Maritime Patrol – Are there any alternatives to a Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Does technology developed since MRA4 and P8 was designed offer us the opportunity to do things differently, cheaper and more effectively in the maritime patrol mission?
P8A Poseidon

Following up from yesterdays post on the Defence Select Committee evidence session in which ACM Pulford was at pains to draw a distinction between a maritime patrol requirement and a maritime patrol aircraft I thought a useful question to ask is whether there is a practical difference or is it just playing with words.

Whenever the words maritime patrol requirement comes up the default answer is actually a maritime patrol aircraft but you do have to wonder if things have moved on since the Nimrod MRA4 was designed, does the P8 offer much by the way of change or just newer way of doing older things?

Since then we have seen rapid advances in surface, sub surface and airborne unmanned systems, massive leaps in target recognition software, sensor technology, long endurance power supplies, positional accuracy, communications and autonomous control systems.

The attraction of getting a working system like the P8 into service as soon as possible to close the capability gap is obvious, phrases like ‘proven’, ‘low risk’ and ‘off the shelf’ seem to be the weapons of choice in the verbal battle between proponents of one solution or the other.

In the UK’s extensive ASW armoury there is actually very little off the shelf so why this should apply to a maritime patrol capability and not Merlin, Sonar 2087, Stingray, Astute or Type 26 is somewhat of a mystery but that aside, the simple fact is, the UK remains at the very top of the ASW credibility stakes by any objective measure, with or without the P8.

This leads on the question of the nature of this maritime patrol gap, especially in the demanding business of anti submarine warfare AND ESPECIALLY in the context of UK only requirements.

I know we keep coming back to defence planning assumptions and strategic objectives but if the gap is so critical as to render the massive UK investment in ASW worthless and the nuclear deterrent under threat then we have to think seriously about prioritising it over future expeditionary aspirations.

If the lack of a P8 really does put at risk the UK only mission of protection of the Vanguard and successor submarines as they enter and leave UK waters then to be be blunt, we need to chop a handful of infantry brigades, frigates or fast jest to pay for it.

If it is a little less clear cut then that (and I accept these things are never clear cut) then we have to understand that spending money on it will mean not spending money on something else (welcome to the world of defence politics)

Which brings me on the original question.

Does technology developed since MRA4 and P8 was designed offer us the opportunity to do things differently, cheaper and more effectively?

Is there really an alternative to a Maritime Patrol Aircraft for a Maritime Patrol Requirement?


And I don’t mean calling an MPA an MMA, which they have always actually been.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

184 Responses

  1. It might help if we were a little more rigorous in our definition of what we’re talking about here. MMA and MPA are actually both misleading terms as they avoid explicit mention of the the actual gap, which is the ability to rapidly search an area of water at some distance from shore, primarily for underwtaer contacts at a reasonable revisit rate. This includes the ability to investigate underwater contacts or datums, localise and classify them and if necessary prosecute them.

    That bit above is the essential difference between most of the “MPA” (for which, read surface search and identification) or MMA (read aircraft/UAS with a big radar) options which tend to pop up. We’re actually talking about a long-range ASW platform which can also do surface search, SAR etc by virtue of its persistence and the sensors it already carries.

  2. We can also try answering that in terms of platform capabilities. The advantages of an aircraft based platform in performance are in no way compensated by a ship or sub based one, the flip side being that the expenditure of an aircraft based platform is more than the rest too. It’s literally you get what you pay for. The real alternative to large area and persistence would be a long term, large scale emplacement like SOSUS, but even SOSUS was unique in that the locations to be monitored were basically choke points.

    Personally, my call is “No, nothing at the moment can replace MPA.”.

  3. Whilst ASW has always been a demanding role that was at the core of the design of MPAs, MPAs have always had many other roles and therefore been MMAs. Just off the top of my head:

    Long range search and rescue.
    Counter piracy
    Counter narcotics
    Limited war overland surveillance/interdiction (in Shackleton days this was called “Colonial Policing”)
    Surface surveillance – both wartime and non wartime (sanctions enforcement)
    Minelaying (all naval mines now withdrawn from UK service).
    Countering enemy MPAs (our Nimrods were armed for this in 1982).
    With its large Storm Shadow loadout, the MRA4 would also have been a strategic bomber.

  4. Perhaps as we no longer have the budgets or numbers that we used to, we should stop thinking about replacing capabilities so that they look the way they used to look.

    The technology of sensors off all types has moved on everything shrinks with age as they say.

  5. It is hard to make a realistic assessment of things when statements like the following are thrown around.

    “In the UK’s extensive ASW armoury there is actually very little off the shelf so why this should apply to a maritime patrol capability and not Merlin, Sonar 2087, Stingray, Astute or Type 26 is somewhat of a mystery but that aside, the simple fact is, the UK remains at the very top of the ASW credibility stakes by any objective measure, with or without the P8.”

    I am not really sure what measure one would suggest and I have no doubt that the operational kit of the RN for this task is often quite good. But in an actual operational environment the UK is missing key pieces and isn’t that what it really comes down to in the end.

    At the individual task of finding a submarine in a given exercise I have no doubt the RN is quite capable. If it makes everyone feel better call them the most capable I guess. But the fact of the matter is the UK at the moment is quite incapable of prosecuting anything that the Sonar 2087 picks up that is say 100NM away in a reasonable amount of time.

    Within its constraints the RN is very good at ASW. But those constraints are really important ones. When RT says self licking lollipop he is to an extent right because beyond protecting themselves I am not really sure what the ASW capability the in RN really is meant to accomplish.

  6. It’s also quite hard to take someone seriously when statements like this are thrown around.

    “But the fact of the matter is the UK at the moment is quite incapable of prosecuting anything that the Sonar 2087 picks up that is say 100NM away in a reasonable amount of time.”

    Or this
    “beyond protecting themselves I am not really sure what the ASW capability the in RN really is meant to accomplish”

    because it demonstrates a lack of understanding of what ASW is about.

  7. @NAB

    If someone claimed they were fielding world class armored formations but didn’t have any artillery at all wouldn’t that be a bit suspect?

    I realize those statements oversimplify the problem. I don’t really feel like much will be gained getting into the minutia of ASW work. But not having MPA is missing a serious capability, depending on what exactly it is you are trying to accomplish through your ASW activities. ASW takes a tremendous amount of teamwork but the UK side is missing a key component that many nations seem to still think is necessary. Either a lot of other nations are pissing money up a tree or it really does meet a critical need in ASW work. There isn’t a whole lot of in between.

    Again, I don’t doubt that what the UK has is very capable. I don’t doubt that the operators are world class. But I also think its just a bit arrogant to assume the RN has worked its way around a major and expensive capability that many other nations clearly still see as very important.

  8. Jeremy,

    I think your statement “…depending on what exactly it is you are trying to accomplish through your ASW activities…” says it all.

    There is a world of difference between sanitising the GIUK gap, cleansing an area in which our SSBN might operate, and policing a choke point ahead of the fleet.

    The former is probably the only thing we can’t easily do at the moment… although some will jump down my throat… but maybe that just demonstrates our smaller part on the world stage.

  9. I can see where Jeremy MH is coming from…

    …And I have no doubt NaB is right in his assertion that the RN is very good at the ASW game…

    However, Observer has hit the nail squarely on head…

    …And I don’t think that an biz-jet based MPA will cut the mustard either. The cost matrices are attractive, certainly, but I think the compromises that will have to be made on range/ sensor fit/ weapon load will ending giving us a 20% solution…

    However…. as part of a package, there is a place for a smaller platform.

    I think we should be looking at package approach, with autonomous UAV’s doing the drudgery, some long-range platforms and some short-range platforms for maximum flexibility. All network centric and feeding into C4 centres. Maybe even a number of airborne C3 centres.

  10. You can track surface ships with OTH radars and satellites fine.
    What’s needed for real surveillance is a line of sight identification capability; synthetic aperture radar and thermal viewer preferably. The latter could also help on search and rescue missions.
    A long-range synthetic aperture radar capability could also be employed in support of land campaigns (if the air threat situation allows its employment).

    The anti-submarine requirements for MPAs are WW2 legacy nonsense – and especially so since anechoic tiles have made hydrophones much less effective. The MPAs don’t even get a first clue about a sub’s position on their own, since their sensors are largely ineffective against SSNs and AIP SSKs with unmagnetic hulls (radar, IR, MAD – and MAD produces many false alarms).

