Future Maritime Patrol – Part 2 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft – P-8A Poseidon)

Future maritime patrol my well require a dedicated long range aircraft like the Boeing Poseidon P-8A Multi Mission Aircraft

(by the way, sorry for the auto start video below)

To the sweetshop, poste haste!

In the previous post I had a look at background, the wider context and a brief look at the missions.

Missions influence equipment requirements, for example, if the SAR and EEZ security mission is discounted the requirements change dramatically. If we want to do deep water at range ASW then a system with short range is going to be money wasted, no matter how cheap it.

I also commented on what I see as an important capability gap but one that must take its place in a priority list

Because the world has moved on significantly since the withdrawal of MR2 and with the long MRA4 shaped shadow still in place, the arguments for immediate reinstatement in SDSR 2015 are not so completely compelling that such a programme would find itself automatically at the top of the shopping list.

In short, a like for like Nimrod replacement is going to be a tough sell and not the automatic shoe in many people think.

On balance, I think SDSR 2015 will seek to close the maritime patrol capability gap but with what, who can predict?

As I have also mentioned in previous posts on this subject, what is so fascinating is trying to see how the obtaining of one piece of equipment can have a number secondary capability, force composition and cost effects.

In fact, I would go further with this and state that these secondary effects should be fundamental to equipment selection. The days of narrowly focussed requirements and single mission equipment are over

The British Armed Forces cannot afford one trick ponies and maximum utility must be squeezed from every single element.

We all know the options on the table but in this post I am going to explore these connecting ‘capability strings’.

Along with Fightiness, that is another Think Defence(ism)

We also all know (Think Defence readers being an intelligent bunch) that the sticker price of equipment a or b is not where the real cost lies, especially for large and expensive pieces of equipment like aircraft. Creating and maintaining a training pipeline, realistic training, spares and maintenance and a myriad of other hidden costs are what the MoD (rightly) scrutinises in great deal in the acquisition process.

Maximising commonality as a means of cost reduction is a drum I have been beating since I started Think Defence, we don’t do it enough and need to do it more. This consideration will also feature heavily.

That said, let’s have a quick look at the contenders first, in this part, a dedicated long range maritime patrol aircraft

A Dedicated Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Boeing P8

The advantages should really be obvious.

How about a Hollywood video for starters, featuring the worlds dumbest submarine captain

It is there, on the shelf, ready and waiting for a purchase order.

Over the lifetime of the aircraft the UK could participate in and take advantage of its continual development in a global fleet, driving costs down as that nice man Uncle Sam will pay for most of it.

The Seedcorn personnel are currently involved with the P8 programme and could easily transfer into training and development roles for a UK P8 fleet.

However, the UK armed forces do not operate any 737 derived aircraft, it would require a completely new training and support infrastructure although how much of that could be obtained through resource sharing with India, the USA and Australia or delivered through a contractor led arrangement would have to be explored.

No one else in Europe is likely to buy it (although you never know) so interoperability who whom and where and when becomes an obvious question, given the Pacific Pivot and mostly non UK sphere of operations for the current buyers.

The US and Australians have also bought into a particular concept of operations, the Indians, seemingly another and the UK would have to make a similar decision.

Much has been written about the move to higher altitude ASW with the P8, some say it is a sensible development given the changing nature of the threat and will deliver a range of benefits, others say that it is a direct result of the compromises caused by the airframe and its inability (or at least reduced performance) to operate in the same way as say a P3 or Nimrod might i.e. lots of turning, altitude changing and low level flight.

I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Whatever the reasons, the Increment 2 of the USN P8-A will introduce the high altitude ASW capability that might include wing kits for the US Mk 54 torpedo and even a MAD UAV, the current occupant of that drawing board being something called the MAG Eagle Compressed Carriage (MECC), a variant of the Boeing Dominator UAV itself a variant of the Scan Eagle Compressed Carriage (SECC) design.

Neat eh, I actually quite like the whole concept of air launched unmanned systems like the SECC/MECC/Dominator but the problem is this.

Unless you have somewhere for them to land, they have to be expended (or thrown away)

The Scan Eagle does have a low footprint landing system, the Sky Hook, that can be fitted to even small vessels, but if the P8 is operating far from land or allied shipping, the UAV is going in to the water.

Unless of course, the unmanned aerial refuelling system in the video below is used

Only joking, we would have to negotiate with Air Tanker icon smile Future Maritime Patrol – Part 2 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft   P 8A Poseidon)

So what about torpedoes and sonobuoys?

Lockheed and Raytheon have both come up a solution to the medium/high altitude delivery of a lightweight torpedo. The Lockheed Martin Longshot High Altitude ASW Weapons Concept (HAAWC) uses a wing kit and GPS system to deliver and drop the torpedo from high altitude, releasing the torpedo from a the wing kit at a couple of hundred feet or less.

Defense Industry Daily has a nice write up on the Lockheed Martin system, click here

The Raytheon system is called the Fish Hawk and it has been reported that the Indian MoD prefers this to the Lockheed Martin system.

rayhtheon fish hawk 600x399 Future Maritime Patrol – Part 2 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft   P 8A Poseidon)

Rayhtheon Fish Hawk

These high altitude stand-off delivery systems have also been proposed for sonobuoy deployment but the initial releases will use conventional tube launched methods used instead, the P-8A uses a system from Excelis for example.

The MRA4 would have used the Active Search Sonobuoy System (ASSS), to meet the Air Staff Requirement 903 but with the withdrawal of MR2 and the cancellation of MRA4 it is not clear whether any were retained.

The package that Ultra is bidding for ASSS includes the company’s new Active Low Frequency Electro-Acoustic source (ALFEA); a version of the SSQ-110 impulsive source – of which USSI is one of two manufacturers – adapted for carriage by the Nimrod; the SSQ-955 High Instantaneous Dynamic Range (HIDAR) receiver buoy with an integral GPS receiver; and the SSQ-981 version of the Barra receiver buoy with a modified horizontal planar array.

The A-size ALFEA buoy, which operates in the 1-2kHz frequency range, exploits technology from Ultra’s family of sonar countermeasures devices. It incorporates a GPS receiver and can generate a large number of pings (reportedly several hundred) with programmable waveforms. Ultra says that recent tests in Lake Seneca, New York State, “have shown that it can comfortably meet the designed source levels”.

ALFEA incorporates a 99-channel Autonomous Function Selection (AFS) facility, together with a UHF command function to control its operation following deployment. The latter is compatible with those used for the UK SSQ-963 CAMBS (Command Active MultiBeam Sonobuoy) and US AN/SSQ-62 DICASS (Directional Command-Activated Sonobuoy System).

Ultra Sonar have now incoporated these into their Ultra Multi-Static Active System (MSA) that splits the transmitter and multiple receivers.

The Ultra Multi-Static Active System (MSA) comprises a field of transmit and receive sonobuoys and the necessary processing to detect and track targets without overloading the operator. The system uses combinations of the following buoy types, all of which are available from Ultra with embedded GPS for precision operation:

  • SSQ 926 ALFEA Electro-Acoustic Source
  • SSQ 955 HIDAR High Dynamic Range DIFAR
  • SSQ 981E Barra (Horizontal Planar Array)

Trials of this have confirmed their effectiveness against small and low acoustic signature submarines in cluttered environments, tests being completed in the English Channel.

The point of all this?

The P8-A won’t be getting the MSA but one called the Multi static Active Coherent (MAC) system, and then, if all goes to plan, this year in something called Increment 2. Increment 2 also includes Automatic Identification System integration and rather unbelievably for a new aircraft, a new computing architecture, maybe that is the norm with incremental development. The IOC for Increment 2 is now planned for 2016.

The high altitude ASW weapon won’t be available until Increment 3, the full scope, budget and requirements yet be defined or agreed but reportedly aiming at a 2020 timeframe.

Which brings us neatly onto torpedoes.

