Questions on Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Nimrod MRA4

We have discussed future Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) a number of times on Think Defence, it is a story that allows us all to continually speculate because it remains a ‘gap’, perceived or real.

I think what makes a notional replacement for Nimrod so interesting is the simple fact that it is a complicated decision!

It is complicated because there is much more to it that a simple aircraft replacement, implications are everywhere.

  • Do we actually need a maritime patrol aircraft, after all we seemed to have managed fine for several years without one, are there more pressing gaps to address
  • If we do, does it need to be dedicated to the role or multi purpose
  • What about the industrial implications, does any solution need to meet every single UK requirement or can we trade off UK specifics for low risk and entry cost
  • How does it impact on the wider RAF/RN ASW/ASuW capabilities against the assumptions made in SDSR 2015 and the current defence planning assumptions
  • Does it need extreme range or would a smaller shorter range aircraft do
  • Does it matter if it is jets or props, what performance is required and how do we manage the low level requirement
  • What would be involved integrating UK weapons like Stingray
  • What role could unmanned aircraft play
  • Is a single aircraft the solution or would a combination work better
  • How would it impact the wider RAF ISTAR fleet, especially E3, Airseeker and Sentinel
  • Where is the cash to buy and more importantly, operate
  • Where are aircrew and ground crew coming from, Seedcorn has a finite lifespan
  • Who should ‘own’ them, to what degree can the synergies between the RAF and RN ASW/ASuW communities be exploited
  • How long a shadow dies MR2, Haddon Cave and £4b (ish) down the drain on MRA4 cast
  • What are the relative priorities of Search and Rescue, Anti Submarine/Surface Warfare, Maritime Security  and ISTAR in support of joint operations
  • Where would it be based now Future Force 2020 is well on the way to implementation, the choices might not be simple
  • How will a Scottish independence vote affect the requirement

So many questions.

If we went for the obvious Boeing P8 Poseidon then logically that would mean any future replacement for the E3 would be 737 based. Would that be a problem or an opportunity for future standardisation and there is no doubt it is the100% cost solution.

Could the MPA role be combined with that of the Sentinel, thus creating a multi role MPA/ISTAR capability on a single airframe. The Sentinel has delivered but has limited growth potential and as we all know, deleting whole fleets is where the savings are found. In this scenario, is there anything that the surplus Sentinel airframes could be used for, accepting that keeping them in service negates the airframe deletion saving, my favourite is an ultra long range recce aircraft fitting them with the RAPTOR sensor, or, a high endurance battlefield comms relay. They could also possibly be used to replace the HS125’s and BAE 146’s in the transport role.

An Airbus Military C295 would be obvious low cost, lesser capability than a P8, solution. Bringing the C235/295 airframe into UK service would provide the potential of allowing the airframe to be utilised in a number of other roles, specifically as a smaller compliment to the A400. A C235/295 fleet combined with A400 and C17 would be an almost ideal mix and there is even a gunship and AEW variant in the pipeline. Accepting a capability reduction,  deleting the E3 in favour of a C295 based AEW&C is an interesting option.

Could they be used as a bomb truck, or more specifically, a Storm Shadow truck and how would this affect fast jet numbers i.e. trade one off against the other

Is there any merit in looking at a few of outsiders, the Kawasaki P1 or upgraded ex USN P3’s for example.

Japan is making slow but steady progress with the P1, has recently signed a defence cooperation agreement with the UK and is obviously forging a more aggressive defence stance in response to their big neighbour. The USN is slowly getting rid of their P3’s, they are robust, have an excellent safety and reliability record and can be bought up to the very latest specification, Brazil having just taken delivery of their eighth P3-AM (Airbus Modernised) from CASA for example. The P3-AM has the same FITS system as on the C235/295 and the eight modernised P3’s plus four for spares cost of just over $400m , a lot of capability for not a lot of cost. How about using the A400M with a roll on roll off equipment fit or taking up the various offers on the table for the ‘Sea Herc’?

Could a business jet MPA be used, an obvious place to start is the Bombardier Challenger, as used by the Sentinel? Boeing have for some time been looking at developing such a platform and have recently announced their Challenger 604 demonstrator. Incidentally, the demonstrator will use a Selex Seaspray radar, a Star Safire EO system and the mission system from the P8, or put another way, the same as developed for MRA4!

There is no doubt the Boeing MSA (Maritime Surveillance Platform) is aimed at the security end of the MPA spectrum with no provision for ASW weapons or sonobuoys for example but Boeing have stated these could be added relatively easily. Before the outrage bus gets first paraded, the reality is that any UK MPA will be doing vastly more ISTAR and maritime security than ASW.

I will be looking at this in a bit more detail soon but anyone have any opinions on the above?

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236 Responses

  1. What do you want the MPA to do?

    Surface search?
    Sub hunting?

    All these have their own requirements. For example, surface search only can probably make do with a radar and flying at high altitude for OTH coverage. Sub hunting on the other hand needs to go low so that they can see the sub’s thermal scar with IR, so the 2 are almost mutually incompatible.

    Figure out what you want to do first, then figure out the nuts and bolts. Personally, I forsee a dual tier layout, with radar planes flying high for anti-ship coverage while “MPA” sub hunters go low for SAR and ASuW.

    Provided that you need such coverage in the first place.

  2. TD,

    I think I’ve expounded on my opinions rather enough (I hear you all sigh with relief)! But consider that there are a number of key tasks to cover – protection of the nuclear deterrent (i.e. deep ocean nuclear ASW), enhanced Force ASW and Force ASuW cover in deployed theatres (through conventional ASW and third-party targeting), contribution to the Land Component through ISTAR and the potential (through technological advancement) for tactical level/theatre ELINT (as opposed to strategic ELINT through Rivet Joint). The growth potential to interface with the next generation of UAVs and UCAVs is desirable. Whatever the solution, it must address those key user requirements without duplication and without detracting from existing capabilities.

  3. Some reality, something like a P-8 comes in at $200 million an aircraft before all the additional costs (such as airfield upgrades, which are substantial) come into play. Then there is finding all the costs to pay personnel and support the fleet. It is highly unlikely that something along these lines is genuinely affordable.

    Something like the Airbus CN-295 MPA is a far more practical option.

  4. That P3 deal does look attractive, but then you also have to ask yourself why the USN, Australia and Canada are retiring them. In a lot of ways, these countries are making the same cost benefit analysis as the UK. After all, they could much more easily retain their P3s, upgrade them and continue operating them instead of buying new P8s. They are not buying them because their defence budgets are overflowing with riches.

    Also, if you ask “Do we actually need a maritime patrol aircraft, after all we seemed to have managed fine for several years without one?”, you will also need to ask yourself if you have been borrowing someone else’s MPA. Answer: you have. Which is fine, actually. You just that ask yourself if you can live with that compromise.

  5. Sorry to throw this in but what about UK industry and the avenue of future development in capabilities.

    What I’d be worried about is buying a p8 and never being allowed or given the info to develop our own systems, which means you’ll struggle to set out your own tactics and strategy and it well all be replication of other countries with the same deficiencies. The Americans won’t be to happy to share or let develop!emt happen, after all they have their own industries to protect.

    Also how about range? I thought nimrod had better range? Oh and boom refueling we’ve got a multi adapter in a draw haven’t we?

    I’d rather see money spent on producing a new design or a cilvilan liner with new wings and being multi platform. I’m pretty sure France would like some new MPA as well.

    Heres a task for help to find something. David Cameron at bae location which did electronics saying how we need to grow/lead the sector, shortly followed by all the work being destroyed and Nimrod getting cut up.. I’d like to see that speech again!

  6. Mercator,

    An excellent point – US, Norwegian and Portuguese P3’s I believe, as well as Atlantiques.

    I do like the sound of the upgraded P3 option but look what happened last time we tried upgrading our MPAs…

  7. One option is to use the 604 with the P8. For submarine sweeps, two 604s could flank the P8. It would be very easy to vector the P8 to intercept. A pair of P8s with four or five 604s would be a formidable fleet.

    Also, I’m not sure there is such a thing as a pure MPA role anymore. The mission mix is very diverse and there is a real need for platforms with sensing capability.

    On C295, the DHC-5 Buffalo would be a better fit to partner with A400 & Chinooks. Ideal platform for LCLA & Freedrop missions. Nothing can match the Buff as a battlefield airlifter.

  8. CASA 295 all the way! Dual use, and maybe a roll on system for A400, again then dual use. ISTAR Assets I see as becoming largely umanned in the future I like Sentinal, mainly because it just looks cool! It’s a one trick pony though, Male UAV for spotting and MPA for prosecuting. the mix of C295/A400/C17 is pretty irresistable to me at least.
    I f we bought 8 P8’s with a support contract we’d be looking at around three billion I reckon, add that to the four we’ve already wasted would give seven billion for eight planes, you could buy two Aircraft Carriers for that! Not doubting the need sor some sort of capability here but it has to come in reasonable and the bean counters have to like it to!. ROLL on ROLL off for C295 and A400, Hopefully find a way to use the same system on both???

  9. For me the baseline has to be sub-hunting. And it has to cover both home and away fixtures. Undetected attack submarines are the biggest threat to any task force and if we are serious about using ours then we have to provide theatre level awareness of what subs are out there and which directons they are coming from. Then the frigates, merlins and astutes can plan their screens, sweeps and boxes in the right places to take them out.

    So critical airframe characteristics are range, endurance and the ability to release weapons and stores. And I’m looking for commonality with either (a) something we already have (b) something we are comitted to buy or (c) something we can plan to buy more of in future.

    So that rules out C-295. It doesn’t have the legs, or the stores capacity, for persitant patrolling at range. And its not common with any other platform we have are are likely to buy.

    If Airbus were offering the FITS system on either a weaonpinsied Voyager or Atlas then I would say have a serious look. Plenty of range and growth margin on both platforms. But they aren’t and do we really want to be the launch customer for a new product?

    So that really just leaves P8, P3 or K1. On the basis of future proofing and fleet size around the world I would go for P8, and look to develop it as a multi-role land and sea asset that would also replace Sentinel in due course. And maybe look forward to a Sentry version one day too.

  10. @Peter Elliot
    That was going to be my next post, going for the pricey option but getting more utility that way, still think we’d be getting more value out of a A400/C295 mix as you can actually bung stuff in em and take it places. Fly two down south one with support tech and one with the MPA kit and one fly’s back leaving an MPA Capability and a transport for the FI, Diego Garcia, Gibraltar, Gulf, in one… List goes on.
    Or if we want longer patrols/Transport/better persistence we send an A400 and a C295 and use the same kit on them both. During peacetime I see no harm in the C295 being manned over here by the Coastguard, would help with fisheries protection etc.
    I like your idea of the P8 giving us ISTAR and probably AWACS in the long run but I just don’t see a future in manned AWACS /ISTAR and ELINT. I know the tech is not yet mature enough but it will be and if we buy manned now they will be outdated and outclassed before their time by UAV’s, requiring more expensive buying. Keep Rivet Joint/sentinel/AWACS, Capability as long as we can and replace em with a very long endurance UAV…

    Wonder what a C295 would look like on a ski jump???

  11. @Jules

    If we could weaponise the A400 I would agree.

    Roll the pallets of FITS onbaord, bung sonorbuoys out through a derringer door. But it has to be able to drop munitions too, be they heavy torpedos or Storn Shadow or NSM.

    And that would take quite a bit of development I guess, with ssociated cost and heartache.

  12. Instead of buying p3 why don’t we use are the 24 C-130J Hercules.
    Lockheed offer the SC-130J Sea Hercules MPA.
    So as they are retied and replaced with the A400 they could be converted to that spec.
    so we are using planes we already have in service.

  13. @Jules

    I like the idea in priciple of a utility plane to fly off QEC. Could provide a solution for ASW, AEW and AAR. But such a plane would need:

    Folding wings and tail (or special tail – but wither way 7m tall maximum).
    Special software to help the unarrested landing.
    Upgraded undercarriage to cope with the SRVL type landing
    Ability to lift around 7-10,000kg payload off the deck.

    That’s quite a list of requirements and wouldn’t actually come cheap either. You’re basically designing a new airframe for a very small specialised market. Only other customer would be the USN. And they (a) use CATOBAR and (b) parked their requirement for a C2/E3/Viking replacement some time ago.

    My favourite starting point for such a design would be either C-295 ot actually Antanov An-72/4. But that’s another story…

  14. @Peter Elliot
    Sort of meant that as a Joke but you never know I guess!
    Don’t Lockheed have a roll on roll of solution used in their Sea Herc and some bolt on fairings for Torps etc. No doubt the M.O.D. with B.A.E. and Marshalls, would be able to string out about a five year test flight programme, just from that little lot, so perhaps we should just by off the shelf Sea Hercs and let them all spit the toys out of the pram?
    Buy Hercs as the Ute and MPA and No P8, No C295, and no additional A400’s…

  15. Jane’s say MOD are hinting its between P8 and CN-295 as UAV technology is 30 years away from a multifunctional MPA platform that would meet UK needs. I imagine P8 would only really be affordable in sufficient numbers if we were part of a jointly purchased and run fleet with Norway, Germany, Netherlands and maybe France (could involve sharing Global Hawk too) – but that would also require some sort of agreement to detach aircraft for ‘national interest’ tasks overseas. Although P8 might enter the picture as some sort of trade-off with Sentinel? (we probably need a lot more workaday MPA missions than Sentinel missions).

    Given that the primary role is going to be UK-based – everyday maritime surveillance and long-range SAR (working with the OPVs) + ASW protection for the SSN fleet (and avoiding political embarrassment by passing Russian carrier task forces), a CN-295 buy as an ‘interim’ measure (until UCAVs that can fulfill a variety of ISTAR roles and be an effective sub-hunter are around and affordable) seems morel likely/sensible – to enter service as C-130 leaves and offer duel role capability – probably replacing the BAe 146s too.

    Scottish independence will almost certainly rule P8 out.

  16. @James F

    Scottinsh independence won’t happen.

    No worries entering into joint maintenance arrrangements with Norway or Nethrlands or Germany or France. But lets get our marker down nice and early so they have to come to us and negotiate on our terms. Lets not have another Typoon / NF90 / Atlas type shcemozzle with all the associated delays and costs.

  17. My view is that the Maritime Patrol capability is the key rather than actually having a dedicated Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Therefore, based on where we are I think the UK should go for a strengthened layered approach above and beyond what is there currently with the FF, Merlin and Hercules combination. Also, each platform needs to be multi-role and should be deployable anywhere in the world (in some cases from the CVFs).

    So the short term solution is to enhance the current MP capabilities of Sentinel and buy another 4.

    Medium term, look at developing or buying off the shelf additional capability either a MP UAV or converting a V22 Osprey design, both of which should be capable from flying for traditional airfields or the CVFs.

    Longer term look at the options for replacing the Sentinel, E2-Sentry and Rivet Joint capabilities onto a single platform.

  18. I rather like Observer’s initial comment…

    Given that the AN/APY-2 is a pretty good radar and can detect surface contacts to 200nm I’m not sure I understand the need for an MPA aircraft to do this task.

    This means E3 can stay up high.

    It can also then be the sonobuoy data relay and (in my mind) should also form part of the theatre level ELINT capability, the remainder should be provided by Rivet Joint since I thought that was the whole point of it.

    So this leaves the low-level EO/IR, MAD, sonobuoy deployment and (sub)surface attack.

    The question I have is then: Do we want to have a naval task force reliant on land-based MPA?

    If the answer is yes then…

    1. Buy MPA.
    2. Use land-based Sentry for AWACS too.
    3. Use land-based Voyager for AAR too.
    4. Use land-based Typhoon for CAP.
    5a. Reduce the number of F35B we are to procure to an absolute minimum.
    5b. Scrap the carriers.

    If the answer is no then…

    1. Whatever we use to protect the task force is what we should use everywhere else.
    2. If this is not good enough to patrol the GIUK gap then either…

    a. Scrap Trident and stop bothering with the GIUK gap.
    b. Buy MPA and scrap the carriers/F35B (as above).

    This might seem a little childish but there seems to exist a mutually exclusive set of options between MPA and “naval task force autonomy”.

  19. I don’t see a lot of questions about tasking.

    I also don’t see the various roles fulfilled by the MRA4 MPA adequately performed by anything other than a fixed wing dedicated platform.

    The important questions are where do we need the aircraft, what level of readiness, how long do they need to be in the air, what roles are we asking them to actually perform and what is the equipment they will need to do it?

    That gives you an idea of the numbers required, remembering that you need multiples of aircraft to keep one in the air and bearing in mind that the MRA4 cancellation decision was more about only receiving 9 workable airframes which were nowhere near the figure of 20+ that were talked about as being required for the tasking.

    Once we have an idea of numbers, we’ll have an idea of cost.

    The supposed £1B found behind the sofa a couple of years ago and set aside for “the right MPA” would still only deliver only 9 P8’s. Sounds like we’d still be nowhere near the right numbers based on the MRA4 cancellation reasoning without significant increase in how much we’re going to spend on initial purchase and ongoing costs.

    My money’s on the Challenger 605 from Boeing being designed for MOD requirements, either on request or because somebody at Boeing is smart and pre-empting need.

    At a third of the price of a P8, that’s 20+ aircraft that are similar (not identical) to the Global Express based Sentinel’s which, on the surface at least, can fit inside that (mythical?) £1B budget, including sonobuoy modifications…

    Would 20+ 605’s provide enough coverage at 56% of the range of an MRA4?

    As for the name? The Boeing P9 Manannan to keep the nautical pagan deity theme…

    More details and a video on the Boeing site [1]:

    [1] CL-605 MSA

  20. Should probably add that personally I’d like to see the P8 purchased in adequate numbers. It’s the only platform that comes close to what the MRA4 could have been (security, prosecution, deployment, etc) and I feel on a more modern airframe the platform will be found to be immeasurably useful over the coming decades.

  21. Whilst Russia continues to rebuild its Submarine fleet, we seriously need to look at requiring a top of the range Sub hunter. However, their is a good case for a two-tier fleet. Your top of the range model, like the P8 operated by the RAF/RN and your bog standard CN-295 operated by HM Coastguard. Do we really need a high end aircraft like the P8 to do daily milk run’s around the British Isles, checking up on Fishing vessels and yachts?

