Future Maritime Patrol – Part 1 (Challenges and Missions)

We have regularly discussed future maritime patrol on Think Defence but it is an especially interesting subject because it spans so many capability areas and has so many implications in other areas.

Before we Talk Turkey!

Before we can get to the discussion about requirements and equipment there are a number of issues that need to be considered.

The Shadow of Nimrod

It should be clear that while Nimrod might not appear in any formal requirements documents and frankly, the MoD and BAE would prefer everyone just forgot it, Nimrod will cast a long shadow on any future purchase of even a remotely similar aircraft.

First, after spending the better part of £4b on Nimrod MRA4 spending many millions or billions, so soon after, on an aircraft not made in the UK is going to result in a rough ride in the House of Commons and mainstream media. We should not underestimate the importance of this, after all, the Treasury and Mr UK Taxpayer has already handsomely funded a Maritime Patrol Aircraft but the money was, let us be kind here, squandered.

Second, the legacy of XV230 (the Nimrod MR2 that crashed in Afghanistan) was the Haddon Cave inquiry and resultant changes in airworthiness management. The issues in achieving full release to service on the Airseeker aircraft shows the difficulties in using older aircraft. This does not make it impossible but simply adds to the time and cost of doing so should the ‘answer’ be something like a refurbished P3. There is no point bemoaning the MAA processes, they are what they are and if, as some suggest, that they are too restrictive and risk averse the RAF and MoD only has itself to blame.

Third, related to the second, is a general reluctance to enter into development or modification programmes after the trauma of MRA4 that any proposal with the words ‘convert’ or ‘UK specific’ is likely to see it confined to the round filing cabinet. Low risk, off the shelf, is probably at the top of the shopping list.

Buying the most cost effective low risk solution also provides a handy counterpoint for the inevitable backlash in the House of Commons.

The Gap Keeps Getting Larger

I know it might be a facile argument but an uncomfortable truth is that the UK has been without a maritime patrol aircraft for  some years now after Nimrod MR2 was withdrawn in early 2010. By the time of SDSR 2015 it will be 5 years and by the time any new system is bought into full service it will be getting close to a decade.

The argument goes, if we have been without such a vital capability for so long, how come the world has not stopped turning. Wiser souls will simply laugh at that but it is often not the wisest that make the decisions and whatever argument one deploys it is difficult to counter.

Scottish Independence

I think it is impossible to frame any sort of requirement for future maritime patrol without having the issue of Scottish independence resolved one way or the other. If independence happens and the expected wishes of the Scottish people is to remove the UK’s nuclear submarine force and associated facilities the requirement for maritime patrol will change.

Areas and routes to be monitored will be different and this would need to be factored into any programme.

The General Lack of Cash

In our previous discussions on SDSR 2015 I think we came to the conclusion that whichever party comes into power in 2015 a genuine increase in defence spending is highly unlikely. With the economy still not in rude health, a low perceived direct threat to the UK, defence inflation higher than general inflation and numerous other calls on public finances SDSR 2015 is likely to concentrate on maintaining the road to Future Force 2020 as defined by SDSR2010 (and subsequent revisions) than anything else.

Consequently, the likelihood of embarking on a major procurement project is unlikely.

The very long shadow cast by Nimrod, a lack of headroom in the equipment plan (do not be lulled into a false sense of security by unallocated underspend), a general lack of funding and the simple fact that we seem to be getting on just fine without points to an almost impossible task of getting MPA back on the MoD’s purchasing agenda.

Why bother discussing it then?

A good question, the answer, it remains a requirement and you never know what might transpire in the next few years so apart from the general interest value the subject is still important enough to consider.

Implications on Other Capabilities Areas

This is where the debate gets interesting

Because almost any of the choices available potentially has an impact in other capability areas these secondary implications might form a central part of the decision.

It is in these secondary options where the potential for combined cost savings and/or capability improvements could be found and simply cannot be ignored.

Focusing on the Maritime Patrol/Surveillance requirements to the exclusion of these secondary areas might be desirable from a single requirement perspective but I do not think it sensible or realistic to do so.

The potential is simply too great ignore.

A few examples spring immediately to mind;

If the P8 is the DS answer, would it be possible to withdraw Sentinel and thus make savings by virtue of deleting an entire fleet. Maybe the surplus R1’s could be reconverted back to passenger carrying, replacing the HS125 and BAE146 fleets, perhaps they might be converted to the aeromedical role.

If the second mooted choice of the C295 is selected, again, what are the secondary impacts. Could non MPA C295’s be purchased at the same time and used to replace the C130J’s as the RAF transitions to the A400M. Could a C235/295 be used instead of Shadow, HS125, and BAE146.

Not all of these need to happen overnight and could be included in the overall justification in the context of a long term platform strategy.


The conventional approach is to define a requirement, fulfil requirement and move on to the next project.

However, as we all know the big fat grey thing with big ears in the room is money.

With this in mind the purist approach is never used in reality, available funding always dictates, or at least influences, requirements. There is no point defining a requirement that is so high as to be unachievable so inevitably trade offs and compromise must be a central feature of any requirement.

Requirements start with the wider context, into which they are placed.

The Wider Context

The UK remains an expeditionary focussed nation, globally engaged and with a diverse range of interests. Maritime security and protection of deployed naval forces is an obvious requirement.

The UK is a nuclear power making use of ballistic missile submarines, the SSBN force. Protection of the deterrent is a key requirement and although this is being provided currently by naval vessels and helicopters the overstretch on these assets and opportunity costs of not being able to use them elsewhere should be obvious.

The UK has a range of allies that mostly have their own maritime patrol aircraft capability and thus can more or less be relied upon to provide some aspects of the requirement. Our nearest ally, France, has a fleet of Breguet Atlantique maritime patrol aircraft but no C17’s. France has recently taken advantage of the UK’s C17 fleet and there is absolutely no reason why in a coalition operation, France, and others who may or may not be involved, could contribute their aircraft.

This brings me on to defence planning assumptions and the acceptance that for the majority of operations, the UK will not be operating alone.

Many people argue that the UK is increasingly dependant on ‘others’ for an increasing number of military capabilities but in this case, our allies are generally pretty flush with maritime patrol aircraft. They will not of course contribute to UK only tasks such as SSBN protection but those arguing for a more contributory and load sharing approach to defence matters might point to this area as one which could be shared.

The seven military tasks as defined by the 2010 SDSR are as follows;

  • Defending the UK and its Overseas Territories
  • Providing strategic intelligence
  • Providing nuclear deterrence
  • Supporting civil emergency organisations in times of crisisDefending the UK’s interest by projecting power strategically and through expeditionary interventionProviding a defence contribution to UK influence
  • Providing security for stabilisation

It could be reasonably argued that a maritime patrol aircraft would make a significant contribution to all of them.

A range of threats exist that are countered by maritime patrol aircraft

We might consider the threat posed by a resurgent Russia seeking to compromise the deterrent, direct conflict with Iran or states such as Syria and even the much discussed future conflict with China. Personally, I find citing China or operating in support of the USA in the Pacific to be rather weak arguments for, almost anything actually, but the truism of ‘you never know what might happen in the future’ remains true.

To summarise, the wider context, into which a maritime patrol aircraft might sit, present some compelling arguments but some that can be relatively easily dismissed.

When placed in a wider context, the case is a strong one but it is not irresistibly strong; hence, the obvious situation we find ourselves in.

The Requirement Span Dilemma

With this subject there is a particular dilemma and it is unavoidable.

If it is accepted that the primary role of a Maritime Patrol Aircraft is deep water long range Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) this drives us to conclude that only an aircraft like the P8, P3, or P1 will suffice.  Unfortunately, it is the most expensive option and the reality is the likelihood of using deep water long range ASW capabilities is relatively low.

The principal cost driver therefore, is for a capability that is the least likely to be needed.

Span of Requirements
Span of Requirements

This is the same argument that is common to many major equipment projects; why do we need Typhoons when flying up against ancient Mig 23’s, why spend money on Challengers when we only ever seem to face Chieftain era enemies and why   invest in; well, you get the picture.

Maritime Patrol is not going to answer any of these questions but the issue must be considered.

Setting our sights high narrows the field, accepting compromises in capability provides much greater choice and lower cost.

Recognising that we need ASW less and maritime security type capabilities more would almost certainly result in a lower spend.


Just what do we need this aircraft to do, missions should inform requirements?

Anti Submarine

I think what many people fail to realise about anti-submarine warfare is that it is a team sport, many players and many layers. Submarines, frigates, helicopters and even fixed sensors all play their part so the lack of a maritime patrol aircraft does not all of a sudden render the UK’s anti submarine warfare capability void but it does reduce its effectiveness.

All the players can score a goal on their own but together are much more effective.Working with other parts of a well trained team they up the effectiveness and provide a greater deterrent to submarines operating in a given area. We should not, therefore, get over excited about the prowess of a maritime patrol aircraft in isolation but understand something quite simple, given the effectiveness of submarines, you want a full team.

The importance of the anti-submarine requirements comes down to acceptance of risk.

Without them, you place your surface and sub surface force at greater risk, with them, you reduce that risk.

The ASW task could be boiled down to a couple of areas; deep ocean ASW in support of transiting shipping groups and the SSBN fleet and shallower water or inshore ASW characterised, for example, by operating in support of operations in the Middle East and the Gulf of Arabia.

I think it is obvious although the former has a much lower likelihood than the latter it is equally obvious that the impact of the former is potentially much greater.

Of all the requirements, the split between the two broad ASW areas, has the greatest potential for influencing costs and, so the requirements definition comes down to a impact v likelihood discussion.

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 quiet 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.

We might also consider the proliferation of non state submarine manufacturers e.g. narco subs. I do not think anyone is proposing dropping Stingray torpedoes on narco subs though!

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

Search and Rescue

The UK has a very clear international obligation in this regard and is coordinated by the Department of Transport, these obligations are derived from voluntary adherence to the;

The three key functions of UK Search and Rescue are;

  1. Maritime SAR in offshore, inshore and shoreline areas
  2. Aeronautical SAR over land and sea
  3. Inland SAR

Of these, item 2 is the most relevant for a maritime patrol aircraft.

The UK SAR framework and resultant organisation is complicated with many agencies, devolved governmental bodies, private sector and voluntary organisations playing their parts. Into this mix is the MoD whose stated SAR responsibility is

The MoD has responsibility for providing SAR facilities for military operations, exercises and training within the UK and, by agreement, exercises responsibility for the co-ordination of civil aeronautical SAR on behalf of the DfT. Where the coverage provided by military SAR assets meets the civil SAR coverage requirements, they will be made available for civil maritime and land-based SAR operations. The high readiness SAR assets are SAR helicopters, maritime surveillance fixed wing aircraft and mountain rescue teams. The MoD also establishes and maintains an Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC) for the operation and co-ordination of civil and military aeronautical SAR assets.

As we know, the familiar grey and yellow Sea King helicopters of the RAF and Royal Navy will be replaced soon by the SAR-H PFI. After a rocky start and a controversial restart the programme is back on track.

The DFT and MoD awarded a Gap – SAR contract to Bristow Search and Rescue who will operate this until the contract main start in 2015, read more about Gap SAR here.

The contract is for the provision of rotary SAR only.

Looking at the image below, which shows the UK’s SAR area, it is clear that helicopters simply cannot cover the vast distances involved. Long range search and rescue including on scene coordination and air dropping of rescue equipment was carried out by the Nimrod MR2, with one aircraft held at 2 hours notice to move.

When the MR2 was withdrawn this cover was delegated to Hercules and E3 Sentry aircraft on as needed basis and mutual aid agreements with the French, who provide similar coverage in their area using converted Dassault Falcon business jets.

The diagram below shows the extent of the UK Search and Rescue Region (SRR), covering 1.25 million square nautical miles of sea and over 10.5 thousand nautical miles of coastline

UK Search and Rescue Region
UK Search and Rescue Region


Many have commented on the general inadequate nature of this current provision, characterising the Governments approach as akin to the image below

fingers crossed

So far that luck has held, there have been no instances that would require a fixed wing aircraft beyond the range of helicopters. This simple fact is used often to make the case that there is no case and it would be fairly foolish to hang on to SAR as justification for a new maritime patrol aircraft.

The underlying lack of demand and improving safety of shipping combined with general direction of travel as demonstrated by the SAR-H PFI should be obvious that fixed wing SAR as provided by Nimrod MR2 is not at the tope of the shopping list.

It could be relatively easily provided by extending the PFI to include a couple of modified business jet, types of which there are many available off the shelf.

Alternatively, simply extending cooperation with the French or Irish governments and maintaining basic cover with combinations of whatever long range aircraft  were available.

I can see the attraction of outsourced civilianised long range SAR.

Eequally, it all comes from public expenditure and because it is used much less frequently than the rotary SAR provided by Bristow’s there exists a possibility to share resources between a military MPA and declaring this as a search and rescue capability.

So, SAR is an argument for MPA, but lets face it, not a strong one.

Offshore Maritime Security

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.

UK Territorial Waters
UK Territorial Waters

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 another 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, over 6.8 million square kilometres


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.

Offshore and near-shore infrastructure is becoming increasingly important in the UK’s energy mix.

Wave and wind infrastructure is now increasingly likely to be placed at greater distances from shore and as gas and oil exploration pushes into deeper water the need for airborne security platforms will only increase.

Demand for energy, competition for natural resources and a greater demand on energy imports (particularly LNG) point to an increased requirement for effective surveillance and security.

