Boeing said Tuesday that it will not bid on the Navy program to replace Lockheed's submarine-hunting P-3 Orion aircraft, striking another blow to the Navy's troubled effort to encourage other firms to enter the competition against Lockheed.
Gulfstream Aerospace, another potential bidder that was studying the new program, withdrew from the competition several weeks ago, Navy officials said. Rockwell International, which once considered entering the competition, withdrew early on.
The withdrawals leave only Lockheed and the Douglas Aircraft unit of McDonnell Douglas in the competition to produce the new aircraft, known as the Long-Range Air Anti-Submarine Capability Aircraft (LRAACA).
Lockheed plans to submit an updated version of its P-3, which has been in production for more than two decades and is based on its Electra passenger aircraft of 1950s vintage.
Douglas said it will bid on the program with a modified version of its MD-80 commercial jetliner that will use unducted fan engines. The jetliner will have to be substantially modified, however, to include a bomb bay and various pressure bulkheads that do not currently exist in the airframe.
The Navy plans to buy 125 of the LRAACAs, easily worth more than $5 billion. The aircraft will be used to hunt Soviet submarines by dropping sonar devices into the water and looking for magnetic disturbances created by submarines' hulls.
Boeing, which had planned to offer a modified 757 jetliner to the Navy as a replacement for the P-3, issued a statement suggesting that it was unhappy with the way the Navy structured the program.
"Should the Navy requirements be restructured regarding such aspects as timing, performance and proposal expectations, thus allowing the company to compete effectively, Boeing will take another look at the program," the statement said.