Maritime Renaissance

I think he used the words ‘punching above our weight’ but have a look at this from Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC DL First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Royal Navy.

The video is from the Credible Maritime Partners in the 21st Century conference in the USA at the Center For Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

A discussion on the UK’s approach to maritime security in the current global security environment. Admiral Zambellas addresses how the Royal Navy will maintain the capabilities to remain a relevant and dependable maritime partner to the U.S. Navy and other allies into the future

It is just under an hour long but worth watching.


Additional reporting at the Seapower Magazine (H/T Lee)

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July 31, 2014 6:19 am

“He said that by 2022, the RN’s share of the U.K. defense budget will reach 50 percent.” – wow…

The Other Chris
July 31, 2014 6:31 am

Some capabilities cost more. It doesn’t mean they are more important than a capability that costs less.

Note that MPA has been highlighted again. The topic may not be grabbing headlines but there’s a constant stream of its mention.

Do we think MPA will return to the RAF? Makes sense to me especially if it’s planned to be a Multi Mission Aircraft.

July 31, 2014 6:58 am

@ The other Chirs

I think MPA must return to the RAF as they have the active crews on seedcorn and the FAA has almost zero fixed wing aviation capability.

I am guessing the RN taking up 50% of the budget in 2022 is the equipment plan that includes trident successor which is not really a navy project but a central one run by the navy. Probably also includes F35B purchase.

Current budget for the Navy is 2 billion vs 3 billion for the RAF and 7 billion for land forces inc RM. The total equipment budget is about 16 billion a year and Trident and successor will be taking up a massive chunk of that in 2022.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 31, 2014 8:59 am

“I think MPA must return to the RAF as they have the active crews on seedcorn and the FAA has almost zero fixed wing aviation capability.”

Remind me again which service has the most ASW and ASuW trained aircrew? Plus active force structure and training pipelines…..

July 31, 2014 10:19 am


‘Remind me again which service has the most ASW and ASuW trained aircrew? Plus active force structure and training pipelines’

Good point, but it’s not just seedcorn that counts in the RAF’s favour. Any future MPA is probably going to have to be based at an RAF station and the service has 54/56 squadrons at Waddington providing OCU/OEU support for all ISR platforms.

The Other Chris
July 31, 2014 10:30 am

Would it be a Maritme Patrol Aircraft program (RN) or a Multi-Mission Aircraft (RAF) program?

Assume P-8A selected purely as an example: If the program started out as an MPA with the RN and later received AAS / AEW improvement increments, would it shift entirely to the RAF or would only the MMA aircraft move? Would it remain with the RN?

Would there be a Joint fleet, or Joint support for separate fleets?

Apologies for the “20 questions”.

July 31, 2014 10:41 am

Multi-mission aircraft don’t work for one very simple reason. An airframe flying surveillance over Afghanistan can not be flying ASW patrols over the North Sea at the same time. Equally, that aircraft flying surveillance missions over Afghanistan is carrying a lot of weight and cost that it does not need for that mission if it is also an MPA (weapons bay, sonar systems etc) meaning it is unnecessarily expensive. Not to mention the training burden that goes with such an idea.

Far better to procure separate types.

The Other Chris
July 31, 2014 11:08 am

MMA context being Boeing’s approach to supply the P-8x platform as a fleet, you then add your mission equipment to their pluggable architecture:

Mission agnostic workstations, payload agnostic weapons bay and hardpoints, sensor agnostic bays.

The AAS radar that was tested was attached to the centreline hardpoint and plugged into this architecture.

e.g. You have a fleet of 18 Aircraft, 12 carrying payload for the MPA role, 6 carrying payload for the JSTARS role. One set of fleet support, logistics and training facilities for all roles.

Just an example.

July 31, 2014 11:16 am

It seems a good idea for MPA to shift to the FAA. Nimrod and Orion “overland” roles were always more about persistent surveillance, and we have Reaper / Watchkeeper / etc for that now. When it comes to JSTARS’s type roles, we have Sentinel already

July 31, 2014 11:17 am

LOL, Boeing marketing. The JSTARs platform will be carrying around a whole lot of weight, space and cost it won’t need for that role. Also, under your proposal you are still buying the same number of platforms as you would if you brought two types. May as well buy two seperate platforms, one being cheaper for the Sentinel role, they can have the same architecture and workstation design.

Anyway, sentinel is not the problem, its fine, it just needs funding after 2018.

July 31, 2014 11:23 am

Time for reforming coastal command perhaps taking logistical and other RAF support but operationally linked with Navy?

The Other Chris
July 31, 2014 11:25 am

As I said, purely an example to highlight the MMA terminology.

We’re leaning toward a dedicated MPA type to be transferred to the RN rather than Seedcorn crew returning to the RAF?

July 31, 2014 11:58 am

Let’s not be silly. The RN does not have the infrastructure or experience to operate a relatively targe twinjet. Can we please abandon this silly idea about disbanding the RAF into the Army and Navy.

Nimrod did pretty well at the ‘multi-mission’ role in Afghanistan (and yes, MR2 not R1). However, what is needed is a small fleet of capable of delivering the niche capabilities that have such significant potential. Direct equivalents to COMPASS CALL and COMMANDO SOLO, especially the former’s electronic attack capability. When you consider that we are starting to think about offensive cyber operations from military platforms, the fact that we have nothing, nada, in the EW space is shocking.

July 31, 2014 12:19 pm

@TAS: come on, please. If a re-shuffling of services occurred, the capabilities , funding and people would change uniform. Initially disruptive, but hardly the end of the world. Given that third line support for complex weapons is mainly outsourced anyway these days, it’s even less of an issue than before.

July 31, 2014 12:26 pm


We’re leaning no-where in particular, if anything; most likely a pooled asset.

Echoing TAS here.

Realism dictates it’d go to the service with the experience, infrastructure and funding for the operation of large aircraft… unless the RN wants to sacrifice more of itself.

Really the discussion should be on what platform? Something more Nimrod traditional like P-8? or something different? Former Def sec Hammond and others have mentioned there is more interest in something that isn’t just a single platform, we could see Unmanned mixed with a updated Sentinel/E3 along with a smaller MPA platform.

July 31, 2014 12:42 pm


Should we be discussing platforms? Given the dearth of alternative, long ranged MPA’s that we need (and let’s not forget that the need for a long endurance nuclear sub hunter capable of finding and prosecuting it’s target is the minimum to maintain the protection of the nuclear deterrent), and the decision to axe MRA4, the only option is P8. Nothing else has the range, capability or weapons load. P3 has been ruled out as the available airframes are too old, and there is nothing else on the drawing board in the same league as MRA4 or P8. All the twin-prop alternatives are too small, too short ranged and don’t have the teeth to conduct the mission set we need to fulfil.

Whether the MPA subsequently spends the majority of it’s time east or west of Suez is an operational decision, but at least we’d have the airframes to move around the world. At the moment we are taking huge operational risk, especially in the face of a resurgent and emboldened Russia, by not maintaining an MPA capability in home waters.

Rocket Banana
July 31, 2014 12:50 pm


All the twin-prop alternatives are too small, too short ranged and don’t have the teeth to conduct the mission set we need to fulfil.

Given that we cancelled MRA4 and did not replace it do you know what it is we actually need?

…Especially in terms of payload or “teeth”.

July 31, 2014 1:17 pm

Simon, you surprise me. The ability to locate and prosecute Russian hunter-killer submarines in the North Atlantic. Whilst not the fashionable task, for as long as we have nuclear weapons pointed at Moscow we have a requirement to be able to undertake that task.

Don’t forget that MRA4 was cancelled because the programme was an utter failure. The RAF effectively dared the Government to cancel it, and got it badly wrong.

Rocket Banana
July 31, 2014 1:24 pm


I meant in terms of payload or “teeth”.

How many sonobuoys?
What type/weight?
How many StingRay?
Are we doing ASuW too?
Do we need Harpoon?
Is a MAD still viable?
Radar type, weight and power requirements?

The reason I ask is that I don’t think we need as much as MRA4 would have delivered and therefore question the immediate leap to P8 when there are solutions that may cost 1/4 as much.

The Other Chris
July 31, 2014 1:44 pm

The surface detection and prosecution side of things appears readily solvable. Lots of options being talked about or purchased from Sentinel R1 upgrades to adding a SeaSpray or MPR radar underneath a Reaper or Hermes 900 respectively. Even Block 5 F-35 is to carry maritime mode adjustments to it’s AESA and JSM fitting.

It’s the subsurface work we’re sorely lacking and an area I don’t think we can afford to skimp on. Russia are investing $700b building First Rate SSN’s and SSK’s. We need First Rate counters to add to the likes of Merlin/T23/T26.

Multistatic Active Coherent (MAC) sonobouys and the payload to carry enough of them.

Payload capacity to carry enough torpedoes to shorten the “kill-chain” on detection.

The range to refresh the parts that other (beers) MPA’s can’t touch and the endurance to pressure the hunted sub crew for excessive periods of time. Requires crew accommodation, lavs and a galley to allow decent rests away from their stations.

Hefty communications to coordinate at range and share large amounts of data.

If that platform allows for the space, add the MSA/MRA surface payloads in to cover two roles in one patrol, otherwise split the MRA/MSA out into two aircraft.

Just make sure the MRA/MSA has access to a rapid payload delivery system (either itself or a nearby weapon platform) to prosecute a surface target if necessary.

No idea about MAD. India thinks it’s still needed. USN doesn’t. Australia haven’t confirmed, though suspected to follow the USN lead.

One last twist is the Hydrocarbon detector that both the P-8A Poseidon and the MQ-4C Triton carry. Classified and listed as the single largest maturing risk item on the Triton audit report, difficult to find information on it though it looks like an MRA4 item. Subject to ITAR. India don’t have it (maybe that’s why they have asked for MAD?). Unclear if Australia will get it.

Oh, and we should add dipping sonars to Wildcat.

The Other Chris
July 31, 2014 1:46 pm

Cannot rule P-1 out :)

Shame Kawasaki didn’t bring one to Farnborough :(

Rocket Banana
July 31, 2014 1:55 pm

I agree that there should be a split between surface surveillance (UAV) and prosecution (Typhoon) and the need for ASW in the GIUK gap.

I think APATS has said that C295 cannot deliver, but I think that is only the case with the standard fuel tanks. If we add an extra 1t of fuel tank it can take 3t of stuff (another tonne of fuel allows a two-hour prosecution). I make that 100-150 sonobuoys (depending on type) and 4-6 Stingray.

We should be able to sustain a “pass” every 4-6 hours with a single squadron of 12 aircraft.

Add to this that the aircraft could actually just be simply relays for sonobuoy telemetry and you haven’t got a very expensive solution at all.

The other beneift is that although stretched to provide for the GIUK gap they would easily have the legs for other missions they are tasked for (e.g. the Persian Gulf or GoA).

How many P8 would we need to do a whole lot more than we actually need?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 31, 2014 1:59 pm

Personally, were I to be trying to catch an SSN (or sanitise an areas against SSK for that matter), while I’d want a good half-dozen torpedoes and several dozen sonobuoys, the thing I’d be looking for most in payload/airframe terms is the ability to get out to a remote station relatively quickly and stay on station for six hours plus, AAR if available. I’d also be quite keen to make sure I had a number of people separately cataloguing surface traffic – which means radar, RESM, and a link operator to build and maintain the RMP. That’s before I’d got to my sonar monitors or my comms people.

