UK Maritime Capability – The Missing Element

A commentary from Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham and Air Vice-Marshal Andrew L. Roberts in support of filling the maritime patrol aircraft gap.


Following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR 10), the planned Nimrod MRA4 fleet was scrapped. Four years later, it is clear that this is a major loss of capability. At a time when our maritime interests are so obviously of higher profile, the need for a Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) is now a topic for Government attention and brought into sharper focus by the recent events surrounding the disappearance of Flight MH370, in which a very large area of the Indian Ocean needed to be searched. A variety of MPA from several nations participated in the search, led by the Australians. Britain could not now undertake such a mission were a similar tragedy to occur in UK waters.

Ships, submarines, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Experience strongly suggests that modern maritime warfare, especially ASW, is best undertaken using a ‘layered approach’ with a mix of platforms. Even with the latest technology, this is likely to continue to be the case. There is no cheap panacea. MOD has now acknowledged (1) that cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 has resulted in a significant capability gap. Because of the need for a combination of rapid response and reach, we believe that, at least in the short and medium term, this gap can be filled only by airborne platforms. As SDSR 15 approaches, it is timely to review the options likely to be available for filling the gap.

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August 24, 2014 6:32 pm

No shit. Now decide what you want to sacrifice to pay for it.

The Other Chris
August 24, 2014 6:47 pm

I’ll sacrifice £3b of the current contingency for program introduction, then reduce ongoing contingency accordingly for operation, thank you very much.

August 24, 2014 7:45 pm

“Now decide what you want to sacrifice to pay for it.” – The Kavalry.

And if that doesn’t cover it, half the travel allowance for civil servants/local government employees. All stationery to be mono instead of colour. Fine people for stupid 999 calls. The list goes on.

August 24, 2014 8:06 pm

From the link “acquire an effective long-range MPA capability (preferably with an air-to-air refuelling capability) should be set in hand without delay.” ‘P8 it is then ,I will will take two dozen but the light blues will man and pay for it’ signed First Sea Lord Z ( it is a plane operating from land after all don’t you know, mines a gin and don’t spare angustouras )

Peter Elliott
August 24, 2014 8:26 pm

More likely to be a trickle buy.

6 to begin with to get an IOC for MPA up and running. Then a drip feed of one or two more each year.

The clever wrinkle will be to raid the budget lines for Sentinel and Sentry as those platforms are managed out of service by 2020.

Ultimate fleet of 15 MMA at FOC for all three capabiities?

Peter Elliott
August 24, 2014 8:58 pm

Now I hear you all saying: why scrap Sentry, the airframes have years left in them. But by all accounts the mission systems don’t so there is a big cost avoidance there if we can eke them out for another few years and then get rid. And while the airframes may have life in them they are non standard, as are Sentinel. Eliminate both types and there is a really big slice of opex to go towards the new single type MMA.

The Other Chris
August 24, 2014 9:34 pm

What’s behind your thinking for 6 airframes initially?

August 24, 2014 9:40 pm

A baseline figure of 5 P8 has been bandied about quite a bit since 2010.

August 25, 2014 1:09 am

@ Hohum

I don’t accept that we have to give up anything to operate a small fleet of P8’s. we are currently underspending by £1 billion a year. we also have a £400 million a year contingency budget and an additional £800 million in un allocated funding per annum.

Most of the risk from defence programs has been removed and with projects like CVF coming online that risk will reduce further.

we currently have three active trained crews on seed corn that we pay for as well. a small fleet of 5 P8’s is well with in our means. we can supplement then with Reaper’s using Seaspray 7500 e pods as well.

Sure it’s not the MRA4 fleet of 18 aircraft but its likley good enough for what we need. The P8 fleet could be supplemented by some more aircraft post 2020 as a Sentinal repalcement as well.

Jeremy M H
August 25, 2014 2:18 am

I tend to agree that buying the P-8 makes by far the most sense for the UK here. A proper MPA with the full suite of weapons is something that the UK really does need and nothing else offers to get it with as little risk. I know people will raise many of the usual points against it but the small risk associated with those things are a good deal more acceptable than the more open ended risk of trying something new. I think P-8 plus something like LRASM is a pretty important capability for the UK moving forward.

Though I have to admit I would be very interested to see how a program for a European MPA would work out.

On the E-3 thought I was fairly sure I saw somewhere that the UK was updating its E-3’s to the latest standards. I would have to think they will be around for quite a while.

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 6:46 am

The figure of 5 or 6 would be seen as the minimum to get an IOC up and running. Five has been a good number for Sentinel. With brand new commercially based airframes there’s no reason why we should not be able to generate 2 or 3 deployable + 2 or 3 on maintenance, training and force generation, with the ability to surge 100% for short periods.

Obviously more is better. But that probably comes from folding other tasks into the mix. Assets can then be surged in whichever direction needs them at any given time.

I agree with Jeremy that we _could_ choose to keep E3 Sentry going for a long time yet. But if P8 MMA can be made to deliver an 80% AEWC capability then for me E3 becomes vulnerable as a niche capability. The world has also moved on in terms of networked situational awareness. Our Fast Jets will all have networked radars which talk to each other, to the AEWC, and to the ground. And Crowsnest will also be forward deployable and networked. Doesn’t that make us less reliant on the functionality of E3’s big airbourne radar?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 25, 2014 7:30 am

When the land-based world looks more dangerous and unpredictable than it has for years (Ukraine, Iraq/Syria, Libya, Palestine, west Africa) it seems a bit self-indulgent to be fetishising over a maritime patrol capability that we don’t need.

If we as a nation have a billion to spare, I’d rather we gave it to the Single Intelligence Account so that we can better monitor the real threats.

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 7:49 am

The point about maritime is that the Russians are spending just as heavily on regenerating their naval capacity as they are on their land forces. How would we respond if they started picking off islands on either their East or West coasts? Or put a naval blockade on the Baltic states?

It’s also about posture and credibility. Russia respects force. If they come to think we don’t care and can’t protect our CASD they will make conclusions about our resolve and be more inclined to take liberties against us in other realms.

But you are right in the sense that we cannot afford to purchase a full scale maritime only system. We can’t afford 20 P8s (or Kawasaki P1s) just to chase Russian subs round the North Atlantic. Sentinel and Sentry replacements and upgrades will have similar issues of niche specialism and affordable critical mass. Hence the attraction of migrating towards a Joint Force MMA with the critical mass to generate enough force elements for all 3 tasks. Purple times.

August 25, 2014 8:12 am

I don’t see how the P8 can get anywhere near 80% of an AEW1. Nowhere the near the crew for one. C3 rather than radar being what it most often ends up used for, hence having up to 19 mission crew compared to the P8’s 3. Also on the point of radar the P8’s while probably not terrible for detecting planes is a league below the AEW1’s and only has a 120 degree viewing angle with limited aimability. Whereas E3 can do 360, from ground to the stratosphere and the last upgrade much improved it against stealthy targets.

I’m sure at some point the basic P8 airframe might get a look in, in the future for other uses like AEW/ISTAR/whatever, being 40 years younger than the now out of production 707 and the previous 767 based replacement programs being killed off in the US, although Japan did get it’s E767, (basically E3 systems with on a 767), there’s already the E7 wedgetail AEWC on a very similar 737 airframe. AEW1 will need replacing eventually but we’re nowhere near there yet. One problem at a time.

More generally; P8 is the quickest way to close a glaring gap(one you can argue is going to grow once we field QE) and we should take it. No reinventing the wheel or multi-decade programs please. Buy it, crew it, field it and move onto the next gap.

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 8:37 am

Its not the airframe I am refering to as a possible 80% solution: its the system. I’m not an expert and the comment is made to stimulate discussion. But I’m talking about networked sensors building the overall air picture. So the mission crew on a P8 can potentially see a much bigger air picture than what their own aircraft’s sensors can detect. No reason why that can’t include input from radar carrying Reapers as well as Fast Jets and Crowsnest Helos. No its not the same as an E3. But could it be made good enough?

On an AEWC mission presumably all 5 workstations would be used for the task? How does an E2D cope with so few bodies on board? And again how much of the task really needs to be done in the air these days? We’re not talking about manipulating multi-squadron strike packages. And won’t the air picture also be shared with ground HQ where you can have as many bodies as you like?

August 25, 2014 8:45 am

‘we are currently underspending by £1 billion a year’

But they do not know where that underspend had come from, so I would not spend it just yet.

‘P8 is the quickest way to close a glaring gap’

It’s probably the most expensive, but I don’t think it’s the only quick one available.

‘This is an affordable solution that Lockheed Martin has proven can be installed in 11 months’

If we went for the P3 that would give us time to choose a common airframe for a Joint Force MMA, the French and Germans would be looking for an airframe for the MPA role at about the same time. We could choose an Airbus frame and go from there.

On another note, could we not use the sentinel airframes to retire our E3’s in the 2018-20 time frame by using a system similar to the Erieye radar system, to reduce running costs?

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 8:59 am

Ref the underspend the comment about not knowing was what they told a Parliamentary Committee some time ago. I find it diffuclt to believe that (a) they didn’t have some pretty strong suspicions about where the underspend came from and (b) they’ve not been working on it since and they don’t know a lot more about it by now.

After all not knowing is not the same as not wanting to share information in public before you’ve decided what to do about it.

August 25, 2014 9:13 am

‘(b) they’ve not been working on it since and they don’t know a lot more about it by now.’

So it might not be an underspend after all. And if it was maybe it’s already been allocated such as the announcement for Sentinel etc at Farnborough.

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 9:32 am

If it’s just a phasing between accounting years that might be true. The cost is simply deferred and hits you in the next year. So you carry the cash forward to meet it, which is what the Treasury has agreed to.

