Airbus Defence and Space (DS) is to deliver back to the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira) (FAB) "in the coming months" the last of nine Lockheed Martin P-3AM Orion maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) it has been upgrading, an official told IHS Jane's in late January.
The European defence manufacturer has been fitting the FAB's P-3A fleet with a new mission suite and upgraded avionics at its Seville production facility in Spain. Once upgraded, the aircraft are given the P-3AM (AModernised) designation.
"The situation is that at the end of 2013 we had delivered eight of the nine [P-3AM aircraft], and we will deliver the final one in the next few months," said the official. "This is a major modernisation programme with very extensive work required to return these previously stored aircraft to service with modern avionics and mission systems."
The FAB acquired the 12 aircraft in 2002 from the United States Air Force's 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) - colloquially known as 'the boneyard' - at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
It then launched an upgrade to equip nine of the aircraft with the Airbus DS Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) mission suite, the ELTA Systems EL/M-2022A(V)3 multi-mode airborne maritime surveillance radar with an identification friend-or-foe (IFF) interrogator, the Thales TopDeck 'glass' cockpit, a datalink and enhanced communications suite, and a FLIR Systems Star SAFIRE HD electro-optic/infrared sensor turret.
Other improvements include a modern navigation system (including a flight management system), a new weapon management system, upgraded T56-A-14 engines, new autopilot, a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), an acoustic system, and electronic support measures (ESM).
FAB's remaining three P-3As are to be kept for spares.
Separately, the FAB is exploring the feasibility of re-winging these aircraft. Speaking to IHS Jane's at the LAAD Defence and Security 2013 exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, Clay Fearnow, director, Maritime Patrol Programs, said Brazil was looking at fitting new wings and horizontal stabilisers to its fleet.
"What we thought was the life left in the wings wasn't exactly right, and the fatigue was worse than we initially believed," he said.
A decision on whether to proceed with this work was expected to have been reached by the end of 2013, but at the time of writing Lockheed Martin was unable to comment on the status of the re-winging programme.