Binoculars and Maritime Patrol

The MoD have now confirmed that an RAF Hercules has joined the effort to locate the crew of the yacht Cheeki Rafiki and predictably there has been criticism about the well known situation of the UK being sans Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

The first thing to note is that the search area is well outside the UK SAR responsibility zone, as defined by the 1979 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.

Cheeki Rafiki Search Area
Cheeki Rafiki Search Area
Cheeki Rafiki Search Area
Cheeki Rafiki Search Area alternative view

And here is the zone that the UK, by international agreement is responsible for

UK SAR Region Map
UK SAR Region Map

The US Region

US SAR MAP
US SAR MAP

The global areas

Global SAR Responsibility
Global SAR Responsibility

It is perhaps a minor point, but important nevertheless.

There also seems to be the inference that should we not have scrapped Nimrod MR2 and cancelled the MRA4 programme in the 2010 SDSR the unfortunate crew would by now have been found and back with their families.

Beyond the distasteful situation of seeking to make a point about Government expenditure and defence decision making whilst the men are still missing it is just not correct to make that assertion. The inference that chaps with binoculars are somehow Monsieur Mouse kind of misses the point somewhat and it also assumes that so called proper maritime patrol aircraft don’t use chaps with binoculars at all.

Do my eyes deceive me

Pilot searches with binoculars Photo: An Australian pilot searches for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Pilot searches with binoculars Photo: An Australian pilot searches for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Captain Adams uses binoculars to search for debris in the Indian Ocean some 1,500miles southwest of Perth
Captain Adams uses binoculars to search for debris in the Indian Ocean some 1,500miles southwest of Perth
Wing Commander Rob Shearer looks through binoculars on the flight deck of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft during a search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean, March 29, 2014. (
Wing Commander Rob Shearer looks through binoculars on the flight deck of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft during a search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean, March 29, 2014.

3 example images from the recent search for MH370, dedicated Maritime Patrol Aircraft, binoculars.

The US Coastguard have dedicated long range aircraft for exactly this task, the HC-130J has for example a stated range of 5,000 miles, compare that to the current poster child of the ‘proper’ maritime patrol aircraft fraternity, the P8 Poseidon, weighing in at 4,000 miles.

Sir Gerald Howarth reportedly said

It’s simply a disgrace we took this capability out. This illustrates the bind into which the MoD was put. It’s not just this event which has exposed this lack of capability, it’s also the hunt for the Malaysian airline.Let’s say these had been American sailors in waters for which we had responsibility.

We wouldn’t have been able to deliver.

And the MoD predictably blamed the Labour ‘Black Hole’

On Malaysia, we contributed a great deal in an area very far from our area of responsibility.

If the Cheeki Rafiki, or American sailors, not that should make any difference to our treaty obligations, we would still be using chaps with binoculars and could have called on mutual aid agreements with our allies to supply the long range search capability with better sensors.

I am not saying all is well and it is not preferable to have a dedicated maritime patrol aircraft but there has been a lot of shabby political point scoring and frothing at the mouth from people who should know better.

 

 

TWO UPDATES

 

#1 A Comment by Navy Lookout (Save the Royal Navy)

Tweets by their nature are short and do not allow for full context and detailed explanations. But this does not mean the Tweeter fails to understand full context or the point is invalid

The Tweet was in response to RAF Herc being sent – not the SAR equipped USCG H130J

Basic point remains that specialist LRMPA would be preferable to ‘make do and mend’ RAF Herc

Yes the binoculars headline in Telegraph is silly – what they should say is RAF Herc crew will not have benefit of properly mounted infrared/high res cameras

Yes cancellation of MRA4 was complex issue (Eg. Project based on ancient Nimrod airframe should have never been started – RAF, BAE and Labour govt can take credit for that lunacy) 2010 SDSR should have retained existing Nimrods while P8 bought or leased as quickly as possible

Crass to label the discussion “political point scoring” – just observing impact of political decisions on real people’s lives

Yes search it is outside of our treaty obligations but reasonable for UK to complain when USCG gave up after just 2 days

Few people quite understand just how vast our oceans are and how difficult SAR can be, even with modern tech. Just like MH370 there is a strong chance they will never be found but we owe it to them to do our best to try

 

#2 SirH’s view

http://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/thoughts-on-maritime-patrol-aircraft.html 

 

 

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Sir Humphrey
May 22, 2014 9:01 am

Well said TD – this is a human tragedy being turned into a debate about something totally different. Yes we need MPA, but it would have made not one iota of difference if we had them in this case.