But if that in turn pushes other costs back (ie the whole project plan has moved to the right) then the lump of spare cash at the beginning is available to spend, so long as you remember to provide for an overspend in the last year of the project, which could be 5 years down the line, and could be provided for by bringing another project forward.

The devil is in the detail. Which is why its really good that our last 2 SoS have had a strong business background and are capable of asking hard questions about just such matters, understanding the answers and making informed decisions. So yes, I expect any truely surplus cash will be spent on one useful thing or another.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 25, 2014 9:36 am

Does anyone know how much it would cost to upgrade RAF E3 AWACS to the latest standard? Seems a shame to throw away good kit because we cannot be bothered to update it.

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 9:59 am


Its not just the capital cost of the upgrade to think about. Its the ongoing opex of running separate fleets of handfuls of aircraft, each with their own maintenance and support infrastrucure. We already have 2 such fleets in Sentry and Sentinel. We risk adding a third if we go for a boutique buy of ASW-MPA.

I’m not saying P8 MMA is a magic bullet. But we would be fools not to have a good hard look at whether it can do a job for us across a number of manned ISTAR capabilities. Separate squadrons and separate mission crews of course. But the same aircraft and the same maintenance support.

The Crowsnest kit is described as being designed to Ro-Ro the Merlin HM2. If the P8’s baseline radar fit really isn’t up to the requirment of AEWC would addtional radar pods mounted on the external hard points be enough to make it so? We should at least look into the question and get an indicative costing rather than just saing “P8 isn’t an E3” and moving on.

August 25, 2014 10:13 am

E2 copes by having to control fewer aircraft(an air wing not an air war), downlinking to the all up CIC on the carrier and it copes in it’s role but it doesn’t match up to E3 performance and capabilities wise.

Could the P8 do it, sure at some level, but it’d be a kludge and very inefficient(not OTS). You’re replacing a dedicated aircraft with more than 4 types and achieving worse overall performance and more vulnerability(Jamming, ASAT weapons, sheer bandwidth requirements, huge emissions, sensor gaps). Not to mention to make it feasible would require some serious investment; multiple system/aircraft upgrades to multiple types, new systems, training, new satellites(a lot of them, to provide necessary bandwidth and coverage) and so so much software to be written. Look how difficult it’s been to get it going on a single type(F35).

Also the current Reaper radar would be useless for detecting planes. Although I’d imagine a a drone equipped with a AEW style radar is probably on a drawing board somewhere.

Networked distributed sensors are the future, you’re absolutely right there, but it will be additive to the E3 or future AWACS not it’s replacement. Even when the eventual time comes and all aircraft have 360 degree sensors, there’s always going to be a use for flying the biggest A2A radar you can as high as you can, just physics.

Networked and distributed sensors are great but covering a large area, as completely and persistently as an AWACS does, requires lots of them, because by definition they have to be small not to compromise the host aircraft in it’s primary role whatever that may be and those small sensors can’t be everywhere. Size matters when it comes to radar, everything else being equal; bigger is better.

When you have lots of aircraft in one place for other reasons already(hot war), you may as well take advantage of those airframes and any intel they can gather but for general wide area surveillance go for one big radar/airframe not lots of little ones.

On adding more radars to P8 to create a dual A2A/A2G capability the US tried with the E10 MC2A and gave up. Apparently interference becomes a big problem with that many radars in one place. The plan was to create a single plane or at least single type for AWACS/ELINT/JSTARS etc etc, but it got cancelled. It’s a great idea IMO, just going to cost a lot of money no-one wants to spend.

The AEW1 has the latest radar upgrades (RSIP) btw.

August 25, 2014 10:20 am

Why are our maritime interests suddenly more high profile at this time as opposed to any other time????
If the vice admiral cant explain it can anyone else justify that assertion?

Not saying we do notvhave maritime interrests, just why now are they more high profile.

August 25, 2014 10:38 am

I don’t think they’ve taken any greater precedence over other domains, just a lot happening with the Navy atm and this SDSR will have a lot of Naval issues to deal with. So it’s what everyone talking about.

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 10:45 am

Chuck – you may be right in terms of the technical dificulty and associated cost. And it would be a big waste of capital if we did end up putting a massive radar disc on top of every ASW-MPA. Like I said I’m no engineer and just to study the question before rushing out with a big cheque book.

But I do have a couple of points to consider from your answer:

We now only have 7 squadrons of Fast Jets. Best case I can imagine we might get back to 10 or 11 squadrons one day. The chances of our ever deploying more than 2 or 3 squadrons on an Op is minimal. So our sovereign AEWC requirment is already scaled to an Air Wing rather than and Air War. As such it may be E3 that is out of place. Any future system doesn’t have to meet E3 capability. It has to meet the UK Requirement. Which may no longer be the same thing. (If its a larger coalition operation then there are other players in the game who can bring the tools: not just the USAF but also the dedicated European NATO AEWC fleet.)

August 25, 2014 11:14 am

“(If its a larger coalition operation then there are other players in the game who can bring the tools: not just the USAF but also the dedicated European NATO AEWC fleet.)”

Sounds much like the excuse for our MPA gap atm. ‘our allies can deal with it’.

btw, our E3 fleet is a big part of the NATO surveillance fleet you mentioned. Also, we have a huge sovereign airspace to monitor ourselves – hence our drive to get AEW capability in the first place. Without it, there would be just as big a damming gap in capability as there is with the gap re MPA, one which a T45 or a bagger could not hope of filling.. sounds familiar re the MPA gap?. Naturally, a large space of unmonitored airspace is not as scary or concerning to sea centric minds..

The P8 doesn’t have the capacity, nor the range of types of systems, range in endurance, and range in electric reach.
The E3’s are in constant use, and they are pretty much a flying HQ, and are usually – along with the R1 – our first response to a crisis. Look at our responses to the crisis’s over the past…
The USN has so far not gone ahead with any plans to develop P8 into a E3 equivalent, if anything, the USN are looking into ground/shore mapping radar, which would mean P8 could eventually replace Sentinel, which would be a step up re crew and sensor capacity.

ISTAR is one of the UK’s major core capabilities that is often in high demand by our allies, more so than most others. Its one of the key areas we would be contributing to in any coalition, more meaningful than a handful of ships, tanks or tonkas we can afford to send on our limited naval and air transport.
If there was anything Europe (that means us) should be building up (aviation wise) as the US reduces its European presence, is those specialist areas… EW, ISTAR and Tankers.

If anything, we should be expanding on this, rather than thinking of cutting A to resurrect B whilst having a sore gap in A. Which will eventually mean cutting C…. and so on.

I agree we need MPA just as those senior officers and general opinion on here.
But don’t go into that route of cutting one major capability for another… that’s how we got into this mess.
I still think we’ll end up following the USN/RAAF model, a smaller number of large platform (P8 or whatever) with unmanned. Then again, cost may halt that.

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 11:27 am

Fair point. If it just won’t meet the requirement then its not worth going there. But note I wasn’t arguing to gap the capability: but to scale our capability to the UK requirement, whatever that may be.

Maybe as some have said a 737 Wedgetail will eventually get us the maintenance commonality benefit while still being specialised enough to perform the role better than a P8 would.

August 25, 2014 11:56 am

“the French and Germans would be looking for an airframe for the MPA role at about the same time”

With both countries being effectively in recession in the last quarter and MPA and maritime attack now being an absolutely secondary role to the German Navy, I can’t see this happening. It could only be some “let’s feed Airbus some contracts” type of action, but there is really no necessity. Btw, Airbus currently has no appetite for half-assed European procurement projects after the commercially disastrous A400M.

A much more realistic option is the UK developing a ro-ro MPA capability for the A400M. But there is not even a concept study and there are no hardpoints.

An outside bet to me is a V22-MPA. If we could create a Boeing-BAE partnership with the latter leading in development of a SV-22 (which would also be interesting to the USN), this could be a commercially more viable alternative. I can also see operational advantages through being able to more easily forward deploy those VTOL-planes on small islands.

But, let’s realize there is an unstoppable push to a “anglosphere-solution”. And this clearly is the P-8.

August 25, 2014 12:26 pm

I absolutely support your views about the points of conflict becoming more widespread.

But we will not send troops to Ebola-infested West Africa anytime soon. Palestine is out of our capabilities, and Israel is more or less a friend. Iraq/Syria? I guess in 2013 we have sufficiently made clear that is none of our business, and we waited too long to support the moderate FSA anyways. Same applies to Libya.

The only real shithole is Ukraine. If this would pose a real problem to the UK, it would basically be a NATO problem. I cannot see Turkey going to war with Russia over Ukraine, contracts aside. I cannot see Germany going to even a small conflict with Russia over Ukraine, they are in full appeasement mode, regardless what Merkel says. The left-wingers are already ceding Crimea to Russia. Neither will Sweden, for that matter. And as Putin absolutely knows this, the alliance is practically checked.

Involving the UK in a Ukraine-operation would involve blocking three distinct Russian fleets and around 800 combat aircraft, all of them effectively closing the theatre of operations.

August 25, 2014 1:03 pm

Can’t fault your logic on the present crisis but what about future ones and how much notice will we have under the present system to plan for and actual commit to some form of action be it humanitarian response or otherwise. Granted some of recent events are out of the blue so to speak , a large group of rapists kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls for instance but Russia’s dissatisfaction at a pro-western Ukrainian government and how he could destabilize them? I seriously doubt , even at just an anti-terrorist level , the Western intelligence agencies share very much information so although across the Western world tens of thousands of people are employed to gather ,analyse and disseminate information to their respective governments that is not a pool of information we can dip into we must gather, analyse etc it ourselves (even if the same is repeated dozens of times by various other countries agencies) . So a £1bn would go a long way to us being better informed of what we face.

