Future Maritime Patrol – Part 7 (Summary)

This series on Future Maritime Patrol was unplanned but hope you have enjoyed reading what I think are the various options should the UK wish to reconstitute the capability lost with the withdrawal of Nimrod MR2 and cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

In Part 1 we discussed the various requirements and challenges. The single biggest challenge to the MoD is getting over Nimrod MRA4, if the taxpayer is expected to cough up a billion here or a billion there for a maritime patrol aircraft it must first overcome the very real issue of the shadow of Nimrod. Whilst we might understand the sunk cost fallacy, money having already been spent having no relation to money we would like to spend, politics does not quite work that way. Mr and Mrs Taxpayer has already spent just under £4b on a replacement for MR2 and now the MoD wants to spend more!

Anyone thinking that the money already spent is not a big issue is not living on the same planet I live on.

Another long shadow cast by Nimrod is that of air safety management, any suggestion that uses old airframes with a less than contiguous chain of safety evidence is going to cause problems in the post Haddon Cave safety environment. These problems, whilst not insurmountable, will inevitably result in a great deal of risk costs being fed into the resource build, what might seem on face value to be a bargain might be very from so.

The next significant challenge is making a case and defining the requirement. By the time the decision is made in SDSR 2015 (we think) there will have already been nearly a decade long gap, once a gap has been established and coped with, the case for closing it will inevitably be difficult, especially when there so many other priorities for defence expenditure. I don’t for one minute think the UK armed forces can sit back after decade and a half of campaigning in the Middle East and East Asia for a nice rest, next stop, Africa or who knows where.

Against this backdrop is the trend to civilianisation of traditional military capabilities like Search and Rescue, trying to justify a maritime patrol aircraft off the back of the Fastnet Race or other high profile but very rare long distance SAR is unlikely to convince anyone, unfortunately. In the overland ISTAR role things have moved on significantly since the early 2000’s where Nimrod was the only platform that could loft an EO turret, ISTAR has improved immeasurably, unmanned systems and other aircraft now provide the Joint Force Commander with a wide variety of capabilities.

The maritime patrol gap is therefore simply not compelling enough to be automatically put to the top of the MoD’s shopping list, it has to justify its place like every other capability.

And yet despite this, despite the availability of numerous flavours of manned and unmanned ISTAR, maritime patrol aircraft continue to demonstrate their value. Libya, where Canadian Auroras enabled and supported naval gunfire, intelligence gathering and coordination, or Mali, where French ATL’s even got into dropping laser guided bombs show the utility of high endurance multi purpose maritime patrol aircraft.

These might still be considered secondary roles though, their true value will only be realised against a competent enemy equipped with submarines, and it here that the MoD must focus, everything else is secondary.

Submarines are the true killers of the deep with even the whiff of the very idea of one operating can have a significant strategic and operational impact. It is a fair observation that the UK has, and continues to spend huge sums of money on anti submarine warfare, frigates, ASW helicopters and SSN’s weigh heavily on the defence budget and focussed on a submarine threat that is at best, unlikely. However, the problem with looking only at likelihood is that it ignores impact. An effective enemy submarine force, whether that be a resurgent Russia, an increasingly capable Iran or some other future force, could have a catastrophic impact on UK maritime operations. We could discuss the importance of maritime operations in the context of air deployability or general value but the point remains, submarines are deadly.

If the impact/likelihood evaluation points to maritime patrol aircraft (with ASW) being something of value in a layered defence arrangement the details of the requirements, range, endurance, payloads and other factors can be examined.

Although it is a complex requirement it can be readily distilled into a small number of key decision points.

If we accept the outside edge of range and endurance sits in the 3-5 hours at 200-400 nautical miles then systems like the C295 become the obvious choice. However, if we want to conduct top end anti submarine warfare at range (i.e. deep water ASW) then the likely key performance parameters are 3-5 hour endurance at 800-1000 nautical miles, this puts us into the P8, P3 and P1 bracket.

If we cannot compromise on range and endurance but can on payload, a couple of lightweight torpedoes and 50 odd sonobuoys then a business jet solution might be possible.

Unmanned systems remain an outside possibility but only in support of a conventional manned aircraft and the large transport aircraft solutions based on either the Hercules or A400M Atlas remain interesting but still a conceptual and developmental hurdle.

A key aspect of our discussions has been to look beyond the narrow definition of maritime patrol and examine how the platform choice could influence, enhance capability or save money across the wider defence sphere. The point has been made that concentrating on airframe commonality is only part of the picture is well made, system and sub system/component commonality can deliver significant through life savings. The MoD does not pay enough attention to long term commonality and this results in increasingly small boutique fleets representing a vanishing tooth saddled with a disproportionately large tail.

Commonality also provides tactical opportunities that would not normally present themselves

The solutions were discussed over 6 posts;

Option 1; P-8A the obvious solution and likely front runner if we want an MRA4 replacement and have deep pockets. There is still some residual risk in the programme but the key thing to consider here is we wouldn’t be on the hook for any fixes. It is however, far from an off the shelf purchase and an expensive option although if purchased we would be in a large user community and able to take advantage of all that this provides. It might also in the medium term allow the Sentinel fleet to be withdrawn or re-used for other roles.

Option 2; A handful of P-8A alternatives such as refurbishing P3 Orion’s, the Japanese Kawasaki P1 and a development project that might bring the long talked about Airbus A319/320 MPA to fruition. The P3 refurbishment might provide an excellent capability but we would be buying into a very old design that is going out of service in many nations armed forces. The refurbishment option would also have many time and cost risks in the airworthiness certification space and politically, probably not the best idea to bring into service an aircraft that was previously rejected. The Kawasaki P1 looks on face value to be a fine option, a dedicated design with some very advanced features, but there is no certainty that we would be able to buy them and like the P8, is not quite the finished article. An Airbus A319/320 MPA would be a new design although it must be said that the components are all known and available. From an industrial and sovereign design perspective probably the best option but the price tag would be a big question mark.

Option 3; If we accept the range/endurance and payload compromise the C295 looks like an attractive and comparatively cheap option that opens up a number of commonality avenues, the communications fleet and tactical transport underneath the A400M spring to mind. The Q400 and ATR72 are equally capable but have less flexibility and adaptability than the C295 family.

Option 4; A business jet derived such as the Bombardier Global Express would provide some commonality advantages and could evolve into a multi role ISTAR system but although the range and endurance would probably be on a par with those in options 1 and 2, it would be payload constrained. That payload constraint might be an acceptable trade off but in a serious conflict, at the low probability high impact end of the ASW scale, that might compromise by prove telling.

Option 5; Finally, reusing a large 4 engine transport aircraft like the Hercules or even the A400M Atlas would address (in spades) the range/endurance payload issue (assuming the technicals of release and carriage can be solved) But Hercules is going out of the service and the A400M is expensive to start with, and the airframe design would produce a high fuel cost. Both options would allow maximum re-use of in service equipment and the A400M especially, could evolve into a high endurance multi role ISTAR and ground attack platform.

To summarise;

If we are serious about countering Russian and other nations increasingly dangerous submarines, and we bloody well should be, the obvious answer is the Boeing P-8A. It represents the lowest risk and most capable solution, even though it is an expensive option. If the Japanese are willing to sell, the Kawasaki P1 could be a very real competitor to the P-8A. To those that moan about the cost, try counting the cost of a compromised V Force. Both would also provide a stepping stone to future capabilities that would ultimately, drive the commonality we should be trying to achieve over time.

I think if we focus on multi-mission effects, it diffuses the effect, this should be an Anti Submarine capability to protect the deterrent and deployed naval task forces, everything else is secondary.

If we can accept compromise on range and endurance, and I make no claim either way, the other options such as C295 or business jet platform look increasingly attractive just because they are cheap.

If we were really mental and fancied blazing a multi-role trail, the A400M Atlas would be an outside bet worth at least a serious study.

Gentlemen, place your bets now.

Or perhaps more importantly, what do you think should be placed second on the MoD’s wish list in order to pay for it?


The rest of the series

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 1 (Challenges and Missions)

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

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

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

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

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

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 7 (Summary)

















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February 10, 2014 9:13 pm

How about a bet that nothing happens?
Or that something may start to happen, but will take a long and possibly costly road to get here… and something being scarified in order to pay for it?

A pessimistic mood :( But an awesome series :)
Well done TD, brilliant job here, compiling ideas and previous posts since 2010.

Elm Creek Smith
Elm Creek Smith
February 10, 2014 10:21 pm

If I were planning for an MPA for a country that had no pretensions to being a global power, the choice would be relatively simple: the C295. The advantage of the same airframe being useable for cargo, MPA, AEW, and gunship by changing modules makes it’s versatility the deciding factor. The question remains, is the UK going to remain a global power?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 10, 2014 11:39 pm

I’m placing no bets, but I do wonder if purchasing a number of additional A400M air-frames and then building up a suite of top notch equipment modules of various sorts might be a suitably sneaky way of avoiding the the post-Nimrod fall-out…”These are not yet more expensive MPAs – they are bog-standard military transports with a (bit?) of extra kit bolted on”.

The multi-purpose flying battleship might be the way of the future.


February 11, 2014 12:46 am

Fascinating series TD, thanks for the all the info.

Very much like the idea of a smaller/ad hoc solution, because it strikes me as being romantic and a bit plucky. C295 nice, Embraer business jet also looks fun, and I was close to being sold on the SC130-J thing. However, if you’re going to do ASuW and maritime patrol properly then surely you need the biggest bang with the longest duration.

P8 or the Kwak. Accept no substitutes.

February 11, 2014 12:58 am

Great Series TD and one with some interesting ideas and hard to get information.


” I’m placing no bets, but I do wonder if purchasing a number of additional A400M air-frames and then building up a suite of top notch equipment modules of various sorts might be a suitably sneaky way of avoiding the the post-Nimrod fall-out…”

I am starting to lean towards this view. I think APATS in particular has made some good points about the limitation of the C295. It’s also unlikely that any government is going to want to purchase anything as expensive as a P8 fleet in 2015.

Weapons integration on the P8 will also be an issue. As was pointed out on a previous thread the UK is paying 100 million to integrate Paveway IV on F35 and that sounds pretty simple compared to getting Stingray to Fly.

A number of modules already exist that could bring the A400M up to a decent configuration for at least maritime security operations with some ability to at least monitor submarine’s. Over time this capability could be refined to eventually gives us a very capable MPA solution with far greater range and carrying capacity than the P8. While the A400M is not cheap we will be buying 22 of them anyway and with the pressure of operations in Afghanistan being removed possibly at least some of them can be used in the MPA role.

As TD has pointed out many of the solutions for turning the A400M into a highly capable MPA are not rocket science and many have already been worked into the C130 such as drogue shoot release of torpedo’s from the back ramp and replacing the para shoot door with a sonar buoy launcher.

In terms of torpedo launch I don’t see sliding off the back cargo ramp as a major issue. Yes the cabin will have to be de-pressurised but if the operators can be housed in a pressurised cabin this should not be a major issue. Granted its a bit of a pain in the arse if you have to do it all the time but in all likely hood its a capability that would never be used in anger.