The PSL update on this is here – http://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/thoughts-on-maritime-patrol-aircraft.html

NavyLookout
NavyLookout
May 22, 2014 9:19 am

Tweets by their nature are short and do not allow for full context and detailed explanations. But this does not mean the Tweeter fails to understand full context or the point is invalid

The Tweet was in response to RAF Herc being sent – not the SAR equipped USCG H130J

Basic point remains that specialist LRMPA would be preferable to ‘make do and mend’ RAF Herc

Yes the binoculars headline in Telegraph is silly – what they should say is RAF Herc crew will not have benefit of properly mounted infrared/high res cameras

Yes cancellation of MRA4 was complex issue (Eg. Project based on ancient Nimrod airframe should have never been started – RAF, BAE and Labour govt can take credit for that lunacy) 2010 SDSR should have retained existing Nimrods while P8 bought or leased as quickly as possible

Crass to label the discussion “political point scoring” – just observing impact of political decisions on real people’s lives

Yes search it is outside of our treaty obligations but reasonable for UK to complain when USCG gave up after just 2 days

Few people quite understand just how vast our oceans are and how difficult SAR can be, even with modern tech. Just like MH370 there is a strong chance they will never be found but we owe it to them to do our best to try

x
x
May 22, 2014 9:29 am

In a way it is awful to have to sink to the politicians’ level of never letting a tragedy go to waste. I may not be much for tweeting but that isn’t to say I am for closing down the right of others’ to express their opinion on a subject in a reasonable manner through whichever channel they choose.

But until the MoD start publishing weekly the date, times, and longs and lats for unknown subsurface contacts within range of CASD how will man in the street be able to form a considered opinion on the MPA gap? Wait for a nice tragedy where all the survivors survive (!) and everybody gets home for tea, cakes, and medals before 1700? Wait until a Kilo surfaces in the Pool of London perhaps? Leave it to the professionals perhaps? The professionals who often tell the man in street that his opinion isn’t worth a fig. Perhaps we could do as the Swiss do and hold a referendum on such matters? But if we are to hold a referendum on an issue the voters need facts on which to form an opinion. Perhaps the MoD could publish………..

As for binoculars,

Obsvr
Obsvr
May 22, 2014 9:37 am

Plenty of recent of recent pics of Orion crews using binos over the Indian Ocean recently.

Sir Humphrey
May 22, 2014 10:09 am

@Navy Lookout

If maximum realistic survival time is 24 hours, what would you consider a realistic search time considering number of assets deployed and probability of survivors? At some point someone has to say stop – do we do this based on logic or emotion?

Martin
Editor
May 22, 2014 10:33 am

I wonder if anyone had the bright idea of sending our C130 K’s which atleast have the Titan 350 EO sensor. I think we still have them.

Martin
Editor
May 22, 2014 10:35 am

I would love to get Sir h’s take on the source at the MOD who blamed MRA4 on The mess that Labour left. I thought civil servants were suppose to be A political. also failed to point out that MRA4 project predates labour and along with T45 and Astute was started in the last days of the major government.

x
x
May 22, 2014 11:08 am

@ TD

Never ever said you were closing anybody down did I? Was there an @TD anywhere? My comment was a general musing.

When is the right time to debate this then? If you view the armed forces as literally an “emergency” service then it will be when “emergencies” occur that a lack of resources will be brought to the fore; whether that emergency is war, act of terrorism, or a SAR event. “Those people wouldn’t have died if they hadn’t closed the local fire station……..” “Now isn’t the time to be discussing the lack of fire cover…..” Look at all the unnecessary cooing there is when Ivan sends a Tu-95 for a jaunt. This sinking may be out side our SRR, but if it were 1 mile inside “we” would still be impotent.

Chris
Chris
May 22, 2014 11:37 am

Martin – I recall MRA4 when it was a mere pup called RMPA. The original requirement didn’t seem outlandish; three competitors threw bids in so it must have seemed to be doable… The airframe issues (trying to wed a new CAD/CAM wing to a 1950s handmade fuselage) should have been foreseen, but starting with Comet 4/Nimrod and hoping to make a modern aircraft from it was perhaps naive all round. Had one of the other teams offering other airframes been given the job, you have to wonder if the success would have been greater and the cost less…

What I can’t comment on, not because its sensitive but because I don’t know, is whether the RMPA requirements were ‘improved’ as time passed. Most MOD requirements creep (gallop in some cases) towards some end state far removed from that which the bid was built against. Obviously FRES is a regularly quoted example where the sub-20t C130 gauge rapid reaction vehicle became a 35-42t tank-sized creature. MPA would have been unusual in the extreme if the requirements had remained stable. Let’s assume they didn’t then. Chasing the moving target of system capability, with all the consequential impacts on airframe, avionics, cabling, processing power, comms kit etc might have proven more of a challenge than bolting nice new wings into a gap half inch too short. Someone somewhere should have been on hand to call the requirement jamboree to order; to put the target back to something realistic and achievable. It appears that between 1997 and 2010 no-one was willing to apply realism to the business of MOD procurement.