    I say the navies need to make a public case for their insistence on the ASW MPA requirement, for what they published does not justify the expenses. There is little reason to believe their claims that secrecy is essential, since them being bureaucracies they can only be trusted to pursue their own organisational and individual interests, not ours. A multibillion bucks program needs better justifications than unsubstantiated claims.

  11. The requirement for MRA4 hasn’t gone away. The capabilities and mostly, from what we can gather, the designed solutions were being delivered. Sadly the Comet airframe should have been new build. Had new build airframes been used there still may have been issues but I believe we would now have a fleet of capable MPAs and they would be MMA too.

    Maybe I am wrong with the above assumption, but it has occurred to me that maybe ‘bespoke’ one off manufacture of a small number of airframes need not be as expensive as we make out. Technology costs are failing in many areas. I have always believed the Comet airframe was a little too small, but design-wise was and is better for the MPA role than a converted ‘modern’ airliner.

  12. @Nab
    I will say it before anyone else please define”because it demonstrates a lack of understanding of what ASW is about.” What is ASW about?

  13. SO, I believe that NaB(?) once mentioned that the first targeting “clue” that a sub is in a specific area comes from intel, not sensors? You are assuming that the MPA is the one stop shop for everything ASW, but it isn’t. It is linked in to an entire organization with Humint, Elint and other assets.

    As for UAVs, most here know my opinion of them, that they have been hyped to the point that sometimes they can’t do what people claim for them.

  14. A tiny tidbit on the cost of fixed-wing ASW, from the book “Nimrod, Rise and Fall” by Tony Blackman:

    Sonobuoys are clearly vital to catch, and if necessary destroy submarines. Practising is also necessary and it was not unusual for Nimrods to take off with 200 sonobuoys. It is difficult to establish how much these buoys cost the MoD but allegedly the DIFAR sonobuoys were £450 and the CAMBS £6,000; clearly the loss of the Nimrod was a blow not only to the defence of the country but also to the sonobuoy manufacturer assince on a training sortie as many as 30 CAMBS might be dropped and occasionally 100 DIFARs.

  15. Was there not a cottage industry in picking them up and sending them for refurbishment? Presumably if they emit for long enough a suitably equipped trawler could go round scooping them up.

  16. “But not having MPA is missing a serious capability, depending on what exactly it is you are trying to accomplish through your ASW activities. ASW takes a tremendous amount of teamwork but the UK side is missing a key component that many nations seem to still think is necessary.”

    I will apologise JMH – it wasn’t clear from your earlier post that you were trying to say the above, rather than “the UK is pretending to do ASW and needs an RAF fixed wing asset to do it properly”

    I might take issue with some of the assumptions on 2087 & Merlin, or the idea that self protection of a force isn’t an entirely valid form of ASW. However, I would never suggest (nor I suspect would anyone in the RN community) that the RN has somehow worked its way around the gap left by MRA4. That’s clearly half-wittery of the first order, particularly as the submarine threat really didn’t go away.

    Of course, whether that gap should be filled by an RAF-owned capability or an RN-owned capability is an entirely different question. In one sense an MMA points towards RAF, but in another, the skillsets required for ASW/ASuW point towards RN, given realities about training streams, Seedcorn or no Seedcorn. I’m actually relatively ambivalent about it, provided that the best use is made. You could actually see a joint pool of personnel for a f/w land-based capability, with the flightdeck crew being predominantly light blue but the mission controllers (ASW/ASuW, potentially Fighter Controller for AWACS/ASAC and JTAC/Intel for overland) being drawn from a mix of the dippers / baggers/Fleet air defenders, plus J2 and pongoes among others. OPCom being everything. Assuming of course that the “maritime force for a maritime nation” doesn’t happen and that there are uniforms other than RN/RM!!

    For Monkeys benefit, ASW is all about negating a submarines threat to allow you to do what you want to do. That can range from the ultimate offensive ASW – sinking them alongside the jetty or as they leave port, to the mainly defensive – merely maintaining a sufficiently impervious screen that their weapons cannot attack your ships, allowing you relative freedom of manoeuvre. In reality, RoE, environmental factors, available assets and time pressure usually mean it’s somewhere between those two options.

    It’s not all about sinking submarines (although that is clearly beneficial), its about stopping the threat of submarines preventing you accomplishing your objectives.

  17. @Observer
    In wartime, the first clue about a sub’s presence would be from it having opened fire or stumbled into hostiles (unless it had been tracked from a port or a supply ship).
    Its own navy HQ would not know its location accurately enough.

    And “intel” would usually be ComInt/SigInt/ElInt – but a sub doesn’t need to radiate noticeably much if its purpose isn’t intel. Peacetime routines can differ very much from wartime routines.

    “maintaining a sufficiently impervious screen that their weapons cannot attack your ships, allowing you relative freedom of manoeuvre.”

    Not possible, and I’m not referring to SSGNs only.
    A navy may have a hope of staying with the bulk of its assets out of range of the targeting abilities, but not out of firing range. A submarine may easily engage targets more than 150 nm away.
    The targeting meanwhile is limited to a few or few dozen nm, depending on target and level of ambition.

    The Russians and Chinese are the only ones who could reasonably be considered a high end challenge for Western ASW, and both of them could support their subs with satellite and aerial recce.

  18. “The anti-submarine requirements for MPAs are WW2 legacy nonsense – and especially so since anechoic tiles have made hydrophones much less effective. The MPAs don’t even get a first clue about a sub’s position on their own, since their sensors are largely ineffective against SSNs and AIP SSKs with unmagnetic hulls (radar, IR, MAD – and MAD produces many false alarms).”

    There’s a new generation of multi-static processing techniques on the way that may help ASW assets across the board, including MPA. Especially active techniques. So I would not say it’s going all the submarine’s way.

    But failing that, if you wait long enough, the submarine is bound to help you out with a flaming datum.

  19. Bugger. You got that in before I could finish SO.
    Yes, I suppose a very advanced (and somewhat lucky) adversary could provide targeting for a sub to get off a long-range missile shot. But remember there aren’t many submarines that can do that and get off a meaningful load of missiles in one attack (you need enough to overcome defensive measures). And remember, the further you are out, the less surprise for your attack. At best it’s a small subset of the submarine threat and even then the attack itself can still be detected by surveillance aircraft (and perhaps even surveillance satellites) at the very precise launch point. It’s not all the submarine’s way.

    And not to put too fine a point on it, if we are really slugging it out with the Russians and the Chinese, the first things to go are their satellite reconnaissance and communications capabilities (and to be fair, so will ours). I don’t imagine their surveillance aircraft will do much better.

  20. after much debate on this issue I have come to the opinion that the most vital part of MPA is the ability to hunt submarines at distance and I can see no available solution other than P8 for this.

    A fleet of 5 P8’s backed up by another 10 Reapers equipped with Sea Spray should be good enough for the job and its a cost I think we can take from within the existing defense budget assuming no more cuts. we could probably also axe Sentinal to help pay for it especially If the P8 Radar and Seaspray can be made to work over land.

    I would also look to only use USN weapons in the P8 so no stingray.

  21. Martin,

    Playing Devils Advocate a bit here but when would we need to “hunt submarines at distance”?

    Also, and connected, are we still responsible for the GIUK gap? Who currently monitors it? Has something changed recently?

    Lastly, without space supremacy we’re stuffed against China and Russia.

  22. Simon, that is my point

    There is UK only and there is UK with allies

    I know NaB doesn’t like the ‘someone else will do it’ approach but that is the reality of more expensive everything and less money, sharing and pooling

  23. Pooling assets with Norway, denmark and Iceland? would that be viable is there any political pit falls to this?

    They are all NATO members and have an interest in the same area, could we have a minimum requirement for monitoring this area and a small deployable unit the we could use for the expeditionary stuff with coalitions of the willing?

  24. A NATO MPA fleet such as the E3 component to monitor all waters? I think pooling is doable within NATO if there was a will to do it.

    How many NATO members would be looking for an MPA replacement in the near future?

  25. I don’t like the “someone else will do it” (should rename it the Homer Simpson DPA), but recognise that it is sometimes necessary. What worries me is when people forget the context and origin of the original assumption, such as the decision to drop SHAR and hence our Outer Air Battle capability. At the time, it was to be temporary and mitigated to a degree by the (at the time 12 programmed) T45, which were mightily more effective than the T42/GWS30. Fast forward and you could be forgiven for believing that there was no need for the capability, because “someone esle” has been assumed to be doing it for the best part of a decade. Had the Libyans been capable of using their strike aircraft, Op Ellamy would have been a bit different. Running a UK CAP over the TF from Italy / Sardinia / Gib would have bee “interesting”. At least CdG was there that time.