So I am starting to see the A400M as the lower risk and cheaper option simply because the aircraft will already be there and all we are talking about is buying Vigilant pods and integrating them with a palatalised FITS system contained in a pressurised trailer than can be rolled of and on and then maybe a sonar buoy ejection system put into the door. Its sounds very doable over enough time. Sure we would need to purchase more A400M’s but this could be done gradually over time and with the possibility of getting them cheap from other EU nations trying to offload their’s. The program could also lead to the A400M becoming a much more capable ISTAR asset able to provide EW, ELINT other capabilities. All of which would be welcome.

February 11, 2014 1:03 am

Personally, if I had to choose, no industrial strings attached, I would go Kawasaki for a low/medium level capability or the P-8 if I had to do high end.

On an observational note, Airbus strangely enough does not seem to be pushing their A400 very hard at the Singapore Airshow, most of their ads in the papers and leaflets seem to be pushing the A350 instead, so it might make more sense to MPA a 350 instead of a 400, especially in light of the huge number of orders for the 350. Easier to keep the production lines moving than to make a totally new line.

Bill Smiley
Bill Smiley
February 11, 2014 1:36 am

I personally think its between , the Hercules and the Bombardier Challenger . Both of which we have models in RAF inventory.

February 11, 2014 1:52 am

Is there a reason the C-27J Spartan doesn’t get a look in?

February 11, 2014 3:30 am

@ Observer

I think Airbus is giving up on the notion of selling any A400M or any other defence product in Asia. For all the talk of rising defence spending in Asia very little seems to have materialised and what has such as the Philippines purchase of fighter jets has gone down the bargain basement route. The A400M is certainly not cheap and probably has very limited scope for sales in Asia where as the A350 could be massive. I think an A350 MPA would be the plutonium plated solution to our MPA problem and I doubt we could get a production slot for a decade.

Unfortunately as with the Philippines Typhoon too many governments in Asia are prepared to rely on foreign assistance to provide basic requirements like transport aircraft for their to be much scope for sales.

dave haine
dave haine
February 11, 2014 6:04 am

@ Bill Smiley
We don’t operate any Bombardier Challengers….

February 11, 2014 6:30 am

martin, that’s because the increased defence spending is only limited to specific countries and for specific fields. Primarily Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, the 3 standard culprits. And the fields are MBTs, subs and ships, with some planes for Indonesia to modernise their airforce, but Malaysia and Indonesia tend to buy Russian with those, Congress has a tendency to jam sales to Muslim countries, something Indonesia ran afoul of in the 80s, so they learned. On the other hand, it helps us in Singapore to play off their phobia of Muslim countries by making it easier to get them to sell stuff to us when we mention that we are surrounded by them. And the China card helps too sometimes.

As for plutonium plated MPAs, well, it’s not that bad :) It’s a militarised A330 variant in a way, something like a modern day 737. And I like the idea of plutonium plated MPAs, it tells others that we have nukes in a subtle way without rubbing their faces in it. :P Doubt it’ll pass health and safety inspections though.

February 11, 2014 7:35 am

@ Observer

Yeah can’t see it getting through the new flight safety regime.

I think the establishment in Singapore tends to milk the security situation in the region to justify the vast vast expenditure on the military. Singapore spends the same % of GDP on defence as the UK spends on universal healthcare. I think Israel is the only other democracy spending a similar amount.

I doubt if Malaysia or Indonesia would last more than a few days against the Singapore Airforce on its own.

February 11, 2014 7:51 am

Alone? Not likely that they’ll survive, but remember, our doctrine was inherited from the Israelis who had such a fun time in situations like the Yom Kippur 3 way orgy. Not likely in the current day of course, but in the 80s-90s, many wanted a Pan-Islamic region and we happen to be the one little bloody mote in their eye. Take us out and the map becomes a sea of green (Islam’s holy colour), which looks so pretty.

Of course that is very simplified, but people can be simple. Brunei hates Indonesia for trying a coup in the old days, Indonesia was paranoid of Malaysia and its Western backing, Malaysia was (and still is) worried about the Philippines and its Sabah claim and Thailand was worried that the Communists from Vietnam would push the borders into Thailand itself. Those were interesting times.

Not to mention FJs are so sexy and don’t you just love spiffy jet black high polish boots? *cue Hell March*

February 11, 2014 8:32 am

The Sea Herc looks a good medium term solution, modifying some of the existing ones, and keeping a small number for SF operations until the mid 2020s. Long term work, with France on a joint replacement for the Sea Herc and ATL, which could be the A400.

February 11, 2014 9:10 am

Martin – ref torpedo deployment (sorry a long way back up the comment list) – Don’t bother with a pressurized crew pod just for this. I would be amazed if anyone thought to drop a torpedo on a drogue from 15000ft; even more amazed if it hit the water within a mile of the intended splashpoint… On the other hand, if one of the slide-in palletized modules was a Searchwater type radar with bag, then humming around at 15000ft with the back door open might be a rational choice.

Or invest in one of these so one half stays pressurized for comfort and the other depressurized for deployment of tactical stuff: http://hayate.ru/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/model-1875-anp-logistic-carrier-twin-fuselage.gif – a bit fanciful? In 1964 Vickers went one better: http://i9.photobucket.com/albums/a94/WtMiller/scan0019.jpg and in 1943 this was a flyer: http://www.wwiivehicles.com/germany/aircraft/bomber/heinkel-he-111-bomber/heinkel-he-111-z-bomber-02.png http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/uploads//monthly_02_2013/post-855-0-19166200-1361230580.jpg

I’ll include this link just because its such a barking mad ugly pug… http://vert-mi8.ru/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/%D1%82%D0%B8%D1%82%D1%83%D0%BB%D0%BA%D0%B0.jpg

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
February 11, 2014 10:58 am

Can the A400M deal with the low level flying required to drop a torpedo easily and if so no pressurised crew area is needed, though I would go for a sound proofed one, just to make the long work hours easier.

The way I would approach this would be to go down the route of creating a set of equipment to test the theory that the A400M can work in the MPA role before we even think about extra airframes.

Step one get the sensors on board, if this can done with a pod on each wing, able to be mounted with zero to minimal modification to the airframe, and then if we could put together a removable crew work area, I’m thinking a module that is soundproofed with the required workstations inside, in theory we would then have a maritime surveillance aircraft. If a sonar buoy launcher could be added by modifying a side door with the launcher, and then sonar buoys themselves stored internally on simple pallets, all that then would have to be thought about is launching torpedoes off of the ramp, which to me would require a rack and drogue chute system, when launched at low levels. All these systems I believe exist in one form or another, so how much would it cost to modify them to fit the A400M?

If this could be done step by step, working closely with industry, we could have a setup of equipment and know exactly how much one aircrafts worth of systems will cost, then we could think about how many sets would be needed, and maybe partial sets could be bought, i.e. more of the surveillance kits than the weapons kits, and if there was decent project management who understand the need to drive down costs as much as possible and reuse existing systems with as little modification as possible, they might be able to get a cost effective solution. Once the solution has been found, then we could look at whether we need more airframes.

There are a lot of ifs and maybes in this concept, but if the MOD approached it as a concept and prototyped it before they committed it could well help to spread the costs and also with a minimal initial cost for airframes, it could also end up being a cheap alternative.

February 11, 2014 11:28 am

Great series TD. Given that it was unplanned you managed to bring to together very quickly.

My 2p:

We should be looking at a Deep Water ASW capability, which means a long range platform with a decent ability to carry sonobuoys and weapons. We don’t need a huge fleet, but it should be something that we could expand if the threat changes. I advocate this for two reasons:

1) A short range platform doesn’t really add anything useful for the UK IMO, no matter how cheap. If we are worried about the Russians then we need something that can reach the GIUK gap and stay there for a while. If we are deploying abroad than we need something that can fly from a secure base and still reach the operations zone.

2) What ever we buy we need to think long term. It needs to be something that is either already in service elsewhere (and will continue to be for the expected service life of any UK MPA) or that is based on another platform that is/will be in UK service (and will continue to be for the expected service life of any UK MPA. A UK only solution like we had with Nimrod is just asking for trouble.

Therefore I see the only two options as being:

LOW RISK: A force of at 6 x [b]P-8s[/b] with only minimal mods from USN standard (including adopting some USN weapons not currently in UK inventory).

Combine this with a civilian fixed wing platform to perform the majority of the long range fixed wing SAR and surveillance, and I think you have a very decent overall capability, that has the advantage of being able to fit in easily to USN ops when we undertake joint operations.

HIGH RISK: Develop a MPA/ASW bolt-on capability for the [b]Atlas[/b] and buy approx 3-6 additional ac.

This I think real potential here, albeit one that could/would cost more than buying half a dozen P-8s. Developing a MPA kit for the Atlas could be a real seller in the European market where it could leverage existing Atlas fleets, and could stand an reasonable chance of replacing P-3s in few nations that might also be interested in the A400 as a transport. It would give Airbus a long range MPA/ASW platform to complement the C-295.


What would I sacrifice to pay for it? Honestly not sure, but I think a more positive way to look at it is in terms of what other costs we would be saving by having a MPA. Could we save on the costs having to deploy a frigate for several days to protect the SSBN force if we could deploy a MPA for half a day instead?

February 11, 2014 11:36 am

There are two sides to this:

1) On the one hand we have our current lack of an MPA, the MoDs denial that it is essential and the lack of money put aside until at least 2020. This all points at no MPA unless things change sigfnificantly.

2) On the other hand you have the seedcorn initiative which is spending a lot of money on keeping our crews in the game and of lesser significance the enquiries into MPAs commisioned by the government that point at the capability gap.

SAR would likely be privatised or covered by A400m as the J herc currently has to do.

We lack a platform that has significant range and speed to detect submerged submarines.

Personally I believe that if anything happens it will likely be a C295 so that we have a fleet of multi role aircraft which could if nessecary cover SAR and they can do shorter range MPA duties. This keeps our crews in check hopefully at lower expense and we have a MPA capability. The MoD also wins as it had an asset that can do ISTAR and tactical lift (meaning that all the J hercs can be retired) which the MoD probably currently regard as more essential capabilities.

But which is more important, 1) or 2)?

February 11, 2014 11:58 am

Excellent series TD,
A very enjoyable read.
I do have one question of anyone who may be able to make an educated guess (im assuming hard numbers don’t exist). When discussing picking up German/ Spanish A400s cheap, how cheap is cheap? And how much extra (if any) would need to be spent on upgrading facilities to accommodate the extra aircraft?

Rocket Banana
February 11, 2014 12:20 pm

Great series TD, thanks.

I agree that the “gap” and the “shadow of Nimrod” are the main hurdles to get over. I have this sneaky feeling the podded MPA is the way to go so that we can rapidly retro-fit it to A400M, etc, when/if needed. We then only need to keep the skill alive with a cheaper off-the-shelf purchase of something like C295 or even Merlin assuming that fixed wing ASW is a subset of rotary wing ASW.

February 11, 2014 1:09 pm

Problem is project seed-corn has a finite life, the personnel deployed around the world with other airforce do have a career path and won’t want to be in limbo for too long. Unless there is some form of decision in 2015 seed-corn will start to naturally wind up as personnel move onto other things, unless we decide to start feeding new people into training streams for foreign MPA. The current Seed-corn personnel come out of the Nimrod community, they were probably highly welcome with the P-8 induction considering their experience with a jet MPA and ironically the mission system considering it is derived from that fitted to the MRA4.

