Pakistan has hired an Italian defense company, Leanardo, for its aircraft conversion program. It will convert three Embraer Lineage 1000 regional jetliners into long-range maritime patrol aircraft for the Navy.
A $190 million contract was signed between the Ministry of Defence Production and Leonardo in June, after months of detailed technical discussions and securing internal funds from Pakistan’s Armed Forces Development Plan.
Leanardo spokespersons have so far declined to comment on the contract, citing “strict confidentiality agreements.” The contract, however, is expected to involve the design, modification, installation, and integration of anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol package of two aircraft that have yet to be acquired, joining the single Lineage 1000 already in Pakistan.
The three planes will then be introduced into service as Sea Sultan patrol aircraft. The total number of Sea Sultans is further expected to increase to 10 through further follow-on contracts. They are expected to replace the country’s long-serving P-3C Orion fleet, which the Navy decided in October last year.
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Under an additional contract, South Africa’s Paramount Group will handle the aircraft’s pre-conversion maintenance, repair, and overhaul.
Justin Bronk, an aerospace expert at the Royal United Services Institute, commented that the expectations of international cooperation on the Lineage 1000 conversion programs were not realistic.
“MPA mission systems are actually some of the most sensitive programs in the defense aviation world, and so there may be security reasons why Pakistan and/or Brazil would chose not to cooperate on a Lineage 1000 conversion,” he said.
A closed tender was launched in November 2020 involving Leonardo, Germany’s Rheinland Air Services, and Turkish Aerospace Industries based on their proven maritime patrol aircraft conversion experience.
Rheinland previously won an order for the Sea Eagle maritime patrol aircraft conversion of ATR 72 propliners for the Pakistan Navy, beating out a rival offer from TAI, which offered a package based on that developed for the Turkish Navy’s ATR 72s.