When we last looked at the future of UK fixed wing Maritime Patrol in April (click here for a refresher) we came to the general conclusion that it was a capability gap that should be closed as soon as possible, that there was still much debate about the crossover between search and rescue and the more military oriented tasks and that there was a whole load of interesting equipment options ranging from airliner derived fixed wing aircraft, UAV’s, specialist conversions and even lighter than air aircraft that could fulfil some, or part of the complex set of requirements.
But like so many others capabilities, everything came down to money.
The obvious top drawer Nimrod alternative is the P-8 Poseidon but we have a brown ale budget, not Crystal champagne so unless the UK wants to go down the ATR72/C295 route there isn’t a great deal in between.
Announced by Boeing this week at Farnborough was the Medium Sized Maritime Surveillance Aircraft that represents an interesting option should we find some extra cash down the back of the sofa.
The Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft directly applies advanced, proven and fielded capabilities from our P-8, Airborne Warning and Control System, and Airborne Early Warning and Control programs to solve our international customers’ maritime surveillance challenges. We’ve selected a preferred aircraft and are in discussions with a manufacturer about supplying and modifying their aircraft. We hope to have an announcement on that element by the end of this year.
So that looks like squeezing elements on the P8’s mission equipment into a mid-sized business jet. No news on the preferred aircraft but it is said to be platform agnostic.
It seem only to provide ISR capabilities rather than carrying weapons but another interesting option to add to the shopping list I think, carrying a small weapon fit should not represent a huge engineering challenge although obviously this will depend on the aircraft, customer demand and finance.
Perhaps when the budget fairy stumps up the cash to allow the Sentinel to stay in service we might take Boeing up on the offer, buy a handful of additional Global Express aircraft and ask Boeing to do the conversion.
At least we would get the benefits of airframe and engine commonality even though it might be viewed as a poor mans P8.
Whether it would meet our requirements is of course another matter but if that wasn’t interesting enough Saab have partnered with Piaggio to offer an MPA version of their very cool looking P.180 Avanti