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

As we have seen in the previous posts on future maritime patrol there are some difficult issues to address in defining the need and resultant requirement.

Having considered aircraft at opposite ends of the spectrum it is clear that the differentiator between the two is not the payload but platform. Whether the mission system is from Boeing or Airbus, the radar from Raytheon or Selex and the optics from FLIR or Thales makes not a great deal of difference. They are all mature systems and pretty much available off a shelf somewhere.

In comparison with the expensive big beasts, the Q400/C295/ATR72 are compromised in the payload, altitude, speed and most significantly, endurance/range.

For many nations, this compromised range is perfectly acceptable because their requirements tend to concentrate on maritime security rather than deep ocean anti submarine warfare.

For the UK, this reduced range might be an acceptable compromise but it is certainly harder to swallow as the deterrent protection and expeditionary ASW mission tends to push range and endurance higher up the priority list than for example, Portugal, a user of perhaps the most advanced version of the C295 MPA.

If the range and endurance issue could be resolved in an aircraft platform that is lower cost than the P8/P1/A319 types then there may be a better compromise to be had.

In this post I am going to look at business jet and unmanned aircraft options for future UK maritime patrol.

Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft

Spotting there might be a gap in the market between the full fat P8 and the skimmed milk C295 Boeing have started marketing a business jet solution that takes the mission system from the P8 and packages it into a mid sized business jet, a Bombardier Challenger 605.

As some have noted, Boeing obviously don’t want it to be seen as too much of a competitor to the P8 or they might have used the larger and much longer ranged Global family, the same as used for the RAF’s Sentinel aircraft.

Boeing have been very careful to position the 605 as a maritime surveillance platform, very definitely not a maritime patrol (with its ASW and ASuW implications) aircraft. They see their business jet platform providing a compliment to the P8, not a replacement, able to relieve the more expensive P8 of some of the routine maritime security roles whilst preserving airframe hours for the higher intensity anti submarine warfare.

This is a smart move, a two platform fleet would be able to cover the full span of requirements from the EEZ security and SAR to ASW and ASuW with overland surveillance and supporting ISTAR common to both whilst potentially keeping the costs down due to systems commonality. These cost reduction claims would need careful scrutiny because any savings would have to be measures against the support cost penalty of maintaining two types instead of one. .

In an ideal world therefore, not too shabby a solution.

However, we don’t live in an ideal world so could a business jet solution provide the low cost attraction of a C295 whilst retaining the endurance, range and speed of the P8?

Certainly not with the Challenger but the Challenger is not the only choice.

As currently proposed, it also completely passes the ASW mission by which kind of makes it a non starter for the UK although all the building blocks are there to extend into the ASW mission space.

Embraer EMB 145 MP

The EMB 145 MP is based on the 50 seat mid sized ERJ 145 regional passenger aircraft.

Embraer were not impressed when the Brazilian Air Force awarded the P3 upgrade contract but the P-99 did not exist and no one was prepared to wait. The follow on from the earlier P-99 is the EMB 145 MP, and this is designed to cover the full MPA mission requirement, including ASW.


Joining the usual range of sensors (including the Raytheon SeaVue radar and Star Safire FLIR)and electronic systems are four underwing pylons rated for lightweight torpedoes and other stores.

When I looked at the range for EMB 145 MP and compared it to the C295 there was a difference, but it wasn’t massive, so in a stand up contest between the C295 and EMB-145 the additional versatility of the C295 might win out. It would need a very careful analysis which would also need to examine the sonobuoy capacity and mission system capability.

Mexico has ordered the 145 MP.

Embraer also have AEW and Multi Intel variants that are also well worth a look and in service with a number of nations.

What About Unmanned?

The MoD have publically stated that unmanned options have been considered for the role and discounted.

Although it should be clear that on an aircraft one to one basis, a unmanned system would be very far away, but could unmanned aircraft supplement a smaller fleet of conventional maritime aircraft?

This two tier manned/unmanned solution is not a crazy one if one limits the role of unmanned systems to surveillance.

Indeed, General Atomics have demonstrated their Mariner variant of the in service Reaper.

This entered and lost the  Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) contest but a UK requirement might not need the high specification the BAMS project was shooting for and the performance difference between the Mariner and higher specification RG-4N Global Hawk (the ultimate winner) might not be as marked.

Endurance was increased to a whopping 49 hours and payload described as 1,360kg. The US Customs and Border Protection service also operate a small number of MQ-9 Guardians and there have been some recent announcements about Italian Predators being modified for maritime surveillance. Although no specific announcements have been made there is a wide river chock full of heavy hints that the UK’s Reaper fleet will enter full service so a Guardian variant is not an outlandish option, it simply being an extension of an already in service system.