  26. So if you had a pool of MPA within Denmark/Greenland, Iceland, Norway and the UK, would that be such a bad thing, at least for the home matches?

    Are they P3 users, what is the state of their aircraft fleets, could we share with them or contribute to their fleet modernisation and crewing.

    Is the idea that the UK must have every capability a sacred cow, can we get something close by innovative sharing arrangements, could the UK offer some capability like Sentinel but rely on others for the long range sub killing?

  27. I think the problem may be that of your list only teh Noggies actually operate an MPA – 4 P3 if memory serves.

    All bar the UK and Norway have previously applied, the Homer DPA, with the USN being the primary “someone” with help from us until relatively recently.

    There may also be one or two issues relating to data access even if those countries did have suitable cabs.

  28. The thing about pooling MPA assets is that not all nations involved have the same level of risk involved in the requirement.

    The UK needs to insure Trident. Norway, Iceland, Denmark don’t.

    So as soon as you pool assets to protect OUR subs it follows that the SSBNs themselves should also be cost pooled as they stand to protect more than just the UK.

    Unfortunately this leads to a European defence budget, at least at the “deterrent” level with French and British technology being funded by a Euro (and larger NATO) funding mechanism.

    So back to TD’s statement There is “UK only” and there is “UK with allies”. The problem is that once you start down that road it pulls plenty more with it.

  29. ‘The UK needs to insure Trident. Norway, Iceland, Denmark don’t.’

    If the detterent is the main driving force for a UK MPA, could we not use a SOSUS/SURTASS style system to monitor the area out to deep ocean? could USV’s be an option not just for home waters either but as part of a carrier group?

    If the deterrent is taken out of the equation would pooling be more viable?

  30. @ thread… We need a high end mpa/elint/sigint/awac/overland ground surveillance ; aircraft(s) that lower tier ie denmark/norway/holland/sweden/finland/poland/baltic states can plug into and add in their (limited) extra lower tier numbers no?
    Similar with a QE cbg that lower tier countries can add on frigates and destroyers to?
    We have to go with Australian thinking that we buy what US deploys (as in rivet joint airseeker) as Aus has done with their mpa and F35 C17 et al and benefit from sunk costs rather than bespoke solutions that would cost millions more to produce and deploy with lower capability, buy US and have a say on future capability for relatively low numbers of airframes but with a top tier capability tyhat allies can supplement.
    A global capability that others can add to and supplement with lower capability solutions.

  31. DN,

    I’d imagine that the deterrent is the main driving force for UK deep-water/long-range MPA.

    The fact that there are enemy subs in the Atlantic doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter where they are at all – if they launch an ICBM, it’ll hit us, from the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic, or the Indian Ocean. We cannot therefore erradicate their existence and the associated threat – attempting to do this can only really be done with lots of shadowing SSNs… something only NATO as a whole can afford, which really means that Trident is just part of the real “deterrent” provided by NATO as a whole.

    The only reason we care if there are subs in the Atlantic is that is where we operate our SSBN (theoretically). We cannot therefore afford for the flip-side of the above to happen to us. We need to protect our investment in Trident otherwise there is no MAD and no deterrent.

    My question is why do only France, the UK and the USA pay for it all? Balancing the scales of nuclear power should be paid for by all and sundry that benefit from the concept.

  32. @Simon

    I did not mean divesting ourselves of the deterrent, I meant remove the problem plotically. The UK, Denmark,Norway and Iceland all share interests in the same expanse of water. If the pooled MPA were used to protect this area and our collective interesets (which would also have a secondary function of assisting the protection of the deterent) only.

    If we therefore only need to worry about protecting the CASD could this be done in another way such as a small SOSUS net or SURTASS style vessels/s.

    Even the possible use of USV’s.To go even further for surface surveillance could we not set up a network of airostats to cover the area?

    As to who pays for nuclear weapons? that question will never answered sufficiently enough to get a solution.

  33. Re the GIUK gap Norway is having LHM SLEP its 6 P3’s, Denmark like us uses EH-101’s,Iceland has no capability as does Greenland. If we were to acquire P3’s (the Yanks, Japanese, Ozzies are replacing theirs that’s hundreds of airframes to pick from) and jointly crew/base them across the existing Airbases from Europe through Iceland to Greenland we could easily cover the GIUK without the ever decreasing US help. A map of what Norway has determined as its area of responsibility at present.
    Their P3 SLEP will add 15,000 flying hours to each aircraft with the most recent order from Norway being this May for the last 2 on a $12.2mn cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. If we go out with the begging bowl with a similar offer as Adm Z mentioned on his representation to the Parliamentary Select Committee that we could at times relieve American assets for other duties we could maybe get a couple of dozen aircraft for a bargain. We would however have to take them as they come and trust the original manufacture knew what they were doing and alter our regs accordingly/give a special dispensation or we will have a similar situation to the 8 Chinooks which sat in a shed for over a decade .

  34. Let’s not make the russian resurgence out to be the big boggy man. It’s hardly a return to the red banner northern fleet with 200 subs. We’re prob talking most likely no more than 20 subs in the fleet almost all of which date from the 80s or earlier yes they may start replacing them but it won’t happen overnight. If however we are worried then perhaps the government should instruct the navy to move is assets from sailing round the gulf to the North Atlantic we can’t be everywhere we don’t have the resources. At the end of day we’ve already spent close to 20b on ssn, type 23 and merlins how much more should the asw threat get when other areas are gapped to.

  35. Well said Mark

    And to flog to death a nearly dead hobby horse, why are there Type 23’s in the Caribbean whose crew are helping the USCG stops drugs and doing some sweeping up for Bermuda after a storm when they should be protecting the deterrent

    A bit of a silly statement, granted, but that is the kind of question a sharp minister might ask

  36. Simon: re “My question is why do only France, the UK and the USA pay for it all? Balancing the scales of nuclear power should be paid for by all and sundry that benefit from the concept.”

    The downside being it no longer becomes independent, if someone helps pay for it, then they should get a say in how its deployed or at least a veto in its use. This way we get to drop it on who we like.

  37. I thought the magic, never to be cut, Vanguard Boats/Successor are to operate independently without any external support. So why demand that MPAs are needed to protect them?

  38. @Jeneral28: SSBN need to be escorted out and back from the open sea, before they can “go dark”.

  39. A330 maritime voyager. Simple. We already us the tanker/transport so should be savings on spares, flight crew training, infrastructure. Not sure of the timeline for a requirement in Europe or say France and Germany for a replacement of the Atlantique but a possible solution to save money in the short term might be a lease or buy of second hand p.3c orions to ensure bulk savings of a multi nation buy of A330.

  40. “Andy
    November 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    A330 maritime voyager. Simple. We already us the tanker/transport so should be savings on spares, flight crew training, infrastructure. Not sure of the timeline for a requirement in Europe or say France and Germany for a replacement of the Atlantique but a possible solution to save money in the short term might be a lease or buy of second hand p.3c orions to ensure bulk savings of a multi nation buy of A330.”

    Not simple, non starter, have you not read any previous posts!

    Clive F

  41. @TD….. Cant you see where things may be goin?
    APT (N):- 1 batch 3 river class
    Gulf :- MCM: 3 Hunt, 1 batch 3 river class with Scaneagle, remove a Bay class with infrastructure improvements in Bahrain
    Falklands:- Clyde to be replaced by 1 batch 3 River class
    Clyde:- 4 Sandown MCM, 3 Batch 1 river class providing fisheries protection
    Portsmouth:- 5 Hunt class MCM, 1 Clyde batch2 River class
    RNR:- 3 Sandown MCM at RNR bases around UK providing training for RN personnel to be deployed?

  42. DN,

    Forgive me but “…all share interests in the same expanse of water…”.

    What I’m trying to say is that we don’t share the same interests.

    We (and the French) have way more to lose!

  43. We’re already talking along with Norway to Northrop Grumman “to define HALE requirements”, with Triton specifically being mentioned. No reason to assume that we wouldn’t be talking pooled assets to Scotland’s former Overlords, and by extension also coordinating with them regards to future MPA.