Seed-corn can only be a temporary solution as the current people will want to move on. Extending it by feeding new people into foreign training streams is a way of extending but there is no point if there is no firm commitment to reintroducing the capability within the next five years.

February 11, 2014 1:38 pm

Excellent series and gd debate.

Maybe we’ll take strategic review of istar and decide a Boeing family is what’s needed and replace everything.


February 11, 2014 1:52 pm

@ Dabews

“When discussing picking up German/ Spanish A400s cheap, how cheap is cheap?”

Its hard to say. The Germans and the Spanish have made agreements with Airbus to buy numbers beyond what they want. However both governments own Airbus and have a history of backing out on deals. I might suggest being able to pick up their spare aircraft for something between 50 – 75% of the marginal cost. Much will also depend on weather or not they can find other buyers and their seems to be few available.

In terms of extra infrastructure I don’t think we would need much only really training facilities for MPA missions specialists. Flight crews and maintenance could all be done by existing personnel. If the podded system can be made to work it could well be a cheap and capable solution to our immediate problem that could eventually go on to generate a high end MPA capability. It also gives us major flexibility given a decent sized A400M fleet of close to 30 aircraft.

February 11, 2014 2:03 pm

Great series TD – thanks.

For my 2d’worth:

1) Ideal solution – 8- 10 Kwaka P-‘s1 – it is a proper “built for” MPA. We could use the existing weapons stocks too

2) Practical solution – A400 Flying Battleship with the bolt ons. It’s a common in service platform that means in life costs will be low. If we could pick up say, 15 nearly new from the Germans/Spanish, we could have a nice little tactical tanker force and patrol aircraft

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 11, 2014 2:04 pm

@ Mark,

Maybe, how good is wedgetail? We do need to upgrade our E3 Fleet was very annoying that the E3A sI worked with could do live AIS, live secret chat and live SATCOM at the same time and ours couldn’t.

Ace Rimmer
February 11, 2014 2:37 pm

Excellent series TD, well thought out

I’m still firmly in the SC-130J Hercules camp, if offers a heritage the others can’t match, we have the infrastructure and experience ready to go, as well as pilots and ground crew, and if need be it can operate from austere locations the others don’t stand a chance in. So it would be suitable for quick deployments in an emergency. Accepted the airframe has its limitations, but the benefits definitely outway the drawbacks in my book.

@Colonial, re: the C-27J, I think its to similar to the C-295 to make a big difference.

February 11, 2014 4:11 pm

The P-8I’s systems operator console being shown off at DefExpo 2014:

February 11, 2014 4:13 pm

My point exactly if its finite and costs a lot of money this suggests some sort of commitment to MPA does it not?

Joe B
Joe B
February 11, 2014 4:37 pm

The only options available are those that provide both commonality of airframe types as well as those that can do more than one task. Eg. P8 and business jets out, leaving just A400M, Herc and possibly C295 if it is decide that they will eventually replace the Hercs.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
February 11, 2014 4:47 pm

@ Joe B

A400m is replacing C130, the C295 is being talked about filling a gap between A400M and the Chinook’s.

February 11, 2014 5:54 pm

TD thanks for putting together this excellent series.

It reads like a Poirot or Agatha Christie novel as each new character (aircraft) is introduced we were trying to spot the clues as to the eventual murderer (winner). Then it progressed to a Goldilocks and the3 bears fairy tale..ohh which will I choose this is too old (P3), this one is too new (P1) and this one is too large (A400M) and that one is too small (C295).

For once the lack of capability cannot be blamed on political interference as with the Astute, T45, QEC or mad PFI deals – Voyager. Taxpayers, via the Treasury, provided more than adequate funds to provide a full MPA capability.

What is the requirement for numbers? Originally Nimrod MRA4 was to upgrade 25 aircraft reduced to 18 and finally 12. For each prospective plane how many are needed to provide the required capability is not clear.

I do not know how much shagging has been going on with the Hercules! My preference would be to retain the 14 C5 (stretched) Hercules to equip the MPA and Special Forces requirements. The 10 remaining C4 type can be retired. I understand that the older C-130K retained for SF have just been retired although the required upgrade to the C-130J fleet to Block 7/8.1 is still a work in progress.

As Ace Rimmer noted all of the logistics and training are in place. There is no cost to buy compared to the ‘cheap’ £50m for a C295 let alone compared to a P8. If the planes need new wings sometime in the future the work can be done in the UK at Marshalls for much less than £50m per aircraft.

TD pointed out that the Sea Herc has the range, endurance and payload required. Allocating 10 to the MPA role and up to 4 for SF (with the hardware and sensors migrated from the C-130K) would provide a reasonable capability for the next 10 years at minimum cost. This is a realistic and practical solution.

February 11, 2014 5:57 pm


I don’t know the answer to that but the Australians and Turkey have you would hope ironed out the problems by now.

I mentioned in one of the other TD threads on sdsr15 that reviewing the whole istar fleet and what should happen to it would be what I’d like to see come out of that review. As you say e3 needs a upgrade and we don’t need airframes the size or with the large operating costs of either e3 or rivet joint to do there roles so at some point thru life economics will start to favor replacement to smaller more efficient aircraft. Would A strategic 10-15 year replacement plan with a family of systems be to much to hope for in a potentially high priority funding area.

February 11, 2014 7:02 pm

A really excellent series; he doesn’t just throw them together you know. I can even forgive the glaring omission of airships.

So where to put my two pence bet?

If money were no object….well, if money were no object we wouldn’t be here would we, we’d have two dozen MRA4, job’s a good ‘un. Failing that, how about a baker’s dozen P8….hang on, phones ringing, it’ll be that damn Beckinsale woman again! Can’t see the Kawasaki being any cheaper, either.

I was very wary of an A400 MPA but, even though I haven’t finished wading through all the links in part 6, I’m warming to the idea. The attractions of the C130 are also undeniable.

C295 just doesn’t have the legs or the lifting power. APATS, who let’s face it is the only one of us who actually knows what he’s talking about, says it’s a nonstarter. As for business jets – seriously, can anyone see us going it alone on a project like that? Might as well suggest reusing the old Tristar/VC-10 airframes ;-)

So a penny each way on the Herc and Atlas it is then. Or, given the weather, how about a seaplane?

Shane Armfield
Shane Armfield
February 11, 2014 9:08 pm

Is TD doing fluffing for Bill Sweetman these days, or is it for Boeing? (Is that a container in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me, Ooooh Madam!) Smiley pirate face…. only joking….. don’t pi$$ off the website owner…. oh bugger that’s torn it emoticon thingy.

“Boeing Eyes P-8 Exports
By Bill Sweetman william.sweetman@aviationweek.com
Source: AWIN First

February 11, 2014
“Four or five nations” are showing strong interest in the Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) aircraft, according to Chris Raymond, Boeing Defense, Space & Security vice president for business development and strategy.

“These are down to a technical level, not a cursory what-is-it level,” Raymond said on the eve of the Singapore air show. “They are doing analysis of range and coverage, how it would fit in their fleets, life-cycle costs.”

Two or three of the potential candidates are in the Asia-Pacific area, Raymond says. (One of the others is most likely the United Kingdom.) Not all of them currently operate fixed-wing ASW aircraft. “These are new requirements, not just replacements,” Raymond says.

In some cases, Boeing sees its new Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, based on a Bombardier Challenger 605 airframe, as being complementary to the P-8 or other ASW platforms. The company is moving towards the idea of a family of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems ranging from the P-8 through the MSA and the King Air-based Ramis (reconfigurable airborne multi-sensor system) to the Insitu ScanEagle and Integrator unmanned air systems.”

Sorry for pasting all.

Interesting that the U.K. Is specifically mentioned

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 11, 2014 9:17 pm

Having been an early adopter of the Sea Atlas Flying Battleship proposal, I must say @Sea_Eagle makes a very strong case for the Sea Hercules, at least for the next ten years…however @Engineer Tom’s staged plan to build up the modules for the Sea Atlas over time has great merit as well…perhaps we could justify doing both, and also working up the Gunship Atlas, Atlas Bomber/Missile Launcher and any other variants that might be useful in the same way?

My thinking is that the Atlas is a large air-frame that will be with us and others for a long time, and with the widespread need to keep costs down by getting as much value as possible out of every type, perhaps this might be the way of the future for most of us in the West, with the possible exception of the Cousins?

Here’s to a shift to the Multi-Purpose Flying Battleship…made in Great Britain!

A thoughtful Gloomy

February 11, 2014 9:30 pm

The problem with atlas is that it has a massive hold which in the MPA role would only be filled by a few operators and consoles. And that excess hold is excess weight.

In an ISTAR role it would be more compelling because you could hang a lot or radars, sensors and cameras off of it as well as bombs and missiles. That is quite a nice battlefield control aircraft! Then again any flying battleship idea sounds good to me.

Both C295 and A400 would be ideal form my point of view as it would increase our pool of transport aircraft.

dave haine
dave haine
February 11, 2014 9:37 pm

@ Shane Armfield

I read that to mean that Bill Sweetman is speculating that the UK is looking at the P8. I don’t think Boeing specifically mentioned us.
That being said, I would find it difficult to believe that the UK isn’t looking at the ‘plane, with some of the things that have been said, by the MOD, about MPA studies.

February 11, 2014 9:38 pm

@GNB, etc: I really don’t know why we’re discussing various pie in the sky options. Even if money was no object, we’d be buying no more than 25 aircraft, and is more likely to be half that. With those sorts of numbers the expense and risk of a development of Atlas, Hercules or a biz jet is just insane: we have to buy off the shelf. That means 295, P1 or P8, and given the 295’s limited range, that says P1 or P8. Since other countries seem to have no issue already ordering P8 in quantity, I think the decision is already made.

The armed forces have got themselves into stratfied fleets by their chronic incapability of taking a long term decision and sticking to it. No temporary solutions, no “it will last for the next 10 years and then we’ll get the money to buy the proper solution”. Just f**king buy it and move on.

dave haine
dave haine
February 11, 2014 9:41 pm

@ Ted

Can you imagine the Atlas with a discy, radome thing on the top?

dave haine
dave haine
February 11, 2014 9:53 pm

@ WF
Got to say I agree with you.
I would like to see us buy the Kwackers, or the A319MPA (mainly because it has british manufacturing input), but reality says the P8, which, really, won’t be such a bad thing.

Although I still wonder why we have signed a defence and industrial agreement with Japan, is there something else they’ve got that we want? Or, indeed vice-versa?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 11, 2014 10:32 pm

I’m still unconvinced that there is the emergent threat nor political will to fund MPA in 2015, but leaving that aside….

Was there discussion of the threat area where MPA might be useful? GIUK / North Atlantic of course, but I’m pushed to think of anywhere else in the world where we’d want something very long ranged.

If so, why not contract the job to a largish mothership with some embarked Merlins, or even run on Ocean in that role with an RFA crew? Rotate the RAF / RN aircrew every 2 weeks via civilian flight to Keflavik, bring the boat into port once a month or so. Any number of ports with close by civilian airports in Norway, Iceland, Aberdeen, Faroes etc.

February 11, 2014 10:39 pm

The problem with atlas is that it has a massive hold which in the MPA role would only be filled by a few operators and consoles. And that excess hold is excess weight.