    All of the aircraft mentioned have their good and bad points. From being expensive (P8), not having extremely Long Range capability (P8 again and others) to your basic Ad hoc conversions A400M, SC-130J, CN-295. Whilst all having to hang munitions from the wings. Plus all being built outside the UK. Whilst I cannot see Airbus offering a airliner conversion of the A319 anytime soon!

    Now this is going to sound a’bit mad! How much would it cost to build a fleet of brand new Nimrod MRA5’s!

    It would tick all the right boxes. Built in the UK, very long ranged, huge bomb bay, an alternative to the P8. If the surveillance kit of MRA4 is now on Boeing’s Challenger 604 Demonstrator. Which shows that systems work. Then I don’t see why we don’t bite the bullet and have another look at the Nimrod. Because let’s face it, it was HMG’s decision to reuse MR2 airframes for the MRA4’s, not BAE systems and that was the major problem.
    I will now put my tin hat and duck!!

  22. @Simon257

    Great idea in theory – but are there any usable, certifiable drawings for the Nimrod airframe in existance?

    I remember a very lucid post from @Not a Boffin a while back in which he explained that the fundemental problem with the MRA4 was that Design Authority for the Nimrod Airframe had been lost. Fundementally no-one was left knew how the design worked. So they had to try and make it up as they went along.

    Question I have: is there a modern airframe in existance with recent production and a viable Design Authority standing behind it that comes anywhere near the Nimrod airframe’s performance characteristics? If we were talking about a bespoke conversion that would be the place to start.

  23. I forgot to add it would cost a fortune and would take over 10 years to get it into service. So we will just have to go for the P8! Wonder if Boeing would let us go for the 737 Max version?

  24. @ PeterElliott

    Thats very true, it won’t obviously happen. To much time has past. We should have gone for new builds from the very start for MRA4. It was just HMG interfering/meddling on stuff they know nothing about.

  25. Personally I feel we should take our time rebuilding our MPA capabilities, not that it should be put off but rather it is done a staged manner. I would lik to see 10 C-295’s as a first stage to cover UK defence until 2030, followed by a UK designed/built aircraft, this would probably be best as a modifyed Airbus airframe assemblyed in the UK from parts (or larger modules) created elsewhere, UK engines and kit would then be added. It should also be aimed at an export market rather than be perfectly tailored for the UK. We should also be looking at driving MPA UAV’s forward to supplement and eventually replace MPA’s.

  26. The question I have is then: Do we want to have a naval task force reliant on land-based MPA?

    This is an interesting one. The carrier group is going to have an SSN escort, Type 26 ASW frigates, ASW Merlins… does it really have to have an MPA as well? Or is this more of a “nice to have” if the threat’s particularly high?

  27. The Americans sacrificed S3 Viking (Carrier launched ASW-MPA) and chose to rely on land based MPA instead.

    But then again the USN can to some extent afford to take the view that if a sub get lucky and manages to get a shot in and disable a carrier then the next Carrier can take over.

    We will almost certianly only one Carrier Group. And a cripled or sunk HVU effectively means a mission kill. So I would say in the long term we probably need to aim for both land based and carrier based (with more range and persistance than Merlin).

    Now at the moment there isn’t a suitable STOVL airframe on sale for medium range ASW. So I say buy a land based one becuase that will do the job 80% of the time. And keep looking at the options for carrier based in the future – probably as a Merlin replacement tiltrotor crica 2030.

  28. @Engineer Tom “Personally I feel we should take our time rebuilding our MPA capabilities, not that it should be put off but rather it is done a staged manner. I would lik to see 10 C-295′s as a first stage to cover UK defence until 2030, followed by a UK designed/built aircraft, this would probably be best as a modified Airbus airframe assembled in the UK from parts (or larger modules) created elsewhere, UK engines and kit would then be added. It should also be aimed at an export market rather than be perfectly tailored for the UK. We should also be looking at driving MPA UAV’s forward to supplement and eventually replace MPA’s.”
    I like this idea but the only ones who would buy it would be us and Europe and a Euro MPA would fill three dozen new threads I think and make my estimate of around 7 billion for 8 or so aircraft (including the four for MRA4) seem like chicken feed!

    @Simon 25, your my kind of bloke, I’d love to see 1 common ISTAR/ELINT/AWACS and MPA Platform, so how about roll on/podded modules for the A400? Nothing that requires major structural changes IE lumps bumps and dishes more brackets electrical conduits and pod/panniers, and buy all the ones the sausage gobblers don’t want because as they say, they already do more than they are tasked to???

  29. This is really toss a coin for me. Would the C295 be more than adequate for current needs – UK / FI EEZ patrol with a decent ASW / ASuW option but also for basic SAR? I think so. Once we start worrying about the resurgence of Russian SSNs and the GIUK gap issue, then that is more in P8 territory. But I don’t think we are there yet, or will be in the near term

    I would plump for a decent fleet of C295 type aircraft now to regenerate and build capability with the ability to provide continuous or QRA style MPA capability around the UK and FI. The C295 could also replace / supplement other light transport / utility roles for commonality benefits. I would not rule out a future silver bullet P8 purchase if the GIUK / Russian issue develops and going forward the 737 may become the platform of choice to replace various capabilities.

    I say C295 type aircraft as the Sea Herc (and possibly the Ocean Sentry used by the US CG?) should be considered although the C295 appears the most mature ASW version

  30. There is a pattern emerging with very complex low-volume “bespoke” systems… The Aussie Wedgetail and Seasprite sagas, the Canadian troubles trying to replace Sea King and our own debacles with MRA4 and Sentinel (Sentinel is a good system but pretty much single role, single generation – no-one else will be prepared to help pay for the cost of system upgrades or platform development). And we know what a throw away ‘software upgrade’ can look like – Chinook HC3.

    At the risk of repetition (something I’m good at, sorry folks) I believe our priority must be Range, Force Protection and Footprint (or the lack of it). RFF – if you like – understanding that me must retain contingency capability in an unpredictable world. Maximizing the potential of every capability to deliver at range (as our backyard is not in immediate or foreseeable conventional danger and threats are intercontinental), minimize the risk to our own forces (given we have precious few – not only woosieness), and ensure that we don’t get bogged down in pursuing high-footprint politically lost causes.

    The first priority is thus (I’m open to more expert ideas as I’m not an engineer or tactician):

    1. Get carrier strike property capable (F-35, Crowsnest etc.)
    2. Ensure we have enough very high quality mobile and protected ground forces to meet any eventuality if deployed on interventions
    3. Ensure we can provide assistance and back up in key areas to regional allies (meet their capability gaps) in critical regions – Middle East, Africa and contribution to Far East, if needed.
    4. Counter asymmetric/intercontinental threats to the UK – cyber, terrorism etc.

    Second priority is to put in place enough capability to what I often see on this site referred to as ‘standing commitments”.. i.e ensure the integrity of our national and allied sovereignty, and our home and civil defence requirements.

    Its in that category I would place the regeneration of MPA.

    That’s why i would be very happy to get anything, and CN-295 would be cheap and much better than nothing. If P8 puts more F-35s, Crowsnest or even (it will never happen), more Astute’s at risk – then forget it.

  31. Don’t forget that while Herrick and Telic were on and the FSU was still a basket case, it was decided that the submarine threat had gone away and that either a capability gap or the catch all Defence Planning Assumption that “Someone else” would do it came into effect.

    It’s a bit like the “gapping” of f/w fleet air defence. Originally, the decision was badged as “taking risk against the air threat” which was mitigated to some degree by the “increased capability of T45 compared with T42”. However, over time the caveats tend to be forgotten and people begin to think that “Air defence is done by the T45”, as opposed to the original (correct) interpretation that T45 forms an important part of the overall capability (along with AEW/ASaC, f/w fighters, soft kill and point defence systems.

    Wrt to MPA, you can see the same thing happening. The submarine threat is (conveniently) assumed to be low (which essentially is the old capability vs intent question again) and so risk is taken, which is assumed to be partly mitigated by other assets (eg Astute, T23/2087/Merlin). People are already conflating all the other things that the MR2 did (SAR, surface search, ISTAR etc) with the primary (and more difficult) part of the role which was cued wide area search, localisation and prosecution of submarine targets in some specific and some non-specific sea areas.

    It will be interesting to see whether (in these straightened times for the USN), the Common Support Aircraft requirement is resurrected. The major problem of course being that they have no money to pay for it (the original reason that S3, F14, KA6D and A6E were all retired early). The Pacific might be an interesting operating environment if access to land bases is “at risk”. If people think the DF21 holds carriers at risk, imagine what it might do to the rather more vulnerable bases at Kadena, Andersen, Eniwetok etc, without which there is no ability to project P3/P8, KC135, KC10, KC46, RC135 or E3. Whicjh is why you tend to need both land-based and carrier based assets, rather than an either/or solution if you’re going to play big boys games.

  32. @NaB

    Agreed, but its a very long time ago since we could play Big Boys Games alone, especially in the Pacific (if ever?)… And we are are playing in the ABM game – one T45 is engaged in US trials – to help deal with such threats.

    UK defence spending will ever deliver a compromise based on best guesses for our immediate needs, even in a perfect world.

  33. C-130s off carriers….I think people are getting a bit excitable.

    Few thoughts on possible MPAs

    P3 are getting old and knackered- the issue is not what kit you can stuff on it, it is with airframe hours. Whilst the USN had hundreds of these things the average airframe hours were kept low, but now all the low hours examples have been refurbished and sold on, so any that are left have a limited life left.
    To ‘re-life’ an aeroplane, the main spar has to be replaced, as well as any load bearing frames and large parts of the skin. Speaking from experience- my airline has done a ‘D’ check on a B737-200, bear in mind that this was an airliner-so a relatively benign and sedate life. The totted up cost of that check would have bought us a another B757.
    So apart from the huge cost of refurbishment and the limited life left if you don’t, the cost problems of obtaining spares for a legacy fleet, the reducing technical availability rate (always an issue when operating ageing a/c) the cost of training engineering teams…the P3 would be a good choice. BTW for P3 also read ‘Atlantique’.

    Sea Hercules? Seriously, why? We are getting rid of the Hercules, so why re-introduce another smaller fleet? Why pay for a modification/ development programme on a airframe that we’re chucking. If we go down that route it makes much more sense to do it on an airframe that we expect to be keeping in service for 30+ years, the Atlas (I would also argue that we should be thinking along the lines of putting AWACS on it as well)

    Sea Atlas programme- yes commonality, with part of the air transport fleet so technical management, aircrew training and operational management efficiencies to be had. A good range/payload compromise, so useful. British industrial involvement, so good for jobs etc. the Germans and French could be persuaded, possibly, so a multi-national programme, which would help item cost, and possible exports. An Airbus product, who aren’t that bad at developing aircraft. And finally, able to operate out of smaller airfields, so giving a handy operational flexibility, if forward basing required.

    CN-235: Good aeroplane, but too small I think for our requirements- considering the area that the UK is responsible for. Too short ranged.

    Sea Challenger: Too small and no offensive capability- any warload would i think would be quite small and at the expense of sonarbouys etc Shame really because as a pure patrol aircraft it is the answer- fast transit time, reasonable loiter.

    P8: at the moment, the only player in town. My issue with it is the expense. Other people have been talking up it’s commonality with B737-800, and therefore spares availability. The problem with this argument are the facts- Boeing’s own designation for the P8 is the B737-800A, which means that it will have a different wingset, which indeed it has, having winglets based on a 767-400 design, rather than the standard -800ER winglets, and a strengthened wing to cope with the expected stress. Even the main keel in the fuselage is strengthened, again to cope with the expected stress. So really not that compatible at all, really. I hope the’ve uprated the brake system/anti-skid as well, as there seems to be a real problem with the 737-800 overrunning the runway on landing, particularly in wet weather. (Bit of a joke- it was always claimed that you could smell a wet runway on the flight deck of a B737-400)
    Other than that seems like the nearest thing to the ideal (Nimrod MR4A) we’re going to get.

    Kawasaki P1: this my personal favourite, the only wheel nuts up designed MPA. Might be a bit cheaper than the P8, got four donks, OK, hasn’t got the sensor fit of the P8- but as we had a big hand in that (Legacy of the MR4A) you can’t tell me that we couldn’t patch in extra stuff if we needed. We have a defence and industrial agreement with Japan, which could bring benefits to the UK. The only prob, I think, is with the donks…but that could easily be solved by hanging RR Br710s off the wings, Although the IHI F7 is actually designed for use in a maritime environment, so……

    So there you go, my thoughts on an MPA, In the end, I suspect we’ll end up with P8. Although I would rather we used the Kawasaki P1.

    Unless the Germans and the French suddenly decide that they need to replace their Atlantiques and P3s, then we might see a common platform A400m, or possibly a resurrected A319 based platform. But unlikely.

    And finally…I wonder why we set up a defence and industrial co-operation agreement with the Japanese now…. We’ve never seemed to need or want one before….. is it just good diplomacy/ politics? Or is there something in there for us?

  34. @JamesF – totally agree with your comments re Astute

    As someone said above, an MPA should be part of a layered defence. I also believe we run the risk of high end silver bullet fleets (T45, P8, Astute for example) with nothing beneath them, no strength in depth. By strength I don’t just mean fighty back up but lower level platforms for personnel to cut their teeth on and hone the skills etc to apply to high end assets. I also beleive in the retention of a core ‘self defence force level’ that if all the high end stuff is off to a hot war, we don’t leave the gate open for asymmetric or other opportunisitic threats. That’s why I see ‘patrol OPVs’ are important, as is QRA, basic MPA capability, facility security etc. I would advocate a couple more Astutes as they are the most effective form of long range offensive capability we have, and it is our strength. In support I would make the case for three off the shelf SSKs – low risk no gold plating. These would serve three key purposes – building the skills base for crews for the SSNs, SSK training for the surface fleet and UK EEZ (GIUK gap) ASW. If you had those, I think the C295 would do nicely for MPA for the foreseeable future.

  35. Oh and another thing…I would say that there is at least another generation before we get to the stage where UAV’s have any utility in in the MPA world.

    The range of tasks that a MPA can carry out on a single mission is vast….most of these tasks require situational awareness and assessments, judgements and decisions to be made…not things that autonomous UAVs are any good at. RPVs have a similar issue, clue’s in the title (i.e. Remote).

    The problem is that some people are seeing UAVs as a universal panacea to all military problems. They’re not, they have advantages and limitations just like any other tool.

    And that right there is what we should be thinking of UAVs as…..another tool in the box.

  36. Some excellent posts…

    David Haine,

    A wild guess, but Japan does have a major threat in its backyard – my guess would be that UK hope the tech is going in the other direction as Japan is getting more serious about defense.

  37. @ Mickp

    You’re right that we need more astute, and some off the shelf SSK would be a very good idea- but to assume that they could replace a proper long-range MPA is exactly what ‘Not a Boffin’ was saying in his recent post…

    I’m afraid CN235 is too small an airframe to do anything other than coastal patrol-absolutely perfect for HM coastguard and HM Legalised Mugging Service but for decent area search and target prosecution you need the likes of P8.

    Frankly, as a nation we’ve been p***ing about too long with defending the homeland. We’ve got a decent expeditionary capability coming, we’ve not got a bad offensive submarine capability (although we could do with more astute). We now need to deal with the potential threats to the homeland.

    So sufficient MPA, proper Naval coastal forces, SSKs and a properly resourced Air Defence system. Not withstanding the cyber threat, as well.

  38. I thought part of the reason for getting rid of the S-3B Vikings (and they’d had their ASW systems removed long before their retirement) was the realisation that you no longer stood a good chance of detecting the new generation of quiet SSNs (via SOSUS) at ranges that required onboard MPA to deal with them. Indeed you might not detect them at all.

  39. @Chris Werb

    They may have been obsolete but the point is that they weren’t replaced with something that wasn’t. The capability gap is the point. Not the platform itself.

  40. Chris W

    it wasn’t so much quiet SSN (although that certainly put paid to the 2031Z passive tail and its 2057 planned successor) as the Sovs packing up and going home, which left the perceived threat as SSK, which you struggle to defeat by passive means. That co-incided with the need to replace the ASW system on the aircraft and as the US had not yet got itself a long range active system, the decision was taken to avoid spending that money, but leave the aircraft capable of undertaking radar flood search missions (which seriously degrade an SSK mobility). Until they needed to save even more money, at which point the fleet went to AMARC without replacement.

    Essentially a combination of high-cost replacement of systems required, set against a perceived reduction in threat, hence let’s spend the money elsewhere. It doesn’t mean that a long range persistent asset to localise, suppress and/or prosecute SSK and SSN is not required, it just means they couldn’t afford to do that and field FA18E/F and V22 and what was JSF and the SH60 rationalisation programme, and , and , and. So they made a choice and are living with it. Fortunately, that choice has not yet been tested.

  41. The Sea Atlas makes sense. But even if you get other nations on board, and you persuade Airbus to fit it with the same Electronics suite as the MRA4 or Challenger. When exactly would you get production slots for it. We could be looking at a long wait. The same could be said of the P8. If we were to place an order today, we might not get an operational aircraft for a number of years!

    Whichever Aircraft we decide on, it has to be capable of launching Storm Shadow. Then at least if that Mad Cow in Argentina gets any funny ideas. We can start taking her country apart from the start, and not wait for the RN to arrive in the South Atlantic!

  42. I don’t think there is a threat that curently warrants MPA (or Trident for that matter) at the moment.

    Our strategy should therefore be to make sure we can regenerate the capability (which we’ve proved we can’t with Nimrod anyway).

    I have a question for the professionals…

    Which is better at hunting and killing an enemy sub? Astute or P-8? My guess is very much the former.

  43. Actually I think you would find countries queuing up to sell their Atlas production slots.

    The question for me is whether the development work to give it either a bomb bay or significant numbers of hardpoints could be done in any kind of reasonable timescale and cost.

  44. Not a professional Simon but I understand that an SSN will typically be given a box to operate it. If the target is outside the box its not allowed to engage.

    The great value of an ASW MPA is it allows you to decide where to draw the box and gives you a way to find the target in a huge ocean and drive it towards the killzone.