    Denmark is responsible for Greenland’s defence. They’re still in the process of transferring control of the armed Greenland Coast Guard to Greenland’s own control. Part of a form of devolution going on. The Knud Rasmussen’s [1] with onboard modified SB90E [2] are the most commonly deployed unit.

    Iceland have a Coast Guard and that’s about it, bar treaties.



  44. Andy,
    Germany replaced the Atlantique with old P-3s already. The improvement in readiness is negligible.

    most sonobuoys were originally meant to be passive ones, an dthat approach has become largely obsolete due to silent subs since the 80’s at the latest (SSKs since 70’s). They can still serve as receivers for ad hoc multistatic sonar arrangements, but an all-active sonobuoy net would have better odds at getting an echo from a broadside.
    The active sonobuoys have a shot lifespan and due to anechoic tiles a short range. A search for subs with these is expensive (=> small war stocks) and short-lived. You also need to create a really fine net with these, for else a sub could simply point its nose to the sonobuoys, offering the tiniest possible return.
    It also appears that anechoic tiles work fine within the sonobuyos’ frequency range.
    Really loud explosions can also be used for emissions, but rarely so. And the frequency is again not optimal, the emission not well-defined.
    Finally, target ID with sonobuoys is difficult. MPA will be even more prone to waste lightweight torpedoes on lase contacts than ASW ships, and the problem is already plagueing the latter. (Forget about the ‘we can identify individual ships’ claim; in wartime commanders don’t want to wait for this quality of a contact, for it would be too risky).

    Ships and armed aircraft are sexy for the bureaucracy and most milblogs, but modern sonar technology indicates that the much better approach would be to transfer the detection of submarines to expendable multistatic sonar picket boats. Boats no bigger than the famed Flower class corvettes (in coastal areas even more like a fishing trawler) are not sexy, though. Still, with low frequency active sonar such boats could keep the hostile subs largely at enough a distance to prevent well-aimed autonomous engagements.
    The bureaucracy and most milblogs prefer to pay attention to WW2 fame MPAs, to WW2 fame destroyers – and forget that even in WW2 thousands of small boats (WW21: more than 15,000) were the ‘brown water’ mainstay of ASW.

    Think about it; how many blog posts were here about Type 45? How many would have been here about some trawler with a towed array, a chaff launcher and a machinegun if the RN had a hundred of these?
    You guys buy into the case for ASW big ticket items, I don’t.

  45. This has probably been posted before but this by Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Roberts an ex Shackleton and Nimrod pilot.
    On your original question “Are there any alternatives to a Maritime Patrol Aircraft”? It seems other than a full suite of T23 replacement’s i.e. 13 T26 not bobbing about the Seven Seas doing anti-piracy, anti-drugs etc (which I am sure gives invaluable experience to their crews to operate with other Navies in their home waters etc) in time of a War against an enemy that has submarines (40 Nations do) they will be doing the ASW role to the full (and hopefully the 13 T23’s will be being rapidly being brought out of layup) At the same time anything with a flight deck will embark an ASW helicopter of some kind be it RFA or a North Sea oil rig. The Astute’s no doubt will be out in force making a nuisance of themselves to the belligerent’s shipping and Navy.
    Any other option be it unmanned whatever’s Air/Surface/Submerged be they fixed or mobile platforms are just too immature as technologies to be a quick fix to our present need. That’s not to say these are not going to happen but it will take a long time for us to accept their capabilities over manned platforms. As Adm Z says it has to be a credible force, in that the enemy must be concerned enough to fear it will stop their intent or at least make them expend forces and monies (more important) on overcoming it.
    My personal favourite is the unmanned Dirigible , a fleet of which could stay on station for days if not weeks/months and be refuelled at sea by ship. Dipping/trailing a sonar and just being there is area denial.
    Using the waste heat from the on board generators could fill an additional envelope to provide the additional lift when heavily loaded with fuel and as it lightens divert less and less hot exhaust to maintain neutral buoyancy. Manned ‘whatevers’ can dash to the scene of a potential contact to confirm and prosecute a target as required. Kind of a SOSUS but the other way up!

  46. I keep seeing references to second-hand or refurbished P-3 Orions in these discussions as a viable option. Well, that might be true, if you hate your pilots, that is.

    From “Confessions of a US Navy P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol Pilot:” – “While the Orion is a very safe airplane statistically, it was designed in another age with different design philosophies. It’s very hands-on and user intensive especially for pilots and flight engineers. Because of the fact that the P-3C is honestly trying to break, catch on fire, or generally kill you during any given flight, we have to devote a great deal of energy simply to operating it safely. This isn’t a hit on the P-3C, any airplane of that generation is like that, and the fact that some of these birds are over 40 years old is a testament to the engineers who designed them and our maintainers who keep them flying.”

  47. Simon

    ‘What I’m trying to say is that we don’t share the same interests.’

    In what sense? we are NATO members with treaty obligations and have similar economic interests in the same areas. We have the added responsibility of the deterrent, but that does not mean that the other responsibilities cannot be shared.

  48. What Tier/Priority in the National Security Strategy do you think this fits?

    A conventional attack by a state on another NATO or EU member to which the UK would have to respond

  49. @Kent
    The P3C is unfortunately the only thing we can afford. The P8 can do everything better and very long term cheaper than the P3. But beggars cant be choosers and we can only afford so much in the short term. 3 new P8 would cost is us 1 T26 or there about ,but we could have a dozen SLEP P3C for that, enough to provide a reasonable persistence of a couple in the air at any one time. We will probably have to make do with an air frame that was originally designed 60 years ago for the time being at least. Others have mentioned a European derived P8 equivalent even mentioning the A330 which would be an absolute monster ,the A330 being the equivalent of a 767. On our side of the pond we operate about the same numbers of MPA as the USN over a hundred in total of various sizes and capabilities so there maybe a market but it would be a bottomless pit trying to get the European Navies to agree on what they need , who will build what etc. If Airbus unilaterally produced a A320 MPA/MMA/AEW etc and the European forces swallowed their National pride and accepted what was offered as is all we and good. To quote your Kelly Johnson who had an 15th rule that he passed only by word of mouth. “Starve before doing business with the damned Navy. They don’t know what the hell they want and will drive you up a wall before they break either your heart or a more exposed part of your anatomy.”

  50. DN,

    You answered your own question in that “we have the added responsibility of the deterrent”.

    A agree “that does not mean that the other responsibilities cannot be shared.”

    But it does mean that we/they need to determine how much more we need it than they need it. They might think we should pay 90% of it. We might think we should pay only 25%. Who’s right? It becomes a political/financial/corporate deal which is totally eradicated if there is a NATO wide defence budget used to pay for the West’s nuclear deterrent.

  51. ‘They might think we should pay 90% of it. We might think we should pay only 25%. Who’s right?’

    Why split it like that? we would just share the budget for the non nuclear stuff. Defending the deterrent is our problem, we choose to have it. It may mean having a an ASW frigate on patrol for the deterrent which we pay for, and the MPA is shared, after all an MPA will be used for SAR and Surface surveillance and not just looking for subs.

    ‘totally eradicated if there is a NATO wide defence budget used to pay for the West’s nuclear deterrent.’

    If there is NATO budget for the deterrent, doesn’t that mean we can bin ours and just throw some money in the pot with everyone else to pay the Americans. I’d go for that, after all we are not going to be able to nuke someone because terrorists detonating a nuclear device or dirty bomb etc unless we get proof it was state sanctioned and then would that not be an article 5 issue?

  52. @monkey – Second hand P-3 Orions would be a disaster, maintenance-wise. Refurbished/rebuilt P-3s may solve some of the problems associated with those still on active service with the USN, but they’d be pricey and take a while to get. Maybe Lockheed could put a functional autopilot onboard and replacement turboprops to meet your needs, but then there would be the whole new certification issue and high prices. Again, you’d have a small, oddball fleet of aircraft with no relation to anything else you use or ever will use, but I bet Lockheed would be happy to run a support program for you!

  53. wirralpete,

    “1 batch 3 river class with Scaneagle,”

    The UK does not have a fishery protection mission in the Persian Gulf. What do you envisage the mission of this River to be?

    “remove a Bay class with infrastructure improvements in Bahrain”

    These improvements being to cut the causeway and add flotation aids and propulsion to make Bahrain a mobile logistics base?

  54. Clive F

    Explain? why? but see below

    S O
    Which is my point P3C maybe, in the short term a far better solution. (Project seedcorn runs out in 2017) But in the long term? If it is to be a manned solution or a part manned solution then we either buy P8 and set up yet more training, supply and refit schedules and infrastructure for a new aircraft which cost money or we go with what we know.

