Future UK Maritime Patrol

Almost immediately after the cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 was announced in the SDSR there were persistent rumours of a reinstatement of the capability at some point in the future. What that ‘point’ would be depended on what newspaper you were reading but the suggestion of anything substantial would have to wait until a suitable period after the cancellation of MRA4.

The MoD had just wasted somewhere south of £4 billion on MRA4 and we should note that at this point, the final costs of cancellation have not yet been announced. So, public discussion of a replacement was therefore about as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool but time has passed and almost everyone agrees that for a nation with a long coastline, extensive search and rescue obligations, a submarine based nuclear deterrent and an expeditionary capability that forms the likely core of any future military strategy it is a capability that is not a luxury.

After the usual collection of leaks and rumours, this was confirmed in a number of Defence Committee evidence sessions and subsequently the RAF’s Seedcorn Initiative was revealed in a November 2011 Parliamentary answer;

Angus Robertson (Moray, Scottish National Party)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) how many personnel are taking part in the Seedcorn initiative; what the location is of each; and with what equipment they are training;

(2) what capabilities are being maintained through the Seedcorn initiative;

(3) what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of the Seedcorn initiative in each of the next five years.

Gerald Howarth (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (International Security Strategy), Defence; Aldershot, Conservative)

The Seedcorn initiative will sustain the Ministry of Defence (MOD)’s capability to operate high level fixed-wing Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and maintain the associated skills of its personnel. Qualified RAF aircrew will be on exchange with a variety of Allied MPA forces, where they will maintain their anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, long-range search and rescue, and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) skills.

The estimated cost of the initiative on average is £2.4 million per year for the next five years; this includes salary and allowances.

Retaining skills and MPA knowledge is vital if the United Kingdom is to be in a position to regenerate our own MPA capability at some point in the future.

The number and location of personnel and equipment to be used is as follows:

Location, Aircraft, Number of personnel

Canada, Royal Canadian Air Force Greenwood, CP-140 Aurora, 7

New Zealand, Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Whenuapai, P-3K Orion/P-3K2 Orion, 5

Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Ohakea, Beech King Air B200, 1

Australia, Royal Australian Air Force Base Edinburgh, AP-3C Orion, 4

United States, Naval Air Station Norfolk, Non-flying appointment related to maritime operational staff duties, 1

Naval Air Station Patuxent River, P3C Orion, 2

Additionally, discussions are ongoing with the US Navy on an exchange initiative for fully qualified RAF aircrew to support the US P-8A Poseidon programme.

A total of 33 personnel are serving overseas

So personnel have been cast to the four corners of the world to maintain their varied skillsets, again, another sign, if any were needed, that the maritime patrol capability gap was a temporary one. I think it is apparent that the Seedcorn initiative has a limited life span, there is little point in it if we have no intention of regenerating the capability.

At a cost of £12m for a 5 year programme it has a significant cost, more when one includes other associated costs such as allowances and travel, not included in the answer above.

With the early withdrawal of the MR2 and focus on overland operations prior to that it is debatable how much realistic ASW and ASuW training had been carried out anyway and with Seedcorn, given the dispositions, again, how many of these perishable skills will be maintained?

Whatever the answer to these questions, in March this year another Parliamentary Answer revealed the following

Mrs Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 22 March 2011, Official Report, column 947W, on military aircraft, when he expects to publish the findings of the capability investigation on maritime surveillance capability; and if he will make a statement. [92528]

1 Feb 2012 : Column 654W

Peter Luff: The Ministry of Defence has completed its capability investigation into its long term requirements for maritime surveillance capability, but I am withholding the information as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

In February this year the Commons Select Committee for Defence announced they would be holding a session on just the subject, Future Maritime Surveillance

Despite the delaying and facing saving ‘it’s secret’ position from a few months ago it has been reported that an announcement will be made this month, maybe another one of those ghost announcements that never seem to happen but who knows!

So what of the requirement?

Missions and Requirements

It is a diverse bunch.


At extreme distances the Nimrod provided top cover for vessels in distress and could drop lifesaving equipment as needed.

The UK has a very clear international obligation in this regard and is coordinated by the Department of Transport. A very good document that details in some depth the UK Search and Rescue framework can be found here.

The key functions of UK SAR are to co-ordinate:

a) Maritime SAR in offshore, inshore and shoreline areas

b) Aeronautical SAR over land and sea

c) Inland SAR

Across the area in the diagram below, covering 1.25 million square nautical miles of sea and over 10.5 thousand nautical miles of coastline

UK SAR Region Map
UK SAR Region Map

With the collapse of the UK SAR PFI in 2011 the SAR PFI in February 2011, in which the Soteria consortium were named as the preferred bidder, an interim or gap contract was placed with CHC and Bristow Helicopters.

The Department for Transport today, Wednesday 8th February 2012, announced that Bristow Helicopters Limited has won the contract to provide Search and Rescue (SAR) services in the north of Scotland.

Bristow will provide SAR services starting July 2013, using Sikorsky S-92 helicopters based in Stornoway and Sumburgh. Operations under the contract are expected to run for four years, until the long-term future provision of such services are secured.

Bristow Helicopters are also part of the FB Heliservices joint venture with Cobham that provides helicopter training to the MoD via the Defence Helicopter Flying School, the contract was extended for another 4 years only last month, a brochure can be read here.

The Soteria website is no longer maintained and the long term future of UK helicopter SAR still in some doubt but current plans still indicate some sort of public private partnership is preferred, the interim contract runs until 2015, conveniently co-terminus with the next SDSR.

We have been relying on a combination of C130, E3, the French and crossing our fingers to provide long range SAR cover out to 30W but comparing the number of long range missions that were carried out before the MR2 was withdrawn and recently using the C130/E3 combination it would seem that the Atlantic has miraculously become a much safer place.

Police helicopters and to some degree the various Air Ambulance aircraft also have some limited part to play in the search and rescue matrix.


The UK offshore environment is a very complex subject, informed by a number of national and international laws and conventions. Broadly speaking it is divided into 4 areas, internal waters, territorial sea, EEZ and continental shelf.

Other states have many rights within this area such as innocent passage and in some regards the UK has relatively little legislative jurisdiction, fishing for example. A number of international conventions also complicate matters, the OSPAR Convention on waste dumping for example.


Devolution of power to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales also contribute to the patchwork of legislation that governs the UK EEZ.

British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies that are not part of the EU, such as the South Atlantic, also have EEZ’s. Combined, the UK has an enormous EEZ, the fifth largest in the world at over 6.8 million square kilometres.

UK Territorial Waters
UK Territorial Waters

Beyond the obvious fisheries protection and pollution monitoring role there is also a more security focussed need for protection of offshore infrastructure such as oil and gas rigs.

Smuggling interdiction, general policing support and other counter terrorism roles complete this broad section and in some circumstances, these might take place some distance from the UK, anti-piracy for example.


The Nimrod MRA4 had a very capable ESM system and the MR2 at one point in Afghanistan was one of the few platforms able to provide full motion video to ground forces. A maritime patrol aircraft can provide a wide range of sensors and the crew to analyse and disseminate useful intelligence to other elements of any joint force. Their long endurance and ability to operate in non-segregated airspace provides a valuable persistent capability.

Radar, passive electronic detection, electro optical and sonar technologies are often combined onto a single aircraft.

This is a general requirement that supports the others.


There are a number of pure military tasks that might be carried out by a maritime patrol function, namely anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare either in support of an expeditionary force or to protect the UK’s national deterrent.

The current threat levels to the SSBN force could be argued to be relatively low and this might have been instrumental in the risk based decision to cancel MRA4. We cannot be certain the threat will remain at the current nuisance levels. In an expeditionary context the rapid advance and proliferation of both quite air breathing submarines and a number of associated technologies mean that submarines will likely comprise a much larger threat in the future. If we are to retain freedom of movement the threat of enemy submarines must be taken seriously.

Modern submarines are very difficult to find and destroy and there is increasing use of improvised and mini submarines that should give naval planners reason for concern.

Operating as part of a complex system of systems, a maritime patrol aircraft would provide outer layer protection.

Anti-surface warfare seems to have almost gone out of fashion in recent times but it remains a valid role.

The basic military requirement is to detect, classify, deter and if necessary, destroy enemy submarines and surface vessels.

It is these roles that differentiate the military from the security and safety and pushes costs up.


Unlike some military capabilities there is a veritable menagerie of interested parties, the MoD, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, DEFRA, devolved administrations, EU, various police services and agencies, security services and the UK Border Agency amongst others.

Also to be taken into consideration is the UK’s increasing cooperation with France, India, Brazil, the USA and Japan, whilst not direct stakeholders they all have a direct or indirect interest.

The UK has recently established a single National Maritime Information Centre at Northwood as a single point of contact and information fusion, analysis and dissemination but without a range of assets it is difficult to see its potential maximised.

It is a broad picture made more complicated by the similarly broad span of requirements.

The Span of Requirements Problem

There is a paradox at work here, on the one hand search and rescue is not necessarily a military task and given the MoD is about to (again) outsource the search and rescue helicopter capability to a civilian organisation the MoD would agree, but, a long range military ASW/ASUW patrol aircraft is well suited to the SAR role.

The problem with those ‘do everything’ military aircraft is they are eye wateringly expensive.

For those expecting a P8 Poseidon in UK service, can we reasonably expect them to be providing top cover for a stricken racing yacht whilst carrying an expensive ASW sensor set, weapons and crew?

This is not a new problem, it is one we face across any number of domains but the trend would seem to me at least to be moving away from one size fits all and outsourcing or civilianising where we can sensibly do so.

Maritime patrol is one of those areas where I think we can do likewise so the fisheries protection, maritime security, EEZ protection and Search and Rescue functions can be discharged by a non-military aircraft, thus preserving the high end roles of anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare for specialist aircraft, in smaller numbers.


The diagram above, from an earlier series on a possible RN vessel design, shows the span of requirements and it is applicable to this area as well.

As we ascend the ‘fightiness’ ladder things inevitably get more complex and expensive but we might argue that the majority of time is spent at the lower rungs, safety and security rather than combat.

Issues and Predictions

We have to be careful about being too specific equipment centric when looking at options, instead of fixating on a like for like Nimrod replacement could a mix of equipment offer more for less?

Questions about the contrast between buying off the shelf or collaborating with our new special friends such as France have to be addressed.

The span of requirements and varied stakeholders complicates matters greatly and the issue of cost cannot be ignored either, in fact, it is central to any solution.

The conventional approach would be simply to buy a dozen P8 Poseidon’s from the USA or enter into a collaboration with France and one or two other EU partners to develop something based on the A320 family (even though Airbus Military no longer list the A319 MPA on their website) to replace the Atlantique and P3’s currently in service.

Buying the P8 would be the quickest option and at least mean that the Seedcorn money was not wasted, going down the Airbus development route means a long period during which the UK would have very little or no capability and those involved with Seedcorn would have likely left the RAF, the money therefore being wasted.

Buying surplus Atlantique’s and operating a joint capability with France does have a certain appeal but this should be seen as having a limited lifespan, perhaps providing a breathing space for a longer term development.

So if we are to have a capability within a meaningful time frame and a more or less like for like replacement for Nimrod then the P8 Poseidon is the only practical alternative.

If we look into the future it can be seen that eventually, the E3 Sentry will need replacing and whatever comes after Rivet Joint likewise. The US would obviously look at the Boeing 737 as the donor airframe for these, after the P8 Poseidon. The Royal Australian Air Force have now bought into service the Wedgetail AWACS aircraft. What might put the brakes on the UK eying these large ISTAR aircraft projects is the European dimension and our investment in the A330 for the FSTA programme.

From a commonality perspective it would make sense to stay with Airbus for these longer term projects. Even if the A330 is not used as the donor airframe for a maritime patrol or AWAC’s because it could be argued that it is too large, the training and logistics benefits of using the same family of aircraft would be immense.

An MPA, AWACS and ELINT development of an Airbus airframe would necessarily require significant development effort and expenditure but much of this would remain within the EU and UK, delivering a range of industrial benefits and making sure that there remains a viable European alternative to US products, at least in this sector.

Surrendering the market to Boeing is the simple alternative.