The offshore hydrocarbon industry is moving increasingly towards underwater compression infrastructure so the traditional oil and gas platform may become a thing of the past. Shell are currently trialling a sub-sea compressor in their Ormen Lange gas field off Norway. This facility requires power from the shore, another sub-sea cable requirement that joins the many sub-sea cables that need surveillance and protection. Perhaps future production facilities around the Falkland Islands will not look like what we expect at all.

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.

By having a deployable capability it could also make a valuable contribution to coalition maritime security operations such as counter narcotics in the Caribbean or counter piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

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. The 2010 SDSR recognised that no single body could or should be responsible for maritime security so the establishment of NMIC was a good move, at least it would provide some measure of coordination. There is still duplication though, with overlapping surface and aircraft provision across the numerous interested parties. As resources continue to be pressed, low profile but vital functions such as MSOG and NMIC are likely to be starved of funding undoing much of their good work and ensuring they fail to achieve their potential.

Of the two lower-intensity tasks that any maritime patrol aircraft would fulfil I think a much stronger argument exists for high endurance maritime security than search and rescue.

Anti Surface Warfare

An area, which seems to have fallen away with the withdrawal of Harpoon and Sea Eagle is the anti surface warfare role. Given the increasing effectiveness of ship-borne anti aircraft weapons and proliferation of aircraft carriers one might assume that this is a role best left to tactical fighters like the F35B with a pair of Joint Strike Missiles from Kongsberg, I would tend to agree. It is; however, another valuable capability that would be good to regain.

ISTAR in Support of Joint Operations

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.

Since MR2 though, the RAF and British Army have improved their general ISTAR capabilities immeasurably, both manned and unmanned, and a multi purpose maritime patrol aircraft might not make as significant contribution to joint operations as previously.

Over water; however, things are somewhat different and maritime ISTAR in support of joint operations remains a significant gap.


Establishing the need for a maritime patrol aircraft/capability is obviously a pre-requisite to going shopping but the simple fact that the UK does not currently possess such a capability should be evidence that the need is not compelling.

In 2012, the Defence Select Committee published their findings on Maritime Surveillance, the summary was as follows;

The Committee has serious concerns following the decision in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) to cancel the Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) programme.  Although the MoD’s own capability investigations have concluded that a MPA is the solution to the UK’s maritime surveillance requirements over the next 20 years, the MoD has postponed any decision on a further MPA until at least the next SDSR in 2015. The UK therefore now has no current or planned sovereign MPA capability (i.e. a capability that could be operated independently) and the MoD has acknowledged that the resultant capability gap cannot be completely covered by an existing single asset or collection of assets. The reduction in certain sovereign long range maritime surveillance capabilities also highlights the UK’s interim dependency on allies for support in protecting the increasingly important reaches of the UK as well as its wider defence and direct military capability.

The video clip below accurately described the MoD’s response to their concerns

Since then; however, the mood music has changed and those with money burning holes in their pockets are betting on a P8 or C295 purchase to be announced in the 2015 SDSR, no doubt fuelled by selective leaking from the ISTAR Optimisation Study that is ongoing.

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?

A hi-lo mix, staggered introduction, selected use of unmanned systems or those already in service all need considering. The market has not stood still either, technology marches on and of course we have to consider sovereign independence, technology and industrial strategy.

To summarise, there are many factors, which make the acquisition of a maritime patrol aircraft challenging.

Some aspects of the mission seem to be obvious but others can be questioned and the means of meeting those mission requirements might not be as clear cut as initially thought. Every paper I have seen on this subject starts with the answer, Boeing P8 Poseidon, and works back from there, swiftly dismissing any alternative.

In the next part of this series I am going to look at a range of options, the gold standard P8, a bargain basement C235 and all points between, including a handful of wild cards.

One thing I will be doing is looking at some of the wider aspects, recognising that a narrow blinkered look at the subject might not be optimal and preclude taking options for cost reduction or capability improvements in others areas by virtue of the decision on equipment for maritime patrol and surveillance.

Every choice will be a trade off against cost, time, complexity, industrial benefits, risk and capability.

I do not think there is any single obvious answer to this question


The Rest of the Series

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 1 (Challenges and Missions)

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

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

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

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

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

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 7 (Summary)







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All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 19, 2014 10:42 pm

“On their own, a maritime patrol aircraft may not hunt and kill a submarine”

Actually an MPA able to drop multiple buoy lines and carry weapons is extremely capable of hunting and killing a submarine.

“lso highlights the UK’s interim dependency on allies for support in protecting the increasingly important reaches of the UK as well as its wider defence and direct military capability”

How long will they be prepared to cover us for? Make no mistake they currently are.

Great post though nicely sums up all our mutterings and issues from the MPA thread.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 19, 2014 10:50 pm


I think it is generally a team sport with what we call the “weapon train” being crucial. However if any asset is likely to prosecute on its own it is likely to be an MPA, the beauty of an MPA is range and speed, it can if bases are available range hundreds of miles ahead of a TG. It can self deploy Mid Atlantic or GIFUK Gap against an SSN intrusion.
It tends to conduct offensive or forward ASW .

Escorts and Helos generally concentrate on protecting the MEU. If you launch your amphib force/air raid or get your convoy through without ever going “hot” on a submarine you have achieved your aim.

Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
January 19, 2014 10:58 pm

The forecast for our budget deficit in 2014/5 is around £95 billion or 5.6% of GDP, in 2015/16 £80 billion or 4.4% of GDP with deficits continuing until 2018/19

At the time of the 2010 SSDR the deficit was forecast to be 1.1% by 2015/16

Because of this and because of the impact of Trident replacement costs I actually expect another cut in conventional military spending with the Type 23/26’s most at risk. I am an active member of the Conservative Party and do not get any strong sense that the party is that interested in the detail of defence issues as I have seen little real debate about the cuts already made so I think until the 2015 election we won’t see any major changes

I think decision makers will feel that we have got away with cutting capabilities and won’t see a strong need to restore those capabilities except for the carriers which have a certain national ego associated with them.
My gut feel is that we might look at a civilian long range SAR capability or maybe small incremental purchases of P-8 like we did with the C-17 but I do not expect any proper planning unless events force it on us ala 1982 Falklands

January 19, 2014 11:25 pm

I would agree that ASuW is best left to tactical aircraft. But finding the targets for those fast jets is the role of an MPA.

May I remind you that the Argentine lack of MPA meant that many A-4 strikes were fruitless, as they had not fuel to search for targets? Had the Argentine P-2 fleet been operational, losses to the task force might have been even higher before even entering San Carlos Water.

Jeremy M H
January 20, 2014 2:49 am

@Xbradtc and TD

I honestly think that, at least on a proper MPA of any sort, having a good ASuW capability is something that is very useful in a pinch.

For the sake of making a quick point I am going to vastly over-simplify things but having something like Harpoon, JSM or eventually LRASM on an MPA in reasonable numbers (2 to 4 on a standard patrol) vastly complicates the situation for the other side in any sort of active shooting conflict. Being hunted by something that could range several thousand miles out from its bases inflicts a lot of virtual attrition (in the form of things that now need escorted around) as well as operational restrictions on what ships you can operate alone and very importantly what type of EMCON you are operating under. Do you keep your radars off within possible patrol areas? Because if an MPA stumbles (or is directed by other assets to your area) and acquires you visually you could be dead before your combat systems power up. Do you turn your radars on to make sure you are not surprised? Well now you are pretty easy to track yourself.

Mostly though adding some anti-ship missiles to an MPA really does not take that much doing if it is a proper MPA. Doing it prevents you from being stuck in that situation where you happened upon a surface ship and can’t do anything but make faces at it. For the very marginal cost of doing it I can’t see deploying an MPA without that capability.

Rocket Banana
January 20, 2014 9:19 am


Your diagram of combat>security>safety made me laugh. It nicely demonstrates a need for a hi-low mix on just about everything.

I just wanted to suggest that “maritime security” only needs a 200nm radius of operation so suits copters and short range aircraft well. It does not directly require a long-range MPA.

My gut feeling is that the primary requirement for MPA that is difficult and expensive to “cover” with other assets or even other procurement strategies is the deep water ASW and SSBN protection. I’d therefore put the MPA decision in the same bucket as the decision to keep Trident.


…finding the targets for those fast jets is the role of an MPA.

Sentry can do that as well as any MPA, if not better. A 1MW radar is not to be sniffed at ;-)

Going back to my point above too, maritime strike jets will not have the legs for very long range operations (especially on scramble, where a tanker might not be airborne). So you simply don’t need a 1200nm radius of operation, ship detecting, MPA.

January 20, 2014 10:27 am

Having seen the many arguments I feel the right option at SDSR 2015 is a C295 MPA buy of suffiicent aircraft to provide full time cover for SAR and decent level ASW and surface patrol. Not sure how many aircraft that would need and where they would need ot be based to give full UK wide coverage with a decent response time. North / South basing as QRA? I would allocate a flight of 2 aircraft to the FI.

Although the C295 will siginficantly enhance SSBN cover over what we have now and in a relatively low threat status, I accept the argument that it may change if the Russians press ahead with SSN activity. I also accept the need for a longer legged MPA to cover any major force deployment.

I feel there will also need for a commitment to buy a very small fleet (6?) of either the P8 or somthing equivalent. The answer has to be off the shelf so P8 is about the only candidate at present but if Sea Atlas appears then its an attractive possibility

I would hope we could gain some economies by adopting the C295 to replace a number of other types in various light transport and similar roles

Rocket Banana
January 20, 2014 10:57 am

Just musing about the C295, which, as an aircraft, I’m starting to like…

Could the MPA “fit” be modular?

In other words, could we use the same airframes for tactical lift if necessary?

Transporting 50 fully equipped troops 1000nm to an austere grass airfield sounds rather useful.

Rocket Banana
January 20, 2014 11:00 am

Just think, if the MPA and AEW version of the C295 could be shot of a catapult…

Peter Elliott
January 20, 2014 11:38 am

@ Simon

Anything can be shot off a catapult :D


But to be useful you also need to fold up the wings and tail and a strengthened fuselage both for launch and for arrested landing. Actaully – basically redesign the whole airframe. And of course the RN currently has no catapults. Other than that, good idea!

Rocket Banana
January 20, 2014 12:22 pm


I know, what a shame :-)

January 20, 2014 12:49 pm

PeterE – ref video! Coooo! Do they come in matt green? How much would an RA Battery’s worth cost??

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
January 20, 2014 1:26 pm

Though I recognise that a high end MPA fleet is where we should be in a perfect world, we are not in the position at the moment to develop it, my choice would be to aim for a fleet of 12 C295’s by 2020, they would be tasked with EEZ protection, with 2 based in FI. and then in SDSR 2020 to decide what to do in the long term which I believe should be a P8, or equivalent, fleet.
Also as most of our operations are joint operations what is wrong with having another country provide the MPA assets if we are providing transport or other assets they don’t have, France don’t have a problem asking us for C17’s when they need them, even in a FI conflict we should be able to call upon France for some assets though MPA may be pushing to far towards a combat role.

In summary SDSR2015: some C295 to provide security please, SDSR 2020: a plan for the future MPA please.

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 20, 2014 3:05 pm

The government’s response to the select committee sessions quoted clearly indicates that they see the need for something to fill the Nimrod shaped hole.

” The Government fully recognises the importance of maritime surveillance to the UK. The Department has accepted a capability gap and increased risk by deleting Nimrod and we assess that other assets used as part of a layered approach can reduce this risk to some degree, and it remains within tolerable levels.”

It’s also been said that the seedcorn initiative can’t continue indefinitely. Any benefit from that would be lost if a new MPA wasn’t pursued from 2015.

I think there will almost certainly be some sort of civilian contract for a fixed-wing aircraft to cover domestic SAR, for long-range search and control. We might expect to see a small business jet used for those roles, but adding specific requirements such as being able to spread oil dispersants might favour a cargo aircraft like a C295 or C-130.

The C295 would be my best guess for the MoD. Perhaps less than optimal, but it looks like the number one budget option that would allow the capability to survive long-term.

On their website, on the C295 MPA page, Airbus rounds off with this line,

” For longer-range ASW missions Airbus Military offers the A320 family with the potential to provide true oceanic coverage ”

That line suggests that for a few extra pennies you could get everything that the C295 offers, including weapons carriage, on a longer-ranged platform.

The A319, a short-bus version of the A320 with greater endurance, would be plenty big enough for a MPA; using the A320 family could also provide potential for a future VIP fleet or AWACS replacement, and gives some benefit to UK manufacturing with A320 wings being knocked out in Wales.

Daniel Hodges
Daniel Hodges
January 20, 2014 3:13 pm

We will not buy cn295 we will buy the gold plated p8 but not till 2020 and the SAR will be a proveded by a private company personnally i think sea atlas would be the perfect answer but we won’t get it it would cost to much

January 20, 2014 4:26 pm

That article from the commons was priceless from my point of view. MPs find it most concerning that the government cancelled your MPA and you haven’t now got anything. How do you plead?

January 20, 2014 4:38 pm

Remove SAR and EEZ protection from the equation. They are not military tasks. I would not want those to be causal factors affecting the final decision to purchase a weapon system. If as a consequence the aircraft or system procured can contribute towards those tasks then all well and good, but the purchase decision must address the military requirement. The UK maintains its EEZ quite well enough for the moment and frankly it’s a job for the Coastguard and the rozzers, i.e. a civil task, not military.