In addition to delivering against the surveillance element of the maritime patrol mission it is not impossible to foresee one carrying a pair of torpedoes or even a sonobuoy dispenser for operations in concert with other aircraft or even helicopters and surface vessels. Older aircraft such as the S-2 used engine nacelle mounted dispensers and the modern helicopter dispensers are lightweight, the one used for the NH-90 for example, built by MES in Italy, weighs less than 30kg with a 10 buoy capacity. Airdyne in the USA make a number of pods for the Vigilant programme that enhances the capabilities of the C130, included in the range are a number of standard pods but Airdyne make the point that adding others is simple design engineering based on existing and known principles. They have the experience with their SABIR pods and have shown example drawings with sonobuoy ejector tubes.

Muli Mission Pods
Muli Mission Pods

It remains an interesting option for off-board stores carriage and remember, ASW is the least likely to be used across the broad spectrum of mission requirements.

The most difficult problems with operating an unmanned aircraft in this role is that of weather resistance, airspace management and bandwidth availability. These are not trivial problems to address, it would seem the MoD have assessed the challenges and came to the conclusion that they would not be cost effective in solving for the MPA role and it would be hard to disagree.

I do, however, find the combination of ultra long range/endurance unmanned aircraft and a shorter ranged manned aircraft that can carry stores to be an interesting option and worthy of consideration.

A Canadian Option

If unmanned, the Boeing Bombardier 605 or Embraer EMB 145 MP are not compelling, for one reason or another, are there any other possibilities?

The Canadian American Strategic Review have a interesting proposal.

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.casr.ca/ai-boeing-msa-global-express.htm”]

They describe how the Canadian CP-140 Aurora (P3 derivative) life extension will only deliver ten aircraft at a very high cost and with a finite lifespan. The current project to look beyond the CP-140 is called the Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMA) and is considering the usual P8 shaped suspects but has also received a solicitation from Bombardier using their Global Express aircraft, as mentioned above, much larger and capable than the Challenger 605 derived system proposed by Boeing.

Timelines for the CMA are broadly co-terminus with a possible UK MPA, starting work around 2015 with aircraft starting to come into service a decade later. Nothing is certain with major Canadian defence projects and they certainly have their own collection of problems but a UK-Canadian collaboration, with either Boeing or Airbus providing the mission systems holds a certain appeal. There were also some reports that pointed to a Canadian preference for a two tier fleet, an absolute minimum of P8’s with the majority of tasks being carried out by either an Airbus C295 or Bombardier business jet derivative.  The utility of Canadian Auroras over Libya where they provided overland ISTAR in support of naval gunfire support, bomb damage assessment and other tasks will also no doubt be fed into any future programme requirements as will the increasing importance of the high Arctic  Long range and high endurance obviously become key requirements.

Read more about the CMA here

Mark Collins at the always excellent 3DS blog wrote about this issue last year and highlighted a very interesting quote from Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin of the Royal Canadian Air Force;

We’ve had a big, four-engine plane because it needs range, it needs to fly for 12-14 hours, it needs to carry people in the back, it needs to carry torpedoes and all the sensors. Does the replacement also have to be big [and will there be any budget money for such a plane?]? If you look at what is available, you’ve got the Boeing P-8 and Lockheed Martin’s C-130J adapted for maritime operations, but all of these are big airplanes that cost a lot of money. And that puts pressure on the entire air force. What if I could do business differently in 20-30 years? What if I could use a smaller, cheaper airplane to carry just a few people with some equipment in the back, and combine it with a UAV, or even a couple of UAVs, controlled by the mother ship, that would be carrying the torpedoes and the sensors. We can see this coming on our horizon…

This comes back to the unmanned or manned bomb truck idea, still an interesting idea. It also opens up the possibility of operating in tandem for the much less common ASW mission.

There is some smart thinking coming out of Canada in this area.

Coming back to the Global Express, it is already in service with the UK in the guise of the RAF’s Sentinel R1, inserting another variant into the already established support infrastructure should not present too many issues. There was a half hearted suggestion by Raytheon that the Sentinel could be used for maritime surveillance but bending the SAR/GMTI radar to maritime use. Having to accept the lack of electro-optical and weapons carriage relegated that idea to the round filing cabinet but using the basic airframe as a starting point remains a distinct possibility.

Our conversation on previous threads have focussed on the ability of a Global Express platform to carry a usable sonobuoy and torpedo load to a reasonable range with a reasonable endurance.

