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

If we accept that the Future Maritime Patrol requirement may well have to be redefined in order to meet smaller budgets there are a number of cheaper options to consider.

These are generally characterised by being smaller and shorter ranged than the options examined in the previous two posts on the P8, P3, P1, 319 and ATL.

Airbus Military C235/295 MPA

The C295 is often seen in suggestions for the a future UK Maritime Patrol Aircraft, it is a logical off the shelf choice if the P-8A is unaffordable, it must be said, Airbus Military are pushing it hard as well.

Many have also suggested it as a stop gap until the P8 matures or other options become available.

The problem with stop gaps is two fold, you have to demonstrate a compelling need for a stop gap, difficult, and two, stop gaps tend to become full time.

If the C295 MPA is to come into UK service it will be as a final answer to the capability gap.

C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA)
C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA)
C295 ASW
C295 ASW

The Airbus Military C295 MPA is a derivative of the well established C295 twin turboprop transport in service with many forces worldwide.

The C295 is a stretched version of the C235 which also has a maritime patrol version; notable users include the US Coastguard (C235), Chile, Oman and Portugal (C295)

Airbus Defence and Space – C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) & Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) [480p]

The MPA version has the fully integrated tactical system mission suite (FITS) configured with four operator stations, sonobuoy dispenser, MAD boom, self defence equipment, 6 under wing hard points and an electro optical turret.


Click here for the FITS page

FITS FITS is the same system as fitted to the Brazilian P3-AM’s

Endurance is reportedly 11 hours or 6 hours on station at 200nm range.

Compare that with 4 hours at 1,200nm ballpark for the P8, A319MPA, P1 and P3 and it should be obvious where the difference lies.

Stores capacity is also lower, and so is speed and altitude.

It can (and has) been fitted with a refuelling probe though.

C295 IFR Probe
C295 IFR Probe

Airbus Military are continually improving the basic design, most recently the adoption of winglets in the C295W.

C295 Winglet
C295 Winglet

These are said to deliver and extra 30-60 minutes endurance or 1,000kg payload, improved altitude, hot/high performance and reduced fuel costs.

Lets not fool ourselves; the C295 MPA is no P-8A but then it is not trying to be, the question the UK has to answer is a simple one, are its limitations acceptable or not.

What does the C295 bring?

Two things, cost and versatility.

As usual, it is difficult to pin down costs but I have seen several reports that point to a £50m unit cost and very low running costs, or put another way, 3 for the price of one P8. Airbus themselves offered uo the £50m price tag in a submission to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.

It could be a thousand for the price of one but if it doesn’t meet the military requirement it would still be poor value for money but three to one is hard to ignore.

One of the great strengths of the C295 MPA is its versatility, the rear cargo door and palletised mission systems allow the same aircraft to be used for a number of roles.

Standard 463L pallet compatibility means that in an expeditionary deployment it can carry its own spares or other stores, as an example.

C295 MPA Palletized Version

This doesn’t really become a useful feature unless you have more airframes than mission systems and this is where those secondary implications come in. In the previous posts I have looked at how selecting one airframe or the other can have cost and/or capability implications across other areas and it is here that I think the C295 scores pretty well.

If we buy into the C295 for maritime patrol then the established logistics and maintenance arrangements could support an increased number of C295 without the disproportionate cost of unique types.

When I looked at the A400M in a 5 part series (start here) I made the case for a C235/295 to occupy the space between Chinook and the A400M. When the A400M comes into service it will eventually supplant the C130 and leave a fairly large gap between its 30 tonne payload and the 10 tonne (but very expensive to operate and slow) Chinook.

The C295 would provide about the same lift as a Chinook but in a package that is faster, much longer ranged and significantly cheaper to operate. Any view on whether such an aircraft would be worth investing in would come down to that balance of the costs of such an aircraft fleet and the cost of using the A400M Atlas at payloads far below its capabilities.

For years ISAF has been using contractors to provide air transport and air despatch using smaller aircraft like the Airbus C212’s and AN25’s.

The development of low cost air despatch /air dropping equipment has allowed these cheap aircraft to be of much greater usefulness. Studies by the USAF and Army have shown that for a very high percentage of short range, intra theatre transportation tasks in ongoing operations the payload utilisation figures are very low.

It can carry 9 tonnes in its very long cargo hold, 12.7m. This means 71 seats or 5 463L pallets to a maximum range at full payload of 1,300km, plus it comes with this rather snazzy pallet loading system.

Airbus Military CN235-C295 Pallet Transfer System

There are all manner of roles you could use a plain old C295 for; parachute training, intra-theatre lift and communications.

C295 Parachute
C295 Parachute

Airbus have also flown a AEW demonstrator

C295 AEW
C295 AEW

Plus of course there is always this bad boy to consider

C295 Gunship
C295 Gunship

Just sayin!

Airbus Military/Elta C-295 AEW – Paris 2011

If we are looking at different versions, greater utility, a large user base and low costs, the C295 has a lot to offer.


There are a couple of other alternatives.

Bombardier and Elta have proposed a ‘Special Mission’ variant of the Dash 8 Q-400 commercial passenger aircraft. The Q400 MPA variant is equipped with and EL/M-2022A maritime search radar electro optical turret and range of supporting electronic systems.

Elta Bombardier Multi Mission
Elta Bombardier Multi Mission

The Dash 8 series are adaptable aircraft and many ‘special. variants exist in small numbers.

Alenia and Thales have the ATR72-ASW which might be considered broadly similar to the Bombardier aircraft.

ELI-3360 MPA Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Defense Industry Daily has the full details on the Turkish ATR72-ASW order, click here

Both the ATR72 and Q300/400 would offer a modest performance uplift in comparison with the C295 because they are larger aircraft but arguably not enough if the wider possibilities of a C295 selection are considered.

The ATR72-ASW provides a 7 hour at 200nm patrol endurance for example.

An interesting set of options though.

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 The Author

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!

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February 3, 2014 9:42 pm

The Q300/400 should be interesting as much because of the scope of some of the modifications that have been made. Including the installation of long range tanks.

Get over the airframe commonality thing, it’s really not relevant- especially given where the rest of the uK special mission/transport fleet is in its procurement cycle.

There are ongoing rumours that both ATR and bombardier may pursue larger turboprop airliners (90 seaters), if this happened that would make great MPA platforms.

February 3, 2014 10:01 pm

From the left field how about rolling Airbus’s FITS pallets on board the Antonov AN74?

Comperable to the C-295 for range and payload but being a jet can go significantly faster and higher.

Got a cargo ramp. There was even an AEW variant of this airframe (AN71) too…


February 3, 2014 10:21 pm

The q400 next gen offer improvement in perhaps the single biggest weakness for the cn295 speed, it cruises at 350kts pretty similar to the p3 Orion, while offering similar mission capabilities to the cn295. So if it were to be decided that a turboprop and the flight profiles they excel at is what the mpa should do then it would be my front runner in this field.

February 3, 2014 10:37 pm

Bombardier make the CRJ700, CRJ900, and CRJ1000 series seating between 78 and 104 in one class seating and are similar to the Embraer ERJ 145 family but larger. The Embraer family that the make various military versions but the airline will only seat 37 to 50.

The other two options are the Bombardier C-Series and Embraer E-Jet family that will compete with the 737 and A320.
There is also the Embraer KC-390.
There are lots of airframe options.

February 3, 2014 10:57 pm

295 all the way for me as we can have as you said a common fleet which I think really does stand for something. Even if just cost savings from training but I suspect there are more.

However 6 hours at 200nm range with a max endurance of 11hrs. So its endurance speed would appear to be around 80kts.

I’ve said before if the issue is its endurance at range why not AAR? Yes its costly but merely planning to AAR gives I feel greater flexibility over P8 which would be expected to operate alone.

February 4, 2014 1:36 am

“The problem with stop gaps is two fold, you have to demonstrate a compelling need for a stop gap, difficult,”

Would a Russia Carrier Battle Group showing up of the coast of Scotland for a second time count?

Seems everything is okay though as the MOD has been using Twitter to keep track of those pesky Russians as they swan around our oil fields. And we only had a gap of 39 days last year for the Fleet Ready Escort so all is well. Lets keep investing in massive army’s to invade other peoples countries and rely on social media to protect our EEZ.


Seriously though given that our main potential belligerent has increased defence spending by 44% over three years. Is claiming pretty much everything North of Shetland to be theirs and is planning to spend a whopping $700 billion over ten years on modernizing equipment (much of it naval) should we not be taking home defence more seriously. We spend a not insignificant GBP 35 billion a year on defence but the vast majority of it is tied to defending others or intervening in other peoples wars. Yet we can’t even have a permanent warship stationed in our own waters and we have little ability to track what is going on just off our coast.

The MOD’s absolute number 1 priority must always be protection of the UK but after enjoying a benign environment for so long this seems to be lost on the department. Not only do we not have MPA but we have little if any ability to conduct naval air strikes from fixed wing platforms and other than a handful of SSN’s we have little ability to actually sink a modern warship if it shows up off our coast.

There is also a good chance that the T45 sent to escort the Russian Carrier has not anti ship capability beyond a 4.5 gun and a Lynx armed with Sea Skua.