The US Navy, Australia, and possibly India, use the Raytheon Mk 54 Lightweight Torpedo, the UK does not.

Instead we have the BAE Stingray Mod 1

If we want to join the high altitude weapons release party then we would need to consider the options.

Both the Mk54 and Stingray have very similar physical attributes but if we want to use the Longshot or the Fish Hawk wing kits then that would be extra integration. Other options would include obtaining a small quantity of Mk 54′s exclusively for use with the P8 or withdrawing the Stingray completely from Merlin and surface vessels in favour of a single common fleet of Mk 54′s, none of which would be ideal from a cost, logistics or industrial perspective.

If we chose not to implement Increment 3 then any UK concept of operations would include likely release of weapons at low altitude, with all the fatigue and potential operational compromise that might entail.

The US Navy decided to eliminate the MAD boom from the aircraft in order to save weight, hence the stand-off solutions, the Indians on the other hand, said nothanks to all that, can we have the MAD boom please. The logical conclusion is the Indian MoD accepted some performance penalty.

The Bollywood version

There is another downside to the P8, airborne refuelling

Although the P8 is hardly a ‘short’ range aircraft it is derived from a 737, a medium range civilian airliner. Neither the Indian, Australian or US Navy variant is fitted with a refuelling probe. All three have a boom receptacle which might not sound like a big deal but in the context of the UK’s airborne refuelling fleet is a bit of a show stopper.

The choice is simple, enter into a development programme with Boeing to develop and fit a refuelling probe, modify the Voyager refuelling aircraft so they are fitted with a refuelling boom, assume/hope that someone else with the right tankers will be available or simply accept that a UK P8 will not be refuelling in the air for most of the time and 4 hours at 1,200nm is the limit of performance (I think we know which one it will be)

Endurance and range are factored into the numbers needed for a given requirement and the lack of a UK only operation refuelling capability could well push the final numbers needed up.

Am always very wary of quoting figures because there are so many variables but it looks like a unit price of between $180m and $200m is about the going rate, don’t expect much change from £150m each.

The P8 uses the same basic CFM56 engine as the RAF E3 and Airseeker aircraft so there would be some measure of commonality, the specific engine variants might be dissimilar though.

If the sensors on the P8 could be developed further (and this is certainly on the development plan) it could replace the Bombardier Challenger based Sentinel R1 although endurance and altitude limitations might force compromises in capability. The main search radar is the Raytheon APY-10 radar which although advanced is not a replacement for the ASTOR system on the Sentinel.

An additional sensor might be fitted to a UK P8, or the R1 systems transferred.

Both options add weight, cost and complexity

I think much of the logistics support for Sentinel is delivered through the Raytheon the training commonality derived savings would be worthwhile. The implications on the ground element of Sentinel/ASTOR would also need to be considered.

The US seem to be indulging in a spot of inter service argy bargy with the US Navy looking at something called the Raytheon Advanced Aerial Sensor (AAS) that would sit in a 12m long ventral pod and the US Air Force promoting the idea of a small to medium sized business jet such as the Global Express, amusingly enough.

From a Raytheon press release in 2009

The U.S. Navy has awarded a multi-year contract authorizing Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) to begin development of the Advanced Airborne Sensor, the follow-on to the Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS).

The AAS program will equip the P-8A Poseidon, the Navy’s next patrol maritime aircraft. LSRS is currently operational on Navy P-3C Orions; the AAS will provide airborne radar surveillance with next-generation line-of-site capability.

Awareness and action are critical not only to today’s mission, but the ever changing threats of tomorrow. “We will be ready with intelligent technology when the Poseidon takes its place as the Navy’s ISR capability in the fleet,” said Capt. Scott Anderson, LSRS and AAS program manager.

As the sensor prime contractor, Raytheon will oversee the mission systems integration, consisting of the development, production and installation of the AAS on the Poseidon. Raytheon will work closely with its associate prime contractor, Boeing, for engineering, aircraft modifications, integration and flight test.

“This is a major leap in technology in support of our customer’s missions,” said Tim Carey, vice president for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems. “As the demand for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance systems increases, we are proud to provide our customers with ISR capabilities that are recognized around the world.”

By maximizing the incorporation of Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) technologies, the AAS will be highly supportable, maintainable, scalable and upgradeable, reducing unit production and life cycle costs.

Raytheon also provides continuing mission support of Navy operations, logistics and sustaining engineering of LSRS through a previously awarded multi-year performance-based contract.

AAS was always designed for fitting on the P-8A, the bomb bay is at the rear of the aircraft specifically so the long radar pod can be fitted to the centreline pylons without impeding it. A follow on version of the  APS-149 Littoral Surveillance Radar System, the AAS remains difficult to find information about, but it is said to have a very good performance. Comparing it to the ASTOR system on the RAF’s Sentinel R1′s on here would be silly, the people who really know the difference will be keeping a very tight lip but I think we would be on safe ground to say that it is somewhere in the same ball park.

p 3c orion with lsrs 600x428 Future Maritime Patrol – Part 2 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft   P 8A Poseidon)

P-3 Orion with LSRS

The US Navy seems pretty bullish and have issued contracts for integration work on AAS, it is happening.

The latest on the USAF position on an E-8 JSTARS replacement can be found here

In a nutshell, the report says the USAF number four priority (after F35, KC-46 tanker and long range bomber) is a replacement for E-8C. A cynic might say sitting underneath the F35, KC-46 and long range bomber programmes means in reality it is way down the list when it comes to money and I would tend to agree. It seems ridiculous that the US Navy has already stumped up the cash and will have a working solution in service. I know US inter service politics can get ridiculous but surely the DoD will knock heads together and impose some sanity, especially in the coming times of austerity.

Meanwhile, the UK could sit back and watch who and what comes out of the mix.

If we assume that the Advanced Airborne Sensor is as least capable as ASTOR and the R1 Sentinel there exists an opportunity to delete an entire fleet of aircraft to maximise commonality and improve utilisation of a P8 multi mission aircraft. As I described in the first part of this series, the at range deep ocean ASW mission sits in the less likely but high impact quadrant whilst the general overland ISTAR mission, of which the AAS would deliver in spades against, is in the lower impact but much greater likelihood of use.

This raises an interesting question about single role v multi role and the ability to sweat ones assets by using the same aircraft (perhaps slightly expanded) fleet for both ASW and ISTAR missions, thus lowering to total operating costs.

It is not a zero cost option, we would have to buy AAS, completely change the training and operating modes, investigate changes required to ground equipment and determine whether our existing analysis and dissemination architecture could cope. A detailed performance comparison would also be needed.

If this complex analysis says yes, it is viable and worthwhile to use the P8 for both it means we have a small fleet of nearly new Global Express airframes to now find a home for.

A few options spring to mind (besides flogging them);

One

Re convert them to business jet configuration and use them for the communications and VIP transport role currently being carried out by No 32 (The Royal) Squadron with six HS125‘s and two BAE146‘s

Politically, buying new executive jets is always going to be a tough sell, providing the capability by converting second hand airframes all of a sudden looks rather more palatable, especially if you roll an aeromedical transfer capability into the mix.

Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the nations head of state, prime minister and senior military personnel on ‘company business’ travelling by private jet. One that can also provide aeromedical evacuation or transfers for personnel on compassionate grounds signals a strong commitment to personnel welfare and wellbeing; ‘if you are injured, ill or need to get back home sharpish, the nation will get you there as fast as it can.

I am not talking about gold taps and hot and cold running floozies here, just a modern and understated interior that the Sun could not run an exclusive one.

global express interior 600x440 Future Maritime Patrol – Part 2 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft   P 8A Poseidon)

Global Express Interior

Afghanistan has shown the benefit of having a Role 3 capability in theatre but this will not always be the case. The current C17 and future Voyager aircraft provide aeromedical evacuation cover with 4626 (County of Wiltshire) Aeromedical Squadron and the Tactical Medical Wing.