For the UK it would seem we are yet again in a difficult place, the sensible military option is to stay with Mr Boeing for MPA, future AWACS and future ELINT but there are powerful industrial and political influences that would point the order book to Airbus.

A simple case of deciding!

This assumes that the ‘answer’ is a simple one for one replacement with no change in the stakeholder mix or span of requirements, there are other options.

I do not think we can have £120m military aircraft using up valuable and finite airframe hours on EEZ protection or search and rescue tasks. With the outsourcing of helicopter SAR the MoD would seem to think along similar lines so the requirement should therefore be split.

The complex patchwork of agencies and other stakeholders is long overdue for rationalisation but there is little political appetite for this and we are therefore unlikely to see the emergence of a coherent national agency with sole responsibility for matters of offshore security and safety.

Perhaps the answer that will emerge is a military capability built around a small scale purchase of P8’s and the other capability areas being met by an extension of the Rotary SAR contract; that would certainly be my favoured option.

Other potential solutions include a hi-lo mix, the P8 with a larger number of twin turboprops like the Airbus Military C295MPA for example and even UAV’s and Lighter Than Air aircraft options may emerge.

Raytheon have suggested the Sentinel may also provide a useful surface search capability; the speed and extreme range of the Sentinel would certainly be useful in the SAR top cover role but these would seem like a case of straw clutching to stave off the announced withdrawal of Sentinel, however much it seems like this will actually not now happen. The French use the Falcon 50 in this role and the US Coastguard operate the Falcon 20, called the Guardian. Incidentally, the USCG also operates the CN235A, called the Ocean Sentry.

Given the risk aversion and severe cost pressures within the MoD I think a short term purchase of the C235MPA/C295MPA with the longer ranged and more capable P8 scheduled for the medium term aspiration has a good chance of becoming reality. The UK/French Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV collaborative programme may also incorporate some of the MPA tasks and participation in some form of EU wide sharing should never be ruled out either.

Some might think the C295/235 is a big step down from MRA4 and they would be correct, but in these financially difficult times it would keep the capability relatively current, provide transit protection for the Vanguard SSBN’s, relieve pressure on other ASW capabilities and provide an economic SAR service.

The problem with the slower turboprop aircraft at long range is transit time, when responding to, for example, a ship in distress, speed counts. On the longer endurance and continual missions where an enduring presence is needed at distance, lower transit speeds mean a greater number of aircraft and crew. Turbo props are cheaper to operate so those costs may be balanced out, as ever, careful examination of the numbers would be required.

But it is a mature and immediately available solution and if seen as a stop gap until a small purchase of P8’s could be made then would it be such a bad decision, better a modest capability that is fully supported and can be built upon than no capability.

There are many conflicting requirements with the maritime patrol and many options to deliver against the requirement, some requiring thought beyond simple equipment choices; that said, equipment would form the basis of any capability delivery.

Equipment options

In order to provide some basis for discussion the equipment below might be considered as part of a layered maritime patrol capability, both military and civilian, offshore and inshore, short and long range.

They are loosely ordered on cost and complexity, some suitable for the complete spectrum of operations, some only for the safety and security roles.



Coming into service with the US, Indian and probably Australian forces this is perhaps the only sensible alternative to the MRA4 with an equally troublesome development history, several compromises and in a number regards, possessing inferior performance but it really is the only game in town if we want an off the shelf all singing all dancing long range maritime patrol aircraft. There is little point bemoaning what could have or should have been with the MRA4, whether the MRA4 might have been better than the P8A (I think it would have though), comparing it to the P3 Orion or reflecting on the loss of £4b.

P8A Poseidon
P-8A Poseidon
Boeing P-8A Poseidon
Boeing P-8A Poseidon

Based on the 737-800 fuselage and 737-900 wing it is a heavily modified and strengthened aircraft with a whole host of the latest and greatest sensors, communications equipment and weapons.

The main advantage of the P8 for the UK, despite probably having to modify certain systems to accommodate national priorities, is the ability to tap into the large development, maintenance and support infrastructure that comes from volumes.

Initial Operating Capability for the US Navy P8A’s is 2013.

The P8 is designed to work in tandem with the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV but it is unlikely the UK would purchase any of these, maybe some integration with Watchkeeper and Telemos would be able to extend the functionality. The Indian versions will come with a Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) that is not present on the US version

The point of the P8 is that it is multi mission but if we consider its roots and the mission focus of the USN and USGC it is very much a military system, the US version of the P8 for example, does not have any provision for SAR equipment.

One of the problems that will prove rather thorny is in-flight refuelling, unrefuelled, the P8 can transit for 1200 miles, remain on station for 4 hours and return. This is much less than the MRA4 and even the P3 although it will be quicker than the latter, in-flight refuelling might therefore be considered something high on the optional extras list. Although the US version does not have an in-flight refuelling capability the base design is equipped with something called the Universal Air Refuelable Receptacle Slipway (UARSSI) that can take fuel from a boom.

Ah, bit of a problem there.

Given that we opted to go for the stripped down baseline spec for the FSTA, unlike Australia and other customers, it will not be fitted with a boom refuelling system. We will therefore have to modify the FSTA aircraft, modify the P8 or say, oh look, we didn’t need it after all.

Suspect it will be the latter.

Another issue is that of weapons and sensor integration, in order to reduce airframe stress and fuel burn, and of course, to compensate for the simple fact that 737’s are not designed for low altitude tight turn flying, the concept of operations developed means that anti-submarine detection, classification and attack is carried out at a medium altitude (hence the omission of a MAD detector which is only of use at low levels and to save weight). To support this, the US has developed a wing kit for the Mk 54 lightweight torpedo, called the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapons Concept (HAAWC) that might also be developed to allow a sonobouy pattern to be deployed from higher altitudes.

The US Navy has also contracted Boeing to develop an air launched UAV that will carry a MAD sensor. The UAV will be based on the Boeing/Insitu Scan Eagle, called the MagEagle Compressed Carriage (MECC) and carried in the bomb bay or wing pylons with recovery by surface vessel or on land. It is an interesting and neat concept, but we don’t use the Scan Eagle.

A lot of work has gone into compensating for the lack of low level capability, or to provide a stand-off distance for the aircraft, depending on how cynical you are.

The UK does not use the Mk54 torpedo, but the Stingray, therefore, if we are to adopt the same concept of operations we will either have to create such a wing kit for it, or swap to the Mk54.

If we want to integrate other weapons such as Storm Shadow or Brimstone for example, then that would be an additional cost.

The Thales Searchwater 2000MR radar from the MRA4 may be possible to transfer although how this would compare to the Raytheon AN/APY 10 radar fitted to the P8 and cost differentials is uncertain. In addition to the usual collection of HF/VHF/UHF radios, satellite connectivity and Link 16 it will have the Common Data Link system.

The sticker price for the initial Indian P8I buy is $2.1 billion for 8, roughly $260 million each inclusive of initial logistics and support. As ever, these headline process should come with a health warning and extrapolating that figure to a UK purchase price would be fraught with uncertainty, it does provide a useful rough guideline though, £160 million.

So it should be obvious that because the concept of operations with the P8 is different and it has a range of integrated and complimentary systems just buying the aircraft might not be enough.


Still very much at the PowerPoint stage and not a great deal has been heard about it for some time.

Airbus was attempting to keep the risk low by using its FITS mission system which is already in use on other aircraft. The A319 would be very capable with extra fuel tanks for long endurance, an 8 weapon station bomb bay plus four underwing hard points but at the recent select committee investigation Airbus Military did not even mention it in their written submission, sniffing the obvious mood they instead espoused the off the shelf benefits of the C295/235 MPA.

A319 MPA - Airbus
A319 MPA – Airbus


An interesting outside bet would be the Japanese Kawasaki P1, their indigenous MPA.

Click here for more information.


French forces operate 22 Atlantic 2 from a 27 aircraft group which might be considered comparable to the Orion (although many would argue not) and operating a joint pool with the French might not be an altogether bad idea.

Breguet Atlantic
Breguet Atlantic

There was some discussion in 2010 of an upgrade to the Atlantic 2’s, including integrating the Thales Ocean Master system, to take the out of service date to post 2030, I think 22 of the 27 will be upgraded. The upgraded ATL2’s are due in service in 2015.

They were also due to be augmented with a long range maritime surveillance platform known as AVion de Surveillance et d’Intervention MARitime (AVISMAR), likely based on a Dassault Falcon 2000.

The turbo prop MPA and ultra-long range business jet derived surveillance combination is an interesting take on delivering against the requirement. 


A number of nations have taken delivery of surplus P3’s and contracted for upgrades.

In 2003, the Germans obtained 8 surplus Dutch P3’s for 271 million Euros, Brazil obtained 12 ex USN Orions for not a great deal and in 2005 contracted with Airbus for a comprehensive upgrade package valued at 320 million Euros.

This would be a realistic option, many airframes are available, but unlikely to be considered for a number of reasons.


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. For the MPA version changes made from the baseline transport design includes the installation of the fully integrated tactical system mission suite (FITS) configured with four onboard operator stations, sonobuoy dispenser equipment, magnetic anomaly detector boom, defensive systems, 6 under wing hard points and a FLIR sensor turret.

The FITS mission system is mature and extremely capable, including search radar, electro-optic / infrared sensors (EO/IR), electronic support measures (ESM) / an electronic intelligence system (ELINT), COMINT, a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), an IFF interrogator, a SATCOM, a datalink and a Link-11. Endurance is reportedly 11 hours or 6 hours on station at 200nm range.

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.

The basic aircraft might have lost out to the C27 in a number of tactical airlifter competitions with the smallest tactical airlifter due to be in service with the UK being the A400, I have thought for some time that there exists a requirement for something smaller and why not the C235/C295?

It can carry 5 463L pallets or up to 71 personnel, plus it comes with this rather snazzy pallet loading system.

The C235/C295 is a mature aircraft family and Airbus military have recognised when they are on to a good thing and have an interesting development roadmap including the AEW version in the video below;

And even a gunship version

C295 Gunship
C295 Gunship

The C295 is no Poseidon but what if we can’t afford the latter, the flexibility and reasonable capabilities on offer from the C295 at a rough cost of £50m each would seem to be just about right, maybe with a small number of ultra-long range SARbusiness jet derivatives to provide outer edge surveillance and top cover.


More or less in the same class as the C295 MPA is the ATR72 ASW which is a more combat oriented derivative of Alenia’s ATR72 maritime patrol aircraft, itself a stretched version of the AT42. The launch customer was Turkey and Italy has also started to purchase them in small numbers.

Endurance is comparable with the C295MPA, 7 hours at 200nm and is equipped with a rotary sonobuoy launcher, magnetic anomaly detector, defensive system, weapon hard points and a full range of sensors and mission equipment. Although they can be converted to carry cargo there is no rear cargo ramp like the C295 which makes them slightly less versatile but the reported cost of the 10 to Turkey was 260 million Euros.


Equipped with a full suite of sensors, mission and weapons systems the Saab 2000 MPA is in the same category as the C295MPA and ATR72 ASW.


Renamed from the P99, the EMB 145 MP fits neatly within the other EMB145 special mission aircraft including the AEW and Multi Intel

Instead of turboprops it is based on the turbofan powered ERJ 145 so this delivers greater transit speeds.

The EMB145 ISR family provides a neat solution for a range of requirements without trying to create a single aircraft that does everything.


The Bombardier Q Series Multi Mission Aircraft (it has its own web site) has been adopted by a number of users and the Q400 has a speed of 360 knots, longer fuselage and longer range.


Teaming up with Elta, Bombardier are offering the Q400 MPA variant equipped with EL/M-2022A maritime search radar, Electronic Support Measures and MOSP type electro-optical sensor, and, additional communications intelligence COMINT array. The aircraft also mounts a side-mounted gun pod, aft-mounted countermeasures dispensers and side-mounted containers which could carry various stores, for search and rescue missions or other tasks.


If the Sentinel is being withdrawn then the airframes could be repurposed by removing the radar housing and replacing it with a Searchwater 2000 type radar and electro optical turret.