In the MPA role, that’s not excess hold, that’s space for more fuel and of course sonobuoys. And pies.

“A400M Atlas. The aircraft with the big shoulders”?

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
February 11, 2014 11:36 pm

@ TD

‘High Capacity Sonar bouy Magazine’

Pallets, stacked with them, can’t get much cheaper and then a guy to manually load one each time.

@ Alex

Doesn’t an aircraft’s range increase the lighter the payload, but you could also have some form of hold tank as well, though if I were crew member this wouldn’t excite me.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 11, 2014 11:55 pm

I am now imagining a sleek grey (flying) battleship cruising at a safe distance from an enemy coastline acquiring target information, then turning away for safety and releasing a salvo of TLAM from the tailgate, before accelerating away to safety, some considerable time before Her Majesty’s enemies understand just exactly how irritated we are…a point they will more fully appreciate when a number of key installations and the Presidential Palace are reduced to smoking rubble…

A cheerful if slightly psychotic Gloomy

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 12, 2014 1:11 am

@x – I do hope that’s why we are building a stronger relationship with Japan in respect of military procurement…


February 12, 2014 1:27 am

The idea of buying C295 with the distance of our SAR area is insane we have to buy something that has the range to do all the tasks MR2 did so we’re looking at
A- A-319 MPA but unless other countries join in the development costs would make it a bit of a long shot
B- P 1 would make an excellent choice with uk companies able to get a work share but to be honest its a long shot
C-P-8 an initial order of 8-10 aircraft would make sense but only if we didn’t start trying to redesign the aircraft at great costs if we’re going to have a decent MPA with range and payload that alloe it to prosecute target’s at range then the P-8 is the most logical
The A-400M is a big risk due to cutting holes in aircraft and having to get an airworthiness certificate could atop it in its tracks
We have to get the order in past the treasury andPAC before there’s any mudslinging

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
February 12, 2014 9:18 am

@ party0929

I was of the same opinion until I saw just how we could turn the A400M into a MPA without cutting holes. The only mdifications needed would be to a side door and maybe extra hardpoints on the wings.

The Other Chris
February 12, 2014 9:27 am

We’re still talking about MPA numbers in single digits?

EDIT: We’re still thinking about the MPA purchase in terms of a single procurement rather than a sustainable program designed to deliver required capabilities?

February 12, 2014 9:39 am

RT – you make a good point about where this MPA is going to be used, something that hasn’t really been looked at. Here would be my list:

1) GIUK Gap, North Sea, Atlantic – the traditional Coastal Command hunting grounds.

2) Gulf – given that this is where a lot of our interests are at the moment, it makes sense that we would deploy an asset like an MPA here. That said the yanks are going to be there for at least the next decade (though beyond that is less clear) and so our small MPA contribution is arguably not going to add too much.

3) Indian Ocean – basing from Diego Garcia?

4) West Africa – Counter Piracy/Counter Terrorism activities. Perhaps doesn’t really need an full on MPA.

5) Falkland Islands – Isn’t the argument that argument for everything?

February 12, 2014 9:39 am

@Alex “In the MPA role, that’s not excess hold, that’s space for more fuel and of course sonobuoys. And pies.” Yeah if you can fit them in sensible launchers, have a hold tank (which it can have) but MoD pastries I wouldn’t wish on anyone tbh. Fruit cake all the way… Anyway if you can do all this with a lot of sonobuoys and weapons and also fit a MAD, a decent radar and electro optics then it works for me. Very nice endurance and it does have the air refuel capability.

Getting carried away now I can actually see airbus wanting us to do this. The more roles the aircraft can preform and is proven in service with the more sales they are likely to get. Hell they might even help us.

@dave haine @ Ted

“Can you imagine the Atlas with a discy, radome thing on the top?”

5-6 A400m doing the job of Sentry, airseeker, Sentinel, Shadow and Islander all at once is a very attractive idea and is what I have campaigned for. So if we could fit all that I would be one very happy camper. Sadly that is an ISTAR asset and not an MPA. I suspect you would need dedicated aircarft with the ‘discy, radome thing on the top’ and I should imagine ‘a discy, radome thing’ preforms particuarly well at low altitude.

As it has been established there is significant risk in the A400m MPA however I think there is an outside chance it could work. The government would never do it though!

Even if we ended up with the all singing all dancing A400m fleet we invisage I would still fight for the C295 as a fill in between chinook and A400 but it would be a reduced fleet and so you wouldn’t see so much of the cost saving.

To sum up it would be lovely to see a european option developed.

@RT “If so, why not contract the job to a largish mothership with some embarked Merlins, or even run on Ocean in that role with an RFA crew? Rotate the RAF / RN aircrew every 2 weeks via civilian flight to Keflavik, bring the boat into port once a month or so. Any number of ports with close by civilian airports in Norway, Iceland, Aberdeen, Faroes etc.”

But if you then detect a submarine you can not keep it under surveillance because you have to stay in the gap to detect others. And you have no way of prosecuting them at more than 500nm or faster than at 25kts at above that range. Motherships would be better used in and around Africa and the Carribean looking for baddies whilst frigates and destroyers should be out on the high seas, with an MPA keeping tabs on all subs.

Apologies for the long post got a hot keyboard now!

Ace Rimmer
February 12, 2014 9:58 am

@DavidHaine: “Can you imagine the Atlas with a discy, radome thing on the top?”

It would look surprisingly like the A-50 Mainstay (despite the props), and it definitely gets my vote!


February 12, 2014 10:05 am


I have seen it argued elsewhere that Ocean should be kept in service with the RFA and frankly it is an utter non starter!

She has seen very heavy service and is close to being worn out, her most recent refit is to tide the vessel over to induction of the QE class when Illustrious retires.

Crewing and operating a worn out carrier does not make financial sense for the RFA or MOD.

Ace Rimmer
February 12, 2014 10:11 am

After reading TED and RT’s comments, is there not a case for an updated version of SOSUS to be fitted around the UK? If we have RAF Fylingdale as part of the air detection network, can’t we have a sub-sea network in a similar vein?

I know SOSUS was rendered obsolete by a new generation of silent Soviet subs (any points for alliteration?), but is it technologically feasible to try to develop a capable technology?


February 12, 2014 10:24 am

Pfft, radome is so last century, comformal AESA for the future! :P

And I’ve absolutely no idea why India would want to radome the A-50, it doesn’t really need the dome on top, even the old EL/W-2085 could be fitted flush against the hull. Must be some reason behind it, but damn if I can figure it out.

Edit: Finally figured it out. The radome was there, so they used it.

Ace Rimmer
February 12, 2014 10:30 am

@Observer, “Pfft, radome is so last century, comformal AESA for the future!”

Kids today, (grumble, moan, clenches pipe between teeth) in my day… ;-)

sgt pep
sgt pep
February 12, 2014 1:50 pm

The Uk needs to stop pretending to be a mini USA and accept the reality that it is no longer a global power and its reach will be even more diminished in the decades to come.

It can no longer go to war against decent opposition without its allies.

There is no budget for a decent fleet of P8’s so what’s the point of buying just 4 or 5 airframes? Is such a fleet sustainable in a war scenario against another power?

The Uk and other European countries need to accept reality and get their act together. We need a common European MPA fleet.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
February 12, 2014 2:03 pm

If we start creating european military units the UK starts losing the ability to act independently when needed. Most european countries have a completly different worldview to us and also are much less inclinded to act when needed.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 12, 2014 2:16 pm

@Engineer Tom…well said, but from past experience this could run and run…

A cautionary Gloomy

Brian Black
Brian Black
February 12, 2014 2:51 pm

I’m surprised that Captain Blimp didn’t write on how his Zeppelins could fill the MPA role.

I’d say there’s even money on the MoD solution coming completely from leftfield and leaving us all scratching our heads.

Elm Creek Smith
Elm Creek Smith
February 12, 2014 4:07 pm

Let me apologize in advance because I have been sick and haven’t had much sleep. That sort of thing makes me crankier than usual.

Why don’t you people just replace your whole air force with three Airbus 380 MPA/PAB/AEW-C/ISTAR/tankers and be done with it? Put everything on one airframe. The way things are going, it looks like Jordan will end up with a more capable force than the UK.

Politicians in both our countries seem to be more interested in buying votes from the dependent classes than doing their primary jobs of providing for the common defense. They dictate things like the JSF (F-35A/B/C) which against all odds seems like it’s going to be successful, then get panicky when the cost of fitting all the required features into one frame gets pricey. The F-22 should have replaced all our F-15s by now (except for F-15E Strike Eagles) but the price tag of that unmatched capability scared the pollys.

@TED –
“They say that in the RAF the fruit cake’s mighty fine.
One rolled off the table and killed a friend of mine.”

@GNB @X http://www.foundation3d.com/uploads/instruction/2012/10/2658-08-709962.jpg

Elm Creek Smith
Elm Creek Smith
February 12, 2014 4:17 pm

@Ace Rimmer – We can still use SOSUS to track Russian Tu-95 Bears. :D Who needs radar?

Elm Creek Smith
Elm Creek Smith
February 12, 2014 4:26 pm

@Brian Black – Fanjet Zeppelins? To be fair, they would have a tremendous load-carrying and loiter capability. I mean, you could send one of them to patrol the GIUK gap on Tuesday and have it return several weeks later. Think of the radar you could slap on the side of one of those things! You could search for subs and aircraft all at the same time! Catch a sub on the surface, and you could fly down and knock on the hatch, invite them up for tea!

BTW, I’m new here. Captain Blimp?

February 12, 2014 5:36 pm

Unless there is an increase in the Defence Equipment budget any purchase of an aircraft for MPA has to be at the expense of other items in the equipment plan. With this in mind, the one candidate which requires no development effort and which is relatively inexpensive both to buy and operate is the C295.

Various posters have rejected the C295 because it allegedly has insufficient range or even insufficient payload to carry out the required tasks.

The range argument seems to be based on 2 requirements:
1) patrol the GIUK Gap
2) support expeditionary operations.
The USSR is no more and with it have gone both GSFG and the Northern Banner Fleet, so there is no requirement to protect REFORGER convoys or to help Strike Fleet Atlantic to fight its way to the Barents Sea. Consequently we don’t need to maintain Anti- Submarine Group 2 or to patrol the GIUK gap. Protection for SSBNs leaving on patrol is currently provided by Merlin helicopters.

Task groups for expeditionary warfare based around a CVF will have their own organic ASW assets in the form of T23/T26 frigates with embarked Merlin augemented by Merlins based on CVF itself. A LRMPA would be merely a nice to have.

C295 may carry fewer sonobuoys than P8, but is this really a significant problem?

The utility of an MPA depends at least as much on its ASW systems as on the aircraft carrying them. C295 offers a variety of existing or well developed options:
1) The Airbus FITS – already operational
2) Systems developed for Nimrod MRA4
3) The system newly developed for Merlin HM2.

C295 fitted with the Merlin HM2 systems could be operated jointly with the RN providing the mission crew (thereby reducing the training burden) and the RAF operating and maintaining the aircraft.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 12, 2014 6:04 pm


“Various posters have rejected the C295 because it allegedly has insufficient range or even insufficient payload to carry out the required tasks.”

There is no allegedly about it, I have tasked them.