A Sentinel conversion would provide another option.

aeromedical evacuation 600x399 Future Maritime Patrol – Part 2 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft   P 8A Poseidon)

aeromedical evacuation

In this option, we could replace the current BAE 146 and HS125 fleets with a single fleet. I don’t know whether the current short field performance or Royal cabin suite of the BAE 146 or the seating arrangement in the HS125′s could be replicated across a converted Sentinel fleet. I can’t make a judgement about how expensive it would be to reconvert given the fairly extensive Sentinel airframe modifications but it should be included in the list.

Two

Remove the heavy radar systems and insert a Goodrich DB-110 sensor system in its place. I understand there was provision made for the sensor in the original design but it was removed on cost and weight saving grounds.

The DB-110 is the same as used on the Tornado RAPTOR pod, a highly useful capability but with the impending out of service milestone rapidly approaching for Tornado this could be a reasonable way of retaining some capability.

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4888089459 b012def423 z Future Maritime Patrol – Part 2 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft   P 8A Poseidon)

In stripping down to the bare essentials the weight induced performance reductions could be reversed turning the Sentinel aircraft back into the high altitude, huge range racing snakes they once were. Leave the satellite communications systems in place and there you have a very high responsiveness, high speed, ultra long range imaging platform that can instantly send its product back to the UK, unlike a RAPTOR equipped Tornado.

Shades of Canberra PR.9 anyone?

Three

Remove the heavy radar systems and insert two or three EO turrets.

Add in a communications relay and you have a long endurance communications relay/translation system with the added bonus of persistent ISR.

A cross between the Global Express based, Raytheon Battlefield Airborne Communications Node and Northrop Grumman Firebird

The BACN equipped Global Express has proven to be a vital yet relatively low profile capability in Afghanistan.

I also like the option of combining option 2 and 3.

Ordinarily, the aircraft would be configured as Option 1, that being a high speed ultra long range DB-110 platform that could rapidly respond to emerging situations and provide high quality imagery via a satellite link reachback.

If the situation demanded, there was more of a sustained presence required and ultra long range less of a requirement because basing facilities closer to or in theatre were available then you could just roll the BACN electronics and operator consoles onboard and fly the persistent airborne communications and imagery node mission.

What’s not to like about that?

Summary

Let’s be clear, the Boeing P-8A/I Poseidon is the real deal, or more accurately, will be the real deal.

We should be in no doubt that despite the recent wobbles and adverse press the US DoD will make it work and their confidence can be seen in an equally recent authorisation for full rate production.

For once, the MoD won’t be on the hook for last minute development costs as we can purchase a mature(ish) system with some growth potential in a couple of years.

That growth potential will still, self-evidently, need additional funding and decision on wider equipment fleets (torpedo/sonobuoy/UAV) especially if we adopt the high altitude concept of operations.

Airborne refuelling would remain a costly problem, or not, if we accept its not a problem after all.

It is not a simple off the shelf system and will impact a number of other programmes.

It is not likely to meet all UK requirements (AAR for example)

It is not yet the finished article with a number of kinks to iron out and incremental development milestones to complete.

It is not cheap either, in fact, we might reasonably argue that it is the current gold standard with an equally gold standard price tag.

It is however, as close as we are ever going to get to a genuine Nimrod replacement and we are not on the UK for any basic system development.

Can the UK afford it, I think the answer is probably yes, but, how many and what other spending priorities it would displace would be down to something akin to this!

If we purchase a small fleet, perhaps 6 to 8 airframes, there is potential to offset some of that cost by utilising the fleet for the existing Sentinel R1 role in the longer term. Bringing a UK P8 into service in the early 2020′s, following an SDSR 2015 period order and providing Boeing can deliver, allows the aircraft systems and AAS to mature to the point of readiness for service.

We could extend R1 Sentinel for 5-8 years as the transition from R1 to P8 AAS completes we would then have a fleet of Global Express airframes to utilise. Apart from simply disposing, there are some interesting capability options that could add significantly to UK capabilities.

I especially like the combination of Option 2 and 3, providing an ultra long range recce platform that can send imagery back to the UK whilst in flight that could if requirements and situations change, convert to a persistent in theatre communications and imagery node.

So, select the P8 in 2015, plan out a 6-8 year transition period during which 6-8 airframes come into service

AAS replaces ASTOR during the same timeframe and plan for a Sentinel conversion to either the communications fleet role or the ISTAR/Comms Node role as defined by Option 2 and 3.

Shadow and Reaper remain to compliment the modest numbers of P8′s

The main point here is not to get into fantasy fleet sizes, have seen people proposing 12 and 18 P8′s, and to think longer term about airframe and component commonality with the potentially huge through life cost savings on offer.

Longer term, selecting the 737 based P-8A would also provide a ready upgrade path to an E3 and even Airseeker replacement, accepting no SIGINT 737 variant exists and the Australian Wedgetail AWACS uses standard 737′s, not the rebuilt and heavily modified P-8A.

Just got to decide what to cut to pay for it!

Seriously for a minute, a fleet of 6-8 P8′s over the next 10 years with a plan for Sentinel withdrawal and conversion into ‘something else’ is not unachievable if we accept, for example, smaller numbers of F35′s or some other reduction in future capabilities, Type 26 perhaps.

If we consider that a single F35B is going to cost somewhere in the £80-120m ball park, a multi purpose fleet of 6-8 P8′s that we could work into a very high utilisation multi purpose capability, able to replace the Sentinel and free up airframes for either capability improvements (Option 2 and 3) or a future airframe consolidation (Option 1) does not look like that a big price to pay or mountasin to climb

What would you trade?

Next post will be a look at a handful of outsiders, a modernised P3, the Breguet Atlantique and Kawasaki P1 then I will get into the converted business jet, twin turboprop, two tier fleets, unmanned options and even the Sea Hercules/Sea Atlas options before wrapping up

 

 

Further Reading

Boeing P-8A Datasheet

Boeing P-8I Datasheet

Littoral Surveillance Radar System – Seapower Magazine Article

Raytheon Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) Datasheet

The Rest of the Series

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 1 (Challenges and Missions)

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 2 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft – P-8A Poseidon)

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 3 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft – P3, P1, ATL, 319)

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 4 (C295 and Comparable Options)

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 5 (Business Jet and Unmanned Options)

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 6 (Sea Atlas and Sea Hercules)

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 7 (Summary)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Think Defence

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

78 thoughts on “Future Maritime Patrol – Part 2 (Dedicated Long Range Aircraft – P-8A Poseidon)

  1. AndyF

    There seems to be a general consensus that P-8 is as good as it gets when it comes to maritime patrol but according to this is far from perfect:

    ” The Navy’s $35-Billion Surveillance Plane Has Lots of Flaws: https://medium.com/war-is-boring/2c946d0d8535

    I’m sure there’s a certain amount of hype there and it’ll come good in due course, but it does sound like P-8 is still a work in progress, so maybe not quite as off the shelf as it seems…

  2. John Hartley

    I fear the Voyager PFI is such a bad deal for taxpayers, that doing the logical thing of fitting a boom to a few of the 2 point A330, would prove far too excessive on cost.
    If the UK had a few P-8, I expect its main fighty task, would be long range precision bombing with its 3 SLAM-ER.

  3. Jules

    grizzly Or Bust!
    Go cheap and make do until we can design something that can be rolled onto a Grizzly, I don’t care if we throw smoke bombs out of the cargo ramp, it’ll eventually be better than the P8, and more versatile to…

  4. Chris.B.

    At least thanks to the hollywood video we now know what the US Navy does most of the day, e.g. standing around looking at each other solemnly/dramatically every few seconds.

  5. H_K

    For long range/endurance, don’t forget turboprops. Especially with tried & true airframes like the P-3 and Atlantique available for cheap (in limited quantities), with off-the-shelf upgrade packages.