Starting with a bare bones airframe would certainly provide a base platform for a standard set of radar, electro optical, defensive aids, mission consoles, ESM and associated equipment that would deliver a very long range very high endurance aircraft more than capable of the general ISTAR and surveillance mission.  Simply put, we would be replacing the SAR/GMTI radar and consoles with an EO turret, maritime surveillance radar like the Selex Seaspray or Raytheon Sea Vue, a possible MAD boom and other mission electronics. The DAS would probably remain and the comms fit changed slightly, none of this seems like the proverbial rocket science.

The difficult question is one of releasable stores; sonobuoys, missiles and torpedoes.

Obviously, a Global Express based maritime patrol aircraft is never going to be able to carry the same payload of releasable stores as something like a P8, P1 or A319.

But how much is enough, how much of the downgrade could be addressed by having two aircraft in the air in the very rare situation that dropping more than a couple of torpedoes is required and how much of a performance hit would have to be taken if we loaded the aircraft up to the max?

We should recognise that the Global Express is usually not heavily loaded; luxury seating, a handful of business leaders and a drinks cabinet are generally a lot lighter than military equipment like radars and torpedoes but even with this weight it has a staggeringly huge range. Cutting this in half as a result of heavily loading it will still result in half a staggeringly huge range i.e. still large, certainly much higher than the C295 club.

The CASR site linked above has a couple of interesting suggestion with regards to the carriage of torpedoes, describing how the Sentinel’s under fuselage ‘canoe’ fairing (which has been through all the relevant aerodynamic proving) could be converted to a ‘bomb bay’ for a couple of lightweight torpedoes. If possible, this avoids the aerodynamically inefficient carriage of large stores on underwing pylons.

Electronic and electo-optical payloads are trending to be smaller and lighter it must also be said.

The question is a simple one, would a fully loaded Global Express derived MPA, armed with perhaps a couple of lightweight torpedoes and about 50-60 sonobuoys have the range and endurance of the larger platforms like the P8?

Tough question, not sure, but we do know the RAF’s Sentinel aircraft are pretty heavily loaded and although their performance does take a good hit from the published Global Express figures what remains is still pretty good, reports of 11 hour missions during operations over Libya for example. That would certainly point in the right direction regarding performance.

If speed, range and endurance are in the right area is the reduced load a compromise too far?

I don’t know but also wonder if it could be compensated for by operating in pairs, or using an unmanned or other manned aircraft operate in the stores truck role in these less likely scenarios. More likely are those scenarios that see it operating in a role similar to the CP-140’s over Libya or the French ATL’s over Mali, scenarios where the absolute ASW performance is less important than range, endurance and a good sensor/comms fit.

The suitability of the basic airframe for the low level ASW mission is another uncertainty, what impact would many altitude changes and turns have on overall endurance or airframe wear and tear? We have seen how the 737 base aircraft needed a stronger wing and other reinforcement, would this additional weight further compromise performance?

If the high altitude ASW concepts as being developed by the P-8A are to be adopted, some of the same issues with high altitude weapon release would have to be factored in.

The cost would also have to be considered, the Global Express is definitely not in the bargain aisle to start with, it is unreasonable to expect it to be cheaper than a C295 or similar but if it could come in at half a P8, the performance difference would come in for some very harsh scrutiny. Boeing have stated that the Challenger 605 with all the trimmings would be a third of the price of a P8 about the same as a C295, upscale to a Global Express and I don’t think half the price of a P8 with much less of a compromise than the C295 is something that can be easily dismissed.

A number of questions would remain on the basic suitability of using a Global Express as a cut down P-8A but if this issues can be resolved, it would be a strong challenger (no pun intended)


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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Elm Creek Smith

I have to believe that nother advantage to a Global Express/Sentinel-based MPA is commonality of airframe/logistical support with the Sentinel R1 which is already in use in the RAF. In your post about the P.8, you made the point that purchasing it would add another aircraft type into service and adding all the support infrastructure that entails. A Sentinel solution would at least reduce part of that.

I’ll save my crazy escort-type carrier idea for another time. :D


Global Express with 3 tonnes of payload might give around 5000nm range. The trouble is that they’re supposed to operate at over 12000m which might affect ASW ops.

Density at 12000m is about 0.3 kg/m3.
Density at 2000m is about 1.0 kg/m3.

We’ll therefore need to throttle back at low level. Since it is a square velocity law we’ll have to go 0.55 times the speed so the range will reduce accordingly to around the 2750nm mark and increase slightly because we don’t have to climb to cruise altitude. Perhaps this is good enough?


@Elm Creek Smith – Carrier ideas are never crazy unless they involve flogging them off to South America.

