOD "rigorously" examined Lockheed's proposal, and concluded that the project is "credible," Ruddock said. However, he emphasized the government has not yet set its new requirement or placed any orders for Lockheed's proposed planes.
On the other hand, Boeing officials say the P-8 is a more cost-effective solution for the UK at the end of the day.
Fred Smith, Boeing's director for global sales and marketing, said the P-8 is cost effective and low risk. However, he acknowledged certain countries that don't need anti-submarine warfare capability might choose Boeing's smaller, cheaper Maritime Surveillance Aircraft.
The P-8 is not the right solution for every country, he said during a briefing at the air show.
"We know there is a set of countries that need to do long-range, armed, anti-submarine warfare … they need to protect their strike groups, their carrier battle groups, they need to project power, they need to defend their territories at sea and beyond," he said. "There are other customers that are looking for other capability, non-anti-submarine warfare, non-armed capability, and we have that on our Maritime Surveillance Aircraft."
Boeing anticipates selling 100 aircraft internationally over the next ten years, Smith estimated.