    The SSN can move at 35 knots (unless its HMS Astute with its dodgy gearbox), but the MPA can move (and search) at several hundred knots.

    Different tools for different jobs. The SSN will kill nothing if the enemy is hundreds of miles away from it.

  45. @David Haine – “So sufficient MPA, proper Naval coastal forces, SSKs and a properly resourced Air Defence system. Not withstanding the cyber threat, as well.”

    Well said, add in a workable key infrastructure defence plan and a chinook deliverable rapid reaction tooled up ‘company’ or similar on the ramp so we are not caught with our pants down on a mumbai style event (one may already exist of course). Get the core homeland defence sorted as the baseline – its the expeditionary element that flexes in size due to threats

    Take your points on CN235 (I see there is an MPA persuader variant), not sure if the C295 MPA improves on that. To me its about balance but I am clear we do need a decent ASW capable MPA fleet.

  46. @Peter Elliot
    ” The SSN can move at 35 knots (unless its HMS Astute with its dodgy gearbox), but the MPA can move (and search) at several hundred knots.

    Different tools for different jobs. The SSN will kill nothing if the enemy is hundreds of miles away from it.”
    OK: Left field/Out of the Box/Out of my tree?
    Would we need top class MPA in our waters if we had say half a dozen SSK’s?
    It could be time to look again how all these assets work together and how we look at CASD/Hunter Killer Subs and MPA.
    How much of a capability in each respect do we need and how much that little lot above will cost.
    If we lessened the CASD (Bear with me!) and developed it into a stretched Nuke deterrent/Hunter Killer astute class of about six-eight boats (Obviously not hunting when CASD…ing..) with eight tubes and 8 SSK’s (Vidar looks good), with the cheap option for MPA Say the C295 or the C27, any of the yank ones going spare still? (didn’t shift em all off to the coastguard did they?) C27 has more range and the same cabin cross section as the Herc, and so may take the roll on MPA Solution?
    You build/buy/operate three things.
    Solution now: vengeance/ Astute/P8?
    My shot Astute stretch/Vidar/C295.
    You don’t take any V boat out of service until you have two Stretch Astutes in the water. sixteen subs instead of 11, could ease a lot of the Navy’s front line hull worries, at the same time I would not put any moossive cruise missiles on any surface ships as we’d have enough secret squirrels for that job then! Can look cheaper on the manning spreadsheet too, if you massage the figures right.

  47. after a lot of consideration I think the C295 now gets my vote. we just don’t have the money to look at the P8. The priority has to be to get something fast as if we leave this gap much longer it will be too difficult to close.

    I also like the Bombardier based Boeing solution as it allows commonality with Sentinal but I don’t think we have the time or money to be looking at anything other than an off the shelf solution. C295 seems to offer enough at a very good price.

  48. Seems to me our need for MPA is about wide area surface surveillance and SAR across the continental shelf and specific sub-hunting/sub-deterrence where ours are most vulnerable/least stealthy (approaches to Faslane). But I might be wrong.

  49. You really have to identify the roles and allow them to drive the capabities and hence the platform.
    For instance a Business Jet Solution gives us long range and high speed and endurance. It could do SAR and also Build a wide area picture, it has the potential to prove ISTAR and link with other assets. What it cannot do is carry enough buoys or weapons to be effective in a traditional ASW or ASuW role.
    Something like a CN295 gives you broad spevtrum capabilities limited by speed range and to an extent payload. Does this make it unsuitable?
    A P8 type solution gives you the best capabilities across the entire spectrum but it is expensive.

    The capability requirements need to be clearly laid out, as does any of these requirements that can be met properly by other assets.

  50. @ Simon257

    I would rather see Typhoon with Storm Shadow than any MPA, with it, Typhoons from FI should be able to strike the mainland.

    @ DH

    I also was going to point out the C295 rather than the CN235 (the US has just bought these)

  51. Martin,

    But the C-295 has only a 3000kg payload for a 2500nm range. 100 x sonobuoys and their carousels/dispensers would take two of those tonnes.

    So with the other tonne we need a flight crew, systems operators, systems consoles and weapons! It’s basically a Merlin with a longer range. Not something to undertake the kinds of patrols that are being touted here.

  52. @APATS – The problem is that is that is not clear what capabilities need to be provided for. What exactly are we missing capability wise that isn’t provided by a current part of our inventory?

    The two true capability gaps IMO are long range SAR and aerial sub hunting.

    Long range SAR though this doesn’t have to be a military capability. A coast guard fixed platform could perhaps perform this mission more economically, and provide the boast to EEZ monitoring that many clamour for here.

    ASW is tricker. Astute and Merlin clearly provide some level of ASW capability, but neither has the reaction speed and coverage of a true MPA.

    Broadly speaking a buy of 5-6 P-8s in the same manner as the Rivet Joint and C-17 (e.g. a combined maintenance fleet with the US) probably makes the most sense. It would probably give us the biggest bang for our buck and would have the longest and best supported future – other ISTAR platforms could transition to a 737/P-8 based frame at a later date as required. It also fits in best with our current knowledge and tactics base.

    CN295 is attractive in some respects, but only if we use the same platform for other roles, like light transport and maybe theatre ELNIT (taking over from the Shadows).

    Sea Atlas is quite an nice idea, and one I’d love to see a detailed proposal on. Mainly becasue it would be very flexible in terms of equipment – you could create a genuinely modular platform. MPA & Light tanker for the FI?

  53. The way I read that table is that if someone had put E3D on it too the only thing we can’t do effectively is SAR and protection of the deterrent.

  54. One role that we are missing is the photographing of evey vessel within the EEZ once a week, also what other surface vessel tracking do we currently operate?

  55. @ ET

    Not sure that is a task. We use AIS and reporting, Lloyds Blue shipping, MCCIs etc to track vessels allowing targetted visual ID by air and further action if required.

  56. This is a done deal we will incorprate some maritime capabillty on the raf sentinal followed by a small buy of p8 for anti submarine work all ready for 2020

  57. There is a very real desire it would seem to gold plate the requirement until the answer is yep as high end as we go. Yet every defence review for some time and continued statement from senior leadership in mod is that the probability of traditional state on state is low and decreasing and that more irregular and assysmetric threats are likely in the future. We simply cant afford this on the current budget so prioritising certain limited number of high end capability in some areas is what needs to happen.

    Is there a traditional asw requirement? in all reality there is no equivalent to the red banner northern fleet. Yes subs ssks mainly have proliferated but country’s appear to buy them in handfuls in fact I’m sure you could count on 1 hand the number of countries considered as unfriendly that have more than five. Even the Russians who on paper may have 20 or so attack subs in the northern fleet today, the majority date from the early 90s or late 80s and most like have poor serviceability though I’m sure regular visitors you can’t possibly consider it anywhere near Cold War levels. Aircraft with 12-18 hr endurance and hundreds of buoys went with nimrod and it ain’t coming back.

    Personnelly I see a mpa only returning if something else goes and if its multi mission. The overland role nimrod preformed (if you make the assumption there equipped similar to there american counterparts) has largely been taken over the shadow r1 which have proved popular, with gd endurance and cheap by comparison. They are now a core funded program.

    As the tendency with all electronics has been toward rapid and ever small size components with ever greater capacity and with a clear long term goal of attempting to move the capability to uavs then the size required of manned platforms to carry similar equipment also reduces.

    For me I think these guys have shown something of lead that many of the traditional large military’s in the west are slowly starting to realise is probably the way fwd replacing large istar platform with much smaller ones which are cheaper to operate.

    I am of the belief that something based on the global platform is probably where the istar fleet including the mpa should be heading as they come up for retirement I doubt others will agree. There is one final benefit to using 737 or regional or biz jets for this task and that’s they look like commercial jets both on the ground and in the air.

  58. @ APATS

    I just came across a reference to how the Nimrod used to do that, and I am wary of AIS and similar systems as they can always be turned off.

  59. @Mark

    Agree that we need a multi-role platform that can go over land or sea. Whether that is an evolution of Sentinel or a replacement is for me an open question.

    I worry about Seninel’s ability to shift and deploy the required level of stores and munitions. But experts will have calculated the minimum number of sonorbuoys and torpedos needed to make a credible capability and that is likely to determine the outcome.

    Maybe as Daniel Hodges suggests above it will be an evolution from one platform to the other.

  60. I just want to re-state my earlier point – there are two completely different ASW games afoot. One is the traditional deep ocean, nuclear (i.e. looking for nuclear powered submarines) ASW game. The threat is singleton nuclear hunter-killers, long endurance, high speed, capable crew and sensors but noisier than diesel or AIP boats. They operate in deep water, not shallows, and stay well below periscope depth in the acoustically optimal layers. Given that the US is pulling back it’s traditional Atlantic ASW forces to refocus on the Pacific, they are expecting Europe (as nuclear deterrent partners) to maintain the eastern approaches. Now I have no idea where the bombers go when they patrol – nor should anyone, really – but the safe bet is deep Atlantic and so you need ASW forces that can operate at range and with endurance to defend them. The sensible, layered defence strategy was always a mix of SSN’s, surface ASW forces and long-ranged MPAs; I see no reason why any of this has changed.

    The other is conventional (i.e. non-nuclear powered submarines, the SSK). The threat is totally different – smaller, acoustically invisible but limited in range, speed and endurance and a less capable crew (by virtue of being half the size). They hunt at periscope depth in shallower waters, normally with increased background noise (coastal traffic, fishing grounds, transit lanes and chokepoints) using ESM, visual detection and third party intelligence sources – they are weapons of position and stealth and operate completely differently to nuclear submarines. The tactics are equally different – you rely on their increased ‘look time’ (i.e. the amount of time the periscope is up) and you can narrow down their operating areas considerably.

    For the former, you needed Nimrod. P8 is the only sensible contender. For the latter, you still really need Nimrod/P8 but can operate equally effectively with something smaller with better low-altitude performance. Good sub-hunting radar systems are easy to install – the best we have is Searchwater or Blue Kestrel – and should not limit the choice of platform. They are also easily re-purposed to tracking ships. Existing maritime radars are capable of everything needed for both ASW and ASuW (AN/APS 115, Searchwater, SeaSpray, Blue Kestrel, etc) – all you need is altitude – and some are capable of synthetic aperture imaging of ships to ID even at long range. You do, however, need a decent weapon load – two torpedoes doesn’t really cut it. But the problem, as everyone has already identified, is that apart from the P8 there really is nothing else that fits the bill that we can realistically purchase. So on that basis, my bet is a limited buy of P8’s.

  61. Everyone gets dazzled by all the sexy technology that could replace Nimrod 1:1, but we really need to take a deep breath and have a wide-ranging think about what tasks we need to do, which are nice to have, and how the jobs previously done by Nimrod fit in to our existing kit and the progress of technology (on our side and the red team). I have a feeling that even if we had the money, a 1:1 replacement of the Nimrod with a Gucci “heavy” like the P-8 would probably not be the right answer. Now the money’s run out, we definitely need to think harder and more creatively. Not least with an eye to the export potential, not many countries can afford £200m aircraft like the P-8, but if we went with forty £50m aircraft rather than ten P-8’s, we might find more export customers.

    As an aside, most of the P-3 upgrade programmes in the Noughties came in at around £35m/plane, I suspect we’d be looking at £45m now. The HC-144A version of the CN-235 was £25m, although the Korean one was about £15m. As a further aside, it looks like UCLASS is turning into an S-3 replacement, mostly as tanker and ELINT platform, as well as stand-off missile truck and COD.

    I know the crabs are doing some of this, trying to fit in maritime patrol in the wider ISTAR picture. It’s a seductive idea to fit a software upgrade to Sentinel for maritime surveillance as the core of our capability in this area, with other platforms chipping in the extra capabilities as required. The success of RAPTOR suggests there is scope for a civilian or unmanned platform to carry an improved EO/IR sensor at lower cost than a £35k/hour Tornado. The move to “trucks” and “payloads” suggests a family of ISR airborne modules – and Libya suggests that the ability to carry ALQ-99 EW pods would be very useful indeed, maybe even a BACN-style comms relay pod as well.

    The limitation of the crabs doing this is that it ignores capabilities on and under the sea. We also need to think about other forms of surveillance (and also different ways of organising it – would it make sense to include maritime patrol in NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) grouping?).

    For instance small satellites are a disruptive technology, you can make and launch a 10x10x10cm CubeSat for about £50k. Obviously CubeSats aren’t omnipotent, but they can do a limited task usefully well for a stunningly small amount of money in this context. And their reach fills a requirement that otherwise distorts your airframe in very expensive ways, allowing you to concentrate more on the “detail” work. For instance, AAUSAT3 was built from scratch by Danish students and gives near-realtime AIS coverage over much of the North Atlantic. (for those that don’t know, AIS is like IFF for ships, see eg here for an example Obviously the Chinese invasion fleet won’t have AIS blazing away but a) it’s a useful thing in itself in building up the long-range picture, if only to allow you to concentrate on radar blips that aren’t broadcasting AIS, traditionally AIS has only been readable near to shore and b) it’s easy to imagine similar applications, even if GMDSS detection might need a more sensitive sensor and a small EO sensor might need a slightly bigger satellite. Whatever – I don’t think we’re doing enough with small satellites (partly because they don’t fit the traditional procurement model), but I think we could transform our “coastguard” situational awareness by bunging a few million quid at SSTL and some studentships at Cranfield. Traditionally satellites and aircraft have been seen as either/or, but once an entire satellite costs as much including delivery as an hour of Nimrod flying time, you can have both.

    Looking at our requirements, whilst it would be lovely to be able to deliver a Stingray onto the Mid Atlantic Ridge, realistically it’s a nice-to-have rather than a need. We’re not going to have dozens of subs surging through the GIUK gap like in the Cold War – Russia doesn’t have that many SSNs, and long-range missiles mean that their SSBNs don’t need to come anywhere near the UK. We need long-range surveillance, but we only really need to deliver torpedoes over the continental shelf, say out to 300nm or so. Obviously you want your weapon platform to have some endurance, but it’s the sensor platform which really needs it.

    So I can imagine micro-satellites doing the long-range picture stuff, a “greyhound” sensor platform optimised for endurance at high altitude, and a “carthorse” platform lumping round missiles and sonobuoys at low level. In UK terms that sensor platform might be a Sentinel derivative, and the truck could be a C-130/A400M (which can be loaned to the transport fleet when we don’t need to be chucking torpedoes into the sea, ie most of the time). In time the Sentinel might be optionally manned – unmanned for long patrols over the North Atlantic, manned over the busier skies of the North Sea and Gulf, or when it’s being used as a sonobuoy receiver. In reality, I think the crabs will go for a short-range version of the Nimrod, with P-8 mission systems inside (which the Seedcorn people are used to). Whether that’s the Challenger 605 or a reworked version of the CN295, Saab 2000 or ATR72 I don’t know. I wouldn’t rule out the ATR72 – it’s already in service with the Italians, so it’s intended to work with their versions of 2087 and Merlin.

  62. @TD some excellent points. The big problem for the P8 for me is that it is not designed to fly at low level therefore it isn’t a traditional choice for MPA and this goes someway to ruling out other business/passenger jets.

    My personal choice would be something along the lines of the C295. Putting several roles into one air frame is I think a real necessity. Replacing the sentry, maybe the sentinel (if there is anyway to attach astor), Shadow, Islander and maybe the 146 and HS125. Now if you get palletable systems you gain a huge flexibility. All of these could I think be done with the same type however I do like the idea of our ex sentinels becoming VIP and regional transport.

    The big point here is not only can it take on all of those roles (which arguably any of its competition could do) but it would also have the ability to as you say support the A400m due to having a possible palletized system and may even be a better choice for tactical lift that the Hercules is involved in. Also I think the 295 is already equipped for drogue refueling.

    The aircraft has weapons pylons so you may be able to strap LGBs, Brimstone or hellfire to provide a form of close air support for the troops. Having said all that the web says there is a gunship variant. That will definitely go down well with the boys!

    Maybe the ASTOR could be fitted to the AEWC type at the same time?

    I don’t think much of the ‘rest area’ pallet though maybe a couple of plastic garden chairs would be better!

  63. @ET
    When you turn AIS off you become a “non shiner” (NS) and therefore a Contact of Interest (COI), especially if you are doing 15kts plus in a straight line. I was involved in some Ops utilising an AIS fitted E3 that could detect vessels and match radar to AIS thus identifying non shiners, paired with an MPA or 2 you would be shocked at just how many of these you can ID.
    Combine this with a look at typical Patterns of Life (POL) and behaviour allowed further target refinement. Huge swathes of Ocean can be covered in an 8 hour mission.

  64. Peter

    I’m not that worried about load capacity it’s not a small aircraft, heavy weapons loads in particular have never really been employed from mpa since the war useful certainly target queuing other platforms more likely there’s prob room for several wing hard points if you really needed to.

    El Sid

    I’m sure your aware of the Israeli conversions of the globals arch rival the g550 in aew and electronic warfare. Cobham falcons are used widely in the uk for ew training to.—Air/Gulfstream-Aerospace-G-V-SP/2030826/M/

    Or this less well known India global—Air/Bombardier-BD-700-1A11-Global/2371832/L/&sid=2b1ff379e4e58cba54dccceb797b47ac


    I’ll take that lot parked in a global express, just how many pointy sticks could you get in the pannier underneath or Sonar bouys for that matter?
    Could we make a bigger swappable pannier?
    Get a common fleet that way buy using that platform for a future AWACS/Airseeker too?
    Not actually sure we’d get any weapons on it at all really (Glum Smiley)

  66. If we want a British MPA, at least in part, then we should look at the Bombardier Dash8 Q400, part built by Shorts. MPA versions of this have been proposed. Simpler MPAs built on earlier Bombardier turboprops are in service with several Countries.

  67. @ Mark/Jules

    That would be an option if it was decided that our MPA did not need an ASW capability.

  68. The C295 would be my guess for the MoD’s choice.

    It would be relatively cheap compared to other options, there are at least a couple of existing mission kits and an MPA version has already carried weapons.