  55. @ Anixtu

    Don’t be twonk. It is obvious what he is saying.

    The River is to replace any escort that is often to be found EoS. You are right it can’t do the same job. The broader point is HMG going along the path that as long as it is grey and floats it can do the job, any job, which as we know is questionable.

    If the RN builds up its base facilities in the Gulf there may be less need for an RFA (of whatever flavour) to be out there. In this instance he is referenicing the Bay as depot ship for the MCM ships.

    Is that OK?

  56. ” Andy
    November 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Clive F

    Explain? why? but see below”

    If you want to hunt subs long distance there is only P8 (and Possibly P1) “off the shelf”. No politician is going to go for a new system with a lot of development risk / cost ( just say Nimrod…….). Cutting holes for bomb bays etc in an A330 is not going to happen.

  57. @X ….exactly 3 Bays for their primary role instead of 1 based in gulf supporting MCM, and instead of 2 sandown and 2 Hunts , …..3 hunts and one opv doing the mothership/communications etc etc role as i’m led to believe!;-)
    But not to replace the 2 on task ff/dd just the Bay class mothership with organic istar
    Also helps with fact Ocean is due to retire and commensurate loss of berths for RM

  58. DN,

    In order to protect the deterrent we need early warning of enemy SSN movements through the GIUK gap. This requires loads of sonobuoys being dropped from an aircraft… although SO has his doubts ;-)

    That adds considerably to the requirement of the aircraft that for everyone else only needs to provide SAR and surface search capabilities.

    If anything I can see surface surveillance being done by UAVs which I’m sure other’s would be happy to contribute. But why would they fund an 85 tonne P8 when they don’t need the payload. It’s like being forced to buy a 40t articulated lorry when all you need is a Ford Fiesta.

  59. Silly boy.

    Japan will not and due to their constitution cannot sell the P1.

    Short term P3C “Project seedcorn runs out in 2017”

    Yes a lot of development risks but for the long term? With Germany, France i suspect the shared savings will far outweigh the development risks and costs.

  60. x,

    “Is that OK?”

    No. There is no plausible task for a River in or near the Gulf. Or do you have some suggestions?

    MCM support ship does not conduct all its business alongside and that business is not limited to the supply of commodities. If you want to rely entirely on shore based logistics in the Gulf the facilities are already there.

  61. Simon

    The Norwegians already operate P3C’s and are SLEPing them and I doubt it’s purely for the surface surveillance role considering they have P3N’s for that. So they might be interested even if 3/4 of our fleet is funded through a pooling arrangement it would still help.

    I doubt the countries that we are talking about would go for the P8, although the Sea Herc uses the same latest generation systems as the P3 and we all use C130 airframes already.

  62. Simon

    Surely that’s what the sosus system is for.

    Russian activity and countering it is a NATO mission so everyone contributes to it just like the Baltic air policing.

  63. Andy,

    I believe the “Japan Constitution” thing could be got round. (not as cut and dried as people think)

    Read TD’s series on MPA options (particularly comments from APATS) and you will see why it is P8 or nothing.

  64. @X… But then again you might have something there reduces task lines by 2 ff//dd if your using the Batch 3 Rivers 1 in APT(N) instead of 1 FF/DD IN apt(n) and 1 ff/dd and 1 OPV in gulf giving extra ships for an RFTG?

  65. @ ANIXTU
    So why the need for a Bay to support MCM currentlyy????
    Surely is a communications and scaneagle capability?

  66. Clive F

    I doubt the constitution of Japan will be easy to get around. It is their for a reason.

    Whatever anyone says about the only answer being option this or that are stupid. Whitehall and the real politique are the the only answers and if a deal could be done that will satisfy short/medium and long term issues and a lot of interested parties then that is the only “real” answer.

  67. A big, long-range aircraft, with long range, great sensors and a large and varied weapon load is a very, very useful capability to have in peacetime, limited war and everything above that and below an all out strategic exchange. Even if potentially hostile SSNs did not exist (and arguably they might as well not) that would still be the case. We can get hung up on a discussion of how unlikely a conflict involving enemy SSNs would be, how scarce and insanely stealthy they are etc., but none of that alters the above fact.

  68. Andy, I can’t find any reference to the Constitution of Japan banning weapons sales. Any references? The only one I know with specific equipment bans is the US, but the politicians there got their fingers in everything. The only thing I could find was an arms policy that forbade sales to “countries in conflict”, and even that was repealed recently.

  69. @andy

    Compare the mtow of the a330 to existing and proposed mpa. It’s too big and fuel cost are too high for the mission. 737/a320 are ok size. 757 might have been best but isn’t built anymore. 767 and a330 are way too big.

  70. The Japanese have recently changed their arms export policies, which did effectively prohibit them exporting weapons. The most obvious symptom of this is the wailing and gnashing of teeth from assorted European submarine builders who thought they had the Australian SEA1000 programme in their sights, only to see the aussies (quite sensibly) cosying up to the Japanese and their Soryu class.

    If they’re happy to export Soryu, I can’t see them quibbling over P1……

  71. Older news, but dug it up in case you missed it.

    Japan now working with the UK on Meteor guidance improvements following the arms export restrictions lift. Anticipated they’ll look to purchase (co-produce?) at least with the F-35A’s and potentially integrate with whatever comes out of ATD-X.

    Very beneficial arrangement for both the UK (aerospace, propulsion, software, warheads) and Japan (sensors, electronics), and I hope we can kick on from here:

  72. @Kent
    I suspect the P7 programme would turn into a black hole like the Nimrod MRA4 if we had anything to do with it (see my quote by Kelly Johnson). In the end we need the P8 which mature ,in service and evolving to cover other roles or the less mature P1 which was purpose designed for this role and ‘maybe’ superior.

  73. In response, Ultra Electronics has developed a new airborne ASW ‘system of systems’ that capitalises on its world lead in multi-static active (MSA) acoustic processing techniques, GPS-enabled digital sonobuoys and software-defined sonobuoy receiver technology to offer MPA operators an unrivalled capability to detect, track and localise potential threat submarines – swinging the ASW balance back in favour of the MPA operator – yet without incurring the substantial operating and support overheads traditionally associated with high- end MPA solutions.

    Ultra’s MSA enhances the detection of quiet submarines in both deep and littoral waters using a fieldof active and passive sonobuoys controlled and monitored by an airborne processing suite. It uses multiple sources and receivers positioned in different locations and echoes from active sources are picked up by a pattern of receivers which take advantage of returns at multiple submarine aspects. These multiple bi-static combinations of sonobuoys are collectively exploited to produce an accurate target track.
    continues to push the active and passive sonobuoy envelope in both form and function.

    Having fully embraced the transition to digital telemetry, and now offering embedded GPS as standard, the company is introducing a new range of high performance passive buoys in a lightweight, G-size package. The Ultra all-digital HIDAR buoy is already production qualified, while development is continuing to shrink the BARRA directional sensor into a G-size enclosure.
    Smaller size and reduced weight permits increased sonobuoy payloads on the latest generation of intermediate-size MPAs. It also opens the way through further miniaturisation to novel forward deployment options using unmanned air vehicles or unmanned surface craft.

    Further ahead, advances in processing and networking offer the prospect of using the MPA as a means to deploy sonobuoys and then serve as a receiver/relay for off-platform processing. This approach opens up new opportunities for operators of smaller MPAs where remote processing is an attractive option. Another strand of development is looking at additional in-buoy processing. As well as reducing the burden on the processing platform, this would reduce bandwidth requirements and open the way to innovative sonobuoy field management techniques, such as using burst transmissions to extend battery life and prolong the interval before re-seeding.'s%20Nav%20Int%20Ultra%20Sonar%20Systems%208pp%20Finallow%20res.pdf

  74. It’s worth noting that one of the alternatives that we have been using, Merlin ASW may not be as plentiful after 2016.

    The number of cabs will be down to 30 which will have to cover Crowsnest as well as ASW. Note that on Ex Deep Blue Lusby embarked 14 cabs. This looks like the baseline for future CEPP deployments. Add in the ASW Combat ships, training and sustainment and that’s not leaving much to sanitise the corridor out of the Clyde.

    There are of course the 8 cannibalise HOW. But it’s arguable that these need red sure ting anyway just to make Crowsnest viable regardless of the ASW picture.