Give the press this gets for the Russians I am guessing we can expect it to happen every time their carrier transits the North sea.

Norway is already bricking it and matching defence spending with the threat. Its easy to forget stuck down in Whitehall that other parts of the UK are quite close to Norway.

February 4, 2014 2:47 am

What happens if the powers that be start to split up some of the potential employment for these types of MPA? In the parliamentary inquiry it was clear that the civil functions of EEZ surveillance, oil spill and possibly SAR were up for grabs in a ‘coast watch’ style contract across several departments. The capital costs of the aircraft and through life support cost of the aircrew are much cheaper in this construct. If another aircraft picks up these jobs it takes away a lot of the short range employment that a one size fits all MPA might have otherwise been doing a lot of. All that’s left for a military MPA (deprived of this civil employment) is the long-range, long endurance and most probably expeditionary employment.

It’s tricky, especially if both requirements (civil and military) currently reside in different buckets of money. The CN295 is a good compromise for a one size fits all MPA, but it doesn’t look quite so attractive when all the low-end stuff is taken up by an even better aircraft (and cheaper aircrew).

February 4, 2014 5:38 am

I think the C295’s main failing is range. The wing tips are a good start for boosting this but I wonder if it would be possible to go further. Possibly having enlarged fuel tanks or extra under-wing tanks. Its not a small aircraft and one has to guess that with just four crew stations there must be a fair bit of room on board. With extra range then the C295 would be quite close to an optimal MPA solution and in some ways better than the P8.

Also the inclusion of an AAR probe could go some way to offsetting the range issues and given just how many AAR tankers we have for a relatively small force of FJ maybe thee range issue is not such a big one.

February 4, 2014 5:56 am

The only thing you get with less, is less.

The C295 is ideal for EEZ patrol, SAR and Coastguard type duties. It isn’t a serious contender for expeditionary ops.

I’d rather see the Coastguard take on the roles mentioned above, using something like a C295 releasing the “real” MPA for long endurance ASW/ASuW. With the few hulls available to the RN, we need a high end ASW/ASuW asset like the P-8/Kwaker P-1 armed to the teeth, in order to their bit.

dave haine
February 4, 2014 7:16 am

A couple of things that crossed my mind, whilst reading this….

Derek has a point about airframe commonality- It shouldn’t be a factor in buying stuff, unless the procurement cycles fit.

The only problem with our AAR assets, is the fact that they’re also part of the air transport fleet (How typical of the MOD that a useful secondary ability ends up being the sole capability). Get an overseas deployment, and all of a sudden, we’ll be struggling for tankers.

I think that airframes such as the C295 and Q400, whilst useful, and if we ever had to go to a full-on nasty war a good additional airframe, won’t answer the question- We have a vast area to cover and we need the range, and we need the high end capability. You can use a P1/A319/P8 to do the EEZ/SAR stuff, but you can’t use a less capable asset out in the middle of the atlantic hunting down a Russian carrier, or a sub.

And lastly, TD makes a good point about having a small airlifter fleet. Handy to keep heli assets where they need to be, supporting the army. A small turboprop with a cargo ramp, would be cheaper to run than a small jet. Shame we got rid of the Andovers……

February 4, 2014 9:13 am

A good way fwd in my opinion, It does not always have to be about more Warships and Bombers, simply take some of the more Civvy roles away from the Navy/RAF, decrease the M.O.D. budget by as little as possible and either get some more cash out of Europe for border policing (we’re on the edge you know!), or take it out of somewhere else like the old overseas development budget, which would not exist if most on here had their way! Give the Rivers and Clyde to the HM Coastguard and give em 10-12 Turboprops for SAR and fining Fishing Boats.
You can let the Navy/RAF onto the Planes when required and indeed marines on to the boats when needed. That would give us the training required in those roles, while we go about getting an MPA in an orderly fashion, not an interim solution but a permanent one, Navy for fighting, UK Borders/Coastguard for policing…
Would get legs in a government that’s hell bent on stopping any foreigners getting in at all it would seem, and bashing non British passport holders is unfortunately a vote winner it seems…

February 4, 2014 9:39 am

So… as long as we can get the C295 to do 2500nm with enough newer lighter weight sonobuoys that is where my money would go.

I didn’t realise they’d done an AEW (demo) version. Brilliant!!!

It’s got to be one of the most useful planes out there at the mo.

February 4, 2014 9:50 am

@Dave Haines & Jules
Couldnt agree more on size, range, payload etc with HM coastguard paying for 30-50% of procurement cost and running cost for guarenteed 24/7 in SAR coverage of uk eez, just as fisheries protection manning and ship costs are paid for out of i think enviroment dept budget and MOD pay for remaining % to deliver defence capability to uk and any forward deployed support to the RFTG on cougar deployments etc .
Much rather armed forces personnel be used for training purposes for delivering such capability.
This principle could also be applied to the public duties of the army in london, or red arrows and various display teams of the three services, perhaps from same source as the monarchy is funded now (crown estates), thus freeing up funding to increase manning in areas that all of us can see need filling out (navy, raf, 16AAB, 3CDO etc)

February 4, 2014 9:54 am

I can’t help but think of the C295 in the same way as Corvettes/MTBs/etc; great for local low end work, but considerably less useful for expeditionary operations.

As others have stated, I don’t think C295 is the answer. I would rather we reduced the need for a MPA by having its civil missions taken over by a ‘CoastWatch’ / Coast Guard set-up and have a small fleet of high-end MPAs that can operate seamlessly with our likely allies (the US/Oz/etc). Also:

– Supplement the capability both of these types with area surveillance by Sentinel and Sentry, and possibly a Reaper.
– Equip the Patrol fleet with Scan Eagle, etc to boost their capability.

All that said, there is a compelling argument for a lighter transport to supplement the Atlas/C-17 fleet once the C-130s leave service. But I imagine that it would be very much a Nice To Have, rather than essential.

February 4, 2014 10:22 am

Capabilty requirement number 1 is budget for all other capability requirements refer to number 1

Engineer Tom
February 4, 2014 10:40 am

@ Wirralpete

One problem with funding the military units on ceremonial duties through the monarchy, you would have to increase the cost of the monarchy overall and that would also put the military elements in that pot at the most risk of cuts that are likely to come, it is a very easy pot to cut.

February 4, 2014 10:53 am

I see no benefit in creating another layer of infrastructure for a tooled up HM coastguard. Local inshore SAR is outsourced, fair enough, in terms of helos and RNLI. I think the RN / RAF should retain responsibility for broader EEZ patrol (encompassing longer range SAR if necessary).

I don’t think we need high end MPA yet – nice to have yes but needed?

What I think we need is a 24/7 EEZ patrol capability (UK and FI) out to decent range, decent ASW capability, CASD protection. In addition we need to restore and retain the various skill sets that requires. I can’t see what element of this the most up to date version of the C295 cannot provide

I think there is a strong case for the C295 as a small airlifter, supplementing the A400m, replacing a few other types

I’m not persuaded yet on P8, would like to see it mature. Additionally I think we should have just strive, ultimately for one type to cover future deployability requirements – longer range MPA, AEW, surveilliance etc. Maybe 737 can do all those or maybe its a longer term view on an Airbus type

February 4, 2014 11:02 am

@engineer tom.. alls i’m sayin is fund public duties from same place as monarchy (duchy of lancaster ie crown estates) cant see any govt cutting that with amount of revenue from tourism etc that is brought into the country from ceremonial displays in london and big events such as jubilee etc

February 4, 2014 11:06 am

think spam monster at me
@Mark… Totally agree… which is why i suggested resource funding for manpower coming from other depts of government ie HM coastguard, and funding public duties and display teams from crown estates. public duties, display teams (2 inf batt, 4 incremental coy’s, HAC, HCR mounted regt, Red Arrows, AAC display, RAF battle of britain memorial flight etc etc ) must have 2.5 – 3.5 thousand service personnel funded from mod budget?
THEN procurement costs can come from spreadsheet phil’s £8bn ‘headroom’ in equipment budget oh and also the £4bn set aside for overspend in individual projects… if he is as good at hammering down on overspends as he seems to be thats a fair old chunk of money that he’s built into equipment budget over the next 8 years til 2022 to be still allocated?
Admit ongoing running costs of equipment may need some thought but was off the back of a fag packet after a particularly tough night shift :-)

February 4, 2014 11:15 am

@ mark… did give lengthy reply to your comment … but spam monster ate me
but in a nutshell totally agree with you … which was why was trying to give an example of where manpower funding could come from and that spreadsheet phil has aprox £12bn still to allocate over next 8 years from equipment budget? Have not worked out ongoing costs of equipment but was off the cuff after a hard days night (shift) lol ;-)

dave haine
February 4, 2014 11:45 am

@ Wirralpete

I’d have to admit I hadn’t considered the option of the MOD being a capability provider- and being paid a proportion of the cost of the service- given a sensible Service Level Agreement it could help both parties- good for crew currency and HM coastguard and legalised mugging service, get a decent service without having to pay for their own fleet.