    Atlantique:
    8 – 11 hours @ 600nm (vs. 6 hours for P-8)
    3 – 6 hours @ 1,200nm (vs. 4 hours)

    Those turboprop performance numbers would be even better if you let them fly a high-altitude profile like the P-8. By the time they are retired in the 2030s, who knows what drone options will be out there to take over?

  6. H_K

    Also surprised there’s been so little mention of overland missions.

    The French MPAs probably spend as much time over land as over water, providing loitering CAS (7 GBUs dropped in Mali), serving as a flying command post for special forces missions etc.

    Even with armed drones on the rise, should be an obvious swing-role capability for any future MPA.

  7. dave haine

    @ H_K

    Errr…no.

    Turboprops would indeed be fine for long range and endurance, and indeed going low to prosecute a kill solution.

    But tried and trusted airframes like the P-3 and Atlantique for cheap? Nope…The only Atlantiques available are the german ones which all need re-sparring, which is why they’ve gone and bought slightly less knackered P-3s. the French have been carefully upgrading theirs, but are keeping hold of them.

    As for the P-3, the USN have been going through them like vindaloo through a drunk. The desert air force fleet, has had most of the decent bits taken off them to keep the operational ones flying. I think the average fleet life left for them is five years, without major structural work to keep them safe to fly. The Canadians are undertaking a structural programme for their Auroras, but at a fundamental insertion of a prize-winning leek sort of cost (touching £100m an airframe).

    What’s the point in buying airframes that need enormous amounts of work before they’re airworthy?

    It does seem like the P8 is the only realistic contender in town….shame really, because I’m not keen on it- the B737-800, like the -400, -700 & -900, has an issue with braking performance on short or weather compromised runways, and the CFM engine models are specific to the B737 fleet because they had to be re-packaged to fit under the wing, but still managed to degrade the crosswind landing limit, due to the risk of the engine cowling contacting the surface.
    But mainly…because I liked the Kwackers P1, but that is further away from service than the P8, and we would probably be asked to help with the development.

  8. Mercator

    Excellent work TD.

    One minor observation. If you were to use your P-8 to go after a submarine, or you think you might be about to, you would be well past the point where you care about the terms and conditions of your airborne refuelling contract. I imagine that in such circumstances your A330 fleet will quickly start developing boom refuelling options. So I would consider that you have a latent capability to refuel your P-8s and with a suitable exchange program, for example, some of your people could be very experienced in the operation.

    Sure, it all depends on a certain amount of lead time, but these are pretty serious circumstances we are talking about and there should be some recognition of the increasing threat (you would hope). Just make sure you have a couple of spare probes stashed away somewhere.

  9. H_K

    @dave haine But tried and trusted airframes like the P-3 and Atlantique for cheap? Nope…

    There are ~10 surplus Atlantique 2s (built in the 90s) available for sure. And an unknown number of P-3s at AMARC. Keeping airframes flying is not the issue ($15 million for a P-3 wing replacement kit, which adds 15,000+ flying hours, Atlantique’s OSD is 2032+).

    Upgrading the mission systems and avionics is the biggest cost, but still probably cheaper than P-8 (especially if you can reuse some of the modular elements of the Nimrod mission systems… assuming there are some).

    On that note… any sense in picking up Canadian or Australian P-3s when they move on to P-8?

  10. Mercator

    @H_K

    If upgrading Australian P-3s is cheaper and more cost-effective than buying new P-8s, why aren’t the Australians doing it?

    I would think that the Australian fleet is probably one of the youngest and better maintained P-3 fleets around – certainly better than anything you will find in the boneyard. But there is a reason why the RAAF has decided that (effectively) a third upgrade for this fleet would be one too many. Is the RAF really prepared to put up with more pain than the RAAF? Are you guys really that broke?

  11. Party0929

    While going for a P-3 or the Atlantique 3 might look cheap now but they are old aircraft with limited lifespans if we can do a deal similar to the C-17 with the support package thrown in which I’m sure Boeing would jump at getting the UK MOD into this program this is surely in the long run the most cost effective way to go with the US fronting the majority of the development path instead of us doing it must be cheaper than an old clapped out P-3 requiring millions to upgrade and no doubt re-engine what ever we do we must get away from too much tampering with the aircraft on UK specific equipment or as with WAH-64 the can become a problem when looking to tap into the US military upgrade paths

  12. mike

    “The French MPAs probably spend as much time over land as over wate”

    The inevitable mission creep. Whatever we get, we need to clearly define what it’ll be used for. If multi purpose, i.e. flying over land–locked nations looking for bandits and IED’s (could be anywhere in Africa…), will it be able to cope? Will we be able to maintain deployment with sovereign waters Maritime Patrol?

    I can see a case of a smaller MPA being fielded if we kept it to pure MPA/ASW/ASuW… but with the broader spectrum, we have other assets in place, which would mean the case for arguing for an MPA aircraft harder to the treasury.

    The P8 – for now – is beyond us. We need a stop gap that will cover sovereign waters/CASD lane guarding, with limited scope for deployment. At least then we can release the Hodge-podge of assets currently filling in that role which are needed elsewhere.

  13. Mark

    The canoe for airborne ground scanning maybe a long shot as the USAF appear to be heading here http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/usaf-reveals-plan-to-replace-jstars-with-business-jets-by-395241/

    Given they’ve flight tested db110 on reaper recently that maybe were that sensor is heading.

    A p8 buy May or May not happen but be careful try to turn the Istar fleet into a e-10 type catch all program. Cost could spiral quickly.

    Shadow and reaper have taken over a lot of overland tasks and compared to a p8 are much cheaper in the overland role and prob just as capable.

  14. dave haine

    @H_K

    There aren’t 10 Atlantique 2s available- the French, very sensibly IMO, have upgraded them and stored them for future use- they’re not for sale… The only Atlantiques available are the German ones, which have had to be taken out of service because they’re not airworthy.

    The P3s at AMARC are life-expired examples, being used as spares sources to keep the USN fleet going. And I would question your figures for a wing replacement kit, especially as the Canadian Auroras have been quoted at nearly £100m an airframe to re-life and refurbish. Besides 15000+ hrs is only 5yrs flying, even if the hours are tightly controlled.

    So, again, what’s the point in paying £100m a pop for 5yrs service, notwithstanding trying to get an legacy aircraft through military airworthiness, and setting up programmes for operational support, training and maintenance. Compared to £180m an airframe for 30+ yrs service, plus all the rest i’ve covered?

    The real problem is that we’re paying the price for continually over-running the Nimrod MR2. The MRA4 programme should have been started in the early eighties rather than the nineties.

  15. East_Anglian

    I am a fan of the Kwakers P-1; however, despite all the compromises, the P-8 looks like the only realistic option.

    The Kwakers has 4 engines, and can operate at low level – and is what the Nimrod replacement should have been. Would a joint UK/Japan development programme be that more expensive than having to overcome the compromised P-8?

  16. Joe B

    One (possibly silly) question: would it be possible, feasible, cheap enough, cover enough roles etc to eliminate such a requirement and. Instead substitute it for either 3 or 6 diesel power subs (such as the ones used by Germany) to cover close in roles (eg North Sea, GIUK gap, arctic sea, Irish Sea). They therefore wouldn’t need long endurance, would be cheaper to operate than astutes and cover the anti sub role that a p8 would be required for

  17. TED

    @TD Like it, lovely post. I am the sort of sceptic to believe that the high alt launch stuff was a rapidly generated career saver.

    As the C295 is the lead opposition are we going to see an article on that.

    As I belive you touched on we have to decide if we want an arguably very good one trick pony that can use a camera to look at stuff on the ground or whether we want a true multi-role platform. I am inclined to belive that the large platforms should be multirole and the smaller platforms such as jets and helicopters can be less so. We seem to be taking specialised aircraft and despecialisng them, look at Wildact (anti surface naval helicopter) the army are intent on making it do all their light lift stuff as well as recon. So they have taken a naval radar optimized helicopter and reduced it to its most basic.