This then I suspect is the blame being thrown about. The MOD procurement overspend, whatever value it might have had, grew considerably while New Labour was in power. The cancelling of MRA4 by the returning Tories was under the auspices of stemming the funding haemorrhage, with a side-order excuse that it would never be finished, but undoubtedly included a huge dose of ‘look how bad the other lot were’ politics. No-one outside the project would be able to tell if there was a fighting chance of making it work or not, but it was clear that up to the point of termination it had cost much more than originally agreed and had progressed far less than it should have. A mixture of creeping requirements, a prime contractor willing to play along and milk the system, and perhaps over-optimistic subcontractors conspired to make a real mess.

Sir Humphrey
May 22, 2014 12:51 pm

Martin – you assume a CS made the comments, but I’d place an exceptionally large bet that it was a military source.

Nimrod suffered from the curious problems of the noughties – unwillingness to accept HERRICK was the reality for 10 years and cutting aspirations to meet this. The reluctance to kill programmes, and an unwillingness at political level to switch off a programme meant many things dragged on for far too long as a result. Many people to blame for it, mil, civ and politician, and of all party colours. Essentially it was a study in how not to do procurement.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 22, 2014 4:30 pm

You use what you have and unfortunately this is what we have. Would a proper MPA be better? Yes undoubtedly but as TD pointed out it would not have these men safely back in their beds.

I once had to get an RAF E3D to use a digital SLR to take some pics and mail them to me when the Italian Atlantic that was supporting it went tits up(again). You use the tools at your disposal.

Mark
Mark
May 22, 2014 4:50 pm

“When is the right time to debate this then? ”

At an sdsr when the budgets are set. Then you leave it to the people in charge to make a choice of where they want to spend money. They should have a fair idea how much each capability should cost to generate and sustain and how much more they’ve been allocated as a department. So they can lay it out, do we give people a pay rise, buy a submarine, buy and aircraft carrier, buy a fighter, buy a mpa or buy a tank keep selecting till the money runs out and tell them in charge this is what were buying this what were not this will mean we can do this and we can’t do this and round it goes till agreement reached.

Certain people on here have been quite clear many times they wanted the military out of the SAR business and out of the “coastguard” business can’t complain now that it is. Ask the department of transport how there planning to cover long range SAR at sea.

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 22, 2014 8:00 pm

Whoever decided to re use old fuselages on the MRA4, doomed the project. They should be named & shamed. Had the Nimrod MRA4 been all new, I think it would have been in service a decade ago.
We are where we are. I have often posted that the 10 RAF short body C-130J, should not be scrapped , but converted to USCG HC-130J standard.
As for survival at sea, I remember HMS Hurricane from WW2. A liner taking children away from the Blitz to the safety of Canada, was torpedoed. No rescue ship was close enough, the survivors should have just given up & died in their lifeboats. Yet those kids had grown up on stories of the Royal Navy, so they clung on. When the captain of the Hurricane got the message, he should have ignored it as there was no way that he could get to the survivors in time. Yet that ship lived up to its name & defied the odds to get there fast enough to save many souls.

Chris
Chris
May 22, 2014 8:15 pm

JH – I don’t know I wasn’t on the BAE MPA team, but I could believe the original bid might have stated new airframes complete, all to the 1950s drawing set but made new, with better stress analysis and of course all identical components in each aircraft. I can also believe the organization I used to know by the name SPS, the MOD’s price negotiators, might have badgered and nipped and pennypinched to the point where BAE might have said “OK so we’ll try to use the old fuselage with the new wing but you must understand there will be interface difficulties of unknown scale that MOD will have to cover from contingency; we assessed new airframes to be the lower cost option.” and SPS would have gone away proper pleased with themselves that they got the price down by another £90m or whatever. Penny wise, pound retard…

I’m not saying that’s how things happened, just that it wouldn’t have been surprising nor the first time it had gone that way.

Mark
Mark
May 22, 2014 9:24 pm

A new fuselage design was worked on for about a year by a design team but was predominately aimed at other markets.

Why use a hercules for a coastguard task other aircraft which are much cheaper can do the job. France, Japan Australia to name but a few have them already.

