Aerodata held a briefing at Paris, at which I think I was the only journalist.Â The German company has been working on special mission aircraft systems since the mid-80s. However, its latest project, the upgrade of an ATR72 to a maritime patrol aircraft was undoubtedly the biggest to date.Â So it was no surprise that the companyâ€™s President and CEO, Hans J Stahl was keen to discuss it. He was keen not to disclose the customer, although we all know it is for the Pakistan Navy.
Stahl told meâ€ â€œWe have done work with King Airs [Malta Air Force] and Do 328s in the past. Â But the installation job on this ATR 72 is much more complex. Â We signed the contract in summer 2015 but didnâ€™t start until early 2016 as approvals were needed from several governments, which take a while. We are integrating Leonardoâ€™s Seaspray for the first time. Although we have done Telephonics and Elta systems in the past.â€
The Elta EL/M2022 system – a combined radar/weather and search radar went into the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Do328s of which one was in static. The five aircraft were also equipped with the Star Safire III and delivered to Aero Rescue between April 2006-February 2007.
The company is known to have beaten off three other rivals in the last leg of the Pakistan Navy bid, they are thought to have included PAL Aerospace, Thales and Leonardo.Â â€œAerodata has been working on the ATR 72MPA for just over a year now, and first flight is expected in Octoberâ€ Stahl added. â€œIt has maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare and also search and rescue capabilities.â€
While Aerodata is based in Braunschweig, the work to integrate the systems and modifications to the airframe is being carried out by Rheinland Air Services in Monchengladbach.Â The company, well versed with the ATR 72 is working alongside Marshall Aerospace from Cambridge, UK. Aerodata is responsible for the design, the kits and integration.
There are two aircraft contracted and optional for the first two with the first due for delivery in early 2018 and the second in early 2019.
â€œIt will have a fully missionised system with torpedos and water bombs, it has a typical sensor suite including a Seaspray 7300E radar for long range detection, localisation and classification. Â A Star Safire III EO/IR system will provide the short range classification and imaging.Â We also included some ESM systems [supplied by the customer from Electronica] and long and short range detection of threats, classification and localisation. Along that comes self-protection against infra-red radar or laser threats; there are ELINT components as well. It will be certified as per Pakistanâ€™s standards.â€
The Pakistan Navy is known to have initially acquired two ATR72s in the second hand market from Spain (delivered in March 2013) and Grand Canaries (in July 2013).Â They both serve 27 Sqn at Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Mehran outside of Karachi.Â The conversion of these aircraft from transport/cargo aircraft has taken its while because the pilots were initially training and then several contract tenders did not go as well as expected. A third aircraft was delivered in August 2016 and with options on a further two it would appear the Navy intends to acquire a fourth ATR72 in the near future. Alan Warnes