Airbus Military keen on Saucepan


Airbus Military is keen to propose its aircraft range for the South African Air Force’s Project Saucepan requirement for new maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft. Air Force chief Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano earlier this month said the programme had been “pulled to the left” by the increased threat of piracy in southern Africa’s eastern littoral waters.

“I think we have the best product in the world and I believe we could win the programme if we are given the chance to compete,” said Airbus Military CE Domingo Ureña. Speaking at a company trade media briefing (TMB) in Madrid on Wednesday he added “We will be ready to compete.”

Project Saucepan should finally see the SAAF replace its 68-year-old Douglas C47 Dakota aircraft in the maritime surveillance role, a requirement Gagiano says is now both “urgent and important”.

The SAAF received its first C47s in 1943 and they were employed as transport in the Italian campaign of World War Two as well as for ferry duties in the Mediterranean theatre. The aircraft remain in service with 35 Squadron, based in Cape Town, with medium transport as well as maritime patrol duties. In the latter role it replaced the Avro Shackleton MR3, the last purpose-designed antisubmarine warfare (ASW) aircraft, in SAAF inventory from November 1984.

But it is not yet clear what the requirement is. Brigadier General Tsoku Khumalo, the SAAF’s director transport and maritime told the defenceWeb maritime security conference in Cape Town in October 2009 that the SAAF was contemplating five specialised Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and eight cheaper general-purpose Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA). At the time he said the new aircraft would have to be cost effective, sustainable, appropriate and offer a growth path. It would further need to be capable of inshore, coastal and deep-sea exclusive economic zone patrol as well as search-and-rescue (SAR) work. To support naval operations they would also require an ability to engage in antisubmarine and surface warfare.

The new MPA would in addition require the ability detect, track, classify and identify surface targets and in wartime to engage the same with onboard weapons, he added. Khumalo noted the SAAF realistically required 12 to 14 MPAs but these were very costly and the budget needed likely prohibitive. Other than having a maritime role the aircraft also needed to have a transport function and would also replace the C47, Airbus Military C212 and C235 aircraft; Khumalo being keen to reduce the number of platform types in use in the SAAF transport environment.

Gagiano would not be drawn on budget, numbers or platforms, but did indicate a change in thinking. Asked about the size of the preferred platform, he said he had his own views. Pressed whether it would be something the size of a C235, Gagiano chuckled and said he was looking at “something smaller, actually.” One suggestion was the Beechcraft King Air 350, used by several air forces, coast guards and other authorities for maritime patrol. Speaking about Operation Hopper, the South African National Defence Force’s maritime security operation off the northern Mozambique coast, Gagiano said the burning need was for airborne sensors. “We have a gap there we have fill very quickly,” the general said. This is why Saucepan is “so important” and “will make such a big difference”. Asked about numbers, Gagiano again declined to comment, not confirming or denying the figure four.
“There is no doubt about it. These aircraft will give us a massive boost and will make a major difference to our operational capabilities. Not only will they be used in anti-piracy roles, but also to combat poaching and the detection of war threats. Because of outdated maritime surveillance equipment, this project is an urgent priority,” he said.

Airbus Military senior VP: commercial Antonio Rodriguez Barberán told a question and answer session at the the TMB the company would offer the CN235 or C295 aircraft for Saucepan. Barberán said although the King Air was a good platform, it was, in his view, limited, especially in a secondary transport role. “Typically, what we would present to the SAAF are aircraft with a dual role. A CN235 could be a preferred solution for South Africa. Even a C295.” Noteworthy was the absence of the C212, the smallest aircraft in the current Airbus Military stable and closest in size to the King Air – albeit still bigger. In answer to another question Barberán noted Airbus Military was in talks with Indonesian Aerospace (Iae), formerly IPTN, about the future of that platform. Indications are the manufacturing of the C212 might be transferred there.

Some 6600 King Air aircraft of all types have been built an delivered since 1972, including three to the SAAF, one of 48 military operators, who generally use them for light transport and liaison duties. The C212 is a turboprop short take-off and landing (STOL) medium transport aircraft. Some 580 have been built since 1974 and are flown by numerous civil and some 22 military operators. The

The CN-235 is a medium-range twin-engined medium transport plane jointly developed by the-then CASA and IPTN of Indonesia as a regional airliner and military transport. Its primary military roles include maritime patrol, surveillance, and air transport. Some 230 have been delivered since 1988. Some 27 air forces and three paracivil authorities have used the type, along with some 11 civil operators, the wikipedia notes. Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico and the Turkish as well as US coast guards operates the type in maritime patrol role, the Spanish Civil Guard (a paramilitary police) employ it on surveillance duties while the Turkish Navy operates an antisubmarine/surface warfare version. The Spanish SASEMAR sea search and rescue organisation also uses the C235 in the maritime SAR role.

The C-295 is a further development of the CN-235 with a stretched fuselage, 50% more payload capability and new PW127G turboprop engines. The C-295 made its maiden flight in 1998. Some 111 examples are on order or have been delivered to 24 operators in 16 nations, according t Airbus Military figures. Algeria and Portugal use the transport as a MPA while Chile recently received the first ASW version.