All of which points to quite a large bodied aircraft with plenty of electrical power, cooling and space for people to move about on a very long sortie. Awfully Slow Warfare can be precisely that, which means you need your aircraft carrying its valuable and expensive payload to stay out as long as possible. Which means fuel and lots of it.

Add those requirements to your weapons / sensor load and no amount of playing around with Q400 or similar will fit the bill.

Peter Elliott
July 31, 2014 2:11 pm


Would an A330 be overkill? All the range, power, space and payload you could possibly want. Take the in production and already militarised MRTT as the base platform and add a weapons canoe, palletised mission systems etc. Such a plane would outrange P8 and so could mount long range and endurance patrols without needing AAR.

But both the capital and operating costs could be seen as excessive compared to MOTS P8 or P1.

July 31, 2014 2:22 pm

Amazing how the same argument comes around time and time again, as if people just cannot accept that the solution required is the obvious, albeit expensive one.

Submarine hunting needs sonobuoys. Submarine killing needs torpedoes. I’m not going to comment on the effectiveness of Stingray or other torpedoes but there is a bloody good reason why Nimrod carried nine of them. And in the vast open spaces of the North Atlantic you need hours of endurance on station. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp – small turboprops cannot carry a decent load of buoys, torpedoes and fuel to do the job required.

Start getting into the game of networked UAVs and hunter-killer aircraft and killer ballons and you shove the operating costs up. Multiple fleet types always incur cost. The reason why we operate high-end kit is the same whether we are talking about light CAS aircraft vs. Typhoon and corvettes vs. Type 26. When the balloon goes up, a limited capability platform will be out of it’s depth rapidly. You are trying to buy a peacetime force; what is the point if we are ready to shift to combat operations at a moment’s notice? Next you’ll be wanting RPG’s on a VW Beetle and call it a tank replacement…

I’ll just make this clear – I don’t like the P8. I think it’s a poor choice of airframe, it has several major compromises in it’s design and it has committed the US (and therefore probably us too) to the game of high altitude ASW, adding an order of magnitude of cost when you consider that sonobuoys now need GPS receivers and torpedoes need glide kits. Nimrod was always the preferred choice – big, robust, capable of low-altitude work and proven. But it’s gone, never to be recovered. The Kawasaki plane might be a competitor but both are les than optimal. But they are the only options on the plate.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 31, 2014 2:25 pm

R to the I to the S to the K……..

Why would you “develop” anything if there’s a MOTS solution that meets your requirement? Have we learned nothing from Nimrod AEW3?

One other thing. Lots here assuming that RPAS can do surface surveillance / ISTAR, particularly overland. They can, provided that there’s no threat or no comms vulnerabilities. Bigger platforms can carry longer ranged sensors and stand off, but you can’t really do taht with Watchkeeper and Reaper. If you’re doing offboard data processing, any sort of comms denial renders your sensor data useless, unless your latency requirement is low.

The Other Chris
July 31, 2014 2:55 pm

Multiple comments debunking the low level myths of P-8 can be found on this Think Defence thread. In particular reference the conversation between Mark and APATS:

July 31, 2014 2:55 pm

Only starting with the thread but there is no “wow” in this

“Thatt by 2022, the RN’s share of the U.K. defense budget will reach 50 percent.” – wow

Think Successor…
– I have been saying for a couple of years to watch the other services trying to get out of the way of” a prolonged drought” in monies allocated, to make the kit and their planned formations to last over that “Valley of Death”

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
July 31, 2014 4:24 pm

Could we not have a situation where the RAF look after the plane and the RN the weapons and sensors, crazy idea I know, but ASW & ASuW kit is already used and maintained by the RN and big aircraft are used and maintained by theRAF, if everyone sticks to their strengths surely that will be better.

July 31, 2014 6:12 pm

RAF Coastal Command used to operate ASW patrol aircraft before the Nimrods were slid off to Strike Command and CC was no more. Don’t see a problem with RAF personnel being trained on operation and maintenance* of ASW & ASuW gear and having the (LR)MPA itself being operated by the RAF (shades of Coastal Command!). In fact, for “littoral” ASW/patrol, you might be able to use dedicated shorter-ranged aircraft and/or helicopters belonging to the RAF.

*(Case in point: Tank training for the US Army and USMC is done by the Army. The Army Security Agency trained USAF/USN/USMC personnel for signal security/morse intercept/teletype intercept/security systems maintenance/etc. (At least in the olden days.) )

July 31, 2014 10:07 pm

I would like to know what we are scrapping for a dozen p8s an aircraft carrier, ssbn 4, 1/3rd of the f35 force? If you want p8 in numbers (eg more than about 4 on a lease) be prepared for another sacred cow to be culled.

On the other hand we hand we could use the loose change to get merlin to fly more than it sits on the ground.

August 1, 2014 1:08 am

A sly grin on the admiral’s face there as he talked about not necessarily getting more ships if you don’t have carriers, while carriers guarantee that you need ships to protect them. Crafty work by his predecessors indeed.

To throw the cat among the pigeons on this MPA debate, surely the truly modern British solution would be to ignore all the viable, in-service options and start from scratch again with some sort of frankenstein bodged answer, such as taking the wing and engines from the A400M and trying to mate it to an airliner body, at great cost and time delay?

August 1, 2014 3:34 am

.B. – Y’all could buy a few A380s and use them for personnel transport, cargo hauling, A2A refueling, MPA, ISTAR, and bomb truck all in one!

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We’re currently cruising at 10,000 meters. If you look out the left side behind the wing, you’ll see a flight of Typhoons waiting their turn to refuel. If you look out the right side of the aircraft forward, you’ll see the Harpoon anti-ship missile that we just fired at a Somali pirate mothership. We’ll be descending in a few hours to patrol the approaches to Diego Garcia for possible Russian and/or Chinese submarines before landing to offload critical spare parts for Lightning FGRSLMNOP.1 joint strike fighters that the Americans will deliver to the HMS Queen Elizabeth in one of their CV-22 Ospreys. Immediately after the offloading is complete we’ll depart for Hong Kong via Afghanistan where we’ll be using our sidescan radar to look for Taliban activity. Unless we have to orbit to drop some precision-guided weapons, we should have you in Hong Kong by lunch tomorrow. As a treat for the children, on the upper deck aft we have Canada’s Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry flying with us on their way to an exercise with the Japanese Self Defence Force. Again, thank you for flying with the Royal Air Force and World Tours.”

August 1, 2014 4:36 am


I agree that P8 is the only real game in town. however combining it with Reaper equipped with Seaspray allows us to cover a great deal of tasks without adding another fleet of aircraft.

The P8’s should be used for ASW and ELINT work so probably juts a small fleet 4-7 would do. another 10 reapers added to our existing fleet of 10 and I think we have a very credible force able to defend UK EEZ and other required MPA tasks in the North Atlantic.

I agree with TD that we need some form of naval strike capability. P8 will come with Harpoon, LRASM and possibly JSM all off the shelf.

we may be able to get JSM for our F35 off the shelf also.

I don’t agree that we will need to sacrifice anything else in the budget to pay for this. we just generated a £1 billion underspend in the budget a small fleet of P8 and additional reapers could be done for £1 billion or so.

If we do it the same way we procured C17 bit by bit as funds allow then I think its doable. Its not a force designed to fight WW3 but it’s probably more than good enough for the foreseeable threat level.

£1 billion to close the UK’s largest military gap seems very reasonable and well with in our financial capabilities assuming no more cuts post 2015.

The Other Chris
August 1, 2014 5:41 am

Money wise there’s the £1b underspend as mentioned, don’t forget the £1b under the sofa discussed four years ago…

More seriously there’s three options:

1. Culling something as suggested.

2. The contingency budget has £4b-5b being spent on the armoured vehicle programmes but leaves £3b-£4b which we know is enough for a modest fleet following the Australian model alone.

3. Lastly there’s the blossoming MoD financial credibility to consider along with the availability of decreased risk MOTS solutions available. There may even be a full, or partial, budget increase.

August 1, 2014 6:10 am

It’s not just the complete gaps; it’s the key issue of simply resource shortage. Put bluntly we need more sailors to crew a 2nd Carrier, we need those 8 remaining Mk1 Merlins upgraded, we need both the F35 squadrons up and flying ASAP, we need to in addition reconsider a cheaper patrol variant of the new GCS to increase surface hull numbers. I fully accept the importance of regaining an MPA capability. In my attempting the realistic dark blue world it’s up to the RAF to sort this out. The Navy have enough other issues to contend with.

Brian Black
Brian Black
August 1, 2014 6:36 am

People only think that P8 will break the bank because they unrealistically think that there’ll be a fleet of twenty or so aircraft.

Don’t expect more than five.

A Triton buy would flesh out the P8’s capabilities. We can get our money’s worth out of Triton by using it as more of a multi-role HALE platform than just for maritime surveillance. It could potentially replace Sentinel, and it could carry the sigint pods that were developed for Eurohawk as a couple of examples.

August 1, 2014 7:29 am

There does seem to be a strange focus on maritime patrol and ASW here but remember that come 2025 the UK’s only ISTAR asset will be Scavenger.

Sentinel OSD 2018
Sentry OSD 2025
Airseeker OSD 2025

There is a much bigger gap to fill than just ASW, and this is where a multi-mission platform comes in to things. However, to get good cost-effectiveness we’d need to try and do all these roles from one or two different platforms. The problem is that there isn’t an OTS solution at the moment, although P-8 is heading that way with AAS integration as a role-fit item.

What is the alternative to a multi-mission platform mix?

New AWACS platform
New AGS platform
New ELINT platform
New ASW platform

This doesn’t seem to be remotely affordable – and if someone suggests that C-295 can do all of this they need a good hard think about what level of capability this platform actually gives us.

August 1, 2014 7:50 am

@Kent: I wish there was still a “like” button :-)

August 1, 2014 8:06 am


I see no role for Triton whatsoever. Grateful if you could clarify what critical mission set requires the purchase of a large and expensive surveillance platform that is not already addressed within current capabilities. Moreover, grateful if you could tell me how a Triton is going to find a nuclear submarine at 500ft. Same question goes for Reaper with whatever radar you can think of to bolt on. And how on earth these platforms will ‘flesh out the P8’s capabilities’ is beyond me.

The P8 was designed for operations in the Pacific. That mission set includes both sub-surface AND surface surveillance; the former likely against a significant threat force of SSK’s, which in turn is why they are fitting diesel sniffers to the Triton. It is not optimised for North Atlantic work, as I think I mantioned earlier.

The non-discretionary task for the UK military is the ability to prosecute nuclear submarines in the North Atlantic in defence of the nuclear deterrent. EVERYTHING else is optional, a nice to have, INCLUDING maritime patrol east of Suez, SAR work in home waters and home waters surveillance (even accepting any liability for the latter tasks which are clearly Home Office territory and NOT military). The task, by it’s very nature, is not enduring; it is intelligence driven and requires a surge capability. Five or six airframes might be justifiable as a minimum peacetime force but is horribly vulnerable to maintenance and training attrition. I have no idea what the scientific answer is – that’s for the experts to decide, but my opinion is well justified.

