NAVAIRs Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) Program Office (PMA-290) delivered the last of 10 upgraded P-3C aircraft to the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) during a rollout ceremony held at Lockheed Martin in Greenville, S.C. on May 31.
This event is a double-edged sword, said Steve Liebler, the principal deputy in PMA-290, who spoke at the ceremony. While it commemorates the success of the CUP, it also marks the end of a nearly 30 year era of friendship and mutually rewarding cooperation in MPRA operations. We will miss our long-term relationship with the Dutch.
In 1984, NAVAIR delivered the last of the original 13 aircraft to RNLN through foreign military sales (FMS). In 2000, the Dutch signed an FMS case to upgrade the sensor and avionic systems on 10 of the 13 aircraft. The remaining three aircraft were placed in long-term storage. This modification, called the Capabilities Upkeep Program (CUP), provided an updated version of the P-3C, and was performed by Lockheed Martin in Greenville, S.C.
The RNLN, the U.S. Navy, and Lockheed Martin teamed together to ensure that this program was a great success, said Tom Pillion, PMA-290 director of MPRA International Programs.
In 2004, after, the upgrades had begun, the Dutch Parliament decided to cancel its MPRA requirement and close the supporting base, Naval Air Station Valkenburg. The Dutch ceased operational P-3 flying in January 2005, and the base is scheduled for final closure later this year. Upon Parliaments decision, and an approved U.S. government third-party transfer, the RNLN sold its P-3C aircraft to the German and Portuguese governments.
"With the delivery of the final CUP aircraft, a schoolbook example of how to run a complex international modernization program comes to an end, said RNLN Captain Bart Escher, CUP program manager for the Netherlands Defense Materiel Organization. For the Royal Netherlands Navy this was not just an FMS-case or contract. This program showed all elements of partnership between people and organizations that is so important to complete the job. All teams involved, Lockheed Martin - Eagan and Greenville, the NAVAIR PMA-290 team and the RNLN team have shown excellence and professionalism that allowed us to quickly find and implement solutions for the challenges met."