There are two requirements to fulfil. Protection of the deterrent, and an expeditionary capability. The requirement for the former is clear – only P8 will suffice as it is the only aircraft available with the sensors and the weapon load capable of detecting, localising and prosecuting an SSN at long range. The latter can be answered by a number of options but the greatest requirement for any expeditionary capability must be range and endurance above all else. Buy C295/235/whatever, and if you operate more than a few hundred miles from your expeditionary airbase then you have a wasted aircraft.

There is no long ranged alternative to the P8 available to the UK – deliberately, because Boeing does not want a competitor affecting sales. Therefore by necessity a new aircraft must be conceived. We have the expertise in designing and building such aircraft for we are no longer in the business of needing MPA specialists to build MPAs – we have systems specialists. Nimrod MRA4 would have been absolutely fine if the MOD hadn’t interfered and insisted on stupid savings measures like reusing hand-build fuselages. Specify the requirement, write a decent commercial contract and pay up-front and let industry get on with it.

The content of the fuselage need not be ten tonnes of pig iron frames housing twenty ZX Spectrum computers. Modern computers are already far more powerful than we need – the Merlin HM2 combat/mission system is a great example. You need the basics – radar, EOD, mission system, radios. None of this is heavy. Only the radar has the potential to cause issues if the radome is too large, but maritime search radars are compact anyway (being invariably India-band with small antennas) and active arrays are even more so. You need a handful of operators, for even the most intensive missions (which will be ASW for ASuW isn’t intensive) only need four or five with modern acoustic processors. Okay, so if it’s an RAF operated aircraft you also need a large galley, but I think we can squeeze a few ratpacks and a kettle in somewhere.

Your only variables therefore are weapon load and expendable sensor load as well as choice of airframe. Carrying weapons externally adds significant drag so a weapons bay is required – or else you affect the primary requirement, range/endurance. Adding a weapons bay is a nightmare on a civil aircraft. You need up to 6 weapons for an effective attack – whilst I have no desire to compromise our ASW capabilities, reflect on the fact that submarines have countermeasures as well and other things can look like submarines, especially to a human being under pressure in a shooting conflict (lots of whale sushi in 1982). On expendable sensors, if you are hunting SSK’s then you need active buoys as an SSK makes virtually no noise (nothing for passive buoys to pick up). You rely on non-acoustic (i.e. radar, ESM, visual/EO) for detections and active buoys to localise (effectively expendable dipping sonars). You also need bathy buoys to analyse the water column.

There is nothing in the UAV world, either available now or planned, capable of carrying out the ASW mission. What is available with sufficent range is expensive – Global Hawk/BAMS, not a lot else.

January 20, 2014 4:41 pm

Brain Black – “….for a few extra pennies….” – Er, try an entire platform development budget. An A320 MPA exists as little more than some Powerpoint presentations and maybe a few engineering studies. Certainly nothing to get think about seriously investing in.

A319/320 based MPA is unlikely to happen now. Far too much development work to integrate the systems, especially for the numbers that the UK and any other European nations might be interested in buying.

With the benefit of hindsight, we could of looked at using the A319/320 as the platform for our long range ISTAR platforms – MPA, ASTOR, ELINT (and eventually) AWACS. Fleet commonality and could of potentially merged some of the different platforms over time.

Jeremy M H
January 20, 2014 4:53 pm

@Daniel H.

I do find the idea that the P-8 is a gold plated solution to be a bit of a funny narrative to a degree. The P-8 is basically taking one of the most produced and cost competitive airframes in the world and adding the necessary mission systems to it. I real gold plated solution would honestly start with a customized airframe for the mission.

What the P-8 really is is a full featured solution to the problem. It does not have a lot of extras thrown in that would make me use the gold plated description. You are looking at basically a $70 difference in the cost of the base airframe for something that goes a great deal further.

If you put identical mission systems and capabilities into each then one could presume the mission systems would cost pretty much the same. Any additional savings above the airframe is likely rooted in having less capable radars, ESM and the like.

January 20, 2014 6:49 pm

Jeremy M H;
P-8 = U.S. military aircraft = gold plated by default.
DoD procurement found the philosopher’s stone; they can turn any big ticket project into a gold-plated project, even if based on a COTS product.
“Actually an MPA able to drop multiple buoy lines and carry weapons is extremely capable of hunting and killing a submarine.”

This may matter in the English Channel, but on the open oceans you first need a lead, and that’s difficult to come by now that even SSKs have AIP.

High-flying aircraft don’t even attempt to use MAD for chance contacts (wouldn’t help much against non-magnetic steel hulls anyway) and the diesel smoke detector have become useless decades ago.
AIP subs can move deep enough to avoid leaving distortions on the ocean surface.
ASW aircraft are essentially down to looking at surface ships with imaging radars and optical sensors.

Anything below the waves is a mystery to them unless they get a lead. The passive SOSUS networks were quite ineffectived against Akula and Kilo already.

It’s questionable how effective tiny sonobuoys are in face of anechoic tiles and silent AIP.
ASW helicopters can at least use a bigger dipping VDS.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 20, 2014 7:04 pm


“Actually an MPA able to drop multiple buoy lines and carry weapons is extremely capable of hunting and killing a submarine.”

This may matter in the English Channel, but on the open oceans you first need a lead, and that’s difficult to come by now that even SSKs have AIP.”

I was not suggesting that the MPA flies around and drops buoys randomly.

Active sonobuoys remain extremely effective, especially as they are dropped in lines.

January 20, 2014 10:06 pm


You don’t understand the difference in tactics between hunting SSN’s and SSK’s. They are completely different. I wrote a piece on this on the last MPA thread – have a look.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 20, 2014 10:37 pm

Has the actual political priority of maritime surveillance increased since number 10 and the MoD took a decision that it was not that important back in 2010? I don’t think it has.

I would expect SDSR 2015 and 2020 to continue to non fund it.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
January 21, 2014 12:25 am

I am sure there are good reasons why a lighter than air craft either rigid or non rigid would not be suitable, but I would like to hear them. I can see that rapid deployment from base to patrol area is one of them. But a fleet of modern airships with a modular fit of sensors for the different roles could allow capacities to be developed as and when. If big enough crews could work shifts with adequate off duty facilities and patrol endurance could be days rather than hours. Just a thought.

January 21, 2014 12:42 am

@Deja Vu

To my knowledge lighter than air craft either rigid or non rigid still can not operate in adverse weather so is useless for e.g. SAR
They are not as uncontrollable as they once were but you still can not operate them in weather conditions as bad in which planes and helicopters can still take off.

January 21, 2014 1:49 am

@ Somewhatremoved

“Remove SAR and EEZ protection from the equation.”

I have to agree. I think these are tasks the military did largely because it had large numbers of MPA and Helicopters sitting around anyway in the past and they may as well have been used for something however I think these roles should be split of and given to the Coast guard.

The should facilitate as split by with the coast guard possibly getting the C235 and the MOD getting the P8 but possibly only 4 or 5 and using it as a replacement for Sentinel.

January 21, 2014 3:41 am

“You don’t understand the difference in tactics between hunting SSN’s and SSK’s.”

That’s hardly the source of our disagreement here. Your idea of SSNs and SSKs is 1980’s material at best, and you get the SSBN thing wrong even for that era. So more like 1970’s.
Hint; a German non-nuclear sub kept moving while submerged (not even snorkeling) for a couple weeks last year and SSKs don’t need to push anything through the surface during engagements. This actually became a non-essential step in 1944 already.
They don’t need to do so to receive fleet HQ messages either (in fact, they can stay at 200+ metres depth and just let an antenna rise up to only a few metres depth now). ESM potential is extremely limited for subs (and ironically, SSNs have often bigger ESM suites than many SSKs) and more sensible for defensive than offensive purposes.

Finally, the modern notion that non-nuclear subs are for coastal purposes only is anglophone bullocks, only recently typically heard from two countries with SSNs but no SSKs. Subs operated even with a snorkel for weeks on oceans and that was when snorkels were so rudimentary that cruise speed while snorkeling was limited to 5 kts. The record was a snorkeling travel from Norway to Argentine. Other subs made it from France to Singapore non-stop, without refuelling.

About sonobuoys; the passive ones are largely obsolete. Even SSNs are now too silent for such tiny passive acoustic sensors. Their only utility by now is probably to be elements in a multistatic sonar. This requires at least one active sonobuoys, though – and you cannot let them emit much noise for very long. Echo reduction by anechoic tiles is huge.
You cannot effectively search an ocean and likely not even the North Sea with sonobuoys. Their effectiveness is too limited and the open sea is huge.

Finally; to hunt SSNs or SSBNs is probably a stupid idea anyway. You won’t get all SSBNs (except in the case of China) and a single survivor can kill your country off on its own. SSBNs will on the other hand not be aggressive, so you can simply avoid both them and nuclear war (and the SSNs that are probably escorting the SSBNs).
SSNs on offensive missions will run out of ammo after a few hits and need to reload, but few harbours and few auxiliary warships can resupply them, so go after those. It would take more assets to hunt them satisfactorily than they would destroy with their single loadout if your ships have decent countermeasures and signature management.


Feel free to explain how exactly a turbofan MPA of 200+ million USD fly away price may be worth its life cycle expenses in ASW, for just claiming that someone else doesn’t understand basics without addressing a single one of his points is really a no-show.

January 21, 2014 3:55 am


A good question well asked. SDSR2010 was also about getting us out of Afghanistan, shutting down a completely disastrous MOD procurement clusterf**k as well as a significant redress of the overall Defence budget. Given that HERRICK ends next year and that the Defence budget has been significantly improved, the priorities are likely to have changed.

January 21, 2014 4:00 am


So safe to say you didn’t read the other posts then. Cool – bothers me not. Where did you do your ASW training by the way – Janes Fleet Command or just Hunt for Red October on repeat?

January 21, 2014 4:21 am


Dude, do you ever wonder why most of the 1st world navies and air forces persist with this sonobouy and MPA malarkey when it is obviously a crock? I mean, they have their own submarines and stuff with which to test these tactics, and yet they still stick with it?

Do you think it’s just that they are stupid or is it some sort of conspiracy involving Big Sonobouy? I’d love to hear your take on it.

‘Cause there is an MPA mafia, you know.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 21, 2014 5:27 am

@ SR,

I am more cynical than you. The Tories won’t allow any significant expenditure on MPA as they are vulnerable to the still misunderstood decision to scrap the Nimrods. The Liberals don’t care about defence, and while Labour have historically not been as bad as feared, they have promised a “zero-based review” of all Government spending, with no new borrowing in the first year. They also have lots of social and welfare ambitions they want to fund out of a static total of money.

So with all of that as background, I don’t think MPA (or much else) is going to be funded.

Which then implies the MPA capability holiday might stretch to 2020 or beyond, and so interesting questions as to how we could regenerate it, if at all.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 21, 2014 5:39 am

… Just a thought. Cameron took the decision to cancel the Nimrods. Later, unrelated, he took the decision to perform a double U-turn on the carriers and jets. Whatever decisions are made in SDSR 2015 (even if he is PM), he’s unlikely to be PM in 2025 when big ticket items from 2015 actually get delivered, so he won’t get any credit for them. He’s not going to want the experience of wasting political capital on yet more u-turns, which is how it would be presented if he suddenly funded MPA after scrapping Nimrods.

By strange early morning logic, I believe that I have concluded that Ed Miliband is the only one who can save the UK MPA capability…. Odd thoughts as I don’t think I’ve ever heard him speak on defence, and he want’s to spend our money on 200,000 social houses per year by 2020, and that’s £2billion a year he needs to find from somewhere.

January 21, 2014 7:32 am

@ RT – I agree with your assessment of SDSR 2015 from a budget point of view. There will certainly be no new money but I think given SDSR 2010 was coalition decision there will not be the political ramifications of approving it in SDSR 2015.

If Labour get in then its a nice headline for them approving it to show how good they are on defence.

If the Tory’s get in they can blame the entire thing on the Lib Dems and show how a proper Tory government is tough on defence.

The only political eventuality where I can see this being an issue is a Tory Liberal Coalition which I just can’t see happening again.

However if the service chiefs want an MPA they will have to find the money. A buy of 9 – 12 P8’s is totally out of the question. However a smaller initial buy of 5 or 6 C 295 with a hope of some more in the future is not inconceivable.

I’m also guessing that no matter who comes in in 2015 most talk of austerity will be over. As long as the deficit is below inflation no one will care too much about cutting it. It seems to be some sort of Religious cause for Osborne largely because I think he does not have any knowledge or other policy idea. The country has run nearly continuous deficits since records began yet still managed to have one of the lowest debt level in the G7 before 2008. All talk of drastic cuts and surplus will by 2015 be political suicide.

If as is likely Miliband gets in he will need to find extra money for social projects but with defence spending at or very very near 2% of GDP is seriously doubt any politician will look for defence spending cuts.

If we are being honest the UK only has one foreign policy and that is to keep the USA in NATO and having even the largest European partner fall below the absolute bare minimum I think will be too much to bare.

I am sure Osborne wanted significantly bigger cuts in 2010 but this barrier was what stopped him getting them so instead he lumped the successor program on to it instead.

January 21, 2014 7:41 am

@ Somewhatremoved

“Remove SAR and EEZ protection from the equation.”