These various options seem to me to carry the highest risk, so I presume they are the least likely.

I still say our chances of getting P8 MPA in 2015 are about as good as my chances with Kate Beckinsale, but would love to be proven wrong.

Kate, the door is always open.


Dassualt has been offering aircraft in this class as well


This is a combo I like other don’t and that discussion need not to be repeated here. Simon be it a p8 or a biz jet they will not be spending much of there sortie at 7000ft given the concept of operations the us navy are looking at.


You touch on an interesting point though. Does the RN sign up the USN high altitude Concept of Ops?

Or do _we_ still think low level ASW is actually the right thing to do?

It could make a big difference to a capability scoring for an ASW-MPA.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

I wonder if they are going to do something similar with sonobuoys which will make them bloody expensive toys, otherwise it is going to be descend, drop buoy lines climb to monitor and be ready for weapon release, no contact, descend to drop more lines, climb again and repeat. How much fuel would actually be saved?
The work round would be to drop far more lines when at lower altitude as you could monitor more at altitude and your torpedo can engage from a far longer range but you risk wasting buoys.
MM ASW thinking mans warfare :)


It would peter. There american it will of course be the expensive option :)

I’m sure apas is familiar with these ideas.




@APATS: why should it be that much more expensive? In an era where every smartphone has accelerometers, a couple of pop out wings and a basic control system won’t add that much to the buoys, and the ability to maintain a large radar/IR search and comms horizon at altitude would seem to be worth the additional cost. If you can drop torpedo’s and sonobuoys from altitude, the glide range may allow not just an increased search area but the ability to prosecute more than one sub at a time. Sounds to me that a step change like that might justify a platform like the P8, no?


APATS, I doubt MPA drop expensive buoy lines at random, any idea what the initial criteria for the decision to drop a string might be? Thermal scar? Periscope’s a no brainer but how do they know if a deep diving sub’s in the area? Especially the cool running silent DE types? No point running at 25,000 feet if it takes you out of the range of your initial detector decision making criteria in the first place.

Anyone has any idea what is the sensor that “pings” the decision to drop sonobuoys? That’s probably your optimum operating altitude, the range of that sensor. Transit altitude is a different story.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

C@ Mark

Cheers, I had not seen those.

Call it years of seeing how much we pay for relatively simple things.

Dependent upon the mission, if you are screening a choke point etc then you would drop buoy lines in any case. Similarly if you were acting in support of a TG, you may well drop lines astern of the TG looking to catch an SSN sprinting to catch or ahead to detect an SSK lying doggo in the path. Otherwise it really is the ASW(C) or AC Commanders shout as they are attempting to localise a contact detected by other means, the threshold to drop or not could be affected by threat, stores level or strength of classification which ranges from POSSUB Low 1 through PROBSUB to CERTSUB(only a visual allows this).
Not helpful I know.


How about a version of the CSeries – I’m sure the Canucks might be interested in some of that

and CASR have done an article on that option too

The Ginge

We have really gone off piste here. After catching up with the comments in part 4 I think as President Clinton once said “ts the economy stupid”. All of the options above have the same problem, they are untried, have a huge R&D budget, development risks and unlimited budget. The C295 and P8 both have one thing going for them. Known costs. The simple fact is the C295 at £50m allowing a bit of development costs for fitting UK specific equpment you get to £75m. Now with the P8 you have at purchase all the extra cost of expensive gliding kits for sonar bouys and torpedoes, depth charges so probably once you factor that in plus uav for mad deployment it’s probably £350m each, with a long unique maintenance tail. And in a nutshell thats the final nail in the cofin of all the sugestions above as even the Global Express option will have very little in common with the sentinal and it can’t go low and slow to drop our stocks of torpedoes and bouys.
So the question is you are going to get £2bn max out of the budget. At £350m that’s 5 or 6 planes at most. At £150m for a conservative element of the other options outlined above you get 12. For the C295 you get 24/26 planes which is a lot of kit. As we seem to get a 50% utilization rate that boils down to 3 p8’s, 6 Business jet and 12/13 C295. Now since we can’t refuel P8’s or any of the business jets it really does start to limit your options especialy with the very limitered numbers of options 1 & 2.
As for the uav options, they are really pie in the sky without new satelites, software, band width and that all works on the premise that a high end adversary doesn’t take out you comms by shotting down the satelite or jamming the signals.
Finaly a c295 option is ready to go by 2018 / 2020 in the air with the same detection gear as p8 as we are lead to beleive the p8 uses systems from the abandoned Nimrod programme which we could retrofit with the extra £25 per airframe. It drops our stores, can carry harpoon and other proposed Euro anti shipping missiles. The most important fact is it’s zero to 10% risk and after Nimrod that matters. And the timeframe fits in with the seedcorn retention of skills.
In my view the only thing c295 doesn’t do is range, but with some extra fuel tanks and refueling there’s no reason it can’t be stretched to do it. Yes it’s slower but you can deploy 2 aircraft to cover the same area and doing it quicker.
The only other left wing suggestion is sliding the c295’s palletted systems in to a BAe146, it’s British, fast (nerly speed of P8) it can be refueled by the RAF. But it raisers the risk factor to 25/30% and I’m not sure the MOD want to go there but at £5m a plane it leaves £70m a plane or £1.5bn to do any development work to hange stores off it. But it is already in the fleet and BAe are desperate to get their old leased planes in the air. Came through with the 2 airfreighter conversions. It gives you 10 / 15 year life span, by which time the uav option might be ready, take men away from the dangerous end.
So pick you’re choice and make a compromise as all of the options have them, the only perfect option was Nimrod MR4 developed for the UK to do what the UK wanted, that’s the problem of buying off the shelf. Ultimately in life costs and maintenance costs are the decider and therefore I would plump for the C295 with the BAe146 if you fancy the risk. Both comming online in 2020.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same