As for money, it requires an uplift. No saving or ‘loose pennies under the sofa’ is going to fund this. It is a simple fact – if you want to re-establish a capability that should never have been cut, then spend more money on it. MOD is going to have to justify to the Treasury why they need additional funding for this – strangely enough just like any other business justifying the acquisition of new capabilities or equipment. Only a mature or at least established capability is going to support such a request. Half-cut ideas to blow millions on pointless platforms that sound ‘cool’, and the argument of ‘the Americans have them so why can’t we’ won’t cut it. P8 and the Kawasaki thing exist, they are flying, they are known factors. Buy small and expand if necessary, but buy something that is going to a) work and b) add value.

Rocket Banana
August 1, 2014 8:48 am

I thought I understood the MPA requirement but suddenly found myself unable to answer a question that popped into my head.

Detect and Prosecute.

Prosecute and start WW3?

If we detected a Soviet SSBN in the GIUK gap I seriously doubt we’d do anything other than track it. I can’t even imagine destroying an SSN.

Am I completely wrong here? Do we still hold the old Cold War / Iron Curtain thinking?

The Other Chris
August 1, 2014 8:55 am

Definitely think the funding needs to be additional or at least in part from the contingency pot for the capital outlay.

If I may provide information on MQ-4C’s North Atlantic optimisations, it’s correct that the BAMS testing and Euro Hawk platforms are not suitable. This may be where the idea of unsuitability for North Atlantic (and Pacific) operations stems from. It’s not a unique belief and has been mentioned on other forums as well.

Part of the BAMS mission profile prior to the selection of Global Hawk as the base aircraft included extreme North/South Atlantic/Pacific operations.

Northrop Grumman’s specific alterations to fulfil these requirements include:

1. Expanded bleed air system from the uprated AE3007H turbofan to assist with anti-icing.
2. Thermo-Mechanical Expulsion De-icing System (TMEDS) designed by Cox & Co.*
3. Wing and engine inlet redesign includes hail and bird strike strengthening**
4. Increased lightening protection and anti-static discharging over the Global Hawk blocks

As a result of the Triton’s suitability for the North Atlantic/Pacific, Canada began looking at a variant Global Hawk featuring the above improvements from the Triton (I’m guessing they’re using the Triton wing) referred to as Polar Hawk for Northern Canada and Arctic missions.

*I may be incorrect about the TMEDS system being a Cox and Co. supplied solution as this is from memory. If so, apologies.
**I’ve been told that bird strikes in the North Pacific usually involve heavier birds than elsewhere, though I have no idea if this is true or not!

The Other Chris
August 1, 2014 9:03 am

Detect and Prosecute.

Being able to detect alone is not necessarily enough to deter. You need to have a credible ability to follow through if you want to persuade The Other Guy to steer clear of you to start with.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
August 1, 2014 9:41 am

“Am I completely wrong here? Do we still hold the old Cold War / Iron Curtain thinking?”

Yes you are and who says it’s old?

The purpose of the deterrent is to deter. That means its owner must be credibly prepared both to use it and to protect it. How much of a deterrent do you think a bomber that had picked up a trailer would be? Particularly in times of tension.

Rocket Banana
August 1, 2014 2:48 pm

If we detected a Russian SSBN in the GIUK gap there is absolutely no way we would attack it.

The consequences are not for the UK to accept alone. There would need to be NATO council meetings and strategy planning for WW3 retaliatory defence. This would take ages.

Come on do you think the Russians would let 20 RSM-52 go to the bottom of the North Atlantic? Do you not think they might consider it an attack against Mother Russia and launch even from a sinking boat? 1st missile to Faslane?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
August 1, 2014 2:52 pm

I wasn’t talking about one of their bombers. Their bombers don’t need to go anywhere near GIUK anymore.

Turn your last statement around and think about what that means to us……

The Other Chris
August 1, 2014 4:30 pm

Protection of CASD is paramount to maintain it as a credible retaliatory threat.

To do that an MPA system solution must be able to detect and potentially kill any SSN/SSK (not SSBN) that can reach CASD.

We need more than a handful, at the very least to maintain adequate CASD cover in a number of geographical areas or the approaches to those areas, any one of which might be where CASD is located.

Add additional numbers for other tasks. With regards total numbers, MRA4 suggests that nine was not sufficient. Split between MRA/MSA type assets (e.g. Maritime Mode Sentinel R1) as you see fit but bear in mind NaB’s comments about “Awfully Slow Warfare” (the term still makes me chuckle) in particular.

August 1, 2014 4:56 pm

ToC, do MPAs do overwatch for SSBNs? That would really defeat the purpose of the sub wouldn’t it? Want to know where the enemy ballistic missile sub is, just follow the MPA. I can see them patrolling a choke point, but not open ocean. Of course, if the sub comes in to port, that is a different story, but once in deep water, not even the MPA should be hanging around.

August 1, 2014 5:02 pm

Regardless if we restore the capability of mpa by whatever means (and I think we should) tracking and attack of Russian ssns in the North Atlantic is and always has been a NATO mission so we should be scaled accordingly this not a uk only mission.

August 1, 2014 5:45 pm

Simon said: “If we detected a Russian SSBN in the GIUK gap there is absolutely no way we would attack it.”

I imagine that detecting Russian subs in the GIUK is (or was when the UK had Nimrod) a common occurrence and that we do not blow them up because we are not at war and do not want to start one, as opposed to not being able to.

August 1, 2014 6:33 pm

– Thanks, but I forgot to run an AWACS comment in there, too. If you can’t have fun… :P

August 1, 2014 7:09 pm

The captain of an FFG once explained to me that detection/prosecution in peacetime was a deadly serious game. The only outcome to the loser was a bit of embarrassment. The outcome in earnest could mean the deaths of sailors on one side, the other, or both sides, probably, and perhaps thousands or millions of civilians.

Monitoring the movements of Russian subs through the GIUK gap that could be indicators of preparations for hostile action is almost as critical as closing the mid-Atlantic gap with VLR bombers (Liberators) was during World War 2.

August 1, 2014 7:21 pm

@Observer – I believe the MPAs are required to cover the SSBN’s movement from homeport to deep water open ocean to keep them being ambushed by SSNs/SSKs. Once the SSBN is able to go deep, the MPA is no longer needed to protect it.

I have seen US submarines put to sea, and it looks like a parade except when the parade comes back to it’s starting point the submarine is missing.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
August 1, 2014 7:35 pm

If we want a full bodied MPA capability including ASW and ASuW the only really game in town is the P8. The Japanese platform is interesting but historically, Japanese equipment has bespoke to there needs and their costs have reflected this. In addition although there have been move to relax the laws, it is very difficult of Japan to export military hardware.

If we want to look at alternative platforms then we have to start thinking about what capabilities we wish to go without or alternative means to retain them. The idea of an all singing multi-mission platform does seem I agree a bit of a Boeing sales pitch which I am sure will get a fair amount of support from the RAF. The problem with many “Multi-mission” platforms is that they are a jack of all trades and a master of none. In addition the idea of plug and play alterations has never really worked, look at MS Windows for example. We would in fact end up spending more on an already expensive platform to make a bespoke UK only one which doesn’t make much sense to me.

If we do go down this rabbit hole though we need to seriously look at what roles we can strap to it. Could we lever technology from CROWSNEST and produce a replacement for the E-3D fleet? Could we transfer systems from the Sentinel fleet? Could we take the systems from the recently delivered RC-135s down the road? It all sounds great having one airframe with many uses but the developments cost would be huge for a UK only programme and as it would coincide with the Trident replacement programme would really stretch the budget.

For all its costs etc, the P8 is the logical choice as long as we don’t try to tinker with it to add UK content above integrating Stingray for example. We should do an initial purchase of say 6 airframes and then add a further 6 over the following decade, rather like the C-17 after we decided to purchase them outright. The technology need to mature before we decide on any maritime UCAVs but these are under development now so a clearer picture should develop after 2020.

The best way to monitor and track any SSBN/SSN in the North Atlantic is a SSN, and we and the USN have been doing this for decades and will continue to do so. As for escorting our SSBNs out and in, again the SSN is a key tool. The P8 will compliment this very well.

All the talk of smaller less effective MPA doesn’t really help the UK. Many of the twin turboprop MPAs in service with the exception of the Atlantique NG are not really suited o to long range Atlantic patrols. They are mainly used in littoral conditions like the Med and South East Asia. Any development based on an Airbus airframe is going to be too expensive unless part of a multinational programme. Palletising the mission systems for use on the C-130 or A400M will incur development costs and require a trade off in capabilities.

Finally for ASuW strike we will probably have to use the Typhoon rather than the F-35 as the NSM is designed to fit the full sized weapons bay of the A and C variant and not that of the B. Yes it can be carried externally but then what real benefits does a F-35B have over a AESA equipped Typhoon. If there are many then fine fit the ASM to the F-35B which should be too hard as it will, if the NSM is chosen, have been cleared already for the other F-35 variants, but consideration should be given to the weapon system the US Navy is developing to replace the Harpoon, if we can wait for it, or the latest air breathing variant of the Exocet being delivered to the French and other nations now..

August 2, 2014 3:17 am

@ Lord Jim

The main advantage that F35B will have over Typhoon is that JSM will be already integrated into the F35 software.

Its costing over £100 million to integrate a single missile with Typhoon at present. Money that could be better spent else where.

Also as F35B will be a mostly naval platform for us so it is probably the best candidate to have ASM capability.

August 2, 2014 4:03 am

One interesting option for naval strike on Typhoon could be Harpoon. I believe we still have stocks of air launched harpoon and the Saudi’s are said to be requesting the missiles integration.

Could be a cheap interim solution.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
August 2, 2014 5:16 am

I agree that the NSM/JSM will already be integrated into the F-35 but the F-35B cannot carry it internally. Add to this the limited number of F-35s we will have initially, and it may be worth integrating the missile into Typhoon especially with the planned AESA update. In fact the NSM/JSM would be a good replacement for the Harpoon across the board especially as a sub launched variant is also under development . Ideally the F-35Bs would provide the fixed wing shipborne ASuW capability and the Typhoon the land based, with possible integration on a future MPA/P8, the Astute SSNs, the T-45, and the T-26. Long term the Harpoon is not really an option as the missile we have are either out of life or approaching the end, and we are unlikely to purchase any more. The Saudi’s may wish to integrate it and purchase new stocks but they have almost unlimited funding. If they bought the missiles for us as well it would earn another look though but I cannot see that happening.

August 2, 2014 8:59 am

@ Lord Jim

I don’t see external carriage as being a major issue on the F35B and I just can’t see it being worth £150 million to integrate JSM on Typhoon. For that kind of money we could probably integrate an Anti Ship missile capability into Storm Shadow as part of SPEAR 4 capability upgrade.

That would give us both F35 and Typhoon with a naval strike capability in an existing missile.

August 2, 2014 9:57 am

Jsm will not be available on f35 until the mid 2020s provided there’s no further delays with the software currently budgeted for up to 2020. So you’ll be waiting a while for it.

Had a chance to listen to the FSL video and I think he delivers the message in a very articulate way. Interesting that he admits he is willing to accept a reduction in deployed footprint to allow first class warships to be bought, I’d love to know where the requirement/cost line is drawn with that as running that to its ultimate conclusion you end up with one super ship.

Another point is that of istar and the maritime domain where the ability to compare weeks of prior survallience on pattern of life to the current situation similar to what’s gone on in afghan by people on the ship will enhance the littoral understanding, do ships routinely carry those sorts of data collection assets and interpreters or is this going to be some new with uavs and mission modules?