High transit speeds, altitude and endurance would allow the aircraft to provide outer edge SAR top cover and the sensors, combined with excellent communications equipment could provide benefits in other mission areas.

The logistics system is already in place, the airframes are paid for and if conversion costs were contained then out could provide one part of the maritime patrol jigsaw, although obviously not ASW or ASuW.

Air droppable survival equipment could be door launched for example, there are a number of such equipments available from Airborne Systems and Life Support International

A good overview of the Airborne Systems equipment can be found here


As we move down the fightiness ladder there are many options if search and rescue and maritime security patrolling are the main requirements.

An aircraft with a very long track record the 415 MPA from Bombardier is a versatile aircraft and can be configured to carry a specially designed jet boat (see the video) for sea rescues and able to operate in Sea State 3 conditions.


The Tecnam Multi Mission Aircraft might be on the small side with a modest payload of just less than 150kg but capital and operating costs would be very low, it is claimed they have the lowest operating costs of any similar aircraft.


The UK Coastguard, Manchester Police already and MoD already operate the Defender in one form or another so introduction would not be difficult but whilst cost is very low, performance is not exceptional for the role, perhaps too short legged.


We already operate the King Air 350 for training and in the guise of the Shadow, using a maritime patrol variant would not unduly stress the logistics system.

King Air 350 MPA
King Air 350 MPA

Costs are a variable with a wide variety of equipment and support options but performance is good, especially endurance and speed.


Viking of Canada recently resurrected production of the venerable DHC Twin Otter and have been getting some serious orders from customers as diverse as the Vietnamese Navy and Zimex Aviation in Switzerland.

Viking Twin Otter Guardian
Viking Twin Otter Guardian


There is no doubt that we cannot afford to gap this capability indefinitely but there are a wide variety of solutions available, not all of them obvious, and many influencing factors that serve to make any decisions complex.

Who fancies what then?




If anyone is reading this after clicking from a PPRUNE thread on the Airbus A400M as a Maritime Aircraft, you might like this


Or maybe not!

And these on the FSTA PFI






Some older Think Defence posts on Nimrod and MPA








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April 9, 2012 10:50 pm

Well a very gd over view of capabilities. The us has mentioned going biz jet based for its future jstars requirements as Crew ext are getting smaller the p8 and wedge tail are now between 5-10 people. So the future here I think is less clear cut sentry will be here for some time.

I think the a319 mpa has disappeared because there is no capacity to deliver it. It would have to come off the a320 series production line and there maxed out a 42 a/c per month till 2020 at the earliest.

For me cn295 offers the best choice for the reasons you suggest. I would couple this with sentinel again for the reason you suggest. This a/c will stay I believe like reaper will be a joint army airforce funded program. Global express will probably replace the bae146/125 communications a/c at some point also so I would bring this up to 8 in the astor/mpa role with a possible future 4 in communications role. And 16 cn295s for roles envisaged all come in for that mythical 1b that we found down the sofa.

April 9, 2012 10:53 pm

How about a mix and match? A few CN295s for low end, day-to -day stuff and a squadron of tooled up P8s for war scenarios.

Ace Rimmer
April 9, 2012 11:26 pm

TD, “P-3C Orion upgrade: This would be a realistic option, many airframes are available, but unlikely to be considered for a number of reasons.”

Namely, they aren’t shiny and new? Stick a new pair of wings on them and they’re good to go. It’s used by many of our allies and is a proven design. Ok, I’m probably just been pedantic and its late, but don’t write it off just yet.

Worth a read….


Ace Rimmer
April 9, 2012 11:28 pm

TD, forgot to add, great article by the way…..

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
April 9, 2012 11:28 pm

Agree they should be seperate but the priority at the moment has to be SAR capability, it will be so embarassing if we have an incident in our area we cannot respond to. A purcahse of 3 HC 130 J would close the capability gap and the cost shared amongst at least 2 or 3 budgets!

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 10, 2012 1:15 am

Another great round up TD.

I’ve been looking at the possible combination of cargo aircraft and palletised systems and it looks very interesting. The USCG use their CN-235-300 for maritime patrol, law enforcement, Search and Rescue (SAR), disaster response, and cargo and personnel transport. But as you point out, it can carry weapons and it would be simple enough to swap out the palletised system and install more military pallet(s). We’d also get a very useful transport plane.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 10, 2012 1:17 am
Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 10, 2012 1:33 am

There is also concepts for Float equiped Herc’s and even an old design fora C-130 amphibian:


Angus McLellan
Angus McLellan
April 10, 2012 2:18 am

There’s an AC/DC song from the Golden Age, “Down Payment Blues”: “Got myself a Cadillac but I can’t afford the gasoline”. Always one of my faves.

If, as NZ budget numbers suggest, a P-3 costs £40K/flying hr, buy a CASA or a Falcon. The USCG recharges the cost of an HC-144 at c. £10K/hr and an HU-25 at c. £8K/hr (but a shiny new and thus undepreciateed Falcon 900 would come out nearer £12-14K I think).

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
April 10, 2012 4:17 am

Killing off the Nimrod was one thing but leaving the UK with no real Maritime Patrol capability was one of the worst SDSR decisions.
Keeping a handful of personnel current by scattering them around the world is little more than a figleaf. A few of the deployed guys decide to join a new airforce or simply pull the plug and its going, going, gone.
Your current situation is as much about manpower as it is about the aircraft choice and the longer the capability gap stays open the worse the situation will become. The 5 years òf the Seedcorn project is very suggestive of the time someone in your system thinks it will take to get ‘back in the air’.
For my vote, a core number of an off an shelf solution, get back in the air and build from there. Definately no paper or ‘in development’ planes.
Great and timely post by the way.

April 10, 2012 8:01 am

“[P-8 poseidon]…work in tandem with the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV but it is unlikely the UK would purchase any of these …”

Why wont the UK consider maritime patrol UAVs? Maritime surveillance should be layered and scale-able.

April 10, 2012 8:22 am

Hi milner,

Compare this with the 5-year span of Seedcorn (one year is up already?):
– 3 proper BAMS UAVs on production line, after the demonstrators on older UAVs and manned aircraft
– USN IOC 2015
– export slots available “shortly after” but orders will need to be placed now

Also string these places from this article along the world map (Indian Ocean side of Australia already agreed, but not specified in the article; funny as it is from an airshow held in Oz)
and the gap East-West (rather than for the polar regions)is quite obvious

April 10, 2012 8:53 am

I like the Kawasaki P1 as an outside bet. It’s in production, four engined, has a bomb bay, sufficent range etc. Buying a dozen or so could be a great way of starting our new defence relationship with Japan, as well as giving us a badly needed “full fat” MPA capability.

April 10, 2012 8:55 am

The C295 seems the way to go. We would get around 5/6 for one P8, and thats not just from reading this but I have thought that for some time. Consider also the AEW Sentry fleet will need replacing at some time and the airframe could replace 32 (Royal) Squadrons BAE125s, BAE146s for VIP transport with an added cargo carrying capability. As you have said there is nothing smaller than a C130 (or A400M) at present for carrying that vital small piece of equipment. It also comes with a AAR probe so no problem there.

There would be obvious savings in training aircrew and groundcrew on one type and the spares and supply chain would be simpler.

April 10, 2012 8:58 am

Forgot to add this but am I alone in thinking some of the cost for this should come out of the HM Coastguard budget?

April 10, 2012 10:22 am

Good summary TD and nice overview.

The Aussies have it right – whilst I could understand almost every decision made by SDSR, the one that had absolutely no grounding, justification or logic was the cancellation of Nimrod. A truly epic scale fuckup. The only reason I have heard so far that fits the facts is the RAF trying and failing to play brinkmanship politics with Liam Fox – they gambled Nimrod was too valuable to cancel so offered it up. Epic fail.

I think you’re dismissing the UAV element too quickly. The BAMS, which is basically GlobalHawk, offers persistent surveillance over oceanic ranges. It is interoperable with the US, who are the biggest players in the N Atlantic on our side. And it gives you the necessary surveillance and communications relay capability for SAR operations, with rapid response as a jet based aircraft, as a mature and functional system.

The most complex ASW problem facing our forces today is not Russian nukes but any number of diesel-electric boats around the world, Iran as a prime example. Finding them is most effectively done by non-acoustic sensors – radar, electro-optical, etc. With the proposed radar set and EO capability the BAMS could conceivably deliver capability there as well. That said protecting the deterrent (not an option unfortunately) still requires a proper MPA to support the T23/Merlin/SSN protection.

The best asset in counter piracy ops today is, unsurprisingly, an MPA to detect, track and ID vessels of interest. Again, the BAMS platform works with that sort of requirement. Three for three.

I would like to see BAMS procured alongside a dedicated MPA, because whatever the capabilities of BAMS you need man-in-the-loop to carry out the warfare tasks as well as a bigger aircraft to drop liferafts or whatever in SAR ops. The Poseidon is, as TD says, eye-wateringly expensive, which is odd because it uses the same mission system as was proven in the MRA4, which when attached to a civilian airframe should have been uncomplicated. But the US compromised by choosing the 737, because it cannot go low enough or slow enough to drop buoys or weapons, hence the major faff with wing kits etc. Turboprops and Nimrod could do that, which together with its range and 300-sonobuoy capacity made Nimrod such an awesome MPA. Remanufactured P3’s or C295 make sense in smaller numbers – they can be at alert ready to react to either intel cueing or BAMS cueing. You could even have a C130 or A400 ready to go for SAR ops while the MPA goes subhunting with our existing set of sonobuoys and torpedoes. But that’s only going to be a stopgap for 10 years or so, until the Sentry/Sentinel/Rivet Joint/MPA replacement issue comes to the fore.

Some of the other options like bizjet-based surveillance or a remanufactured Sentinel ought to be compared to the cost and range benefits of BAMS – for the endurance alone I would lean towards BAMS.

Careful Jim, I suggested a way back that HM coastguard should be more proactive in UK waters and got shot down big style!

April 10, 2012 11:03 am

Allegedly the MR4A had serious aerodynamic issues that were caused by lengthening the fuselage, the odd tail arrangement was an attempt to make it flyable. Whilst the airframes were crushed the sensors weren’t and are supposedly in storage. A proposal came from Marshalls to retrofit the radar and other sensors to Hercules airframes.Maybe another solution would be to do this with A400 rather than tired Hercules.


Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 11:25 am

The other thing to be said about a long range ASuW capability is that it is a force multiplier for our now very limited number of SSN.

If we can gain thratre situational awareness of the SSN / SSK threat then it is much easier to prioritise tasks the 1 or 2 Astutes that we might have available.

With a clear picutre we can send them out actively to intercept the enemy subs at arms length from our task force. If we can verify that the enemy sub threat is low we can confidently retask our Astutes to from defensive ASuW to offensive AShW or TLAM bombardment. Without this situational awareness some of our most potent attacking weapons are badly hobbled.

I agree with others that an OTS purchsase of C-295 is probably the most cost effective way to get up and running.

April 10, 2012 11:31 am

Just re-read ACC’s link, and a nice comment from the US supporting a BAMS purchase:

‘When asked if export customers for BAMS could base their UAS at Guam, Dishman replies, “I would say definitely. If a country purchases a BAMS capability, it should be able to leverage off the U.S. Navy and use U.S. Navy BAMS sites.” After all, that is what being in a coalition is all about, he adds.’

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 11:38 am

A slightly left-field suggestion is whether a Magnetic Anomoly Detector, Dipping Sonar and something like FITS could be installed in a V-22 Osprey?

That would allow the QEC to field its own organic ASuW cpabaility from 2016. The tiltrotor combination of range and STOVL would allow it to replace Merlin ASuW in the embarked squadron, and offer longer range MPA capabilities as well.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 10, 2012 11:43 am

@ Peter – can the Osprey carry standard pallets? if so then it could in theory carry some of the pattetised systems used by aircraft such as the C295?

Mike W
April 10, 2012 11:43 am


Another great post, TD. An amazing amount of research has gone in here. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

One of the possibilities you list is the Bombardier 415 MPA. It looks as if it could be a useful amphibian, able to land in certain sea states and effect rescues etc. I don’t know whether it is the same aircraft the Spanish use for firefighting but, if it is , that could be another string to its bow.