    But if we are talking about alternative ASW ‘capabilities’ a wodge of ex AAC Wildcats with dipping sonar fitted should probably not be ruled out.

  75. Peter Elliot

    Why ex AAC? would you not just buy more new Wildcats or Merlins to cover the task. I don’t think anyone is saying there is no money for an MPA, just how much and what you get for it. And wether it can be done differently and more cheaply.

    Would sentinal and a few more Merlins suffice?

  76. wirralpete,

    “So why the need for a Bay to support MCM currentlyy????
    Surely is a communications and scaneagle capability?”

    No. Or at least, not just that.

    The MCM support mission exists whenever MCMVs deploy. Prior to Lyme Bay taking the task for the Gulf MCM squadron, it was carried out by RFA Diligence, and before that often an LSL. The Bays are much more capable in the role. Scan Eagle and the embarked Mine Warfare Battle Staff (MWBS) are both relatively recent developments.

    The core of the role is keeping the deployed MCMVs supplied with fuel, fresh water (FW), food and ammunition *when they are at sea*. The MCMVs based at Bahrain deploy throughout the region, at least as far as Pakistan. Imagine that the most likely area for operational mine clearance is 24hrs steaming from Bahrain at maximum speed, so replenishment of any aspect depending on stocks held at Bahrain would take at least two days to accomplish, and endurance on task is limited by each of the elements of fuel, FW, food and ammunition. MCMVs don’t have great endurance or stocks of any of those, so replenishment is required frequently. It is the classic role of the replenishment ship, reducing the need to return to base and keeping forces on task for longer. The same reason we deploy replenishment ships for any operation, and the reason replenishment ships are in high demand from Allied forces (who tend to be less generously provided with them) wherever they are available.

    The other aspects of MCM support include:
    Operating as a command platform for the MWBS, which requires SCOT, CSS and operational planning and work spaces.
    Embarking a helicopter for utility, surveillance and force protection purposes.
    Embarking Scan Eagle for surveillance.
    Supporting divers.
    Supporting UUV operations.

    All of these could be carried out from ashore, or from STUFT, but is that as efficient as providing our own AFSB?

    For a wider understanding of what the Op Kipion force is all about, these two articles tell a lot:

    Note the integration with US forces, and the use of escorts to escort the MCM force, something an OPV cannot do, along with not being able to fulfil most of the AFSB functions.

    The MCM support role saved Mounts Bay from being cut in SDSR 2010. Without it, we would have gone down to 2 Bays. Will the same logic apply in 2015?

    (Nothing to do with MPAs, sorry.)

  77. Since the header is maritime patrol alternatives maritime patrol aircraft I’m going to stick with that. Taking the P3 aircraft would be a mistake, the technology and aircraft should be modern. Anyway this airworthiness certification is not something to be constantly battling against, especially given the Nimrod’s history.

    Can blimps, UAVs and various roll-on-roll-off solutions provide an alternative? Personally I think they all can provide layered defence. The Subs and ASW frigates as with the helicopter fleet can all provide some scope to find, track and pursue submarine threats.

    I am just not convinced that the above can work well in non-permissive and/or distant waters. Surely the ability to protect supply convoys has got to be a requirement HM’s RN provides for. Oil and gas could easily be turned off within Europe

  78. @Monkey:
    “A330 being the equivalent of a 767”
    more like 777
    The obvious choice in the Airbus portfolio are the existing, ready export MPAs:

    We all KNOW the MoD will waste hundreds of millions if not billions on customising and gold-plating if it’s allowed to launch a program that “develops” anything.

    The only cost-efficient approach is to force them to say “yes” to an existing design and to prohibit them by law from changing anything but the IFF system, including a ban on upgrades and life extensions during the first ten years and even only theorising on the job about upgrades.

  79. @ SO

    I agree, If we buy P8 then the MOD needs to be banned from gold plating it. Stingray seems like the obvious issue. Especially when it will have to be adapted to the wing kit. These days it seems to cost a couple of hundred million to integrate a weapon with an aircraft.

    The only option is P8 and use all the same US systems and weapons. Only basic mods allowed for comm’s etc.

    We can even do the same deal as we do with Rivet Joint and use us maintenance contracts and training facilities. Its the only thing we can afford but should produce a high end capability without breaking the bank.

  80. For GIUK gap cleansing I have this great idea for a small ASW carrier, with embarked merlins. Could add some F35s to protect it against marauding patrol aircraft.

    Never been done before I don’t think?

    Seriously if we ever were pressed into GIUK gap cleansing in a hot conflict, wouldn’t CVF be out there, supported by MPAs etc

  81. I find it strange that people are still calling for a single use airframe when the video posted the other day by TD has a clear statement that if an aircraft was chosen for the MPA role it would have to be a multimission aircraft.

  82. MickP,

    Without putting words in your mouth I think what you’re suggesting there is 3 x CVF :-)

    I can’t help but continually look at my Airfix model of Lusty and think that we’ve lost our way a little.

  83. DavidNiven,

    I can’t help but agree. There are a large number of roles for a modern airforce that would suit a militarised airliner, so why not the same one for all? AWACS, AAR, Transport, ELINT and MPA could all be based on the same airframe. Perhaps not going so far as a modular roll-on-roll-off capability, but the same basic spares, maintenance and support.

  84. If we are saying on the one hand that we must have f35 to operate near or over a near peer country (or its sea assets) we are hostile with then you really have to ask what these converted airliners are going to be doing.

    If the countries are afghan like then I would content that such aircraft are overkill for the role as has been seen with smaller manned and unmanned istar aircraft ballooning out of the last decade of war. This leaves peace time survelliance and co-ordination tasks. And in those roles you need to then ask if all requirements on an airframe we used in the past are still true of the future.

    With datalink capacity, ever smaller sensors and weapons, with fighter aircraft gaining evermore situational awareness the nature of these aircrafts roles and requirements are changing. Smaller higher flying aircraft with longer sensor stare and processes offloaded to on the ground command centres is a growing trend. Add in extra satellite like capacity using a zephyr type assets and you see a possible future very different to the past.

  85. @Mark
    Perhaps this is what the gang of four were hinting at as being very close to resolution and so there is not point blowing billions on last years vulnerable tech .

  86. Mark,
    All of these converted-airliner roles are characterised by their standing off from hostile-held areas.
    You can’t transport troops in a high-flying UAV, nor can you refuel other aircraft with small remote control observation platform.
    An AWACS, ELINT or MPA aircraft have an advantage that the sensor operators are on board to analyse the incoming data, rather than at the other end of a limited-bandwidth and rather costly data-link.
    A large, manned MPA can carry effectors, be they sonar buoys, torpedoes, or life-rafts. If you use the same common airframe, then when you do have a permissive environment you can have a persistent observation platform capable of dropping ordnance if necessary.

  87. @simon I was talking slightly tongue in cheek of a new invincible class ofASW cruisers as per their original role. If we need to cleanse the giuk gap then that is a substantial change back to Cold War posture and surely our present MPA need is a lower spec EEZ and SSBN security role? C295 for core capability in UK and FI , keep p8 or A400 based hi end on the back burner

  88. MickP,

    My “3 x CVF” was equally tongue in cheek* ;-)

    A completely agree with keeping P1/P8/A400 on the back burner and getting something that can do much of what we need for the general “day job”. Personally I’d write a cheque for the C295 tomorrow.

    * I do however still wander past a model Lusty and think we’re aiming a little bit too high and probably in the wrong direction for what is ultimately needed in the foreseeable future.

  89. APATS has suggested in the past that the C-235/265/295 family is not long ranged enough, carries enough stores of sonobuoys and lacks the mission system to monitor a sufficient quantity of buoys for our purposes.

  90. @Simon, shame 3 CVF would have been good…

    Thinking way ahead, I would replace the Albions with some smaller LPH type vessels, 6 to 8 cabs that could cover small amphi raids and swing role as ASW platforms but that’s way off

    @TOC – depends what we define as ‘our purposes’ I suppose

  91. ToC,

    Indeed he has. Why settle for milk when you can have cream… unless you can’t afford it.

    It does however have substantially better range and stores than Merlin and I would guess that it would be adequate for sanitising the routes in and out of Faslane.

    GIUK gap cleansing is probably a different matter, but I’ve done my own calcs and think that a squadron of them (12) could be used at a stretch should things change in our Soviet friends’ posture.