And finally carriers, interesting that he see buying carriers means we need to buy escorts and that adding some butter on top with more jsf would seem sensible given the expenditure on the carriers. As the butter is probably more expensive that the carriers that’s an interesting sandwich.

Peter Elliott
August 2, 2014 10:03 am

I think he’s right though Mark. And its a magnificent demonstration of propper long term strategic thinking. The operational spotlight has been off th Navy for the last 10 years and they have used the time well to sort out their plan and secure most of the approvals they will need to deliver it.

Let’s hope the army can use its next period out of the operational spotlight to bring a similar level of coherence and strategy to its procurement plans.

August 2, 2014 10:46 am

@ PE

I also agree Giving up foot print to concentrate on quality makes sense with a limited budget.

The fleet we sent south in 1982 was very large by modern standards but most of the escorts were little use other than to catch bullets.

a similar operation in the 2020’s would see a vastly smaller fleet but with far greater capability.

I see little point in having a large number of inferior vessels in the navy that have little capability outside of anti piracy or drug smuggling as neither role is one the navy should be heavily participating in.

@ Mark – Do you have any quotes on JSM not being ready until the mid 2020’s. I thought the Norwegians were pretty keen to get it ASAP.

It’s taken us 15 years to get Storm shadow and Brimstone on Typhoon so I can’t see us integrating JSM on Typhoon much before the mid 2020’s anyway.

August 2, 2014 11:03 am

Peter Mr Cameron may be indicating a different strategic future

“Nato needs to rethink its long-term relationship with Russia, which views the alliance as “an adversary”, Prime Minister David Cameron has warned.He said there has to be a “robust presence” in eastern Europe because of Russia’s “illegal” actions in Ukraine.


Yep that is ASAP in jsf world. JSM like stormshadow is part of the block 4 software upgrade which means its not part of the sdd which hopes to deliver block 3f for operation capability in 2020. Block 4 is the tech refresh post that phase.

August 2, 2014 11:38 am

@ Mark – interesting speech from Cameron . Bemoaning other EU Countries for cutting back when he himself gutted our armed forces.

also calling on them to raise spending and meet the 2% target when he himself refuses to commit the UK to such a pledge.

If he wants to talk big he needs to get the cheque book out.

Peter Elliott
August 2, 2014 12:48 pm


All First Sea Lords have had to make similar calculations for the last 400 years or so.

As to whether it is sensible to talk about it that is a different question. I think a few years ago it would have been a mistake. But today the situation is different both strategically and politically. Zambellas isn’t stupid. He knows that (a) With Russia shaking the box Cameron wants to be seen to be leading Europe on defence and his big shiny new ships give the PM a great opportunity to be seen doing that and (b) Cameron is now seriously on the hunt for UKIP votes and will not want to be seen slapping his Defence Staff down.

Brian Black
Brian Black
August 2, 2014 7:15 pm

Folks are again saying that P8 is the only horse in the MPA race, but is it really that difficult to drop a maritime patrol kit into an airline sized aircraft?

When the MoD decided it wanted Sentinel, which didn’t already exist, it took less than five years from signing the contract to having the aircraft in service.

Raytheon, keen to stay relevant to a finicky customer, have said that a maritime surveillance capability for Sentinel is a matter of buying the software upgrade.

All the surveillance system gubbins for Sentinel pretty much entirely fill that little business jet. Surely it would be less technically challenging to fit those same gubbins onto a much larger platform. And as Airbus already did the airframe design work for an A320/318 MPA weapons bay, is it not possible to say put that existing surveillance system over here onto that Airbus airframe over there, and end up with a long-range ground and maritime surveillance aircraft operational in fairly short order; then integrate your missile and your torpedo and you have your new European MPA with lots of space for future enhancements.

Would it take the five years it took to get Sentinel into service originally to get the same but upgraded system onto a larger airframe? And if we plumped for P8, would we see that in service sooner. We could certainly get the initial maritime surveillance capability quicker if decided to use the software upgraded Sentinel Raytheon system, and use Sentinel for maritime surveillance while we stood up a new carrying platform aircraft.

Would it be prohibitively expensive? Continuing to use the Raytheon system on Sentinel would mean that there’s five paid-for surveillance kits there to rob out and fit to a longer-ranged aircraft, and we could arguably continue to use the system as the UK’s contribution to the NATO’s Global Hawk centered ground surveillance system.

Also, that would give the RAF a viable common aircraft type for a future Sentry replacement.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 2, 2014 7:30 pm

If you have a one horse race, the taxpayer ends up with a lousy deal as the manufacturer has no incentive to offer a good deal. So lets have at least some form of minimum competition (no not a huge expensive drawn out US style competition) between the P-8, Kawasaki P-1, Airbus C-295. It is unlikely we can order enough front rank MPA, so also look at bulking up the numbers with a few cheapies, so a two tier force, with converted RAF C-130J doing ocean patrol/SAR & perhaps even a few Defenders doing coastal duties.

August 2, 2014 9:34 pm

“but is it really that difficult to drop a maritime patrol kit into an airline sized aircraft?”
The RAF found it so with Nimrod and Comet.

The Other Chris
August 2, 2014 10:20 pm

Was that due to the kit or the airframe?

August 2, 2014 10:53 pm


‘Was that due to the kit or the airframe?’

Probably something to do with the air-frame being over 50 years old and in no way designed with 21st century maritime patrol kit in mind!

August 3, 2014 2:51 am

@ Brian

Sentinal was about a £1 billion for 5 aircraft in 1990 costs. Why not just buy P8, it would be cheaper and would have all the ASW capability worked in.

The he Sentinal radar upgrade should allow it to do maratime survalance but then E3 and even reaper can do the same. Its fixed wing ASW that we have a need for.

I just don’t see a point in messing about.

August 3, 2014 6:09 am

I still think that the Navy could do with losing the fishery protection duties nd that it is really a Coastguard/UK Border agency job, likewise close to shore maritime surveillance, as has been said this could be performed by a few defenders and the three rivers. Ok Ok I know but if we could free up those tasks off the navy by expanding the civvy role here we can take the lid off the pressure cooker that the Navy has in fulfilling it’s roles.
Money for this comes out of the overseas dev fund due to the fact that we are helping the pooor misguided that are soo desperate to come here see sense and go back home!
I still think a version of the A400 costs shared between us and our new bessie mates using the Look Smart ro-ro kit is the best way to go, not ideal admittedly but at the end of the day there is no reason why the A400 can’t be an AEW/surveillance platform too just as stated above, it’s a big plane and has the range, it can float about in the choppy air at sea level if need be too as it’s Military from the tyres up, the biggest problem I see here is delivering the actual weapons, as currently were looking at only two hard-points. If we had to go for C130J conversions that would do too, as here at least there is a plan drawn up on how to do it, would prefer A400 for it’s range and almost jet like time to station but the Charlie 130 may not yet have had it’s day?
They are a bit knackered but certainly not expired and can be re-winged etc and there are existing programs around to do all the work too, the difference here is this time when they give the job to BAE and indeed Marshalls, they just hold P8 over their heads and tell em if it gets any where near the cost of this we’re out! Same goes for the A400 buy, there are quite a few going up for sale shortly, there is no reason that we can’t make it the go to platform in a co op deal with the french who will be needing Atlantique and E3 replacements too, though I believe their E3’s are now a bit more advanced than ours?
The nettle is there and the time to grab it is now, not SDSR 2015
But if we do grasp that nettle why not send twenty second hand A330/A340’s to Marshalls for conversion to MPA/AEW/Surviellance platforms?
Range, tick!
Speed, Tick!
Cheap, secondhand but plenty of life, so tick!
Big enough, tick tick tick!
Kidding again, I really hope we don’t buy P8 (I think it’s slightly too small, in range mostly) but think we eventually will as there are just too many variables to bring together to get what we really need…
Hope I am wrong!

August 3, 2014 6:18 am
August 3, 2014 8:39 am

“Detect and Prosecute” – I do not see the need necessity to see both of these capabilities on the same platform. May be if money was unlimited, but in an environment where every asset needs to be sweat to get maximum value then I see a integrated multi-asset solution still as effective in what we need. Sure the P8 would be lovely, but we would be paying a premium for a specific ASW solution which would have a large impact elsewhere on budgets, rather than on kit with broader application.

For the “Detect” part I would see a combination of static senors, maritime UAVs, enhanced Sentry / Sentinel (with a longer term joint replacement), TAS Frigates, SSNs and Merlin ASWs covering this. I personally would opt for Dipping Sonar on the Wildcats also that could also operate from OPVs.

For the “Prosecute” part, then we have SSNs, ASW Frigates and Merlins / Lynxs. I would go further by adding additional ASW missile capability on the Typhoon / F35B.

August 3, 2014 8:54 am

your no where near on the aircraft price of the sentinel system Martin. All 5 green aircraft were purchased in and around 2000 for less than 150m pounds.

August 3, 2014 8:58 am

@ Jules, The problem with removing the fishery protection duties from the navy is that DEFRA pay for it. all it would end up doing is cutting more vessels and more sailors.

August 3, 2014 9:07 am


Thanks for the clarification. So essentially, one of the MPA’s jobs is to cover the “dangerous” stretch from port to deep water for safe passage of the SSBNs.

@et al

Even if the technical difficulties are difficult, I do think that an A330 conversion might be worth looking into. Many airlines use the A330, which means that you have a huge stock of spare parts in the civilian market. Not so the A400 which is almost a purely military craft. In extreme emergencies, you can buy the parts from your national carrier or even nationalize their stockpile. More importantly, it would place the UK in the running for future MPA orders from people who do use the A330. The P-8/737 is going to be harder to maintain as time goes by as people transit to more modern aircraft, and I do believe the UK has a very good opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the next step of modernization. You already made a start with the A330 MRTTs, might be worth it to finish the job. I know it is a big plane, but IIRC, they had “mini” versions with frames removed for the short haul routes, but customer interest was lacking. An A330 Short might just work as a military MPA though.

The Other Chris
August 3, 2014 9:49 am

Detect and Prosecute doesn’t have to be in the same package, no. The system needs to provide a very short delay between detection and deploying a weapon if the decision is made.

ASW is all about the time from the last known position of the sub in question. Geometry rules everything. A P-3C can quickly get on-station and get sonobuoys in the water, increasing the chance of catching a submarine by minimizing the time from its last point of detection. The ability to carry weapons and attack that submarine if needed completes the Kill Chain, all in a single package.

Interview with a US Navy P-3/P-8 Pilot

There’s advantages to the weapon system being carried by the detecting aircraft in this regard, with similarities to the weaponisation of RPAS that were introduced as ISR assets. It also provides a less complex system in that the “bomb truck” isn’t relying on the “sensor truck” to pass target information up to and potentially beyond the point of release.

Rocket Banana
August 3, 2014 10:22 am


Ahh, the All American “kill chain”… just like we don’t have with the Sentry and Typhoon (detect and prosecute) split.

I disagree hugely with that statement. It is simply marketing. Yes, there is certainly an advantage to the sensor platform also being able to prosecute but it is not 100% necessary.

Subs rely on stealth. If you compromise their stealth by simply knowing exactly where they are you win the standoff game. So if there’s an SSN about to pick up the tail of our outgoing SSBN you simply change course and/or cause a stand-off by intercepting with Astute. The standoff has to be a show of force, a brick wall to progress if you like. Not a loitering aircraft procured by a nation that has forgotten that Russia put SAMs on their new subs.

