Pakistan has inducted the first of three long-range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) into its navy that will eventually replace its fleet of Lockheed-Martin P-3C Orion aircraft.
The Embraer Lineage 1000 business jet was inducted into the Pakistan Navy in a ceremony at its base at Mehran, in the Pakistani port city Karachi, last Thursday, according to the social media channels of the service.
The ceremony was attended by Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi and Commander Pakistan Fleet Rear Admiral Naveed Ashraf as well as several other senior Pakistani naval officers.
However, images released by the service and other photos taken of the aircraft showed that it appears to be a green aircraft with the full suite of conversions to missionize the aircraft yet to be carried out.
Reports in July said that Pakistan had contracted Italian company Leonardo to convert the Lineage 1000 jets into Sea Sultan long-range maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft, with South Africa’s Paramount Group responsible for the pre-conversion maintenance, repair and overhaul of the aircraft.
The Lineage 1000 is an “ultra-large” business jet based on the E190 jetliner and certified for up to 19 passengers. It is fitted with additional fuel tanks in its cargo hold which effectively doubles its range to 8,500 km (5,300 miles), which equates to roughly ten hours endurance at normal cruise speeds although this is of course dependent on the weight of passengers and other cargo/equipment on board.
The conversion would see Leonardo design, modify, install, and integrate an anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol package, with the company beating out Germany’s Rhineland Air Services (RAS) and Turkey’s Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for the A$257 million contract, which was reportedly signed in late June.
Neither the Pakistan Navy, Leonardo or Paramount have commented on the story, but it is understood Leonardo had an advantage for the bid owing to its Seaspray airborne maritime patrol radar already being used by Pakistan on ATR72-based Sea Eagle MPA and Sea King helicopters.
The radar will almost certainly be fitted onto the Sea Sultans, along with other equipment such as a SATCOM suite, an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) package and other systems.
The choice of these will likely be driven by that already on the Sea Eagle MPAs, which were converted by Germany’s RAS. These include the FLIR Systems Star Safire III electro-optical/infrared turret, Elettronica electronic support measures, satellite communications, and a sonobuoy launch/receiver system.
The ATR72s are also fitted with a pair of fuselage hardpoints for torpedoes, and the Sea Sultans are also expected to be fitted with hardpoints for carrying external stores employed for ASW work.
Pakistan reportedly has an eventual requirement for 10 Sea Sultans to replace its fleet of six P-3Cs currently being operated by the Pakistani Naval Air Service’s 28 Sqn at Mehran, and complement its four Sea Eagles.
The new type will give it a capability roughly similar to its traditional arch-rival India, which operates the Boeing P-8I Poseidon, a modified version of the P-8A currently flown by the armed forces of several countries, including the US Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force.
In addition to countering India’s maritime ambitions, Pakistan’s maritime interests also include maritime domain awareness and control of the Arabian Sea, which is heavily traversed by commercial marine traffic transiting to and from the Gulf of Aden/Red Sea and Persian Gulf, both of which are vital waterways, carrying the world’s seaborne trade and petroleum supplies.
The waters in the region have also been beset by piracy, based mainly out of places with little or no government control such as Somalia, lending more importance to regional states having a viable capability to maintain domain awareness over regional waters.