August 25, 2014 1:19 pm

– An “SV-22” would be incapable of handling a MPA mission without massive support because it hasn’t the “legs.” The only real alternative for the UK that I see is the P-8 or a P-3 rebuild (unless you’re waiting for AIRBUS to come up with something useful), and the P-3 airframe itself is old tech. Unless the rebuild can fix the reported aerodynamic issues of the P-3 airframe, your pilots will will wear out before the aircraft does. In addition, the P-3 airframe has little room for growth.

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 1:20 pm

Its worth considering that there is none so blind as those that will not see.

The trajecctory of Russian actions from Georgia to Crimea to Donbass is now very clear. The Baltic Republics are right to feel very nervous indeed. I’m sure our Intelligence professionals are saying all the right things in their briefings. But do our politicians seriously understand the extent to which NATO members are now at risk? Do they care? The failure of EU members to impose full arms embargo and economic sanctions on Russia so far is not encouraging.

Successive professional heads of the Armed Forces have pointed out in public and in private the weaknesses in our armed forces resulting from SDSR10 in particular and the previous 20 years in general. But do our politicians really understand that an upward trajectory of military spending is now required?

Cameron has made some promising sounding noises so far but actually done nothing substantial. The forthcoming NATO summit will be a fascinating event. How much hot air will we hear and how much action or real intent will result?

Peter Elliott
August 25, 2014 1:25 pm

I’d note as well that history hasn’t ended. And 2014 feels horribly like 1935 to me.

We’ve been lucky to have had nearly 70 years of relative peace in Europe. Every previous period of peace has ended in a major war sooner or later. The success of the EU in promoting peaceful co-ooperation between its members is indeed notable. But Russia isn’t in the European family, doesn’t want to be, and isn’t going to join the love-in any time soon whether we want them to or not.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 25, 2014 1:30 pm


My main point is that the world is currently pretty unstable, with those active conflicts or bubbling tensions merely being the current flavour. Others are available, even if they won’t involve the UK. Common to them all is that MPA is pretty irrelevant, and yet up thread we have people arguing for us to spank out a billion or so on this capability, merely because a retired Admiral (famously known as a remarkably unJoint DCDS(EC)) writes an article. As Mandy Rice-Davies once said, “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

MPA is of course useful, no one would say it is not, but it needs to take its’ place in a wider set of priorities. No where do we currently face a sea threat. Saving lives in our sea search area is all very nice, but it is not naturally a military function, so if the nation thinks it really important some other Ministry such as Transport should fund it, and either operate their own fleet of MPA or buy in services from the MoD. They do not, so I conclude that there’s no appetite for such an expensive service.

If there is a spare billion, spend it where it will have the most positive effect for Britain. That might even mean a transfer of that billion from Defence to health, to fund some new drug, or as I said above, into central government intelligence. Don’t just spank it up on MPA because an old Admiral says so.

August 25, 2014 1:59 pm

The use of low freq radar on aew aircraft may become more important in the future for detection of low observable aircraft/missiles in the future. We may have an option to migrate AWACS to a330 aircraft we have 5 spare a/c in the tanker contract.
From what I’ve heard e2 is always relegated to secondary tasking such as aar toe line control ect when e3 is on task.

Perhaps instead of attempting to shoe horn in a p8 aircraft we should just go for an 80% gd enough capability and keep the large Istar aircraft we continually use.

August 25, 2014 2:08 pm

I’ve read here and elsewhere that the Russians no longer have the capabilities that they did as the Soviet Union in the old Cold War days and that they no longer present a credible threat in the open ocean. I would submit for consideration that they don’t have to provide the level of threat that they once did because we stopped planning for the threat. The USN re-purposed then retired the S-3 Viking fleet because the threat of massive numbers of first rate Soviet subs to our carrier groups “disappeared.” Likewise, the UK retired the Nimrods for the same reason when money came up short.

The problem is that the threat didn’t “disappear;” it merely went on hiatus and returned in smaller but no less capable numbers. With Putin sending patrol aircraft down both coasts of the US and around Alaska, stealing Crimea and otherwise bullying Ukraine, and spending money on new first rate submarines, the threat to shipping, our naval forces, and even our cities from Russian submarines is very real and growing.

And where are we? The USN is fielding the shorter-ranged, high altitude P-8 with less loiter time to replace the longer-ranged, low altitude, long loiter time P-3* and helicopters have replaced the S-3 on our carriers. The UK doesn’t have a MPA at all. And the Russian leadership is growing more aggressive, and the Chinese are making a big push to develop a true “blue water” navy.

Just saying that we stopped considering the long term threat when it was merely reduced in the short term. Life is good, huh?

*(I’m not saying that the P-3 didn’t need replacing, nor am I saying that the P-8 isn’t going to be a very capable MPA.)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2014 2:43 pm

Interesting that there are a quite a few comments on “an old Admiral” says so yet this was co authored by an “old Air Marshal”. Also we like to talk about the Russians and the threat that they present in the eastern Ukraine which is over 1500 miles away and happens to have most of NATO between us and it yet we seem to want to believe that they will play nice in the Atlantic.
A lot of people on here like to over egg the Russian pudding and the simple fact is that they currently lack the forces to cause NATO issues in any sort of conventional conflict but they are modernising and rebuilding.
The area where they could cause us issues and embarrassment is in the Atlantic as a single or small number of modern SSNs can cause chaos out of all proportion to their force levels.
As SR points out, support to the SSBN is and should be a number one priority and this will become even more important given the modernisation of the Russian Fleet. As I have illustrated in a previous post they are no more capable of closing the Atlantic than they are of rolling across Europe but their options for causing “mischief” by submarines at sea is far greater than any effort to role across Europe as it can be deniable.
Reference the MPA/MMA debate, people already use them slightly differently, in Libya the 148 battery Spotters who were airborne in MPA had the authority to call fire from Naval platforms. As we move towards longer ranged guided weapons launched from all 3 environments and with a recent history of ops in uncontested air space this role may well evolve and grow. Other sensors and future fits could indeed see a Patrol Aircraft (PA) evolce which can be used in both maritime and land Environments.
It is no coincidence that closing the MPA (gap) has support across all 3 services at high levels.

August 25, 2014 4:15 pm

Just so I understand this correctly apas given this statement “, support to the SSBN is and should be a number one priority and this will become even more important”

Would it be the RN position going into sdsr 15 that regeneration of a fixed wing mpa would sit ahead of commissioning pow, f35 purchase or like for like replacement of type 23 from a funding perspective.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2014 4:26 pm

@ Mark

MPA is an RAF platform :)

However to make myself clear I am talking about items not currently in the Defence equipment plan. We have enjoyed an MPA holiday helped both by a decrease in the threat and assistance from our Allies. if we do not want this holiday to continue beyond 2020 as the threat increases and our Allies grow tired of supporting us with their ageing platforms then we need to make a decision in 2015.
Looking at your list of “options”, we are going to commission QE and buy F35, we are going to replace T23 but I would prioritise MPA over bringing POW into service on a full time basis yes.

El Sid
El Sid
August 25, 2014 4:30 pm

Why are our maritime interests suddenly more high profile at this time as opposed to any other time????

I’m not sure anyone’s claiming that are suddenly more high profile, perhaps a better way of putting it is priorities have been subsumed to Herrick over the last decade or so. This may be relevant from 2012 :
Incidentally it puts the cost of the E-3 fleet at £99m/year, current OSD is 2025.

[The MoD’s] assessment of current and future threats is informed by past experience and the prevailing and anticipated environment. It is therefore not static. These threats in the maritime domain include but are not limited to:

Submarine Threat ***and the proliferation of modern submarines across the world. ***.

Surface-borne threat—Globally present (ranging from Homewaters, the Falklands, Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Aden and Far East) that require layered force protection of deployed Forces. ***and extends to such disciplines as Warfighting to Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Piracy and high-threat Counter Narcotics operations.

Air Threats—deployed maritime units contribute to the compilation of the air picture and complement shore-based aircraft both in detection and interception of air threat crossing maritime areas.

Threats to Resource & Energy supply—such as the risk of mining/attack in strategic choke points such as Straits of Hormuz or support to MMO for Fishery Protection.

Threats to UK Borders—counter drugs operations and preventing illegal immigration.

Threat of Pollution/Environmental disaster, including major weather events.

In relation to each of these threats, the purpose of maritime surveillance is to identify them and support effective decision-making at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

…Future Maritime Operational Concept (FMOC) lays out the strategic context and trends that the UK may face up to 2025. Although threats such as Fast Attack Craft; Improvised Explosive Devices; Submarines; and Mines are similar to those faced now, the new levels of capability and complexity of the threats bring increased risk to the UK. Understanding the “Pattern of Life” ie normalised activity in the maritime domain and new threats such as Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) and Electro-Magnetic Pulse devices may proliferate and have to be countered. Maritime surveillance will continue to play an important role in the key Military Tasks and is an important capability to link strategic intelligence to actions at the tactical level.

August 25, 2014 4:33 pm

Thanks apas thought you might mention its a raf platform. But I would agree that it should never of been a holiday in the first place. It probably needs to be new money I just don’t know from were it coming or what we don’t buy to get it. I would also say it either comes back this sdsr or it never will.