I wonder what the coastguard had to say when the nimrod was canned? Apart from a sharp intake of breath all seemed to very quiet-

You could also use the same funding arrangement for the Navy OPVs….although I still like the partly RNVR manned model as well.

Engineer Tom
February 4, 2014 11:45 am

@ Wirralpete

But are they going to be willing to increase the percentage of the crown estates that goes to the monachy to encompass these new responsibilities.

February 4, 2014 11:47 am

@Mick p … could see the need for a longer range MPA ahead of an RFTG comprising a new QEC aircraft carrier in the next 6 years?
As @Dave Haine says a high end P8/P1/A319 can do that but a C295 cannot

February 4, 2014 11:50 am

@Engineer Tom …but it aint going to the monarchy per se, its going to fund public duties? not the same thing from where i’m standing or am i missing something?

February 4, 2014 11:50 am

C295 has some interesting features. I like the ability to role change with palletised role equipment. I also think that a lighter transport aircraft would be an advantage.

I’m not a fan of hiving off responsibility to civilian roles. It still has to be paid for so there is a likely cut in in defence budget.

It happened when the HIGHWAYS AGENCY Traffic officers were introduced. Police were withdrawn from routine. Motorway patrols. The budget was cut and officers have lost the skills of Motorway policing. The reported set up costs for the HATO was reportedly £53M. Not good value for money.

February 4, 2014 12:07 pm

@radish293 Not good value for money? Using expensively and highly trained aircrew to rescue yachtsmen isn’t a particular good use of cash either.

High end MPA for the crunchy stuff – especially when we don’t have many hulls in the surface fleet, and a submarine based deterrent to support.

February 4, 2014 12:25 pm

Roll on part six…

February 4, 2014 12:42 pm

@wp “… could see the need for a longer range MPA ahead of an RFTG comprising a new QEC aircraft carrier in the next 6 years?”

Use other assets perhaps?!

Seriously, assuming a coalition op RFTG in theory will have SSN, organic ASW etc. We can supply AEW (E3 and crowsnest) / Airseeker / Sentinel assets. not to mention AAR, C17 airlift, amphib assets, TLAM, F35s etc. Couldn’t someone else chip in with high end MPA?

I’m not saying we ultimately may not need a high end MPA, but I don’t see a compelling case for high end now. What I do see is a large gap in our basic core capabilities, loss of skillset, overstretch of other assets that needs filling with a highly decent MPA. C295 fits the bill I think.

February 4, 2014 1:02 pm

6-8 of the auxillary motherships to take over counter piracy/nacotics and FIs stuff along with other routine deployments. You then have your T45 T23/26 and other fighty vessels available for proper war fighting. Not chasing people in wooden boats between islands.

That degrades your need for a large fleet somewhat and selling off the low end roles to the coastguard decreseases costs further. Then you might buy a few P8. But that is an aircarft less flexible for 3 times the price.

From: http://www.c295.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011-06-28-DP-295-MP-DATA-POSTER-GEN-EN.pdf: Mission @ 200 nm
• Over 8 hours.
• More than 1800 nm patrolled.
More than the 6 stated earlier. How much more is it now they have the new winglets. Also consider AAR if we had 22 A400m as well as 14 coyager surely we could use something from that pool. Also could the 295 have a buddy tanker capability? Its lexibility of basing means it could also be based closer to the required area.

You have that filler between the Chinook and A400 and I’m sure the speckle farces would love one or two of these to play around with. Plus AEW variant. I question how it would be a worse battlefield asset than P8a. I would have thought a flexible, relatively short take off and landing turboprop would have the edge over what is essentially a ‘pimped’ airliner.

IF the figures are correct and you can have 3 295s for every 1 P8 then range becomes less of an issue. 1 295 is converted to a buddy refueller. Refuel buddy when they get on station and heads for home. Buddy stays on until he has divert fuel and heads back to find the now refueled tanker for return journey. The beauty ot that would be two fold. 1)you have much longer time on task (probably not more than a P8) 2) you still have a spare aircraft to do what you like with!

February 4, 2014 1:05 pm

If ASaC, Merlin ASW with Blue Kestrel, Wildcat with Seaspray, F35 and a one-billion quid Astute class SSN can’t police the ocean ahead of the RFTG, there’s no point in the Royal Navy ;-)

Engineer Tom
February 4, 2014 1:07 pm

@ Wirralpete

If we were to have two pots coming out of the crown estates then yes it would be possible, but if it was going to be one pot of money for the ceremonial military stuff as well as the current funding for the monarchy then at least one newspaper editor will immediately say that it is giving more to the monarchy, it is an easy target.

February 4, 2014 1:10 pm

@mickp yeah see where you’re coming from there friend as regards allies in a combined ops scenario
However still think if we’re goin to be US go to partner no question asked in our part of world, or supporting our commonwealth friends around the world, going short/medium term interim capability to uphold our skill sets increases costs in procurement and training, if ultimately as you say goal would be high end (p8/p1/a319).
Also if we order P8 then like aussies we get to plug into the US sustainability & spiral development effort much like C17 contract with boeing and rivet joint spiral development.
Better to be at top table ala F35 influencing decisons and development, and getting big payoffs for UK industry in the long run, workshare r+d etc?

Engineer Tom
February 4, 2014 1:10 pm

The C295 might actually be a better expeditionary aircraft as well, what is the comparison in runway length with that and the P8.

February 4, 2014 1:16 pm

@engineer tom … yeah thats where i was coming from crown estates paying into two pots, one for monarchy and one as @dave haine so succintly puts it crown estates paying mod as capability provider for public duties/raf and army display teams

February 4, 2014 1:19 pm

@simon… good one lol ;-)

dave haine
February 4, 2014 1:26 pm

Ooh dear….see what happens when you question the carrier….they’ll be forming up a boarding party, armed with cutting wit and sarcasm, supported by the boarding grappels of ‘power projection’ and ‘forward defence’. Won’t be long before they start questioning whether we need the RAF.

Now, Remind me, how long did it take the andrew to react to the Russian Carrier ‘sheltering’ of the Moray Firth…24hrs to get a Destroyer there? If we’d had an MPA, that would have been 2hrs, or even probably intercepted in the North Sea.

So actually I’m with Wirral Pete. We’re seeing increasing numbers of russian aircraft ‘testing’ UK response times, the russian fleet have been coming into British waters more and more. We need to maintain the security of the home nation, and that needs an MPA with a decent, offensive capability and a decent range. If nothing else to demonstrate serious intent.

February 4, 2014 1:32 pm

Dave Haine,

…how long did it take the andrew to react to the Russian Carrier ‘sheltering’ of the Moray Firth…24hrs to get a Destroyer there? If we’d had an MPA, that would have been 2hrs, or even probably intercepted in the North Sea

So, basically you’re saying it’s the RAF’s fault for wasting money on the Nimrod upgrade?

Nice of the Royal Navy to bail them out though heh :-)

February 4, 2014 1:35 pm

I like the C295, great utility but I Still think we should eventually just bung everything into the A400, on the subject of Merlin, those three Indy ones are lying idle with no spares…
Cheeky but what the hell…
Roll on part six…

February 4, 2014 1:38 pm

Last comment got eaten!
Anyway I like the C295 but I still think the A400 is the way to go…eventually, and we could design it with our new bosom buddies in Paris (Well Toulouse).
On the subject of Merlin those three indy ones are now languishing without spares, how about a real cheeky offer???

February 4, 2014 1:46 pm

The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (our version of the Airbus330MRTT) ,could it be used as a mother ship for a fleet of low/medium level flying UCAV in the MPA/AEW/AA role out in the mid Atlantic. The FSTA would act as a refuelling station for the UCAV’s and house the UCAV controllers on palletized work stations (fitted on a RORO basis to any of the fleet). FSTA would orbit up high usually but could drop lower for Direct Line Of Sight control if needed (WHEN the satellites are taken down by one of the two big high capability potential enemies Russia or China) The budget(?) would be spent on additional FSTA aircraft predominately (to give overall flexibility to that essential service of mid air refuelling / high speed logistics) and the remainder on the UCAV’s .using the existing FSTA design would improve commonality and the UCAV weapons delivery package is inevitable on multi mission profile whether Air /Land / Maritime Attack .

February 4, 2014 1:49 pm

@simon … am sure you’ve got scouse blood in you … gotta get some kip before another shift buildin cars and battin away scouse wind up merchants !!!!
… crack on chaps …later lol :-)

Oscar Zulu
February 4, 2014 2:32 pm

While Australia’s commitment to the P8 Poseidon is well known and has been commented on in the MPA discussion threads a number of times, less well known is that Australia also operates a fleet of 14 modified Dash 8 aircraft that complement the RAAFs 19 AP3C aircraft. You could argue that in practice the Dash 8s tend to act as the first line of defence of Australia’s EEZ.

The Australian Customs Service uses a private sector provider for the Coastwatch program contracting out to Surveillance Australia Pty Ltd which is a subsidiary of National Jet Systems (and ultimately owned by Cobham plc.).