These bus jet are being offered as solutions. You have just managed to more than double the P8 costs to suit your argument. You also ignore the fact that the high altitude capability offer significant advantages and should be pursued regardless of any decision. Your whole argument then fails on flawed assumptions and your made up figures of 5 CN295 for every P8.
To see what the CN295 has been judged to be able to do or not do see the link to the report to parliament in an earlier episode.
As the professionals say “it is about the capability” if it cannot do the job it does not matter how cheap it is. Now CN295 can do a job but it cannot do Deterrent Support or deployed support of the fleet at range or overland ISTAR, it has already been assessed. Now I have no issues with buying it, I have tasked them and seen their limitations, all I ask is that they are acknowledged and we stop pretending we get 5 for 1 P8 which has a unit cost of about £160 million, actually listed as £140 million.

The Ginge

As President Clinton once said “it’s the economy stupid”. You are going to get £2bn max so that’s 6 P8’s, 24 c295 even with upgrades. All of the above items are just too risky, undeveloped and just unable to do the job. Even Global Express isn’t built, it can’t go low and slow or perform turns to drop bouys and torps we have in stock. Let alone the development costs of hanging weapons of it.
At the end of the day the Nimrod MR4 did what we needed as we developed it. But c295 at least uses the weapons and supply chain we have and with 24 of them you can task 2 to cover an area that a p8 might cover. Finaly look at extra fuel tanks which are easier to design and fit than sensors and weapons you get the range you need.
If you want some extra risk stick the lot in a BAe146 on slide in pallets, you get p8 speed, good low and slow stable platform, lifting capacity of c295, plus quite engines and better crew comfort to perform better.
But all have compromises but it’s which ones are acceptable. But you need something in the air by 2020 to take the benefit from seedcorn otherwise your starting from scratch and thats very expensive.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same


India paid £132 million each for its P8s in a confirmed export order, full fat with Indian comms and data links. What are we meant to spend the extra £220 million per airframe on? If you got 2 CN295 per P8 you would be doing well. As for buoys and torps we have in stock, look at the dimensions of a Mk54 and a stingray or maybe we use the same buoys as the US so we can easily alter them as well if we wish? Not sure but you never know ;0

Elm Creek Smith

@The Ginge – Hmm. The US figured out a way to drop a torpedo from a P-8. Seems to be pretty mature technology. Bet they can do the same thing with sonobuoys.

comment image

My comments re: Global Express were pretty-much limited to the maintenance and logistics savings of using an airframe that is already in the system.

Elm Creek Smith

@WiseApe – Kate Beckinsale? I don’t think either of us have as good as chance with her as Timor has of getting P-8A’s and an orbital launch capability. “If the truth hurts, it should.” – Dad