Without going into this too much I think we’re fighting a losing battle expecting our MPA (P8) to deliver what we need. How many will we buy? 6? 8? 12? Doesn’t matter. Russia can send multiple SSNs to pick up our tail, of which only one can be tracked and engaged. Better to play chess by moving our own SSNs and frigates (think months of endurance rather than 10-12 hours).

I think we’re better off investing in an E3 AWACS replacement that can drop sonobuoys and do our ELINT and high-bandwidth data relay jobs. Something that we can export. Something based on A330. Something that can not only haul a massive radar, a wad-load of sonobuoys and two-dozen data processing chaps, but also carry enough fuel to service a long-range engagement with scrambled Typhoon at the edge of their operating radius.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
August 3, 2014 11:08 am

“Ahh, the All American “kill chain”… just like we don’t have with the Sentry and Typhoon (detect and prosecute) split.

I disagree hugely with that statement. It is simply marketing. Yes, there is certainly an advantage to the sensor platform also being able to prosecute but it is not 100% necessary.”

Trying to compare AAW with ASW demonstrates a lack of understanding of how they’re actually conducted. The physics are very different. Doesn’t help your case.

“Subs rely on stealth. If you compromise their stealth by simply knowing exactly where they are you win the standoff game. So if there’s an SSN about to pick up the tail of our outgoing SSBN you simply change course and/or cause a stand-off by intercepting with Astute.”

And you’ll be able to localise and hold them at what range, using what system?
And communicate with our other boats by what means?
And turn away because you’ll have a decent area situational awareness imparted by?

August 3, 2014 1:15 pm

I do get a bit of what Simon is saying, he is right in that there is no need to fold the persecuting and detecting platforms into one, though I think that putting the weapons on an aerial platform as well as a “all in 1” package has definite advantages, for example, you don’t need to hand off, which means that you don’t get a lapse between your detection and when the persecuting unit arrives for the sub to slip away. You also don’t need to put a platform at risk trying to kill the fella. It would be rather sad to send an SSN to hunt the enemy sub only to eat a torpedo fired in self defence.

No need, only advantages. And it is advantageous to put the entire platform as a one stop shop than hand off to people all over the place.

The Other Chris
August 3, 2014 1:23 pm

Given it’s an excerpt from an interview with an American professional and not Boeing/Lockheed/Field/BAE, I’m not surprised the Pilot described an American defined military practice that he has trained and performed for at least the last decade.

But for convenience, let me run the paragraph through Google Translate for you:

It’s rather bloody stupid to have to wait flipping ages for Biggles/Nelson/Napoleon to turn up with the damned torpedoes once the blighter’s been spotted. We might have lost the bugger by then into a colder bit of the drink and then we’d be up Mad Georges Creek without a Symington paddle steamer? Wot wot.

– Translate: Legitimate American USAF/USN Doctrinal Terminology -> Chuffing Obvious British Georgian Vernacular

The Other Chris
August 3, 2014 1:26 pm

Sums it up Observer.

August 3, 2014 1:43 pm

Repulse, whatever it is you’re smoking I want some. That is some truly wacky baccy. Obviously been sharing it with Simon because I am utterly, completely baffled by your comments.

Static sensors – we don’t have any. American only, the existing SOSUS network. They are fixed and submarines move. The North Atlantic seabed is vast. The network costs billions to maintain and operate.

Maritime UAV’s. Name one that can track a submarine underwater. They don’t exist yet, ergo more money spent on something completely effing pointless.

Enhanced Sentry/Sentinel. Cost of ‘enhancement’ will be … ? Again, name a radar that can find a submarine underwater.

TAS frigates. Got them. 7 in total. They’re already too busy maintaining all our other committments. Need more = more money.

SSN’s. Ditto. More = more money.

Merlin ASW. Ditto. Got fewer of them at the last upgrade.

Dipping sonar on a Wildcat. REALLY??? Awesome oceanic range on that Wildcat airframe plus the ability to launch and recover in massive sea states. Oh, wait, that’s right, OPV’s are really good in North Atlantic waters.

And the final massive drag on the spliff – ASW capability on Typhoon and F35B. I actually fell off my chair when I read that – gave my son quite a shock!

How much is all that going to cost assuming it’s even possible? Ten times that OF AN AEROPLANE DESIGNED TO FIND SUBMARINES UNDERWATER IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!

JTFC – what does it take to make people realise the bloody obvious?

August 3, 2014 2:33 pm

On top of all that. Another issue, by the 2020’s a lot of subs are going to have SAMs fitted. There’s already a Kilo variant with SAM’s. Don’t want be hanging around too long once the sub realises it’s detected.

The Other Chris
August 3, 2014 3:10 pm

Maybe high altitude ASW isn’t so daft…

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
August 3, 2014 4:43 pm

Just for reference we had a A-boat of the previous generation fitted with SAMs in the early 70s. There are a number of reasons why SAMs (while potentially useful in a specific set of circumstances) are not a fleet-wide fit. Despite what the French and Russians may be saying.

The Other Chris
August 3, 2014 5:14 pm

You mean it’s not as easy as this? (6m15s) ;)

August 3, 2014 5:16 pm


If you were leaning toward the belief that submarine sam systems are driving you to high alt then what would that say to you about the investment in merlin (or any helicopter platform) for asw, it wouldn’t make much sense.

More likely the US navy move to high altitude asw is more to do with its need to cover the pacific with fewer assets operating from fewer locations. I think they’ve said in the past they want global maritime coverage while operating from 5 locations world wide. The question is do we.

The Other Chris
August 3, 2014 5:50 pm

No it wasn’t a serious comment, apologies if it came across that way. The lack of investment and proliferation is a big clue. Never say never mind.

Whether the UK needs to cover the area depends on whether we’re taking about just the UK or covering BOTs and CD’s too. Appreciate their current situations, it’s a long view question.

August 4, 2014 4:46 am

In which case I’d go for some Triton and six SSK’s to keep the sea lanes open near our shores and let the Astute’s loose to do the long distance, sub bashing,
which to be honest is exactly what I want really! RAF gets a new toy and so does the navy and they also have to work cooperatively, everyone’s happy except the treasury of course…

August 4, 2014 12:22 pm

Or if we sacrificed a few hours of endurance we could have Avenger?
Which can do a little prosecution too?
If a Triton can perform a full 24hr mission and the Avenger 18, how many of either would we need for a CASD, covering say two areas of Ocean?
Continually Airborne Surveillance Deterrent! Ha Ha…

August 4, 2014 12:27 pm

Jules, you’re not listening. How is a Triton going to find a submarine? How is Avenger going to prosecute a submarine? We don’t need toys, we need an MPA.

August 4, 2014 12:35 pm


just to let you and anyone else who fancied the girl pilot in that clip… She started life as a he…..

August 4, 2014 12:41 pm

@TAS: well, to be pedantic a Triton might catch a periscope, or see a shallow sub via FLIR. But without sonobouys or torpedo’s, it’s chances of prosecution are zero :-(

The Other Chris
August 4, 2014 1:06 pm

Triton Pedantry: Or pick up an SSK with the Hydrocarbon sensor… ;) But I am just teasing.

August 4, 2014 1:15 pm


Urban myth I think. Helo pilot in spy who loved me is Caroline Munro and afaik a woman from day 1

Unless there is a transgender pilot making an appearance in the Zambellas lecture. i couldn’t bother to watch it all…

August 4, 2014 1:40 pm


Yes sorry i was wrong*.

Never had much time for the ‘Never apologise never explain, never admit you made a mistake’ crowd. Rather like when someone makes the ‘ I don’t suffer fools gladly’ statement; it is useful to know…..

It means your talking to a real prick who need his head slammed in a door a few times…

It was Caroline (nee Barry) Cossey, in for your eyes only that swapped teams.

*Thout shall not rely on dodgy Italian internet sites.

The Fighting Temeraire
The Fighting Temeraire
August 4, 2014 3:02 pm

It’s obvious we need an MPA, but do we need/can we afford a gilt edged solution…………………..and where would it fit as a priority amongst our other obvious shortfalls:

Not enough SSNs
Not enough Surface Combatants
Not enough fast jets
No medium/long range bomber capability

etc, etc

So I’d rather have 12~15 twin turboprop MPAs that cost a lot less to buy and run than the P8, plus 30 new build Buccaneers with modern avionics and powered by EJ200s!

August 4, 2014 7:21 pm

” The painful truth is that Great Britain is no longer a great power. But it still stands far above the many US partners that can only provide peacekeeping forces. The US Navy itself is struggling to afford 11 aircraft carriers and to deter Russia, Iran, and China all at once. In a crisis, a high-end ally with a couple of carriers just might tip the balance.”

August 4, 2014 7:44 pm

Interesting article, the current First Sea Lord talks a lot of sense, happy to see him laying his cards on the table.

Let’s just hope his predictions are current and the gamble pays off.

August 4, 2014 9:37 pm

“Jules, you’re not listening. How is a Triton going to find a submarine? How is Avenger going to prosecute a submarine? We don’t need toys, we need an MPA.”
Persistance! How is a P8 going to search a huge swath of ocean with only four or five hrs on station? Bottom line, whatever we buy if indeed we buy anything, we will be able to field very few, the amount of sonar buoys the P8 can deploy more than likely in the wrong place would make lots of difference? We need to cover the choke out of Faslane to stop someone sinking our V class, I see the P8 a s no more use than a hang glider with hand grenades over anything else there really! You could do that job with Defenders,
I’d rather put a couple of billion into SSK’s than I would into the MPA. Sonar Bouys do not have to be just sown from a Jet.You could send an A400 out to sow sonar buoys if you wanted and a hell of a lot more of them than a P8 would…The northern ocean is huge and Avenger etc can cover much more parney more of the time than five or six P8 ever will, we’ll never be able to field any more than that, even if we buy eight!
Surveillance will eventually become the preserve of persistent Uav’s, in one way or another. Not arguing, just sayin, I’d like us to have all the “Toys” too but I’m not sure anymore that MPA is the silver bullet? Avenger can be n the air for eighteen hrs, and can cover a lot of the wet stuff, when the beeper goes off it’s there, or so can an ssk be too, P8 I’m not so sure we can buy enough to do the job right, the SSK’s can serve other duties as can the Uav but a dedicated MPA seems to be a bit of a one trick pony….
I know I’m over simplifying and it means spending more money (about 4 billion?) but I think we are going to end up there anyway, I just don’t think anyone other than us and France is going to step up to the plate to face the red hordes.
If you believe in that scenario that is…

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 4, 2014 9:59 pm


“Avenger can be n the air for eighteen hrs, and can cover a lot of the wet stuff, when the beeper goes off it’s there, or so can an SSK be too”

SFA use being anywhere if you carry no weapons and sensors and SSKs are extremely limited in their mobility, they are ambush predators who rely upon knowing where their target is going to be because they cannot move quickly for long at all. Even something like Soryu can only manage 20kts underwater for short periods, AIP endurance figures are generally for 4-6 kts.

“the amount of sonar buoys the P8 can deploy more than likely in the wrong place would make lots of difference? ”

Do you actually think that we just decide to launch an MPA and go and drop Buoys in the Atlantic for fun? There is a daily report on every single non NATO potentially hostile submarine and what we think they are doing. This along with other combat indicators trigger a multi faceted response involving different actions and platforms. A UAV at 40k feet has its uses, it gives a great surface picture and for building an RMP or in non high AAW threat it could even be used for OTHT but for looking for a submarine it does not matter if it can be airborne for 18 hours or 18 minutes in real terms.