    I certainly bow to APATS’s judgement but when we’re strapped for cash and struggling to come up with an actual concrete reason to buy them I do wonder.

  92. I am ready for incoming on this suggestion… but, chaps, it is just a suggestion seeking a range of reasons why it doesnt work…

    What if we had a number [3-7] of platforms, cleverly, strategically, placed in terms of distance/coverage , that made use of the mature industry knowledge of oil rig structures, to design fixed bases in the north sea, that allow appropriate rotary platforms to provide cover for various duties we are discussing…

    Its just an idea…

  93. @Simon

    It’s certainly got the range and endurance (from airbase) over the Merlin, and a little crew rest area to help on crew over that extra duration.

    Sonobuoy stores are surprisingly not that different. There’s no dedicated internal racks on the Persuader as there is in the pre-loaded Merlin dispensers with storage racks, whatever you carry is effectively what you can squeeze onto the ramp at the rear.

    See page 6 for illustration of space (though the brochure does give a good idea on the multirole angle C-295 is capable of):

    Merlin carries 32-ish, mix of passive and actives. Couple links for illustration:

    Idea of the internal layout:

    Persuader has four FITS workstations, Galley and rest area, two observer stations, a single station for sonobuoy dispensing and the ramp at the rear.

    Merlin has the two workstations, the FLASH dipping sonar station, a pair of launchers and the spares rack. No need for a Galley as the mission duration are much shorter…

    No details on how many buoys can be monitored at once by either aircraft, though consider the Persuader is Ro-Ro and the Merlin is festooned with dedicated equipment.

    Merlin brochures often list a number of mission radii and durations, one stand out one is a “passive listening cruise” which hints at how operations are performed.

    Also note Persuader is limited heavily in transit altitude compared to the base aircraft’s normal capability when carrying torpedo’s, as these normally require a heated bay for anything too high and cold for external carriage.

    Is the longer range/endurance of C-295 over Merlin worth it? Are the P-1 and P-8 significant enough steps up to be worthy of aiming for?

  94. Don’t count on picking up any second hand RAAF P3 airframes – they are already being stripped for parts and the airframes scrapped in preparation for the arrival of the P8s.

    Does this video remind you of Nimrod??

    At least the ADF is doing things in a sensible sequence – order your new kit before destroying the old.

    A $707.9 million project to upgrade facilities at RAAF Bases Edinburgh (SA), Darwin (NT), Pearce (WA) and Townsville (Qld), and HMAS Stirling (WA) ahead of the arrival of the eight P8s is being signed off.

    The existing Torpedo Maintenance Facility at HMAS Stirling will also be refurbished and new Explosive Ordnance storage constructed.

    Construction is expected to begin in 2015 and be completed by the end of 2020.

  95. Yes, remember whenever you see headline figures for Australian Air Force projects thrown around (like $4B for P-8s), some of that is for facilities – and not always facilities that are absolutely required for the aircraft. The RAAF hierarchy are well practised at getting new office space, hangars and taxiways out of new project money. It makes your day-to-day base maintenance budget go a lot further if you can pull it off – and they certainly do.

  96. It keeps crossing my mind that this is one of the few situations where our requirements are more exacting than most other countries. You only have to look at the way the Nimrod fleet was worked to understand how much we expect from our MPA’s. And how much we pushed what was originally a basic MPA and sub-hunter.

    With that and equally when you look at the oceanic area we’re responsible for, to my mind it becomes very clear that the Persuader is not the right solution, good aircraft though it is.

    Our solution needs range, it needs to be able to complete a task independently and it needs growth potential.

    An air-based platform will give us more flexibility.

    And lets be fair, the money is there- the issue is actually whether the government is prepared to give this capability gap priority.

  97. @dave haine

    ‘And how much we pushed what was originally a basic MPA and sub-hunter.’

    I agree and I think that was the reason for the Chief of the Air Staff stating it needed to be a multi role platform. Is the P8 multi role enough? I think the P8I is classed at multimission but how much did the Indians pay? The money is there but how many airframes can we get for what we are willing to pay? I do not see the point in buying just a handful of airframes, if we decide to do expeditionary operations will we have enough spare cabs to protect the carriers and the CASD?

    Personally I’m leaning towards chatting to Lockheed about the Sea Herc. It’s a proven multi role airframe that has been shown to be adaptable to a number of roles, we would not even be the first to do it the Americans have been using the C130 in a number of quite successfully for years we could always tap into that experience. We already use the airframe therefore have crews and a training stream plus the logistics and technicians.

    We could consolidate our SIGINT/ISTAR etc into the C130 airframe without all the R and D costa of creating P8 derivatives.

  98. We have such an exacting requirement that the service chiefs decided over 4 years ago that it was not longer required and removed it.

  99. The requirement wasn’t removed. The utter failure of a proposed solution was disposed of.

  100. There was a failure of British industry and commerce to deliver the requirement.

    You could therefore point the finger at BAES. Or you could point the finger at the government that allowed BAES to become what it is today: an inflexible giant that is incapable of delivering even a simple frigate!

    If we end up pointing the finger at the “chiefs” that continually change their requirements then those “chiefs” should be on the chopping block publicly as they are not fit to run the show. However, if those chiefs are only responding to changing world situations then we need to rethink the “inflexible giant” that we created, and break it up.

    Bloody politics!

  101. @Simon: Unfortunately BAE is now private, so we could only starve it down to size, not actually break it up like it was state owned. . . .

    Given that there are 4 requirements, shouldn’t we be thinking about 4 solutions, and then seeing how many we could merge? If I read all the above correctly, the requirements are:
    i. Sanitization of entry and exit channels for CASD from base in Scotland.
    ii. Monitoring and cleansing of GIUK gap to prevent opfor moving into open Atlantic.
    iii. Shipping protection and SAR in UK EEZ (possibly also BOTS EEZ’s)
    iv. Expeditionary ISTAR/ASW/SAR capability for use against below peer adversaries in whatever world-policeman war the liberal masses encourage us into next.

    At the moment, our capabilities are:
    i. use of Merlin, ASW frigates and possibly SSN to clear the routes to Faslane.
    ii. Gapped.
    iii. Herky Bird with Mk1 eyeballs / gapped.
    iv. Sentinel, Sentry, Shadow, Reaper – at the moment, and all focussed on the first requirement (though may have “some” utility in SAR).

    So, what should we be thinking about in the future?
    i. Unless anyone can point out otherwise, we seem to have this bit pretty well covered.
    ii. Traditional MPA territory, but also we could set up a SOSUS type capability, even using PJS’ “ex-oil rigs” idea. Arguably though this is the core of why we need a replacement MPA. However, this is also the area most under threat from a UAV derivative. No more need for rest area’s / galley’s portapotty’s, since all your crew *and* the workstations and processing equipment are on-shore. You could work the asset in shifts, and it’ll be smaller and cheaper by not having to carry heavy workstations, analysis equipment and “amenities”! The downside’s are delay in receiving the data (though surface assets and submerged sub’s aren’t exactly fast-moving) and susceptibility to jamming.
    iii. For the Atlantic / EEZ SAR use we could step down to C295 or converted Herc’s. Heck, even allow the Coastguard to operate them. Or RAF Reserve! Another idea that would give excellent persistence would be Airships, especially for covering the whole Atlantic, errm should we need to.
    iv. Sentinel, Reaper et. al. would do fine for Expeditionary ISTAR, and also ASuW at a pinch. Hercs/C295s/airships would do for expeditionary SAR in the event of another MH-370. C295s or Herc’s could be used for reconnaissance bomber ops (combining ISTAR with prosecution) in another brushfire war.