August 25, 2014 5:15 pm

For an Airbus A330 MRTT derivative for MPA/MMA how long till a minimum of 6 in service?
For an Airbus A400M RoRo derivative for MPA/MMA how long till a minimum of 6 in service?
For an Kawasaki P1 derivative for MPA only how long till a minimum of 6 in service?
For an Lockheed P3 rebuild for MPA only how long till a minimum of 6 in service?
For an Boeing P8 derivative for MPA only how long till a minimum of 6 in service?
The Yasen SSN has 2 in the water ,2 on the stocks and 6 more to follow at 1 per year.
The Borei SSBN has 3 in the water ,2 on the stocks and 5 more to follow at 1 per year.
Type 093 SSN has 3 in the water ,2 on the stocks and 5 more to follow at 1 per year.
Type 094 SSBN has 5 in the water ,1 on the stocks and 1 more to follow at 1 per year.
These are new designs using the latest technologies .
If we are to counter them we need a layered defence sub surface with the Astutes , on surface with T23s and above with an MPA .

August 25, 2014 5:27 pm

Whatever we decide to do, a study from CentreForum (July 2014) warns about half-baked approaches:
“or example, the recent purchase
of the USAF’s RC-135 RIVET JOINT electronic intelligence gathering aircraft has
locked the UK into through-life support with the USA’s L3 Communications. Whilst
this ensures that the RAF benefits from USAF investments in RIVET JOINT, it also
means an open-ended UK exposure to American support and upgrade costs.
Any deviation from this fleet support and upgrade approach rapidly renders an
asset procured in this way non-standard, much more expensive to support,
[foot note 51]
prone to unexpectedly early obsolescence.”
– the footnote makes it clear that the cancellation of the Project Eagle for the RAF E3s is deemed to have had the listed effects (lesson to be learned)

The Other Chris
August 25, 2014 5:36 pm

Only evidence I can find for a number of 5 or 6 being used for a purchase of an MPA is around the 2011/2012 mark when there was discussion of a £1b being found “behind the sofa” around the various defence forums.

At the time, P-8A early production costs were being being bandied around the $200m mark (£125m, though £200m has also been mentioned). I can’t find any official statements or leaks for a number of 6, so I’m guessing the figure came out of internet debate via a division of the £1b with a little left over for facilities and operation.

MRA4 was canned at the point where the program could only ever deliver 9 aircraft.

What level of aircraft purchase should we be aiming for? How many are needed?

We can then attempt to work out the price afterwards.

Context is MPA in the Nimrod sense initially, but don’t let that stop you discussing variants on the platform!

The Other Chris
August 25, 2014 5:51 pm

Another aspect to consider is the “Project Airseeker” model.

Feelings on Rivet Joint aside, the USA/UK joint program improvement model has been described as “ground breaking” with the Airseekers joining the Cousins Fleet in being stripped down and rebuilt every four years with the latest combined Anglo-American kit.

Rivet Joint is a bit more “special” than Poseidon, however a similar “continuous capability improvement program” with joint contributions may be worth considering?

August 25, 2014 5:53 pm

I only mentioned 6 as bare minimum to cover the N Atlantic to start , if all six available (as if) 1 10hr (unrefuelled) flight per day on intense operations should allow us to cover the North Sea(2 planes per day) GIUK gap(2 planes per day) and a catchers mitt for all points south (2 planes per day). That would still leave gaps in coverage but we have the T23’s and the SSN’s to assist but only a few due to other needs.
To cover our area of interest Europe needs to deploy at least 60 at a minimum from the North Cape to Cyprus.

August 25, 2014 6:15 pm

@TOC – I’d say you need 4 for the Northern Approaches, 4 more for the Western Approaches, 2 for the Falklands, and 4 for contingencies if you want to be fully prepared. This covers maintenance downtime, meeting “allied cooperation” requirements, and surge capacity.

With the P-8 in service, using the same 737-based airframe for AEW (ala Wedgetail or E-2D Hawkeye systems or whatever you want) would reduce future airframe-specific maintenance personnel and spare parts diversification. You could probably replace “Rivet Joint” with the same airframe and make your A&P wrenches happy.

Just my humble opinion.

August 25, 2014 7:56 pm

Would it be a bonkers idea to lease P3s as the cousins replace them with P8s until our new bestest allies ( the French – no, really) are ready to replace theirs then settle on a common platform? Not cheap I know, but what is.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 25, 2014 8:25 pm

There’s some insanity on stilts going on here. Apparently, we (Europe) now need 60 of the ruddy things to cover us from the Northern Cape to the Med.

No we don’t.

We need other things like better intelligence, forward based logistic dumps, a synchromesh for political and military decision making, and better integration of mass medical/humanitarian relief delivery without uniforms being needed.

August 25, 2014 9:05 pm

“Synchromesh”? Holy fuck. There is no God.

August 25, 2014 9:07 pm

Phil you got something against synthetic material for swimwear?

Though why RT would think that politicians and military leaders would make better decisions in swimsuits puzzles me. :)

August 25, 2014 9:12 pm

@RT: 60 is ridiculous, have to agree there. 6 fills all our needs, 12 our wants. I’d say 12 only if they get it working well for over land work as a sentinel replacement(an armed one at that), could be a great capability, but that’s still hypothetical.

We need those other things too and just as much, especially the decision making which seems to get more farcical by the month.

Paying for it all is going to take something radical though; like making google and vodafone etc pay their bloody taxes. I know crazy idea, never happen, but 35bn a year could do all that and more.

August 25, 2014 9:20 pm

21 nimrod mra 4 was once considered the bare min needed then it was 16 then 9 when the budget ran out now it’s 4,5,6 p8s or whatever number fits in whatever budget we think we have because we must have that platform.

You could prob have 6 p8 aircraft next year if you talk really nice to the yank you wouldn’t have a 6 aircraft capabilty until closer to 2020 I would have thought as a lot of crew would need trained. Mind you all the options being offered to the mod will enter service with others.

The Other Chris
August 25, 2014 9:31 pm

Think Kent was referring the whole of Europe.

P-3 Orion stocks in AMARG were found to have severe corrosion, particularly in the wings.

Think the UK needs a double-figure fleet once you recount the MRA4 plans, before the cut from 18 to 12.

No idea whether newer platforms will place that closer to 10 or 20.

Can completely understand the number 6 by 2020 given training needs, provided we’re climbing North of that after 2020!

Haven’t checked the numbers yet, are the USN losing crew numbers switching from P-3 to P-8? Scope for a USCG type exchange?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2014 9:38 pm

RT said 60 across all of Europe. Not sure where he magicked that number from as I did not see anyone claiming we needed that many. Not counting the US P3 element at Sigonella we have less than 50 between the North Cape and Suez.

August 25, 2014 9:40 pm

@mark: Just like we needed 18 FJ squadrons, 30 escorts, 19 submarines, 3 carriers, 400+ tanks etc etc. Love to see those numbers again sure but gotta move with the times and accept the facts. As little as we like it.

We have 30+ doing the seedcorn thing last time I checked, so should be able to use them to at least get IOC reaosnably sharpish then build out from there. Getting fully operational will take quite a bit longer obviously.

August 25, 2014 10:04 pm

Haven’t US Navy taken delivery of at least 15 P8’s?

Surely we could acquire at least six of the P3’s they replaced?

If we go for the P8, I hope we have a fully funded plan to use the 737 airframe for our E3, Rivet Joint and Sentinel replacement over a 10-15 year period. I would prefer we used P3’s as a stop gap and developed a plan for an Airbus airframe, so we at least get some production in our factories.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 25, 2014 10:22 pm

APATS, re 60. Some monkey called monkey at 20140825:1753 GMT. I know, it is bizarre, isn’t it? Sad recce bloke that I am, I can spot lunacies.

Has anyone actually come up with a real world use for these things yet? Given that it’s a billion, and there is not actually any threat that needs an MPA, nor any interest in suing us for not doing SOLAS to the rather ridiculous extent of our apparent responsibilities (and look at a map: the Micks need to seriously step up on that score, if it’s important).

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2014 10:35 pm


I did indeed miss that. I really am remiss in going back and reading posts I have read when they are first posted (damm the edit function). If we had a capability we would be at 60.
F me you do a weird DTG we would generally say it was 251653ZJul14 .

As for what they do, they build the RMP day in, day out, provide vital ASW training, dep.oy to provide ASW cover and ASuW OTH targeting. were very important in Libya and have the capacity to provide similar capability in future conflicts, as well as providing support to the CASD. i would say and your current serving Army superiors happen to agree it is an important capability.

El Sid
El Sid
August 25, 2014 11:11 pm

We’ve been here before, the going rate for a SLEPed P-3 is about $35m apiece.

At least the Seedcorn mob seem to be up to speed on the P-8 :

August 26, 2014 12:59 am

Australia already operates the E-7 Wedgetail and the Boeing Business Jet in the VIP fleet (a 737 derivative). In a few years they will add the P-8. If there are synergies, they won’t be theoretical. Someone just has to pick up the phone and ask.

August 26, 2014 2:08 am

Personally, I’d like to see what Airbus offer up when the time comes. At least when you buy Airbus, there will be a much higher proportion of construction done in the UK as apposed to other alternatives.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 26, 2014 5:10 am


Re DTG, an adaptation for the computer age and big data, not by me and not yet in common use, but gaining usage. It is machine sortable without further conversion.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 26, 2014 5:23 am

…..(@ APATS)…. The colon I put in merely to draw attention to the time. Stripping it out, you can see that the format is entirely logical, ascending, and is a pure integer on which you can perform calculations. That’s an advance on a standard DTG, which only natively works within a calendar month until you have to convert text to numbers, and even then operations and data gathering that span multiple months are difficult to sort. The only thing a standard DTG gives you is a reference to GMT, which is useful.