Agree on the SAR bit – it’s being outsourced anyway. Do not agree on the EEZ protection bit, I guess it’s a question of what you are protecting it against? I’d argue that even using military assets to identify potential illegal fishing whilst searching for suspicious vessels is a good balance. However, no need for a P8 to do this, converted UAV Predators would be fine :)

January 21, 2014 8:01 am

Interesting comments on the political aspect of the purchase of a new MPA class. My thoughts are if Labour get in they will go for it (to the detriment of other capabilities) just to show up the current government.

If the Tories stay in power then I think we will not go for a direct replacement, but continue a more indirect replacement through extending existing platforms – this would be my favourite anyway.

Alongside ASW Merlins and UAVs (focus on wide area surface search), for real sub hunting I would do the following:

– Add additional sensors to the Sentinal and buy 4 more airframes
– Buy another OPV with a flight deck to sit in EEZ waters and extend the range of the Merlins.
– Pay the incremental cost of an 8th Astute to increase ASW coverage in UK waters.

Cheaper than introducing a whole new class and more appropriate for the threat level.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
January 21, 2014 8:35 am


Thanks – if airships can’t fly in bad weather they would not be any use.

@RT is bang on the money in regard to political will and intent.

I am looking forward to TD’s second instalment though I think I should get out more.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
January 21, 2014 9:54 am

Just a quick thought, if EEZ/fisheries protection isn’t a role the RN should be filling, why do we have OPV’s or PB’s, the fisheries protection squadron is the oldest front-line squadron in the Royal Navy.

January 21, 2014 11:02 am

@ Repulse

“Add additional sensors to the Sentinal and buy 4 more airframes
– Buy another OPV with a flight deck to sit in EEZ waters and extend the range of the Merlins.
– Pay the incremental cost of an 8th Astute to increase ASW coverage in UK waters.”

I recon you could easily buy and run a fleet of 9 P8’s for less than all this.

@ Engineer Tom

“Just a quick thought, if EEZ/fisheries protection isn’t a role the RN should be filling, why do we have OPV’s or PB’s, the fisheries protection squadron is the oldest front-line squadron in the Royal Navy.”

We have it because DEFRA pay for it. Not sure why the DFT does not have to pay for SAR. Even the DFID is paying up for military services these days.

January 21, 2014 11:39 am

I have to agree with Andrew Wood and others here. A new MPA is an expensive capital programme and not short of running cost either, without sacrificing something else it seems like it will be challenging to find budget space for it.

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 21, 2014 12:32 pm

MPA will be funded, as they are one of the defence tools that remain in the political, media, and public conciousness.

A newspaper’s defence editor might not be able to tell you coherently exactly why MPA are needed, but they can easily ramble on about Nimrod’s fate and capability gaps – much like aircraft carriers. And Nimrod, all types, always had that presence in the media’s minds, what with cost overruns and the crash – what you might expect to be fairly invisible capabilities have been splashed across headlines for decades.

There will be something pulled out of the bag. The question is whether we’ll see an impressive operational capability or simply an extension of the seedcorn initiative, with just enough aircraft of the minimum specification, and just enough operators to keep things ticking over.

January 21, 2014 12:59 pm

Brian Black,

You massively overestimate the scale of that “consciousness”. Fiscal realities are what they are.

January 21, 2014 1:01 pm

Sea Herc ?

Longer ranged and more consumables weapons than C295, less expensive than P8 ? Overland ISR capable, TD has posted before on how easy it is to add bits to a Herc using doors etc

Or is there legs to an 8th Astute and upgrading all the remaining Merlin HM2 to full HM3 standard for ASW, and contractor owned and operated fixed wing for SAR and EEZ patrol ?

Interested why some people think EEZ patrol is a military role ? Are we going to bomb illegal fishing vessels from the air rather than arrest them ???

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 21, 2014 1:07 pm

Once upon a time, before the reversion to STOVL, there might have been an option to acquire some S3s for use both landbased and on the carrier. Would have needed a new sonics set, comms and radar (Merlin CSP fit anyone? Don’t LockMart do that too as well as being the S3 design authority?), but would have provided aircrew and most importantly ASW controller slots, as well as potentially COD & AAR. However that has obviously gone, more’s the pity.

Just as a thought, we need to think precisely what seedcorn skills it is that we are trying to preserve. Is it multi-engine pilots? Probably not. M/E pilots flying all-weather / night sorties close to the oggin? Possibly. Sensor operators that can maintain a recognised maritime picture, on the surface and below? Yep. Sonar operators that can run localisation and prosecution of an acoustic contact? Again, yep. Tactical co-ordinators that can maintain co-ordination between multiple surface and air assets in relatively close proximity? Pretty much.

Aside from the flying a multi-engine variable altitude profile over the sea, most of those skilsets can be provided by Merlin crew. Trouble is that there are precious few slots in the existing Grey Merlin force. As a wild option, what about standing up another squadron of Merlin, potentially using the cabs not getting the HM2 upgrade, possibly augmented with a couple of newbuilds. It will be tricky, as (AIUI) the folding bits of those cabs are included in the programme to make the HC3/3a fleet maritime capable. Still – if the problem is crew slots to maintain perishable skills, then the solution might be a set of platforms for which support arrangements (inc log support, regulation and airworthiness, training etc) are already in place. Got to be cheaper than a fleet of new cabs with different support arrangements. Reconmmission 819NAS and stick them up in Gannet again or FOB them out of Stornoway if required. Not Nimrod coverage, but adds value and most importantly provides the aircrew slots at relatively low overhead.

Peter Elliott
January 21, 2014 1:11 pm

Sea Atlas, Jed, not Sea Herc.

Sensory bits can be hung off the outsides and mission systems can be palletised and rolled on. But the most difficult bit is fitting a bomb bay in a way that doesn’t compromise the structure or weight distribution of the aircraft. We don’t want to have to open the back ramp to lob a torpedos or anti-ship missiles out by hand!

Maybe if we did want a big Airbus solution a preliminary study would be needed to see which of A400, A320 and A330 would be least difficult to fit with an internal bomb bay. Then just roll the mission systems and sensors from C-295 across.

January 21, 2014 1:17 pm

Sea Herc is just the wrong airframe. It is not an efficient cruiser and it’s a very awkward shape for a mission systems platform.

Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
January 21, 2014 1:19 pm

Much as I like the C-295 I cannot see us fielding a wholly new aircraft type.

We already have the following aircraft used as transport or support aircraft (all based on transport airframes): C-17, Sentry, Sentinel, Shadow, Air Seeker, Voyager, BAe 146, Hercules (until 2022), A400

P-8 also suffers from the same issue but at least the 737 airframe is widely used in the UK and we can draw upon US Navy support.

January 21, 2014 1:20 pm

@NaB: sounds very sensible. Protects the deterrent on egress/ingress without a new platform.

Peter Elliott
January 21, 2014 1:28 pm

@Andrew Wood

The question for me is if we procure a capable long range ASW-MPA that is also good enough to to overland ISTAR how many of those exisitng types could we eventually take out?

Get the core aircraft right and could you by 2025 evenutally have a single flexible multi-role Land/Sea ISTAR and standoff weapons platform instead of all that lot?

Tempting to base it on either Atlas or Voyager airframes for maximum commonality, although A320 should also not be ruled out without studying the possibilities.

Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
January 21, 2014 1:53 pm

@ Peter Elliott

I have been thinking the same thing but based on 737 airframes, they could be used as;

P-8 – for MPA
737 AEW as already selected by Australia, Korea and Turkey – our Sentry aircraft are already 22 years old (bought in 1991/92) and are due to exit service in 2025 I believe
Basic transport aircraft like the C-40 Clipper to replace BAe 146 and supplement C-17/A400 fleet for more routine transport duties

You could do the same with C-295 as it has been already flown in all three configurations (AEW test only) but I think we would lose too much capability.

With 737 platform you would only need to develop the ISTAR capabilities of either AEW or MPA versions to have a full spectrum of capabilities in one platform

January 21, 2014 1:55 pm

If the question is to acquire an MPA on a tight budget to keep perishable skills then I would ask what will happen to the airframes in 10-15 years time when the P8 or equivalent is procured?

What it not be better to acquire an airframe that already has a logistics and training stream but can offer further utility after the MPA role is completed, such as the BAE 146. this could then be still utilised for inter theater airlift such as the 2 already procured under UOR.

I know conversion will not be quite as cheap as buying of the shelf C295, but would it be possible to use pallitised systems and hang ordnance from the wings? but we will at least get some further utility from the airframe and not have the requirement for a further airframe logistics base. could we not even do a half and half with what NAB suggested with the Merlins?

January 21, 2014 2:04 pm

As I understand it from squadron personnel the idea of a 2025 retirement for Sentry is pretty much knocked into the long grass considering the USAF has no plans to retire their fleet. Instigate Block 40/45 on our E3D and they will be perfectly valid for another twenty/thirty years+ alongside our RC-135W. They are in airframe terms young in comparison to an airliner.

January 21, 2014 2:21 pm

Peter – I would be fine with Sea Atlas – but , too big and too expensive I believe, and roll on roll off means a compromised fleet unless more basic airframes are acquired.

Derek – an MPA that is less efficient in the cruise, or no MPA ? It’s all relative isn’t it ? As the Atlas comes on line could we not cost effectively life extend the short body C130J for a Sea Herc conversion ? If we accept that ASW wont be done very often, isn’t the ability to carry 4 Stingray on 2 underwing pylons good enough without adding the low drag weapons bay “blisters” onto front fuselage (thinking reduced risk but maybe adding them really is not a big deal ?)

January 21, 2014 2:39 pm

The mod want p8 all roads lead to that point requirement setters have made it so. fine the cost of 8-9 is roughly equivalent to 4 type 26 frigates you will need a modified stingray and weapons clearance program price most likely 5 type 26 frigates the choice is yours

You will have some difficulty convincing the treasure that overland Istar currently carried out by Uav shadow and sentinel should be replace with something several times more costly to operate and requiring at least twice the crew numbers. They also can’t be doing both tasks at the same time.

Low cost mpa part lease the altanique fleet and station uk squadron at the French base.

January 21, 2014 3:19 pm

If we adopt the P-8 I see little to no point of going through the cost of integrating Stingray on them, far better to adopt the MK 54 under a FMS deal. Stingray can stay with the Merlin, Wildcat and Frigate fleet.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
January 21, 2014 5:19 pm

I believe a stingray integration to P8 would be in relative terms a very small cost if we went for P8’s, it is a self guided weapon so dropping it should be a matter of dropping it as close to the target as you can and leaving it to do it’s job, also it has previously been deployed on the MR2.

Also the CL-605 MSA could be a option a cheap version of the P8 that Boeing is working on, though I don’t think it can carry weapons.

A C130J based MPA to save us from having to introduce a new airframe also stops us removing an older airframe.

And regards EEZ security surely DEFRA would contribute towards any MPA in a similar manner to how they contribute towards the OPV’s, though this would of course mean that our MPA’s would refuse to do any fisheries work in Scottish waters as they insist on doing it themselves, and also EEZ protection is a ‘core capability’ of the Royal Navy.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 21, 2014 5:40 pm


The Mk54 and Stingray have almost identical dimensions. Of interest though is that Bowing are planning a HAAWC add on to mk 54 to allow release at high altitude.

January 21, 2014 6:38 pm

Lordy, people are finding uses for my fantasy “mini-Hyugas.” I’m tempted to mention the big gun cruisers. Probably a fantasy too far.

If anyone has got any spare sawdust I will happily come round and pleat it for you if SDSR2015 includes a P8 buy.

January 21, 2014 6:46 pm

@NaB: The idea of expanding the Merlin ASW fleet isn’t a bad one – still would like it coupled with another OPV (H), UAVs and ideally another SSN :)

Would another alternative would be to add a dipping sonar on the Wildcat like South Korea plans?

January 21, 2014 7:17 pm

Isn’t it interesting how so many navies actually DROPPED the MPA concept entirely or partially, while many other respected navies don’t spend much on it?

The USN ditched fixed wing ASW from their carrier decks entirely (SH-60F has a dipping sonar).

Several navies did reduce or abolish their MPA inventory with little or no replacement.

The RN dropped the Nimrod.

The US dropped the P-7, but later gave Boeing a sweetheart deal for the P-8 even though that plane cannot even fly ASW missions in classic style at low altitude. I consider this as more of an industrial policy and lobbying consequence than as an aircraft meant to meet well-formulated requirements.

“Dude, do you ever wonder why most of the 1st world navies and air forces persist with this sonobouy and MPA malarkey when it is obviously a crock?”
Institutional inertia has forced a great many military bureaucracies to maintain a lot of obsolete components in military history. Just think of horse cavalry or pre-dreadnoughts in service even post-WWI.

MPAs make some sense, but surface surveillance (as one asset next to satellites and OTH radars) is their biggest value. They get a direct, high resolution look at ships with SAR radar, thermals and E/O. There’s a reason why there was some interest in the Global Hawk drone for maritime surveillance until it became obvious that it’s a poor design.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 21, 2014 7:26 pm


Costs have indeed curtailed some systems but remember as I have explained and SR has defending a CBG is about defensive almost totally active ASW. Your ASW mission is to prevent the OPFOR submarine inhibiting your mission. That mission for a CBG may be air dominance, a strike mission or even a convoy escort. Nobody cares if you kill submarines as long as they do not kill your MEU. So active policy, keep the OPFOR outside weapons range. SH60 can do this S3 was fantastic but a luxury.
As SR higlighted very bluntly earlier you do not get the different types of ASW and the requirements.