The Ginge

Guys can somebody please explain why the range of a c295 can not clear the choke points for the nucleur subs ? As 1400nm range and 4hrs on station isn’t far enough ? Secondly the point I am trying to get over is can you imagine this conversation between the head of the RAF and RN and David Cameron,
DC “so let me get this right you want to spend $2bn on a new aircraft”
RAF ” Yes sir must do it, most needed”
DC ” and new torpedoes, new uav’s to make them work, new untried glidding kit, new type of plane we don’t fly, new training facility, new training of ground staff, new hangers to house them ?”
RAF” yes sir most needed, best way to do it”
DC ” how much is that going to cost ?”
RAF ” Well we don’t actualy know as we haven’t yet connected a stingray to the US glider kits or we could buy US torpedoes should be £2bn but might be more”
DC ” So we’re back to trying unkown technology and none of it’s made in the UK and it all depends on the inflated prices via US Government Sales ? And the unkown cost is why we cancelled Nimrod and I took a political bath on it !”
RAF ” yes sir but our friends in the USA says we can have it at a good price”
DC ” Same as the emals system I presume”
DC ” I hear that the not so fancy or sexy fast prop plane from EADS can do nearly the same job for 1/2 the price”
RAF ” we’ll not really sir, it can use all our stuff but it’s not so fast or look so good or errr realy fly a long way, oh also we need some new refueling planes as well, some training and extra maintenance for them as well”
DC ” sorry guys I am not spending £2bn of tax payers money in the USA when we’ve managed quite ok for the last 5yrs without it, find a cheaper option and make sure you got a locked in price oh and by the way we are cutting the budget so you now only have £1bn as you’ve dithed on this”

I really can’t see DC buying in to this after the emals debacle and all the flak he copped in marginal seats in scrapping nimrod without the new plane having some uk content, and being “value for money” the days of gold platted kit has gone I’m afraid. Thats what I’m trying to point out, I know p8 probably the best but I just can’t see us getting it past Phil spreadsheet Hammond, let alone the PM, cheap is the new black etc.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

“Guys can somebody please explain why the range of a c295 can not clear the choke points for the nuclear subs ? As 1400nm range and 4hrs on station isn’t far enough ? ”

2 reasons.
1. It is not about clearing choke points it is about the ability to localise and track an SSN that breaches the GIUK gap.
2. An MPA fitted CN295 would be lucky to have a combat radius of 1000 miles with zero time on station.

“and new torpedoes, new uav’s to make them work, new untried glidding kit, new type of plane we don’t fly, new training facility, new training of ground staff, new hangers to house them ?”

Who mentioned new torpedoes, look at the dimensions of a stingray and a Mk54 and the sonobuoys we use. We would need new training facilities and ground staff anyway(we do not fly CN295), hangars is a joke? UAVS?

“So we’re back to trying unkown technology and none of it’s made in the UK and it all depends on the inflated prices via US Government Sales ? And the unkown cost is why we cancelled Nimrod and I took a political bath on it !”

Actually we cancelled Nimrod as it was a disaster and times were tough. This is a project that is approaching front line service and we have a proven export order cost.

” I hear that the not so fancy or sexy fast prop plane from EADS can do nearly the same job for 1/2 the price”
RAF ” we’ll not really sir, it can use all our stuff but it’s not so fast or look so good or errr realy fly a long way, oh also we need some new refueling planes as well, some training and extra maintenance for them as well”

Why do you assume a CN295 could use Uk kit easier than a P8, we do not operate them and most countries that do use, guess what US kit!

The days of getting kit that can either do the job ot not will never go. the difference is the days of admitting it should arrive.

Of course the RAF/RN never said.
” we could get 2 CN295 for the price of 1 P8 but it cannot support the deterrent or deployed fleet ops, offers very limited overland ISTAR capability and offers no room for expansion on the air frame to offer a single cab ISTAR capability. Now that is the truth.

go and look at the operating areas of CN295 MPA in relation to their home bases then look where we operate.


Gringe, when APATS said he tasked them, do you know what it means? Just checking.


“There is some smart thinking coming out of Canada in this area.”

Good grief. Really? I think the opposite. Those guys are crazy. They just can’t stand to buy American. They can’t even use the same bloody names for their aircraft. Their industry policy always seems to come at the expense of the defence budget. We are talking about 10 aircraft yet these guys want to run their own development program that would be sure to run to at least several billion dollars. At least. And as usual, the capability will be late and over budget.

I think it’s crazy for you guys for the same reason.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

4 hours over Dublin, that would be useful for something I am sure. Not less than 150 million based upon? The fact that costs increase as production ramps up? We get worse deals from our main ally than the Indians? We would want MAD kept like the Indians? The exchange rate has got worse?

On a serious note the thinking is possibly 2.5 for 1 but if the 2.5 cannot complete certain missions? As I have said continually the operating areas in relation to their sovereign territory of CN295 is not coincidental.