August 26, 2014 5:26 am

Amazing. It’s also totally backwards to the DTG I’m used to. Interesting to see how many systems there are to confuse you. The month/day thing looks very American.

Whatever happened to the simple time/day/month/year notation? :)

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 26, 2014 5:52 am


The format came from the software community, very possibly from an American. Don’t know any more details.

But it is elegant, and more importantly computable. You can very quickly calculate the time difference between any two events (and after minutes, you can revert to decimals for fractions of seconds). It is also enormously useful in ballistics, as you can use it within calculations to provide a fourth dimension.

August 26, 2014 5:55 am

@El Sid,
‘We’ve been here before, the going rate for a SLEPed P-3 is about $35m apiece’

Why SLEP them? they were being used up to a year ago, we only need to lease/buy them as a stop gap.

The Other Chris
August 26, 2014 6:21 am

There’s a reason why the ones that have been retired have been retired.

EDIT: The USN/Seedcorn and good will of our neighbours has been our stop gap. We need to kick on with a long term solution so we don’t waste the opportunity they’ve given us.

August 26, 2014 9:16 am

The US have 8 P3’s at Sigonella VP-4 (these also work out of Djibouti)
Norway have 6 P-3’s
Germany have 8 P-3’s
Ireland have 2 C-295 MPA’s
France have 22 Atlantic II ‘s(these also work out ofDakar and Djibouti)
Spain have 6 P-3’s
Portugal have 5 P-3’s
Italy have 4 Atlantic II’s and 5 ATR 72’s on order
Greece have 6 P-3’s
Turkey have 8 ATR 72’s and 4 C-295 MPA’s
Finland, Denmark, Holland,Belgium,Cyprus and the UK have ZERO so were not alone ☺
The C-295 and ATR 72 are short ranged aircraft but still very useful .
The 55 P3’s and Atlantic II’s have been through life extension programmes and have some years left , there is commonality to some extent with the P3’s but are all of slightly different builds / national requirements so it is limited. If Europe was to buy the P8 or P1 or A400M with RoRo as a block buy adding in some for the UK to give a total order of 60 surely we could cut a good deal?
The UK being an Island nation has a certain dependance on the sea

El Sid
El Sid
August 26, 2014 11:32 am

France have 22 Atlantic II ‘s…Atlantic II’s have been through life extension programmes

Only 18 were upgraded.

August 26, 2014 11:49 am

@El Sid
Thanks for the update , France does a have disproportionate share of the MPA burden doesn’t it. If they choose to replace them , we chose not to replace Nimrod in the end, would they buy from outside their own industry ? If they didn’t replace them it would leave a huge hole in Europe’s MPA abilities.

August 26, 2014 4:40 pm

‘There’s a reason why the ones that have been retired have been retired’

I doubt they are falling out of the sky, and even if they are it’s 15 airframes we can buy and SLEP. If the $35m is right and add a few million for purchasing costs of the airframes so say $50m (being generous) a piece, which is still half the cost of a P8. We could have at least 3 in service this time next year (‘This is an affordable solution that Lockheed Martin has proven can be installed in 11 months’) to begin training crews and technicians etc and a full squadron in 2-3 years of at least 6 airframes maybe nine for a considerably smaller cost than the P8.

If we decide to purchase the P8, I would like to see it as part of a programme to consolidate all our manned ISTAR fleet with the same airframe over a period of time rather than bumbling from one expensive acquisition to the next which seems to have been the norm for at least the last 20 years. Just because we may have found a billion down the back of the sofa does not mean we need to spend it on the latest toy especially if it doesn’t really meet our full requirements (range).

How much are we spending to cut up the green Merlin’s due to a lack of foresight and planning? we can get a better deal if we are negotiating for at least 20 airframes of maybe 3 configurations over a planned sustained period rather than a few one offs now.

August 26, 2014 4:41 pm

Does the thing have to be manned? Would it be more effective to have more less capable units rather than trying to (again) get a tiny number of the best possible pieces of kit?

August 26, 2014 4:50 pm

Allan, one of the roles of MPA is Anti-sub. The next UAV that can give even a basic capability for that would be the first. Not to mention that while the vehicle is cheap, unless you want to be limited by a 80km range, the ground control station and satellite relays needed to control the vehicles at long range add a lot of cost. You literally need to put satellites in space to use the system effectively, and I really don’t even want to imagine the bandwidth needed to transmit 40 sonobuoys worth of data to a satellite and back to a groundstation.

August 26, 2014 4:51 pm

@David Niven

A new joint multi-mission aircraft to save costs would be great. But this doesn’t exist. The P-8 is only a maritime patrol aircraft. The E-7 is only an AWACS aircraft. Although both based off the 737 there are significantly differences between them. To get savings, we’d have to integrate the systems onto a new platform – which essentially means P-8. The US is currently testing a new ground surveillance radar on P-8, but its not really practical to lug this round all the time.The result of all this is 3 or 4 mini fleets of outwardly similar aircraft, which doesn’t look like its going to save cost.

The alternative would be to see about a new-build European (Airbus or BAES) multi-mission aircraft that actually can do all these tasks.

Peter Elliott
August 26, 2014 4:53 pm


Depends if the we think the threat is real, or in danger of becoming real inside the next 5 years.

If it is then we want something that is available now and has been shown to work. And we will pay for however many of them the PM of the day decides we can sensibly afford. Which quantity isn’t always and in every generation fewer than we need. Remember 1935.

If we don’t think the threat is real we could by dozens of weird and wonderful things that may or may not work. Or spend a couple of decades developing a deathstar from scratch. Or buy nothing at all. I doesn’t really matter either way becuase we don’t seriously expect to need them. Lots of nations do defence spending like this.

August 26, 2014 5:06 pm


‘The alternative would be to see about a new-build European (Airbus or BAES) multi-mission aircraft that actually can do all these tasks.’

I’m all for that, we could buy time with a sqn of SLEP P3’s and start negotiating with them. The first airframe due for replacement would be the AWAC’s (I think) go from there with a steady production of airframes from 2020 onwards. Buy then a few other nations will be looking for various replacements as well which might make it a tempting opportunity to the aircraft manufacturers.

The Other Chris
August 26, 2014 5:27 pm

The P-8 platform has been designed as a Multi Mission Aircraft. MPA being the first role the platform is adapted to.

Whether you think the platform will adapt effectively to other roles is another interesting debate. Worth googling the AAS to get an idea of what could be added.

The Other Chris
August 26, 2014 5:29 pm

I don’t see a SLEPed P-3 purchase as a stop-gap.

If we buy them they will become the long-term solution.

August 26, 2014 5:34 pm

‘I don’t see a SLEPed P-3 purchase as a stop-gap.’

Depends on the length of the stop gap, but if the AWAC’s OSD is 2025 (I think that date has been mentioned) then we replace them first and go from there.

El Sid
El Sid
August 26, 2014 5:58 pm

If the $35m is right and add a few million for purchasing costs of the airframes so say $50m (being generous)

No – it’s about $35m bought and SLEPed – a while back I posted several examples of countries who had done just that, that pricing seems pretty firm. The reason you need to SLEP them is that they are knackered – they’re all at least 24 years old, many much older (first production was 1961, based on a 1957 civilian design). You can imagine what fun the MAA would have with something that is of the same vintage as the Nimrod MR2, given the hassle they’ve given Rivet Joint.

August 26, 2014 6:18 pm

@El Sid

‘No – it’s about $35m bought and SLEPed’

Why are we even contemplating P8, when we can get a decent capability pretty quick and for that price? The US are still going to be using the P3 for at least another 10 years considering they have reduced their yearly buys of P8 due to sequestration.

The Other Chris
August 26, 2014 6:30 pm

Range, payload, system architecture, zero hour airframes, serviceability, crew costs, ease of training, reliability, commonality, jointness, purple applicability…

The Other Chris
August 26, 2014 6:31 pm

…and when the US stop using the P-3 we’ll be stuck financing the improvement program solo.

The Other Chris
August 26, 2014 6:41 pm

Better start a P-8 based program now, starting with a handful of airframes, increase the fleet over time and get a head start on the next government rather than spend £1b-2b on an airframe that future governments will arse about and maybe not even replace in 10-15 years time, justifying another £1b-£2b to SLEP them even further when the combined costs would have purchased a respectable modern fleet.

Then some bright spark will come up with the idea of buying the last 21 remaining airframes on the planet, replacing the wings…

August 26, 2014 6:42 pm


P8 – 1,200 nmi (2,222 km) ; 4 hours on station (for anti-submarine warfare mission)
P3 – 1,346 nmi[1] (2,490 km) three hours on-station at 1,500 feet

Payload is also similar, serviceability, crew costs;

‘The P-3 MLU Program is the answer to maintaining effectiveness and reliability in a critical global economy. It consists of a life extension kit replacing the aircraft outer wings, center wing lower section and horizontal stabilizer with new production components. MLU removes all current P-3 airframe flight restrictions and provides 15,000 additional flight hours, greatly enhancing capability leveraged with cost-effectiveness. The design replaces all fatigue-life-limiting structures on the aircraft with enhanced-design components and new improved corrosion-resistant materials that will greatly reduce the cost of ownership over the aircraft’s remaining service life. This is an affordable solution that Lockheed Martin has proven can be installed in 11 months.

The MLU program greatly reduces the cost of ownership over the aircraft’s extended service life and will help ensure the P-3 is mission ready for decades to come.’


jointness, a number of NATO countries use the P3 and have recently SLEP’ed to varying degrees to extend life so we would not be on our own once the US stop using them.

So what do we really get for the large asking price of the P8?

