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Pakistan Navy Officially Announces Next-Gen LRMPA Program

On 02 September 2021, the Pakistan Navy (PN) announced that it will procure three long-range maritime patrol aircraft (LRMPA) based on the Embraer Lineage 1000E. According to the PN’s press release on social media, the LRMPAs will have “the latest weapons and sensors to undertake Maritime Air Operations.”

The PN’s announcement confirms earlier news reports about Pakistan contracting Paramount Group and Leonardo to overhaul and convert the aircraft, respectively. Reportedly designated “Sea Sultan”, Pakistan intends to acquire a total of 10 aircraft to gradually replace its Lockheed P-3C Orion LRMPAs. The PN did not disclose the duration of the procurement timeline, though 10-12 years could be plausible.

The PN announced its plans to acquire a new jet-powered LRMPA in 2018. The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) at the time, Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, said that the PN was open to acquiring new aircraft from any source, including the United States if possible, thus hinting at an interest in the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

However, Pakistan’s tenuous defence ties with the U.S. and the high cost of the P-8 had basically left the PN with one realistic option for its LRMPA requirements: pursuing an original project. Prior to the start of the Sea Sultan program, the closest analogous alternative to the P-8 was Saab’s Swordfish MPA concept.

The Saab Swordfish combines the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet with several commercially-off-the-shelf (COTS) subsystems from Saab, Leonardo, FLIR Systems and other vendors.

Though not as large as the P-8, Saab said the Swordfish would cost two-thirds as much as the P-8 to acquire and half as much to maintain in through-life. But the lower costs come at the expense of less payload and range compared to the P-8. Clearly, the countries that could acquire the P-8 ultimately opted for it – or in Japan’s case, developed a closely comparable design (i.e., the Kawasaki P-1).

The PN chose to acquire an original project similar to the Swordfish in terms of COTS subsystems, but with the ATR-72-based Sea Eagle maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) as the template. However, the PN opted for a larger aircraft in the form of the Lineage 1000E. In fact, based on its original tender from 2020, the PN was specifically seeking this particular aircraft, it was not interested in the Global 6000 or other platforms…

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