Elm Creek Smith

While I have no doubt that the C295 is a great, cost-effective aircraft, given the range issue is anyone else remembering the mid-Atlantic gap during World War 2 that was closed by the introduction of Consolidated Liberators acting as very long-range patrol bombers? C295’s are the equivalent of Sunderlands that couldn’t cover the gap. Whatever is picked should be able to fill the “B-24” role.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

‘TD The people with the actual figures say 2.5 to 1. 4 hours at 800 to 1000 NM carrying what?

A mere 800 Nm it is nothing, actually it is longer than the UK, see as someone who has used MPAs I really did not want it in Thurso when I was in Penzance.

No it is about payloads deployed to useful areas by platforms.

It is about both (sighs)

Yes a bus jet is better at getting nothing to the right area than a CN 295 is at getting the right stuff to the wrong area.
A proper MPA gets the right stuff to the right area.


If the C295 can’t cut it with range then its the P3 upgrade for me, with a program with another European country for its replacement in 15 – 20yrs time.


You forgot to mention that the 737 Boeing BUSINESS JET is priced to compete with the Gulfstream G550/650s and Bombardier Global Express – the latter 2 though smaller, they are faster, use less fuel, have greater range and can get into more airfields (ie. weight restrictions).


Interesting that Boeing is selling P8s as a dedicated MPA (“navalized and build from the ground up”); and here we are trying to skimp on capability.

P8 Poseidon interview with James Detwiler from Boeing


With respect to torpedo carrying capacity, I think you should consider more is much, much better and that two weapons is actually quite a risk. With only two weapons, you are assuming that your weapon placement can be timely and accurate, that your tracking of the target is nice and tight and that the weapons you have will not be seduced by countermeasures or defeated by the target manoeuvring. For certain targets, from certain countries in the here and now – that’s fine. But as time goes by and the state-of-the-art in countermeasures gets better (even for pariah states), or you go up against a formidable submarine nation, a couple of weapons becomes an enormous risk filled with unknowns. Submarines – even diesels – can get away from you, you know. You’ll be throwing a weapon at every decent fix you get on one of them. Sometimes you won’t even be that restrained. Look at the number of weapons used in the Falklands. And you will certainly chew through some sonobuoys while you’re at it.

If you are serious about ASW – if you want to win – you have to throw serious resources at the problem. Lots of bouys. Lots of weapons. (And a lot of time on station).


Hmm.. interesting idea, can we fold the sonobuoy dispenser and a depth charge launcher all into one? It would solve the weapon capacity problem pointed out by Mercc and an aircraft launching depth charges isn’t as vulnerable as a ship trying to depth charge a sub. The Russians have been rumoured to be able to guide their latest RBUs, so maybe it would be worth a look to see how they do it. A possible problem would be how to scratch those really deep itches that hide way below the surface. Mini torpedoes with shaped charges? Won’t blow a big hole but poking even a small hole through a sub’s pressure hull is bound to cause heaps of problems for the poor sub.


I seem to remember the cost of Sentinal R1 being somewhere north of a £1 billion for five aircraft so I’m not sure how much of a saving a global express derived MPA would deliver, especially if we start trying to poke holes in it.

I wonder if given all this expense we are not just better off opting for the P8 or SC130 both of which would be much lower risk and more capable and would probably come in at a similar price.

I also can’t see working with Canada as a good idea it would seem to represent more risk than even another European collaboration with a limited scope for orders.


Quick, and probably stupid question. If we are focusing on ASW, what is the difference in capability of going a MPA route vs a combination of ships operating TAS (in active mode) with long ranged UAVs to carry torpedoes to deliver the punch (and conduct surface search)?

Joe B

If they can adapt a c295 between transport and map then what about a400m?


@Repulse: I’m no naval expert, but surely a bunch of unarmed ships banging away with active sonar might invite attack? Aircraft can also deploy rapidly elsewhere, as we are never going to have enough ships to cover the oceans.

Frankly, the other way around makes more sense: have lots of slow, long endurance underwater unmanned vehicles using mostly passive but some active sonar to patrol an area, signalling an aircraft based response force to come and prosecute when you have a good idea where the subs are.

Red Trousers

Martin, the cost of the ASTOR system, of which the Sentinel aircraft are a sub-system, was £850m at contract award. It grew a little bit towards £950m, largely because of about a 50:50 blame share between MoD changing specs post-contract award and cost-overruns within Raytheon (and those largely imposed by the US Government changing its’ mind on ITAR).

Within that total, about £450m was for the aircraft, of which “a lot” was for the radars. Don’t forget there were 8 GCS set ups included, plus a whole load of comms connectivity to a UKUSA 2 eyes environment running at IL5 at Brampton (now Wyton), and part of the money paid for bandwidth increases in Skynet 5.