August 26, 2014 6:45 pm

I think Airbus put the FITS system in Brazilian p3s

Peter Elliott
August 26, 2014 6:46 pm

Key difference is the MMA potential. Sentinel replacement for sure.

August 26, 2014 7:07 pm

There are I think 39 P3’s in use in NATO Europe at the moment , with the French having 18 Atlantic II’s and the Italians 4 which will need replacing / re LEP , with our buy of ‘x’ we should be able to take over some of the US fleet . Their Coast Guard/Homeland plan to use quite a few P3 airframes for some time in the drug interdiction role in the P3 Slicker role and P3-AEW 20+ all told so we have a prospect of some long term support from Lockheed that way , overall with other users around the world 100+ airframes will be in use for a decade + .
If Lockheed are as good as their word then we would have time to develop our own or plan to replace them in with the then time proven P1/P8’s in the late 2020’s.

The Other Chris
August 26, 2014 8:31 pm

At least 180kVA additional power, increased likelihood of making it home with all engines running, a range and endurance reported publicly based on a genuine mission payload (not the maximum Top Trumps values that everyone thinks they can take), larger pylon weight ratings, 8,100 airframes constructed to date and climbing, an aircraft designed in the last decade (did we mention zero hour airframes?), engines that prevent hearing loss, job prospects if you leave service…

…oh and an improvement program with a roadmap that won’t be entirely self-funded.

August 26, 2014 9:29 pm

Surely given the cancellations of all things Nimrod there are two lessons learnt

1. Buying old airframes and giving them to the ‘contractors’ to convert to a modern, competitive platform is going to be a tough sell. Unless the donor platform is unique in the right way (e.g. A10 Warthog) then forget it

2. Developing your own unique platforms is expensive. Personally I believe blindly copying the America way is a mistake. We have clever engineers, and they need challenges. Not because we need to provide them with fun, but because IP and technology is a game changer. Technology really does win wars.

I’d go for the P8, but I personally believe the platform is far from clever (unlike the Nimrod), I also believe it to be short legged and doesn’t offer the growth potential to be multimission. Indeed the MAD was left off the USN fleet to extend the range, illustrating both points.

August 27, 2014 2:25 am

Bloody hell. So much love for P3’s that the original operators themselves don’t seem to share. Why is that? Why do you think the US and Australia are giving up their aircraft? It’s not like maritime patrol guys are particularly loved within their aviation communities. They don’t get new toys very often (the fighter mafia see to that), so why now? Upgrading their P3’s would be even cheaper because they already own them – so why don’t they?

I’m an ex-P3 NAV/TACCO and I loved that old grey lady, but she is very tired. I’ve come home on 3 engines more times than I can remember and pre-flights get pretty annoying when you have to keep switching aircraft during them until you find one that remains serviceable. And that was 10 years ago. 10 years into the future would be the stuff of nightmares.

If the US or Australia could do a refit and zero life their frames they would. And it’s not like they haven’t tried before. I don’t think either of these countries are buying a new airframe to placate industry or anything. (Sure, some of you will make that argument, but anyone who knows something of the politics of procurement within the military will know that MPA guys are nobody). I think that they are getting new aircraft because in the long run it will be cheaper. I can’t imagine the calculus would be any different for the UK.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 27, 2014 2:41 am

@ Monkey,

“…if Lockheed are as good as their word…”.

Yes well, I wouldn’t bet on it. And count your fingers and check your wallet after shaking hands with Mr Lockheed. He has a reputation for being early with the bill, and late on delivery of something not really as good as you thought it might be.

Mercator, honestly said. Looks like the P3 is the equivalent of CVR(T).

August 27, 2014 7:12 am


‘a range and endurance reported publicly based on a genuine mission payload (not the maximum Top Trumps values that everyone thinks they can take)’

Fair enough it’s from wiki, but then why are the US spending further millions on developing high altitude weapons release and BAMS? Could we afford to buy P8 and BAMS?

‘engines that prevent hearing loss’

Easily remedied with ear defence, it’s not like C130, Chinook, Tornado etc are quite.

‘improvement program with a roadmap that won’t be entirely self-funded.’

Once again we would not be the only users.

‘Why do you think the US and Australia are giving up their aircraft?’

Probably the same reason NZ, Canada, Brazil etc are not, Money. I would bet that nearly all the users would replace their P3’s if there was an affordable solution out there, so why with an airframe that has all the problems that you encountered are they not rushing to buy the P8?

I’m not saying discount the P8 but there are alternatives out there that can give us a bit of time to either find the money or plan a coherent strategy for follow on airframes. At the moment the P8 is expensive, unproven and if it needs to be operated with the BAMS to get the most out of it then we need to really consider alternatives. We could wait and see what becomes of the Kawasaki P1 as an alternative airframe for a start. After all the P8 is the only game in town at the moment and the fact that they have only 2 export orders for the aircraft when a lot of countries use the old P3 also speaks volumes on the cost of the airframe.

The reason we are jumping for joy at the prospect of having some money to buy an MPA is because we were skint, and one of the reasons for being skint was wanting the newest toy in shop at every opportunity. Spend a little money to keep skills and buy time then follow a coherent plan.

August 27, 2014 7:19 am

All we need is the Ozzie combo of manned/ unmanned to extend out to the vast reaches of the Atlantic… And some NATO rationalisation in the MPA world akin to AEW, ground surveillance, heavy airlift…
“”There are I think 39 P3′s in use in NATO Europe at the moment , with the French having 18 Atlantic II’s and the Italians 4 which will need replacing ” plus some Frenh biz jets while the Atlantique numbers are down due to LEP’ping.

Peter Elliott
August 27, 2014 7:37 am

Logically there is a need for Euorpean NATO to get their act together and make a joint programme for ASW-MPA based on an Airbus product. Use the systems off C-295 on something bigger and longer legged: A320, A330, A400. Take your pick based on range and payload then pony up and deliver both the development budget and the orders.

But our allies are in no hurry. They have capability in service at the moment and they are ekeing it out. Any budget they can find is likely to go freshening up their land forces to rotate through Poland and the Baltics for the next decade. Most of them do not have serious surface or subsurfacce asstes to protect and are happy with short legged MPA mostly focussed on surface search.

We are in a hurry becuase (a) we have no capability at the moment (b) we have a sub launched nuclear deterrant to protect (c) we are a lot closer to the maritime front line than a lot of our allies (c) within 5 years we will be putting a seriously expensive capital ship task group to sea.

Only the French are in a remotely similar position to us but item (a) is still a hugely significant difference. And they are a lot more broke than we are. Basically the stars are not in alignment for such a programme to be any use to us.

August 27, 2014 9:02 am

ACC, the Aussie combo isn’t exactly proven yet. Consider it an experiment in progress. Same problems I pointed out repeatedly. UAV range without massive boosting is ..sad.

Mercator, wonderful, we need some insights from someone who did the job before.
“I need a volunteer. You.” :)

How often do you get multiple taskings in one flight? I know grabbing a Maritime Profile is a staple of the job, but does it take up most of the time or do you do it in passing as you try to track “Red Sub Number XYZ” from last known position or intel? Or is it in reverse, you do a sweep of the area to get the RMP, but drop buoys once in a while at likely locations hoping that a sub crosses one?

In short, what is the day like for an MPA operator?

The Other Chris
August 27, 2014 9:39 am

There’s four common criticisms floated around about the P-8:

1) Cost
2) High altitude restrictions
3) Capability over P-3
4) Requires an expensive UAS to partner it


There’s no getting away from the higher cost of the platform.

Similar to CVF, the MMA program is designed to last for 40-50 years. The airframes are going to be around for a long time, have been designed to be upgraded and refreshed from the ground up and so costs need to be thought of in these time-scales and setting.

Buy cheap, pay twice.


There’s two aspects to this argument: The low-level myth and the high-altitude necessity myth.

Being unable to operate at low level is a myth that has been debunked. Nimrod could do it well, P-8 can do it well. The 737 is designed for a very high cycle rate commercially that the toughened P-8 variant won’t encounter regularly. It’s operation will likely be low cycle high altitude operation with periodic heavy low level manoeuvres.

I do not see being able to operate at high altitude operation as a negative. If the technology exists to allow detection, identification and deployment at altitude there are two huge advantages:

1) You’ve increased the area that your platform can detect, identify and deploy payloads into. Transition to low-level isn’t precluded, when needed.
2) You’ve also just extended the range, speed and reaction time of your mission; extending the life of your airframe is also a bonus.

Capability over P-3

The Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) program, prior to selection of the Boeing bid, intentionally specified transfer of equipment where possible from the P-3 to de-risk the program. You’ll note some exceptions where the P-3 equivalent has reached the end of its upgrade path. You’ll also note that in these cases replacement equipment is either the latest versions of kit earmarked for MRA4 or very similar in concept is being fitted instead.

What’s different in the P-8 compared to the P-3 is how the equipment plugs in. From the start, MMA has been a plug and play concept not limited to the MPA mission: Create an architecture that lets you plug in proven equipment and payload from the P-3 and then kick on from there over the next several decades.

The agnostic workstations and standardised Comms/SWAP/Cooling allows you to select equipment different from the MPA mission.

It just makes sense to start with the MPA mission as it has some of the more demanding requirements. Get that right and you’ve solved most of the problems required for other missions.


Moving back to the start of the BAMS concept of operations, you have three layers of effect:

1) A HALE platform to provide continuous, persistent ISR over a broad area (I don’t recall a Target Acquisition profile in the original tender);
2) A lower-altitude (not low-altitude, remember the HALE operating above it!) MMA for specific special purpose missions (e.g. MPA);
3) Genuine low-level aircraft to be fulfilled by the Vertical Take-off UAV (i.e. original MQ-8 Firescout before switching to the newer MQ-8C)

Poseidon/Triton is not so much a partnership for the specific purpose of MPA, but rather they are two elements of a multi-layered approach to providing the supporting infrastructure needed to dominate the marine environment.