The USN may have dropped P7 but retained P3 and are replacing with P8, the French, Italians, Spanish and even Portuguese kept them. The Turks obtained them. So who other than our UK f up dropped them?

Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
January 21, 2014 7:49 pm

@ SO
Other nations that have capable MPA/ASW aircraft include;
Singapore, India, Australia, NZ, Chile, Argentina, Japan, Pakistan, Brazil, Germany, France, Greece, Norway, Italy, Korea S, Spain, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Russia
but not the UK!

dave haine
dave haine
January 21, 2014 8:15 pm

RT has as normal, raised the real spectre- the question of whether there actually will be funding for an MPA, in the next SDSR. The ‘seedcorn’ programme buys a little time, but time will run out in 2019….Although it looks like the MOD has looked at the options, which appear to be favouring C295 or P8, and there seems to be a noticeable ‘ramp-up’ in the media chatter level.

Quote from FlightGlobal (27 Sep 2012):
Questioned about the challenge of fielding a new type, Air Vice Marshal Mark Green, the MoD’s director, joint and air capability and transformation, says: “If we are talking about replacing a platform as complex as the Nimrod, that would be quite a long time. If you are looking at a maritime surveillance platform, arguably that is a less complex platform and it can be done relatively easily because they are, effectively, on-the-shelf purchasing.”

So maybe the C295?

Rocket Banana
January 21, 2014 9:34 pm

Last question…

Given that P8 is about £175m a pop, how much do we reckon C295 will cost for the MPA equipped variant?

Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
January 21, 2014 9:47 pm

@ Simon
£50m – From House of Commons report below, it is not clear if the price quoted below is for C-295 equipped to same level as Chilean aircraft which are the most capable version

The Defence Committee asked: “what are the costs of current and future maritime surveillance assets of UK Armed Forces

28. This question is best left for MoD financial and planning staffs. However, as a rough order of magnitude comparator from open source material, it is believed that the purchase price of:

A Global Combat Ship is circa £300–£400 million.

A Boeing P8 is estimated to be circa £150 million.

A Nimrod MRA4 was circa £120 million.

An Offshore Patrol Vessel is circa £60–£80 million.

An Airbus C295 MPA is circa £50 million.

January 21, 2014 9:52 pm

@Simon: In addition to your question, what would be the approx annual maintenance, support, manning costs?

paul g
January 21, 2014 10:04 pm

slight thread deviation, however comments on common airfames I note india are looking putting their AWACS onto either the 767 or the airbus A330, bet there’s flights packed with salesmen and shiny gizzits leaving Toulouse as we speak!

January 21, 2014 10:52 pm

@Andrew Wood:
Many of those MPA inventories are paper tigers. The mission worthiness rates vary a lot, with some countries operating aircraft without having fully operational mission equipment. This is common with big ticket weapon systems in poor countries and in low priority funded navies. Even the handful of German 30+ y.o. Orions have a questionable capability.

you should entertain the idea that you guys don’t get what I write, while I do indeed know about ASW, including some confidential German documents on sonar. ASW is not at the centre of my interest, but I rarely ever debate stuff without having a foundation for it.

I also noted that your and his comments do not really establish a link between threat and system.
It’s more like
“ASW against SSN -> ??? -> MPA !” and
“ASW against SSK -> ??? -> MPA !”
Meanwhile, I kept pointing out the limitations of the traditional MPA equipment in face of modern subs.

Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
January 21, 2014 11:28 pm
Reply to  S O

Most of those fleets are relatively new even if they are rebuilt P-3 Orions.

The following fleets are all relatively new or recent upgrades
Singapore (Fokker 50), India (P-8), Australia (upgraded P-3), Chile (C-295), Japan (new P-1), Pakistan (P-3), Brazil (rebuilt P-3), Korea S (upgraded P-3), Taiwan (upgraded P-3)

Only Russia, Thailand, Argentina can be called paper tigers
As for the other European MPA fleets I do not know enough to comment

January 22, 2014 12:01 am

On our limited budget I think we should go the S3 Viking for a number of reasons!

1. Its available 50-100 airworthy airframes stored in the desert with plenty of airframe life.
2. It was designed from the outset for ASW, Surface strike & Maritime patrol!
3. It has a range of 2,765 nm nautical miles that’s double the Boeing P8s range of 1,200 nmi
4. It has a refuelling probe to extend its range & can be used to refuel other aircraft using the buddy buddy system ideal for Falklands operations.
5. It has a small crew & low operating costs and it can also operate off aircraft carriers!
6. 18 Refurbished & upgraded S3s have just been offered by Lockeed to South Korea to supplement their P3 Orions in the ASW, MPA role with delivery time within a 12 to 24 month timescale!

January 22, 2014 2:11 am

@ Ian

S3 Is an interesting idea. How much were they offered to the South Koreans at?

January 22, 2014 2:13 am


Okay then shipmate, tell us how it’s done then. After all I have a very skewed perspective being a serving TAS ape. I would be fascinated to have your understanding of modern counter-SSK tactics. Leave the nukes out for now if you would. Grateful if you could tailor your explanation to the UK requirement to hunt SSK’s.

January 22, 2014 2:16 am


Your probably on to good idea there – I have always had a bit of navy plane spotters fixation for the Viking ! Only one problem, well problem with your assertion, not a problem with us using them, they have plenty of fatigue life left but they have no catapult launch or arrested landing “cycles” left, but as we dont have cats and traps so what !

They all had their ASW kit removed a long time ago, but I believe the sonar buoy launchers were just plated over. They could be fitted with the same acoustic processing system as the Merlin, although obviously due to ejector seats for the two rear crew, they could not use exactly the same mission consoles.

I would pick up 40, for an operational fleet of 18. Once they use up their airframe hours, shift the refurbished / upgraded kit over to another batch………

Yep, this is now my favoured option – HMG, make it so !


Jeremy M H
January 22, 2014 2:17 am


I have corrected this a few times and I am not disputing your other points (though I am not sure just how many S-3’s the US would be willing to sell out of it stockpiles) but your figures on the range are wrong. The 1,200 NM range is for the P-8 with a 4 hour patrol at the end and then a leg back to base. The 2,765 NM range for the S-3 is basically a maximum non-ferry range, it does not allow for patrols. Fully loaded up with gas it will go about 3,300 nautical miles.

The P-8 on its normal profile would fly around 4,160 NM.

If you want good info on the S-3 I would use this document.


You will see that its combat range with weapons is nowhere near that of the P-8 with its most common stores. If you read the link you can see that on a search and investigate profile you basically can get out to the same range as the P-8’s standard profile (well you are 300 plus NM short I suppose), but you do it for half as long (2 hours vs 4 hours) and with half the payload in terms of useable weapons and sensors.

That being said I am only correcting that for the sake of completeness for other people wandering through this discussion. I think the S-3, if you could get them, are a fairly reasonable capability for a lot of people. It would really depend in my eyes on just how much one off equipment you have to operate and maintain to go with that sort of solution. I am guessing that would be the deal breaker there.

It is good outside of the box thinking but part of me is curious if the USN is really willing to let the whole fleet sitting there be bought out and parted out over time. They may be willing to sell some of them. But I could see someone wanting to retain a certain number if that capability had to be rapidly regenerated.

January 22, 2014 2:19 am

Somewhat – my god lad you just “came out” in public and admitted to being an anti-bubblehead….. very brave !

Dont you know Sven is a bit of an expert on everything… ;-)

January 22, 2014 11:34 am


Well, it had to be done. I am, somewhat folornly, hoping that we get back something that a) does NOT discuss any confidential document someone should or should not have seen and does not belong in open forum, and b) I am genuinely fascinated to see the logic that will come from this. Good excuse for a name change too!

El Sid
El Sid
January 22, 2014 11:46 am

Presumably an S-3 refurb would cost around the £35m of a P-3 refurb, but you’d lack the userbase of the P-3 (and the range, payload and speed…)?

January 22, 2014 12:08 pm

I reckon you would be looking at 2 c295 chilean style with bit of lose change at the end as opose to 1 P8. C295 can fly low P8 can’t (broadly speaking here) C295 has a probe fitted for AA refuel P8 has a boom receptor. P8 requires development of kit that can be dropped from height due to problem 1. Now that 1 P8 looks somewhat more costly.

The thing that really twists the knife, Nirmrod 120 mil P8 150 mil. So we are paying more for a capability we were on the doorstep of keeping (and arguably having the best a/c for). FFS!

Regarding Wildcat having dipping sonar. I had hoped that was going to be the plan. It doesn’t solve our problems but it gives our destroyers an ASW capability. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t have that and then you have got a smaller multi role helicopter.

I slated the hybrid fleet argument earlier, and I still think thats right where 2 types for the same role is just unacceptable. You could have 12 odd 295s and just a few P8 for the long range stuff but I don’t like it. I would rather see us just using more tanker a/c. Keeping the herc as a sea herc is a possibility particuarly if you want to just keep your finger in the pie until you have a better option but when you think of the cost savings for taking out that old fleet I doubt the MoD will play ball there.

In the future I can see an AWACS aircraft just compyling the data from sonobuoys that have either been dropped or placed around the ocean but that is a little way off yet as I see it. Then you still need a prosecutor (which could be Typhoon or F35.)

As P8 is being developed as a Sentinel replacement, possibly a RJ replacement and maybe a sentry replacemnet, is it plausible we won’t hear jack about this until 2020?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 22, 2014 12:30 pm

S3 makes sense from only two aspects –

1. Carrier compatibility – no longer applicable to UK, even assuming any cat n trap limited components could be replaced.
2. Reduced manpower demand compared to P3/ATL/P8/C295 platforms, more akin to Grey Merlin community scales. Makes it easier to sustain skillsets in an affordable manpower footprint.

The (tiny) user base – 3 are being used by NASA – militates against 2 above, although might be offset to some degree by any commonality in mission systems between any putative S3 rebuild and Merlin HM2.

The whole point of raising the S3 (or the increased number of Merlin) was to demonstrate that the requirement and skillsets do not necessarily point at a large land-based solutiuon, although there will obviously be impacts on the level of capability delivered.

January 22, 2014 12:53 pm


You see why we are so flabbergasted about the Nimrod cancellation?

On a wider note…

What is involved in the cost of a P-3 or S-3 refurbishment?

New mission system – certainly
New radar – most likely
EO system – probably, as most older aircraft were not fitted with them
Structural work – certainly in the case of the P3, some sort of overhaul will be necessary on most old airframes.
New engines? Possibly – older aircraft (especially if stored in the desert) may need serious attention to their engines even if they are not replaced.

My point is, the cost of an overhaul surely cannot be more than 10-20% of the cost of installing modern, off-the-shelf systems in a new airframe, with the added benefits of acquiring a new airframe? The only factor I can see that would cause a significant rise in cost would be the installation of the weapons bay or wing hardpoints.

January 22, 2014 1:18 pm

The C-295 is definitely the way to go. The capability is perfectly adequate for the vast majority of our needs with an 11 hour endurance, reasonable sensor fit & ability to carry a range of missiles & torpedoes. I can’t imagine them costing more than £50m each fully fitted & with so may users, such as our European neighbours in Spain, Portugal & Poland, the operating & maintenance costs are going to be reasonable. An initial purchase of 12 or 14 for the Royal Navy based at Culdrose should be sufficient with detachments operating from Stornaway, the Falklands & the Gulf. Perhaps even rotate a couple through Gib. This should be followed by the purchase of a similar number for use by the RAF as a replacement for the short-fuselage Hercs with a joint spares & support programme. We do have the money. It’s just that the Government has chosen to spend it on other things. A portion of the overseas aid budget could definitely be re-allocated once the coalition ends next year.

January 22, 2014 1:38 pm


I wrote a comment to reply, but first answer this:

“Can you imagine an anti-SSK doctrine which renders the submarine’s stealth -its greatest strength- largely irrelevant?”

dave haine
dave haine
January 22, 2014 2:03 pm


If you’re talking about pulling S3s out of the desert, you’re probably on the money.

Refurbing the P3 is a different ball game I think….for a start there aren’t any low hours ones about. I read somewhere that the estimated average fleet life for the USN is five years at current usage. Which is why the USN is hurrying along with the P8.

The canadians are re-sparring their Auroras but the cost is best described as eye-watering- Part of the problem is of course, the load bearing structures are having to be specially manufactured.

The only example, i’ve got, is my airline re-lifing a 737-200. Basically, new spars, engine and undercarriage supports and new skins……in the end cost more than a new B757.

C fawthrop
C fawthrop
January 22, 2014 3:09 pm

When do we get part 2?

January 22, 2014 3:28 pm

S O,

No, of course not. But you exploit the natural limitations inherent in the SSK – that is, lack of range, lack of endurance and lack of speed.

El Sid
El Sid
January 22, 2014 3:43 pm

As an example, this is what Taiwan got with its deal for 12 refurbed P-3C for $666m (~£400m) seven years ago. Note that the first one was only delivered three months ago with the rest arriving this year and next, so it took over six years between order and first delivery :

The Taiwan Navy obtained 12 P-3C aircraft under the U.S. Government’s Foreign Military Sales program in 2007. The aircraft are taken from desert storage at Davis Monthan AFB and will be completely overhauled and modernised by Lockheed Martin. Planned mission system upgrades include installation of electronic support measures, acoustics, communications, electro-optic and infrared systems, and new data management software and hardware, controls, displays and mission computers.