    Surely the sensible approach is to go with a basic airframe and work up. So going back to MPA you could have a C295 and then be working out the kit you can fit to it. If we get P8 we have a specialised aircraft already.

    It is a trade off but which side is the more sensible?

  18. Derek

    The AAR issue should be easily solvable, specifying P-8s with and having them fitted with the required equipment for hose and drogue is entirely doable. In the grand scheme of things AAR type change would not be anything to worry about.

    Don’t get too caught up with the idea of airframe commonality either. Modern support arrangements and the use of commercial airframes have gone a long way to erode such advantages and most of the costs associated with training and maintenance come from the mission systems anyway. Finally, timelines won’t work, E-3 looks like it will be in USAF service until 2030 and Rivet Joint seems to be going nowhere fast either. There are however murmurs that it has been noticed that RAF E-3Ds are expensive to operate and will ultimately need an expensive upgrade: and may therefore be under threat. I don’t believe them and can’t see such a capability being given up but I have now heard it from two separate places.

  19. Observer

    Joe, I had a similar idea with small ships that consist of nothing but a pair of hangers and helos, and lilypad ASuW helos off them but in hindsight, scrapped the idea. You’ll need more ships/boats and huge amount of personnel just for the same coverage that a high speed aircraft can give you for the cost of a single plane and aircrew. A single sub’s crew is already about 30-40 people, 10 times the number of personnel that a single plane needs.

    Up front equipment costs may be lesser, but the maintenance and manpower cost kills it even with the savings.

    BTW 100m pounds is pretty small change for a plane. About similar cost for a single FJ.

    Mercator, the Aussies are trying to get ahead of the curve since they are having a boom economy at the moment. Making hay while the sun shines in other words. Some other countries are going the P-3 route or considering it, notably Korea and Taiwan. Either way, as long as the job gets done, it really doesn’t matter how gucchi or old fashioned your kit is. No point having new but ineffective or old and ineffective, neither is a good situation. In reverse, old but effective and new but effective both means that the item has done what it said on the label. That’s a good job in my opinion.

  20. Jules

    I’ve totally lost it with the idea of bus jets and airliners for MPA, basically there isn’t a bus jet that can carry any meaningful load, so they can just go to recce, whether with Cameras or electronics, I don’t care but not MPA.
    737, just don’t like it never have, got a reasonable load capacity but when fitted with all the MPA gubbins, what else is it good for, the price of a corvette/light Frigate for a one trick pony?
    NO MORE ONE TRICK PONIES!
    Forget the Herc, we may as well buy P3′s.
    C295 as an interim measure then give em to the Coastguard.
    Develop the A 400 into the multirole platform it should really be, it has the range the room and the load carrying capability to do pretty much anything, and we can scoop 13 Airframes pretty cheap off the Germans soon enough anyway.

  21. Mark

    Your right about commonality of sigint and aew aircraft though I think you’ve the wrong platform the isrealis and sweds started the trend of basing the traditional large Istar collectors on large biz jets now as tech has developed countries around the world are starting to buy Italy and Singapore being the latest in a long list. Especially as tactical jet aircraft start to take on a greater amount of the tactical battle management role.

    If we want high sub hunting in p8 it will need to justify itself as such. But 4b pounds of razer blades and 10 years of not doing it with the agreement of all the service chiefs suggests it will be a hard sell.

  22. Ted

    Could you fit A400 engines to 295? Is it worth it?

    I think A400 will be too big for an MPA, I’m sure there will be a lot of unused hold. We need something a bit smaller really but @Jules I would love to but your extra 13 airframes anyway!

  23. Think Defence Post author

    Just a few quick replies

    @AndyF, referenced that document about P8 flaws, yes, I think we have to recognise there is still some risk in the programme but I think we can be fairly confident that those wrinkles will be ironed out, more importantly, not by Mr and Mrs UK Taxpayer

    @Waddi, yes, I agree, but as you quite rightly say, it would be for surveillance only and not in any way ASW, which seems to me to be a bit of a crimp on an otherwise fine plan!!

    @Mercator, not sure I would agree that adding a boom would be as quick as you think, even if the risk state was higher. I tend to veer towards either accepting the limitation for UK only ops or modifying it for probe and drogue would be the preferred options

    @Mark, I had a look at that report on the USAF desire for a small bizjet platform for an E8 replacement but the USN with LSRS and AAS are practically there. Contracts have been issued for AAS, work already done and the P8 designed from the start to accept the AAS canoe. This is what makes AAS so interesting because you can attach it to the P8′s centreline hardpoints and crack on. Can you see the USAF reinventing the wheel in the times of austerity, thats my point here, the USAF is going to have to find some common sense down the back of their sofa. That benefits us

    @Derek, I agree that the best solution would be to probe and drogue a P8 rather than fit booms. I wasnt getting dazzled by airframe commonality because as you say, its all about the systems and subsystems, but that said, commonality is always something we should be very alive to and stop thinking about discrete requirements without considering the wider picture. The Airseeker and E3 was almost an offhand comment, it provides a path although not necessarily a path we should follow and trend for AWACS seems to be smaller platforms, funnily enough, Global Express sized, perhaps that might be an Option 4 for a possibly redundant Sentinel

    @All, the rest of the series will be looking at (in no particular order) unmanned options, Sea Atlas, Sea Hercules, Q400, Saab multi mission, various biz jets, C295, P1, P3 and even the Atlantique, so, pretty much all the possibles. I put the P8 first because it is the most obvious and widely trailed solution

    Nest stop is a post on K1, P3 and Atlantique

  24. dave haine

    The E-3D has years left, airframe wise…bear in mind the RAF are operating what are, effectively some of the last B707-320s ever built- and look how many of them are still knocking about (well, ten civvie ones anyway, and god knows how many military)

    Mind you, the colonials are thinking of bunging on the JT8D-219, to save fuel….seems a bit odd frankly, because the -219 is a 1.79:1 bypass ratio donk and the CFM56-A2-A is 5:1 ratio. Can’t see how a engine that uses core power to provide thrust will be more fuel efficient, than one that uses five times as much air as core power to do the same thing, I know there’s a residual effort in turning the chuffing big fan at the front, but….

  25. Simon

    This “UK in the middle” (Euro/USA – Airbus/Boeing) seems to create problems with platform commonality.

    UK copters could be limited to: Apache, NH90 and Merlin because of the RTM-322.Don’t go off on this, it’s just an illustration of getting commonality of parts.

    Is there any way we can do the same thing with the “biggies” – MPA, AEW, SIGINT, AAR, etc?

    I assume we’d have to “side” with either Airbus or Boeing???

  26. Jules

    As I see it we need a common ISTAR/AWACS/ELINT/surveillance type platform, now that could be done with the 5000′s were currently using or a new platform either or, big enough to palletise and trolley the kit in and quick enough and high flying/rangey enough to stay out of bother as much as possible.

    MPA/Transport and maybe, RE-fuelling (Yes I know PFI!) Long range transport Aircraft, really means likely four engines but needs to be better than the Orion/Atlantique to be justifiable , C130 out, Grizzly in, no way I’m going to suggest re-furbing C130J with two Grizzly engines, nor will I mention the word Marshalls, nor Nimrod, nor debacle…

  27. Brian Black

    With regards to siding with either Airbus or Boeing, Simon.

    There’s the P-8 for you, waiting to be plucked off the American’s shelf. There might be benefits from buying into the American’s own large requirement of a hundred odd MPA, and of retaining as much commonality as possible.

    Go for an Airbus solution for MPA, and we may be looking at putting our own money into development to get something comparable to the P-8. However, if we accepted the cost and risk of getting behind an A319 MPA, for example, we could potentially get British technology and hardware onboard, and favourably position British industry for the future replacement of French, German, and Italian MPA.