In terms of sinking a V boat, that is pretty much an act of war and sinking the boat that is sailing for patrol does very little to protect you from the boat that is on patrol. We also know pretty much down to the last shopping trolley what is on the sea bed on the way in and out so remaining undetected even assuming you can get there is difficult.

There are of course other uses for MPA they allow the flushing of choke points ahead of a Surface Group and or the laying of buoy lines astern to detect a “trailer”. often in ASW you are not so much trying to sink the submarine as simply prevent it from sinking your MEU.

UAVS do have their use and the US are going to use them to conduct the surface picture role generally done by an MPA, they may even be able to carry a weapon and have a limited ASuW role but they have zero ASW use at all.

August 4, 2014 10:12 pm

‘RE: SSK’ s versus MPA

Just a thought, if the argument is that we need more than 5 or 6 P8 to cover the deterrent, then given the slower transit speed, how many more SSK’ s would we need to cover the same area? Also, given the RN is struggling to recruit submariners, how would we crew our SSK’ s?

If we are going to go without an MAP wouldn’t it be better to build three ASW carriers and add 1 or 2 squadrons of Merlin HM2′ s – after they have greater utility than a SSK would be easier to recruit sailors to, and you could fly crowsnest from it to allow for it cover the surface surveillance mission – of course this would cost more than buying a decent number of P8′ s and need more personnel but hey, apparently the P8 isn’t good enough as it is to o short legged and cannot carry enough sonar bouys :-)

Edit: beaten to it by apats

August 5, 2014 4:35 am

@APATS, Act of War? “WAR! What is it good for?” Well it’s sort of the point really, if hostilities do break out we need to keep the lane clear for the SSBN, I don’t think P8 can on it’s own, nor guard the Northern approaches on it’s own, we can’t buy enough not even if we had fifteen of em to be honest. Yanks seem to think they need a 100 and w’eve the, what fifth biggest eez going, taking it all into account?
SFA? Send for Avenger?
Yes i know there is a daily bulletin on all movements, even whales but you can put down buoys better with a big plane out to sea or more accurately with a sub in the right area than you can with a P8, my whole point was that it’s better to have layers and not just one big hammer knocking the wrong nail.
Balloon goes up, Shipping Report goes up, A400 goes up, Avenger is already up! Sonar Buoys go down, SSN goes to the bottom, either by the hand of Avenger itself or the waitin SSK.. whatever you stick on Avenger it will still have twice the endurance of the P8, it can be there and so can an SSK because it has 80 days endurance not five hours.
@Tubby, I did kind of say I was spending more money because I think it’s going to happen anyway and I do think that, there will have to be an up-spend if we are to counter the Russians in any meaningful way, I just think that some SSK’s are a better use of the money than MPA, well the P8 anyway, I also said i think that it will be only us and the French that will rise to it, and I do, I gave my reasons so there is no need for bashing there at all. The whole thread is supposition in any case, as we are not buying MPA.
Choppers are good for laying down Buoys and I have argued before for something like the endurance class for that role but got bashed for that too! MPA the silver bullet, go MPA!
I’m just swimming against the tide, I can see, so I’d just better buy a P8 Poseidon poster and put it on my bedroom wall I guess…

August 5, 2014 7:05 am


If we are spending more money for a serious ASW capability then we need more T26 ASW variants, something like the Japanese ASW destroyers, more attack subs and decent number of MPA’s as they work together as whole, each covering the shortcomings of the other. Which is why when push comes to shove we will buy P8’s as the are closest we will get to a decent MPA and complement what we will have.

August 5, 2014 8:16 am

Jules, I asked this before on this site for how many sonobuoys it would take to make a decent MPA. Some kind soul who has experience told me 150-200 because they drop sonobuoy chains in batches of 10-20 to form a detection net. No UAV has that kind of capacity to carry that many sonobuoys, not even your cherished Avenger. I can see them squeezing in one detection chain, but that is about it, one drop and you need to RTB to reload.

The point you seem to be missing is that while UAVs can hang around for a long time, they simply don’t have the capability and capacity to SEE subs, which makes them useless for ASW because they can’t see the target.

I do hope Airbus gets its act together for an MPA soon though, our Fokker 50s are due for replacement and I for one would be rooting for a military conversion of an A330 due to commonality with both the civilian national carrier fleet which can be nationalized in times of war and the new tankers. The increase in number of subs playing in the area also means that the new MPA needs to be better at sub hunting than the current standard, which has only a marginal shallow water hunting capacity and is more used to build the surface picture and some AShW warfare. The missing MH370 is also causing some rethink in search capability. It probably would be helpful to have something that can sort out debris from all the sea clutter next time MPAs need to be used for SAR. What system? I have no idea, this needs bigger brains on the question than I have.

August 5, 2014 8:24 am

@Tubby You are quite entitled to your opinion, mine does differ however, I only spitball my ideas to keep the debate going in the hope we all come up with something so fabulous the Government of the day looks at this site and says “Why didn’t we think of that!”
If I put it this way? A lot of if’s and buts but, keeping it on thread. The Government wakes up and see’s the threat from the north, not likely I know but hey ho, also it realises that we may need more than a couple of carriers to stay bessie mates with America?
They decide that the Maritime enviroment is where we should put the money (Sorry RT!), they actually make the decision to go for an up-spend in the defence bodge it.
They also realise that at best we can do is fund maybe two extra programs by bashing the drinkers, smokers and drivers one more time. (Trying to keep it semi real!).
What then? Open to all!
To get what I’d like we’d need a lot more of everything, which would put it waay out of line but I’ll do it anyway but it is definitely fantasy fleet!
4-6x MRSS Which will be used as ASW Motherships/Minesweeper motherships/Sea control ships/Secondary Amphibious Assault and NGS but using missiles and wen we’ve suppressed the big stuff, Apache.
I would not build the GP Type 26.
More choppers, I would do this by taking the Wildcats off the Army and they can procure something that can land a twelve-thirteen man squad in a oner, if they have to bin a dozen or so Apache’s to help then so be it, all Wildcats to have dipping sonar…
If I get to count that as one program, stretching somewhat, I’d then have six SSK’s, bin the Rivers and Clyde, for the three upcoming newbies…

Or all thirteen Type 26 as ASW, still nick the Wildcats off the Army and stick two on every T26! (Bigger hanger?)
Invest in the Japanese P1 as the MPA but we have to procure at least twelve to make it worth it, and yes I’ll do anything to not have the P8!
Or instead of P1, develop the A400 as the MPA with the French and together buy up all the spares from the Germans etc at knockdown prices.
I just love the idea of the guy from the MOD that has to tell the parlimentary bods that he wants to buy an MPA Thats an old modified airliner!!!
If we buy an MPA, I know it’ll likely be the P8, I am not in denial here but what a smack in the teeth!

August 5, 2014 8:34 am

@Observer, I understand that curently the Uav cannot see the Sub but if something can do a better job of sowing the buoys like an A400? It can see the signals from the buoys and direct an asset to the target, my point being that the Uav does not need to go back to base after four hrs on station I see that as a huge limiting factor for the P8, the Americans have quite rightly built what they want and ordered 117! In U.S. service, the Poseidon will be complemented by around 40 Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance system to provide continuous surveillance. The AN/APY-10 is able to provide high resolution radar images in both overland and water modes. Available modes include color weather, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR), periscope detection, and navigation. ISAR mode is said to be capable of both detecting, imaging and classifying surface targets at long range using a variety of resolutions. Can the Triton/Avenger carry this also? We cannnot ever hope to procure the numbers we would require to cruise our eez, we must look to other means to increase our coverage, if P8 can be part of that I concede but all I am saying is on it’s own they will be so few and far between as to be almost worthless…
We need other assets as well to take out the Donkey work, it’s just not as simple as buy the P8…

August 5, 2014 8:51 am

For those SSK how about Type 212A
3 weeks submerged and 3000nm underwater range be it at 4knts.
A lot of this range comes from the combination of the batteries and fuel cells.
Both these technologies have come on a long way from 1990’s when these boats were designed so those performance figures could be improved.
With no reactor noise or heat bloom from reactor cooling SSK’s are very hard to track. With a crew of just 27 (Astute is 98 crew ) and conventional propulsion running costs would be a lot lower. At £300m each we could have 3 for evey Astute.
Astute’s for Blue Ocean / Carrier Battle Group escort and half a dozen A212B’s for home waters.

August 5, 2014 8:52 am

Jules, then you might as well pipe the feed through the A400 instead then. Why have 2 aircraft in the air when one will do? Your solution looks like it is in search of a problem. You’re trying to force the Pred C as the answer to everything, which is nonsensical. The US does not want the UAVs as ASW, they want them as UCLASS, surface attack platforms.

When I see you selling something the Predator can’t do, it just makes me shake my head at rabid fanboys. UAVs are crap at AAW and ASW.

August 5, 2014 9:17 am

@Observer, not a fanboy but can’t speak for the rabid bit, got three letters at home that say I’m mad and only two that say I’m not!
I get the part of Uav bing bad for MPA at this minute in time, how long before we can get our own P8?
Is P8 the answer to everything?
There will be no decision until at least 2015 on whether we are actually have a competition to buy one, and there will be a competition if the Tories get back in! (A lot more if’s and buts there I know!) Probably looking at the same time frame as the QE coming on stream, where will Predator C be then, if we have a competition for the capability, which will actually mean putting together an RFP spec which will be interesting reading to say the least, the responses could suprise us all. P8 will only come about quickly as a UOR and I just don’t think the politicians see the need, as I said earlier it could change if they start to take Russia seriously, they see China as an aside, thats pretty clear, something that could yet end up biting us on the bum to truthful!
@Monkey, the 212 or the 214 would do, they are small but I like the BMT Vidar 36, however I see where your coming from it’s the old if it has a gun it’s a frigate syndrome the politicians suffer with, a Vidar may be seen as the same as an Astute, which we all know it’s not! So a littoral type Submarine may just be the ticket, Vidar 7 anyone?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 5, 2014 9:23 am

Balloon goes up, Shipping Report goes up, A400 goes up, Avenger is already up! Sonar Buoys go down, SSN goes to the bottom, either by the hand of Avenger itself or the waitin SSK.. whatever you stick on Avenger it will still have twice the endurance of the P8, it can be there and so can an SSK because it has 80 days endurance not five hours.”

A few issues with this in the real world, it is a big ocean and unless you have you SSK in exactly the right place it is useless as it cannot move nearly quick enough to get into the right place. They are slow ambush predators with limited maneuverability. The Avenger cannot carry anything that can hurt the or detect the SSn so it orbits taking pretty pictures of surface ships. the A400 cued towards the correct area drops buoys but cannot process the returns as it is not an MPA and again carries no weapons.

Or a P8 or equivelant scrambles. cued to correct area, drops buoys localises target begins weapons release, maintains weapons chain and neutralises target. can be relived on station if required. We are not trying to procure a capability to combat the entire Russian Northern Fleet on our own, that is a fallacy.


Anyone else having problems logging in through word press?