I had the same idea but using helicopter based shooters rather than UAVs, but I realised later it would never work. A single ship has a crew of about 70, an MPA has 5-7. It would also take a huge number of ships to cover the same patrol area of an MPA. Sure, the MPA just touches and goes, while ships are massively more persistent, but reality is that you don’t need to be persistent, you just need to be fast enough that he can’t slip through your area while you are away before you return, which means that an MPA will cover a lot more area than a group of ships. MPA also brings to the table rapid response, they can react and reinforce an area much faster than a ship.

Loved the idea of a ship based SOSUS line, but unfortunately, as a practical solution, there are better ways of going about it.


Are we required to close the entire GIUK gap from only one location using one aircraft? Its a NATO task to track submarines in the Atlantic after all perhaps we should get other NATO countries to meet us half way.

Martin the sentinel program involved significantly more than just aircraft.

dave haine


Or indeed install a permanent sensor line, with back-up, with appropriate base stations, and call it something like, oh I don’t know….SOSUS?

Sorry Observer, crossed with your comment


Is communication with the deterrent subs also part of the job description of a MPA?
If so, I assume this also drives range requirements.


The thing I am struggling with is what is the comparative detection capability of the MPA versus a ship / SSN with a TAS with a range of 60nm+.

I get the idea that you need something to strike at distance / scan the surface for snorkels and periscopes.

@Observer: A MPA may only have a crew of 7 but think of all the ground crew supporting also.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same


I struggle with your 60nm plus claim because it just is not so. 2087 in active is good but not that good and you have to be going slow so you cover little ground. An MPA can drop 3 lines of 10 active buoys dispersed and monitor them all.
it is about combinations, in support of a TG it can localise and prosecute a detection by a TAS and let the escorts proceed with their passage. it can drop ahead looking for SSKs or astern for a trailing SSN or at choke points. Response time to support at range is unrivaled.


Repulse, I severely doubt you would need 60 people to service one aircraft, which is the number needed to match one of OUR ship crew numbers, and IIRC, we run so heavily into automation that our crewing numbers are half of yours. That would mean you would need 120 ground crew to service one aircraft just to break even in numbers.

dave haine

I think the ratio is about 10 ground staff to 1 aircrew. That includes station staff.


@dave haine: SOSUS indeed. Just a tad vulnerable to interference. I was thinking of some improved versions of this



Hmm… interesting. What happens if it hits a 1.5 mile per hour current?


Firstly I have a Yankee plane spotters dead tree magazine with an article stating the P8 surpassed all USN requirements for low speed and low altitude handling and manoeuvring, so it can go low to drop buoys and tin fish without expensive (?) GPS / INS wing kits BUT the P8’s range and endurance is not good compared to late model P3’s it is replacing so the USN interest in “high altitude” ASW is mostly to eek the greatest endurance out of the platform.

Would funding R & D of a IFR probe mitigate range and endurance issues in RAF us, allowing more time spent at low altitude ?

Also, APATS I know your a practitioner and thus more knowledgeable than I, but for strategic deterrent support, what is the threat ? Russian and / or Chinese (???) SSN ? Or do French and USN assets try to track our Bombers ? I doubt it, especially as they appear to be so stealthy a RN and French one managed to literally bump into each other I the middle of no where……

So is not a C295 with 4 Stingray and 4 hours 200nm working with a T23 and Merlin’s good enough to sanitize the lanes between Faslane and the deep ocean ? In this situation is it really not better than having nothing at all ??? Plus, would it really be high risk to fit the C295 with an IFR ??? (Yes no need to remind me of the AirTanker debacle, but “technically” we could nix that if we wanted and stand up the capability on our A400M.

If we acknowledge the point of TD’s original article is that since 1945, ASW aircraft have spent very little time doing ASW to the point of dropping live ordnance on enemy subs, and so some multi-role capability is a good idea, should we not re-examine the utility of converting our C130J into a Sea Herc with an overland armed ISR (Harvest Hawk) type capability for future “limited” operations like those in Africa ? If the mission system can be palletised Ro-ro then they would also remain available to supplement the A400M fleet in transport tasking.

Someone mentioned a budget figure of 2 billion pounds in the thread above. Not sure where that came from, but for 2 billion could we convert all the short body Hercs and buy a few more A400M from the Euro nations who would like to reduce their purchases ?


U-40 also looks interesting: http://www.janes.com/article/30465/dubai-airshow-2013-adcom-unveils-global-yabhon-ucav. Taking APATS expert input, these can carry 24 sonar bouys and is even being touted as a possible P8 alternative.

Don Glascock

Dassault Falcon jets? Viable?