On a more negative note, I think the RAF did an in-depth study of amphibians (or flying boats) about 30-odd years ago. I think they were wondering whether they could possibly introduce a flying boat to succeed that wonderful old aircraft, the Sunderland. They concluded, I think taking into account the lack of suitable landing areas of water and certain sea states, that it was not then the correct choice. I have a rather romantic/nostalgic feeling for an amphibian – it is a very flexible kind of aircraft and useful in so many ways, but I suppose I am being unrealistic.

In connection with that point, I see that East Anglian sugests that the Kawasaki P1 could be a dark horse. I think that that is a conventional aircraft, as opposed to the aircraft it is supposed to succeed, the P3C, which is an amphibian, isn’t it?

April 10, 2012 12:10 pm

I do like some aspects of the C-295, both as a maritime patrol aircraft, and a low end transport (to supplement the A-400M when the Hercs are retired early in the next SDSR…). They would be cheap enough to allow us to buy plenty of them, avoiding stretching them too thinly like the Nimrod force.

The downside of the C-295 for some other roles, notably AWACS, is the small cabin, but equally importantly, operating altitude. The E-3Ds can fly pretty high, carry a large and powerful radar, and plenty of operators. The C-295 is a fraction of the size, can’t fly as high, smaller radar, and far fewer operators. As such, it would be a pretty major step down from the E-3D. The counter argument would be that if the RN gets the carriers in CTOL form, they could get E-2Ds, and the RAF could take the AN/APY-9 radar, and stick it on the C-295s, giving a high degree of commonality. As such, we could then potentially just get some more EC-295 AEWs in order to offset the reduction in capability.

One potential advantage of the C-295 would be the modular cabin, with the ability to slide in consoles for different roles. They could also be used to carry pods on the wings (in place of AShMs), e.g. the DB-110 sensor, or something like the French ASTAC ELINT pod. As such, we could have a fleet of maritime patrol aircraft, a fleet of modular ISTAR aircraft, special forces versions (a poor mans MC-130!), and transport versions.

Another option would be the Bombardier Global Express, as discussed by CASR:


These would be able to fly a lot higher, and faster, and could benefit from commonality with the Sentinel R.1s if they don’t get canned. Again, smaller cabin that the E-3Ds, but still pretty big anyway.

As for the role of UAVs, I wouldn’t go for the US Navy’s MQ-4 Global Hawk BAMS solution. I would go with the General Atomics Mariner UAV, which is essentially the same UAV as our current MQ-9 Raptor fleet. They would cost a fair bit less, and thus we could have more of them to do the job. UAVs do have an important role in maritime patrol, but are not an alternative to manned aircraft, they are complementary. The ability to fly one of them in orbit over a disaster site for a day or so each would be very useful, and hard to replicate with manned aircraft.

paul g
April 10, 2012 12:13 pm

great article, and spooky that the kawasaki comes up the day all the main chnnels are reporting DC in japan and defence contracts are one of the main topics.

@gaereth, why convert a herc, with a large chunk of it’s airframe life gone when there are purpose built aircraft from beriev, who already have a partnership France already using the BE-200 for fighting duties. Somebody injured out in the ogin? rather than hoofing out med supplies, land alongside and pick ’em up! overwatch for SSN/SSBN, just land in the loch when on support (has wheels as well for normal runway landings.

I think a hi/lo mix of 295 and P1 would work, especially as it could open the door for all the variants of the 295 that were listed to come on board.

As sidenote all the talk of V-22 going on the QEC i would like to see the augusta 609 looked at for SAR/ASW, smaller would/could have brit involvement through westlands and also could be used for VIP, probably a wee bit cheaper to run as well, AW claim they are on for an ISD of 2016.

paul g
April 10, 2012 12:17 pm

bugger bit of the comment went missing, beriev have a partnership deal with EADS. It was EADS who put the digital “western certified” cockpit in which is why france have been able to fly in european airspace

April 10, 2012 1:02 pm

Is this all pie in the sky or is the MOD really going to spend some money on a Nimrod replacement, the media will have a field day especially with all the Harrier/Carrier stories recently.

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 2:13 pm


If we rushed out and splashed a bag of cash on a dozen Poseidons then the media would be right to kick up a fuss.

But if we go for something that is significantly smaller and better value then I see no contradiction of the decision to cancel MRA4.

April 10, 2012 2:28 pm

Regarding UAVs, I did read up on NATO UAV control proceedure, and I’m not so sure it’s really a good idea. UAVs apparently need 3 shifts of crew to deploy, a “launching” crew, a “transit” crew and the local “Ground control center”.

That’s 3 crew as compared to a single shift for conventional MPAs. Not really an option for a manpower strapped armed force.

This is for the big UAVs like the Reaper and the Global H. Smaller ones like the Scan E are launched “on site” and need only the GCC.

April 10, 2012 3:28 pm

A plane that could cover all “low and high” specs and add some very interesting operational concepts is unfortunatly not on your list,however your PM is currently in Japan and perhaps is asking about the availability of the ShinMaywa US-2.It can actually pick up survivors from the sea ,provided waves are not higher than 3.5 meters.Also you do not need an airfield to operate this plane.As for sub hunting this plane might actually be fitted with a lightweight vds,imaigine the possibilities here for a moment.

PS;great blog!!

April 10, 2012 4:29 pm

Observer, calling the RAF a manpower strapped force is stretching it a bit, isn’t it?

April 10, 2012 4:45 pm

Think the p8 will be a joint warrior Next week along with the p3 so we can do research

The Oncoming Storm
The Oncoming Storm
April 10, 2012 5:10 pm

Excellent post and one that shows that its a buyers market as far as MPA is concerned. Personally I would go with the mixed fleet option outlined above, C295’s for maritime security and SAR missions plus a P-8 squadron for ASW and ISTAR work.

April 10, 2012 5:20 pm

@ SI

‘Observer, calling the RAF a manpower strapped force is stretching it a bit, isn’t it?’

He’s right in the context, UAVs soak up manpower and we’re hardly flush right now.

Mike W
April 10, 2012 5:23 pm

@paul g

“beriev, who already have a partnership France already using the BE-200 for fighting duties.”

Paul, I had no idea that France was using the Beriev Be200. I know that Portugal was leasing some a few years ago, for fire-figting duties I think. France has not been using them for something similar, has it? You just say “fighting duties”. I agree about the flexibility of an amphibian equipped with wheels for normal runway landings, though.

April 10, 2012 5:35 pm

Cracking article as ever TD – I think the Nimrod piece is one which most of the seniors in MOD feel was a problem, and is a sorely missed capability, but equally it was clear that the MRA4 probably wasnt going to deliver.

The problem is that the Nimrod fleet barely did ASW for much of the noughties as a much smaller fleet was heavily committed to operations in the Middle East. Its probably fair to say that the level of experience that existed in SDR was massively reduced compared by 2010, when the Nimrod was switched off, even as the ability to conduct ISTAR grew.

The seedcorn initiative represents a fairly sensible measure where personnel can keep skills going for a little longer, and allow seniors time to make some fairly tough decisions. My personal take is that the desire is there to see something, but its not clear what that is. Of course, the RN could try to fund something under the new budget arrangements

see link at my blog on this – http://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/time-of-change-reflections-on-new-navy.html

So, who knows where we’re going to be in a few years, but I’m more comfortable with the seedcorn existing than with it not existing.

April 10, 2012 5:41 pm

@ SI, Topman, Observer,

I take my unashamed speculation further:
– even the USN and USAF aim to share the bases out of which BAMS/ Global Hawk are (to be) operated, them being a rather complex beast (any foreign buyer will receive a similar offer)

April 10, 2012 5:44 pm

@ ACC I saw that as well, sounds like a good idea for all concerned. Cuts costs and reduces unit price and gives the buyers access to US support.

April 10, 2012 5:58 pm

Hi Topman,

It is not a surprise (from the economics point of view, though the tech being shared is sensitive; that thought is for the stage one past who gets it… once they have it, sharing is a good idea)
– block 10 already retired, flying as test frames (e.g for BAMS)
– block 20; still going?
– block 40… well, NATO is getting it… in due course… not too soon

Without BAMS Global Hawk would be dead in the water… sorry about the play on words
– BAMS… maritime

April 10, 2012 6:00 pm

ACC, I refer you to my 1131 post as well.

April 10, 2012 6:10 pm

Hi SI,

Yes, absolutely, this quote
“‘When asked if export customers for BAMS could base their UAS at Guam, Dishman replies, “I would say definitely. If a country purchases a BAMS capability, it should be able to leverage off the U.S. Navy and use U.S. Navy BAMS sites.” After all, that is what being in a coalition is all about, he adds.’”

But it is being very shy (even though he speaks about buyers in that geography), because
1. both the UK and Australia have expressed an interest (at one stage or another)
2. Basing and data exchange have always been part of the discussion (this is not a cheap game – even the USAF and USN have agreed to share as for basing!)
3. Both of the the two under (2.) above are in the public domain for Australia (without a defined time frame)
4. What do we know here? Nothing… we’ll probably get a Twin Otter, no ! Two, so one will be at the ready

April 10, 2012 7:04 pm

going by the recent nato purchase a block 40 global hawk will set you back $260m each plus a similar amount each to operate it for 10 years. Can we afford it?

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 7:11 pm


Even if we could afford to flash the cash for something ‘top of the range’ it would be better spent on a proven manned platform like the Kawasaki XP-1.

As it is the C-295 fits both my perception of the requirement and the budget, as well as giving lots of future development potential.

(The decision to retain R1 instead of joining the Global Hawk spend-fest is looking cannier by the day.)

April 10, 2012 7:23 pm

Hi PE,

Without taking sides (the economist in me says “more is better”):
“retain R1 instead of joining the Global Hawk spend-fest is looking cannier by the day”
– the first decision is from now to 2015
– the second decision is from 2015-2016 onwards
– as R1 have flown so much over A-stan, they might not be good for much more? Without knowing, the ‘set’ onboard is optimised for on-land, anyway
… the rest, I am sure, is in the presentation by the provider, to the Parliamentary Committee, that we have had linked here already

paul g
April 10, 2012 7:23 pm

@ mike w, yes sorry for some reason when writing that comment the gremlins were hard at work moving or removing words! It should’ve said fire fighting, although it gives me a chance to add the EADS version (BE-200RR) would be engined with the 715 ie the same engine used in the nimrod MR4.

found the link it was just training and evulation flights, however it was used to fight fires in israel.


April 10, 2012 7:28 pm

Astor is till quite new its not had the punishment of repeated take-offs and landing from desert strips like herc ect so no life issues. The SAR radar on astor is very similar to that on the P8 so with tweaks for the surveillance role if must not be too bad.

If we want the high low mix and p8 is too expensive this very recent video may look appealing

P-3 Orion Desert to Delivery

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 7:45 pm

As for P8 it is certainly expensive, but it is the lack of range that turns me off it.

The only real justification for the UK to buy an airliner based solution would be super-long range: but the P8 doesn’t have it.

Happy to use our existing R1 Sentinel for sea surface surveillance so long as we also have something else able to look under the water.

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 7:46 pm

TD’s post is a little cryptic on why we wouldn’t buy refurbushed P3.

Anyone able or willing to fill in the gaps?

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 10, 2012 7:51 pm

When the 10 RAF short body C-130J are replaced by A400M, it would be logical to refurb & convert them to USCG HC-130J standard. Cannot hunt submarines, but ideal for deep ocean patrol & low level, precise drop of survival supplies. Not fighty, but perhaps we could add the Hellfire bomb rack from the USMC KC-130J. I think the threat is pirates & Mumbai style terror attacks , rather than SSNs.
Retiring Sentinel early, is madness. Adding an EO turret, could make it more multi role & keep it in service.
A few P8s could be added later, if SSNs do become a threat.

April 10, 2012 7:53 pm

Tabloids would have a field day on another nimrod re-wing ect I suspect. Also I think the P3 modernization was a option when we selected nimrod mr4a way back when.