August 5, 2014 9:32 am

ERAPSCO have received an order last month for 141,263 AN/SSQ Series A-size sonabouys , each weigh 8.6kg for use on the P8’s. A war load of 200 ,including launch tubes would be about 2000kg .
The MK54 MAKO Lightweight ASW torpedo comes in at 276 kg ( say 300kg with rack ) so carrying 4 at 1200kg gives an all up payload of 3200kg. That would exceed the Tail 2 Avengers payload of 2900kg but some trade off could be made for this , 1 less torp?
Granted the UAV cannot decide (yet) where to deploy sensors and weapons but could relay that data to a P8/land based controller for their input . Its endurance is quoted at 18 hours but this would be much reduced at low level and fully loaded ( not the 50,000ft its optimised for ) but say 12 hours at 400 mph is 4800m , not to be sniffed at. Operating in conjunction with a manned MPA a couple of these per MPA could be a force multiplier in ASW.
With regards to choice of MPA , the P8 is in service , the P1 is at final testing but not in production , the A400MPA or A330 not even conceptualised , what would u buy?

August 5, 2014 9:32 am

“I do hope Airbus gets its act together for an MPA soon though, our Fokker 50s are due for replacement and I for one would be rooting for a military conversion of an A330 due to commonality with both the civilian national carrier fleet which can be nationalized in times of war and the new tankers. The increase in number of subs playing in the area also means that the new MPA needs to be better at sub hunting than the current standard, which has only a marginal shallow water hunting capacity and is more used to build the surface picture and some AShW warfare. The missing MH370 is also causing some rethink in search capability. It probably would be helpful to have something that can sort out debris from all the sea clutter next time MPAs need to be used for SAR. What system? I have no idea, this needs bigger brains on the question than I have.”

A340 Or 330 would make for an awesome MPA, we’d likely have to pony up with the French to do it but it would have the persistance I want in spades, again it’s going to be a big jump to get the pinstripes to convert another airliner, 330 has the potential to be a go ot airframe for lots of things and you can buy the earlier, smaller ones quite readily these days…
How would we stop it becoming too pricey?

August 5, 2014 9:36 am

APATS, not on this end.

Jules, get off the damn P-8 will you? The only person stuck on it is you.

My preference is for a shortened A330 to carry all the systems, but first you need to decide what systems to go on board first and the space and power requirements before even deciding on the hull.

The Type-212 had a successor, the Type-214, which had a lot of problems. It appears to be a design flaw intrinsic to the vessel as both the Korean navy and the Greek navy both reported the same problems.

I’m really curious as to the reported new Type-218. That one is a real black box, no info coming out of the program at all, so it’s even a question mark as to if it is a big sub like the Type-216 or a small one like the Type-212/214. My money is on big as the replacement is on the lines of 1 Type-218 to 2 Sjöormen-class, which would imply a crewing requirement approximately 2x as great as the older subs.

Rocket Banana
August 5, 2014 9:50 am

Airbus once offered the A319 for MPA but it only appears on their “old stuff” website now. What happened?


Yes, WordPress threw a wobbley for me too :-)

August 5, 2014 9:58 am

Did say I was generalising APATS but I get ya!
“A few issues with this in the real world, it is a big ocean and unless you have you SSK in exactly the right place it is useless as it cannot move nearly quick enough to get into the right place. They are slow ambush predators with limited maneuverability. The Avenger cannot carry anything that can hurt the or detect the SSn so it orbits taking pretty pictures of surface ships. the A400 cued towards the correct area drops buoys but cannot process the returns as it is not an MPA and again carries no weapons.”
As they are yes but if an RFP was issued, what responses would we get, look the Government will want a competition to be seen to be in control of the purse, I just can’t see the saying “go and buy twelve P8 today will you theres a good chap!”
As monkey says above it’s about multiplying force or the old “Punching above our weight” (Really hate than un, makes me want to go and just… Well punch something!)
UAV could be made to carry the P8 sensor pack?
A400 can drop loads of Buoys?
And ok so we buy a P8/P1 or three or something that can liase with the Uav and the buoys, prioritise the targets and prosecute them all to hell? “Tresspassers will be prosecuted survivors will be shot!”
Ok I admit currently only the P8 can do it all but the A400 could do it better and so could an A330, I don’t think it’s the aircraft we need and I’m just looking at other ways. A combo of tansport to drop the buoys something to keep watch and something to kill em, just we may end up buying some of the bits anyway and not need to buy a dedicated MPA? We’re buying A400, we’re seriously looking at Triton and training on it at the moment I believe, prefer Avenger but it’s more endurance limited that Triton but can carry some weapons.
I just can’t see P8 as the killer. I guess I never got over Nimrod! It’s gone I know!
P8 Prices: US$201.4 million (FY13)[4]
US$275.7M (with R&D, FY13
Actually they are not quite as expensive as I had thought!
A400 €150m[2](FY 2012) (France) Hmm, could get pricey!
A330 second hand, well there are four2008, A330-200’s at Palm Beach for $78million a pop!
Range of up to 7,250 nm/13,400 km…

August 5, 2014 9:59 am

@Observer No P8 obsession here except I don’t want it, A330 all the way, now I know how much a base A400 costs!

Peter Elliott
August 5, 2014 10:00 am


Nobody bought it so they gave up!

Seriously once Britian and France didn’t bite for A319 they probably figured they needed something cheaper and lower spec for the smaller nations. Hence the decision to concentrate on the C-235 / C-295 family.

August 5, 2014 10:08 am

Observer, Yeah was reading yesterday about the troubles with the later 2xx series boats, can’t even seem to be able to raise a piccy of type 216 boat let alone the the new type 218 sub design, supposedly the 216 is even bigger than Dolphin at 4000 submerged, quite a big boat, suposedly designed when the Aussies started bemoaning their collins boats but type 218 no idea?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 5, 2014 10:09 am

@ Jules,

So now we are modifying A400s to drop buoys, modifying UAVs to carry ASW weapons and still buying a small number of MPAs, I really would hate to think of the extra stores, training and maintenance issues you have just created among the now modified and split fleet required to conduct a job that one platform can achieve.

The Government normally does want a competition but it is on a case for case basis and after the Nimrod fiasco would you want to be the Government that decided to go down an uncosted unproven and not in service mix of platforms? When your major ally has an in service ultra modern off the shelf option they will sell to you tomorrow and that you aircrew and operators have extensive experience of using.

If you buy your A330s you have to totally fund the conversion and R&D costs yourself.

@ Monkey

Think size, not just weight. These buoys are 3 feet long, 200 on an Avenger :)

August 5, 2014 10:13 am

“With regards to choice of MPA , the P8 is in service , the P1 is at final testing but not in production , the A400MPA or A330 not even conceptualised , what would u buy?”

I get you monkey, but the problem for the P-8 is that it is based on an airframe that is increasingly getting out of service for many airlines, which means that parts are going to get harder to come by and will be more costly as time goes by, which means that there needs to be a shift to a more modern, common airframe with lots of manufactured parts to get economies in scale. To me, this means the 767 series onwards or the A330.

Jules, the last projects you had with the French, you bailed on them, so I suspect they’ll tell you to go fly a kite and use that as an MPA. :)

August 5, 2014 10:26 am

The A214 was an export variant of the A212 with some of the more sensitive tech removed , sounds like they removed one or two essential item’s as well

August 5, 2014 10:44 am

Re 200 sonabouys on the underside of the UAV ,that’s a huge amount of drag even if they would fit .
Each is 13cm diameter by 91cm and dispensed vertically would need a pod , say 8 x 25 giving approx dimensions of 120cm x 375cm at a 15 cm pitch slanted rearwards at 45 deg gives a depth of 75cm or so . A big lump to hang off the bottom.

August 5, 2014 11:40 am

I just discounted the A400 due to unit cost unless we can get em off the germans for half price they are out in my book! That said you could have a roll on ejector out the back of an A400 in a trice, just drew one on the back of a fag packet!
You could also eject em out the big rear cargo door on an A330 I reckon, a specialist ejector to fit the underside of a Uav, I’ll admit that may be more difficult, doable but difficult, theres a lot of heavy placcy and rubber in them sonar buoys, at least the ones I used to handle anyway so 200 would be a bit of a tall order. Anyway I already decided I like the A330 because it can be Tanker, MPA and future AWACS/Rivet Joint all in one fleet, well two fleets really, gotta love PFI!
Personally I wouldn’t buy P8 at it’s current cost but then we didn’t buy Nimrod, and I’ll be the first to admit we have to buy something, I think $200 million a pop is steep, I’ll give them their due they did try to obviate the fuel thing a little as it includes six additional body fuel tanks for extended range but for our need, it must be long range, we don’t have 117 plus 40 Tritons to flood the Airspace with.
I’d suggest something along these lines…
General characteristics:
Crew: 10
Length: 38.6 m (126 ft 9 in)
Wingspan: 38.71 m (127 ft)
Height: 9.45 m (31 ft)
Wing area: 235.8 m2 (2,538 sq ft)
Empty weight: 51,710 kg (114,000 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 105,376 kg (232,315 lb)
Powerplant: 4 × Rolls-Royce BR710 turbofans, 68.97 kN (15,500 lbf) each
Maximum speed: Mach 0.77, 496 kn (571 mph, 918 km/h)
Range: 11,119 km (6,910 mi)
Hardpoints: 4× under-wing pylon stations and an internal bomb bay with a capacity of 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) and provisions to carry combinations of: Rockets: None
Air-to-air missile: 2× AIM-9 Sidewinder
Air-to-surface missile: AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-84 Harpoon, Storm Shadow
Depth charges
Air-dropped Mk.46 torpedoes, Sting Ray torpedoes
Naval mines
We were only going to end up with eight or nine of these, can eight or nine P8’s do what these could have, I don’t think so, to Paraphrase the movie Jaws “we need a biggger plane!”

August 5, 2014 1:41 pm

@Observer – “I get you monkey, but the problem for the P-8 is that it is based on an airframe that is increasingly getting out of service for many airlines, which means that parts are going to get harder to come by and will be more costly as time goes by, which means that there needs to be a shift to a more modern, common airframe with lots of manufactured parts to get economies in scale.”

I think not.

“A re-engined and redesigned version, the 737 MAX, is set to debut in 2017.
The 737 has been continuously manufactured by Boeing since 1967 with 8,104 aircraft delivered and 3,931 orders yet to be fulfilled as of June 2014.” – Wiki

August 5, 2014 2:07 pm

@Jules – In for a penny, in for a pound.

USS Macon ZRS-5:
Tonnage: 108 t (106 long tons)
Length: 239 m (784 ft 1 in)
Beam: 40.5 m (132 ft 10 in) (diameter)
Height: 44.6 m (146 ft 4 in)
Propulsion: 8 × 420 kW (560 hp) internal combustion engines (Maybach diesels)
Speed: 140 km/h (76 kn; 87 mph) (maximum)
Capacity: Useful load: 72 t (71 long tons)
Volume: 184,000 m3 (6,500,000 cu ft)
Complement: 91
Aircraft carried: 5 × F9C Sparrowhawk biplane fighters

I think an MPA carrying AIM-9 Sidewinders is useless, so we could delete those right off. Think of the mix of weaponry something this size could carry, and drones could be carried instead of the F9C Sparrowhawks! In addition, loiter time on station could pretty much be until the food and water ran out. With modern automation, crew size could be reduced, too. You could probably get by with just four of them.


August 5, 2014 2:34 pm

@Kent LOL! Love it!

Well go the whole hog and just have an ICBM with MAD Detector!!!


The old way…

Oh dear!