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 22, 2014 10:20 pm

Mark, because the C-130J are with the RAF now. Other aircraft we would have to buy. There is no risk with the conversion as the USCG have already done it to their C-130J.

Mark
Mark
May 22, 2014 10:27 pm

John well not for much longer and they would be as expensive to convert and operate as buying a new coastguard plane for the coastguard. There’s plenty of risk they’ve been worked hard.

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 23, 2014 9:05 am

Mark. There is a worldwide industry in C-130 life extension, upgrades, etc. Marshalls of Cambridge has Lockheed approval to replace the centre wing box on C-130J. Austria bought RAF C-130K that were supposed to be at deaths door, gave them a quick, cheap refurb & is happy to fly them around. Do not fall for RAF propaganda that happens whenever they want something, new, shiny, pointy & expensive.

Martin
Editor
May 23, 2014 9:11 am

@ John Hartley

I can’t believe an HC130 conversion on our C130j’s would be cheap no and how much life can be left in those airframes.

Its a valid point that it really should not come down to the military to provide long range SAR in the mid Atlantic. The he department for transport + the DTI should find the budget and do it through the coast guard. MPA’s like P8 are far too expensive for such work.

Kibbitz Van Ogle
Kibbitz Van Ogle
May 23, 2014 3:42 pm

And then there is the not remotely tasteless question of why folks sail on craft that can sink as readily as 99.9% of all yachts do.

You’d understand the challenges of making a cargo-carrier plausibly ‘sinking-resistant’.
But a sporting sleigh-ride with only a handful of people aboard is technically not prohibitively complex, neither hard to build nor expensive to by design and construction, or in selected cases later upgrades, to make highly ‘sinking-resistant’ in hard structural form. Meaning no inflatable ‘bags’ or other ‘temporary’ and typically highly-optimistic such measures.

The Atlantic has been crossed under sail for at least 1000 years. If any ‘re-enactment’ urges need to be given into, let’s only indulge with sensible hardware that does not implicitly and then explicitly depend on others to risk their lives, and services to burn into their budgets, trying to find you in that cute inflatable pup-tent offshore, because your ride ignominiously sank out from underneath your…

It would be interesting to find official numbers on how many flight-hours in search of ‘yachties’ the NIMRODs accumulated to de facto shorten their overall chronological service-life. Is it 5%, 15%, 30% ??

Whether as a go-fast sailing-machine or a sedate global life-aboard cruiser, hard-structural (permanent !) integration of ‘sinking-resistance’ is technically perfectly doable, and indeed so without ruining daily ergonomics by e.g. insisting on 5 solid bulkheads in 40-feet of hull, or other such schemes.

Eventually, insurance-companies will wake up, along with spouses, children, families etc.

Zaitsev
Zaitsev
May 23, 2014 4:04 pm

Except it didnt sink it capsized. Seems like the keel fell of and we dont know why. In the sea they where in they where fucked as soon as the keel dropped off. A life raft was their only option at that point. They where sailing on a boat that was rated for the voyage they undertaking. According to the manufacturer it had been built to withstand the conditions, it is not as far as i can tell the fault of the crew for the failure. The Reason they where making the crossing was not actuely to piss you off but to race the boat in antigua. Infact insurnance companies know their stuff or they would have all been out of buiness years ago, and insist on reguler inspections of the keel and hull. Your argument is akin to saying that a driver who was driving a car down the motorway when the steering wheel falls off, is at fault because he should of insisted the manafactuer provide 300mm of armour to protect him in that eventualty, even though this would limit his speed to 30 miles and hour.

Kibbitz Van Ogle
Kibbitz Van Ogle
May 23, 2014 5:02 pm

Zaitsev
“Seems like the keel fell of and we dont know why” refers to a not-unheard of ‘phenomenon’, apparently deemed acceptable by some, along with their insurance-brokers. There seems to be casual ‘nuttiness’ at work here that routinely lives with the equivalent of wings coming off airplanes again and again – with even an ‘inspection-program’ to somehow support clearly-dubious structural geometries that have again and again made this problem all too common – along with a growing list of fatalities and damaged survivors.

And even without the keel, why should the hull not support life for extended periods of time if it was “built to withstand the conditions”.

And why can’t the rig be jettisoned to allow the hull to right itself ?
A matter of 3 / 5 /10 bolts at most ?! Better put likely just 2 or three dedicated lever-action shroud-disconnects so familiar from the ancient geometries of a ‘Running Back-Stay’ for instance. Just let the shrouds go, slack out the running rigging far enough so that the mast does not ram-rod the hull into pieces – assuming you’re interested in salvaging the stick. With the hull pushed to lee, the rig would thus act as a sea-anchor, steadying her again endless broadside roll-over episodes.