The Coastwatch program is the world’s largest aerial civil maritime surveillance operation involving 170 personnel, flying 20,000 hours per year from 4 four permanent bases (Broome, Darwin, Horn Island and Cairns) around Australia’s northern coast.

It is an interesting model that might also work in the UK and not unlike in some ways the outsourced arrangement that the RAF has in place for their Voyager tankers.

The Dash 8 Q300s were equipped with additional fuel tanks in the fuselage, providing an additional 4,000 lbs. of fuel capacity in addition to their standard long-range tanks. The Dash 8s are equipped with Raytheon’s SeaVue radar, L-3 Wescam’s MX-15 EO system and a new SIM system based on Galileo Avionica’s “ATOS.” SIM will automatically capture and integrate surveillance information from these surveillance aircraft, and transmit in near real time between other aircraft and the National Surveillance Centre in Canberra.


Since most actions in peacetime turn out to be relatively benign contacts (currently people smugglers cramming hundreds of desperate asylum seekers in unseaworthy wooden Indonesian fishing boats have overtaken illegal fishing as their main surveillance mission) it is fairly cost effective way of using a relatively inexpensive platform to do the lion’s share of the day-to-day maritime patrol.

It frees the AP3Cs up for their primary ASW mission and the Coastwatch aircraft can always handover more complex or military contacts to the AP3Cs to prosecute.

While the AP3Cs remain a handy piece of kit, especially following their 2002 upgrade, the RAAF has operated P3s since 1962 and the current crop of airframes have been working hard on military missions including overland ISR missions in Afghanistan and ASW taskings in addition to increasing border protection missions.

Notwithstanding the ADF’s own budgetary pressures, there doesn’t seem to be the ‘should we or shouldn’t we’ debate about the need for an MPA in Australia – it just appears to be a given. The only argument is likely to be the numbers and mix of platforms/capabilities.

There are at least two reasons for this, besides the current hysteria among the political classes about asylum seekers and ‘securing’ Australia’s borders against this invading horde.

Firstly the sheer size of Australia’s EEZ makes for a compelling case for an MPA capability. Australia has the third largest EEZ in the world of just over 10 million square kilometres. Tellingly just over 6 million square kilometres is contiguous with the Australian mainland, with the remainder accounted for by Australia’s remote island and Antarctic territories.

While the UK has a sizeable (5th largest) EEZ with just over 6.8 million square kilometres only a little over 10% or so (722,891 sq km) is contiguous with mainland UK, the rest comprising your far flung territories which makes for a different equation entirely. The UK would need a very sizeable forward deployed number of MPAs to mount anything like continuous surveillance of all of your territorial waters (let alone an ASW capability). And therein lies the dilemma at the heart of the spirited debate on these threads. It’s a different equation really to Australia.

Secondly the Australian AP3Cs are not only employed in the ASW role (Mk 46 / MU 90 torpedoes) they also have a handy ASuW maritime strike capability (AGM-84 Harpoon air-to-surface missiles). Together with the RAAFs classic FA18 Hornets it provides the ADF with 90 platforms capable of launching Harpoon missiles – a not insignificant deterrent for a small air force against any regional aggressor.

In theory the RAAF’s 24 Super Hornets are cleared for Harpoon (USN employ Harpoons off FA18E) which would bring total Harpoon platforms to 114 but my understanding is that their initial maritime strike weapon is the AGM-154C Joint Stand-off Weapon (JSOW). In any case maritime strike is a fundamental RAAF doctrine and capability, so the P8’s ability to launch AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER (or equivalent) is a baseline requirement for an Australian MPA. Whereas this doesn’t seem to be the case in the UK which opens up many more platform options.

The Australian doctrine seems to be to employ a combination of manned and UAV platforms. The likely mix is around 8 P8s, with the Chief of Air Force openly advocating for up to 12 and a commensurate reduction in the number of unmanned MQ-4C Triton from 7 to as few as four. This combination also allows the RAAF to use a USN BAMS style operating model or even become an integral part of the US BAMS network.

All of which would provide Australia with a layered maritime patrol/response capability – Triton, Dash 8 and P8 from as early as 2017 or 2018.

February 4, 2014 2:34 pm

@dave haine: we all knew it was there. But since we lack a North Sea base, a ship will take a day to arrive from Portsmouth, and even a fighty MPA isn’t a substitute. Distances matter, even for aircraft. Hence those pesky aircraft carriers :-)

Ace Rimmer
February 4, 2014 2:39 pm

Reading the above comments, the general consensus appears to high end jets or small turbo-props, I’ve just been perusing the interweb looking at the USCG HC-130J. As funding is obviously the problem, I’m thinking along the lines of utilising a baseline, reduced capability SC-130J model in a similar vein to the HC-130J, which can then be upgraded to the full-on SC-130J when the money becomes available.

This way we’re not lumbered with a fleet of small, unusable airframes, and neither are we committed to buying an uber-expensive aircraft like the P-8A. Am I the only one who thinks the future lies with the SC-130J?

February 4, 2014 2:56 pm

As the Russians had sailed from Northern Russia, wouldn’t/shouldn’t the Norweigns have monitored the passage of the Russian force. Seeing as they would have passed through the Norweign EEZ. As Norway is part of NATO, would they not have given us a heads up warning what was coming our way?

We should have had plenty of time to have a vessel off the coast of Scotland, ready to greet them!

February 4, 2014 3:06 pm

@ Ted
“Buddy stays on until he has divert fuel and heads back to find the now refueled tanker for return journey.”

Yeah but you would have to pay airtanker a penalty every time you did this.

@ Monkey
“The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (our version of the Airbus330MRTT) ,could it be used as a mother ship for a fleet of low/medium level flying UCAV in the MPA/AEW/AA role out in the mid Atlantic. The FSTA would act as a refuelling station for the UCAV’s and house the UCAV controllers on palletized work stations”
Or maybe we could get the star ship Enterprise to hover over the area. Sounds cheaper and easier to do.

February 4, 2014 3:13 pm

I’m still not convinced that the C295 range is that big an issue. With AAR this can be extended when needed. Alot of the issues we seem to be having aka Russian Carriers showing up on Twitter just of the coast of Inverness seems to be closer to shore anyway.

Could another option also be to consider using airfields in the North Atlantic as well such as Iceland. Maybe is a very Nimrod Centric view to have all our MPA coverage from a single base in the North of Scotland.

Also given that the P8 does not come with an AAR system we can use and its range is not that great compared to MRA4 is the P8 the real heavy weight contender. Other than Range and Speed is their any advantage in the P8 over the C295. The C295 certainly seems to have the edge in the ability to move low and slow over the water and use shorter runways. All major advantages for an MPA.

dave haine
February 4, 2014 3:30 pm

M’lud, I rest my case…….

@ Simon
No, I blame the succession of defence secretaries of either stripe, from about the eighties (Knox/ Heseltine) on, who despite being continuously told the Nimrod was knackered and needed replacing, chose to ignore the RAF. (Remember the RAF preference was for the lockheed P7, not a Nimrod re-build)

Whilst the carriers have immense strategic……etc, etc yada, yada, yada. What good are they if the RTFG is in the Med, or the Indian Ocean, or the Caribbean, undertaking photo pose- sorry, retention opportunities, and the threat appears suddenly in the North Sea?

BTW, the crowsnest being brought forward was good news at least.

Unfortunately, Nimrod rather spoilt us capability wise and operationally.

February 4, 2014 3:38 pm

@dave haine: of course we don’t need a carrier to patrol the North Sea, I was referring to anywhere more than an hour’s transit time from a RAF base. But just as the QRA role cannot be filled by a SAM battery, you need a physical ship to patrol the sea, and having them all based 1000km plus from their area of operations is suboptimal.

February 4, 2014 4:11 pm

Both times the Russian Carriers showed up in the Murray Firth it would literally have been on the Nimrods flight path.

@ Dave Haine – Is CROWSNEST being stepped up I had not heard anything.

February 4, 2014 4:21 pm

@ Martin. The Crowsnest news was announced yesterday. It was posted in Febuarys Open Thread. But save you searching.


February 4, 2014 4:32 pm

@martin “Yeah but you would have to pay airtanker a penalty every time you did this.” maybe buy 2 for each p8 and use the rest to buy out of FSTA!

Engineer Tom
February 4, 2014 5:06 pm

@ Observer

One thing about Aus that I have noticed is border sercurity is a huge issue, how many other western countries conduct armed covert military patrols within their borders permanently.

@ Ace Rimmer

I thought we were supposed to be doing away with C-130’s so if anything it would have to be a A400m and then I am yet to see what advantage an MPA variant of a C-130 or A400m has over a C295 for example, unless you put a bomb bay in and then the cost go up and then the cost goes up till it would be just as easy to go for a top end dedicated MPA airframe.

I think a high/low mix is where we need to end up, with eventually the funding for day to day operations of the low end i.e. C295 being funded through other channels whilst retaining RAF crews and the ability to drop weapons such a stingray.

To me this means we start with C295, with the aim to have our low end fleet complete by 2020, and then spend 5 years planning the high end fleet with the first aircraft being handed to the RAF in 2025 and the last by 2030. A mix of maybe 6 P8/P1 to 12 C295 hopefully with all 18 aircraft coming in at around a total of 2 billion spread over 15 years. (fantasy I know, but just one possible route we could go down.)