“The USSR is no more and with it have gone both GSFG and the Northern Banner Fleet, so there is no requirement to protect REFORGER convoys or to help Strike Fleet Atlantic to fight its way to the Barents Sea. Consequently we don’t need to maintain Anti- Submarine Group 2 or to patrol the GIUK gap. Protection for SSBNs leaving on patrol is currently provided by Merlin helicopters.”

No and No. look at Russian military spending and it ti still NATO policy to track all Russian SSNs in the Atlantic(we have just let others do our share), We do not fly Merlins down the Clyde ahead of a patrol it is a recurrent task done at range,

“Task groups for expeditionary warfare based around a CVF will have their own organic ASW assets in the form of T23/T26 frigates with embarked Merlin augemented by Merlins based on CVF itself.”

Yes and for defensive ASW inside the bubble it is fine to have true freedom to mvre the ability of an MPA to hunt choke points and clear both ahead and astern of a TG is invaluable.

February 12, 2014 6:10 pm

@sgt pep
“There is no budget for a decent fleet of P8′s so what’s the point of buying just 4 or 5 airframes? Is such a fleet sustainable in a war scenario against another power?”

RT is basically right: which “another power” do we plan to fight? Russia’s submarine fleet will decline for years to come and will ultimately follow the US pivot to Asia. Argentina has no submarines to speak of. Iran?

Another fact is that the USN is currently stamping a whole new ASW-strategy. Continuous surveillance to monitor not-so-AIP chinese subs, ASW-aircraft flying high enough to be virtually undetectable for submerged vehicles. Add to this new, faster ASW-helicopters resulting from the FVL-program within the 2025 timeframe, and you have game-changers all over the place.

The bigger question is, are we destined to follow the Americans? Or do we still believe in low-altitude, local theatre ASW? If we do the former, we cannot circumvent the idea, that UAVs are absolutely necessary to fulfil the mission. And if we then require and create UAV-sensor nodes, why can’t we create UAV-torpedo-carrier nodes? And wouldn’t be the best bet to intercept Russian subs be an easy to forward-deploy (thinking of Bear Island, Jan Mayen, Greenland, Iceland, aso) asset?

Re. Atlas; yes, this bird will be in service, someday. From day one, it will be a scarce asset. To think, we could spare a quarter+ of the fleet for “mod-on-ASW” seems to be wishful thinking. Buying slots or “used” aircraft from Germany, Spain or France will not be as easy, as some people suggest. Airbus will definitely have contingency clauses within the original contract to prevent such a deal between partner nations.

I can only see one way to make this happen. The coming SDSR will most likely not even mention the acronym MPA, because the RAF is not interested and such large aircraft doesn’t belong into the RN-territory. The RN will then make the MoD fund a bolt-on-kit solution a la Crowsnest to fill the gap. This would be a “backdoor-policy”, not something being formalized via SDSR. IMO, this is not the worst option.

If there exists a MPA-requirement within the SDSR, there will be a lease for some initial P-8 slots, which will later materialize into buys.

February 12, 2014 6:25 pm

In 2010 Brazil signed a deal with a French defence contractor DCNS for help constructing the first of the five nuclear powered hunter killer submarines (scheduled for launch in 2025 with their first domestic built diesel/electric next year) . In 2008 a deal with Argentina to jointly develop the nuclear reactors which will power these vessels and a nuclear powered version of their own submarines. Argentina’s was always unlikely to build its own nuclear sub as they are always short of cash but the recent discovery of the large amounts of gas and oil means their economy could turn around (According to the US Energy Department, the country has the second most important reserves of unconventional gas (shale gas) and the fourth most important of unconventional oil (shale oil)). The thought of Argentine SSN’s in our home waters is unthinkable. In 1982 Argentina had no deep strike capabilities but in 10 years could seal off the South Atlantic from any UK strike force trying to repeat the Falklands campaign. Long term we need a long range HI/LO capable MPA to put those potential threats on the bottom of the sea. The Atlas module idea would gives us that option whilst giving us flexibility on the core platform and a home built (European) long term solution that could be ramped up quickly in time of need.

February 12, 2014 7:43 pm


I understand that you are an insider and have insights that cannot be revealed on this forum but”there is no allegedly about it I have tasked them” is on a par with “trust me I’m a doctor” – more info needed.

Tracking Russian SSNs in the Atlantic may still be a NATO task – but the task, just like NATO itself is increasingly irrelevant. Do you think we would have abandoned the MPA role if Third Shock Army was still poised on the IGB?
If there is a threat from Russia to the UK it is much more likely to come from GAZPROM than from their navy.

Do Merlins possess a greater range than C295?

Perhaps you can illustrate your last point with an example?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 12, 2014 7:52 pm

I have been involved drawing up mission profiles involving CN295 and other MPA, I have seen the limitations imposed by CN295.

NATO is in no way irrelevant, it is actually more relevant than ever and the Russian defence budget is doing the opposite of ours. 3rd shock army always struggled to get Mid Atlantic funnily enough.

Merlin does not possess a greater range than CN295 but I have never seen a CN295 operated from a frigate. as for my last point I coulkd point you in the direction of a PWO course and Force ASW course, they are basic tactics.

February 12, 2014 8:50 pm


Of course CN295 has limited range as opposed to say P8 but so what – how does that affect its fitness for purpose as an MPA for the UK?

“NATO is more relevant than ever” , I know you like to fight your corner on all points but that statement is simply ludicrous.

Third shock army – Reforger – GIUK gap – has that joined up the dots for you.

As we both know I’m unlikely to be training as a Principal Warfare Officer in the near future so we can assume that you are unable to provide an example.

Once again it’s “Trust me I’m a doctor”.

Elm Creek Smith
Elm Creek Smith
February 12, 2014 8:53 pm


The Merlin HM.1 has a range of 833 km (450 nmi,[170] 517 mi) and endurance of 5 hours.

The Airbus C295ASW has an endurance of 11 hours. (Since it’s faster than the Merlin I figure it can go a lot further given an 11 hour endurance.)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 12, 2014 8:59 pm


Once again it’s “Trust me I’m a doctor”.”

As opposed to, trust me I have no qualifications?

It affects its usefulness by not being able to achieve certain tasks.

NATO is more relevant than ever” , I know you like to fight your corner on all points but that statement is simply ludicrous.

Bosnia. Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Support to the African Union, I could go on but why bother.
we may no l;longer need reforger but we still need to track Russian SSNs

February 12, 2014 9:09 pm

perc, think what APATS means is that you can clear the chokepoint before the taskforce reaches it if you have an MPA by sending it ahead of the ships. If all your ASuW systems are ship based, it would mean that the ships would have to be very close to the point to start sweeping, even with Merlin. This also might mean incredible time pressure on the escort ships as the carrier is going to be very close on their heels, so they might be forced to do casual sweeps instead of a proper look through, not to mention the time needed to double check suspicious datums. If time pressure is too tight, some areas that need double checking would have to be skipped. Not laziness or anything, more like trying to do a 15 minute job in 10min.

As for the doctor part, so far, the information he has posted before this seems tight. So far. :)

El Sid
El Sid
February 12, 2014 9:21 pm

I suspect that the best open source way for you to learn about the relative merits of different options is not to talk about it, but to have a play with different mixes of Merlin/C295/P-8 in :

[no connection, don’t even own a copy myself, but from what I’ve read it’s pretty much the best open-source model of post-WWII warfare on and around the sea. I suspect many here would learn a lot from it]

February 12, 2014 9:42 pm

Perhaps even limited range MPA such as the versatile C295 would give relief to asset deployment of more capable allies (i.e. our American and Canadian cousins) in any high intensity conflict with an enemy that has submarines/surface raiders . I am sure if there was the need to keep the seaways open in the North Atlantic a certain number of P8’s (and out of storage P3’s) would be relocated to the unsinkable aircraft carrier that is the UK.
We need to keep the skill sets in place to hunt down and sink enemy submarines. A platform such the C295 would keep those skills sharpened while a more capable long range MPA is brought on line.
P.S. C295 can be mid air refuelled , right? Endurance is then down to dispensable assets such sonar buoys and weapons released.

Elm Creek Smith
Elm Creek Smith
February 12, 2014 9:45 pm

We have kept the B-52 force effective over the years. It’s a shame the Vulcan bombers weren’t maintained. Given their range and payload, with a crew compartment stretch they could still be effective as MPA. Of course, providing ejection seats for the whole crew would be necessary.

February 12, 2014 9:57 pm


Still no examples I see. Instead of hiding behind your claimed status how about advancing the odd cogent argument.

Re NATO – apparently you see aid in expeditionary warfare to be more relevant than support against an existential threat to the UK as represented by WARPAC, interesting set of values.

Why do we need to track Russian SSNs – do you think they represent a threat to the UK?

As I said, a nice to have.

@El Sid

Thanks for the tip, but this being an internet blog I prefer logical argument.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 12, 2014 10:04 pm

@ Percolastor

Yes i do think Russian SSNs in the Atlantic represent a threat to out nuclear deterent.

WARPAC does nit exist, my values are the UK values.

In 2009 we used an MR2 to clear a channel ahead of a TG and later kill a 688 that was tailing the TG during an exercise, want more get a clearance.

February 12, 2014 10:10 pm

@APATS and @percontator both of you take deep breaths.

APATS I didnt realise you had this first hand knowledge and it certainly throws a new light on the debate. I can see percontators point but it is ridiculous often you cannot give examples which is fair enough. To be honest if a doctor tells me something I am infinetly more likely to listen to their point of view than than an educated sort.

So wheres your money? I suppose it depends whether we go for capability or cost savings…

One question I will ask is if you only really have a need to sanitise choke points and infront and behind the taskforce would the flexibility of basing of a C295 or even A400 mean that the range figures are less crucial. I understand if you don’t fly as far you have a longer endurance but going back to my old ways if you can put 3 295 in Akrotiri as opose to 1 P8 to cover a choke point is that any better?

February 12, 2014 10:48 pm

Please try not to be puerile.

I’m glad you realise that WARPAC no longer exists – that’s why NATO is losing its relevance.

Why do you think Russian SSNs represent a threat, we’re not competing for European hegemony are we?

As to your example, if you are unable to quote one, fine. Referring to an exercise involving a Los Angeles class which no one can verify does not help advance your argument.

Perhaps, as you claim to be an RN officer you could comment from your perspective on my idea for an RN mission crew in a RAF operated aircraft. Don’t worry I’m not after any classified information.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 12, 2014 10:57 pm

“Perhaps, as you claim to be an RN officer”

End of, sorry but I humoured you for long enough.

If you do not realise why Russian SSNs represent a threat, well you are on the wrong site try the guardian. I do not need to verify anything you need to get qa clearance at the moment yoy are the discretionary def of a little knowledge is dangerous.

February 12, 2014 11:13 pm


Patronising now as well as puerile.

Didn’t your supposed RN training teach you how to make a point or advance an argument. I say supposed because I would expect much better from an RN officer.

February 12, 2014 11:20 pm

Disagree with apas point of view if you like tis only the internet after all but he has been posting here long enough that I believe he is exactly who he says he is and needs no news links to back up his credibility.

February 12, 2014 11:26 pm

Fence sitting but I feel:

C295 core MPA capability UK EEZ (incl FI) – not sure how many airframes that would require and where they would need basing but maybe 15 active airframes, a couple in FI, 1 in Gib perhaps?.