Rocket Banana
January 22, 2014 3:51 pm

Perhaps we should pursue the C295 on the basis that it is a stop-gap.

We then build an A330 based MPA and AWACS aircraft (we’ll need to replace Sentry with something) and move some of the kit over leaving the C295 airframes for mid-range tactical transport.

We then have a nice hi-med-low fleet of A400-C295-Chinook for tac-lift and a European based MPA/AWACS and AAR aircraft allowing a buy of, say, 24 airframes, to service the lot and get some economies of scale for once.

Jeremy M H
January 22, 2014 4:06 pm


“The thing that really twists the knife, Nirmrod 120 mil P8 150 mil. So we are paying more for a capability we were on the doorstep of keeping (and arguably having the best a/c for). FFS!”

I realize that somewhere there is a story talking about getting the Nimrod for 120 million pounds but that cost is just not at all realistic for the numbers the UK is looking at getting an MPA in. The 2010 major project report lays it all out pretty clearly.


It was approved for 21 units for 2.8 billion pounds and at its death you were getting 9 units for 3.6 billion pounds. I am guessing you might have had a flyaway cost of 120 million pounds, that is pretty much the flyaway cost of the P-8 so I guess it is reasonable.

I would make the same argument for the MRA4 that I make for the F-35 which is that since most of the money had already been spent by 2010 the decision to make on cancellation really should be based on what does an MRA4 cost me to buy vs what else can I buy right now and not consider the money already spent as you can’t get it back. In that respect, presuming the thing was actually going to work without more money being put in it which I am not 100% convinced was the case, keeping it makes some sense.

But I also get the political reality of the situation. The full program cost of the things were going to be incredibly high. Trying to sell responsible defense spending with a refurbished (massively so but still refurbished) aircraft that cost that much is a really hard sell to pretty much anyone. 120 million pounds may have been the cost of building a production aircraft by the end but the program unit cost simply grew too much for the thing to have a chance to survive politically, particularly given that many still believed there were development obstacles to overcome when the program was cancelled and little to no money left in the program to do it.

Rocket Banana
January 22, 2014 4:07 pm

S O,

Can you imagine an anti-SSK doctrine which renders the submarine’s stealth -its greatest strength- largely irrelevant?

Active sonar.

Peter Elliott
January 22, 2014 4:12 pm


Like the first bit but why bother with the C-295? Chinook is and will remain our short range small tactical lifter. And we can always spot-buy a couple of 146s if something crops up and we need more, like we aleady did.

If we need to give our seeedcorn bodies something to do between 2015 and 2020 either like NaB says sqeeze a few more Merlin out somehow or modify Sentinel for them to play with.

After all we aren’t going into any more sandpit wars in the next 5 years ARE WE? :/

Rocket Banana
January 22, 2014 4:32 pm


C295 can take 50 fully equipped troops 1000nm and back again. Chinook only dreams of such ranges ;-)

It just seems to fill the gap between Chinook and A400M. Especially for more austere airfields in, for example, Africa. Furthermore, it covers our movements over the entirety of Europe for any military policing duties that might turn up and if you subscribe to the idea that we are lacking in both strategic and tactical lift (like I do) it helps plug the gap.

Truth be told, it certainly doesn’t have to be C295. It just seems to tick many of the boxes at the moment.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 22, 2014 4:34 pm


“Can you imagine an anti-SSK doctrine which renders the submarine’s stealth -its greatest strength- largely irrelevant?””

SSks are ambush predators. They like choke points and places you have to transit. You combat an SSK threat by an active policy, the ability to flush choke points for which MPAs are very useful and speed.
The limiting lines of submerged approach are very restrictive for an SSK and the abilty to sweep both ahead and behind the force is crucial.
Even AIP SSKs cannot sprint for long, AIP endurance figures are generally worked out for 6-8kts. You make a sub move fast and 2 things happen.
1. It gets noisier
2. It cannot use its sensors.
Now you may have seen some classified German docs but if you had ever seen the results of HMS Northumberlands 2087 trials vs the Dutch SSK even when it was doggo on the bottom then you would be less confident.
In shallower water you need a higher frequency but active sonar, speed and manouverability are how you counter an SSK.

January 22, 2014 4:43 pm

SSKs are in effect large super smart mines.

January 22, 2014 4:44 pm

Consider anechoic tiles “stealth” even in face of active sonar (similar to how stealth aircraft in face of active radar). I know LF sonar works, but I didn’t mean this with the question.

You conflate shipboard LF sonar with MPA sonobuoys here.
Let’s keep this clear, not confused. I know and wrote already about LF sonar, but notably MPAs don’t have it.

Thanks, this one looks really old school.
Still waiting for somewhatremoved.

January 22, 2014 4:44 pm

SSKs are in effect large super smart mobile mines.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 22, 2014 4:53 pm


No I point out and even highlight the different frequencies required in different operating areas. We have had tiles for decades, it is nowhere near full proof or as good as you think it is. a lot of what they do is actually to combat “self noise”.


Exactly (welcome back ;) )

January 22, 2014 5:34 pm

@Simon I think your bang on. Whether an A330 based MPA would be better than a 737 is questionable but I like the way your going there. It also gives us that surge capability with low end MPAs as well.

January 22, 2014 5:39 pm

@Apats; the laws of geometry, sound propagation and the fact that even the very first attempts to coat submarines with sonar ping-absorbing material were spectacularly successful are non-confidential information which indicate quite a performance for anechoic tiles. That is, unless they develop defects.
The tiles would be inside the pressure hull for physical reasons if absorption of own noises was more important than absorbing pings. The very fact that the tiles are mounted outside (despite all the associated troubles with losing tiles and variable compression) indicates that their purpose is first and foremost to dampen pings. The effect of an intact anechoic coating on the subs’ own noises is secondary (and varies depending on depth and frequency).

Also keep in mind my reply to Simon was in the context to my question to somewhatremoved. That question was about anechoic tiles being possibly irrelevant to a strategy – and thus their exact efficacy would be irrelevant in the context anyway.

Besides, I’m quite confident that you don’t know what I “think” (or know) unless I wrote it explicitly.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 22, 2014 5:43 pm


Had much in contact time? Both myself and SR are commenting based on actual experiences in real life and security clerances that allow slightly more than a “classified German document”.

TAS (was SR if you read the earlier posts, not that we have a great track record of that so far...)
TAS (was SR if you read the earlier posts, not that we have a great track record of that so far...)
January 22, 2014 5:44 pm

I say again,

S O,

No, of course not. But you exploit the natural limitations inherent in the SSK – that is, lack of range, lack of endurance and lack of speed. Plus anechoic tiles only counter limited active sonar detections.

APATS speaks the truth. I’m not going to repeat it.

January 22, 2014 6:02 pm

Bin trying to make that point for the last five days but all of my posts don’t seem to get thru, Ok I know where I’m not wanted! Just to say that it’s how I see it too, utility is the name of the game it’s no longer about pure capability but “What else can it do?”
We’re having enough problems persuading the world that the Euroblater is not just a one trick pony (Way to go HMG/BAE, you work beautifully together!)
No one trick ponies allowed, Carriers only exist because, they are the most expensive LHD’s in history, I still have bad dreams about one of them keeling over off the coast of Somalia or the FI, because some numpty with a manpad and a jihad got close enough, somehow, when they’d brought 3.5 billion quid’s worth in too close!
Before you all start Ships without holes in em generally don’t sink, ones with holes in sink a lot more often!
I’d love to do it all with the 146 love it and we made it, great plane, said so in the five diatribes I penned that didn’t get thru but the C295 Wins mainly because it’s already got a hole in it’s ass which the BAE 146 Couldn’t get because BAE were in charge of it!
146 will never be the ticket as long as it HASN’T got a hole in it’s ass, never thought I’d say that!
It would take HMG/BAe ten years between them to do it, therefore Our survey says XX.
Same goes for the P8, to take over the lot, it would better to use MRTT Change the terms and renegotiate/scrap the contract on the basis of national security.
I did pen MRTT for eventually TANKER/AWACs/SENTINEL/AIRSEEKER, would be able to replace the 25 or so Airframes with a fleet of say 20ish MRTT? That never got published either, if this doesn’t I’ll just go and rant somewhere else (Insert mad twisted mental smiley)

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
January 22, 2014 6:16 pm

The way to combat the limited range of an MPA operating out of the UK is to have it meet up with a tanker at some point. If we had C295’s could they, if meeting with tankers when needed, conduct 16+ hour patrols, I think it would be possible.

And also would it be politically possible to conduct one way patrols, ie landing in Iceland or Greenland.

Rocket Banana
January 22, 2014 6:28 pm

Engineer Tom,

Although a good idea and certainly a great contingency if the weather “comes in”, I’m not sure they strictly need to. If we buy a dozen of em we can have a flight do UK-Iceland and another flight do Iceland-Greenland. The latter is half as much Ocean so should, according to Simon’s Half It Theory, require about 1/2 the sonobuoy load, which means it’ll just about manage the extended range.

Do you know anyone that can do something for 16 hours effectively? Unless, we have a couple of crews on board which can swap the jobs of pilot, navigator and tea-maker with the analysts ;-)

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 22, 2014 6:29 pm

Britain needs an MPA & I am not much fussed if we get the C-295 or the P8. I do think the politics are against the C-295. Would Spain want us to base some in Gibraltar? Given Spanish harassment of Gibraltar, why should we give them our money by buying C-295?

Jeremy M H
January 22, 2014 6:49 pm

Am I following correctly that a few are really suggesting an A330 based MPA as a plausible long-term solution? Are people aware that this aircraft that has more than twice the list cost of the baseline 737, weighs 500,000 pounds and would use more fuel every single hour it was flying due to being heavier and needing more thrust?

Then you would have to account for the fact that some R&D would have to be done to enable it to carry weapons and integrate the necessary systems. You can’t be sure what it would cost but I would guess you could blow a billion on it pretty easily when you look at all the structural modifications and certifications that would have to be done along side the military things not already covered in the tanker program.

How many airframes are you going to build because these things are going to have a cost that approaches the program cost of the MRA4 at the very least I would think. You would in effect be putting into service an aircraft that would be 20% larger than the largest MPA built in the TU-95. It would no doubt be incredibly capable in terms of range and payload but it would be very expensive to both acquire and operate relative to every other choice put out there so far.

Peter Elliott
January 22, 2014 7:04 pm


It has been suggested.

Although what I for one said said was: do a quick engineering beauty contest between A330, A320 and A400 to see which would be least difficult and costly to cut a viable bomb bay into.

Becuase that seems to me to be the determining factor. All three have range and endurance and space for the required mission systems. Two of them are already in the UK future airfleet. One isn’t but could be if we adopted a long term plan to standardise our big-jet ISTAR onto a single platform.

Of course the same could be said of P8, and thats available MOTS.

So its pay your money and take your choice. I doubt if the Airbus soultion would work out any cheaper and certainly wouldn’t be available sooner. But from an industiral perspective it would make sense to persue. The anglo euorpean aeorspace insudtry needs projects to keep it alive. And France and Germany couldn’t very well not buy it once it was created. It wouldn’t be any less capable than the US product. And is we went with Atlas instead of a passenger jet it would add the ability to follow a more traditional low level search pattern, bringing extra value to the coalition mix.

dave haine
dave haine
January 22, 2014 8:11 pm

@ Simon, Ted, Jules
As JMH says the A330 is a huge beast- 253 tonne Max Take-Off Weight, against 86 tonnes for the P8. Forget the costs of the mission fit (with airbus’s FITS I don’t think that’s a major issue), think about about manoeuvring the damn thing to prosecute a kill solution, or track a liferaft.

My only real problem, with the C235 MPA as a stop-gap, is that it might well be bought as a stop-gap, but it would end up as a “F**k it- that’ll do” programme, because the money will end up being spent on something else, that some self-serving lobbyist has pursuaded HMG that we ‘need’ more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good aeroplane (with less of the technical/ operational problems that bedevilled the ATR family), but it has its limits- range, weapons load and role capability, mainly. If we buy it we have to accept those limitations.

TBH, I always thought it was a bit short-sighted to get rid of the Andover. The Andover Sqns always seemed to be busy. So I suspect, that a small airlifter would find plenty of use.

The other issue I would have, is that as soon as we start with the ‘what else can it do’ we end up with less airframes and those spread too thin.

As for 16hr patrols- Nimrods certainly did 16+ hr missions, but with three flight crew (2x pilots & 1 flight engineer) and a crew galley and crew rest area.

And finally, read up about Airbus’s FITS (Fully Integrated Tactical System). It’s a open architecture, plug and play system, designed to be fitted on any aircraft. Used in the C235, it could easily be put into a A319, and indeed airbus did a design study for an A319 MPA conversion, as well as a new build.

January 22, 2014 9:02 pm

No not as an MPA but as everything else, its a moose!
it can detect, subs drop Sonar buoys, AWAC/TANK/SURVEY too if need be and crucially at the same time keep a C295 (PROSECUTOR, my name and I’m bagging it!) On station for Hrs… (C295, will get a standard roll on roll off config) Hell we could even outstation em in the Gib, He He, that’ll l go down well! And the FI similar and why not Diego Garcia? We get a proper Ute of a plane Twice! More to the point manage to still annoy the rest of the world! Once they forget us it’s over, lets make sure we stay everyone’s pain in the Bum forever!
Bob on!