    And once you’ve got a mid-sized European aircraft established and covering MPA, you’ve presumably got a better chance of a common Euro platform for future AWACS or other variants.

    Going down an Airbus route would require some national ambition from our politicians; P-8 would not be cheap, some efficiencies from operating the same aircraft as the US perhaps, but no real solid benefits to the UK in terms of our aviation industry or economy.

  28. Ace Rimmer

    “Shades of Canberra PR.9 anyone?” Yup, I’ll buy into that. Last year NASA pulled a Martin RB-57F Canberra out of the boneyard and put it back in the air after some 40 years in storage!

    Ok, its not a Canberra PR.9, but its a tried and tested sensor carrier, and given the cost of converting business jets, it might not break the bank to overhaul a few as an interim measure.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_RB-57F_Canberra

    As an aside, the advantage the Atlantique has over the P-3 Orion, and I guess the P-8, is 360 degree radar coverage. Which, when patrolling vast areas, is a great idea.

  29. Ace Rimmer

    Jules, “Forget the Herc, we may as well buy P3′s.” Why? We already have the C-130J fleet and all the trained technicians, pilots and logistical support it needs, to me the SC-130J is just the next logical step.

    Ted, “Could you fit A400 engines to 295? Is it worth it?” Unfortunately not, the A400 engine produces about 11,000 shp (in old money), I’m sure when they tested it on an RAF Herc it caused the tail plane to crack as the pilot had to fly with full yaw. I also heard something about it producing more power at ground idle than the T56 does at flight idle, which would just about rip the wings off a 295, if they managed to get them attached.

  30. The Other Chris

    @TD

    Regarding your 6-8 airframe number. MRA4 was canned while still (on paper at least) delivering more airframes than that, each with a longer range and greater endurance. The reduced fleet was unable to fulfil the tasking with no scope to ever increase fleet size without an airframe switch.

    Are you envisaging that 6-8 number as an initial fleet size? Part of a growth plan? Or is the suggestion to reduce the tasking from the MRA4 days and/or continue with coverage from an Ally.

    The fleet numbers just seem too small without reduced tasking (i.e. gaps) or supplemental coverage from an ally and/or a UAS. It’s a shorter legged and lesser endurance aircraft with smaller numbers that you’re presenting.

    The P-8 may be the best currently on the market, but would we be settling? Should we be lobbying for an ambitious route along the lines of BB’s comment? We may not be able to build a whole airframe but some wing and electronics business would be appreciated. Are we even capable of that level of ambition any more? The US used to license build our aircraft, and in some of our own lifetimes!

    Anyone know of 48 or more Avro Vulcan B.3 airframes that were actually constructed and are now just waiting, hidden in some underground bunker that we can miraculously convert? No? You’ve all honestly looked everywhere?

  31. Mark

    “Can you see the USAF reinventing the wheel in the times of austerity, thats my point here, the USAF is going to have to find some common sense down the back of their sofa”

    No but can you see the USAF ringing up raytheon and saying you see that aircraft you developed that’s been in operational service for 5 years in the ground radar role could you do us a couple of those with a updated radar. Especially as the airframe is about half the price with 1/2 to 2/3rds the operating cost of a 737 and doesn’t offer the performance degradation to both roles which is what would be the case fitting the radar to a p8.

  32. Derek

    Mark,

    Nail hit on the head. It is rather strange that the multi-mission surveillance platform idea has gained so much ground. The end result is a platform that spends most of its time burning fuel and parts to carry round kit it isn’t using. Sonar bouys are not much use over Afghanistan for instance. And that is before we get to availability- P-8 goes a long way but good luck getting it to take-off from Kandahar to cover an SSBN deployment from Faslaine.

    Single role aircraft are far more logical when it comes to something as niche as MPA.

  33. Peter Elliott

    Procurement question here:

    Would it help or hinder the process if the UK announced in 2015 the intention to procure an ASW-MPA with Main Gate in 2018 and delivery in 2020, set out the requirments, and then ran a genuinely open tender competition?

    Airbus, Boeing and Kawasaki would all be invited to bid, and whoever could demonstrate the best mix of capability and value against the given specification by 2018 would win. Extra points for UK workshare, points deducted for performance or integration risk.

    Both P1 and P8 could be working ‘off the shelf’ by then, but might not be, and might lack UK workshare. Could Airbus actually construct a viable A319 or Atlas based proposal that would pass the gate? Without gobbling up massive development costs? They have all the mission systems, they have the airframes. Can they get a bomb bay integrated in 3 years without a massive clusterfuck emerging? It would be a major test of Tom Enders brave new non-political Airbus. But might be worth trying. If it doesn’t work out just make the call in 2018 and buy one of the other two.

  34. Brian Black

    It would be nice to know the extent of the design studies that Airbus has done for an A319/320 MPA, Peter. But the fact that they offer it as an option must indicate that it is viable.

    I expect Airbus could get around to it quite quickly; and time, risk, and cost only increase if the MoD choose that route despite their demands and expectations differing from the studies already done.

    I doubt they could easily put a weapons bay into an Atlas. As to the A319, maybe it is possible, but if not, another option could be to do as with Nimrod and fit an external bomb bay that didn’t cut into the fuselage; or perhaps aerodynamic but open fairings would suffice.

  35. bigdave243

    There seems to be alot of people on here obsessed with using decades old airframes (i.e C-130J’s, Atlantiques and P-3′s) for our ‘NEW’ MPA to save a few pennies!

    Now don’t get me wrong we aren’t exactly flush with cash, however looking at the expected life spans of some of our other future systems (i.e The Voyager in service for at least 25 years) then what is the point in spending money on knackered old airframes to keep them flying for another 5 maybe 10 years at best?

    We should be buying something brand new that will last the course, and won’t be totally obsolete in the very near future.

    I would personally like us to have the A319 derived MPA however that isn’t even in production and we need something sooner rather than later. So really that leaves the P-8 and CN-295 as the only game in town. Frankly the CN-295 is fine for a Coast Guard but not really at all suited to true ASW, and ISTAR.

    So P-8 it is, yes it’s expensive and we probably won’t get a big fleet any time soon, and yes its still got issues. However it’s here now, Uncle Sam is throwing money at the system and there are true economies of scale here given the sheer volume of aircraft that will be produced. In the next 5 years it will likely be an exceptionally capable platform.

    Finally before anyone suggests we should buy CN-295 as an interim solution until the P-8 has fully matured, what is the point in spunking a few 100 million on getting it into service etc only to then say 5 or 10 years later, lets have the P-8 and spunk another few 100 million. Forgive the pun but that just ain’t gonna fly with the treasury.

    Sits back and waits to get ripped to pieces. (I’m only a JNCO be nice)

  36. dave haine

    @Brian Black

    From what I saw of the schematics, the weapons bay was planned to fit into the rear luggage hold, which I guess means they think they can break into the pressure hull, or they’ve used the floor as part of the pressure hull. :

    http://old-airbusmilitary.unusualwonder.com/Portals/0/Imgs/English/SurvA319/Big07.jpg

    http://old-airbusmilitary.unusualwonder.com/Portals/0/Imgs/English/SurvA319/Big05.jpg

    As you know the Airbus FITS is a plug and play system so it can fit into any aircraft.

    http://www.airbusmilitary.com/InnovationAndTechnology/FITS.aspx

    I like the A319, I would like to see a MPA variant….

    Wonder if ‘spreadsheet Phil’ could negotiate a discount for being a launch customer……

  37. bigdave243

    There seems to be alot of people on here obsessed with using decades old airframes (i.e C-130J’s, Atlantiques and P-3′s) for our ‘NEW’ MPA to save a few pennies!