    The Marte missile and mk46 torpedo have both been launched from C295; Marte is a fair bit bigger than Sea Skua, and StingRay is pretty similar to the mk46. Must have potential for Brimstone, so with a smart choice of radar and optics could be very useful over land too.

    Worried about range? Stick a probe on it. That’s why we’ve got those enormously expensive tankers.

  69. @ Simon

    “But the C-295 has only a 3000kg payload for a 2500nm range. 100 x sonobuoys and their carousels/dispensers would take two of those tonnes.”

    Yeah but its four times cheaper than the P8 and we really really need cheap otherwise we are likely to get nothing. Their is zero chance of starting any kind of billion pound plus project in SDSR 2015 and we need something in the air by 2019 otherwise seed corn will be wasted.

    Might consider fitting an AAR probe to extend range we do after all have bucket loads of tanker capacity that we have to pay for anyway.

  70. You could re-establish sovereignty patrols and a limited SAR capacity in a matter of months if you went with civilian run Dash-8s operated by Cobham. If my reading of the evidence given before the Parliamentary enquiry is correct, the powers that be recognised the utility of the ‘Coast watch’ model but haven’t yet decided who would run the show if that was the path that they took. If you are worried about Seed Corn going to waste, give the Dash-8s to those guys and let the military run it until the civilians are ready and/or your serious MPA are ready/fundable. If I remember correctly, the government own the Dash-8s in the Australian Coast Watch organisation anyway.

  71. Actually, at least one place on the Internet is telling me I am wrong about who owns the Dash–8s. Whatever. I don’t think it makes too much difference at all. I’m sure it wouldn’t slow down Mr Cobham & Co from satisfying your order. It might even go quicker.

  72. Martin,

    Four times cheaper but ineffective at sanitising the ocean ahead of our SSBN is an even bigger waste of money.

    What about 2 x P-8?

    Used only when the SSBNs need to go “in” and “out”.

  73. And tell everyone they are going in and out?

    Couple of quetions to all:
    C295 is the right money, payload and fuel is the concern, how could we address that without turning it into a mini Nimrod Fiasco.
    It’s boiling down to me as C295 for MPA and Localised Transport where you just don’t need a Grizzly, got to be a Bean Counter Head Raiser/favourite?

    Getting our AWAC’s/ELINT/ISTAR on one platform, whatever it may be?
    So what would it be?

    If I could think of a way ot do the lot with Second Hand BAE 146’s I would, love that plane, just not enough of em painted Grey…

  74. Simon, are you suggesting that the SSBNs have been sat around doing nothing for the lack of a MPA?

    Jules, I expect that anyone who wants to know when they go in and out already knows. They can place people to watch them go in and out.

    The C295 is capable of carrying a reasonable mission kit and weapons. If the MoD wants a more expensive platform, they may find themselves compromised by the number and specification of the aircraft anyway.

    I would agree that a separate civilian owned, or civilian owned and operated fleet will ultimately end up doing domestic SAR, covering search and command & control, and possibly environmental stuff too. A coastguard spec C295 would be a decent choice for that role as well.

  75. @ Simon

    Merlin , T23 and SSN.

    Is the range of C295 a big issue for th SSBN mission. I’m guessing most of the required work is done close into shore anyway not in the mid Atlantic.

    I really want P8 it’s just not possible. There is nothing left to cut and we don’t even have enough money for our current programs. I don’t see the point in spending $400 million for an occasional MPA capability especially when it will come at the cost of several other programs.

    Retaing Sentinal has to be the big ISTAR event from SDSR 2015 and there is no way to add another billion project on at the same time. C295 will do for 95% of the tasking and we can always get a bit if help from the USN for the other small areas not covered.

    Again C295 range issue can be solved for the most part with AAR modification.

  76. You have high end tasks and you also have many lower level tasks for mpas. As the “lesser” mpas don’t carry as much as the high end p8 how about the lesser mpa operate in pairs to service the high end task.

  77. @ Mark

    Even in pairs they do not have the speed and range. Also are they then cheaper? Twice the crews, twice the training, maintenance etc.
    The requirement has to be laid down in Black and White before a decision can be made.

    On The SSBN and sanitising water etc. We do not fly the track ahead of an SSBN scattering sonobuoys. When SR talks about open ocean ASW in support of the deterrent he is talking about the ability to localise and track an SSN that breaks into the Atlantic where it may pose a threat to the deterrent.

  78. @Mark makes a fair point

    @Simon Can you tell me where the p8 exceeds the 295 please? This isn’t a challenge I would just like to no what basis the argument is on.

    For me it makes sense to try to get as much ISR into one type of airframe and having a dedicated MPA defeats the object. Yes 737 will in all likelyhood become the new rivet joint and sentry but thats a long way off as far as I see it. And in this case you have 737 which will no doubt need a probe fitting whereas 295 has one. I think the MoD should be trying to get as much out of and ISR airframe as possible and leave the jets doing the niche roles. Whereas at the moment with have sentinel, shadow. islander doing these quite basic roles with very different airframes. Fair enough a couple of these were UOR but why have several different airframes when all you really need is some different specific kit.

    If you could fit astor to a 295 I would love to see it fitted to the AWACS type as well. Cramming lots of clever intelligence kit into one aircraft that has to fly around for a long time anyway makes sense to me as opose to having 3 aircraft all flying in broadly the same way.

    As I have said my issue is with 737 low level performance which is crucial for the old style MPA work. But then I think of Nimrod (based on comet) that was a passenger airliner so how did that fair?

    Ok we had 35 nimrod upgraded to MR2 standard. P8 is a newer aircraft with arguably better kit etc so charitably I would say you would be looking at 8+ P8s to cover MPA duties considering the cold war is over. But if 4*C295=P8 8*P8=32*C295. The question is how many C295 are equal in MPA capability to a P8?

    My proposition would be 32 aircraft. Say for arguments sake 14 for MPA, 6 for AWACS, maybe 4 gunship and 4 for tactical transport. I will call those dedicated even though other than the AWACS and gunship I would like palleted kit. That leaves 4 airframes for whatever you need them for. If you need more MPA stick the kit on. If they are needed for battlefield control put that kit on. 32 aircraft gets you a long way even if you can’t combine the roles of sentinel, sentry and shadow. Don’t forget you can strap brimstone to the pylons and hence offer a limited CAS capability on top of this. We are only getting 23 A400m having 4 gusting 8 (more if you don’t need 14 MPA at the time) tactical transport 295s on call is a huge bonus.

    That gets you a flexible tactiacl fleet. Is there any chance of getting this with P8? If they can combine role within 737 that is all well and good but you don’t have that surge transport ability.

    IMHO an A400m MPA or even AWACS would be a bit too big but again thats an option that can’t be ruled out as it brings the A400m fleet into higher figures.

  79. TED,

    Basically a P3/P8 is twice the size of the C295 so will carry around double the payload or the same payload much further.

    My inital problem with the C295 was that it has only a 3t payload (with fuel for 2500nm).

    I have since read that 60-100 sonobuoys is not unrealistic for a single sortie and at 15-20kg each, that’s half the payload gone. You then have to get a crew of about 10 on board (which is 800kg) along with all the consoles. After that, we need weapons, torpedoes, missiles, depth charges, or whatever these things use to bring about the total destruction of a sub or ship (plus tea making equipment). Basically more than 3 tonnes of stuff.

    I think Merlin goes up with about 1.6 tonnes for 30 sonobuoys, a dipping sonar, consoles, a crew of 4 and only a couple of torps. So I see C295 as a Merlin x 2 and a P3/P8 as a Merlin x 4/5.

    PS: On that linked doc, the “New Short-range MPA” column represents an aircraft that is actually larger than the C295.

  80. Trying to write a positive post for once I would like to try an out of left field idea. My idea centers around the C-130J fleet and incorporates exisiting systems to convert them into a Maritime Support Platform (MSP) but with further flexibility. I see the part or all ofthe current fleet being reworked either at lockheed statesisde or at Marshalls in the UK.

    The rework would produce a platform that incuded elements from both the C-130s operated by the USCG and those operated by the USMC. The former would allow the MSP to carry out maritime surveilance and SAR work whilst the latter would allow AAR and logistice support. You may have spotted that I have excluded any offensive roles such as ASW) An additioanl part of the programme would be the instalation of refueling probes on the Merlins operated by the Navy and the Chinooks operated by the RAF.

    Given the C-130s ability to self deploy, and its limited logistical footprint, I can see the platfrom being able to support many maritime operation from friendly bases. In these operations its ability to refuel both Helicopters and the F-35 would be a great force enabler and its surveilance capability over the horizon a valuable capability. Yes the former will technically conflict wiht the Voyager PFI but as I see the C-130 fleet being in RN Colours there maybe a loophole.

    At a stretch the C-130 could actually land on a CVF though permenently operating off a CVF is a non-starter but it would allow COD operations as well as other specialised and original operations.

    The new items of kit required for this role switch are all available off the shelf from US sources and I would perfer any bespoke options kept to the very minimum. The end result will be the UK once again being able to operate long range MP and SAR operations enhanced by extended SAR support due to the AAR capability. Helicopter ASW,AsuW capabilities will be enhanced by increased operatinf radii as will vertical insertion of troops from the sea and the endurance of whatever platform Crowsnest takes. There are very few possible future operations theatres where a land based MSP could not support the fleet. These would be far more realistic than land based AWACS and fast jet support before that arguement surfaces. As I said the C-130 can self deploy and its logistic tail is small btu also readily available given the number of countries operating the “Herc”. Finally given that the C-130 is aready in service there would be little new support costs.

    I see this as another example of the Armed Forces getting the best out of what they have as well as filling a number of capability holes, adding a few new ones and enhancing the capabilities of other platforms. There are no doubt some downsides but I see these greatly out weighed by the gains

  81. @Lord Jim

    Presumably the operating budget for the Herc runs out prettty sharply as Atlas comes into service.

    If we were going to spend money on a conversion it should be Sea Atlas. There will be plenty of spare ones for sale over the next 10 years.

    And we will have a budget and infratucture set up to maintain them.

  82. @ Simon

    The argument with the C295 is not is it as good as P8 but is it better than nothing. The choice in SDSR 2015 is going to pretty much be C295 or nothing. The Refurb P3 option is in my mind a good one but I think it will be too embarising for the government to use 30 year old airframes.

    I like the SC130 but if your going to do that may as well just buy the P8. I like the bombardier style biz jets but with no ASW then may as well use a combo or Reaper and Sentinal or sentry.

    The more I go over it the more I see the C295 is the only possible option we might get in 2015.

  83. @ Martin

    That is not the approach we need, we either meet our requirements or we do not. Those requirements need to be laid down.

  84. @ Peter – your right about the operating budget for the Hercules. Buying the MPA is the least of the financial problems. Its finding the ongoing running budget that will be the real killer with so many ISTAR assets currently funded as part of afghan ops. Running a fleet like the C130J won’t come cheap.

  85. @ APATS

    I agree we should seek to meet our requirements but how many of those requirements are vital and worth spending our treasure on.

    Its seems clear we don’t have the budget to meet our requirements so we have to work out what we can afford that will cover as many of those requirements as possible. The C295 can do ASW work which few of the other budget options can. It can do ELINT and SAR roles. will it be particularly good at any of these roles (no) will it be good enough for most eventualities (probably) it will certainly be better than nothing. Currently the T23 Merlin combo is filling the gap but will this be possible with just 8 T26 in the future.

    I still feel priority number 1 for SDSR is keeping Sentinal and an ubber MPA project very much threatens that.

  86. @Martin

    Actually if you go and look at the table at P40 in the link with new short range MPA being a CN295/235 variant you will see that it has No next to ELINT and No next to ISTAR.
    Next to SAR it has limited range.
    We only have 8 tail fitted T23 so there will be no change in this with T26.

    Does the CN295 bring enough extra capability we cannot duplicate to justify spending any money on? If it does not we could spend less and get some sort of SAR capability back.

    Does our MPA ASW capability lie more in Open Ocean Mid Atlantic and other long range deployments?

    Sentinel has proven useful but we are probably going to move away from the sort of Ops it has supported. The RAF were quick enough to offer it up last round.

    The whole point of an SDSR is that you look at requirements not platforms, so the kind of requirement that Sentinel fulfills will be looked at, the various requirements an MPA of varying sorts may fill will be looked at as will a host of other things.

  87. @ APATS,

    What capability – if you’re even permitted to tell us – does a Frigate/Merlin combo provide for supporting the deterrent? In the sense of, could that cover our needs in terms of ASW?

    If so then I think we have a lot more freedom to chose an MPA. Something that can do the surface search and support SAR operations would generally suffice (given our budget problems), so that could be a biz jet platform or one of the EADS/CASA options. If not then we’re back to P-8 or nothing essentially.

  88. Martin,

    I am very much with APATS on this one. There is absolutely no point in buying something that doesn’t deliver what we need.

    A half-way house to protect the SSBN seems a total folly – we already have that.

    As you can tell I still struggle with the MPA requirement but assuming we actually do need it I have a feeling it’s either 4 x P8 for a cool £billion or nothing.

    How many C295s does a £billion buy us? 24 by some sources, I just seriously doubt it.

  89. The old capability first v cost first argument!

    Its circular isn’t it really

    We are great at setting requirements with seemingly no reference to affordability and then seem surprised when requirements are traded away or just plain reduced when the crashing realisation occurs that we don’t have the money for the requirement. And so around the circle

    I think I argued a while ago for an affordability first process that puts cash before capability, it might be interesting to have another look

    APATS, your statement about Sentinel is an interesting one because it has been used in Afghanistan i.e. out of fashion enduring and Libya/Mali i.e. rapid in and out light touch

    So, it would seem to have utility in all spectrums of conflict.

    I wonder if, as I said in the post, if you could transfer the Sentinel mission kit onto the same airframe that might be used for MPA, thus swapping one airframe for another and setting those costs against commonality

    It is this kind of combination and permutation that makes MPA so interesting, it really is capability not platform

    @all, have a butchers at this post from a while back

    And a more recent one on multi role A400M options – Sea Atlas anyone

  90. @APATS

    Agree its all about requirments.

    For me if it can’t do serious sub hunting at range there’s not much point and we may as well continue normal jogging. I fear C-295 would bring another slice of non standard niche cost without actually cutting the mustard.

    And P8’s operating costs will look scary if we can find ways of using all that capacity in the airframe to also replace the clutch of bespoke and UOR overland platforms we are operating now. Maybe on a phased way. With the existing platforms dropping out gradually as both numbers and capabilities of P8 build up.

  91. @TD

    My argument would be specific to MPA that if you cannot fulfill the Open Ocean and Deployed ASW role is it even worth spending the money on an MPA?
    Would we be better sorting SAR and using something else for WAP and ISTAR?

    One aircraft with a variety of mission capabilities would seem to be a cunning plan.

    Yes Sentinel was used in Libya but its input in an area where you could barely move for overhead assets was not crucial. I like it and it is in operation and we have 5 of them, we should be looking to keep them but as I said and you have reiterated we need to look at capability requirements not platforms.

    I loved the idea of Sea Atlas especially as you could utilise the CN295 removable Airbus consoles and literally carry loads of weapons and sensors but I am sure somebody told me that although we have put a man on the moon figuring out how to deploy weapons from internally would be beyond us.

    @ Simon

    The Indian P8 order was in Dollars remember they cost £140 million each.

  92. OK – so to begin thinking about a business model…

    If we wanted our P8 squadron to eventually cover the full spectum of ‘downward looking’ land and sea ISTAR (ie everything except AEW&C), gradually replacing all the platforms we curretnly have operating in thoese roles…

    …how few would we need? 12? 20?

    Now the cost savings: a core common flight and maintenance squadron of RAF personnel at a single home base. Then small numbers of mission crew from both Army and the Navy to ensure that enough aircraft could always be delpoyed in the required roles, but never all of them on any one task.

    The the investment profile. Dovetail the purchases to build up slowly. 5 upfront then 1 per year for hwoever long. Splice in the OSD dates for the existing platforms.

    Your classic balance of an uprfront investment, followed by steady accumulation of assets in return for reduction of a variety of non standard and becoming obsolescent operating costs.

    Not beyond the wit of Spreadheet Phil surely?

  93. Interesting that the French use long range Falcons for at a distance SAR. I could easily see the SAR PFI extended to include one or two long range high speed bizjets for on scene coordination at the outer edge and then the SAR requirement goes away. If you look at the actually call out rates for MR2 in response to SAR incidents at range it was pretty small.

    That leaves the ASW/ASuW and maritime security requirement

  94. The nice thing about the P8 is the capacity: if we bought the CN295 I’ll guarantee in 5 years we would have run out of weight margin and power and we’d be doing the recriminations.

    Why not buy 10 P8 to do the heavy ASW, and convert some of our Predators to sea surveillance for the monitoring of traffic? They already fufill this role in the Indian Ocean :-)

  95. @TD

    Do not think SAR should ever have been a Military role but when it was the Nimrod fitted the bill. This is an opportunity to separate them.

  96. Cn295 I agree its weakness is its speed, endurance is mitigated to an extent by aar capability . Biz jet platforms the very large ones anyway do not have this restriction they have similar range and speed to the 737 but not the stores capacity it doesn’t mean they carry significantly less. The miniaturisation of stores is continuing a pace and that is shifting platform requirements.

    The case is repeatedly made we must have 100+ sonobuoys to make a proper mpa, well that is a high end stressing case. The are many many missions a mpa flys were few if any buoys are dropped. The question is what’s typical against the likely threat. We aren’t expecting sorties from 6 Russian ssns breaking thru the GIUK gap a la Cold War. And you don’t need a platform the size of the 737 to hunt ssks in the med or gulf. The Americans are after all gearing this for a pacific theatre we are not.

    So to operate in pairs do you cover the high end requirement of stores carriage possibly, is that cheaper don’t know is the honest answer but if your buying say the lesser aircraft at anything from a 1/3rd-2/3rds the price of p8 then perhaps in stead of 8 p8 aircraft you buy 12 other aircraft and come out ahead with the options of increasing the lower level tasks. Crewing numbers is a real grey area as p8 may operate with more as standard and may also require relief crews to fly extended missions, crew to airframe ratios for the istar fleet is usually quite high.