April 10, 2012 8:03 pm

Now, I understand the stuff overland, in support of Ops a la JSTARS, but

I must admit the the technospeak can overwhelm me when we get to be over water, like this

” the BAMS proper will have a new multi-function active sensor (MFAS), a state-of-the-art radar being developed by Northrop Grumman. The MFAS is a “spinning” AESA that provides 360-degree coverage and a variety of advanced, automatic modes. Kreitler revealed that the prototype MFAS had been flying since December on NG’s Gulfstream II test bed from Lancaster airport, California. The BAMS will also carry Raytheon’s MTS-B EO/IR sensor, and the Sierra Nevada Corp. AN/ZLQ-1 ESM system.

The BAMS could be considered the “ultimate” Global Hawk. It features modifications that critics have identified as lacking on the USAF jets, such as an anti-icing system; additional gust alleviation for the wings to permit ascent and descent through bad weather; a more powerful 30 KVa generator; an engine software change to trade thrust for endurance; a nose-mounted, lightweight AESA air-to-air radar to “sense and avoid” conflicting traffic; and a wideband Ka- and X-band military satcom system.”

One of those and some of those jelly beans, too, please

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 8:11 pm


Whatever we do needs to fit in with a strategy to standardise, so converting old C130J into a configuration that can’t really do the job, then having to buy in an expensive dedicated capability afterwards doesn’t look like good value to me.

If standardisation is what we are after we could take the EADS FITS and the sensor suite from the C-295 and install it on a couple of our new A400M. The roll-on-roll off nature of the system would allow flexible use of the airframes and even if we did increase overall fleet numbers we wouldn’t be introducing any new logistic complexity.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
April 10, 2012 8:16 pm

We are all over the MPA section but the fact remains that whilst an MPA would be nice and we should get one it will be a massive embarassment when we have no fixed wing SAR capability and someone dies on our watch in our AOR. Or the French have to do it for us.

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 8:21 pm

I could cope with the embarrasment of an occasional yachtsman drowning in a storm much better than the embarrasment of having a RN Ship sunk by an undetected [insert loopy enemy of your choice] SSN.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
April 10, 2012 8:27 pm

Really because the chances of that happening are? Whilst the chances of us having a SAR incident in our AOR are pretty high. Plus we have Merlin and 2087 both areb perfectly good systems better than an MPA unless you want range, so perfectly adequate defensively.

headlines when the yachtsmen die. “2 pink Elephants but no search and Rescue” or worse. The journos will find out how much a fixed wing SAR capability costs and then compare it to all kinds of stuff. Sorry but the SAR capability gap is not worth it.

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 8:32 pm

OK – I’m not against SAR but I don’t think it should be a defining issue for defence procurement. Tail wagging dog etc.

At the end of the day whatever we buy has to be able to find and preferably engage submarines. If it can also do some SAR and coastguard work that’s needed fine by me.

Conversely spending the defence budget on a SAR solution that can’t hunt subs would be a failed procurement in my book.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
April 10, 2012 8:41 pm

Peter Elliot, hence why they should be split, we need a fixed wing SAR capability ASAP. It will struggle to wait the years any MPA will take to bring back into service.

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 8:44 pm

As for T23 and Merlin I don’t doubt their capability to hunt down or drive away enemy subs that come within their range. But that range is comparitively short.

If 3 or 4 SSKs with AIP were to lay an abmush for our task force and then launch a mele attack I’m sure it wouldn’t be too long before the Merlins hunted them down or drove them away. During that chaotic phase however the chances are they would get a few shots off, and just 1 torpedo could seriously spoil our plans if it sinks a critical RFA or STUFT.

What the MPA gives us is situational awareness at a theatre level. If we know how many SSKs are around, which direction they are coming from etc etc we can either avoid them or send Astute and T23 out to engage them at arms length from the capital ships. Layered defence.

April 10, 2012 8:51 pm

APATS, T23/Merlin is great for defensive work, but insufficient for the protection of the deterrent and the fronting up to the resurgent Russian SSN threat in the open ocean. You need an MPA to do the wide area search before the T23 can localise and track. A T23 radiating 2087 can be heard from a hell of a long way away, so the SSN diverts around it. A decision to permanently abandon a dedicated ASW MPA capability speaks volumes about our ability to defend our own back yard. I suspect that will be one political statement that any Government isn’t willing to make to the Russians just yet.

I would be very surprised if Raytheon can make good on their promise of making the Sentinel’s synthetic aperture/MTI radar as capable as Searchwater 2000. Having read Raytheon’s submission to the Government it sounds a little too much like defence industry desperately bidding for contracts. A radar certainly isn’t enough to find a submarine, especially not an SSN. And there are only 5 Sentinels – these are surely required to maintain their capabilities in their core duties of overland surveillance, and would have neither the time nor the airframes to build a truly effective maritime surveillance capability? As mentioned already here, we started to lose the latter because of all the time spent in Afghanistan by Nimrod MR2 and we had more than 5 of those.

April 10, 2012 8:52 pm

Isn’t this
“Peter Elliott says:
April 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm
OK – I’m not against SAR but I don’t think it should be a defining issue for defence procurement. Tail wagging dog etc.”

exactly the issue with the helos for SAR, close to shore
– the cost gets removed from the Defence budget
– but so does the manning, also in the meaning of [getting used to] flying in difficult conditions

Although the rationale is right, there is something wrong in the trade-off
– have half of the crews rotated from military?
– pay the per diem’s… that’s what happens with USCG helos and aircraft, when in alternative uses

OK, further out to the Atlantic, what do we do?
– exactly the same as in war conditions
– what have we got; nothing, of course
– that is the fixed wing question (ok, UAVs have a big fixed wing, but no)… the Herc support structure is there, have a couple of conversions
— without the kit, what can they do (answer: From Parliamentary questions, how many times has a Herc been used and answer to that one: once)

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
April 10, 2012 8:53 pm

Peter, you really do not have to explain the principles of ASW to me. However, where are we senfing this task force? On our own? So no allies with MPA capability? To fight who that possesses 3 or 4 AIP SSKs? In which choke point that allows them to set an ambush?
In the meantime the PR yacht or merchant man disaster that could be averted for very little money could happen tommorow or the next day.
I have spent time hunting submarines at sea and I love having shiny toys but sometimes it is about the bigger picture, especially in the short term.

April 10, 2012 8:53 pm

Apas you mean that government assurances that the current c130 herc fleet are providing all necessary SAR capability may not be entirely accurate…

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
April 10, 2012 8:59 pm

SI, read my posts I do not for a minute suggest we abandon a dedicated sub hunting MPA but we both know that even if a decision was made now the first time we would see one down off Guz on a Thursday is probably 3 years away. What I suggest is an initial purchase of maybe 3 HC 130 J or equivelant to fill the SAR gap and give a basic Mar Surv capability.

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 8:59 pm


I agree that the Raytheon submission is thin on sub hunting capability. Maybe if we buy a dedicated AsuW plane for sub hunting then we could spare an occasional R1 for a bit of SAR overwatch.

If we did want to buy a Raytheon MPA then I think it would have to be a further batch of new GX airframes specifically adapted for the role. That would still allow us to take advantage of R1 Sentinel’s maintenance base and logistic tail.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
April 10, 2012 9:01 pm

Mark, precisely. We have to inform the MRCC of assets available and no C130s have been available this year.

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 9:08 pm


No offence intended.

“Peter, you really do not have to explain the principles of ASW to me”

What we’ve again stumbled up against are the grand strategy questions: what are our armed forces for? Do we still plan for sovereign operations? How much can we rely on our allies? Should the UK have a separate tooled-up coastguard and who pays for it etc.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
April 10, 2012 9:10 pm

Peter Elliot, Exactly and whilst I am not certain that the SAR gap should fall at the feet of the MOD, I am certain that the blame for an incident will. unfortunately.

April 10, 2012 9:37 pm

Personally a high-low mix of A319 and C-295s would be excellent, but I can’t imagine a launch order of anything less than 20 would attract Airbus. However if you add in the need for future AEW and ELINT versions, Airbus could be tempted especially if the likes of France were involved as part of a launch order. Canada is another option.

Whilst there would be an additional expense of Airbus, over the lifetime of the capability, there would be savings in terms of the fact that A319 crews can be cross trained with the A330 FTSA crews and quite possibly the guys who will fly the A400Ms as well.

Eventually if as the defense budget and the economy sorts itself, a dozen MPA and a dozen ISTAR (AEW, SIGINT, ELINT) aircraft would be ideal.

Mike W
April 10, 2012 9:48 pm

@paul g

Thanks for the reply, Paul. Actually, the Beriev could conceivably be the answer to our problems. You know, robust Russian airframe combined with western elctronics fit. etc The idea is not that far-fetched and that form of amphibian with wheels is extremely versatile.

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 10, 2012 9:55 pm

Peter E
Understand the politics/media angle of this. Having trashed billions of taxpayers cash scrapping MRA4, buying any new MPA is going to be tricky for a while. Converting something we already have, is a much easier proposition from the PR point of view. What was Cameron, oh yes, a PR something or other.
If you read up on USCG HC-130J, they are very capable for deep ocean low level airdrop. Great for getting supplies to those in peril.

Peter Elliott
April 10, 2012 9:59 pm

Mike W

If we are talking about robust Russian airframes how about the Antonov An-72/4. Can fly fast for transit or slow for patrolling. Versitile cargo space. MPA version aleady exists.

Don’t think anyone has done a modern glass cockpit for it yet however. Western manfacturers might also be wary of helping another competitor into the market by supplying the up to date mission systems.

April 10, 2012 10:00 pm

I wonder if an interim procurement of something like a fleet of C295 or C235 in MPA, transport and gunship models (and whatever else, preferably capable of re-roling as required) would cover our present needs.

We could then look to a future general purpose airframe to cover a variety of roles from the 2030 time-frame.
Tanker, transport, MPA, AEW, ISTAR top cover, ELINT and persistent CAS are all roles that could be covered by a modified airliner with weapon-carrying capacity.

Looking at the Airbus concepts, a combination of a new, efficient, airframe with “pod” style payloads ( http://www.flipdocs.com/showbook.aspx?ID=10004731_699430 , pages 10 and 14) would seem a potential way to get a modular system that can be adapted to what is needed from a larger base fleet of airframes.

April 10, 2012 10:04 pm


With regard to the co-ordination of maritime surveillance across agencies, you may already have seen:
from the published written evidence to the UK defence committee by Rear Admiral James Rapp CB, 2nd April 2012
This submission seeks to bring the Committee’s attention to the way maritime aerial surveillance is delivered in Australia and the benefits this brings to 13 cross government agencies, including the Department of Defence.
Lessons for the UK
6. ….Recognising these issues, the Government’s Maritime Security Oversight Group (MSOG), which is chaired by the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) and has wide cross-government representation, has been fully briefed on the Australian model and is currently examining the merits of adopting a similar organisation here in the UK.”

Well you can always hope.

Ace Rimmmer
April 10, 2012 10:38 pm

The more I read aboutthe P-3, the more viable I feel it becomes. I’d also suggest a re-engine to give it a degree of commonality with the RAF’s C-130J’s. P-3J anyone?

April 10, 2012 10:44 pm

Mike W and Paul G

An earlier contributor, JJ, mentioned the ShinMaywa US-2, which was new to me.
Here are some performance characteristics compared to the Beriev 200.


also a bit more on some clever stuff:

It doesn’t fly quite so fast or high, but it does fly further, carries a lot and can get into the air quickly. As JJ said, it can apparently also cope with a remarkable wave height, and so may be rather more useful than yer average amphib to us.

In fact it would appear similar in many ways to the EADS C-295M, except it is amphibious too.
One of the “potential” uses listed is for maritime surveillance, although I think this is brochureware. I have no idea how hard it would be to fit with kit, and quite take other commentators views -JHartley- on the unlikeliness of a buy other than OTS or upgrading the capability of our current kit.


Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 10, 2012 11:36 pm

I’m a fan of retro-tech so a amphibian appeals, at least for the Coast Guard roles. They might also be useful for Fire fighting and pollution control; I believe the UK CG have a Dakota for pollution control?

If the P-8 can’t fly low and slow well but the C-130/C295 can, couldn’t we place the sensors/equipment from the MRA 4’s on pallets/fuselage and have a Herc/other transport aircraft that can hunt submarines as well as SAR and occasionally transport?