Ace Rimmer
February 4, 2014 5:24 pm

Engineering Tom: I think the advantage of the C-130 is the rugged, proven airframe. There’s no need for a bomb bay per se, rather conformal weapons bays forward of the undercarriage pods. The underwing pylons can already take a host of weapons, including Hellfire, and the Herc has been used as a makeshift bomber on more than one occasion. The USCG use it for long range surveillance and rescues and the number of differing versions the whole family has provided over the last 50 years more than demonstrates its capability. These models include the WC-130 J Hurricane Hunters. I thought we were supposed to hang onto a few for SF work? If we’re doing away with it completely, then more fool us.

Can the P-8A and C-295 produce a better pedigree than that?

February 4, 2014 5:25 pm

*points to self*

Me? I didn’t say anything yet!

Tom, think their problem is the boat people and asylum seekers probing their borders via Indonesia, Philippines etc. It’s an ongoing problem, hence their rather dense MPA patrols. Doubt they do it fully armed though, no call for clocking up weapon maintenance hours. They usually just mark and vector a customs vessel to intercept people smugglers and ship them to the offshore island processing centre (stupid spellcheck, center is a word), can’t remember the name at this point in time. They’ll probably arm if the threat level goes up, but on a normal day, there really is no call to pack so much firepower.

P8 makes sense for them, huge coastline to guard.

February 4, 2014 8:26 pm

One of the reasons that the de Havilland Comet was selected for the Nimrod was allegedly due to a “distinct resonance” from propeller aircraft that could be detected by a submerged submarine.

Any truth to this? Is it a problem? A piston only phenomenon? Mitigated by turboprops and/or operating procedures? Still a problem?

February 5, 2014 12:18 am

‘One of the reasons that the de Havilland Comet was selected for the Nimrod was allegedly due to a “distinct resonance” from propeller aircraft that could be detected by a submerged submarine’.

Yes P-3s had to track Soviet SSN/SSBN at altitudes above 15,000Ft because the propeller drone could be heard by the subs below that altitude. As long as the C295 can operate above that altitude it should be OK as it should make less noise than 4 Alison T-56 props.

However even turbofans make a distinct hum between their blades and stators which could be just as vulnerable to counter-detection by subs.

@OZ. RAAF got its first P-3B’s in 1968 – RNZAF were the first P3 export customer in 1967 with the lighter weight capacity landing gear – RAAF waited for heavier capacity upgrade a year later

February 5, 2014 3:37 am

good news about CROWSNEST the joy’s of having a funded equipment plan with contingency budgets. Lets just hope that couch in Phil’s office in Whitehall has another billion quid down the back of it so we can start an MPA program.

@ Engineer Tom

“To me this means we start with C295, with the aim to have our low end fleet complete by 2020, and then spend 5 years planning the high end fleet with the first aircraft being handed to the RAF in 2025 and the last by 2030. A mix of maybe 6 P8/P1 to 12 C295 hopefully with all 18 aircraft coming in at around a total of 2 billion spread over 15 years.”

Sounds like a sensible plan. The main problem with it is that the P8 is due to cease production by around 2019 and Boeing won’t re-open production lines for just 6 aircraft. If we really want the P8 then we need to be ordering it pretty soon. Also operating a mixed fleet will come with additional expense. I would also say that if we had the P8 then the C295 may be too high end for the coast guard role and the C235 makes more sense.

The more we go through this debate the more I am leaning towards a re-winged P3. Could be delivered with a similar price to the C295 yet offers much of the performance of the P8. 15,000 hours of airframe time should last long enough for us to either A) Develop something new in conjunction with EU partners i.e. A400M or A319 or B) possibly UAV’s maybe more capable of fulfilling the role by then.

If it was up to me then it would be P8 but I just can’t see any government in 2015 being willing to embark on any new projects in the billion plus range. We might be able to get a fleet of 9 P3’s for around $500 million which seems doable and I think it would easily fulfil our requirements for a decade or so.

Whatever we select it has to have ASW capability, be a ready to go off the shelf solution and come in at a reasonable price tag sub $100 million. That suggest to me there are only two options C295 or re-winged P3 so the question is which would you prefer from these two.

February 5, 2014 9:06 am

Thanks @Steve.

Engineer Tom
February 5, 2014 11:37 am

@ Martin

A couple of quick reply’s to your thoughts, if P8 is set to finish production in 2019 then maybe P1 would be the option to go with, both are currently unproven and facing issues, but with time at least one of them will solve these issues and demonstrate that it is the option to go with. Also regards the C295 being too high end for CG duties, my thinking was that for the 15 year ramp up period until we have our high end capability in place we would need the capabilities the C295 provides over the C235, and then after this time they would always be a reserve force to conduct military operations in a time of war, so, yes they are too high end for CG but they aren’t purely CG aircraft, or at least that is how I think it should work.

February 5, 2014 12:24 pm

If there was an option to lease some C295 from Airbus this would give us a reduced capability in the short term and then work with Airbus to develop the A319 MPA for the longer term.

This would give us full control over development and provide a considerable industrial share. It’s relatively low risk as the airframe is already in production, use the FITs CMS and we have sensors on a shelf somewhere from MRA4 or they can be easily purchased.

Other EU members will need a capable MPA in the next 10 years and they’s prefer to buy European that US.

All it will take is a bit of political backbone and industrial co-operation……oh…

Brian Black
February 5, 2014 12:26 pm

We chose to participate in the A400 to give us a one-size-fits-all tactical/strategic airlifter. So winding up with A400, C17, and C295 by the end of the decade has a kind of perverse logic that makes it seem inevitable.

Is it practical to pick up the C295 in small numbers as a quick, cheap and risk-free MPA, while also pursuing the A319? Have the C295 to keep the capability ticking over while we bring the A319 into service. Might some of the C295’s more military equipment then be transferable to the A319 during fit out, leaving the smaller aircraft available for refit to a simpler ‘coastguard’ standard for a (civilian operated) domestic SAR service?

February 5, 2014 12:33 pm

@Brian Black Yes a few to coastguard if required but also we could do with the surge capability that we could keep and also keep a tactical airlifter. For instance I’m sure its cheaper to train paras on a 295 than an A400.

@Others I don’t have any problem with 295 ‘stop gap’ being implemented long term if it proves to be capable.

Ace Rimmer
February 5, 2014 2:21 pm

Steve, good point about prop noise, thanks for the heads up, also it reminds of that old adage about the C-130, “They’ve cured the noise problem on the Hercules, they’ve put it all on the inside.”

James Bolivar DiGriz
February 5, 2014 5:20 pm

@Ace Rimmer

That reminds me of the newly qualified doctor on an RAF base who examined someone and thought that the chap had a rare, and hence interesting to the doctor, white fungal growth in his hear.

The newly qualified doctor gets a senior and more experienced colleague to come and look at this. This colleague then asks the patient if he has recently come back from abroad and if so how did he travel.

Upon being told ‘Yes’ and ‘In a C130’ the more experienced doctor got a pair of tweezers and removed the cotton wool from deep in the patient’s ear.


February 5, 2014 5:59 pm

And yet amazingly it’s one of the most comfortable planes to sleep on. No joke.

Ace Rimmer
February 5, 2014 10:01 pm

James, I can remember having to remove a yellow, foam plug from a staff sergeants ear with a pair of snipe nosed pliers from the toolbox, after he’d been working under a Lynx rotor, definitely needs a steady hand!

Observer, true, memories of drifting off in the troop seats (with the ‘other’ ranks), while the officers and their wives were sat in the ‘1st class’ seats (if you can call them that!). Nothing like them and us trooping flights. Also fallen asleep in the back of a Lynx in flight, man I was tired!

The Ginge
February 6, 2014 12:12 am

Guys can we all be a little realistic. The problem is money. The Coast Guard or any other department is not going to give you a penny for long range SAR as the French do this for free nor any other type of work as they try and defend there must do parts of their department. They are not going to give x million to RAF or FAA whilst sacking their own staff. The plus point for doing long range SAR is it’s good training and you’d be burning the fuel anyway so limited extra cost. Puts real world pressure on crews and pilots etc.
The fact is the P8 only works if you buy into US high level/drone/glidding torpedo set up. All with long maintenance tail and costs, plus getting getting the plane at $250m a pop is not it you’ve got all the other equipment as well. Plus finding someway of refueling it. The only reason the Aussie went with it was at the time the only game in town with the range they need and they use boom refueling already.
Secondly the Government is not going to buy either an old 2nd hand P3 and replace wings too similar to nimrod and the P1 has it’s own problems with engines etc.
The more you look at it the C295 makes sense, it can drop by parachute stingrays, can use existing sonar bouy stocks, can be refueled by voyager and if you have $2bn that’s 20 purchased plus another $1bn to upgrade systems to world class asw levels with stuff built and working on nimrod or merlins or intergrate harpoon ir other weapons or overland radar/suveilance. As its all on pallets. That is at least 10 ready to rock and roll at any one time. $2bn gets you eight P8’s with no money for upgrades to sting ray or drones so probably 6 bought and thats only 3 ready to use. Just not enough.
Using c295 also allowes SF to use instead of retaining knackered c130’s all with a decent sized fleet for maintenance/flight training etc.
So C295 I think it is not as a stop gap but as the answer. P8 too expensive, P3 to old, P1 in trouble, airliners don’t like having holes cut in them such as A319 and all the other solutions just too plain difficult to maintain, train, base, provide satelite band width for etc etc.
It boils down to money, end of discussion.
The Ginge.
PS A little of topic but as anybody ever thought why we have never developed a computer controled, airofoil parachute drop system. I can see a rather cheap way to replenish troops without risking helicopters, a computer controlled parachute system should be able to land in the space of chinook takes with no risk to anybody being shot. Chutes and control system rapped up and recovered by a lynx once a week. Darn better than driving there and a c295 could do 10 or 20 drops a day. Thoughts ?