C295 replaces C130 for SF role and any other types it can – BA146 etc?

Could stop there I think, just. Perhaps that is phase 1, re-establish core capability

Then consider small fleet of long range MPA to provide QRA style GIUK gap / SSBN cover and ability to deploy say 2 or 3 aircraft to support expeditionary forces – 6 to 8 airframes? Would be nice if there was an airbus one on the stocks, but it seems to me P8 is the only game in town

I am not sure about putting all the eggs in one expensive (P8) basket and hence 15+6 say is better than say 12 P8

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 12, 2014 11:31 pm

@ Percontaror,

APATS is absolutely crap at playing polo, wearing a stylish uniform, chatting up beautiful European girls in low dives in Germanic speaking countries, assessing terrain with an instinctive glance, and if he shoots anything like the last First Sea Lord, poaches other men’s game without realising it.

Which is one explanation as to why he is so valuable to this blog. He’s a graduate of the Andrew’s PWO course, and so therefore well qualified to talk about these sorts of things.

Anyway, winding up APATS is my job.


February 13, 2014 12:02 am

@Red Trousers

I have been reading this blog and occasionally contributing to for quite some time. I gathered from remarks that APATS had made in the past that he might be in the RN but I obviously missed the post where he was so explicit.
Hence my use of “claim” and “supposed” at which he has evidently taken offence – which was not my intention.

I put my ideas on this blog so that they can be discussed. I’m afraid I found APATS habit of hiding behind clearance levels and attempting to obfuscate with the use of jargon irritating so we got into a slanging match which was quite entertaining but of course became self defeating.

I’ll try not to rise to the bait in future.

February 13, 2014 4:09 am

perc, lot of us here are military or ex-military, and the clearance thing is a very very big issue for us. While loose lips may not sink ships at this point in time, it can and has been known to get people into a lot of hot water. He’s not “hiding behind clearance”, he’s bound by it, same as many here on this site.

And I think he has specialist training as an ASuW. He mentioned something along those lines a year or 2 ago, way before even this “debate” turned up, so unless you postulate that he is clairvoyant and setting up credentials for an argument a year or so in advance, I think we can take that he is what he says as a given. And if he is clairvoyant, he’s wasted as anything less than a head of department in a ministry. Or head of FEMA.

This means that as someone who more than trained in ASuW (he said that he tasked them before, i.e he plans and calls for their deployment), if he said that the -295 is too short legged, then I’d take a long and serious look at their range and endurance.

APATS, what are the range and endurance figures that in your opinion would be “adequate” for the GIUK gap? Is this only from the UK for full coverage or is the figures split half/half in coverage from the UK and Greenland station? And the Atlantic, how much of it should MPA cover to protect both navy ships and civilian shipping? (Yeah we talk about protecting navy assets, but most of the time, it’s the poor merchant shipping that gets sunk).

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
February 13, 2014 8:04 am

“I put my ideas on this blog so that they can be discussed. I’m afraid I found APATS habit of hiding behind clearance levels and attempting to obfuscate with the use of jargon irritating so we got into a slanging match which was quite entertaining but of course became self defeating.”

FFS Short@rse/Derek/Bob/Perc

Learn another big word will you? Please?

dave haine
dave haine
February 13, 2014 8:15 am


Aaah! Of course….

Unfortunately there are no points in recognizing another bo derek incarnation, apparently.

Maybe there’s a possible competition there?

dave haine
dave haine
February 13, 2014 8:29 am

Ohhh! And the bear pit was just getting going…..

dave haine
dave haine
February 13, 2014 8:34 am

There’s a lovely example of a medium girder bridge, just outside Bagber. allegedly, put up by the army in WW2 and still in use on an A-road.

The Securocrat
February 13, 2014 9:21 am

It is difficult to ‘prove’ the need for an MPA with ASW capabilities when you can’t talk easily about the threat. But there is some detail in open sources which can help.

Russian submarines were known to pose some sort of threat *before* the last SDSR: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/7969017/Russian-subs-stalk-Trident-in-echo-of-Cold-War.html

And so, as RT has said, is there any suggestion the threat has increased since the decision to gap the MPA was taken? There have been some high profile excursions leaked to the media:


And Russia itself has talked about ramping up submarine operations in the same way it resurrected Bear and Backfire flights (as part of demonstrating a ‘resurgence’ of the military), and has announced plans to build more submarines, even if there remain doubts over their industrial capacity:


So it is entirely possible, when looked at as a *future* threat, Russian submarines are indeed a higher priority than in 2010, not least given the lead times on getting an MPA back in to service.

Second, some of the assumptions under which the gap was accepted may have changed. The MOD’s correspondence with the Defence Committee last year (http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/defence/13-07-10-Gov-Follow-Up-Maritime-Surveillance.pdf) stated that studies had ‘highlighted operational and concurrency risks’ for airborne ISTAR. It is possible that, although the MOD is able to use its ‘layered defence’ (helicopters, surface ships and submarines) to compensate to *some* extent for the lack of an MPA, that assembling the necessary assets at any given point to provide enough depth or breadth is proving harder than expected, especially if, say, surface assets are being tasked elsewhere. Under those circumstances, revisiting the MPA gap might be prudent.

Finally, bear in mind the pressure of time and skills. The Seedcorn programme is keeping skills alive by putting MPA personnel in other countries’ crews. But if SDSR 15 doesn’t decide to regenerate an MPA, that programme will probably start to run down. After that, even if SDSR 20 then decided to bring back an MPA, it would be relatively harder and take longer as we’d be starting from close to scratch.

I’d also add that people keep saying “there is no money”; this isn’t true. There is £8 billion unallcoated funding within teh current equipment plan, mostly after 2015. The challenge is for any prospective MPA programme to make the case that it should be near the top of the list for handouts from that money. But in the first instance, it doesn’t necessitate a cut in current capabilities (on this, the new Major Projects Report and Equipment Plan should be published today, so we’ll see how much of the £8 billion is still intact).

Brian Black
Brian Black
February 13, 2014 9:58 am

Folks have asked, if we don’t have the money for more than four or five P8, is that still the route we would take?

General shrinkage of the Navy suggests that the government sees the overall fleet as a useful contribution to multinational operations, not as a service that is expected to conduct a high-end naval war on its own. Our solo efforts are more likely to look like Sierra Leone than the battle of the Atlantic.

Five P8 would be a reasonable contribution to an American led multi/bilateral operation; perhaps not stunningly impressive or critical on its own, but against the USN neither is a dozen Lightning and half-a-dozen escorts.

For a European or Anglo-French led affair, four or five P8, plus whatever the continentals can bring along, makes it easier to get the Americans to take part too; we’d be asking for additional assets, not begging for essential capabilities in their entirety.

The same could be said for the three RAF Airseeker. Are three aircraft sufficient to effectively cover even a single enduring task? They would make a reasonable contribution to an operation, and would help to smother suggestions within the American establishment that the US was having to bailout the next malequipped ‘Libya’, or that European defence does not pull its weight or invest in enabling capabilities.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 13, 2014 12:56 pm

Bridges. @ DH, is it this one?

Most travellers in North Dorset now encounter the Lydden for the first time. Flowing in an incised channel below the surrounding flood plain, the river passes beneath Twofords Bridge. It is essentially two bridges, with the original bridge carrying westbound traffic and probably dating from the early 19th century. In World War 2 it was considered that this structure would be unsafe for all of the heavy loads heading for the south coast in the build-up to D-Day. Canadian engineers built a steel lattice girder bridge parallel with the original structure and this survives to the present day, carrying eastbound traffic. It carries a commemorative plaque to D-Day. Just half a mile downstream the Lydden is joined by the Caundle Brook.” From http://www.dorsetlife.co.uk/2007/01/dorsets-little-rivers-the-lydden-and-the-caundle-brook/

It is listed: http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1304359

Seems to me to be a type of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callender-Hamilton_bridge

dave haine
dave haine
February 13, 2014 2:52 pm

@ TD

Touché… Although in my defence… I’m not really totally au fait with bridgery.
My recognition kind of went:
not big, or small, therefore medium; made of metal girders, therefore girder; crosses river, therefore bridge.
QED: medium, girder, bridge.

I know, I know…for my punishment, I shall go out and take photo’s of aforementioned bridge….in the rain.

That is indeed the one…

BTW, My dad a native of this area- seems to recall a RAC camp near Sturminster Newton, and indeed, there is an trading estate, with some very WW2, army looking

The Other Chris
February 13, 2014 2:55 pm

@Brian Black

Best argument put forward so far justifying small numbers of a more capable platform.

Wider question to everyone: Is P-8 capable enough?

The A400M is so far the only basic platform proposed for debate here that even approaches Nimrod MR2/MRA4 for range/endurance and payload.

dave haine
dave haine
February 13, 2014 3:00 pm

BTW, Near that bridge are some derelict, very WW2-army-looking buildings and large concrete hardstanding…the whole area is very redolent of an MT section. My old man, a native of the area seems to recall an RAC camp at Sturminster Newton, but I haven’t found anything in my researches…can anyone confirm or deny?

February 13, 2014 3:01 pm

I don’t see what massive capability leap P8 gives us over the P3 mid-life upgrade program to be honest, especially considering financial costs against each other.


dave haine
dave haine
February 13, 2014 3:13 pm


It’s not the capability upgrade so much as the expected life and the cost’s & difficulty of getting a legacy aircraft through military airworthiness. Really, unless you’re already operating the type, I think the P3 has had it’s day.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 13, 2014 3:22 pm

@The Other Chris….@Elm Creek Smith’s good-natured teasing notwithstanding, I still think that with a smaller RAF still on occasion required to operate world-wide undertaking a range of different tasks, our interests would be best served by larger numbers of fewer types, and a concentration of our efforts on high quality modules, and the ability to reconfigure elements of the fleet quickly at need….and the Atlas Flying Battleship with well thought through MPA modules seems like an obvious place to start…provided, obviously, they can work with the much bigger and thus more specialised fleet operated by the Cousins when required.


February 13, 2014 3:34 pm

@dave haine

OK fair one, if the difficulty of getting it through air worthiness is not economically viable, would a lease of a few P8 suffice so that we can pursue an Airbus option either A400 or a more comparable aircraft to the Boeing.

February 13, 2014 5:21 pm

Good articles TD,many thx for the effort.

My money would be on the A400M,all the pros sound like music to my ears especially the multishot capability and it could also fill up the gastanks of F-35’s .neat,it is a no brainer.

May I add 1 wildcard?It is the US-2 Shinmaywa which will bring very special capabilities to the table,it can actually float around a bit if need be,afterall 70% of the earth’s surface is water.
Not very realistic perhaps but interesting to ponder about.

The reason that the USN is getting high and fast?Do not know either but a slow and low circling airplane might be an easy prey for Idas;
Do mot know whether this thing actually works and would be some sort of last resort weapon for a subcommander.



February 13, 2014 5:40 pm

JJ, my bet is on that being as practically useful as a boat in the Sahara. Not to say that it might not get kills, but that the kill might be once in a few decades. It’s a self defence system against dipping helos, not MPAs, think MPAs might be out of its range bracket.