April 11, 2012 12:47 am

Why is the Royal Aircraft Force still in the picture for this one?

Surely the clue is in the word “maritime”.

Is a golden opportunity to put the capability where it belongs with the RNAS and/or HM Coastguard so that the assets are right-sized to the defence task, not to the employment task of the Aircraft Force

April 11, 2012 1:04 am

Great article TD. I never new just how much of a compromise the p8 was. Given it’s expense, lack of range and I’n flight refueling I’m not sure if we can justify buying many. I can now see why the RAF originally opted for mra4 rather than p8 or an a319 design. I think a mixed fleet of 5 p8,s and 7 m295 is the best capability we can afford I’n the next decade.

April 11, 2012 6:03 am

Solid article Boss,

Have to agree with APATS, SAR is the priority. It’s the most likely incident to occur in the near term. Somehow I don’t think anyone has any short term designs on sinking the CASD, while a serious SAR incident that requires our attention could potentially kick off tomorrow.

@ Ichabod

What were you saying just the other day about the RAF’s political maneouvring derailing the proper defence debate….

I guess the irony of that statement still hasn’t sunk in with you yet.

April 11, 2012 6:16 am

Why do I always log in when Chris is torpedoing Ichabod? :)

I’m not sure how UAVs cross sharing bases helps cut down manpower. It does cut costs and eases logistics, but even if you share bases, you still need 3 crew for 1 UAV as opposed to 1:1 for a manned MPA, unless you’re outsourcing to the US? They provide the manpower, you provide food, pay , lodging and the UAV?

April 11, 2012 7:08 am

TD excellent article
Firstly I think the Airbus A319 is a non starter as the rest of Europe won’t put up the money for development .
I like the hi-lo mix it gives us the availability to station the low mix type probably CN-295 to places like the Falklands and if the gunship version can be fitted with a quick pallet change it gives us an over head mini spectre capability for special forces raids,
I also would prefer the P-8 or XP-1 due to the multi mission capability and the seamag UAV option is brilliant with the P-8 you could also join use the provthere upgrades path like the RC-135 saving upgrade costs and if like this project could be a pooling system would ensure that we are kept upto date and that we would always have enough aircraft for ops with regards to the AAR capability how hard would it be to either retro fit probe refuelling into the the new air tankers or use the probe receptor as the intake and fit a probe above the flight deck surely it would be in Boeings interest to make it more appealing to potential customers and as far as UAVs are concerned there is the mariner or the new predator c avenger and due to costs the osprey would be huge.
There was talk that the R1 would only need minimal changes for the radar to be compatible with the maritime environment .
The XP-1 sounds to be excellent but there have been recent setbacks but the costs are about 148 million USD each and it’s 4 engined which would incerease through life costs .but we don’t know enough about it’s performance to stats to push ahead with an order.
I’d like too see a high -low mix of 9 CN-295’s and a starting order of 8 or 9 P-8’s with 8 Long range maritime patrol & SAR UAV either BAMS or Aevenger linked to the MPA .

April 11, 2012 7:35 am

@TD, another great post. Whilst the P8 is a logical route, i think a combination of the Sentinal and Bombuardier 415 would make an interesting mix. Plus what technology is there from the Nimrod which could be utilized?

April 11, 2012 8:51 am

i take it the c295 has no bomb-bay, and that weapons are carried on the six under-wing hardpoints?

will these hardpoints be capable of carrying long-range anti-ship missiles too?

April 11, 2012 9:50 am

Given we are cose to the centenary of the RFC’s formation with its Naval and Military Wings, then there is an obvious question, as Peter Mead put it “It is sound philosophy that boundary lines between services can be efficiently drawn only on the basis of their respective operational functions, rather than of the element in which they mostly travel or of the vehicles in which various parts of them happen to move into action.”

Given this then its obviously a RN matter and the question is how many frigates is the RN going to forgo.

April 11, 2012 9:50 am

When airbus military did the upgrade of the p3 for brazil, Portugal the mission system they installed was the FITS system and the full structural upgrade gives 15000 hours of life. A high low mix of p3/cn295 perhaps think that’s the way brazil went.

Mike W
April 11, 2012 11:05 am


“If we are talking about robust Russian airframes how about the Antonov An-72/4. Can fly fast for transit or slow for patrolling. Versatile cargo space. MPA version aleady exists.”

Yes, that is the kind of thing I was thinking of but then I came to your perceptive point: “Western manfacturers might also be wary of helping another competitor into the market by supplying the up to date mission systems.”

Hadn’t thought of that!

I had forgotten about the Shin Maywa US-2. That is, however, quite an old aircraft (I think), dating from the Seventies, or even the Sixties. I think that is why the Japanese are developing the Kawasaki P3C (but I am no big expert!). I would certainly like to see an amphibian in service which could carry out rescues, re-supply etc. working in conditions of considerable wave height.

April 11, 2012 11:32 am

One thing that stands out from these choices is that none of them offer the all round high end capability that MRA4 would have had. That suggests that none of the current options represent the ultimate MPA specification, and that therefore says that any of the currently available options will be acknowledged as just being something to fill the gap until someone eventually builds an equivalent of the MRA4 – which might be the French in an Airbus airframe when their Atlantic’s expire in about ten years time.

Given that the ultimate is not currently available anyway and we are strapped for cash, but we need to get back into the game sooner rather than later, I’d look at buying half a dozen C295 or leasing/buying half a dozen Atlantic if the French have them spare – these for military use only. Either type would allow us to get back into the game at a low cost and lets us reconsider in a decades time when we might have the money to do it properly.

That said, if there was an ultra cheap solution of bolting the sensors from the MRA4 into, say, a C130 then we should do that.

Sentinel should be left to do what it currently does.

April 11, 2012 11:37 am

Or we could forgo all the talk about new aircraft and their costs and surround the UK with a ring of long endurance sonobuoys and radar package linked to a ground center. No weight worries, payload worries, fuel endurance worries. Just get a minelayer to make the rounds once a month or so for replacement and bring the old ones in for maintainance. Not a glamourous solution, but it is workable and cheap.

April 11, 2012 11:43 am

Jedi the cn295 can carry both harpoon and Exocet http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/airtech-cn-235-mpa/

The problem you will have bringing any russian a/c into uk service will be two fold 1st you will need a guarenteed spares system in place especially if the Russians don’t like any foreign adventure we set out on and second you will required access to all the technical specs and drawing ect for it to pass maa bearing in mind that nice modern a330 was damn near turned down by maa I think this would be the killer.

April 11, 2012 12:02 pm

Hi TD, great post, long-ish time follower, first time commenter:

Could we buy a load of S-3 airframes from the Boneyard? Bring them up to date, new engines, new systems, then we’d get a carrier-capable multi-role maritime aircraft. Could S-3s accept F-35 mission systems (AESA, DAS,etc.)? Then we’d get a carrier capable mini-AWACS/Rivet Joint too. Strap storm shadows on and do we even need F-35?

April 11, 2012 12:17 pm

whats wrong with the BAE 146 ?

Jet powered, able to work at low level, use a large number of runways, reasonable payload and range and cheap as chips now not even managed by BAE anymore

airliner built for the same type of routes as 318/9/20 AND 737 but more city center orientated

April 11, 2012 12:28 pm

@ Mark – Cheers.

Any chance or new weapons like Storm Shadow, and/or whatever its naval strike variant will be?

Re: Russia, was this address to me, as i thought C295 was spanish:


April 11, 2012 12:50 pm

Jedi storm shadow is really a quite heavy weapon so i would doubt it would be avaiable on all weapon station. No the russian thing was referring to the idea of using Russian a/c for mpa.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 11, 2012 12:56 pm

@ mycoman – Interesting idea. I’m afraid the reason the USN retired the S-3’s was because they run out of CATOBAR life; that is the couldn’t safely take the punishment of carrier operations anymore. However, they do still have plenty of flight time left. Could we buy 2-3x the number we need and use the extra number for spares, etc?

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 11, 2012 1:00 pm

@ Mycoman – TD recently did a post about radar pods for Helicopter AEW, using the same radars as the F-35 – two pods either side of a S-3?

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 11, 2012 1:12 pm

Australia’s 737-700 AEWC has both an inflight refueling receptacle and a fixed probe. The 737-800 fuselage on which the P-8 is based is essentially just a stretched 700. The original US specification for the P-8 did not include air-to-air refueling at all, but a refueling receptacle was included anyway as the development had already been done within the Aussie programme.

Fuselage and fuel system commonality between the 700 and 800 should mean that there is no technical dificulty in fitting a fixed probe to a UK P-8, and no development work to be carried out – just installation costs for the modification, and acceptance of the drag penalty for a fixed probe of course.

Plumping for the P-8 also leaves the potential of having a common airframe for a future E-3 replcement – smaller, but still large enough to carry a sizeable radar and several control stations; which is a potential benefit we would not necessarily have if we went for a much smaller maritime patrol aircraft.

There is also the option of the podded AGS system with the P-8.

April 11, 2012 1:24 pm

I fear knowing the RAF they will choose the Rolls Royce over the Ford Transit version. So that will be 6 P8s instead of 24 C295s for the same outlay.

April 11, 2012 1:38 pm

Re:Gareth Jones’ point on S-3’s

What is the S-3’s operational range and could we add conformal tanks to extend the range further? If we refurbished S-3’s and added the same acoustic systems as Merlin HM2 (bar the dipping sonar) we could (in theory) have a relatively cheap land based ASW platform with secondary overland capabilities, plus we could easily incorporate Paveway IV on the S-3’s as they are already cleared for the Mk 82 GPB, giving a tertiary role as a high persistence bomb truck.

April 11, 2012 1:51 pm

Maybe the best solution is to ask a submariner which is the most effective deterrent? It may be that a River Class OPV fitted with towed array sonar, stingrays and Lynx with dipping sonar parked semi permanently in the EEZ is a better ASW option than an occasional fly-by even from a P8? The danger is that we pick the best option for the particular service rather than the country as a whole. Suspect though that the Navy would say an Astute is the best ASW so no cost saving there then!

April 11, 2012 1:56 pm

Mike W
Re: ShinMaywa US-2
Certainly a long lineage through the Japanese US-1 (1976), itself out of the Grumman Albatross (1949), but apparently a “substantially new design” (whatever that means) with full glass cockpit and fly by wire delivered from 2003.


Apart from the romance of flying boats, I like this for the built-in marinisation, great slow and low characteristics and 15 tonne payload.
Unfortunately it would also seem to cost c.$75m, though presumably there could be a deal to be struck for friendship and development…
I wonder whether it could fly from a carrier deck into wind, even if it had to be winched back onboard later? Possibly not a goer when the sea state could change whilst airborne.
Because there is the opportunity looking forward: there is a need for a modern multirole airframe which can do Carrier capable Onboard Delivery, CAP Refuelling, AEW, high end medium endurance Maritime Patrol and SAR all in one. The numbers are less than LockMart’s F-35, but the business challenge is to make a universal common airframe which does the lot. Or is that the V-22 Osprey already?

April 11, 2012 2:12 pm

Another vote here for the C295 to get us back in the game quickly, then either order P8 when we replace the E3s so we have a common airframe or joint programme with French based on Airbus A319 for both AEW and MPA, again in 5 years plus time

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 11, 2012 2:45 pm

@ Tubby – going by Wiki (yeah, I kmow…) the deatils are:
Internal fuel capacity: 1,933 US gal (7,320 L) of JP-5 fuel
External fuel capacity: 2x 300 US gal (1,136 L) tanks

Combat radius: 2,765 nm (3,182 mi, 5,121 km)

S-3A – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_S-3_Viking#Specifications_.28S-3A.29

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 11, 2012 2:47 pm

check out the S-3 armament list:


Up to 4,900 lb (2,220 kg) on four internal and two external hardpoints, including:

10 × 500 lb (227 kg) Mark 82 bombs
2 × 1000 lb (454 kg) Mark 83 bombs
2 × 2000 lb (908 kg) Mark 84 bombs
6 × CBU-100 cluster bombs
2 × Mark 50 torpedoes
4 × Mark 46 torpedoes
6 × mines or depth charges
2 × B57 nuclear bombs
2 × AGM-65E/F Maverick missiles
2 × AGM-84D Harpoon missiles
1 × AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER missile

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 11, 2012 2:56 pm

Hmmmm – ant has a point; “Because there is the opportunity looking forward: there is a need for a modern multirole airframe which can do Carrier capable Onboard Delivery, CAP Refuelling, AEW, high end medium endurance Maritime Patrol and SAR all in one. The numbers are less than LockMart’s F-35, but the business challenge is to make a universal common airframe which does the lot. Or is that the V-22 Osprey already?” If the S-3 could do Carrier Ops then it would near perfect. If the Carriers are built CATOBAR then maybe rw’s idea of Bae 146? If the Carrier’s are STOVL, then V-22 Osprey, particularly if you could ro-on/off pallets? Could replace helicopters as well?