January 22, 2014 9:07 pm

“The General Lack of Cash”

Really? Is it lack of cash or the inability to buy six P8 instead of a squadron of pointy fast jets. Or a squadron of C-295 instead of half a squadron of fast jets with pointy noses? Or the inability to keep Sentinel R1 in service, developing an sea scan capability and maybe a sonobuoy capability later on?

IMO, it is lack of strategic foresight and interest.

January 22, 2014 9:08 pm

Dave: “My only real problem, with the C235 MPA as a stop-gap, is that it might well be bought as a stop-gap, but it would end up as a “F**k it- that’ll do” programme, because the money will end up being spent on something else, that some self-serving lobbyist has pursuaded HMG that we ‘need’ more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good aeroplane (with less of the technical/ operational problems that bedevilled the ATR family), but it has its limits- range, weapons load and role capability, mainly. If we buy it we have to accept those limitations.”

HALLELUJAH!! Someone gets it!! One down, SO to go…

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 22, 2014 9:26 pm

@JH, re “Britain needs an MPA”….

1. Don’t get me wrong, I want all of the services to have the latest toys. But you need to make a more compelling case than that, particularly as we are currently having a MPA holiday and the world has not collapsed. Unlike us, politicians think that money unspent, especially over several years, is equal to money previously spent now proven to be wasted.

I spoke today with 3 Tory MPs ( 2 of them PPS, the third a maverick who will either rise high or crash and burn), mostly about specific other stuff as it was non MOD- business, but each I asked about their views on SDSR 2015. None of them were fussed at all, less one about Army reserves. One did not think there would be a SDSR 2015 at all, as he thinks the Tories are not in power, and Labour don’t need an SDSR at all to completely ignore Defence.

So I don’t think MPA is a priority for the Tories.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 22, 2014 9:34 pm


Most MPs can barely spell defence and I bet if you asked at least 2 of then could not tell you what MPA stands for let alone know what they do or why they do it. The comment of the third tells me all I need to know about them.
The problem with Politicians today is too many seek the position for the rewards that it brings.

Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
January 22, 2014 10:50 pm
Reply to  Red Trousers

Sadly, I have to agree with Red Trousers, I also follow http://www.conservativehome.com ‘the home of Conservatism’ and defence issues are very rarely mentioned. The last time I can remember any debate about the future was about Trident and that was mainly a put down of the Liberal Democrats review of alternatives. The last time SDSR was mentioned was almost a year ago.

The Tories are also committed to a full Trident replacement which will inevitably suck funds out of other areas.

Much as I like debating alternatives I cannot see any real political desire to resurrect less sexy capabilities except for carrier strike unless events get in the way.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 22, 2014 10:56 pm


You confirm my opinion that regardless of whether your MP is an ex Councillor from Leeds or an Ex Eton schoolboy they still know f all about Deference.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 22, 2014 11:30 pm

RT Please do not panic if I talk about active Vs passive politics. True there is no political will for defence issues. So no active desire to throw money at any kit whether it be planes, tanks or boats. Smart politicians will know that a surprise military disaster caused by a lack of kit/resources will end their political careers. The average voter may not care about defence, but they will not stand for the UK facing humiliating defeat either.
When Gaddafi gave the IRA trawler loads of Kalashnikovs, Semtex, etc. it was the Nimrods that shadowed them so some could be intercepted. Without an MPA. the UK is at risk of a Mumbai style terrorist attack. If the RN still had 50 escorts, the situation would not be so bad, but with 19 escorts & no MPA , we have some pretty big holes. Allies might fill in if we ask them nicely, but if they are busy themselves, they might decline.
Who would want to be the government minister explaining why 50-100 people had been shot dead by terrorists on British streets, because no money had been spent keeping an eye on ships heading our way?

January 22, 2014 11:54 pm

“An anti-submarine strategy which doesn’t care about their stealth”

Jeremy M H
January 23, 2014 1:57 am


While to a degree I agree with your overall conclusion, that there are many ways to skin the SSK cat so to speak. I agree with your premise that you don’t necessarily have to kill the sub to get done what you need to get done but I disagree with your assessment of the value of an MPA whn dealing with the SSK threat.

The primary thing an MPA does against an SSK in most situations is that it can force the SSK to behave in a tactical fashion over a larger space than any other asset can. In fact I think this, at least to me, is one of the biggest selling points of high altitude ASW work once they get the kinks (which are really fairly minor in the grand scheme of things) ironed out.

An MPA can traverse a large swath of open water and with a high quality radar can make large and just as importantly somewhat random areas very dangerous for activities that are vital for SSK operations (ie charging the battery/AIP system). There is no other system I know of that can do that. Wherever I can operate an MPA I can force such subs to start eating away at their limited underwater endurance. Running around a line of sonar buoys is not a huge deal for a nuclear sub that can cruise around at 15-20 knots and sprint at 30 knots when it needs to. AIP subs measure their endurance in a few hundred miles of moving at any reasonable speed and that kind of stuff becomes a very daunting obstacle that takes a lot of time and power reserves to accomplish.

There is just nothing I know of that can replace an MPA for doing a very important part of ASW work.

Jeremy M H
January 23, 2014 2:10 am


Is a good article on some of the issues SSK’s have. Note that to deploy at a reasonable speed they need to run the diesel engines one or twice a day. MPA make that activity very life limiting and really reduce the SSK threat to a one dimensional one.

January 23, 2014 2:14 am

S O,

The hope was indeed folorn. But you have proved to me that you are incapable of reading what has been written before.

Taking all your ‘ideas’ then:

Suppression activities – yes, this is why MPAs have radar.
Countermeasures to missiles and torpedoes. Again, yes. We have all that. Sonar 2170 as an example.
Pre-emptive air strikes, offensive minelaying – great, well done. Opening salvo in a shooting war. I expect Iran will take that lying down. Let’s hope they haven’t got a few bases distributed up and down the coast or have any decoys alongside.
Using civilian ships as decoys. Good luck with that one. How do you tell the difference between a ‘decoy’ and an innocent merchantman? You are inviting open unrestricted warfare against civilian shipping.
Signature reduction of warships – no, really? T23 – quietest warship in the world. It’s on Google. We got that one.
Using ‘minebreakers’ as decoys. Let’s hope the submarine doesn’t up periscope for a look.
Provoke submarines by making torpedo noises. Excellent idea. Provoke the enemy into attacking you.
Active LF sonar with helicopters – yes, got that one as well. Sonar 2087 and Merlin. Next.
Choice of routes – great when you have unrestricted open ocean operations to consider. What about choke points? Narrows? The Red Sea or Arabian/Persian Gulf? The Far Eastern Islands? Straits of Gibraltar?
Convoys avoid suspected or confirmed contacts – umm, yes, good idea. That would be the whole ‘exploit the limitations of the SSK – range, speed, endurance’ argument we already made.
Straits covered by sea bottom sensors. Active or passive? How do you justify laying a permanent active sonar barrier in territorial waters belonging to another nation? How does the data get transmitted? Where do you site the comms link if you lay such a barrier in the Bab el Mandeb Straits – Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti? What if it detects a submarine – the gap is closed and you cannot pass – mission accomplished for the submarine. Unless you attack it with something – maybe something airborne…
ELF radio silence and breaking codes. What if they don’t use ELF? What if they use satellite comms? What if they use no comms at all and trust their CO’s to operate using a given set of instructions?

Frankly I am disappointed – you have levelled some fairly heavy accusations of being blinkered, ‘tunnel visioned’ and biased. This is not sufficient substance to justify such an accusation. Your ideas focus on offensive hardkill and other direct acts of war, the use of civilian ships as expendable decoys and bait, and the deployment of impractical and expensive sensors in areas where you could not possibly gain authorisation to do so.

What you have identified – LFAS, manoeuvre, suppression by radar flood and other points, we already do and have been doing for years. But it does not always work – how little you understand the oceanography of the Middle East, for example, when any form of noise fails to travel more than a few miles. That works both for and against the ship and the submarine. I think you are predicating your arguments on open ocean operations in the North Atlantic in a Cold War style scenario. That is about as far from reality as it is possible to get. You also need an MPA – because nothing else gives you the range of offensive and defensive ASW options.

January 23, 2014 2:19 am

Jeremy, I think we agree on MPAs. Their value is in their radar and their ability to ID surface objects. A paramilitary coast guard patrol and search aircraft with slightly overspecced radars comes already close in utility to the most gold-plated MPAs.

A MPA’s relevance below the water surface is meanwhile unable to justify the expenses.

January 23, 2014 2:49 am

@TAS; you’re not going to understand, I get that.
The list wasn’t meant to be inventions or innovations, but a list – and you obviously don’t even understand some of it.
Besides, I don’t care about the Persian Gulf or any other distant straits. Funnily, you complained that I don’t read your stuff, but now you exhibit total ignorance about what I wrote. I don’t care about what’s not defence. Naval action in European waters and in the North Atlantic or close to overseas territories may be defence, but naval action by Westerners in the Persian Gulf or Strait of Malacca and so on is not defence; it’s stupidity.

And your apparently sarcastic response “Provoke submarines by making torpedo noises. Excellent idea. Provoke the enemy into attacking you.” only shows that you don’t get things when pushed with the nose into them.
Guess what? I didn’t mean onboard sound generators. I meant the equivalent of recon by fire (but with cheaper substitute ammunition). How could one possibly not understand this in light of what I wrote:
“provoke loud submarine reactions in passive sonar-covered areas by deceiving the subs with torpedo noises (especially if a contact is probably false; cheaper than dropping a torpedo)” ???
On top of that; the typical method for releasing a lightweight torpedo is by helicopter, and which helicopter cares about becoming a target for a submarine? He’s done if the sub has effective anti-air and he’s got no business minding about being a target if it hasn’t.

“Using civilian ships as decoys. Good luck with that one. How do you tell the difference between a ‘decoy’ and an innocent merchantman? You are inviting open unrestricted warfare against civilian shipping.”
This only matters in stupid small wars. In big wars of necessity -in alliance defence- no such concern has any significance. It’s an utter waste of billions to wage stupid small wars, so the entire concern is bullocks.

Jeremy understood the text, and I never expected you or apats to understand it. It wasn’t really written for you two, as it’s always a stupid to expect a discussion opponent to change his opinion. Whenever I discuss it’s meant to learn something when the other one releases some new info or it’s meant to inform or convince the bystanders. You two didn’t offer any info to speak of, of course. It’s still basically
“MPA -> ??? -> ASW success!!!” with you and apats.
I get it, you want shiny big ticket toys for the military. Hardware fans.
It’s rarely if ever a good idea for a treasury to heed the advice of military hardware fans, of course.

January 23, 2014 3:51 am

S O,

That is an interesting opinion. Unfortunately the UK does care about the Middle East and the ‘stupid small wars’ that are likely to flare up. I’m sorry you think we are so blinded, but I really think you have got the wrong end of the wrong stick.

Future conflict is not going to be about all out war. It will be about securing small areas of the world where British and Allied interests are threatened. It will be done in a hugely complex environment of civilian shipping, neutral nations, asymmetric and conventional threats and there may not even be a clear opponent. We will be subject to Rules of Engagement that will constrain us significantly, and we will be extremely unlikely to be the first shooters. You are stuck in the 1980’s dreaming of all out war. The reality is totally different – defence IS about operating at range, an expeditionary capability centered on distant parts of the world where the UK has significant interest to defend.

Your ideas are all about provocative action and the deliberate use of civilian shipping as targets and bait, and they violate a dozen different international agreements, laws and statutes opening you up to accusations of war crimes.

I might suggest you go and do a little reading on the current world situation and the future character of conflict as it pertains to the UK. But then again, I suspect you won’t take that advice.

Jeremy M H
January 23, 2014 5:51 am


I disagree with your basic premise though. Driving an SSK to stay below the surface or risk destruction is hugely valuable and makes the ASW problem much simpler. MPA’s have tremendous value both above and below the surface. While they can’t and don’t search huge patches of ocean under the water they are very quick to react to input from either their own sensors or another deployed asset to localize a contact.

I don’t know if the UK should have these things or not. Not really my decisions. But I do know that screening a carrier group in a real, no-shit war situation is much more easily accomplished with MPA’s and I don’t know another asset that would restrict SSK operations as much simply by being present. Both of those are fairly important potential task for the UK that can’t really be replicated in any other way on any other platform. They are incredibly important platforms for the distant ASW battle.

January 23, 2014 6:05 am

Oh you didn’t! Hardware fans? Mate, at least three of us in this thread are former or current bloody operators! We know it works because we’ve done it. And I made that point about 100 comments ago when I noted that 1st world air forces and navies have both MPA and submarines. They get together and check that the theory and practice of this whole endeavour actually works. (And BTW, there aren’t many forms of modern warfare that actually can go out and practice the whole shooting match, start to finish, and can say they have proved the theory as compared to the practice. Occasionally we even have weapons with dummy warheads on actual torpedos chasing actual subs) .

Don’t get me wrong, I love that old grey ‘hardware’ that kept me out of the water for 3000 hrs of my life, but if I didn’t actually find a bloody submarine once in a while, I’m damn sure I wouldn’t have spent a great chunk of my life doing it. And frankly, suggesting that is the heart of our argument is pretty bloody insulting.

dave haine
dave haine
January 23, 2014 8:26 am


I’ve always got that…. But if you read my previous posts, you’ll see that I’m arguing for a proper full spec MPA, because we have a vast sea area to cover, and a short-range MPA doesn’t suit, so we can’t accept its limitations.