There is also this thing called operational procedure. If a sub gets hunted, it goes deep to get past the thermocline and goes silent, not surface to fire missiles. Totally the opposite on how people operate subs. Unless you are really into the idea of submersible battleships, then you might want to design a sub that surfaces, fires off area defence anti-air missiles, and kills surface ships with 16 inch guns. Which sounds really nice to be honest. Not practical, but nice. :)

February 13, 2014 5:48 pm

Question ~ why is the C27J Spartan missing as an option? I know it is more expensive than C295, but it has range and capacity lacking in the C295.
Curious & just asking!

February 13, 2014 6:05 pm

Having finished part 6 I’m leaning more towards A400 now, especially if we really can pick up some extra airframes at a discount. We’re doing them a favour really, taking them off their hands. (Perhaps I missed my vocation as a market trader?).

I do wonder though quite how far they could be “roll on, roll off” or “palletised” and still be top notch. Perhaps people are over egging how convertible (modular!) an A400 MPA/transport would be.

Somebody made the point that an A400 MPA would have alot of empty cargo space which would just be dead weight. I was under the impression that empty space doesn’t weigh much, but perhaps I misread his point.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
February 13, 2014 6:22 pm

@ Beeline

There isn’t a fully developed MPA version of the C27, but there is of the C295, the cost of developing the C27 into a MPA would offset much of the reason for going down the C295 route of no risk.

@ Wiseape

If the crew area was RORO with just a few cables to connect, the sensors pod would hopefully be simple to disconnect, leaving the sonar buoy and torpedo launchers, which hopefully wouldn’t be too hard to remove.
I have no idea if it would be possible, but I would look to have an install time of less than 24 hours, and a removal time of less than 12 hours.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 13, 2014 7:07 pm


There is indeed goodness in threads in which there is lots of circular whanging on and on and on about a small set of unexciting little planes, when fundamentals are not addressed such as “is there a real threat?”, “OK, so where in the world, and how often / how far?”, “is there any spare money?”, and “have the politics changed between two candidate PMs in 2015, one of whom had his hands on the knife that killed MRA4, and the other of whom doesn’t care about defence?”.

I’m sure TD is a master of Callender-Hamilton bridging and is only now just waiting to get your photo of it to then spark an entirely new set of posts, this time about something useful that is put up by determined men in the teeth of ferocious opposition@@@, and that then allows other determined men to get to OPFOR’s side of the river to deliver the good news. Not about job creation schemes for Kevins who only want a multi-engine tick as it makes their second career flying for Thompson Holidays cheaper to ease into.

@@@. My late lamented neighbour Lt Gen Sir Bill Jackson gained an immediate MC in Italy in WW2 putting up a Bailey Bridge with his Sapper Squadron with German machine gun fire coming at them from less than 100 yards away. Overnight, all night it took them. Very impressive.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 13, 2014 7:23 pm

….. And indeed I recall that TD has covered this sort of thing before: https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2011/11/uk-military-bridging-world-war-ii-italy/

February 13, 2014 8:43 pm

The British SSBN force are at present protected by Merlin’s with dipping sonar to check the area around which the deterrent boat is sailing and where she’s going ? The Merlins need to stay within a few hundred kilometres of the parent ship or a suitable nearby ship that an refuel and rearm her. Does this activity not telegraph to the ‘enemy’ approximately ( I understand 300km+ diameter circle is over 100,000 sq kilometres ) where the SSBN could be? Surely this is narrowing down their search area say in the North Atlantic alone from 100,000,000 sq kilometres ?I am guessing all sorts of subterfuge is practised such as multiple ASW units out at once or relying on our cousins to provide detection under pre planned search patterns by their P3’S etc to mix it up and keep them guessing but protecting our deterrent could be factored into their replacement cost of about £15Bn by tacking on an addition £2Bn for dozen LRMPA as ‘essential’ mission critical element which would need to be in service and up to speed before the first Sucessor’s launch?

February 13, 2014 9:11 pm

I think that may have been me.

Technically air has mass but anyway…

The empty space has to be enclosed by something I.e. metal :D which definitely has mass

If you can sling up fuel pods inside though that gets my vote!

dave haine
dave haine
February 13, 2014 10:07 pm

@ RT
Unfortunately, even a FJ tick is sufficient….two engines, see….And the RAF still train pilot chappies very well, as systems managers, in fact, which is exactly what airlines want. So if Kevin wants to turn into Nigel, it’s really not a problem. And unfortunately, if you were on £38k a year, with flying pay, and you were given two options:
Promotion into a non-flying role, but lose your flying pay, or,
Go civvie and get £45k plus allowances (which works out to about £13k, roughly, a year), and all the flying hours you can eat- 70-80hrs in 28days is a good average, 600hrs roughly every six months. In the RAF it’s more like 200-300hrs a year.

What would you say?

Anyway, I find aeroplanes rather fun….

Also, I’m not sure the particular bridge in question, was put up by determined men in the face of fearsome opposition, unless you count badgers, of course.

dave haine
dave haine
February 13, 2014 10:30 pm

You understand, I was talking about a bridge at Bagber….

Not the bridge in Italy, which I have no doubt was put up by brave & determined men in ferocious conditions.

I thought I’d better clarify, because upon re-reading my last post I felt it might come across as denigrating some very brave actions by some very brave men, which wouldn’t be right.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 13, 2014 11:18 pm

@ DH, point made with clarity in first post: I don’t look for argument with you.

Anyway, re badgers (which vie for first place along with strange Scottish-Canadian bridges in my estimation, at least when compared to MPA). Huge internal conflict. On the one hand, cleaners of waste and builders of useful embanking, one another hand carriers of TB that cattle get, the bastards, on the third hand brilliantly challenging nighttime shooting with .17 HMA, on the fourth hand more worthy of supporting than Hampstead liberals. ;)

On the fifth hand, also capable of moving goalposts (per some forgettable MP saying so pre Christmas).

What we probably need is Somerset badgers building Bailey bridges over the levels and taking command of the EA.

February 14, 2014 12:05 am


Pay attention at the back there, the badgers moving the goalposts MP and the overlord of the EA is one and the same, Owen Patterson – Environment Secretary.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 14, 2014 12:10 am

@RT – Fast scary bastards as well, if you meet them whilst weaving down a little used footpath after a gallon of ale in a dubious country pub where most of your fellow drinkers had two thumbs on each hand…we jumped in the hedge, he took the bloody path…

…and I’m sure he was in the four-ale bar, drinking pints, smoking a pipe, and biting the heads off rats for bar-snacks earlier!

Nostalgic and thus less Gloomy

February 14, 2014 9:26 am

There is also this thing called operational procedure. If a sub gets hunted, it goes deep to get past the thermocline and goes silent, not surface to fire missiles. Totally the opposite”

@Observer;True that has been operational procedure.However with this Idas thinghie you do not need to surface;

“The submarine does not have to surface, but can launch the multi-role missile from a torpedo canister under water. ”

Also bear in mind that sound under water moves much faster,think about it,also what if you do not have deep water like in the North sea?

It would be a 21st century interpretation of the USN “at the throat” tactic were you do no longer run/hide from your attacker(in this case a Japanese escort vessel)but turn around and shoot him.

Perhaps the USN anticipated this system and said let’s go high and fast.But then again we do not know that.

Cheers and do have a nice weekend,


 

dave haine
dave haine
February 14, 2014 9:57 am

@ RT
Yeovil has urban badgers now, which has made life interesting for the local inbred, feral cats….and those locals, whose nocturnal drinking habits lead to them lying in the road, suitably refreshed. Badgers being the inquisitive creatures they are…

I indeed prostrate myself before you….Actually, there is something about bridges in that area, You’ve got that Callender-Hamilton bridge; round the corner a listed, early example of pre-stressing techniques and even the stone bridge has some unique features.

I recently watched a badger and a fox having a fight, in similar circumstances…country lane, after a certain amount of ‘refreshment’. The badger was having it all his own way, and he wasn’t letting the fox run either.

February 14, 2014 10:39 am

JJ, read closer. It’s fibre-optic wire guided. How long can your wire be?

The main reason the US went high and fast has more to do with their bloody long coastline and their overseas area control/denial demands. They had to keep the Atlantic clear in the Cold War, and now they plan on keeping the Pacific clear. They can’t afford short ranged and slow. Not in terms of money, but in terms of things like REFORGER and maybe a new Pacific pivot REFORPAC :P And their 11 carrier groups and their LHD marine “assault carriers”. Strategic considerations, not tactical.

February 14, 2014 10:55 am

Follow on comment:

And things like that have been tried and proposed. All those projects are dead now. Examples include the American Stinger masts, the UK’s Blowpipe mast (SLAM), someone mentioned a similar sounding system to the SLAM by the US (SAIM?). All went nowhere. It sounds catchy, but to use it is the sub equivalent of having to fire a MANPAD standing on your head and touching your nose with your toes, You need to convolute operational procedure into a pretzel just to get the weapon into a usable situation.

February 14, 2014 11:28 am

If the UK was a Pacific rather than Atlantic power, I’d have MPA at the top of my list of priorities. But we are not. But we do need an MPA capability, primarily for home waters – and in the near term (before 2020, preferably). These two factors make cost and availability paramount concerns. Whatever we have needs to be cheap to operate and available off-the -shelf. While I love the flights of fancy around Atlas, it would be unlikely to be a mature system by 2020, almost certainly be unattractive to other customers (and thus require UK only development funding), and – dare I say it – a set of risks and capabilities too far after the scrapping of MRA4. MoD have already looked into UAVs and mixed-fleets (i.e. business jets) in some depth and decided against that option: they want a single platform to conduct all mission components.

The only realistic off-the-shelf options are C298 or P8. RN and RAF will want P8 if they can get it without compromising other programmes, the treasury will want C295. If a useful P8 buy means the treasury demands compensating with fewer F-35s, T26s, the scrapping of the AH64 fleet or reducing carrier strike to only one operational carrier, then all three services will plump for C295.

That’s reality, I believe.

February 14, 2014 12:33 pm

Well put.

February 14, 2014 1:12 pm

Actually, I believe you won’t get ANY MPA, so P-8 or -295 or C-130 or A400 or A350 is really a moot point. Reality most probably is “none of the above”.

As for the all in one airborne “God’s Eye” ELINT/MPA/AWAC/C4I plane, you can try, but my bet is that it’s too many jobs for one plane. Aside from the job procedure clash, how many people are you going to need on that plane? All these individual equipment and crew stacks up and their stations are not small. Add weapons and it all shoots sky high.

Too many jobs. Jack of all trades, master of none.

February 14, 2014 1:19 pm

Observer, I agree with you, although I think the MoD study only looked at UK maritime patrol requirements, they were not suggesting a one-size-fits-all for Sentinel, Sentry, Reaper and AirSeeker too. But it does include broad area surface surveillance, SAR, ASW, limited AsuW, maritime ELINT/ESM etc. I.e. Nimrod tasks.

The Other Chris
February 14, 2014 2:47 pm

UK Global EEZ zones that require patrolling, repeated from a previous comment on an earlier thread for convenience:

UK EEZ including the British Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies

Does not include Gibraltar or Cyprus. Note Antarctic zone for interest, it will become more important.

Also note that MPA taskings go far beyond these EEZ borders.

When you look at that map, not only does it burst the “local waters” bubble but you get a truer sense of the scale of operations and the feeling that a long range, high endurance aircraft with a decent payload and able to receive AAR would, at initial glance, provide the best means to fulfil requirements by a country mile.