    Considering the amount sentinel was/is being asked to fly I think the not really crucial is stretching it. P8s to Indian were not to the full spec so will uk aircraft be more expensive for the full fat version? There may of course be a possibility of a split buy very limited numbers of p8 (around 4 a/c) taking on multi missions roles and a larger number of biz jet platforms taking on increased dedicated tasks (say 8). If the p8 is being pushed solely for mpa it ain’t gonna happen and its way to expensive to replace aircraft currently dedicated to overland istar tasks. If standoff weapon carriage is a possibility on p8 then f35 numbers could be cut to offset the price.

  97. @Mark

    My not really crucial comment was in reference to Libya where it was not.
    So your proposal is to use an A330 and 2 CN295s to replicate something like a P8 capability?

    I really do think we lay down what we need and either meet it or drop it. Compromises are fine until you find out why they were not goof enough in the first place.

  98. Mark,

    If we buy P8 and cutback F-35, should we not have cancelled CVF in 2010 and kept Nimrod? Ultimately it amounts to the same thing.

    Surely launching Storm Shadow or the like from P8 does not guarantee penetration? After all SU-35 or equivalent with RF can operate out to Stm Shadow range – if you can find an airfield for P8 to operate from to whatever war you are fighting. If you are speaking about ASuW, pretty much most surface we are likely to be in conflict with – if we are talking about more than piracy – if going to operate under an area air defense shield including carrier CAP. Not the place for a 737 to go alone, even one pepped up like P8.

  99. C295 is built in Spain, yes? And I understand the UK voyager buy pretty much propped up Spanish defence sails last year too. Should we not use that leverage to stop them playing silly buggers about Gib?

  100. Apas

    No as I said up top I’d use the global express platform and I know we don’t agree on that. An option for consideration would be the p8, challenger combo with the challenger purchase being first as the budget is most stretched in 2015 time frame. Numbers in a 2:1 ratio favouring the biz jet, p8 replacing perhaps several of the larger istar aircraft as a multi mission aircraft. The thing that cannot be allowed is a re run of the carrier situation were in now, where a massively over spec’d capability has been purchased at significant cost that impacts many other capabilities and will never be used to the scale intended as to make it full operational is prohibitively expensive (I highlight this one being as we’re talking water things its by no means the only service doing it). Other people would dispute that in relation to Libya but there more light blue than dark.

    It doesn’t James but we can be high end everywhere for every high end capability we need to reduce capability in somewhere else.

  101. @ Mark

    So you are confident that the Carriers are over specced and in their 40 year plus lives will never be used to their full capacity? That is a gutsy Strategic call to make.

    I have no issues with what we buy but I want none of the usual well we can get by with this and this. If we buy CN295 or some business Jet option then we simply admit that we cannot do deep Ocean ASW against a credible opponent and cannot do expeditionary MPA/ASW/ASuW in support of deployed Ops.

    As long as we admit that we are buying limited kit and accept those limitations then fair enough. What usually happens and you have been doing it for about 3 posts is well if we used a business jet and had AAR and a CN 295 and accepted it would take longer to get there and they were all available we may muddle through.

  102. Apas

    Absolutely confident we will not be putting 72 fastjet on 2 carriers at sea flying a 100 sorties a day and I’m not the only one the current CDS has said the same thing that there way over spec’d for our needs.

    Maybe I have repeated it for three post and there’s little point in continuing the conversation but a biz jet based mpa would offer almost identical range, speed and endurance to the p8 with asw capability. If the insistence is p8 or nothing then it will be nothing.

  103. @ Mark

    A business jet has a very low useful load though, so it can get there and stay there but cannot drop sufficient buoys or weapons. As long as we admit those limitations then fair enough but do not pretend they do not exist.
    MM I was actually talking about 1 Carrier at max but even with 2 I am far less confident about the next 40 years than you or CDS.

  104. So Mark,

    Cards on the table. Whats spec of carrier should we have had? And your answer cannot be “none” ;-)

    The 36 jets was a figure arrived at through some defence planning thingamubob. 108 sorties day one, 72 sorties per day for 10 days and 36 for another 20 days (1548 sorties – almost the number we undertook in 1982).


    $275 (from the GAO report) and an exchange rate of 1.6 $/£ = £172m a shot. I’d have been skinned alive if I’d have suggested we wouldn’t have wasted another £300m faffing around re-speccing this and re-speccing that.

    Ok, ok, I got it wrong and forgot the funny S with a line through it. ;-)

  105. Remember we are coming out of a financial crisis and recession. No-one was questioning CVF before 2008. Given the likely threats, I believe CVF will prove exactly what we need – and deliver credible force at range. Libya proved that – Charles de Gaulle and Rafale doing the business while we mostly blew smoke up our asses.There is plenty of time to get enough F-35s, by the time POW is commissioned it will be about time to retire Typhoon tranche 2.

  106. Well its too late now, but the decision we should have made 12 years ago, would have been a choice of 3 x 35000 ton Super Invincible VSTOL carriers or 2 x 65000 ton CTOL. Instead we have the abortion of 2 x 65000 ton STOVL, that are too flimsy to convert to CTOL.

  107. The Bombardier/Shorts website says Belfast makes the mid fuselage & wing mounted flight components for the Q400 Next Gen.

  108. Mark,

    I agree its going to be a compromise. I guess I think MPA is desirable as a platform to improve maritime security in UK home waters and protect the deterrent, but we can get away with a more limited capability even if we would prefer to have something more gucci and useful further afield, whereas CVF is essential for any likely future power projection scenario – which will almost certainly not be in UK or European waters, and not be predicated upon building more Camp Bastions in foreign parts – the appetite is just not there (cf. Libya, Syria). CVF + F-35/Merlin/Crowsnest, T45, T46, MARS and Astute are essential to deliver that capability, an all singing and dancing land based MPA is not, although of course it would be nice. So if something has to give, I’d prefer C298 to losing Carrier Strike capability, although knowing our wise politicians we’ll probably end up with a little bit of both which will be no good for man nor beast.

  109. Simon

    Max airgroup 28 max, number of f35 16, divided displacement and sortie rate by 2, crew around 400.

    John the web site is not up to date.

  110. Interesting thing hindsight.

    If I recall the sums in 1998 were to buy 135 F-35 to replace Harrier and Sea Harrier 1:1 and that provided the opportunity at no air group cost to replace the 3 Invincibles with 2 larger carriers that could manage a strike wing. STOVL made sense because it made these carriers affordable, although the RN asked for a design that could be upgraded to CTOL over their lifetime (when decision was reversed that assumption became questionable – not sure if they are too flimsy? did it not turn out they needed a lot of redesign to get them below decks? They need electromagnetic cats too – as they don’t have steam and they were horribly expensive, I believe).

    I think MoD looked at designs between 45-65,000t – on the basis that CdG was as small a flight deck as was feasibly convertible to CTOL….

    World span backwards, huge expenditure on Telic and Herrick, Sea Harrier and then Harrier scrapped to pay for it, thus basic premise for building ships to operate aircraft we already had, and planned to replace, evaporated. So, we should have foreseen this and built more baby carriers? …

  111. Absolutely off thread but the tonnage of the carriers is all to do with bunkers, magazines, and accomodation for the embarked personnel.

    Not really to do with how many birds of whatever type will fit parked on the flight deck.

    I believe this because NaB told us one time, in a propperly convinving way.

  112. There’s a lot of consensus here that a 2-tier approach is necessary. I have had a think and suggest the following.

    For the national nuclear deterrent task there is no alternative – we need the P8. So, a limited (!) buy of 6, maybe 8 airframes provides a good core of serviceable aircraft that can train, maybe provide a bit of SAR cover but fundamentally focus on nuclear ASW and can surge to support the deterrent should the Russians get frisky.

    For all the other tasks – SAR, conventional ASW, surface search, ELINT, ISTAR, support to land forces – let’s just acquire an effective sensor platform. I dislike the Sentinel – too specialised – but Global Express airframe is about right. Correctly equipped with a maritime search radar capable of periscope detection (e.g. Blue Kestrel – the Sentinel radar is the wrong frequency to spot small fleeting targets such as periscopes or go-fasts) and a good EO system, you are already operating a capable asset. Add in the capability to carry up to 100 sonobuoys (especially the new evolution active buoys with GPS) and a decent combat system (FITS, the P8 system, AQS901, whatever – they’re all excellent), and you have a decent all-round aircraft that can sub hunt, conduct surface surveillance, ELINT, whatever – except, critically, it has no weapons.

    Everything else fits into the cheaper package and the airframe is useful – but it cannot attack. No, I haven’t lost my mind but it is an option. If we consider that future operations are as much about surveillance as they are about kinetic effects, then an aircraft that cannot physically attack is a useful asset. In times of conflict it could call forward adjacent assets to prosecute; this could be other friendly aircraft (because lets face it, we will not operate alone) or our own P8 force called up at days notice to support an operation (which is of course going to be the Middle East).

    Is the lack of weapons going to put off an opponent? I don’t think so – an SSK doesn’t like to be found, and by dropping active buoys all over him he has no chance to escape. The aircraft can remain high and out of danger from sub-SAMs (should they become a threat). And we are likely to be calling on secondary assets no matter what the task – in future we could conceivably be looking at unmanned weapons carriers.

    Lack of operators? No – the Merlin only has two and it’s devastatingly effective at finding submarines. The same mission system with four or six operators would be more than enough. And the Merlin system is plug-and-play compatible with the proposed Vigilance pod so radar surveillance is hardly a problem. Conceivably the mission system might also support an AEW and/or theatre ELINT concept – but now I really am getting out of my depth.

    Contribution to the land component? The current and future generations of maritime surveillance radars have excellent over-land capability – Searchwater and SKASAC proved that. Add in an EO system and a decent radio set, then you have a radar and EO equipped asset that can provide support to ground forces – although it will not be anywhere near as effective as some of the current UAVs. It would still, however, be a useful C2 node and as we did in Libya, placing a spotter in the aircraft allows it to call down effective fire from remote sources such as NFS.

    The big constraint is that it is a land-based aircraft and the range isn’t great. But the Global Express is a big bizjet and by flying high, avoids the low altitude performance issues.

    I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, but a properly equipped business jet might provide a useful pan-Defence asset and a solution to our maritime and littoral surveillance needs – if we can accept the lack of weapons capability.

  113. @SR

    Your biz jet will be very expensive, comparatively speaking, especially the sonobouy capable part. It will take five years of flight testing before you even see it. The best you can hope for along those lines would be the surveillance only Challenger conversion that Boeing is looking at (with P-8 systems/sensors). Even that is not a real aeroplane just yet. And if it is relatively short range surveillance aircraft you are after, I’m not sure a biz jet is really as competitive as some of the smaller turboprop conversions. There are lots of them about that are real aeroplanes and where the costs are known. I’m not sure I see the economic sense in developing your own for such a small requirement.

  114. @TD

    A converted Global Express is not going to be cruising at 45,000 feet mach 0.85 carrying 10 men with briefcases.

    It is going to be trading a lot of that fuel capacity for the weight of consoles, operators, buoys and a radar. It is then going to be flying a very different flight profile. Not certain exactly how much that will affect it but my guess is that good non expert phrase “quite a bit?”

  115. Mark,

    Max airgroup 28 max, number of f35 16, divided displacement and sortie rate by 2, crew around 400.

    So, 32000 tonnes. 220-240m long, range of 8000nm to maintain 1800t of AVCAT load (for your 1/2 sortie rate), 3 x 20WM Converteam motors to do the required 25 knots. I’m okay with this, but it isn’t going to be 1/2 the cost.

    The only way to half the cost would be to bolt the amphibious capability underneath it. We’d then need 3 of these so that one can pootle around launching and recovering jets whilst the other can do the assault. I’d be happier with 4 to guarantee two available and use the third for limited rotations. So we’re now back to a similar price as 2 x CVF.

    The only way this could have come about is if we had 1) foreseen the financial crisis, 2) decided to replace the amphibs before the carriers, and 3) known that F35B was going to work (or built Harrier III).

  116. @APATS I agree I can see long range SAR going up for a PFI with someone like cobham operating something along the lines of Falcon 20.

    With the increasing effectiveness and miniturisation of systems the weight of nessecary stores is getting lighter and it is less crew intensive. I was told that Apache if it goes up to E standard will save a huge amount of weight just by replacing the 80s wiring. Now look at how much your mission consoles weigh and see if its lighter.

    Also sonobuoys will have continued to have been developed and I strongly suspect they will be lighter, more intelligent and longer lasting than the old types. Especially when you consider what can be achieved with a smart phone these days.

    I had heard about the P8s need for high level sonobuoys and weapons. Quite frankly it seems to me they tested it low level and though, well it can’t do that so how can we get around it. Questions are how low do you have to be for a MAD fix. I’m going to ignore the traditional observer taking a photo idea as hopefully an EO turret comes with the package. If you have fick cloud cover though you are going to want to be under that. I think I’m right in saying that these commercial aircraft really don’t enjoy being under 10,000ft hence why even for a short trip you climb to high level to minimise fuel consumption. I also believe props are better at these altitudes.

    My problems are two fold. Firstly not buying european. The UK is trying to be seen to but more european kit yes? So buying another thing from the US could degrade that. However that is a minor political problem. The other is that it is AMerican kit and we haven’t been involved in the design. So I’m guessing we will need to fit our own radar with a handy FITs system to fit it into. Also it would either have to have a probe stuck on or it would be yet another aircraft in UK service reliant on the boom method which oh wait we don’t have. DOes anyone know how the systems are fitted inside, are they on pallets or permanent? If its fixed you are buying only an MPA/Elint asset and you rely on other nations bringing into service an AEW and other variants to make savings cost from having a larger fleet.

    Can we kill the two aircraft compromise apporach. That is exactly what we are aiming to avoid. The question here is, is i better to have too much of an aircraft for the 99%of the time its not needed or too little in the 1% of time that you really need it?

    The UK is likely to be aiding the US and other NATO countries in the deep Atlantic work. I suspect the if you had 295 you could be looking at a flight out to the area and if its far away you then fill your tanks from an A400m or a Voyager you then have 11 hours of endurance (possibly another refuel before heading home) to search for Sub and surface contacts. I agree the P8 will make this job easier but for all the closer to home stuff you have too much aircraft for the job.

    If only the MRA4 wasn’t cancelled we would arguably be world leaders in ASW at the moment and there would be no discussion.

  117. My 2p on a future MPA type capability:

    – Have the Coastguard takeover management / provision of main long range SAR / EEZ monitoring capability. They can get a a cheap-ish biz jet or turboprop platform, with a reasonable sensor capability, maybe operated by a contractor.

    – Investigate whether Reaper can be used for Maritime Surveillance role. Can be used for both current overland ISTAR roles, but could also supplement Coastguard aircraft and support Maritime surveillance operations overseas (e.g. Counter Piracy ops).

    – Buy a minimum of 5 x P-8 and reform 201 Sqn with RAF/RN crews. Operate as part of a wider USN maintenance fleet ala C-17. I think there is a requirement for Deep Water ASW, just not one that requires great quantities of platforms for the foreseeable future. Potentially the P-8 could take over ASTOR capability at a later date.

  118. Okay, I started at 2 x P8, then went to 4 x P8, now I quite like 6 x P8.

    4 to support the SSBN
    2 for SAR

    Obviously could re-task them as two sets of three for other operations if necessary.

    This is not my idea, I hasten to add. I read it somewhere and thought it was a neat solution.

  119. APATS, yes, noted, understand the difference between a military aircraft changing altitude and carrying all manner of dense electronic kit as opposed to a couple of floozies, half a dozen business chaps and a shitload of gin and tonic but the point I was making is that base aircraft like the Global have what might be called, a shit load of range and endurance as a starting point.

    That will of course get reduced, absolutely, but even if it is reduced by ‘quite a bit’ what is left over is still ‘quite a bit’


  120. @ APATS
    Absolutely…..The whole point about a biz jet is that it is designed to carry a small load very far. And because of that it is an extreme example of the payload/range compromise, that to a certain extent, every civil aircraft is beholden to.

    Some interesting facts-
    the R1 Sentinel has 1200nm less range than a standard Global Express, mainly due I suspect all the different sensors and excrescences.
    The Global Express’s payload with max fuel is 800kg. It’s max payload is 3600kg.

    I seriously suspect that once Boeing start trying to shoehorn in the sensor package, operator consoles, computors and associated wiring into the Global Express there’ll be compromises made in capabilities and fit-out. And the range will really suffer….anyway.

    There is a reason why post WW2 MPA are largely based on commercial aircraft- and it’s range versus payload. (Nimrod-Comet, Orion/Aurora-Electra, Argus-Britannia and Il-18 ‘Coot’-Il-38 ‘May’) Even the Shackleton was a variant from the Lincoln/York family.

  121. Just for reference regarding P8 costs:

    R&D: $8.5 billion
    Cost of 122 aircraft: $24.5 billion

    So current unit cost is $275m.

    Buying the P8 means we are leveraging on eight and a half billion dollars worth of research and development! I can’t see either the UK or Europe bothering to get close.

  122. @TD

    Unfortunately, whilst the Global Express, may have shit-loads of range, what it doesn’t have is shitloads of payload. (Max 3600kg)

    If as you can see from my previous post , the Sentinel loses 1200nm range just because of the sensor fit and payload, then already you’re on a substantial reduction, add in operating at below 10,000ft, and possible manoeuvring and I reckon you’re looking at half the range of a Global Express.

    Example: B757-200 at 37-39,000ft uses approx 900kg an hr fuel, at 29,000ft that figure increases to 1200kg. The rough calculation is every 10,000ft lower is a third more fuel. We once flew a B757 at 9000ft from Glasgow to Luton (had a pressurisation system failure) 2800kg fuel burnt.

    Sometimes, as the actress said to the bishop, size matters…..

  123. I had a read of the excellent Commons committee report, democracy is great thing – really. Forgot who posted it, but many thanks!

    There is an interesting exchange where the RAF are giving oral evidence, about whether an MPA should be capable of launching weapons, or whether this could be done by something else. The answer is not conclusive, but it definitely says there are ‘advantages’ to a fully formed system..