Detection of Submerged Vessels Using Remote Sensing Techniques:
By Squadron Leader G.G. Wren, RAAF and
Squadron Leader D. May, RAAF
Conventional mission proven technologies for the
detection of submerged vessels involve both
acoustic and non-acoustic techniques. These
techniques are highly effective in sector location of
submerged vessels. However, their ability to conduct
wide area surveillance (WAS) and provide regular
reporting is limited. Submerged vessels may also be
detectable using oceanographic remote sensing
technologies. Elevated sensors on a Low Earth Orbit
(LEO) satellite, or aboard an Uninhabited Aerial
Vehicle (UAV), may provide improved capabilities to
satisfy the spatial and temporal requirements of
WAS1. This article considers the potential application
of oceanographic remote sensing techniques to the
detection of submerged vessels.
Acoustic techniques comprise active and passive
sonar which requires the insertion of sensors into the
water either to detect sound waves produced by the
vessel’s propulsion systems (passive) or detect
reflected sound waves emitted by the sensor system
itself (active). Detected information is transmitted
back to an air or seaborne platform where processing
is carried out. Besides visual detection, the primary
non-acoustic method is Magnetic Anomaly Detection
(MAD). This technology is mature and is used by the
RAN and the RAAF’s long-range maritime patrol
There are several emerging techniques in
oceanographic remote sensing for detecting
submerged vessels. These methods range from the
direct detection of the vessel structure, to indirect
detection through analysis of the effect the vessel has
on the surrounding marine environment. Advances in
technology, such as detector sensitivity, are now
making the operational use of these techniques more
Conventional acoustic and non-acoustic detection
techniques have limited application to wide area
surveillance (WAS). A predominant reason is the
limited range of the detection technique due to the
nature of the physical phenomena being sensed. For
example, MAD detects the local disturbance in the
earth’s magnetic field caused by a concentrated
ferromagnetic body (e.g. a vessel’s hull). However,
given that magnetic field strength reduces with the
cube of the distance, the range of such sensors is
limited; current sensors are only effective out to a few
thousand feet. Acoustic detection over a wide area
requires the extensive deployment of sonar buoys or
towed arrays and the data fusion of their responses to
provide a surveillance picture.
Another limitation of conventional techniques to
WAS concerns revisit time, that is, the period
between successive surveillance of the same area.
The entire Royal Australian Navy (RAN) fleet would,
at maximum effort, have difficulty maintaining
adequate coverage over Northern Australia alone,
with each vessel being required to cover about 300
km of coast each day2. The minimum revisit time
required to provide adequate warning of a vessel’s
advance across our closest maritime approach is
about five hours (around half a vessel’s transit time)3.
Moreover, it takes around 25 days for a maritime
patrol aircraft to provide repeated radar coverage of
Australia’s area of direct military interest (ADMI)4.
This estimate suggests that revisit times for acoustic
coverage of the ADMI would be significant.
Elevated sensors in LEO5, or on high-altitude
UAVs, may provide an opportunity to satisfy the
spatial and temporal requirements of WAS.

August 5, 2014 2:36 pm

The P8 range at 2200km and 4 hours @ 750km/h on station gives a total of 7400 km has been critised as too short , the new 737MAX increases its efficiency by 10-13.5% mostly by a new engine and wing. If compatible that would give a total of 8100km to 8400km(the P1 and P3 about the same ). The MRA4 was at a quoted 11100km (assume like for like condition’s) WAS around an extra 4 hours on station.
However it no longer exists outside of a museum so as an existing proven type ,the P8,our crews have trained on surely its the lowest risk option , that and given the global support from the USN for the type gives the choice more weight. A new A400MPA (to,to package) or Voyager variant would cost what 1 billion to get production clearance and 5-10 years ? We could have half a dozen P8 for that.

August 5, 2014 2:44 pm

Should read ro ro not to to

August 5, 2014 2:47 pm

@Jules – Someone else thought of an update too! Looks like room for F-35Bs and helos as well!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 5, 2014 2:50 pm


I will wait for someone who knows more about aircraft than me to come along but I will say your airframe sounds weird.

Crew 10- You want persistence but ad only 1 more crew member than P8 ( people need to rest and changeover as well)
Length: 38.6 m (126 ft 9 in)- P8 is 39.5M/A320 37.5M/767 47.6M/A330 58M
Wingspan: 38.71 m (127 ft)-P8 is 35.7m/A320 34.1M/767 47.6m/A330 60M
Height: 9.45 m (31 ft) If this is overall height then it is smaller than a P8 if it is fuselage it is twice as high. The BR710 is designed for high and fast exec jet ops as well.
you seem to have designed a short fat aircraft with 4 exec jet engines trapped on.

i could find you several other fantasy pieces on possible future technology to read if you like. They normally have one thing in common they were written by someone sent away to do so as part of a course.

August 5, 2014 2:53 pm

Amazing Kent, I thought they stopped production years ago…

If demand is still that high, then I’ll have no objections to the P-8 other than the fact that our national carrier has not used 737s since the 80s, so can’t be raided as a source of parts in desperation. If the supply of parts is there internationally, then there shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Prefer commonality, but not at the expense (literally) of a billion dollar R&D bill.

August 5, 2014 2:59 pm

“Air-to-surface missile: AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-84 Harpoon, Storm Shadow”

Is he designing an MPA or a ground attack bomber??!! And AIM-9s…

His plane looks like it has no idea what it wants to be.

August 5, 2014 3:33 pm

The Maverick was used by the US P3 for inshore litoral targets such as smaller combatants.

I’m pretty sure they used one against a Libyan patrol boat a few years ago. Harpoon has too much risk of collateral if it picks up another target on radar instead of the intended one. Not sure if the later blocks can be target defined.

A Different Gareth
A Different Gareth
August 5, 2014 4:08 pm

All Politicians are the Same, Observer,

The description Jules has given is the Nimrod MRA4.

The question of ‘Is he designing an MPA or a bomber?’ is an apt one. I think there are sufficient similarities in how they operate that a common airframe or significant common parts with variants for MPA and bomber would suit the UK well. A bomber would give the UK more independence in operations. There are other roles that require long ranges or long times on station too such as surveillance, refueling and airborne early warning that could also be performed with such an airframe.

I don’t think the MoD and UK Government could come up with a spec and stick to it for it to ever happen though, let alone in a cost effective manner. Few other European nations would have a need for it as well. Maybe the Italians could do with a long range MPA to police the med for asylum seeker boats? AEW fleets could do with a refresh I suppose.airframes.

August 5, 2014 4:10 pm

@Observer – Can you imagine? The first flight was 44 years ago, and there are still almost 4,000 on order! The 737 is truly the DC-3 of our age! Of course, I think airships can do the job more cheaply and efficiently. With modern weather forecasting and radar, there’s no reason they should be swept away, damaged, or destroyed by storms. When bad weather creates a risk to the airships then there is a need for a sturdy long range MPA. :P

Back on the reality side of the street, the Boeing 737 AEW&C flown by Australia, Turkey, and South Korea (based on the 737-700 instead of the 737-800ERX (P-1 Poseidon). There is no reason the AEW&C hardware couldn’t be used on the Poseidon airframe for commonality.

Rocket Banana
August 5, 2014 4:16 pm


Why not use the A320 (10,504 ordered)?

At least that way it remains European.

Just have to lay it on the line to Europe and somehow mangle a way that makes only the Airbus solution viable/legal. We can then have loads of them doing AWACS, MPA and ELINT with massive commonality over the nations of Europe.

We can then realistically expect to export to many of the (ex) Commonwealth countries.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 5, 2014 4:23 pm

@ a Different Gareth

Well spotted I did search some options and even MR2 but not MR4. MR4 £3.6 Billion pound for 9 airframes that still were not right. The RAFs very own FRES :(
Our biggest issue with MPA seems to be we are normally out of synch with everyone else which is I guess why we decided to base a new one on a 1950s airframe again. This time thanks to our gap we are actually in synch with much of the world changing theirs.

August 5, 2014 5:17 pm

It was Nimrod MRA4! Lifted straight off Wiki mate!
I have loads more detection fantasies, I’d love to share…
@Kent Not denying the reality just not willing to accept it… Yet…
I Just think looking at the long term that the A330 is a better platform but as you all say and I reckon you’ll be proven right, we’ll end up with the P8, The risks involved would be to great unless we did manage to pull off another one with the French it would be great, A320 faded to obscurity, shame really…

August 5, 2014 5:19 pm

Jules give the spec of nimrod which is great and all but we chopped them up, p8 won’t match that. If your starting from scratch why would you stick to 1950s airframe sizes and weights.

It needs to be remembered you don’t need something the size of p8 (737) to do asw the p8 has growth margins built in to do other roles. So are we buying something just to do asw or is going to get more roles than that and if so crew training, time spent on different tasks and maintenance will determine fleet size.

Forgetting purchase costs, The real money question though given our small fleet size will we continue to stump up cash at regular internals to keep pace with US updates toward high alt asw or will we do an AWACS along the way run out of cash and slowly fail to keep pace or deviate from the us path?

Aibus dropped the a319 mpa idea because they realised the market outside the US for a p8 type aircraft was tiny and far more people wanted a medium sized capability.

August 5, 2014 5:27 pm

@Simon – The options I provided (outside of the airships) are “turn key.” How many years would it take to fit the kit to an A320, get it tested, and get it approved by the EU? You may as well get an A380 and put everything you need on one airplane – AWACS, MPA, A2AR, ELINT, ASW, ISTAR, transport, and bomber. You could call it the Battlestar series of aircraft. The RAF’s could be the Battlestar Britannia, France’s could be the Battlestar République française, Germany’s could be Battlestar Deutschland, Italy’s could be Battlestar Roma, and Spain’s could be Battlestar España.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 5, 2014 5:35 pm


I realise that now but looked at MR2 specs and gave up when wing span did not match :) Unfortunately MR4 would have cost over £400 million per airframe and still had issues. As Mark points out, we chopped them up.

@ Mark

As TAS points out we actually do need something capable of providing the range endurance and payload of a P8 to fulfill our N Atlantic mission. Could that be smaller? doubtful? I saw the disadvantages of a CN295 vs P3 during Libya first hand and we do not always operate in the Med lake.
As I tried to post above and got spammed we are for once in a position to buy an MPA that meets our needs off the shelf that is operated by our closest allies and that our remaining crews have experience with. it would be a brave HMG that decided to do something “wacky”

August 5, 2014 5:41 pm

@Simon – BTW, I’m an American (patrilineal line to 1674 from Middlesex). :D

August 5, 2014 5:43 pm

I like it Battlestar Britannia , I wonder what size gun(s) you could fit on it , if they can fit a 105mm to AC-130 then what to a A380? Or maybe just opt for the Rail Gun BAE are building for your Navy , sod Torpedoes once you have a lock on a sub even at 100m+ depth I wouldn’t rate its chances :-)

August 5, 2014 5:43 pm

It seems to me that there are a number of military roles for an airliner-sized aircraft.
Troop transport
Air to air refuelling
Airborne warning and control
Electronics intercept
Maritime patrol

and maybe some other roles
Perhaps it would be a good idea to get on board early with something like this:
Get modular systems fits so you could take the role-specific equipment out and put it on a new airframe when you wear the first one out (if you do), use the same basic airframe across all roles, staggered so you don’t have to try and replace the whole pool at once.

Doesn’t help in the first instance where we kind of need one soon, but it might inform what we might choose as an interim solution.

Rocket Banana