    Now don’t get me wrong we aren’t exactly flush with cash, however looking at the expected life spans of some of our other future systems (i.e The Voyager in service for at least 25 years) then what is the point in spending money on knackered old airframes to keep them flying for another 5 maybe 10 years at best?

    We should be buying something brand new that will last the course, and won’t be totally obsolete in the very near future.

    I would personally like us to have the A319 derived MPA however that isn’t even in production and we need something sooner rather than later. So really that leaves the P-8 and CN-295 as the only game in town. Frankly the CN-295 is fine for a Coast Guard but not really at all suited to true ASW, and ISTAR.

    So P-8 it is, yes it’s expensive and we probably won’t get a big fleet any time soon, and yes its still got issues. However it’s here now, Uncle Sam is throwing money at the system and there are true economies of scale here given the sheer volume of aircraft that will be produced. In the next 5 years it will likely be an exceptionally capable platform.

    Finally before anyone suggests we should buy CN-295 as an interim solution until the P-8 has fully matured, what is the point in spaffing a few 100 million on getting it into service etc only to then say 5 or 10 years later, lets have the P-8 and spaff another few 100 million. Forgive the pun but that just ain’t gonna fly with the treasury.

    Sits back and waits to get ripped to pieces. (I’m only a JNCO be nice)

  38. Think Defence Post author

    Welcome to TD bigdave

    I think people see the P3/Atlantique/C130 option as something that might delivery a reasonable capability at a reasonable cost, perhaps as a stopgap until times are better and there are a number of precedents, Brazil for example has had a load of second hand P3′s upgraded in Spain and I am sure they are getting good value for money but the big problem I see with that option for the UK at least is that we need the whole airworthiness thing to be squeeky clean and that last 10% of ASW performance because unlike Brazil, we are probably likely to need that last 10% sometime over the next 30 years.

    Which puts us back into the P8 ball park although I think Mark and a few others make some good arguments for thinking differently and using bizjets and unmanned systems, a bit of imagination might be the answer.

    Personally, I like the Sea Atlas option, I hope everyone will be gentle on me when I write that post :)

  39. bigdave243

    Thanks TD.

    I’m open to the idea of bizjets and unmanned systems etc but how long would it take to develop these systems and bring them into service?

    Or to put it another way how long are we prepared to wait, until the Treasury or future government says ‘well you’ve gapped this capability for x years now, is it really that neccersary?’

    In any case for what it’s worth MPA, with a strike capability is essential for the UK. IMHO.

  40. Simon257

    The one thing about Airbus. Is that they have known for years, that their would be a requirement eventually, for a large MPA replacement for the P3 and the Atlantique. So why has the A319 derived MPA disappeared from view, when it could have been a potential rival for the P8. And why haven’t they pushed the Sea Atlas as a future replacement for European MPA’s. Because all I’ve seen of the Sea Atlas is the image of one in USCG colours! Have they done any further R&D on the Sea Atlas or the A319 MPA?

  41. Jules

    @TD
    I for one will applaud your post on Sea Atlas, when it comes, I think the A319 was just a teaser to garner some interest and frankly there was not enough.
    Wonder what the market in the EU would e for an MPA?
    Who would buy em?
    With Spain/France/Germany/UK /Belgium? And even Turkey buying in, it would seem we have a common platform?
    Need to get the Italians onboard…

  42. Brian Black

    Thanks for linking those pictures Dave Haine. That’s interesting, I’d not seen those before. Having some structural changes in the design for the weapons bay does suggest a certain depth to their plans.

    I would be quite happy to see us go for the A319. There’s obviously some risk involved in bringing into service a new MPA type, but then again, the aircraft and systems are all there and ready to go. As long as the MoD didn’t insist on some unique ‘thing’, some additional wonder-capability that trips off the tongue quickly but takes ten years and a couple billion quid to realise…

    We see fit to keep domestic warship and sub design and production, when we could buy cheaper elsewhere. If we go for P-8, then it’s without consideration of our aviation industry; and if we go P-8 with the expectation that we’ll later use the same aircraft type for other roles too, then we’re committing to writing the Americans multiple billion dollar cheques time and time again. With the A319 our major contribution are wings, but a bunch of other components too. And while there are no military users of the A319 yet, it definitely has potential to fill a number of roles for European countries.

    I agree with BigDave that we don’t need to buy secondhand stop-gaps. Capital costs aren’t so much the issue for us, it’s the through-life costs that matter. We might be in the red, but we have a big economy which can easily magic up the cash for new aircraft. Worn out old bangers with no hours left might be relatively cheap, but it’s a bad deal in the long run.

  43. Peter Elliott

    What worries me is the defence politics. If Airbus offered their exisitng technology on A319, the UK paid for it without dicking about, and then everyone else got to buy it off the shelf then that would actually tick the box for me.

    But you know and I know there would be a massive requirments and workshare political clusterfuck that would go on for 10 years, cost a fortune in studies and development, and end up tripleing the flyaway unit cost.

    You know it shouldn’t happen. But who will bet with me real money that it won’t?

  44. Mark

    I think I recall airbus stating they would require launch orders of around 25-30 aircraft for them to go ahead with the program. But we’re again back at a high end platform with a high end cost, we haven’t the budget for.

    I wonder if all the requirements would stay the same or be met the same way if the team setting them were offered a deal that 10% of any cost saving in the accusation and thru life costs (20year projection )will be spread between the team members evenly as a bonus.

  45. Peter Elliott

    Thats where Airbus could perhaps take a more commercial approach, knowing how many old airframes are out there and how keen the EU Nations are to buy European, and just go ahead on the basis of say 12 for the UK knowing that other orders would almost certianly follow.

  46. Brian Black

    Workshare is not an issue with A319, Peter. These are existing aircraft, and would come off an established production line.

    It’s not like the A400, where those things had to be argued and worked out. The UK would make the wings for an A319 MPA, because the wings for European built A319 are made in Wales.

    We miss out if we go American for MPA, and for future variants too.

  47. wirralpete

    WTF !!! Are you sayin get RAF/RN to qualify a aprox 10 MPA aircraft when USN already done it across a 100+ airframe order? Times by ten or not at all ‘cos already been done?

  48. wirralpete

    For small numbers (ie E3D or RC15 Rivet joint ) and P8 -9 airframes tag onto US orders – otherwise HM Govt cant afford it….

  49. wirralpete

    Really thought you were a good poster BB until i saw above post why the fuck would anyone fund an A319 MPA when they know everyone already buyin P8 off the back of 100+ US purchases,qualifications, cost etc
    Somehow reminds me of bespoke MRA4 for RAF -gold plating!

  50. wf

    What @wirralpete said :-)

    Seriously, we really have to stop constructing fantasy aircraft to fill niche roles. If it’s on the shelf, buy it. If you think it’s important to retain aircraft design capability, we can design fighters and RPA’s: we will buy in the three figures of those and we can realistically expect some exports too. Bespoke British mods on off the shelf doesn’t help much either, whether it’s Spey’s in a Phantom or RTM322 on an Apache.

  51. Observer

    Cool down Wirral, we had a problem last year with comments getting too personal that TD had to step in a few times. BB was just speculating a possible option, not recommending it as “the only way to fly”.

    Personally I think that the US add on deals make the most sense if you need the capability, the assembly lines are already hot and rolling, only possible problem might be the saturation of manufacturing that your order might end up far, far behind the USN “preferred customer”.

    As for bizjets, they work ok for a medium capability role, but if you want to play in the Atlantic, you might need a bit more capability. Singapore split the SAR role and the ELINT/AEW/ITAR (I got reminded a few days back that the “official joint term” is ITAR, ISTAR being specific to the army) with the Fokker 50 and the Gulfstreams due to their different operating philosophies and protocols, so having a “one size fits all” plane might be a bit difficult, safer to build for specific roles in your specific force’s orbat then stretch capabilities to see if it can fit rather than try to be too ambitious and get another LCS.