    The very well thought through options presented so far seem to be…

    1. A biz jet. genuine search advantages – speed, range etc. and can carry a useful sensor fit, but needs to work with something else to prosecute an attack. Thus dependent upon response times of surface vessels and thier helos, or a mixed buy of something that can be called in to drop munitions (either way response will not be immediate – which could mean the difference between knowing that a threat is out there and stopping it doing anything nasty). Re long range SAR – can a biz jet drop a dinghy?

    2. A world-beating Rolls-Royce MPA. Each platform will do everything asked of it, but we are unlikely to get very many (so will that really constitute a capability?) and the cost may put other maritime capabilities at risk (we were only planning on buying 9 MRA4 – so you can be sure a buy of P8 will be considerably less). The key question for this option might be framed as: will a very small P8 buy actually be any better than a larger buy of something else, or some sort of mixed buy (and two different airframes will have greater operating costs, undoubtedly)?

    3. A fully fledged MPA but of more modest capability, and probably in larger numbers. It will have shortcomings, but it can fulfill all of the designated capabilities set out in the report (I note in the table in the report, they say something to the effect of “an MPA such as P8 or C298” (i.e. they lump both options together) – C295 is also included on the table, but should be noted here that it is a smaller platform (as used by USCG) and something more equivalent to the biz jet option, but with the option of dropping a dinghy, yet with no ASW/ASuW capability). So does a larger buy of C298 or similar provide a better or capability than a small buy of P8s, or a mixed biz jet/P8 or c298 buy?

    I don’t know the answer, but its interesting as someone noted to look at the overall capability we require – i.e. how much seaspace need to be covered at any one time during routine maritime surveillance and what are the response times and capabilities required to deliver specific ASW/AsuW and long-range SAR missions.

  124. Just had a quick look at the Global 5000, with an allowance of 3.2 tonnes for cabin fittings plus its normal payload it can do 5,000nm at cruise and steady altitude

    The 8000 spec says 7,900nm

    As you chaps say, increase payload and add in some altitude changes and you are cutting into that significantly, don’t disagree with you there


    Even if you said lets chop it in half that is still 2,5000 to 4,000 nautical miles

    I suppose its a perspective thing but applying the same 50% factor to say a King Air 350i would provide about 750nm. I would characterise that as short range but I can see where you fine gents are coming from in comparing it to something larger like the P8 or MRA4, oh, hang on a minute, what was the P8?

    It might be interesting to compare the weight of the R1 mission kit plus people v what would be required for an MPA flavour.

    Wonder which one would be the heaviest

  125. Simon

    No you get two ships to replace ocean and illustrious that’s it. The cost a hell of a lot cheaper than cvf will end up at.

    Global express would be something like 3 hrs endurance at 1200nm range Converted to military use. 2 or 4 torpedoes would be your lot though.

    Astor conducted 12hr missions out of Cyprus. Astor requirements ask for high altitude and high endurance with out aar so it limited payload to some degree.
    The brochure don’t tell u that the nice interior for the business men has a weight of around 8-10000lbs allocated for it before we even get into payload or fuel.

  126. @ Mark
    “No you get two ships to replace ocean and illustrious that’s it. The cost a hell of a lot cheaper than cvf will end up at.”

    Yes but not half the price and the capability is hugely degraded.


    With the business jet solution you have the weight issue but you then get a space issue as well.

  127. Maybe I have been too traditional. Here is a possible look at the future. How about a drone that takes off with no crew onboard and just disperses sonobuoys around an area. Take a fairly large aircraft maybe cessna grand caravan size. Strip out the seats instruments even the floor perhaps. Leave it with the nessecary sytsems and an EO turret. You then refit with a sonobuoy launcher. Here we are talking about cheap easy to produce light sonobuoys. That aircraft then flies a pre programmed loop whilst someone can sit and look at pretty things through the camera and take over if needed. Maybe 500 buoys could be dispersed over a large area. At very low cost. (could even be based on a carrier)

    Your choices then are either a land or sea based interpretation of what these are picking up via a satelite uplink. If sat is not possible you can have an AEW MPA thing up there looking at the data. Now all you need is something to attack or identify the contact. It needs no loiter time it will only be nessecary to ID or destroy it and head for home. You now have a very limited need for any deployment of sonobuoys from a manned aircraft and your 6 P8s look a bit OTT as does a fully tooled up 295.

    Hows that for a theoretical construct?

  128. @dave haine
    You’re quite right about the tension between the need for payload and the need for endurance on your sensor platform – but that doesn’t mean the answer is an all-singing, all-dancing Death Star.

    As I said above, we need to think of this as a team sport, rather than an unaffordable Death Star. We already have a long-range sensor platform in Sentinel (and in future, satellites and drones like the – currently unaffordable – MQ-4C). We already have turboprop “trucks” that can carry payload a reasonable distance (C-130/A400M, heck even potentially C-17 and in future a unmanned “truck” like UCLASS).

    90% of the time we only need the sensors aloft and the payload capacity is dead weight. So why not adapt what we already have and use a team of separate sensor platform and “truck”, rather than a single do-everything Death Star?

  129. Apas

    I never said half the price I said significantly cheaper even if its 2/3rds the price then were saving 2b pound.
    If you don’t have the crew to man them and can only afford a handful of aircraft to go on them then the capability is hugely degraded anyway. To be honest in my mind there is little doubt the cost of the carriers now at what 6b quid has had a direct link to the long drawn out process of recapitalising the rfa, and to a reduction in frigate numbers. But this is really not the thread for this discussion.

  130. @TED
    Given the running costs of any kind of reusable airframe, you might be better to think in terms of a one-shot drone. Storm Shadow started life as a way of automatically dispensing small packages over a runway, Tomahawk has similar payload (450kg) and longer range. So park some truck-launched missiles with 24 sonobuoys each on Shetland or Arran or West Falkland or Oman. You could also use Tomahawk/Storm Shadow as the basis of a super-ASROC.

  131. @ Mark

    I do not think we will run both carriers together except in a National emergency but we do have the personnel to fully man one and 2 means we will always have 1 available. We will be able to fully utilise one and the capability it brings will be incredible.


    I think an A400M MPA would be awesome. As for compromise I would have to look at exact figures but am not 100% dead against.

  132. @TD I agree for the medium term. In the short term a decent buy of C295 MPA will be more than adequate cover, allow us to restore and maintain a base skill set. The palletised kit gives flexibility. I would also look at what other platforms the C295 can replace eg small tac airlift / transport, SF support. The larger number it allows us to purchase will allow dispersal around the Uk accordingly to cover the major sea lanes. A flight of three perhaps on the FI also.

    I accept we may need to look at longer range hi end platforms into the future. I don’t think we should default to a p8 and the Atlas options make a lot of sense once the airframe is more mature.

    I think also that Airbus solutions help sustain the European military base whcih will become increasingly relevant as the US tilts further towards the pacific.

  133. @el sid Fair enough just demonstrating that you dont need an MPA for sonobuoys.

    @TD That is a compelling idea in some ways I would like to see an Atlas that could do sentinel, senrty and rivet joint all at the same time. Would Sea Atlas be just too big though? If you can stick the kit on pallets and you have an EO turret in the bargain I see no problems. How many extra aircraft in the fleet though and does it have hard points on the wings?

  134. The UAV route for ASW is too far off to be technologically viable now. Even the US hasn’t gone for that – the BAMS drone is radar capable only.

    Sea Atlas and Sea Hercules might work – but we are buying very few of the former. There would be flexibility to re-role the aircraft if needed if indeed the system was fully palletised, but that is asking for an awful lot of wiring to be installed to make the aircraft ‘fit to receive’ for all the additional kit – plus you need the EO turret and radar installed somewhere.

    On the other hand, the same amount of effort might be expended in re-wiring the Global Express, or indeed any other bizjet airframe, and then you have an equally capable but dedicated asset. Converting from our limited buy of Atlas does bring in flexibility, but then you are opening yourself up to a fight between Service commands over where the aircraft are tasked – ASW or transport?

    Wikipedia MPA airframe catalogue prices – Global Express 6000 – $45.4M for 5,200nm range, Atlas $200M for a 2,000nm range. Even if these prices are a bit off, the cost comparison and range comparison is telling, and there are the Global Express 7000 and 8000 models in development.

  135. El Sid,

    So £1m a “plop” :-)

    100 a day.
    365 days a year.
    That’s the whole MoD budget blown.


    Like your thinking but, again, wonder about payload and range.

    Have a look at this – Not sure how this can be reduced by a huge amount of weight and size


    2? Boo :-(
    Would I get an Albion and Bulwark replacement or do I only get my two 35,000 tonners?


    What are we trying to do here with MPA? Surely its primary role is protection of the SSBNs and santisation of a chunk of the Atlantic.

    We could do it to 50% or 80% of our capability. But if the Russians slip past all the time because we’ve purchased 2nd rate stuff then our entire SSBN strategy is compromised and worthless.

  136. @SR

    The Global Express 6000 goes 5,200NM at 45,000 feet with a plush interior and 8 guys with briefcases. How far would it go with a useable payload?

    The A400M goes 3,500Nm with 20 Tonnes in the back.

  137. Ah but a buisness jet has little to no swing role capability, you will be getting a few one trick ponies and without AAR.

    My idea on drones is based well in the future it just shows you how it could change.

    How much better are the payload capabilities of a biz jet over a 295? And whats a rough idea of their take off performance.

    I now equally like the idea of Sea Atlas or 295 due to their swing role potential and aar. Both the Atlas and the 295 will be able to operate from more austere or simply smaller bases. The austere thing isn’t a game changer how many MPAs do we have on grass strips. Having said that with the proposals to deal with the russians Artic threat how about an MPA base near the pole? But more realistically being able to operate from smaller strips means that we can deploy our MPAs much more freely if nessecary.

    If you go for a buisness jet you have a small P8 with the same low level charecteristics. But with no weapons pylons.

  138. Simon,

    Good points – but could the Russian’s 2+ SSBNs (which live under the arctic icecap) or 3-4 SSNs slip past just as easily if we don’t have enough of the 1st rate stuff, which is what we will probably end up with if we go for P8? Regenerating a new generation SOSUS (different sensors) seems a more important priority for that sub-search task, with P8 or C298 to kill the things.

    I think in reality, the MPA role, while required for ASW, is envisaged to fulfill a much wider range of (mostly less exciting) maritime security gaps.

  139. APATS,

    But you don’t need a 20T payload. And having looked in the back of a Merlin, the equipment necessary isn’t massive – 2 consoles and the two rotary sonobuoy launchers is all you need. Four or six consoles is all that is necessary, and we don’t need to uglify the aircraft (and ruin it’s fuel efficiency) by welding a bloody great conoe underneath. The point is, we don’t have the accurate figures to rule out the business jet.

    Ted & others,

    You clearly haven’t read my earlier posts. The C295 doesn’t have the legs or speed that the bizjet could have, and its weapons load is too small to be useful anyway. It also makes more sense with the evolving concepts of high-altitude ASW being pioneered (whether by accident or design) byt the P8. Unless you can carry at least 6 torpedoes, there is little point in having weapons at all – that’s a tactical requirement. I am asking the question – can we conceive of a place in our ORBAT for a dedicated maritime sensor platform that can detect and track both surface and subsurface contacts in the environment of the Middle East or other proposed overseas theatre AND make a useful contribution to land forces AND conceivably support UK maritime security and SAR tasks? Quite simply the alternative is a short ranged turboprop with minimum armament, or a multi-million pound do-everything dedicated MPA. We can’t afford the latter, and the idea of converting A400M’s into MPA’s is frankly barking given the cost and scarcity of the airframes.

  140. Still think the C295 suits, how far out do we have to drop Sonar buoys when the subs need a clear way in anyway?
    If the same gear could also be fitted on a A400, bob on!
    Jets, I’m sold on Global 5000, got the legs, speed and persistance, bung on Hardpoins for all three, If the Global spots sub a long way out call up an A400 to sonar it to death or if it’s cloes in a 295, with hardpoints all three will be capable of chucking stuff at subs, develop the globals into the electronics Aircraft of choice as the old uns wear out…
    Simples (NOT!)

  141. Parts of the MPA equation…

    1. High altitude sensor and comms relay/analysis platform – got = Sentry
    2. Low altitude sensor (MAD, EO/IR) and sonobuoy dispenser platform – not got for long-range
    3. Prosecution aircraft with torpedos and/or AShM – got = Merlin and Typhoon*

    * Well, should have.

    I’ve left SAR out because MPA only does the “S” anyway.

    Perhaps C295 can be shoehorned into part 2 making it totally reliant on the other assets needed to undertake maritime patrol and execution. It’s okay as a stop gap solution, but not something I would value for the longer term.

    Would we be better off with P8 and no Sentry?

  142. I think they have modified Sentry, but can only do surface search in low sea states.

    The pics I have seen of C298 show 6 LWTs on 6 hardpoints.

  143. SR – My understanding of any Sea Atlas development would involve buying additional aircraft from our current order of 22.

    I do like the idea of the multi-role Atlas, but I worry that it would require serious investment for what will be a relatively small number of aircraft in role. If you magically guarantee that a number of other European nations were going to buy them as well, then tally ho, but it’s sort of development spending that is going to be hard to justify.

  144. @El Sid
    TBH I wasn’t neccessarily saying that we need an all-seeing ‘death star’ approach, merely pointing out the very real limitations of bizz jets, they may have a huge range, but it is at the expense of payload. The basic truth of any aircraft is that you can have range or payload, not both. ALL aircraft require a compromise between those two, and bizz jets are extreme examples of that. To be frank, that was how they were designed. Niche role, and optimised completely for it.

    As for operating separate hunter and killer platforms, in the end that would be an operational doctrine decision, the USN used the principle for years off their carriers… But they moved away from it, and their MPAs never subscribed, I think because, it seems better to immediately prosecute a kill, than wait for the offensive system to come up, and hope the enemy doesn’t get away, or indeed poke your sensor system in the eye.

    To re-iterate my thinking:

    Bizz jet platform: huge range, can carry/ fit f**k all.

    Tiny Turboprop: 1000kg payload 1000nm range….’nuff said.

    Twin turbo: reasonable size, bit short-ranged.

    P8/P1: full shilling, but v. Costly

    Sea Atlas: I reckon this would be a winner, we’re already going to be operating AT versions, so good fleet management and flight crew training efficiencies. If you ask I bet Airbus would work out a plan, to use the CN235 sensor/console/systems package, along with whatever weaponry we’d like to hang off it. I reckon you could put some sort of sonarbouy/ missile/ torpedo deployment thingy in the back door.
    A kind of 80% solution in my eyes.

    Sea Hurc: Albert is retiring, no point in bringing back a small fleet.

    P3: The canadians are re-sparring and re-keeling their Auroras at ‘fundamental entry of a prize-winning leek’ cost level.

    By the way, reading the Boeing thing again- they’re not talking about using the global express as a platform, they’re talking about using the Challenger 604/605 (3400nm range-1800kg load) not shitloads of range there.

    I think this where we are really going to have a problem as a nation- every sensible option is going to cost serious money, whether it be Sea Atlas or P8/P1.

  145. I should be saying C295 – age, brainfever…..

    Here is the spec of the MPA/ASW version

    Avionics systems onboard the multirole maritime patrol aircraft

    The C295 MPA is fitted with an advanced integrated avionics system. The avionics suite consists of four liquid crystal displays and associated control units.

    A set of geophysical sensors provide attitude, heading and air data information. Other subsystems include an AHRS (attitude and heading reference system), an ADS (air data system), a FMS (flight management system) and an automatic flight control system.

    The aircraft is fitted with a fully integrated tactical system (FITS) for mission control.

    The system comprises a range of sensors and components including search radar, electro-optic / infrared sensors (EO/IR), electronic support measures (ESM) / an electronic intelligence system (ELINT), COMINT, a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), an IFF interrogator, a SATCOM, a datalink and a Link-11.

    Other subsystems include acoustics systems, an automatic identification system (ais) and sea pollution detection systems.

    The FITS ASW version underwent operational evaluation (OPEVAL) and conducted anti-submarine and anti-surface missions during Nato exercises.
    Weapon systems of the widely used C295 maritime patrol aircraft

    The C295 has up to six underwing hard points for weapon systems. The hard points can hold torpedoes, anti-surface missiles, mines and depth charges.

    A C295 MPA anti-submarine variant has successfully conducted its first torpedo launch test in May 2010.
    “As of November 2011, Airbus Military sold 85 C295 aircraft across 12 countries.”

    The aircraft is equipped with self-protection equipment including cockpit armour, a radar warning receiver (RWR), a missile approach warning system (MAWS) and a laser warning receiver (LWR).

    The aircraft can fire chaff / flares to deceive the incoming radar-directed anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), radar command-guided missiles, radar homing guided missiles and infrared guided missiles.

    The C295 MPA is powered by two PW127 turboprop engines driving Hamilton Sundstrand Type 568F-5 six bladed propellers. Each propeller has a diameter of 3.9m. The engine provides a nominal take-off power of 2,645shp.

    The main landing gear is equipped with independent oleo-pneumatic type shock-absorber units retract rearwards into the fuselage. Two interconnected levered legs featuring four wheels are arranged in a tandem configuration on each side.

    The nose landing gear has two wheels arranged in twin configuration. The brake system is equipped with an anti-skid control system.
    Performance of Airbus Military’s C295

    The C295 can fly at a maximum speed of 480km/h. The altitude during normal operations is 7,620m. The maximum takeoff weight is 23,200kg. The aircraft has an endurance of more than 11 hours and a maximum range of 5,630km.

  146. @ James F

    E3 can detect surface contacts at a decent range, in calmer seas I have seen 150NM +. The E3A fitted with AIS can compare the AIS data with radar data and cross reference but at the end of the day it is just a radar contact which you may get a Course and Speed on but that is it.


    My point about 3,500 Nm was in response to you quoting its range as 2,000Nm in your comparison, it does that with 37T in the back :)

    @ James F

    Those figures on range and mission endurance are not with the sort of load out that would be required for deep ocean ASW, the tasking constraints iof the CN295 compared to the Aurora or P3 became very evident during the Libya Op.