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 11, 2012 3:27 pm

“HV-609: Multi-mission version proposed by Bell and Lockheed Martin to satisfy US Coast Guard ‘Deepwater’ re-equipment programme as potential replacement for Dassault HU-25 Guardian, Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin and Sikorsky HH-60J Jayhawk. Missions could include drug interdiction and SAR, with 30 to 50 HV-609s possibly being acquired.”


April 11, 2012 3:31 pm


Canada doing the same deliberations as us. One aspect for an Osprey/Shinmaywa is the ability to get to and land/beach at South Georgia from the Falklands. Canadians seem to be discounting Osprey on cost/availability grounds. C295 in pole position here as well, though not as a P3(Aurora in Canada) replacement Bombardier business jet (Sentinel style) being considered for that role.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 11, 2012 3:42 pm

From Waddi’s link: “…offers long-term cost savings via engine and other commonalities with Canada’s new C-130J Hercules. The US fleet of 21 C-27Js needs to find a home, but Alenia has said point-blank that it will not support that fleet if it’s sold abroad. If Canada wants this plane, it will have to buy new.”

Annoying as a C-27/C-130J combo might have been interesting and potentially cheap?

Mike W
April 11, 2012 4:37 pm

Sorry, was almost certainly thinking of the US-1, which does date from the 1970s. The fact that US-2 dates from 2003 puts a different complexion on things.

Apart from all the advantages of an amphibian, it is also apparently very capable as a fire fighter. Judging by the increase in heath fires in my part of the country recently, we might also be needing that capablity before long!

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
April 11, 2012 4:52 pm

Sorry, but….

S3 Viking for sea-lanes, carrier-training, buddy-refueling, etc. Any cheap option for SAR as long as it is slow-at-low, long-legged and can get from A-to-B fast.

Desert the desert: (Viking) MAD and bad already…! :)

April 11, 2012 5:30 pm

Some additional mpa info

I think v22 has the ability to take 2 463l pallets so fits maybe an option with that a/c.

paul g
April 11, 2012 5:35 pm

@ gareth, 609 project is now augusta only bell sold all their rights and stuff over to augusta, i said earlier above (or i think on the f-35 thread) this could be a winner for the UK used instead of merlin for the various AS modes (no i can’t remember all the acronyms i’m an ex pongo) wouldn’t take up as much space as V-22, but obviously ceiling height speed etc better than merlin.


April 11, 2012 5:53 pm

Great article, interesting comments as ever !

Do we really need jet speed for SAR coverage ? USCG is replacing jet with turbo-prop ? Absolutely we could / should have civvy contract EEZ survailance / SAR coverage.

Some other thoughts:
1. Japanese planes – doesn’t their constitution prevent them selling them to other nations ?

2. Russian planes – seriously ? Politically it aint gonna happen….

3. CN295 “multi-role” – its not, just because the mission system is palletised – the radar etc is not, so it’s utility as a “utility” transport is limited

4. Reports on P8 prototype testing show it is just fine with handling and buffet response at low level and there has beens some very nimble test flying – wings may not be needed for tinfish

5. S3 Viking was retired due to lack of “carrier cycles” left in the airframe, catapult launches and arrested landings – airframe has been proved by Lockheed to have considerable flying time left, from runways though, not from carriers.

I like the out of the box thinking – is a River class with a towed array actually more effective and efficient alternative to an MPA ? A very interesting question. Certainly target sub can’t hear / detect an MPA flying above a certain altitude…..

12 x CN295 ASW alongside 6 x TD’s SIMMS based on civvy hull, fitted for but not with Lynx, and STWS MK32 tubes for stingray ? (or big frakk off tubes for SpearFish !!)

April 11, 2012 6:26 pm


Re: Common Support Aircraft

Aha! Great minds and all that…

Conclusion (amongst other things)
“Although the CSA project is still active, the requirements for the CSA have been delayed by the US Navy. Lockheed Martin has been pursuing a number of modernisation initiatives to extend service life of the S-3B Viking, which is a candidate for eventual replacement by CSA.”

April 11, 2012 6:38 pm

couldn’t see the following had been posted,if it has sorry.


April 11, 2012 6:43 pm
April 11, 2012 6:47 pm

I found article 10 evidence from Dr Sue Robertson very interesting.

April 11, 2012 7:25 pm

Hi Jed
Re: Japanese constitution and sale of military products
Yes as I understand it, but a) not SAR products b) arguably not MPA (sans weapons hard points) c) they may be about to change their constitution (from memory, haven’t looked for a reference)

Re: relative effectiveness of various platforms:
Not sure if this is relevant to a ship towing a sonar, and the table doesn’t paste, but see:


Limitations of Alternative Platforms
28. Perhaps the most graphic representation of the relative capabilities of fixed wing MPA and other platforms can be taken from an analysis of their surface search capabilities. For radar- fitted submarines, ships, helicopters and aircraft the indicative search rates are shown below:

April 11, 2012 8:11 pm


Very interesting, and does make me wonder about P-1. I would think large chunks of it are about the Nissan/Mitsubishi deals, and also about sharing in energy technology (same as with France, pray God that means a slow but steady move towards going nuclear. Long as the reactors are efficient and run for the public interest rather than the balance sheet — really the central problem at Fukushima — I’ll stand on the barricade to defend them.) But that does seem relevant to this thread, even to some of its diversions — Japan for example builds a nice line of anti-ship missile, which gives you a competitive alternative to NSM to get a handle on prices and perhaps some future development workshare. There are also, simple, some similarities between two large island nations (even though Japan has twice the population of the UK and didn’t let its industrial sectors go to the wall) stuck in northerly corners of their oceans with long lines of raw-material supply.


Thanks for the table. Genuinely interesting.


12xC295 ASW plus a half-dozen SIMMS-or-other? You won’t be surprised that I like it :) Don’t know if we could get the SIMMS past the usual suspects (the dark nexus of Hell&Judgement that is the building and BWoS) but as above a stretched River could do it. (No, not a reinvent-the-wheel modified Khareef or whatever. I’ll say it slowly, BAE: A stretched River. The class was designed to add and subtract hull sections for diverse missions on the part of foreign buyers who never showed up. Let’s capitalise on that. Hanger for a Wildcat, 57mm up front, towed array. Build eight, so you’ve got a patroller for Windies (the TAS would be a nice loaner capability to the Dutch keeping an eye on the perfidious Venezuelans), one for Gibraltar (since this is my take on the fantasy I’ve plans for Gib as a prepositioning base), the rest to run up and down the North Atlantic generally and EEZ in particular (over the roads for the V boats.) Adds a big capability the Norse, Danes, and Icelanders will appreciate, puts the UK forward towards the Arctic at low cost, doubles up some muscular fisheries capability alongside the ASW/port roads security. Keep the Hunts on because they’re class and will run nearly forever, ditch the Rivers and Sandowns and P2000s. (Yes, if a future government went money-mad with MoD and you got a pair of extra hulls on the build contract they could be training ships as well.)

In a completely different direction, one of the great failures (among many) of the concept behind MRA4 was the failure to produce a dual-use long-range/high-end patroller-cum-FOAS cruise truck. Something that doubled as a high-intensity MPA and a medium-sized, fairly long range bomber, with a second something cheap and cheerful on the EEZ patrol/SAR end. Not nearly as handlebar-mustache sexy as F35 for the light blue but a hell of a lot more useful (ie helping the RN saturate a “first day” opponent with stand-off weapons aimed at key targets without needing forward basing or massive refueling costs.)

April 11, 2012 8:15 pm

@ Jackstaff, an MPA with a designed range of weapons was thought of, indeed the MRA4 was designed with the ability to fire Storm Shadow and Brimstone if I remember right.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 11, 2012 8:23 pm

One point on the C 295 and it is one campaign and mission specific. During OUP the Canadian Aurora and US P3 could be re tasked re actively to other areas due to their long legs and endurance whilst the Spanish C 295 could not be due to range limitations.

April 11, 2012 9:03 pm

Topman two spots above,

Yes, it is good that MRA4, P3 and 8, and several other high-end MPAs are substantially fighty (launching a variety of ground attack and stand-off ASM or land attack missiles, rather than “just” laying mines or dropping torps, with the inverted commas because those are useful too though eclipsed by broader capability.) What I was thinking of is more on the lines of an airframe with a combat radius (as bomber) of 3000+ nmi, so also legs till Christmas in MPA configuration, able to take a load (at least 6 in a bomb bay, maybe up to 10 if the wing pylons would handle it) of a serious air-launched standoff, eg range of nearly another thousand nmi. This would expand vastly the capability (on top of RN’s vl cruise) to give an Opfor a bollocking from too much distance for their local CAP/AD network to counter but (mixed with drones, spoofing, and so on) force a use or lose response that would tip their hand to closer-range (regionally or carrier based) attack. But an airframe — back to the “dual” — with size and interior capacity to host long-duration MPA kit.

April 11, 2012 9:10 pm

As for the putative payload, yes that is “future proofing” towards something like an air-launched MdCN or a weaponised result from son-of-Waverider (it’s based on 1950s British maths after all :) but I susopect, or at least hope, the American flirtation with “Air-Sea Battle” (basically yet another effort, like those throughout military history, to make ranged bombardment against well-positioned defence effective in the present moment) will offer up some weapons-system results.

April 11, 2012 9:14 pm

Hi Gareth,

Personally I have been a fan of a purchase of S-3B’s for a land based ASuW mission – it’s cheap, has plenty of life left in the air-frame (as long as you do not want to operate it off a carrier), the engines are easy to replace as the CF-4 is a civilian version of the TF-34 used on the S-3B, and while it would never be as capable as even a C-295 it could be easily crewed by the RN if the RAF did not want to use their budget to bring it into service. Plus if the worst comes to the worst and the FAA ends up out of the fast jet game, the RN could move all their pilots currently training in the US back to fly their S-3B’s, which would still make the FAA a viable career for aircrew who wanted to fly fixed wing.

April 11, 2012 9:18 pm

@ Jackstaff I’m not sure such an a/c could be made. Sounds like a huge modification; bomb bays and under wing pylons plus all the other equipment as well as performing the MPA role?

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
April 11, 2012 10:20 pm

The senario I would like to see post the next SDSR would be the conversion of the Short RAF C-130Js to an approximate of the USCG platforms, and even some of the stretched versions to give the UK 8-12 MPA platforms. Yes they have been worked hard in Afghanistan but we have a UK based expoert in the overhaul and modification of the C-120, namely Marshalls and I am sure they already have drawing ready for alot of the work.

Given budget constraints, the C-130 offers many advantages and the need for an MPA/SAR platform has not gone away. There would be little risk involved
especially if we stick close to the USCG model amd the platforms already have an in flight refueling capability. The support infrastructure is in place and action in the MPA/SAR role without a warfighter capability would support the arguement for the costs to be shared with other agencies. In fact we could go further and give the platform a AAR capability to allow SAR heicopters with probes (ie Merlin even if not fitted as yet) to operate at greatly increased range. The long range rescue by USAF HH-53s in the Atlantic springs to mind.

ASW is another matter and in my opinion should put on the back burner. The threat simply doesn’t justify the expenditure given the current budget presures. It is firmly in the “Nice to have” catagory for now.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
April 11, 2012 10:21 pm

Sorry about spelling etc, not enough sleep and too much coffee.