Or so the concept goes.

August 27, 2014 10:12 am

I really don’t know ToC, there is this current UAV craze that is going on in military circles, and frankly, people are going nuts over it. I suspect that a lot of these capabilities are already overselling the concept and sooner or later, when they can’t deliver, there is going to be a backlash that will turn people against it, which in itself is a waste because UAVs do have their uses.

And MMA is already taken by Mixed Martial Arts. :)

August 27, 2014 10:22 am

@Red Trousers
Re Lockheed – if the F22 and F35 programmes are anything to go by your bang on.
We would need a cast iron water tight heavy penalty contract for the delivery and long term performance of the reworked P3’s but we do not have the individuals capable of saying ” if you want our hundreds of millions of Her Britannic Majesty’s pounds then you will sign that you will deliver on time, on price and to the existing specification you say are already building to or pay a fine.”

August 27, 2014 10:28 am

Observer a graphic showing the pitiful UAV range with the bams bases planned–notice-the-persian-gulf-has-overlapping-coverage-by-two-bams-drones.jpg

Add Singapore (not the uninhabited Australian islands nearby, as unofficially planned), UK (participated in the early studies) and Hawaii… And its sorted!

August 27, 2014 10:39 am

ACC, do you know that the range for a UAV without satellite relays is only ~80km? Those graphics show you the maximum range. If controlled by a satellite. How many satellites are you allocating for UAV control? The US can afford it, can the rest of the world?

August 27, 2014 10:42 am

‘Buy cheap, pay twice’


‘Spend in haste, repent at leisure’
buy a capability at the numbers required at an affordable cost and prevent capability holidays.

When is the realistic time frame of us receiving our first P8 of only 5-6 and then reaching full operational capability? If it is a few years away then lease something else to get an immediate capability and formulate a plan and talk to manufacturer’s.

The Other Chris
August 27, 2014 11:09 am

News on the Australian P-8 purchase and some extra digging. Real-world examples may shed light?

USN has ordered nearly $300m in parts to begin constructing the Australian order:

Note mention of the four options. Potentially 12 x P-8A and 7 x MQ-4C for a potential 19 aircraft (12 + 7).

Quick check of the updated AIR 7000 Capability Plan to see what the budgets are looking like (includes acquisition, facilities, training, parts and through-life support, does not include operation costs).

A$5.3b to A$8.5b which equates to £3.0b to £4.8b at today’s exchange rate.

This includes Phases 1B (Triton), 2B (Poseidon Increment 2) and 2C (Poseidon Increment 3) and includes the four options.

A quick check of the Australian Treasury accounts confirms budget only approved/available for around the lower amount so far. AIR 7000 to request each point of planned budget as various milestones are met.

First delivery for Australia is 2017, full deliveries by 2020 for Increment 2, 2021 for Increment 3.

August 27, 2014 11:20 am

I am sure in the teaming of the manned and the unmanned, the former provides a satellite link (there are many dedicated a/c doing only that in areas where a lot of links are required) and the latter is an extension in the way of range and endurance
… how could it otherwise make a team (complementary, yes, but that is less than a team)

The Other Chris
August 27, 2014 11:33 am

Heh heh, going through these old notes on MMA/BAMS, I’m struck by how often LCS is mentioned:

“Mothership” for the VTUAV, a “wet” sensor deployment, balloon lofted sensor tethering spot, towed array patrol, even a BACN node!

A Different Gareth
A Different Gareth
August 27, 2014 12:40 pm

Sometimes I think the UK should swallow its pride and plump for an all new Nimrod, and in sufficient numbers to cover MPA, bombing, AEW, surveillance and other jobs.

At other times I wonder if a modern successor to the VC-10 would make more sense. Something bodged from the Airbus A320 range perhaps. Front fuselage of an A321, rear fuselage of A319 and a reworked tail (in part pinched from a400m?) to accommodate the engines (two big ones or four small ones I’m not sure). The relatively long front end would provide room for a good size weapon/sensor bay or external canoe whereas a more conventionally proportioned airliner has the undercarriage somewhat in the way.

monkey said: “If Europe was to buy the P8 or P1 or A400M with RoRo as a block buy adding in some for the UK to give a total order of 60 surely we could cut a good deal?”

Getting the major members of the EU to agree on that would be like herding cats. Buying P8 or P1 would also kill off whatever intentions may remain for there to be a European competitor.

August 27, 2014 12:50 pm

Once upon a time, the Israelis had the idea of controlling a UAV or two from the back of an F-15. That idea died an ignoble death and was buried in the sand dunes of history. Not every UAV idea is a good one, nor is it an automatic success. The term UAV is not a synonym for cheap, automatically successful, can do everything.

August 27, 2014 1:21 pm

On the P8 being able to Hi-Lo-Hi the 737 is a very tough bird. Aloha Airlines Flight 243 fuselage failed on 28th April 1988 killing a flight attendant but was landed safely. It was delivered new in 1969.
From wikki “While the airframe had only accumulated 35,496 flight hours prior to the accident, those hours were over 89,680 flight cycles (a flight cycle is defined as a takeoff and a landing), owing to its use on short flights.)”
Almost 90,000 takeoff and landings ! It however rarely reached anything like cruise altitude due to the very short interisland hops so stressed less than going up to 39,000 ft.
However more recently two SouthWest Airlines 737’s have a similar but less catastrophic decompressions Flight 812 from Yuma on 1st April 2011 and another in July 2009.
Both the latter two where pinned down to manufacturing faults in the fuselage. Hopefully they have fixed it.

Jeremy M H
August 27, 2014 1:25 pm

I always love the simple solution of “lease something” as if one is running down to the local BMW dealer to lease a 5 series. Leasing in the sense many are thinking of it requires a few things be present and the first of these is an eventual market if you return the asset. Unless the financing group sees a forward going market for an upgraded P-3 you are simply going to pay the whole of the upgrade and acquisition cost plus interest over whatever the life of the lease is. The only way they can charge you less than that is if they are fairly certain they can lease it after you are done with it or sell it.

I am not saying it couldn’t be done with a P-3. It might. But it is not something where people have a good handle on the market like cars or even C-17’s which were still being sold internationally and to the US when the UK was doing that lease. It would not be an easy deal to do.

August 27, 2014 1:26 pm

‘First delivery for Australia is 2017, full deliveries by 2020 for Increment 2, 2021 for Increment 3.’

So from ordering, which will not be until after the SDSR 2015 we will get our first aircraft in 2018 (if we are lucky with the slots) and then a complete delivery (depending on numbers) 3-4 years later, so 2021 at the earliest if everything goes well.

We could start to design a plug and play system for the A400 now with the new found money and have it tested and delivered in service well within the 2020 time frame. This would give us a product that might have a chance at being sold in Europe and if we were really clever and made a KC-390 compatible/version South America.

What will our skill fade be like by the time we start to operate the P8? even if we leased a few C295’s (or any MOTS airframe of your choice) for 5 years we could keep a training pipeline going and carry out a few patrols ourselves to show good will to our allies who are at the moment covering for our loss in capability.

Jeremy M H
August 27, 2014 1:41 pm


If the UK said they wanted 5 P-8’s next year I have little doubt the slots could be found. It wouldn’t impact the US adversely to do so if that was important. The RN is simply taking aircraft on the schedule they want. I believe the Indian order is almost filled at this point.

Jeremy M H
August 27, 2014 1:52 pm

Not RN, RAN. My mistake.

Peter Elliott
August 27, 2014 1:54 pm


An A400 conversion would not be plug and play. What all the Airbus products lack is a significant bomb bay to carry missiles and torpedos. That’s not a plug and play issue. Its an airframe redesign and recertification issue. A canoe if you are lucky. Or cutting into structural fuselage of you are not. Neither easy nor cheap.

August 27, 2014 2:02 pm

Peter Elliot
‘What all the Airbus products lack is a significant bomb bay to carry missiles and torpedos’

The A400 has a massive bomb bay, throw them out the back from the cargo bay. It’s not like the Americans have not been doing it for a fair amount of time from the C130. hang them off the wings if you can’t do that. Why would it not be a similar plug and play system to the C295?

The Other Chris
August 27, 2014 2:13 pm

Past articles and comments on A400M:

The Airbus A400M Atlas series starting with Part 1

Future Maritime Patrol – Part 6 (C130J and A400M Options)

A Further Look at TD’s Modular A400M MPA


There’s a number of photo links broken on the Future Maritime Patrol – Part 6 article.

Peter Elliott
August 27, 2014 2:23 pm

Didn’t know the C130 has a heavy weapons release capability?

I guess the wing hardpoints that the A400 does have would be taken up with sensor pods for the detection part of the mission. And the parachute door with a release mechanism for sonor buoys.

As far as munitions goes what we are talking about is a weapons release for some seriously expensive and dangerous toys: the ability to know when you release them what direction they will go in and where they will end up pointing. No point chucking a fire stick off the back ramp if when the motor fires if comes right back at you and incinerates your gaping rear orifice!

*Layman talking warning* I am guessing it would take a lot of clever people years to design, test and approve a revised rear ramp assembly to release torpedos and missiles safely and predictably within the operational flight envolope. And that wouldn’t be simple or cheap. Also if the back ramp is open you compromise the working environment for your analysts. So you also need a containerised workspace to put the plug-and-pay workstations in.