  147. @APATS

    Thanks for all the clarification, I defer to you knowledge. Just stuck the C298 data up there to inform the debate. Its from Mil-Tech website, I guess they got it from EADS, since its an industry vehicle.

  148. APATS, I did say it was from Wikipedia – are you daring to challenge the college of knowledge? You’ll be disbelieving QI next…

  149. James,

    It’s all well and good quoting the spec sheet but it doesn’t solve the problem of range. The C295 is too short ranged. Add six weapons on external hardpoints and you slash that range by up to 50%.


    Everybody wants a P8 for a bargain price and by believing that we can somehow bastardise a hugely expensive transport aircraft is a folly. I’ve put the debat above up because I wanted to challenge the assumption that we need the platform to do everything the P8 does. C295 is not a replacement for P8 nor Nimrod.

    Unfortunately we are wandering off into the realms of spec sheets and fantasy air forces.

  150. @jamesf

    That’s the ferry range- I find a much better indicator is range with max payload, which in the case of the C-295 is 700nm (payload 9250kg)

  151. @SImon That is imply amazing I had no idea. I thought they were just bits of plastic that bobbed in the sea!

    Haven’t got time to argue with anyone at the moment other than to say 295 would have 6 hard points!

  152. @ SR
    Isn’t the P8 also a bastardised version of a hugely expensive transport plane?….

    And frankly not the best one either, The B737-800, like all of the extended B737s has an issue with braking performance, and are renowned for being difficult to stop on a wet runway. The B757, despite being a bigger heavier aeroplane has a shorter landing distance, and stopping distance than the -800.

  153. @SR
    Not talking about full robo-ASW, just using a drone as an auxiliary magazine. Just like the USN are intending for UCLASS – it’s just an update on TLAM-D or MBDA Apache (which became Storm Shadow), or perhaps ATACMS with Brilliant Anti-Tank munitions is a closer match. 1990s technology in other words.

    Not that we have to model ourselves too closely on the USN – they need to cover the Pacific and have the budget to do so thoroughly with squadrons of P-8’s, along with a domestic airline manufacturer that puts a lot of money into lobbying. We have a smaller budget and different geography – plus technology has moved on in the decade since the P-8 contract was awarded.

    The idea is that Tomahawk-ASW would only be deployed on those rare occasions when you actually need a full sonobuoy field (ie war and major exercises), but it allows you to have a much smaller MPA for routine patrol. I’m not aware of open-source MoD figures for P-8 running costs, but I guess they’d be something like £70k/hour? Say Tomahawk-ASW allowed you to operate a bizjet solution at half the price. MRA4 service life was estimated at 650h/year over 25 years. Going for a bizjet over P-8 saves you £22.75m per year per aircraft, or £4,550m over the lifetime of a fleet of eight aircraft. Would we be deploying a field of 24 sonobuoys 182 times per year, one Tomahawk-ASW every other day? I suspect not.

    Define “a chunk of the Atlantic”. Do we need the ability to drop torpedoes on the Mid Atlantic Ridge, or just to have sensors out there? The bits of the Atlantic that are important to us are much more restricted – about 500 miles either side of Shetland, or about 700 miles from Lossiemouth. Plus the trip from Coulport to the edge of the continental shelf – say 300 miles from Aldergrove?

    Yes it would be lovely to have Death Stars that can cover the entire Atlantic – but is that a need or just nice-to-have?

  154. Dave,

    Yes – but it’s already been converted so your point is completely irrelevant. And you have missed my point entirely – we cannot afford the full capability, so what do we sacrifice? ATFQ!

    El Sid,

    Okay, so cost of developing a drone is… what? And where will it launch from? The whole fundamental of my debate is that we need range over all-round capability. A drone with a range of thousands of miles carrying a single torpedo would be expensive; carrying a full load would be even more so and you might as well just go with a manned airframe. Unmanned does not equal cheaper.

    Persistant surveillance is what the business jet option offers. Consider that we have been watching the Iranians for years, all the time using dedicated full-on MPA’s such as Orion. If we maintain persistant surveillance using a business jet option, then when the balloon goes up surge forwards a small number of fully capable P-8’s, that seems to me like an effective option that is sustainable over a long period. The bizjet does not become useless – it remains a powerfully capable asset. It is simply the question of whether we can operate something without weapons – which we already do.

    Fascinating how so few people seem to grasp this basic question. Look at it another way. Take x million square miles of ocean. Is it not cheaper and more effective to survey that area with 3 unarmed platforms and one armed, than four armed platforms?

  155. Here is an interested thing to throw into the mix

    MPA kind of makes it platform specific, i.e. an aircraft

    How do people think the emerging high endurance unmanned surface and sub surface vehicles impact on this requirement, same as with that post on persistent maritime surveillance I did a while ago

  156. TD,

    I wonder why MoD concluded that UAV technology was not yet mature enough for the land-based role – and RN have said that UAV needs to be used alongside manned platforms. Its the result of some work, Hammond has been saying we were awaiting assessments of whether the requirement could be met by UAVs for some time. A few wild guesses.

    Persistent UAV surveillance over land has focused upon radar and thermal/optical narrow-field – using ASTOR type platforms, wide spectrum ELINT and HUMINT to actually tell the Reapers where to go look in detail. Over water you need wide “area” surveillance, to deliver both ESM derived and radar derived pictures (i.e. a radar image is not enough, you also need to capture and interpret electronic emissions). For the narrow look, you need MAD, acoustic (bouys), chemical emissions, thermal/optical and lord knows what else. That’s a lot of sensors and a lot of interpretation to load onto one paltform. OK you can have your mission management suite ashore comms linked to the UAV, but its still a lot of kit to carry, and you haven’t even got to the prosecution component – i.e. the ability to deploy weapons and liferafts or even drop swimmers if you have a crisis aboard a stranded vessel (if you don’t deploy liferafts, a long range SAR mission can only vector in the nearest shipping, and that may not be enough to save folks in the north Atlantic in winter).

    so my guess is that the capability could not be fitted into a Mantis like platform, and certainly not in the near-term, and the added complexity, cost and unwieldiness (and thus slow response times) of having half a dozen platforms conducting different components of the same task, might make the idea more expensive and problematic at long ranges than using a single multifunctional platform. From ships, at shorter ranges, using smaller platforms like ScanEagle backed up by Merlin or Wildcat, it probably makes more sense (I only ‘know’ the latter because I watched Captain Phillips).

  157. @SR
    Yes I was being a little facetious…

    However, the bizz jet is nowhere near the answer to the question.

    As I said in previous posts, bizz jets are designed with shitloads of range, but tiny payloads, witness:
    Global Express has a payload with max fuel of 895kg and a max payload of 3600kg Max range is 7900nm (at payload 895kg)

    If we take a R1 Sentinel as an example of an aircraft with a similar sort of sensor fit… The Sentinel has only room for three mission crew, and its max range has been reduced by 1200nm, and max altitude by 4000ft, because of the payload and sensor lumps. Not a problem for an aircraft designed to lurk at 39000ft at minimum thrust settings.

    As soon as you start operating at lower altitudes, fuel consumption increases and the range goes down, the rule of thumb is consumption decreases by a third for every 10000ft higher you fly.

    The real clincher is the fact that Boeing are using the Challenger 605 for it’s new MPA. This tells me that they can’t fit the kit into a Global. The problem is the Challenger is a different ball game with a max range of 4000nm, payload with max fuel 596kg and max payload of 2200kg.

    I can imagine the integration costs for a Global would be of the same order as Airbus rolling the C295 packages onto a Atlas, and at least there would be fleet management and flight crew training efficiencies with that.

  158. @TD and JamesF

    That’s pretty much right. The line from MOD recently on this was that “while Maritime Surface Surveillance shortfalls could be partly mitigated by Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) in the short to medium timescale (now to 2025), unmanned ASW [anti-submarine warfare] may be more challenging before 2035”.

    Basically, we can use unmanned aircraft as part of a tiered or layered approach. But there are limits because of the current size and payload or speed of unmanned aircraft. So you can take a Reaper/Sea Reaper, but its sensors can only cover a (relatively small area): torchbeam rather than floodlight when looking at vast expanses of ocean. And they can’t carry lots of sonobouys or very many weapons, or large heavy weapons. And it’s difficult to fit sensors which could do underwater surveillance and detect those nasty submarines.

    So by all means have them looking at surface contacts, but then they might just be doing the same thing as a Sentinel or an E-3 (only not covering the same area and with no onboard analysts). We could invest in developing a brand new system, like an even larger Global Hawk with weapons, or a Taranis/X-47B-like UCAV with a big sensor suite, but that will take time, still have limited payload, and be taking money away from the possibility of regenerating an interim MPA capability right now.

  159. @ TD

    If we had a permanent sensor line like Sosus, I think we would have less need for a extended range MPA, maybe nearer an sub/surface hunter. I don’t think UAVs are an answer, anymore than high endurance, unmanned, surface or sub-surface vehicles just yet- I think the issue is situational assessment and decision making, which is where the human brain comes in.

    Mind you, should artificial intelligence crack-on all bets are off…. Although Terminator keeps coming to mind (And Hazel O’connor for the older generation)

  160. @APATS: we’re not talking about ASW here. Just sea surveillance with a radar, with some IR available as well. Saves the real MPA for the subs

  161. we are all beating around the bush the requirment hasn’t changed and the only system that will work is the nimrod and we can not afford it so lets just buy a system that works for 20 years and then hope we have the money to fix it afterwards

  162. @ Mark
    i’m fully aware of the relative sizes of the Global and the Challenger. But why would Boeing use a much smaller, shorter-ranged platform, and frankly out of date airframe, unless there are issues with fitting the kit in, not necessarily from the size point of view. it could be the aircraft systems architecture, it could be something else. I could understand using the Global- it’s proved a successful sensor platform, and with the various size options available in the Global Family there are customer options.

    Also don’t think of that fit out for the global as particularly ‘heavy’. Certainly not as heavy as the sentinel’s mission fit out. But in any case the figures I was quoting were for a nineteen seat config… As near to high density as you ever get in exec work.

    Besides the leather seating, is a nightmare for chafing……

  163. Dave

    They choose the challenger for the base airframe because they wanted a complimentary capability to the the p8 not a competitor. You don’t need an airframe the size of the 737 to fit the mpa sensor config of the p8 its only got 5 operator station after all. They are using the 737 as they want the US to add functions sigint and ags to the same aircraft to make it multi mission. The weapons load is an advantage on the p8 but it ain’t used much. I am familiar with the gx and indeed the sentinel platform.

  164. @ Mark

    “The weapons load is an advantage on the P8 but it ain’t used much”

    Neither are most of the max weapon loads we can fit, when was the last time an SSN used all 38 weapons it can carry lets make them smaller. The simple fact and it is a fact no matter how much BS we fling is that a Business Jet does not carry a load out that allows the prosecution of an SSN. Now I am happy with a bus jet solution if we admit that we have no deep Ocean ASW capability or look at a 2 tier solution as prescribed by SR.

  165. Another question

    If we accept that anything other than a P3, P8 or P1 i.e. a full fat MPA puts us out of the deep ocean ASW game, so what

    We have been out of it for several years and if the cheque was signed today the reality is a gap of 8-10 years

    With defence planning assumptions in mind, so what

    Not being chippy in saying so what, but that is the question that MUST be answered if a proper MPA is to be purchased, after all, the taxpayer has already paid for a fleet of MPA’s, the fact that they are razor blades is not the point :)

  166. @ Mark

    Localising and tracking any Russian SSNs that enter the Atlantic in support of our Deterrent has been UK and US ASW 101 for decades. It si not only weapons it is also buoy numbers required against a target that can sprint and break barrier lines.


    If we are prepared to admit it then fair enough. However our Allies have taken on a lot of extra tasking in our absence so the question is would they maintain that or would our admission we are out of the game lead to an overall lowering of NATO Operational capability?

  167. @ APATS,

    “Localising and tracking any Russian SSNs that enter the Atlantic in support of our Deterrent has been UK and US ASW 101 for decades.”
    – How have we been covering this since the end of Nimrod?

  168. @ Chris B

    Read my second paragraph.

    Also whilst we have not had MPA we have maintained Duty TAPS and Tanker.

  169. So these are the sort of systems we need for an mpa

    1 off

    1 off


    2 off?


    And loads of these

    3 operator terminals, a das system, and a esm of some description does that about cover it just so we get a rough idea of what were talking about.

  170. Lets buy up all the spare Atlases then! They’d do me for sure and make it into a truly multirole Aircraft, is it 13 the Germans don’t want? That would be a good start, rotate kit thru the fleet and it wouldn’t hurt to have it accompanied by a Reaper, since they’ll shortly have time on their hands and will be looking to justify their existence a bit more than they are now, they would be no good in a shooting match but could be pretty useful for spotting stuff and Calling up old Thunderbird two (Multirole Grizzly) to come and hit em with a stick or two.
    I like the idea of the multirole Grizzly, the bean counters might just go for that too?
    Range? Check
    Payload? check
    Speed? Ish, it will do!
    Endurance/on station time? Check
    We will need to develop palletised solutions but that should mean not buggering about with the aircraft too much, therefore there is a chance this could happen.
    C130/Global5000/E3/Airseeker, and MPA, all into one fleet, if we had any balls we could bin the PFI and have em as tankers too…
    There has to be scope to make that run, just makes too much sense, Aha the flaw in the plan, it makes sense…

  171. Regarding Airbus, the latest version of the 295 is the C295w, which will become the standard production model later this year. It has upgraded engines and winglets giving improved range, payload, and hot & high performance.

    For an MPA with better range than the C295, Airbus say they’ll give you the A320 (which might also include the shorter bodied and longer ranged A319). No one else has taken up this option yet, but Airbus obviously think it’s practical. I think A320 wings are made in Britain, so that would give the government something else to think about.

  172. @ Mark

    I am not an MPA crew member. A lot of your sensors and launchers seem to be the lightweight Helo versions.

    In short for a full package you want. IMO

    1. A good radar set capable of periscope detection.
    2. A good EOD giving range, definition and night and day capable.
    3. A MAD system.
    4. An ESM system.
    4. Possibly a DAS system.
    5. The ability to deploy and monitor multiple sonobuoys.
    6. A command system allowing the correlation of all data collected.
    7. Link Capable.
    8. A military communications outfit.
    9. Ability to carry enough buoys.
    10. ability to carry 4-6 Weapons.
    11. Long range/Decent speed/ high endurance.
    12. All in an airframe that also takes into account the crew.
    13 Ability to produce endless in flight curry :)

    Ability to AAR would be good.

  173. I think secondhand s3 Vikings could fill the UK’s MPA requirements! Why think about it 2500-3200 mile range in flight refueling! They could be upgraded with similar systems as used on the merlin hm2 worth considering!

  174. @TD: Like the Predator UAV Option as part of an integrated layered approach. Extending existing platforms and increasing numbers where needed has to be the best approach when money is scarce and operating new fleet classes are expensive. If multiple existing (and extended) assets can tick off APATs list above then what is the difference from buying a real “MPA”?

  175. @Repulse: we’d better get cracking on clearing UAV’s for civil airspace then. Cue some nonsense about “drones” :-)

  176. TD,

    The simple fact is that we did not voluntarily give up the MPA capability (well, the RAF might have done…) and we have sustained a capability gap that has the entire RN ASW and SM community hugely concerned over our ability to both defend the deterrent and successfully prosecute the SSK threat in the Middle East. Just because we threw away the capability does not mean we don’t need it.

    Anything that has the potential to threaten CASD has the highest of political priorities – it will trump anything else ongoing. So what happens when a pair of Russian SSN’s heads down into the Atlantic and starts sniffing around for the bombers? Will we sit back and go ‘it’s alright, you’d have to be French to find them’? I am not stuck in the Cold War – but the nuclear deterrent IS, and until we sort out unilateral disarmament this problem is not going away.

    And the SSK threat in the Middle East is substantial. We have fallen back onto Fleet ASW assets for protection – but those assets are a legacy of the same extinct Cold War and are not by themselves optimised for counter SSK ops. A persistent aerial surveillance capability is needed to counter it.

    Why don’t I believe UAV is the answer to all our woes? Because UAV = expensive (so far), and there is nothing on the board that meets the criteria of long range, radar surveillance, sonobuoy deployment and processing and attack. Global Hawk is the only thing remotely close – and it’s nowhere near the capability required anyway. Just because you chop out the pilot doesn’t mean you can a) chop out the mission crew or b) develop an entirely new airframe from scratch any quicker or cheaper.

    Dave, I’m lost. Global Express can’t be used because Boeing are using something smaller? Horses**t. Mark was right on – they don’t want a competitor. The loadout is not heavy. It fits in a Merlin. Radar, consoles, seats, launchers, radios. Link is the size of a box of A4 paper plus a radio. We stopped making consoles out of lead and pig iron a long time ago. I have a computer in my cabing called a Kindle Fire that outperforms the combat system on the Merlin – dear God the mission system on MR2 was outperformed by a school calculator, and Merlin HM2 has iPads in the front! The only variable load is the sonobuoy stock.

    Commonality of spares, repair, maintenance and training? How many Atlas stores and training chains do we have now? How many Global Express chains? The bizjet wins 0:1.

    So what has happened is, you have completely ignored my debate about armed or not armed, and gone straight for the fantasy air force? Hey ho, can’t win them all I suppose.

  177. @ SR

    The Sentinel is a Global Express platform. The mission fit reduces the max range by 1200nm and the max altitude by 4000ft. As that is the nearest to an MPA fit out on a bizz jet, it seems a pretty good comparison to me.

    As Merlin can carry 5000kg payload, frankly, I don’t think it equates (remember max payload on a Global is 3600kg, and payload with max fuel is 860kg)

    The Sentinel example demonstrates how a mission fit seriously degrades the range and that is without sonar bouys, weapon loads or any of the other stuff that we’re expecting an MPA to carry. (And I dare say they tore out almost everything that wasn’t needed)

    And as for your rather dismissive comment about commonality and the fleet management and flight crew training efficiencies. We are getting Atlas so we’re getting a logistics and training chain…so how is the bizz jet going to win out? (Edit: We don’t have a logistics chain for Sentinel- Raytheon are contracted to supply it, not much of a difference but still

    And finally: the RAF is operating two ISTARS fleets, Sentinel and Shadow….one on an expensive to run bizz jet platform, and the other on a cheap-as-chips turboprop…I wonder which one the RAF will be allowed to carry on with?