And if the builder and the owner made no provisions for the hull to let go of the rig once the keel fails, then why should the rig not stay at the surface, likely just by the enclosed volume of the mast alone ?
One is left to assume that it had no internal buoyancy, likely left ‘wide-open’ to immediately flood – driven by rigging- and racing-convenience.

Even if forced to remain on her side, if highly sinking-resistant, the hull should still support the crew for long enough – and assuming sensible bottom-color-choices for such not unheard-of eventualities offshore – and would remain visible as a distinctive non-natural silhouette from the air and surface.

As to your automotive analogy, there are no car-geometries available and on any roads that nowadays would produce such a cascade of catastrophic hull-structural and hull-functional failures as you are referring to here as de facto ‘normal’.

Here the ‘steering-wheel’ did not just ‘fall off’.
Here the owners/drivers explicitly chose a racing-ambitions-driven hull- and thus structural geometry that is well-known to be ‘challenging’ in its basic underlying assumptions via previous failures. These geometries would be acceptable in a limited (‘highly-permissive’) lake-, bay-, limited strait-environment with support-services standing-by throughout the scheduled race.

So you can use an Bernie Ecclestone F-1 special to beat it 500 miles over a challenging race-course at highest velocities. But you’d be ill-advised to then take it cross-country through heat-wave and snow-squalls, rush-hour.

Here they decided to take this ‘cutting-edge’ go-fast geometry all the way offshore, and then apparently did not back it up with hard permanent ‘sinking-resistance’ or at least rig-jettisoning to allow her to right herself. Once that scenario was ‘programmed’, then you decided on a level of exposure and thus depend upon ‘luck’ to an extent not even correctable by the most devoted SAR-air- and sea-fleets.

And that is where the sporting ‘fun’ ends.
Tragic.
No doubt NOT 100% preventable – nothing is.
But what are the odds the builder can take a sister-hull and then demonstrate a sequence of ‘fail-safe’ back-up systems along the line mentioned above – or better ones yet ?! Are we going to see a YouTube video showing her superior offshore-correct safety-systems ?

My sympathies lie – again and again (!) – with the surviving family and friends.
Fortunately, apparently no SAR-folks got hurt or were lost.

Topman
Topman
May 23, 2014 5:44 pm

@ JH

‘Austria bought RAF C-130K that were supposed to be at deaths door, gave them a quick, cheap refurb & is happy to fly them around.’

Don’t mistake the fact that another country buys our equipment with thinking that there is a great deal of life in them. Many countries use aircraft at a lower rate than we would/do. Austria is a good example, there usage rate of, say Typhoon is much lower than the rate we use Typhoon. This means theywill make do for much longer as they can make the few hours remaining last much longer than we could.

Zaitsev
Zaitsev
May 23, 2014 7:16 pm

@Kibbitz Van Ogle
We could do all thatstuff you suggested, or we could hold the manafactures accountable because they sold a product on the basis that it was built to a certain standard and it has failed that standard (assuming that the crew did not run the yacht aground). Having the keel stay on is a perfectlly reasnable exspectation and boats have had high aspect keels for decades with thousands of production boats so that the manafactures should by now have a preety good idea what strength to make the keels so they dont fall off.

Simon257
Simon257
May 23, 2014 7:18 pm

The BBC are reporting that the USCG have found the Hull of the missing yacht Cheeky Rafiki.

Simon257
Simon257
May 23, 2014 7:34 pm

Update: US Navy Warship has found the hull. A swimmer has gone to the Yacht. He was unable to gain access to the cabin.

Kibbitz Van Ogle
Kibbitz Van Ogle
May 23, 2014 11:27 pm

Z. wrote
“…We could do all thatstuff you suggested, or we could hold the manafactures accountable because they sold a product on the basis that it was built to a certain standard and it has failed that standard (assuming that the crew did not run the yacht aground).”
Some caveat at the end of that statement ?!

How about running into and over just a 20-foot shipping container afloat on Styrofoam-packing, air-bubbles in plastic wrapping etc. ? There are lots of 20- and 40-footers loose out there.

‘Dead-men’, i.e. massive tree-trunks that won’t be cut by sailing through them. Oldest obstacles afloat.

You can call for more dense paperwork, ‘standards’, matching reams of regulations, heck a whole union of x-ray machine wielding inspectors etc.

Or you can prepare the craft with at least the immediately doable measures discussed above.
And don’t count on folks risking their lives for your casual assumptions supporting the urge to add up ‘Atlantic miles’ to brag about.