I’m willing to appeal for extended ongoing cover from our Allies to continue covering a capability gap while the UK develops the required fleet that meets requirements. We can trade the likes of C-17, Sentinel and Watchkeeper flights amongst other reciprocal gestures. If this means buying P-8’s off the shelf in either sufficient numbers or in numbers enough to operate with Allies is the way to go, then so be it.

However, even the P-8 lacks the legs and shoulders that Nimrod had, and nobody has even proposed a solution to the boom AAR required by the P-8 in any UK proposal to date.

As for the “budget” options: C295 or whatever. They are not even worth the expensive packages they will be carrying if they can’t even reach where we need to them to go and hang around for the time we we need them to stay up.

When you look at the radius some of these budget options, keeping in mind the Royal Navy is still modelled as a Blue Water fleet, it’s clear these asthmatic suggestions are useless for our true needs:

Map radius tool. Bookmark and use this one whenever reading an article written by TD!

If you consider, as I do, that even the much vaunted and lauded P-8 is in reality a step down from the Nimrod then you begin to understand just how dark the MRA4 shadow is. You also begin to realise a platform on the order of the C295 isn’t even on the same set of steps.

Aside: No significant manufacturing is performed in the UK for the base C295, P1, P-3 or 737 aircraft. A400M wings are manufactured at Filton with the whole A400M Wing team managed and coordinated by Airbus UK.

@david haine

Question on logistics you may be able to assist with:

Is there a significant difference in the cost of maintaining a fleet of regionals compared to a fleet of narrow body transatlantics?

I’m trying to establish a handle on behalf of the debate for whether the infrastructure (maintenance, handling, training, administration, salaries, etc) for a new fleet such as the C295 fleet would be significantly cheaper than a 737 (P-8)?

Significant in terms of percentage/magnitude, not amounts.

This would aid proponents of the C295 type options in a C295 vs P-8 debate.

Attaching additional airframes with relatively minor modifications to the base model to an existing fleet for reasonable cost adds weight to the A400M debate. It could also feasibly be extended to the Sea Hercules debate if a small fleet is retained by the UK for any (Special Forces?) reason.

The Securocrat
February 15, 2014 10:39 am

To follow up my own post from earlier, the picture has been complicated by the information released in the Equipment Plan and NAO audit. I hadn’t realised that the £8 billion unallocated provision has been provisionally divided up between the Commands to give them an indication of what they have to work with (page 27 of the NAO’s report on the Equipment Plan: http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Equipment-Plan-2013-to-2023.pdf). This gives Joint Forces Command (who would probably be responsible for procuring an MPA) £1.5 billion. I’d guess that doesn’t leave enough to actually have a full procurement programme, unless JFC used up the lot just on an MPA and took something else out of service, leaving some sort of leasing arrangement as the next best answer, if there is one.

February 15, 2014 12:33 pm

@ Securocrat – that NAO reports is very interesting, not least page 27.

The army does very well out of the unallocated budget, getting £4.7b out of the £8.4b, does this explain why:

“58 The Equipment Plan 2012 to 2022 did not include funding or costs for the return and ongoing support of equipment purchased under Urgent Operational Requirements from Afghanistan. Urgent Operational Requirements cover purchases outside the core defence budget to support a specific operation. It is expected that such equipment will be disposed of once it is no longer needed for the operation it supports. In the case of
equipment purchased under Urgent Operational Requirements for Iraq and Afghanistan, the Treasury has acknowledged that much of the equipment thought originally to be specific to these scenarios is now relevant to a wider range of situations. As a result, the Treasury has agreed that the Department does not need to repay the capital costs of procurement if this equipment is still required. However, the Treasury has specified that the Department must be in a position to fund the support of that equipment.”

Does that indicate that some of the army’s planned big-fleet vehicle acquisitions won’t be very big in the end?

February 15, 2014 12:46 pm

To true securocrat its also worth noting that officially other than e3d and rivet joint none of the other istar aircraft have any budget from 2015 to continue operating and e3 needs an upgrade, don’t know if they come from the airforce budget or joint command budget.

February 16, 2014 12:27 am


I think you are right, there is a recent interview with the Brigadier who looks after the vehicle acquisition programme. He suggests that Scout SV will go ahead (indeed more variants might be procured to help fill the Bulldog/FV432 hole in the future), but the UV requirement will be paired right back with remaining turret-less Warriors upgraded through the AWSV programme to fulfill a variety of FV432 tasks and some additional Foxhound procured for similar roles with the protected mobility brigades – command, recovery, mortar, ambulance etc. The 6×6 or 8×8 Utility Vehicle buy will then be of minimum size, to equip the three mechanised battalions and provide protected mobility to support units in due course.

So in the near term it will be Warrior, CVR(T) family, Bulldog, Mastiff/Ridgeback/Wolfhound, Foxhound, Panther, Husky, Warthog and Jackal/Coyote. In the medium term Upgraded Warrior IFV, Upgraded Warrior Support Vehicle, Scout SV family, Mastiff family, Foxhound Family, Panther(?), Bulldog, Husky, Warthog and Jackal family, and in the long term more Foxhounds and a new wheeled utility vehicle will replace the remaining Bulldogs and Panthers and the Mastiffs will go to the artillery, engineers and logistics units.

February 16, 2014 1:13 am

I mentioned in one of the earlier maritime patrol threads that I thought it was possible that a civil maritime patrol requirement could emerge, separate to the military requirements. (A ‘Coast watch’ style solution to the EEZ patrol problem). This leaves the military to pursue their own high-end requirement, but possibly with a smaller budget. Anyhow, I think this could be some positioning for that sort of eventuality:


dave haine
dave haine
February 16, 2014 10:15 am

@ The Other Chris
Strictly speaking no. If it’s certified for air transport, it has to comply with the same maintenance and crew training requirements. Flight crew are paid slightly less, but technical personnel aren’t. Even the simulators aren’t any cheaper now.

It was a different matter when turboprops were things like HS748s, when a turboprop was a simple, robust aeroplane.

February 16, 2014 11:35 am

“NATO is in no way irrelevant, it is actually more relevant than ever and the Russian defence budget is doing the opposite of ours. 3rd shock army always struggled to get Mid Atlantic funnily enough.”

The Russian defence budget will be forced to concentrate on the spots of vital interest. This means: the Arctic and the Pacific.

The Northern fleet will lose it’s carrier, it’s cruisers a whole gen of destroyers and virtually any SSN around 2025. Still, actual replacements are only in the SSN-game, with each Yasen-class boat costing $3.5b. They have more than enough to spend to keep the current fleet floating. Don’t expect Russian navy numbers to explode.

February 16, 2014 11:39 am

But there will also be less crew on a turbo prop than on a 737. Also the cost of the various maintenance checks will be less of a regional turbo prop atr/q400 than on a 737 if you use a 737 as base you would be talking the turbo prop being around 75% of the cost from the maintenance side. From an operating cost perspective the turbo prop will outperform a jet by some margin the shorter the flight (500nm range or less) and the lower the operating high as fuel burn is more efficient in a turboprop. Jets will be preferred by airlines over longer range because there flight time will be shorter they will be able to get to a higher altitude so improve fuel burn and the longer routes generally will be between higher population centres.

dave haine
dave haine
February 16, 2014 3:40 pm

@ Mark

It’s the size and complexity of an aircraft that determines maintenance cost, not its propulsion system- a lear jet will be cheaper than an ATR42, and additionally, turboprops have the added cost of the life and maintenance cycle of the propeller assemblies. In my experience a F100 A check cost less than a F50.

Equally cabin staff complement minimums, are determined by the number of passenger seats fitted. One cabin crew per fifty seats, or part thereof.

Operating costs are, as you say, the big difference. A jet can achieve very similar fuel burn per passenger figures to turboprops at its optimum altitudes, but at the cost of getting to that altitude. Turboprops stay lower, and slower, but keep fuel burns low. The general rule-of-thumb, is that high density routes are operated by jets, the ultimate expression of this was the B747SP, short-haul, high-density and used for commuter journeys between Tokyo and the southern japanese islands.
Although, the difference between jets and turboprops is blurring- witness the rise of the embraer family- with ultra high bypass ratio turbofan engines, low-density, short-range routes are becoming feasible and economic for turbofans.

And of course, just to prove the rule, as it were, the Britannia, Tu-114 Rossiya and the Il-18 were all efficient long-range turboprops, and classic aeroplanes in my opinion.

February 16, 2014 3:54 pm

It is Dave and I specifically mentioned atr/q400 in relation to 737 as those numbers are what a major oem I have work for would consider representative for platforms of those sizes and complexity.

February 17, 2014 3:38 am

More news on the MPA front. The Canadians have deferred plans to buy new aircraft and instead will upgrade their existing Aurora fleet at a cost of C$2 billion. Presumably they will re-wing some aircraft.


There are some useful metrics here. If you already own the aircraft, C$2 billion will buy you a 10 year extension on 14 aircraft. Construct your fantasy fleets accordingly…

Presumably it means that Canada will exit high-end fixed-wing ASW circa 2030 as there will be no new aircraft in production. Of course, they could build their own – and this being Canada you cannot rule out the ridiculous – but if they don’t have the money or the appetite for it now, with the budget in surplus, I can’t see it as a high priority 10 years hence.

The Other Chris
February 17, 2014 9:54 am

@david haine and @Mark

Thank you, appreciated.

February 17, 2014 10:48 am

Given all the budget constraints etc. maybe the only way forward is:
10-14 CN275 operated by the Royal Navy with in flight fuelling provision
Bring the remaining stored Merlin HM1s up to HM2 standard

If funds allow in addition : 3-8 P8s RAF operated
10 new buld Merlin HM2

This would help close the ASW gap, keep key skills going, the CN275 and Merlins can be based at Culdrose with forward basing at HMS Ganet to cover ssbns

dave haine
dave haine
February 17, 2014 12:48 pm

@ Mark
I think it would be instructive to compare the costs for the ERJ145 family and the ATR42 famliy. Both aimed at a comparable market sectors….

February 19, 2014 6:19 am

It’s a fair cop, guv. (@TD)

Still, I think that should rule out a P3 refurbishment as anything like value for money.

The Other Chris
February 19, 2014 9:13 am

Heh heh. Just don’t mention “re-wing”! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it all right.

February 21, 2014 4:02 am

The Australian government’s long anticipated order for the P-8A has finally materialised. Eight aircraft with a budget of AU$3 billion (and options for four other aircraft, subject to the views of the next Defence White Paper). The headline figure is AU$4 billion, but $1 billion of that is apparently new facilities.


The Other Chris
February 21, 2014 3:41 pm

Worth noting the A$4 billion figure is the budget of the whole “AIR 7000 Phase 2B” project (Phase 1B is the UAV component) .

“[MQ-8C Triton is] a very viable option”

Phase 1B was allocated A$1.0 to A$1.5 billion. Phase 2B was allocated A$3.5 to A$4.5 billion. We know “up to” A$1 billion will now be spent on new facilities. I wonder how much of that budget is being spent?

Interesting these are P-8A’s, given the A$80 million investment in the P-8I.

February 21, 2014 4:34 pm

A gd frame of reference for the amount of change we need to find dwn the back of the sofa to acquire a p8 maritime patrol aircraft capability.