February 6, 2014 12:24 am

@The Ginge

The Americans have a system called Joint Precision Aerial Delivery System (JPADS)


February 6, 2014 2:21 am

David, think the UK uses that too. I know we do.

The Ginge
February 6, 2014 10:07 am

So my next question is to all those who answered (thanks my knowledge improves again) is “does it work ?” ie does it land 90% of the time where you want it so you don’t get shot up retrieving it and the planes don’t get pinged when they do the drops ? Or is it a good idea on paper but in practise drops you ammunition or rations 750m away right on top of the guys you’re fighting ?
I have no idea but I’m sure people on this board do ?
My thought was with the C295 you have a tactical airlifter as well, if you need it, so if another politician famously says we expect not to fire a shot in anger and provides 2 helicopters (I know more were used right from the off in Afganistan but sitting in the UK it looked that way) for the mission we at least have a way of delivering stuff quickly (and not waiting 5yrs for more helicopters to be built) by pulling out the asw kit and using it to do this. Making the c295 option even more useful. Add in some overland radars, communication terminals, targeting terminal pallets etc to provide another use ? As it seems to be the mantra of “multi use” is the game of the day to justify spending money ? And if anybody can come up with a plane that doesn’t mind having holes cut in it, plus can do regular low level to high without stressing the airframe to bits you could even bring down the 50m price tag by buying second hand, but not sure of a candidate. Because unfortunately it’s all about money as I said earlier. Thats all the treasury worries about.
The Ginge
PS :Sorry for the length of reply but I do find the info on here very informative and peoples views very interesting.

February 6, 2014 10:52 am

@The Ginge,
I agree that the C295 would have more utility than the P8, perhaps we need to start truly realising that high end is not always affordable for our armed forces anymore, and in certain environments 80% is good enough. Would it be possible to replace the BAE procured under UOR with the C295 to have an inter theater lift on a common airframe, with the possibility of parachute training and SF support? Yes, but would the light/dark blue go for the C295 (personally I’d guess at no)

The JPADS is not in the same league as precision of a LGB, it is in the region of 50 – 75m so is good for air drops in a field but not for a FOB. It does allow the cargo carrier to stand off and at height though to evade enemy weapon systems.


For a another Afghan type of operation then I think the K – Max unmanned helicopter is what you are looking for (or as a milk run replacement to free up the support helicopters for moving men and casevac)


February 6, 2014 11:14 am

Thanks TD,

Always forward thinking that’s why I like this site :-)

February 6, 2014 11:58 am

This one’s for the kiddies to sucker them into signing up so don’t shoot me over how juvenile it is.


Suspect some footage is even taken from Firefly’s promo vids, but at least it gives an inside look into how the system looks like and some ground control.

Still bloody embarrassing.

February 6, 2014 12:23 pm


‘I agree that the C295 would have more utility than the P8, perhaps we need to start truly realising that high end is not always affordable for our armed forces anymore, and in certain environments 80% is good enough’

My thoughts exactly, P8 sounds lovely but realistically C295 would be good enough and offer a lot of utility in other roles rather than procuring a gold-plated air-frame for one quite narrow role.

February 6, 2014 1:10 pm

@ Challenger,

If we were considering the MPA as a single entity then I’d probably go for the P8, but it will be part of a number of systems,

Sonar 2087, Artisan ( both world class) equipped ships
Astute SSN ( world class )
Wildcat ( world class )
Merlin ( world class )

It’s not as if there is a huge gap in other areas to justify the price of the P8 when a 80% solution is available at a much cheaper cost and also offers more utility in other areas. Personally I think the reason that we don’t go for the 80% option ( when there is a argument to justify it, and the system is part of a whole and not a stand alone asset ) is vanity and conservatism.

James Bolivar DiGriz
February 6, 2014 2:13 pm

Re the idea of an 80% solution (passim).

There is an adage in the software world that to get 80% of the desired function you spend 80% of the budget and then to get the other 20% of the function you spend the other 80% of the budget.

I suspect that this applies in the case of a top-class MPA as well.


All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2014 2:31 pm

Of course when the 80% solution cannot do probably the single most important task that the asset would have is it really an 80% solution?
Several Libya ISTAR missions so not even with a torpedo warhead had to be adapted due to CN295 range and endurance limitations, it offered nothing like the flexibility of the US P3 or Canadian Aurora we had.
Now that is fair enough but please do not try and pretend that a CN295 would offer a suitable platform for Atlantic MPA tasking in support of the deterrent.

February 6, 2014 2:36 pm

@James Bolivar DiGriz,

Sorry mate don’t agree, I don’t think the systems are that much less capable ( someone in the know will put me straight if they are ) The airframe (hardware) is where the biggest compromise is, and there are ways of working around that.

February 6, 2014 2:38 pm


I don’t think any one is arguing that are they? hence the 80%

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2014 2:43 pm

@ David Niven

Is it an 80% solution though if they cannot achieve their most important mission. They would also be limited in terms of deployed support to the fleet. If an MBT cannot kill an enemy MBT but can do everything else is it still an 80% solution?
I think the table that was linked to in one of the previous posts sum up which platform can achieve what and the “short range small MPA” column did not do too well.
Just for once if we were going to buy something as compromised as a CN295 I would like people to admit what it cannot do.

February 6, 2014 2:56 pm


‘Just for once if we were going to buy something as compromised as a CN295 I would like people to admit what it cannot do.’

I couldn’t agree with you more and it’s that type of discussion that gets lost in all the fancy systems and fantasy fleet talk. Now if someone was to give a good reason why something like the P8 is our only option, and that its that important we are willing to sacrifice X ( we all know there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow) then can someone give it.

I will add one more thing to the mix, when things like this come up I always ask my parents and their mates what their opinion is? They are all retired and are in the demographic that always votes and still have some interest in defence issues. Could you explain how you would justify wasting billions on scrapping Nimrod to spend more billions, a few years down the line on it’s replacement?

February 6, 2014 3:12 pm

It’s that long MRA4 shadow again. We’re used to having *the* premier MPA. Even the P-8 is short-legged without boom refuelling…

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2014 3:15 pm

@ David Niven

Nimrod was a hugely troublesome project and was it ever going to work? SDSR 2010 was taken at a time of real economic troubles.

Now if we accept that if we have MPA its 2 primary tasks are support to the deterrent and support to deployed Fleet ops then yes something like P8 can and CN295 cannot. Our allies have taken up a lot of our slack in the former but can they do so indefinitely?
If we decide those 2 roles are not required then we can buy a smaller design.

February 6, 2014 3:26 pm

‘Nimrod was a hugely troublesome project and was it ever going to work?’

If I was to give that as answer then all that would do is open up more questions, why was it allowed to go for so long etc?

‘SDSR 2010 was taken at a time of real economic troubles.’

And now you think we have got more money to waste?

I only ask because we are all interested in defence, so we may argue the finer points but generally we agree that we need to spend money on it. However we live in a defence bubble and the rest of the country does not, so its them that we need to persuade as well.

well I’d say that fleet ops could still not be supported with AAR and aided by other assets of the fleet? The support to the deterrent is a bigger obstacle to overcome. But could we live without not being able to do that one mission?

February 6, 2014 3:56 pm

Why not Marshall’s converting some BAE 146s

February 6, 2014 4:32 pm

Very interesting question on having money to waste. May I indulge in a thought exercise?

SDSR 2010 cuts were as much about exceptionally poor project management as the state of the nations funds.

One form of capital stimulus in the Treasury’s arsenal for economic recovery has been in the realms of defence investment, but instead of investing at the point of SDSR 2010 the government canned projects.

We’re now at a point where the MOD appears to have a balanced book, funded roadmap, a contingency fund, confidence in asking for new-build systems, and an underspend.

In addition the MOD is starting to deliver successful projects and are even able to bring some projects forward, closing capability gaps and reducing cost of delivery. On top of this we have a number of “feel good” industrial breakthroughs in the country of late: Pre-coolers, Car Industry / EV expertise, Taranis, Space Industry, to name only a few headline grabbers alone.

If you view the Government and Treasury as a long term investor with stimulus interests, the MOD is starting to look like a candidate for serious investment with sovereign economic benefits once more.