    Anyway, moot point. My bet is on the Rivet Joint for the future UK force. And nuts all for the MPA. Until someone declares a war, then they’ll get the cheapest bizjet solution on the shelf.

  52. Radish293

    I’m all for buying British if at all possible. If it’s not possible buy from the EU. But……. This is not always the least cost or best value option.
    The limited run using Airbus would see the development costs split across perhaps 25-30 air frames.
    On this occasion I’m all for the P8. The 737 is the most common airframe in the world and I’m sure we could find a contract partner for maintenance. Spares can’t be difficult to source. We do however need air to air refuelling so this modification needs to be explored.
    I’m also in favour of the remanufacture of other airframes. Modification of the Sentinel back to a VIP and aeromedical role makes good sense. We can’t afford to splash the cash on a new head of state aircraft but it’s something we should have. The HS 125 are really long in the tooth now and it’s one less airframe to support. The range of the global express is impressive The edge of Australia on one tank.

  53. dave haine

    @Wirralpete

    The A319 MPA isn’t as much of a fantasy aeroplane as you think- from what I was told, by an Airbus chap, and Mark has echoed this on this thread, Airbus were ready to go, they just needed 25-30 orders to crack on. The whole A320 family is a modular design, so on the production line, they’d leave off the ordinary baggage hold, and bung in a weapons bay and re-inforced floor. All A319s are plumbed for the ACJ tanks, which the MPA would have. My Airbus chap also said they could do exactly the same thing, with a A320, A321 or A318.

    (WARNING! Fantasy Fleet!)
    Which makes me think of a AWACs on a A320/1. Or even ISTARS on a A318…all of which are common component and common crew rating.

    BTW, the MOD made a RFI, to Airbus in 2008 based on 21 airframes and 5yr support. I wonder if that helped banged the nail into Nimrods coffin?

  54. Derek

    Yeah, A319 was/is ready go- Airbus Military just wants you to fund the development costs and the manufacturing costs whilst also guaranteeing them a margin. Airbus is delivering over 60 aircraft a month to commercial clients and continuing to ramp up production, at the same time it feels it got screwed over on A400M: Airbus is not going to be risking it’s own capital on the possibility of a handful of MPA sales. In fact given Airbus’ backlog you might find you have to wait a long time before you get production slots for your MPA airframes.

    A European MPA is a great idea- Europe makes the airframe, the engines, the avionics and all the things you need to hang of it to make it an MPA; most European countries, if they want to maintain an MPA capability, need to start doing something in the next 10 years and there is a huge market for a P-3 replacement internationally. But do not live under the illusion that such a thing would be even remotely close to “off-the-shelf”- it would cost and take a long time to make available.

    If you want a high-end MPA the easiest solution is P-8

  55. The Securocrat

    @Observer

    *Warning*Doctrine alert*

    Someone’s spinning you a line. ISTAR is in Joint doctrine as “the prioritised integration, coordination and synchronisation of capabilities and activities to acquire, process and disseminate information and intelligence, to support the planning and execution of operations.” (Allied doctrine has a variation on this)

    It’s definitely not specific to the ARmy. ITAR is “International Traffic in Arms Regulations”! Hence the need for ‘ITAR waivers’ on some equipment we buy from overseas.

  56. Observer

    Securo, different topics. I know of the US ITAR restrictions, and considering that the person giving the C4I briefing was a C4I specialist Major briefing my Division LTC, I doubt he’s that far off.

    Different topics can have the same acronyms to talk about different things, it’s hardly copyrighted.

  57. Brian Black

    I’m sure I mentioned there’d be cost and risk involved with bringing an A319 MPA into service (January 29th 3:27 pm). No need to get your knickers in a twist. It is relevant to this thread as the A320 family is offered by Airbus for MPA, and it is probably the only faintly plausible class alternative to P-8.

    We should look at how this corner of the military market has changed. We’ve come out from the cold war era, when MPA and AWACS were only in the hands of a few major players, and defence priorities and poor procurement ensured developers received essentially blank cheques to produce these assets.

    We’ve seen the market for these aircraft expand as more countries aspire to operate these equipments. And we’ve seen former defence whales, like Britain and even the US, tighten their belts and be less willing to stump up billions for long and drawn out development.

    The result of these market changes (and consequently a driver of further change) is that we see more modular, platform agnostic mission kits, and we see Airbus FITS concept, and we see manufacturers keen to assemble cheap (relatively) and quick (relatively) product packages.

    There is still that very high-end range of goodies, suchs AirSeeker, where we’d be crazy to take on such an expensive development for the sake of three RAF aircraft and no exports; but MPA is run-of-the-mill nowadays.

    I have to say, I’d be gobsmacked if the MoD went for the A319. It would be a lot more likely if there was a whole bunch of European military users flying the A320 family in transport or VIP roles already; but I’m sure the MoD will have given it some consideration by the time they buy the C295 MPA.

  58. The Securocrat

    @Observer

    Indeed, there are only so many letters we can smash together! Perahps he said ISR? He’s still wrong on ISTAR being an ‘army thing’ though.

    I’ve now tracked down Army Field Manual Volume 1 Part 3A: ISTAR – the enduring doctrine, which seems to be the cause of the problem.

    It argues both that “ISTAR is a joint, interagency and Multinational (MN) activity relevant across the full
    mosaic of conflict” and that “ISTAR is specific to the LAND environment; its intended utility lies very much at the tactical level and involves the integration of all ISTAR assets”. This is clearly nonsense. The problem seems to be that the Army were trying to make a distinction with ISR – but they have the *old* definition (from the old JWP 2-00 and JSP 0-01.1, version 7). JDP 2-00 (Intelligence Support to Joint Operations) changed the ISR definition. So the Army has solved a problem that no longer exists by ‘claiming’ ISTAR. It’s also contradicted by Allied Joint Publications.

    I bet you really wanted to know all this…

  59. Observer

    @Securocrat

    Ah yes, that was it, the army/land specific thingy.

    Oh well, po-ta-to/pot-a-to. Either way, you’re still a peeping tom. Still working out the bugs in the concept, and there is a drive for service commonality, but let us just say that Insitu is going to be very happy.

  60. wirralpete

    Apologies BB if came across OTT and insulting with my use of choice language last night was just a little incredulous thats all… understand what you were saying over workshare and all for brit workers got a few mates work at broughton not 30 miles away from me believe there is 6000+ working there very high end engineering etc

  61. Engineer Tom

    I am always wary of US programs as they are run, rightly, for the full benefit of the US, except for F35 which isn’t a great example. I would love to see a European MPA, probably A319, but I recognise this could be very costly. The reason I think it is still an option is that it allows us to get a setup that we want, but that will provide extra costs as well. That said the Japanese seem to feel that they need to have their own MPA design and I believe they are only ordering 10.

    Of the three high end MPA options available, I currently am in favour of the Kawasaki P1, with UK specific kit wherever possible, i.e. where it doesn’t ruin any budget. I have a feeling the Japanese would be more accommodating than the US to change.

  62. dave haine

    @ Eng T

    I must admit I do like the Kwackers P1- and like you , I think the Japanese would be very amenable to changes, in fact I think they would quite like a partner, with something to bring to the party. I live in hope that the recently signed agreement has more to it than we’ve been told.

    Failing that I would like to see a A319 MPA, mainly for the british work share, but also because we’ll get the performance of the P8 in a airframe package 10tonnes lighter, and able to operate onto shorter runways.

  63. H_K

    I imagine all objections to the P-8 (including my own) would disappear if they came with 50-100% offsets and the mission system source code.

    Crazy to ask our Yank friends for something in return? The emerging nations (India, Brazil, Middle East) seem to be able to get away with it.

  64. himets

    The P-8 gets you the 737 platform – AWACS, ISTAR, small cargo/VIP transport etc.

    Business jet platforms and small turboprops are not future proof. There needs to be some capacity for growth.

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