You can’t put both the mission kit and weapons on a Global, without knackering its chief advantage- its range….Viking is a non-starter for the same reasons as the C235, as is the Challenger. The cost of buying and re-lifing/ furbishing a P3 has got be touching £100m an airframe.

If we bought additional A400 airframes, and put the palletised FITS system in, with a mission optimised rear door, we would at least save money in training and support costs, because they would be part of a larger fleet, and a proper fleet management programme would enable planned maintenance, and hours utilisation programmes, but it is only an 80% solution.

There isn’t a UAV programme, or going to be for the foreseeable, or IMO, ever.

Relying on surface assets hasn’t worked- frankly there aren’t enough, and what we do have will be needed for the amphibious/ carrier groups.

TBH, whichever dark blue character convinced HMG that the capability gap could be covered by surface assets, whilst watching russian carriers ‘sheltering’ in the Humber for six hours before any response (If we’d still had Nimrod, that would have been an hour, max) russian subs ‘popping’ up in the Clyde and trawlers dissappearing without trace, needs his career adjusting.

Frankly, any argument, other than treasury parsimony, about not needing an MPA, or only needing a limited capability smacks of single service self-interest, inter-service politics and naval money-grabbing.

Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
January 23, 2014 8:28 am

@ SO
90% of world trade travels by sea
92% of British trade travels by sea
40% of UK food is imported
25% of world oil travels through the Malacca straights

I could go on but any interruption to the world movement of ships will have an immediate economic impact on the UK and other nations. So yes, protecting shipping in the Persian Gulf does not immediately protect us butit might protect our way of life which is dependent on the free flows of goods around the world which is why the RN has so spent so much of its history in trade protection duties

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 23, 2014 10:13 am

“TBH, whichever dark blue character convinced HMG that the capability gap could be covered by surface assets, whilst watching russian carriers ‘sheltering’ in the Humber for six hours before any response (If we’d still had Nimrod, that would have been an hour, max) russian subs ‘popping’ up in the Clyde and trawlers dissappearing without trace, needs his career adjusting”

I’d be extremely surprised if the origin of the “capability gap” bodge was a dark blue suit. Aside from the fact that MRA4 was still (allegedly) struggling significantly with airwortihiness issues which made entry into service far from certain, the absence of a functional MPA capability was and is causing dark blue all sorts of problems.

You may wish to look for a different coloured suit for the origin of the decision….

January 23, 2014 10:57 am

You can’t put both the mission kit and weapons on a Global, without knackering its chief advantage- its range…

Yet that knackered range will still be longer than the figures being quoted here for the p8 unrefueled. Less payload for sure. But the likely hood of dropping torpedoes on a Russian ssn is slimmer than France invading Cornwall with the whole rn in the channel. So we’re does one draw the pragmatic line for capability in a budget restrictive future.

January 23, 2014 11:02 am


“An anti-submarine strategy which doesn’t care about their stealth”

If you imagine that your blog contains any viable ground-breaking concepts, considerations or proposals, then you are sorely mistaken. I don’t wish to appear patronising but it’s all been done before.

The UK MOD and respective warfare centres (multi-agency think tanks on steroids) invest significant resources in a plethora of blue sky thinking, historical and scientific research, intelligence gathering, R&D (Research & Development), CD&E (Concept Development and Experimentation), COEIAs (Combined Operational Effectiveness and Investment Appraisals), feasibility studies, technology demonstrators, OPEVALs (Operational Evaluations), equipment trials, tactical trials, data capture, OA (Operational Analysis), TD (Tactial Development), etc. High level studies cover the ‘big picture’ of strategic offensive operations while others examine ‘down in the weeds’ tactical offensive, defensive and protective measures. Such studies are often conducted in collaboration with closely allied nations via bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Where ASW is concerned, measures are by no means restricted in scope to particular platforms and weapons systems detecting and engaging submarines at sea. However, I have read reports that not only illustrate the unique ASW properties of properly equipped MPA but also quantify their capabilities. Your frustratingly simplistic arguments, comprising little more than bald statements and lists of suggestions, reveal the shallowness of your understanding. You seem to think that the UK MOD ignores any apparently innovative strategies, tactics, systems and equipment but should implement bright ideas plucked out of the air as so often found in this forum.

In truth, no new proposal is entertained (let alone approved or dismissed) without some form of business case, balance of investment study, investment appraisal and/or pain & grief statement. Populating these documents involves some serious number crunching using hard data. Even those projects given initial approval are often scaled back, either in the amount of capability provided by a system or a reduction in the number of systems. Sometimes they are cancelled entirely, even at an advanced stage. Project restrictions and cancellations are usually caused by the re-appropriation or withdrawal of funding, politically motivated delays or other cost drivers. Any reduction in numbers ordered has a deleterious effect on economies of scale which drives up the unit price and causes further headaches. Although every attempt is made to exploit emerging technology, considerable effort also goes into improving OC (Operational Capability) by employing current platforms and systems more cleverly.

You said “Those who were thoroughly indoctrinated by navies in their orthodox doctrine and those who love hardware emotionally or for business reasons will almost inevitably think now that I’m batshit crazy.” I wouldn’t be as uncharitable as that but please respect the views of those who, though not indoctrinated, have received the best training available supplemented with years of practical experience at every level from the tactical to the strategic. Also be aware that that some of their knowledge (e.g. specific tools and techniques effective against stealthy targets such as SSKs) is not for public discussion or consumption. Where such circumstances apply, you’ll just have to give them the benefit of the doubt. :-)

@David Haine

“…TBH, whichever dark blue character convinced HMG that the capability gap could be covered by surface assets, whilst watching russian carriers ‘sheltering’ in the Humber for six hours before any response (If we’d still had Nimrod, that would have been an hour, max) russian subs ‘popping’ up in the Clyde and trawlers dissappearing without trace, needs his career adjusting…”

What makes you think it was a dark blue character? The Royal Navy probably appreciates the force-multiplying value of MPA more than any other service.

January 23, 2014 11:26 am

@Dave Haine: We both agree that we need an MPA but which type is beyond us. I liked Simons suggestion of a stop gap. However, I can not agree that RPAS or drones will not play a significant part in the futrure. I see a large AWACS airframe doing all the jobs at once with many different consoles. It can stay high cause drones or RPAS can drop the sonobuoys and do MAD fixes and either RPAS/Drones or FJ come and prosecute any targets. That way you have 1 airframe doing the MPA, AEW, Ground surveilance all at once. Drones play a crucial part here as all you need to do is drop the expendables.

dave haine
dave haine
January 23, 2014 11:43 am

@ Mark
No point in having a half-arsed solution- Sentinel range is 5200nm, without any external stores. P8 is 4000nm fully loaded

If it was just for a surveillance aircraft- Global would be a perfect solution, and I would be backing it to the hilt…but it’s for an MPA, which needs some degree of fightyness, by it’s very nature.

Peter Elliott
January 23, 2014 11:58 am


Will the range/loadout combination for the Global actually be any better than the C-295?

If not then why pay the development cost?

January 23, 2014 12:03 pm


But this is my point exactly. Why does it HAVE to be fighty?

We don’t hang Storm Shadow on the Sentinel?

This is the key point I have been trying to make – what makes the MPA requirement so special that it HAS to carry weapons, where other surveillance aircraft do not?

Peter Elliott
January 23, 2014 12:16 pm

I would say the particularly lethal nature of submarines to a surface task group makes it essential not only to locate them but to engage deter and destroy them before they can come within firing range of an HVU. For me that’s why an ASW-MPA has to carry a significant weapons load.

Now if we had a guided missle-torpedo hybrid that could be fired from a destroyer across a couple of thousand km of ocean onto a subsurface target cued by a surveillance plane well and good. But I don’t think anyone is developing a weapon anything like that. Why would they when you can hang a torpedo off the plane and have done with it?

Peter Elliott
January 23, 2014 12:26 pm

I would go further and say that conventional (as opposed to nuclear) deterrance is very underated.

Just by having an exercising certain capabilities we change other countries behaviour at both the political and military level. Critics of ‘gold plating’ who say certain capabilities ‘are never used’ tend to forget this.

January 23, 2014 12:27 pm

Peter E – Ikara springs to mind (again). Although it took up a lot of deck space. Interesting to see this diagram on Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ASROC-Ikara-LAMPS-MPA.GIF that compares range of engagement between the US ASROC, Aussie Ikara, US LAMPS ASW helicopter and the generic MPA. It pretty clearly shows the effective reach of shipboard vs. autonomous ASW assets.

January 23, 2014 12:50 pm

Dave you say it’s half arsed for carrying no weapons but since NATO was formed no submarine target has ever been attacked by a NATO mpa dropping torpedoes. Attacking an ssn heads us to ww3 territory.

January 23, 2014 12:54 pm


“…TBH, whichever dark blue character convinced HMG that the capability gap could be covered by surface assets…”

Shit stirring much DH? ;)


…what makes the MPA requirement so special that it HAS to carry weapons, where other surveillance aircraft do not?

Surely this is do the nature of the threat, and the platform. The threat is very stealthy submarines, which if the initial contact is lost, may be able to slip away very easily. The ability to prosecute the enemy is essential. If you didn’t have weapons on the MPA, you would have to have immediate close support from other assets (i.e. surface ships & their ASW helos). Asking the MPA to carry a brace of Torpedoes is relatively inexpensive by comparison, particularly if you want to a wider range patrol.

Other surveillance aircraft:

Sentry and Sentinel and Seeker – I’d argue these are these are more theatre level surveillance assets, they aren’t watching or looking for individual targets in the same way an MPA might. They are monitoring and building up a big picture.

Reaper – This operates in a similar fashion to MPA I’d argue, and is armed to provide a similar target prosecution timescale.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 23, 2014 12:59 pm


It is half arsed without the threat of being able to drop a weapon it has zero detterence value. Now does that have to be its own weapon or part of a system is a separate question but the MPA system has to ne able to prosecute a target to be credible.
If we had to attack an SSN then yes we may be in WW3 territory but f me we will be glad we could.

January 23, 2014 1:58 pm

APATS et al,

Hang on a minute. We don’t deride the Sentinel, SKASAC, Sentry or any other surveillance asset for being half-arsed. There’s is a slightly schzophrenic attitude here – we are insisting that an MPA be able to carry weapons, but similar surveillance platforms that don’t carry weapons (but instead vector in armed weapon carriers) also do not come in for criticism.

That’s the point I’m exploring. In close-range ASW we don’t always use Merlin to drop torpedoes, because most of the time it is in the hover with sonar deployed, and we use Lynx or another aircraft to drop the weapons.

So why not adopt a 2-tier system with the P8 and (for sake of argument, feel free to insert airframe of your choice) a Global Express MPA? The latter does the majority of the surveillance work and vectors in the P8 when a contact is found – or equally vectors in a Merlin, Lynx, P3, long-ranged-magic-Tomahawk-with-torpedo or any other suitable asset. We need the P8 for the deterrent protection side of things anway. If you have to cover a certain area, surely it would be better to have one armed and three unarmed airframes, than (maybe) two armed airframes that are so costly we can barely afford them?

We wanted to explore options – here’s an option!

January 23, 2014 2:02 pm

Where the hell did that avatar come from? TD!!!!!

dave haine
dave haine
January 23, 2014 3:31 pm

@ Tom

A little, yes…..however, the the dumbfounded astonishment some very senior RAF officers displayed, when Fox decided to carry out his little friend’s hare-brained schemes, makes me think that it wasn’t a light blue suggestion….I am, of course open to the idea that the RAF have an ‘only fast jet matters’ lobby, in the same way as the navy have an ‘only carriers matter’ lobby….

But being the cynic I am, I can imagine that when someone asked well, how do we cover the role some bright spark, in a dark blue blazer, piped up ‘Oh it’ll be alright we can do it with subs and the T23’ (In his head thinking, we can make a case for more escorts and another Astute then).

@ Mark

An MPA is a fighty aeroplane….notwithstanding all the other roles that Nimrod had thrust upon it/ ended up with, it fundamentally was designed, built and operated to find, fix and destroy submarines, and surface vessels… The fit-out for that role meant it could do a whole host of other roles, well enough to be effective.

@ APATS, NAB & Dunservin

Some dk Blue- I suspect the ones with knowledge and experience in the subject- I’m cynical, and I think there is a element/lobby within the andrew, that resents any money being spent anywhere else, but the Navy.

Its an option- not convinced though….although it’ll be better than any number of short-ranged C235.

To be frank, my ultimate would be 27 Kawasaki P1.

dave haine
dave haine
January 23, 2014 3:36 pm

Ohhh…..I quite liked them….there are one or two on here that it suited……hehee!

January 23, 2014 4:04 pm

TAS – See earlier comment, but I think there are differences in the usage of a MPA platform and platforms like Sentry and Sentinel.

Comparing to Merlin usage – would you want to have a ASW helo that couldn’t use its own weapons and had to rely on a 2nd helo or a ship launched Torp/ARSOC?

I don’t see why two platforms is better. I might work if we had lots of money and plan to deploy large numbers of a/c, but for the numbers we’re looking at the savings of a two tier fleet would lost in the costs the overheads of maintaining two fleets.

I’m not saying that the MPA works completely alone, simply that we need to make every asset work and not be completely dependent on another asset to complete its mission.

January 23, 2014 4:22 pm

Okay – I’ll see if DII can cope with Gravatar…