The simplistic viewpoint being the “For every £1 invested in Project X or Program Y, the country will see £Z returned from associated spin off technology and supporting infrastructure” as a goal.

Maybe this is a time to start feeling optimistic about the future and for us begin thinking in terms of asking for funding for fully capable systems once more?

February 6, 2014 5:11 pm

@The Other Chris

‘If you view the Government and Treasury as a long term investor with stimulus interests’
Are our armed forces large enough and do we buy sufficient quantities of equipment to view the MOD as such, or was that one of the problems? Not knowing what we should produce our selves and what to buy of the shelf?

As I said earlier we are visiting this site because we are interested in defence, the average person on the street see’s the headlines. How do you argue that a P8 equivalent (expensive) would be value for money over the C295 equivalent (cheap)?

Gloomy Northern Boy
February 6, 2014 5:26 pm

@The Other Chris – a very good point – having prepared the Country for current account austerity until 2020 {benefits/services)…and created more jobs in the private sector than those lost in the public sector…and talked a good game on re-balancing the economy…there could be no better task for a bold Chancellor than push on with high-tech manufacturing investment like defence, infrastructure and energy security (green AND fracking).

But he won’t because it is a less certain way to buy votes than tax cuts or benefit increases

Gloomy as always

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2014 5:27 pm

@David Niven

“How do you argue that a P8 equivalent (expensive) would be value for money over the C295 equivalent (cheap)?”

By pointing out that a P8 can do Atlantic ASW in support of the deterent and deploy to support expeditionary operations, can be used for overland ISTAR and do all this with more weapons and sensors than a CN295 can. Also point out the development route of P8 and its future utility in various spheres.
then get a map and point out the areas that the countries that operate CN295 operate in compared to their own country and get a map of the world and show them the areas we do in relation to the UK.
people are not stupid.

February 6, 2014 5:35 pm


‘people are not stupid.’
I never said they were, but the media on the other hand are, and its their headlines that will drive perception. And lets face it the public perception of the MOD when it comes to spending money is not great at the best of times. I just think it’s going to be a hard sell to get people to agree on spending money on P8 after scrapping Nimrod.

dave haine
February 6, 2014 5:36 pm

@ Rec
Range, it always comes down to range…..the UK has the 5th biggest EEZ to cover (thanks to Oscar Zulu for info).
This is why I don’t think C295 is the answer, either.

The coastguard do not operate their own fleet- RVL run them under contract. And even then it’s a bit of a token fleet- a Titan, Caravan 2, Electra and Dakota. The last two are for pollution spraying/ control. Defra have two more Caravan 2 for fisheries work, operated by Directflight.
(Just for contrast, Marine Scotland have two Caravan 2s, as well as three Marine Protection Vessels, and two Marine Research Vessels.

We have a gap in our national security, which so far we’ve got away with, but with a resurgent Russia, China’s stated aim of capability parity with the west, increasing instability in Africa and therefore the atlantic and Med and the prospect of more expeditionary operations, all of which have a maritime dimension. We will need an MPA, sooner rather than later.

The money is there, without taking from other projects, if a sufficiently compelling case can be made. Which means we have to get sufficient utility out of the MPA to demonstrate value.
The Multi-agency approach is one way- the MOD supplies the capability, the other gov’ment agencies buy time or missions from the MOD. From DEFRA, or the Coastguards point of view, the situation will be little different to now, except it’s possible that the service provided will be much enhanced. It may be more efficient for the RAF to operate DEFRA or coastguard tasks as part of a normal patrol mission, and just bill on a time on task basis. The benefit to the RAF will be training, and value added operations.

I think if we went down the palletised mission equipment idea, for instance on a C295, I think we’d end up with the aeroplanes ending up permanently on one or the other task, with I suspect the MPA mission kit ending up at the back of a hanger covered in a large, moth-eaten tarpaulin (or rather, a specifically over-designed, special gold plated, impact proof, dust and water protective covering system).

The other factor we perhaps should be talking about, isn’t so much what platform we use, more what mission kit gets chucked on to it. after all the airframe isn’t the most expensive bit of the deal…that’d be the electrickery and gadgetry that gets bunged on. Maybe there is some mileage in taking a second hand airliner and putting in Airbus Military’s FITS system in with a COTS radar. As another poster pointed out- there are plenty of A319s with 25,000hrs+ left, available (roughly $15m a pop). The A319 is a good one to pick because they’re all plumbed for long-range tanks, and it’s not a major job to install the tanks (they go in the rear of the forward hold). From the information on the airbus military site the weapons bay is simply a question of converting the rear hold.

February 6, 2014 5:37 pm

Quite frankly nightmare rumbling about the deterrent cut very little ice. The deterrent was there in 2010 and the rn said yep fine no problem chop the nimrod. We built at huge cost a uber stealthy ssbn more uber stealthy ssns not to mention world leading asw type 23s and world leading merlin helicopters if they can’t protect the deterrent against an almost non existent russian ssn threat then quite frankly we need a real hard look at what were doing. If the deterrent is priority number 1 then the rn should be assigning units to it before anything else, if the above asw assets can’t provide effect defence to the deterrent then which ones are we giving up to pay the billions required to purchase and run the extremely expensive p8 whose capability is less than the last overspec’d aircraft we attempted to build as an mpa so that it is effectively protected. Because that is the question no one is prepared to answer what goes to pay for it, is it the aircraft carriers, the AWACS fleet, the c17 fleet, the amphibious fleet what?

Or should this been seen as another cost added to the deterrent bill and weighted up if uk defence can continue with a triple gold plated sea borne deterrence or one is it time to go.

We’ve taken up slack in other area for our allies so perhaps its time for our allies to help protect the NATO deterrent because no one else other than Russia is threatening it.

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2014 5:43 pm

@ Mark
We have been round the houses on this and I respect your opinion but strongly disagree with it, as do a lot of pretty senior Officers not all RN by any means. Our Allies have been taking up the slack and if you believe the Russian threat is non existent with the money they are spending, well that is again up to you.
As for what goes, well that is why we have a review in 2015 where we look at priorities and what we are going to spend money on, everything and nothing is on the table :)

Engineer Tom
February 6, 2014 5:48 pm


A couple of thoughts; a C295 can be used for overland ISTAR and expeditionary roles, might need a extra stop along the way.

The whole point is can we afford a high end MPA, a high/low mix or only a low end MPA, I personally favour a high/low mix as it gives us more time to buy the high end MPA and spread costs.

For a low end MPA I see the best option being the C295 as it exists and seems to work as advertised. Any variant of C130 or A400 is just adding to much risk to the issue when compared to C295.

Finally if we go high end, what would we get, and personally I feel that the P8 isn’t the way to go for four reasons; 1) it has some serious issues, 2) as has been said they will cease production in 2019 so will require a immediate commitment, 3) it will be too the US spec and any changes will be hugely expensive, 4) I don’t think it is the best option even if the previous points didn’t exist. I favour the P1 as it is a dedicated MPA airframe, I feel that Japan would be more inclined to do change at a lower cost, and also we wouldn’t be a tiny part of a huge project as if we were dealing with the US. Also a outside chance is Airbus but it would have to be a mature design before we could risk anything on it. (Personally I favour an open competition for the various manufacturers to try and sell us a product rather than us go to them.)

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2014 5:53 pm


I base my assessment of what they can and cannot do on the report to parliament when they were marked as incapable of these tasks.

If we have to go high low my solution would be as TAS suggested a mix of a long range bus jet that has the radar, great optics and a Merlin C2 system combined with a few buoys offering the range and capability we need 95% of the time and a trickle buy of P8 for real ops and when the shit hits the fan?

P1? has its own issues and we have never tried cooperating with Japan, out of production in 5 years for an aircraft not in front line service yet?

dave haine
February 6, 2014 5:54 pm

@ Eng. T

If we set some minimum operational radii and standards, insist on a certain amount of british industrial participation, I think a competition would be a cracking way to go.

I wonder if the russians would put in with a version of the IL38?

February 6, 2014 6:05 pm


That is all very true. But all I will say the recently updated and release of the national security strategy hasn’t really changed since the last sdsr in 2010. With the capabilities currently in use which have no funding post 2015 it will be a very hard sell.

Engineer Tom
February 6, 2014 6:15 pm


Last time I said we should trickle buy a high end, I got told that wasn’t possible as they finish the production run in 2019, not that I was actually talking about P8 specifically, and as it was about the 3rd time someone had insisted on that being an issue I am inclined to believe that is when production (not handover, but rather factory production of the airframe etc.) will end.

And in 30 years (a guess) when the Low end needs replacing then a biz jet might be the route to go as the high end would be in place, but I would rather have, for the intial low end, something that can carry weapons such as C295, I am also thinking in a situation when we have to defend UK waters a dual layer of weapon carrying MPA’s might be handy.

@ DH

One of my pet hates is that we are still stuck in a cold war mentality, both sides are, why can’t we buy Russian weapons. I think in 20-30 years this might start to change, but for now I know there is no hope of Anglo-Russian defence sales.