    I really, really can’t see us being allowed both and Shadow is virtually the same as the USAF MC12W Liberty…

  178. SomewhatRemoved,

    In answer to your question about “…we cannot afford the full capability, so what do we sacrifice?”

    I believe that we are lacking a long-range, high-endurance, low-level, sensor platform (MAD, EO/IR, hydrocarbon vapor sensor). Forget SAR, forget ELINT, forget (to a certain extent) surface radar. Concentrate on ASW.

    The same platform needs to drop more sonobouys than Merlin simply because it will be out for longer than Merlin’s 3-4 hour sortie and will cover a far greater area. So instead of 30 sonobuoys (which is what I believe is packed on Merlin in two carousels and a rack) it will likely need about four times as much (P8=120, MRA4=150).

    I also think that it’s madness to be within spitting range of the sub and not actually prosecute it, however, what is to stop modern subs being fitted with SAMs? We therefore need to future-proof for standoff anti-sub weapons like LongShot.

    So, a couple of tonnes of sonobuoys and a couple of tonnes of torpedos, depth charges and missiles. We’ll also need about a tonne of crew and consoles and I’ll allocate a tonne for the various sensors and a radar. A total of 6t of payload or about 75 standard humans.

    I suppose, therefore, on balance, the C295 could be the right size and give us a 1000nm reach into the Atlantic.

    This doesn’t quite get to Greenland so maybe on a long-range sortie we’d have to leave 1/2 the sonobuoys and 1/2 the weapons at home and prey that Scotland don’t go independent because we’ve just procured an aircraft that cannot quite make it from England to Greenland.

  179. How about this then the most exspensive part of aircraft devlopment is the wings wing box and engines airbus have designed and devloped all of the above for the atlas we have devloped the mission systems for the role which mainly consitied of off the shelf electronics all we need is a tube to fit and hang stuff off let airbus devlop the round tube that everything fits on and in to you could have your bomb bay bouy launcher and storage and then use it for awacs rivet joint and astor and then you have common engine wing cocpit parts with the atlas and as it takes about 3 years for airbus to design and devlop a version of a a320 airliner it is doable just how much would it cost

  180. @ Simon

    I don’t think the Hydrocarbon detector is needed. Firstly because nuclear subs don’t use hydrocarbons apart from in the vodka. Also I read that they were too sensitive anyway detecting that tankers had been through a few days ago.

    In case you didn’t see my post that sonobuoy link you posted was a revelation and really helpful thanks!

  181. TED,

    I was thinking about SSKs. However, if they pick up tankers from a few days ago I guess they may not be particularly useful.

    Glad you enjoyed the sonobuoy link. Impressive aren’t they. Like something from a transformers movie. Remind me of the way a satellite solar panel unfolds.

  182. Impressive, it was magnificent I honestly thought that they were just cylinder shaped things that bleeped things from time to time.

    Yeah its in Nimrod rise and fall. They were fitted to Shackleton but were found to be too effective (shame that doesn’t happen with anything useful!)

    I think one of the big developments in the MPA world will be satelites but I’m not quite sure how. You do however still need a prosecutor. If you can operate under such a system a small buy of gucci P8s looks like a better choice. Question is how far in the future is a development like this.

    Are these operations meant to be 24/7? In which case how many aircraft do you realistically need?

  183. Dave, I give up. Your argument makes no sense. Hopefully others have got my points. If we ever buy Sea Atlas I will (safeguard) eat my hat. And a Global Express.

  184. @ Engineer Tom
    Sorry for not coming back back to you sooner, unfortunately work calls.

    The reason I would want to put Storm Shadow on to a P8, Sea Atlas or my imaginary MRA5, is that it gives HMG options. For all the fuss the RAF made of launching missions from RAF Marham, during the Libyan operation. A single Storm Shadow equipped Nimrod, could have done the job of the two Tonka’s used, without the need of supporting Tankers. Using one aircraft to drop two, four or six Storm Shadows, would be better and cheaper than two Typhoon/Tornadoes with accompanying tankers.

    If the UK have this option, we could react quicker to situations around the world. Problems down South, fine we can reach Buenos Aries from Ascension. It takes nearly two weeks for an SSN to reach the Falklands from the UK. We could have two Storm Shadow equipped Long Range MPA in either Mount Pleasant or Ascension in 24 hours.

    The more I think about it a Sea Atlas, just ticks all the right boxes. Range, multi-engine platform, adaptability; manoeuvrability, one less aircraft type, we only need one OCU, and most importantly British jobs. We just need to get Airbus on board and HMG to make their minds up!

  185. I don’t want to piss on anyone’s parade, but Isn’t Sea Atlas a bit barking? There hasn’t been an MPA that big since Argus, and the whole point of the digital revolution is that kit gets smaller, no?

    I am pretty sure MOD will be driven by cost, and will want an off the shelf solution. I like the idea of modifying Reaper for long range SAR (although in the Italian case they are providing over-watch for a relative limited sea area (between north Africa and Lampedusa) to fulfill a very specific task – find small boatloads of asylum seekers). I think the RAAF have trialled the bespoke “Mariner” version in that role too. I like the area search version even better. That modification + a few P8s might may a small P8 buy worth while without adding new and risky R&D costs.

    Nevertheless, I am pretty sure it would be both financially impractical and politically impossible to embark on some sort of new platform development programme – both because of the MRA4 debacle (and it was, however much we like old Nimrod) and cost versus priority arguments.

    If we are going off-the-shelf, there are only two proven or entering service options for multi-purpose platforms (which is what MoD are recommending – and they have undoubtedly spend more braincells on this that we have). C-295 or P8. Anything additional will have to come from tinkering with the existing fleet, and small-scale low cost tinkering at that.

    On Storm Shadow on Atlas, isn’t TLAM and Carrier Strike supposed to provide penetration strike at range – both without the added risks of flying a big transport plane into contested airspace. Storm Shadow might be stand-off, but its not stand-off in the bar while others get on with the fighting – you still need to get up close and personal (in air defence terms) to launch it – and both F-35 and SSN can look after themselves.

  186. @ Mark
    They can indeed, some work would be required for aerials and radar mounts etc, internal wiring for consoles as well.
    The issue remains that the aircraft it is fitted to determines how far and fast for how long, carrying what.

  187. As apts keeps saying it isn’t the electronics but the platform you put them on the larger the aircraft te more range weapons and endurance you have that is why nimrod was so good it had range weapons it could carry and endurance to stay on station p8 has half the range and half the weapons carrying abilites but is still the only game in town sea atlas has the ability to do what nimrod did but as all ways it comes down to money so as simon says the question is are we going to spend the money or are going to say no thanks and accept we don’t do mpa and anti submarine for land base’s my thoughrs spend the money on sea atlas and let airbus get on with it with out interferance for the mod

  188. It is indeed I was trying to make the point that many options are open to us (not just p8 cause that’s what the Americans use) with not much development required on the systems side which is generally the expensive bit and that it’s all scaleable so were not constrained to a single aircraft fleet but can still achieve commonality.

    I remain absolutely convinced that if you can put equivalent systems and capability as is offered on merlin and was offered on s3 viking and more on a biz jet platform.

    This gives a flavour at what is available on global express from a weight point of view note manufacturer empty weight, and max zero fuel weight.

    And the endurance of the current one we use

  189. @ Mark

    An S3 Viking carried 59 sonobuoys on internal launchers, a dedicated SAR launcher. 4 Internal launchers for Torps or Bombs, a deployable tail mounted MAD Boom, Chaff and Flare Dispensers and 2 underwing hard points for fuel tanks or bombs or missiles.
    You can easily put a Merlin fit on a business jet and probably more buoys but you will not be carrying the 4 Stingray Torpedoes it can.

  190. Mark,

    You must be the only person including the guys who put the capability report together who thinks that you can put all the required systems, sensor, communications, buoys and weapons on a business jet.

  191. What we don’t know is what a full equipment and weapons fit will do to the range of Challenger 605 or similar Business Jet.

    Wiki quotes the basic cvilian Embraer ERJ-140 as having a range of 1867 miles ‘plus internal tanks’. But it is not clear if this is ferry range or loaded range. Or what penlaty the military R99 and P99 variants pay for their equipment loads and external carriage of stores. Or of they are fitted with the same ‘internal tanks’ of the ERJ-140. And are those 4 torpedos on the Embraer in your picture heavy torpedos like Stingray? Or something lighter?

    It seems to be a fair qustion to ask will a fully tooled up ASW Business Jet actually be any better for range than the C-295 (wiki range quoted as 805 miles with full payload or 3,335 miles ferry – seems to be in the same ballpark)

    So would we then have to look at an AAR Probe too? And do we have enough tankers to devote them to supporting the MPA task.

    That’s why people keep looking toward bigger more self-sufficient platforms. B737, A319 or Atlas that could do a loaded sortie at some considerable range without tanker support.

  192. Apas

    As I’ve said several times you cannot carry as much as 737 but something equivalent to the s3 is entirely possible. I’m pretty sure the same logic would have been expressed about using a king air 350 as an Istar platform 10 years ago too.

    Peter stingray is 600lb lightweight store. Carrying 2 or 4 is not unrealistic.
    The mtow of the p99 is half that of global. Go look at the sentinel endurance figures or some of the Israeli examples for military equivalent examples. These are being sold and used all over the world.

  193. Mark

    And I see that the ferry range of Challenger 605 is 3,875 miles, only slightly more than C-295 at 3,335. So Its fair to say they are in a similar performance bracket and could in theory be loaded up with a similar amount of gear, in which case the operational range of both would of course be substantially less.

    It comes back to what is the requirment. Do we need long range sorties or not? The ministers are amateurs like me. They will defer to the professional advice. And the professionals will specify long range sorties with full stores. Becuase they want to be able to get to Greenland and back, or from Ascension to Mount Pleasant, or out and about round the Indian Ocean if the shit really hits the fan.

    (As an aside how much of the Indian Ocean could we cover from a triangle of friendly bases at Oman, Deigo Garcia and Penang?)

    Are the professionals wrong to ‘gold plate’ the requirement in this way? Very hard to say. But until Russia stops building and operating submarines I want the ability to know where they are. Otherwise our surface ships are just so much decorative steel waiting to sent to the bottom when we upset our friends in Moscow, as we are bound to do sooner or later by getting involved in another country’s business.

    As for S3, it could cope with shorter legs becuase it was carrier launched and the carriers could move. Unless or until we replace the Merlin I can’t see us shopping for something in that range bracket, and then it will have to be VTOL or some sort of STO-SRVL.

  194. @ Mark

    4 Stingray and 50 Buoys are 2000KG, then add on the rest of the mission kit. People cleverer and better informed than me have looked at it.
    Remember the S3 was built as a military aircraft, all the dispensers, consoles, comms, lainchers,radar, MAD gear included in the empty weight.

    Of course their could be a business jet MPA but I think you overstate the range and capability it would give us as do the people who have examined the options.

  195. Challenger 605 has a usable load of 9668kg.
    It has a range of 4000nm with 9072kg of fuel and 596kg of payload.
    If you leave 2000kg for takeoff, climb and reserve you’re left with about 7t of fuel.
    Assuming a linear fuel burn (which is isn’t but it serves to illustrate)…
    For 2500nm range we’ll likely need about 6375kg, leaving 3293kg of payload which has to include the crew, the systems, the sonobuoys and weapons.
    10 crew at 80kg each = 800kg
    100 sonobuoys at 18kg each = 1800kg
    2 consoles at 60kg each = 120kg
    4 stingray at 270kg each = 1080kg
    Leaving minus 507kg for radar, MAD, EO turret, etc.


  196. Peter I’m not talking about the challenger I just mentioned bombardier said there was not to stop it being armed.


    The global has 15 000 pounds available to covert to a military aircraft before asking for the zero fuel weight to rise which has happened else were. I’d also so point out the s3 carries a significant amount of weight in structure to land on a ship and that the US has deleted the mad requirement from p8. I’m not entirely talking from a point of ignorance either but the mod want p8 I’m sure they’ll get it some day or we continue as we do now. But I’m gonna leave it here.

  197. @ Mark

    The Global has 6500kg to use for military purposes? How much fuel is sacrificed as useful loads with max fuel is under 1000kg and you are not getting 5.5 tonnes of cabin weight?

  198. The max payload for a Global is 3600kg, so I can imagine that if you rip out everything, you get to about 6500kg useable weight. And without a major redesign of the load critical areas, there won’t be any more than 1-2000kg increase in ZFW.

    However, as it’s going to do long-range missions, it’ll need a basic fit-out, panelling, galley, toilet etc (about 850kg) as it’s military, extra comms (250kg) defensive aids (600kg?)

    So I reckon 1700kg before we add in the mission and sensor fit. Not withstanding the weight any weapons or deployable stuff.

    And I keep going back to it, but as it operates a similar role albeit over land, and therefore has a similar role, it’s probably a good guide. The mission and sensor fit cut 1200nm from the Sentinels range. Add on another 2000kg for munitions and bouys…

    I’m not saying that you can’t make an MPA out of a bizz jet- just that the range penalties from all the kit that we’ll need to stuff in it and hang off it, means it isn’t viable for our needs. We are responsible for a fairly large part of the ocean….and that should be our first principle.

  199. ‘Jed
    Who pays for the conversion work? Without an order far larger than we are likely to place it would end up more expensive than a P8.

  200. @ Mark

    Ok you think you would sacrifice 2200kg of fuel and have 6500kg of useable weight, DH who seems to know about flying points out the realistic part of this and the guys who looked at the requirements reached the same conclusion. You seem to be a lone voice.

  201. The S3 Viking already exists! There are said to 100 airworthy examples parked in the desert right now! With plenty of airframe life left! It wouldn’t take much time to bring them up to date and into service! Cheap cost effective available! As for range it can fly for just under 3200 miles on internal fuel and can be in flight refuelled! In these days of austerity it is worth considering!

  202. Ok, left field again, the dreaded PFI! There is supposed to be a lot of spare capacity here, could we not then palletise all of our surveillance gear on to the MRTT?
    Big enough, as rangey as you like , could act on ops as a buddy boy for the C295 to keep it on station for a good bit and, as if any were needed a reason to re-negotiate/scrap PFI!
    Never think that the PFI, can’t br re-done, it can, if the operatinal scope of what is required changes then so must PFI no matter how much bellyaching the robbing bastards do. We could make it easier to swallow by letting them have a few more aircraft as I guess they would be needed but not as many as when your running four fleets. (MRTT/E3/Sentinal/Airseeker). Currently 25? (What happened to the other E3) Airframes?
    (May be able to dump Shadow as well and put the kit on the C295?)
    Could it be done with 20 MRTT? Just spitballing here, because I’ve had no sleep!
    So five more MRTT and a buy of C295w+ (With Rolls Royce Engines! JOKE!!!). So humor me here would twelve be enough? And slip in an order for another two C17’s before it’s too late, and let the totally “overcomitted” Germans stew with their unwanted Grizzly’s. We may be able to get a couple of cheap C17’s if the Americans keeep up their own Axe job on their Armed Forces anyway…
    So 10-C17
    And a lot of pallets T.D! Perfect…

  203. I know it sounds pretty simple to just load in all this palletised kit, but what does that really mean.? What exactly are these pallets going to plug into – some sort of integral architecture and consoles will need to be fitted for that, surely? Putting glass cockpits in Chinook required a complete rewiring of the airframe, and a lot of cash. Each of these new airframes (whether its a a Voyager, Atlas or a new build bizjet) will require stripping down and rebuilding to accommodate this new architecture. There is always the possibility that it will not work too – so cost overruns, ‘software upgrades’ and the like will add yet more risk and cost.

    Then there is the airframe. Low-altitude over water. That is a high stress, high corrosion environment. Atlas at least is designed for low altitude performance and stresses, but commercial airliners and bizjets are not. Remember nimrod was so good because comet had a large wing which could be easily adapted for low-altitude performance, but I’m sure the whole airframe will need corrosion protection too. 737’s wing had to be redesigned to take the stress. Add to this the need to add antenna and turrets for your sensors: apart from the requirement to rewire and drill holes in the airframe, there is the impact upon flight characteristics.

    I guess I’m saying, even if it was a ‘palletised’ solution, before it could even work the whole airframe will need to be stripped down to the bare-metal and rebuilt from the bottom up. P8 (which has addressed and debugged these problems already) and C295 (which is a military transport airframe – thus stressed for low-level flying – and already flying with these MPA/ASW adaptions) are very low risk. All of the other options will require a lot of R&D, new/re-construction and risk to make them work. They will almost certainly be more expensive than off-the-shelf, and we will get fewer. S3 is a 1970s airframe. It will have to be completely rebuilt and given modern architecture (risk, cost etc.) – basically the same as buying a new system.

    Cheap C-17s? (a message from planet Zog pehaps?)

  204. It would be great if the UK could assist in the search for MH370 in the Indian Ocean, perhaps using a long range RAF MPA diverted from anti-piracy and maritime security patrols in the Gulf of Aden/Horn of Africa!! (Just a thought but closer to home who would we call on to help if God-forbid another airliner goes down far out in the North Atlantic?)

    The Chinese recently deployed a nuc sub to the Middle East, the Indian Navy have an Russian built Akula class and new indigenous nuc and diesel electric subs operating in the Indian Ocean. And the Ukraine crisis shows that the Russians are still a threat to peace. Submarine proliferation is growing markedly worldwide. Yet the UK – an island nation dependant on maritime trade – no longer has a credible (long range, all weather, high endurance) airborne ASW capability! Crazy.

    The Nimrods were almost always first to arrive at every conflict involving UK forces over the last 40 years, unheralded yet vital to provide reconnaissance and force protection (at sea and over land). It’s only a matter of time before the risks created by the capability gap will leave the Govt – almost none of whom have ever served in the Forces – seriously embarrassed by their continued naivety.

  205. Whilst I agree on MPA mapping on this occasion there are plenty of MPA assets and even satellite coverage. HMS echo will be far more useful than an MPA at actually telling us what has sank.

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