April 11, 2012 10:42 pm

The overhaul required to extend the c130 past 2020 will be roughly equivalent to the overhaul required on a p3 orion eg it will need both a new centre and outer wing box along with a fuse refurbishment in certain areas and while marshals can do it whats the point.

LJ as for the aar capability a certain transport due to arrive late next year or early 2014 has such a capability already built in which we are choosing not to use and is capable of accepting FITS.

April 11, 2012 11:14 pm

Before we get lost picking random ideas out of the toybox, any solution needs to fulfil three core capabilities – maritime surveillance, SAR and warfare (be that ASW, ASUW or land warfare). You can break it down or combine these any way you like, but I think a solution would come up short if it didn’t answer the following:

Surveillance – long endurance, surface search radar, TV and thermal camera system.

SAR – the above requirements plus liferaft/supply drop, communications relay, ability to home in on locator systems. If no surface search radar, ability to be cued to target by third party.

Warfare – Antisubmarine requiring sonobuoys, radar capable of periscope detection, capacity for non-traditional detection systems (MAD, diesel fume sensing, etc). Anti-surface – target indication radar, weapon carriage. Both roles – Link, ESM, long and short range communications.

Feel free to add to these but I think this provides the basic framework.

What about the possibility that a maritime surveillance capability could be leveraged out of the NATO AGS programme? Same airframe as the BAMS, plenty of mutual interest, and surely some contribution to Active Endeavour in the Med if not also the western European seaboard? It answers the surveillance element of the MPA equation, leaving only the SAR element (which could be done by an un-modified C130 or A400M) and the warfare element (whatever MPA that might be)? It may answer many of the maritime patrol questions being asked by other nations as their MPA’s get towards the end of their service lives.

Ace Rimmer
April 11, 2012 11:16 pm

Mark, For me the point of the P-3 is as a system we know it works, its combat proven, tried and tested etc without labouring the point too much. P-8A, is well just an A. I’d go for the Atlantique for the same reasons, either/or, which one is on the whole irrelevant. These can be kept for a few years until the P-8 matures and we can buy the P-8B, or 2.0 or whatever they decide to call it.

Given the procurement debacles over the last few years, it makes me cringe to consider a high end and costly system that is just the mark 1.

As for the other aircraft the biz-jet (Sentinel or Falcon) the C-295 sound good options and good aircraft. Albeit, the C-295 for short-leg coastguard work.

On the S-3B Viking issue, why are we still talking of raiding the boneyard? It was mentioned on the F-35 thread for use on carriers but no-one has mentioned a new build option. If Grumman can build the C-2/E-2 in relatively small production numbers, then it shouldn’t take too much ingenuity for Lockheed to farm out a small number of new-builds to a sub-contractor. I could shoot myself in the foot by stating ‘how hard can it be?’ we know it would cost a packet but any purchase could be linked to the carrier air group procurement if the S-3 was considered.

April 11, 2012 11:29 pm

Ace Rimmer you miss understood my point I would support a p3 option as the high end option. The whats the point was more in relation to SLEPing a herc which can never deliver the required total capability when we could do something similar on a p3 and give the EADS FIT system also as has been done already.
A P3M/cn295 high low mix if the politics allow.

Angus McLellan
Angus McLellan
April 11, 2012 11:34 pm

Mark: The point is the one APATS made earlier. Converting existing kit would be an easier sell than buying new kit and making the Nimrod fiasco a live issue again. So asking for pennies to rewing Hercules airframes or paying for multi-mission conversions for HS 125s or BAe 146s (should have kept those Dominies in store …) is more likely to get a positive response. Politics is the art of the possible and all that. So the choice is probably not P-3s or C-130s, it’s more likely C-130s (or whatever gets pickted) or sod all.

The other alternative, as already mentioned, is for the MCA to discover an urgent need to buy or lease FWSAR aircraft. But that’s not going to happen. The MCA cancelled ETV cover to save 12 million quid a year (sounds trivial, but that was about 30% of their budget for ships, boats, aircraft and helicopters). No money there for anything.

April 11, 2012 11:36 pm

As a matter of interest, are sonobuoys recovered, or once-only use then discarded and left to sink? They can’t be that cheap.

April 12, 2012 12:56 am

Looking at the links provided, £350 million for 10 P-3? That’s pretty nice if they can pull off. Still can’t understand though why – when MR4A was scrapped – all the sensors etc had to be scrapped too? The airframes, ok, but all the sensors that potentially could have been transplanted somewhere else? Shocking.

@ Lord Jim

Repeat after me; “there is no such thing as too much coffee…”

April 12, 2012 8:21 am

This quote is from the Defence Management Journal. Interesting that the Sentry has this capability? Article also points out that SAR is a MCGA responsibility not MOD so they wont be wanting to spend F35 money on someone else’s job.

“It is not all doom and gloom. An E-3 AWACS, for example, can pick out a fishing boat in a 10m swell. It is the underwater picture that is the main area of concern and in an effort to think outside the box, the MoD is focusing now on sensors and skill sets rather than aircraft platforms.”


April 12, 2012 8:30 am

Re: the DMJ article I would draw your attention to the second comment at the end from an ex-Nimrod pilot. Could all this be cured by simply pumping up the tyres and changing the oil on the MR2 Nimrods in various museums?

April 12, 2012 10:08 am

Thanks Waddi, the comments to the linked article set the balance between airworthiness problems and mission kit nicely (better than any single synthesis I have seen so far).

April 12, 2012 10:10 am

Think most helo sonars nowadays are dipping sonars, they winch it down, ping a few times, then winch it back up and move on. Or use a Magnetic Anomaly Detector.

I’m still of the opinion that a few high endurance sonobuoys can be a very cheap solution to expensive patrol craft that cost millions, not to mention the endurance factor and the fact that the MPA can only “sweep” the area, then have to move on, while semi-fixed emplacements like buoys are persistant coverage. With a surveillance net in place, all you have to worry about then are SAR and very rare “pounce and kill” missions which are already very well handled by existing naval helos. 2 design considerations for the aircraft now instead of 3, and use of existing aircraft is even more possible now with less mission type demands.

Remember, there is a budget crunch going on. “Save” and “buy new X,Y,Z” are a contradiction in terms. Cheapest solution now please.

April 12, 2012 12:12 pm

@Ace Rimmer

To build S-3s you need engines. This in turn means, you need new engines, BR-710 or something.

My thought process:
– BAE has a thoroughly working, relatively low-spec conventional UAV, the MANTIS
– Wildcat Lynx has a superb and relatively small radar kit and a good sensor turret.
– Is it possible to get both kits together to achieve a cheap maritime surveillance platform?
– Is is possible to launch this platform from a CATOBAR and/or Skyjump?
– If yes, what do we achieve, if the UAV exchanges the SeaSparay AESA against a Vixen AESA, sharing 80% of the electronics?

For SAR, I repeat: we need a proper coast guard, run as a seperate agency within another department, spread around the overseas territories, including Diego-Garcia to kick pirates asses. Jumpstart them using existing Merlins with non-foldable blades. Extend range with enhanced interior fuel or CFTs.

Apart from these points, I actually like the C295-series a lot as a medium supplement to the ever shrinking transport fleet.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 12, 2012 1:19 pm

I like the options discussed in gophers link;

I do quibble about what Dr Robertson says about LTA; she dismisses the option for ASW but they have a long history of ASW, including “wet” sensors. In theory, a blimp could carry everything a Merlin can and for a very long time. Now, as this is “in theory”, and there is no current ASW/MPA blimps in survice, its a quibble rather than a rant…

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 12, 2012 1:21 pm

from link:
“In conclusion, UAVs do have some advantages for maritime patrol:

· Endurance

· Low observability

· No on-board crew to get tired and hungry, though significant man-power is still needed to fly and operate the sensors from the ground.

But, there are signification disadvantages

· Range limited by communications capability – if the UAV is further away than line-of-sight, then satellite communications must be used. Data transmission rates are limited by power requirements

· Payload weight considerations – a capable radar requires an appropriately–sized antenna, typical radar weights may be ~ 50kg and Optical sensor weights ~ 40 kg

· Operation in civilian air space is restricted

· Remote control of sensors is limited due to bandwidth required for communications

· Lack of Flexibility of Operation – UAVs are not autonomous, they are unable to automatically change flight course in order to investigate a self-identified target.”

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 12, 2012 1:38 pm

@ TD – when you say the C-295 won’t be used for transport duties due to its sensors, what if we turned that on its head and equip ALL our transports with basic sensors to act as basic MPA’s/ISTAR? From the same link as above:

“B.7 Use of A400 and A330
These platforms would be ideal for ISTAR roles, with their patterns of deployment including loitering for re-fueling(A330) and carrying out routine flights for transport purposes along relatively repeatable routes (A400).
They could be fitted with radar, Electronic Surveillance and even EO sensors that could be suitable for secondary roles as MPAs, to be used if an Urgent Requirement for Maritime Patrol were to emerge .
Much of the sensor systems from the MRA4 has been destroyed, however, the skills to operate the kit are just about current, so if such a capability needed to be reconstituted in a hurry, this could be a good option.”

Peter Elliott
April 12, 2012 1:49 pm

@ Gareth

The natural counterpart for removable interior workstations is surely removable podded sensors.

If the exterior of the airframe has enough hardpoints: not just under the wings but also on the belly, nose and indeed the top of the main fueselage then why can’t the sensor fit be tailored to the mission just like the interior equipment? ELINT, MPA, ISTAR, ASAC could all share the same basic airframes with a common transport pool.

Maybe some of the systems are just too delicate and sensitve to be hoiked on and off the airframe on a regular basis, but we seem to cope with fitting and recovering multi million pound smart munitions so why not with sensor pods?

Peter Elliott
April 12, 2012 2:10 pm

Has the advantage that you de-couple systems development from airframe development.

Provided we define the interfaces correctly we can use the same systems on any combination A400, A330 & C-295.

Multiple manufatcurers can also be invited to submit workstaions and pods suited to their particular specialisms, without having to know anything much about aeronautic design. Brings small and medium sized enterprises back into the procurment picture.

Then when an interesting new airframe does come along (like a next generation CATOBAR capable transport jet) it will be comparitively easy to drop the mature evolved systems and sensor suites into it.

April 12, 2012 2:45 pm

While a c295 may have some reduction in transport capability I would think the flir and radars ect would make it quite suitable to transport those men how work in smaller group and run around the Brecon beacons.

As for uavs and mpa they have only 1 advantage endurance everything else can be done better and cheaper using a manned platform. Global hawk is incredibly expensive 5 a/c will cost NATO 3 billion euro to buy and operate for 20 years and it’s the only one that has the required capabilities for such a mission. And while incidents happen with all a/c it’s been interesting over the last couple of weeks that all reaper operation out of Seychelles and all us helicopter Uav operations have been suspended due to multiple recent crashes this is still very immature tech to be spending so much on.

April 12, 2012 3:07 pm

Much of the sensor systems from the MRA4 has been destroyed


April 12, 2012 7:09 pm

mmmmmm where to begin:

MCG has no budget for fixed wing SAR – well for sure, but it could always rely on the Nimrod before ! Surely any solution run under contract to civvy agency will be cheaper than relying on RAF to provide it ? If we did a Marshalls rebuild of short body C130J how many would we need ? 6 or 8 in order to have one at alert 30 for 24/7/365 ?

If ASW is not such a big threat as to spend a lot more money on, then TD’s SIMMS based on civvy hull with towed array and helo deck sized for Merlin should do fine for protecting a deploying SSBN ?? Even better if Lynx sized hanger and air-weapons magazine can be added to SX119 for a reasonable price ?

Leaving Military survaillance / ASuW – S3’s out of the bone yard, use as is, or update at additional cost. Capable of both maritime and overland ISR and “patrol bomber” missions, with great range / endurance and probe and drogue refuelling. Need say 18 max (6 for UK based maritime role, 6 for OCU, and 6 “deployable”) with another 12 as “spares” for cannibilsation ??

If at some point we need ‘fast-air-ASW’ add the Merlin’s acoustic processor, sonobouy link radios and some sonobouy launchers back into the S3 – et voila….