Not saying any of it couldn’t be done. If all of European NATO got their act together and funded a programme it could be done (similarly for the A320 or the A330). But that sort of funding and co-operation doesn’t seem at all likely any time soon. And IF we acccept that the UK needs this capability we have to admit that we need it now.

The Other Chris
August 27, 2014 2:26 pm

Not sure how much engineering would be involved to create a pressure seal to allow opening of the cargo door at altitude however if you can crack that you’re in with a shot of developing a decent MPA from the A400M, provided you can keep the basic airframe as vanilla as possible through the use of ro-ro kit.

Two existing pylons, a relatively respectably sized radome on the front.

EDIT: In the front half of the cargo bay create a two-deck work and crew rest area:

Fictional Globemaster III

August 27, 2014 2:49 pm

The C-130 drops the Daisy Cutter out of the back in the same way it deploys air drop cargo but you have to decompress the cargo bay. How often are you actually drop weapons though even in training? The bulk of the MPA/MMA crew could be in a pressurised crew and equipment pod , the RoRo part and sonar buoys etc deployed through a derringer door temporally replacing the personnel crew door at the rear.

August 27, 2014 2:58 pm

So we need a two deck smartie tube for the crew and a pallitised weapon release system off the ramp. How much would that cost along with the systems? 10-20 million? plus the R and D.

August 27, 2014 3:01 pm

@ all
All the rage as Observer says is UAV’s , could a way of extending their range is carry them (several?) to the patrol area in the back of the A400M and then deploy them out the back? If the UAV was controlled by direct link only to the host aircraft that should eliminate a lot of cost be removing the satellite comms gear from the UAV and decrease its size as it would carry less weight and fuel only for the on station patrol duration and the return leg to the nearest friendly field( any size really as empty it would stop on a dime probably) .It could be fuelled only when about to be deployed from the A400M existing hold refuelling plumbing. Perhaps it would only be deployed when something ‘interesting’ is detected or requested to be investigated by central command or nearby vessel.

August 27, 2014 3:18 pm

We have got ourselves in a right pickle on this one haven’t we…

I think the reality is when operating naval assets such as Astute class, QE and POW as well as the Trident boats we do need an MPA of some kind.

To purchase a replacement for the Nimrod sadly the only game in town would appear to be the P8. I’m sure it will with time be a more than competent aircraft, however my biggest reservation is the continued creep of purchasing US designed and built aircraft.

P8 may make sense in the short term, however we would be pretty much saying good by to designing and developing aircraft of this nature ourselves and with our European partners.

We are already purchasing the F35, flying the E3 and Airseeker. If we were to purchase the P8 and look at it to replace Sentinel, as well as hoping for future cost benefits should a new AWACS be 737 based, we are rather committed to lining the pockets of US industry.

I am aware that 15% of each F35 is made in the UK but it’s just not quite the same.

From a UK point of view, I’d rather see an airbus option, as stated earlier an A330, with mission systems developed from the MR4A project and room for further development to replace Sentinel over time.

As stated in another post, we have amazing engineers and a history of producing outstanding products, it would be a shame to let that slip away.

This would no doubt take longer to get in service that the P8, and also require European investment.

The other option for where I’m standing is to have a lower cost, lower capability MPA, to provide assistance to out Naval assets around our shores and in theatre.

Then when the E3’s need replacing, develop them as MMA to do the AWACS/Sentinel role.

I’m probably talking rubbish as I lack the knowledge of others des played in this forum.

August 27, 2014 3:26 pm

It just bolts to the ramp and handles AGM-176 Griffin missiles.

August 27, 2014 3:32 pm

No R&D needed. The lower deck & the release mechanism was designed by the a/c manufacturer themselves, Boeing, in the days of the arsenal ship craze. The upper deck just needs a pressure seal and the removing o f the grand piano, to make way for the control consols (the bar can stay).

“So we need a two deck smartie tube for the crew and a pallitised weapon release system off the ramp. How much would that cost along with the systems? 10-20 million? plus the R and D.”

The Ginge
The Ginge
August 27, 2014 3:59 pm

The fact is as illustrated by TD in articles last month ;
1. Derringer door for Sonar Buoy release already developed for C130.
2. The software on the plane already is designed for precision low level parachute drop. You just have to write in the parameters of what you’re dropping. And dropping an aerodynamic torpedo is a lot easier than a pallet of supplies. Since it would work at low level no problem with pressurisation.
3. The Sensors already exist in the Merlin rear cab; you can put it in a sealed container with additional crew area for food and sleep and still have room to spare.
4. One or Two load masters to manage and load sonar buoy and torpedoes as they are launched.
5. It allows cross training with Merlin rear crews cutting training costs as the simulators etc already exist.
6. It has 2 hard points for all the optical and radar sensors you need already hard wired. The sensors already exist e.g. how quickly certain manufacturers came up with solutions for Sea King Asac replacements.
7. You’re already buying 20 odd of them, to go live you just have to amend a number of them to accept the Ro-Ro kit. Then buy another 10 or 15 at the end of the run spreading the cost of purchase, hopefully picking a few up with a big discount where Germany/France are pulling out. By swapping Ro-Ro kit out of planes down for maintenance you do not tie down expensive kit whilst the truck that gets you there is having its wheels kicked in a major so many hundred hour overhaul. So the rule of 3 goes out of the window. You want 12 MPA’s then buy 12 kits and put them in planes as and when needed. Only need 5 for peace time then run with 5 rotating the kits in and out of different planes to keep the flying hours down.
8. Once Afghanistan is finished RAF crew would need constant airtime anyway so the two can be tied in to keep crews up to date in flying hours. If you need more time run the C130 fleet in to the ground until you’re out of the country.
9. If you need more cargo haulers because of an urgent deployment you can take the kits of the 12 or 15 bought for MPA role and reuse them in the short term.
10. The logistics, flight training etc is already in place and common maintenance etc etc etc . The big reason for loosing Harrier of only maintaining one fleet rather than relying on US maintenance for your orphan 6 or so P8’s.
11. In the longer term you can change the sensor pods for over land surveillance etc, designing sensor pods for different missions and different crew pods in the back.
12. It can be refuelled by RAF planes so we can act unilaterally if we have to, it got the legs with refuelling to get to the Falklands. It already carriers RAF defence suits, UK communications etc etc. All the problems of having to convert the P8 to work in the UK networked anti-submarine layered defence falls away.
13. Further out if you want to launch anti shipping missiles etc from it you can start to put in a proper bomb bay, but take you time and do it right and cost effectively if it can’t be launched from the rear ramp. Brimstone fitted to Typhoon’s could fill that role networked to the A400’s sensors.
14. Finally ant-air weapons are developed from Submarines then high altitude is still ok but you’ll have to develop gliding kits for Stingray etc. As A400 is designed as a high altitude cargo hauler as well.
The downside is the cost of flying a 4 engine turbo prop over a modern jet liner in terms of fuel etc. It doesn’t look sexy and daring do like the RAF types want and a bit heath Robinson by dropping things out the back.
What we will do is purchase 6 P8’s at mega money, have only 2 flying at any one time because of the rule of 3, give it to BAe to install UK specific software, radios, defence aids etc etc and cost ourselves a bucketful of money and take 3yrs to do and certificate. Be tied in to US defence upgrades and defence inflation no matter what we require. Have to convert Stingray etc to be glider delivered (a system still not developed by the US). And please don’t even get me started on the cost of drones, mad drones etc which will all need separate UK certification.
It is a simple cost effective option as evidenced by the speed it could be deployed. Give the manufacturers 1 year for all the sensors and pods to be ready as the A400 comes in to fleet use in large numbers. By 2018 your back in the MPA game.

August 27, 2014 4:11 pm

I think TG your last paragraph is a very accurate view of the future…

August 27, 2014 4:27 pm

Amazing about the love the A-400 is getting now when a few years back, people were cussing at it being overweight and overpriced. :)

Not saying it is bad, just ironic.

August 27, 2014 4:56 pm

Yep but must turn the long paragraph into a soundbite
“What we will do is purchase 6 P8’s at mega money, have only 2 flying at any one time because of the rule of 3, give it to BAe to install UK specific software, radios, defence aids etc etc and cost ourselves a bucketful of money and take 3yrs to do and certificate. Be tied in to US defence upgrades and defence inflation no matter what we require. Have to convert Stingray etc to be glider delivered (a system still not developed by the US).”

August 27, 2014 5:02 pm

I am thoroughly enjoying the universal assumption that we are procuring sufficient A400M’s to allow this sojourn off into the world of ASW. The debate proposing A400M as some sort of budget bodgit-and-scarpa MPA alternative is living in complete cloud cuckoo land by assuming the UK strat air transport requirement is irrelevant.

Those A400’s will be working their socks off. They will not have time to do anything else.

August 27, 2014 5:15 pm

– Thanks for the informed perspective. No P3s it is then.

@TOC – When did you become a car salesman? :D

August 27, 2014 5:19 pm


Would you not buy more A400’s than the planned 22 to cover the MPA duties from the same pot of money you would use to buy P8’s?

August 27, 2014 5:57 pm

” from the same pot of money you would use to buy P8′s?”

Now this gives a new meaning to the term “imaginary money” :)

There isn’t even a firm decision to put MPA back on yet!

August 27, 2014 6:02 pm

Have i missed something wtf would you prefer to buy a basic a400m at $198m (figures from wiki converted to dollars),add in all the costs of the mpa mission suite, radars, weapon delivery system , etc etc oh and the costs of design certification etc etc
When a P8 costs $201m for each aircraft according to wiki????? R&D paid for and all radars, mission suites, weapons delivery systems etc etc included in price?