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2014 6:19 pm


“I am also thinking in a situation when we have to defend UK waters a dual layer of weapon carrying MPA’s might be handy”

If we had to defend UK waters it is a NATO op and who on earth is going to get that close? Surely better to have the range to at least help protect the deterrent and act as part of a team on expeditionary operations?

Engineer Tom
February 6, 2014 6:52 pm


Yes a situation like that was extreme, and hugely unlikely, but I still like the idea of there being a low end backup if the S*** hits the fan.

Red Trousers
February 6, 2014 8:16 pm

After about 7,000 comments, has anyone actually answered the question that “if the MPA capability was deleted in SDSR 2010, by a Joint decision (no matter from where the proposal originated), and there is no new money, and the threat has not changed, why on earth might it suddenly be funded in SDSR 2015?”

Until that metric changes, no new MPA.

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2014 8:40 pm


There is almost definitely new money and seed corn was designed in 2010 to regenerate MPA capability, add that to the fact that our Allies will not cover for us indefinitely and that the feeling is very much we need to regenerate it and yes the metrics have changed.

February 6, 2014 9:05 pm


The seed corn is being provided on American aircraft? Do you think that makes the P8 more likely to be chosen as a replacement?

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2014 9:10 pm

@ David Niven

I believe we have personnel with the Us, Canada, Australia and NZ.

February 6, 2014 9:21 pm

David, yes, because it would mean that YOU won’t have to provide the money for R&D which in turn drives down cost and makes the unit price lower and more attractive, hence making it more attractive for buyers. A C295 frame may be cheaper off the bat, but add in R&D and design costs and you might seriously end up with a near tie in terms of final cost, something to consider. Just because the frame is cheap does not mean the end result is cheap. Shit happens.

Case in point, someone once posted a comparison between the NZDF getting the Ben-my-Chree/Canterbury civilian lift ship vs an all up Endurance LPD and though the Ben was initially cheaper, after the conversion and rectification works, the price difference was somewhere along the lines of the LPD being more expensive by only 13M USD, about a 10% price difference for a serious difference in firepower. It’s the final cost that counts, not the initial.

February 6, 2014 9:41 pm


How was asking if the fact that the seed corn training was being done on American aircraft, that it may sway the procurement decision, loaded or snidey in any way?

John Hartley
February 6, 2014 10:32 pm

RT. If a Russian sub runs aground in the Clyde, or a Mumbai terrorist attack occurs on the streets of Britain, or a cruise liner sinks in the British rescue zone of the Atlantic, would you like to be the Government minister explaining why we thought we did not need an MPA?

February 6, 2014 10:39 pm

I’m probably missing something but, what is the problem with a mixed buy? The RAF could get a small number of P8s and a larger fleet of C295s which they can use as transports or re-role to support the P8s as necessary.

February 6, 2014 11:11 pm

“re-role to support the P8s as necessary”

From where does the worked up crew come? That is the trouble with all this module talk in a lot of cases there will be no crew to man the module. Different perhaps if say the “module” is for a ship and it is bringing an extra one off capability (something electronic say), but that extra capability is piggybacking off a viable platform that can do other work. A C295 sans anything is just a van with wings.

February 6, 2014 11:24 pm

David, wrong person? Didn’t say anything about loaded or snidey, just total cost vs initial frame cost which also stemmed from a misunderstanding of the word seedcorn as in R&D cost as opposed to training cost that was the intended topic.

kernit, 2 systems means double the training and double the simulators and double the manhours etc. It chain reacts down the line, ripple effect.

February 6, 2014 11:48 pm

‘David, yes, because it would mean that YOU won’t have to provide the money for R&D’

My name and the capital letters YOU insinuates that you were a bit narked at the question. I did not misunderstand the term seed corn I know exactly what it means. It was an innocent question about the systems, as I presume the systems on the P8 are different to the C295 systems, so unless we have personnel on a seed corn with countries who operate the C295 system, then naturally we will sway towards the systems we have some knowledge and understanding of the capabilities.

I would not think R & D and design costs would be a factor for us in any airframe that is in production and use.

Red Trousers
February 7, 2014 12:02 am


Yr’r argument still not enough to generate proper money. You need to talk about current threat. I have no idea if the C295 or P8 is the right solution. Or something else.

All I know is that simply proposing an airframe is not the right way to answer the question. Propose a need, then let industry propose a solution.

The airframe is one of the last things to be decided. Including whether it needs to be carrier launched or from airfields.

James Bolivar DiGriz
February 7, 2014 12:20 am

@DavidNiven (at 2:36 pm)

I’m sorry but I don’t understand what you said.

What I was getting at is that you can fully meet some but not all of the requirements (80% of the desired function) by spending a reasonable amount of money (80% of budget) but to fully meet all of the requirements you need to spend a lot more money.

So for an MPA: The C295 is not too expensive but it lacks range. Something else might have the range but lack, say, the load capacity.

The P8 seems to be best overall but that does not cost just a bit more than other options but a lot more.


All Politicians are the Same
February 7, 2014 12:50 am


I am sorry you see I know where you are coming from vis requirements but I also know what the options are out there and their capabilities. there is no magic bullet or weird and wonderful thing out there. Also we can be very guilty of doing too much of what you suggest and end up with no fing platform at all and a bill for a couple of hundred million pound. I have among colleagues already looked at the options. The actual discussions about funding are above my pay grade.

Also the current threat is not relevant it is the threat that you expect to have to counter once the capability is regenerated balanced against how long that takes and and how much more difficult it becomes the longer you leave it.

February 7, 2014 1:07 am

David, you’re reading too much into it. And the seedcorn thing is not on your side, it’s on mine, never had anyone refer to training costs as seedcorn before, to us, it’s a critical item, it’s R&D costs that is speculative.

RT is right in a sense, set out your goals and criteria, then look for a solution, not set an airframe, then look for the goals, which is part of the problem with the US LCS now. They have no idea how to use them. Though in a sense, the Objective/Threshold way of doing analysis does have benefits, set goals and minimums, then see what can meet most of them and discard the outliers.

All Politicians are the Same
February 7, 2014 1:33 am


When I typed enough I actually meant have the metrics changed enough. Not that I had made a point.
I would normally agree with you ref procurement but this would be a planned reactivation of a known capability. We do not need to give industry 50 million so they can tell us an MPA is needed to meet the requirements.

February 7, 2014 7:21 am


“As for what goes, well that is why we have a review in 2015 where we look at priorities and what we are going to spend money on, everything and nothing is on the table :)”

Do you forsee the Russian rearmament program as being sufficient cause in 2015 to change the MOD’s focus. Pre 2010 the UK had a larger defence budget than Russia but the scale of the increase in Russian spending some 44% over 3 years is quite astounding. While I still forsee zero chance of Russia being able to or willing to conduct a land campaign against Europe that does not mean there is a zero chance of Russian naval ops against the UK and or NATO in the North. Russia remains the only nation that could conceivably pose a direct threat to the UK mainland as China is simply too far away.

Its easy to talk about deterrents but we would hardly nuke Russia is for instance it grabbed Rockall or threatened the Faroes.

I still see Russia as a paper tiger and their military spending is likely to be curtailed by falling oil prices but given how long it takes us to regenerate military capability surely SDSR 2015 must take note or Russian spending and ambitions and make at least some contingency to deal with it.

I don’t think Russia was really mentioned in SDSR 2010.

At the very least I think we can expect a continued increase in Russian harassment with over flights and Carrier battle groups showing up of the coast. While air our component to intercept Russian overflights is better than ever with E3 and Typhoon our Naval forces are severely lacking in this regard with few frigates and no MPA.

Continued diplomatic pressure by the UK on Putin for example sponsoring gay rights activists and granting amnesty to Russian dissidents is likely to lead to more Russian provocations in the future and Russian foreign minister comments show the UK as being top on the Russians priority list of countries to try and piss off.

February 7, 2014 7:53 am

martin, that’s a pretty weak reason to do border harassment, assuming that the UK even wants to sponsor gay rights activists. Think people will complain if that happens. Personally, I think the recent Russian cruises are simply them trying to get some blue water training into their new generation of sailors, not for provocation but simply because they have a huge batch of ships nearing completion but totally green sailors, in more ways than one (“Bleah!!!!…” :) ). The UK just happened to be at their doorstep if they wanted to go beyond inland seas.

February 7, 2014 9:31 am
February 7, 2014 9:56 am

Personally I believe the type of aircraft will be decided by who is in the secretary of defence seat at the time. If its Phil then you will have a chance at getting the P8, he is probably the only one who has got the backbone and level headed ability to debate on facts alone. If its someone else then it will be a range of options from a two tier to wholly C295 types.

What was it that was said about the TSR 2? there’s a fourth dimension to an aircraft, politics. I’d be surprised if the opposition got in and went for P8, headlines of ‘wasted billions scrapping British, to spend billions buying American’. I think Labour/Lib Dems would go European.

Ian Hall
April 11, 2014 7:26 am

I think MH370 demonstrates the need for this type of aircraft, given the money spent on the F35 and the 2 carriers as well as the money spent in the A400 and all those helicopters I can see us opting for the C295 or even a SAAB option- but the P8 is beyond the wallet of the UK.