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.
RAF forced to use binoculars to search for British sailors after patrol planes scrapped http://t.co/2Wr0w0gi71
— DefenceUK (@DefenceAssoc) May 21, 2014
MT @Gabriel64869839 C-130 to search for sailors at sea. Good luck, but not best aircraft for this kind of thing. If there still were MPAs…
— NavyLookout (@NavyLookout) May 21, 2014
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.
And here is the zone that the UK, by international agreement is responsible for
The US Region
The global areas
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
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.
#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