    So, what’s wrong with my reasoning? Waiting to be shot down! :-)

  102. Dangerous Dave,

    BAES is a Public Limited Company (it is not private) and can therefore be broken up by the Monopolies Commission (currently called the “Competition and Markets Authority” or CMA) if necessary… obviously it has to be deemed a monopoly for this to happen and is currently only a monopoly in my head :-(

    As to your list:

    1. C295 and SSN (we’ll soon have too few frigates for the job)
    2. Shared requirement: Greenland, Iceland and UK C295 fleet (or UK only P8)
    3. C295 (Merlin for BOTs)
    4. C295 and Predator/Triton

  103. Some would say c295 has a range and sonor buoy capacity issue but it depends what taskings are. If its UK and FI EEZ and SSBN support then is it really constrained for those tasks? If GUIK cleansing becomes an issue in future then the game really has changed and not having a P8 is possibly the least of our worries. If we need long range MPA for a task group then barring FI it would be a coalition op so it seems fair to ask others to provide MPA if we provide the carrier. Organic merlin / crowsnest and F35 sensor fit is not to be sniffed at. I would like to suggest Sea Herc given our familiarity with the type, its range etc but its only powerpoint and we know how these things can mushroom. I’d still seek a quote though. Failing that C295 for a base capability allowing skills retention etc and operating as part of a combined system with Merlin, Sentinal and UAVs. Down the line if we need bigger (and haven’t already got Sea Herc) then I would go with an A400 option. Aside from possibly a capability we don’t need at the moment, P8 will add another handful of a different jet type to a fleet that already includes E3 and Airseeker. Not sure that’s really efficient. It will also be a silver bullet that would spend 95%+ of its time arguably operating well beneath its capabilities

  104. @mickp
    C295 or an equivalent are all we can afford , range wise combined with the Norwegian P3’s and basing for NI, Scotland, Iceland and Greenland we can help close the gap , the Portuguese are at times flying 11 hour plus missions and the new winglet version of the C295 will stretch that too. We will need more Airframes than a longer legged faster jet but then it can be more places and potentially greater availability..If T26 numbers are to be around 8 and dedicated to CBG deployment in the long term. The T23 will not be with drawn entirely for many years so be have a breathing space to try an alternative.

  105. @monkey, agreed. I was wondering whether at SDSR 2015, if there is push to axe 3 T23s (on the assumption we get at most 10 T26s and that the B2 Rivers ‘replace’ the lost frigates – this is speculation I add, but not in my view unreasonable), could 3 T23s be dropped into rotating ready reserve, eg an Albion style scenario with one on and two off at any one time – some RNR manning. Choose those in the best hull condition, strip out some kit (3 Harpoon launchers would sort the other T45s) and essentially use as ASW training / ready reserve? Manpower savings cover B3 Rivers and some gaps elsewhere. ASW skills and RNR have training enhancement. If things get more active in GIUK then they could all be reactivated

  106. @Mickp
    Indeed as the T26 replace T23 put them in the reserve where they can keep the skills up on a type many of the reservist will be familiar with. In all likelihood the T23’s will be thrashed because of ‘delays’ to T26 coming into service , steel cut next year cleared for service 2020 at best.

  107. Not the usual nonsense about the Mythical Portuguese airforce 11 hour missions with CN295. There is a reason why they keep their 5 P3 as well as their CN295 and that is that they have Atlantic responsibilities as well as Med ones. I have tasked CN295 on Ops and Exercises and have seen their limitations in “real world” scenarios.

  108. @Clive F

    I would not say that. As long as we are prepared to be brutally honest about the caps and lims of what we do buy and not try and pretend that something like a CN295 has capabilities it simply does not then fair enough, at least we are honest about it.

  109. @APATS, would in your view the C295 be adequate in the objective measures of range / speed / payload capacity for SSBN protection and normal UK EEZ patrol in the current non hostile environment under current DPAs?

    And sorry if I got a bit uptight the other night, your expert input is valued

  110. Well if it was down to me, T26 would be 8 ASW + 6 AAW. However, the financial pages today say the deficit, will need non-protected budgets to be cut by a third after the election, regardless of who wins. I think its going to be rough until 2020.

  111. @John Hartley
    Some good news hopefully on the energy front. The first is that the Government is being pushed to relax its 0.5 on the Richter scale limit on fracking and on another side Algy Cluff ,a pioneer of North Sea oil and gas exploration has been granted 11 licences to drill and extract coal gas in situ on the North Seas extensive coal fields. . This done abroad on a commercial scale at present and if successful here could exploit the hundreds of years of supplies we have.

  112. I interpret APATS comment as potentially suitable for coastline work, maybe for parts of the UK/Irish Archipelago EEZ (i.e. where re-tasking on the fly not required or not too onerous), maybe for most BOTs (if sufficiently ferryable) but not for the GIUK or N/S Atlantic style tasks.

    Happy to be corrected.

  113. One of the draw backs of using UCAV for persistent prosecution or even patrol has been the limited bandwidth for communication with its operators. When live weapons are to be dispensed at air,surface or subsurface targets a ‘man’ in the loop is required be they based on land ,on a nearby vessel or aircraft . The recent launch of the O3B satellite system for $3bn aims to provide satellite gigabite bandwidth to the 3 billon people that stretch the 45 degrees either side of the equator(it covers upto 62 degrees also on a limited basis) It seems these satellites are getting cheaper and cheaper as the next competitor is putting up the next set of satellites for $1.6bn which will stretch high enough to cover Europe ,the Global Xpress. These are commercial satellites I know but the principle is there that getting high bandwidth coverage at a reasonable price for an organisation the size of NATO is achievable and should not be an obstacle for the deployment of these UCAV be they over land or sea.

  114. O3b Networks is a nice idea (medium-earth orbit) but AFAIK they’ve had a lot of trouble getting the FUCKNORMOUS and very technically gucci satellites working (we tried to get a telco client interested for remote small cell setups but I think the answer from O3b was “come back when we’ve fixed it”), and the founder has wandered off first to Google and then to Elon Musk’s new company.

  115. In a sense we are not debating an MPA solution here, but the wider picture of the UKs ASW capabilities. It seems, that the “fewer, but more gucci” side of thinking constantly has the upper hand @TD; most definitely it is prevalent at the admiralty.

    I’m not in that camp.

    IMO, the RNs escort procurement is almost equal to FRES, when it comes to poor requirements and costly solutions to non-existing problems. Nobody actually required the next ASW-vessel to fire Tomahawks into afro-asian shitholes. The stated requirement was “cheap as chips to preserve numbers”. What we are getting is an unknown, but definitely miniscule number of ASW-container-vessel-hybrids and three crappy little boats (at a time, when at least four european navies have cheaper and more capable alternatives in service).

    The more I think about it, the more I come back to my T27-proposal. Choose a working OTS base vessel, and plug british equipment onto it. The solution can be more (MEKO 200 SA, Algeria buys 2 vessels + 6 SuperLynx for €400m) or less sexy (refined Thetis-class). The former are fully qualified patrol frigates with two Wildcat hangar spots, the latter have modular spaces, a hangar and an ice-strengthened hull.

    Instead, we have just payed “Her Majesty’s Pensions Fund masked as a defence company” – BAE Systems – £150m+ for glorified powerpoints. Together with £350m+ for those crappy boats, that makes 3 MEKO 200 the RN cannot have. For every T26 – anyone I know involved in shipbuilding says, it will cost £500m+ per unit – we can get 2 or 3 MEKO 200.

    And now, more of the same in the MPA question.

    If we look at the requirements of range and speed, it is easily discernable, that the Sentinel airframe offers us both. Is it too far fetched to buy 5-7 additional aircraft and to “refill” the fairing to accomodate sonobuys and 2-4 torpedoes, with a Sea Spray radar built into the nose? Is it too far fetched to use the existing aircraft as command nodes for MQ-9s, equipped with either Sea Spray, sonobuoy-racks or torpedoes? Is a combination of both approaches not all we would need?

    No, it’s either the totally unconvincing CN295, or a £200m aircraft like P-8 (or the A400M variant often touted here). IMO, the deal is already sealed.

  116. @Alex
    According the O3B networks website they have by passed the problem on the first 4 satellites launched ,using 2 with 2 as backups and fixed the issue before the launch this summer of the other 4 . With 6 operating at any one time they are now open for business it seems.

  117. @mcZ

    i should have stopped reading when you used the phrase “boats” but I stupidly kept on going. Firstly you quote a 2 year old price for a small Frigate that you want to replace our ASW T23 platforms with but could not embark HM2. Very few have even had towed array fitted to them. The T23 has experienced through life growth and upgrades that see them today virtually bursting at the seams when they deploy operationally. then add in modern accommodation and stability standards as NAB frequently explains and yet you somehow think they can be replaced by smaller ships?
    As for MQ9, slow with barely 1200NM range and how much can they carry? The business jet MPA solution has been debated on here several times, the argument comes down to weight of stores, cost of modifications and changes in performance when they fly a profile they were never designed to do with stores hanging from their wings.

  118. SeaSpray equipped Reapers have only ever been seriously presented as an MSA style role supplement due to potentially being a (comparatively?) relatively easily assembled variant of an existing system in inventory in order to cut our teeth on. The ISAR mode on the Thales I-Master carried by Watchkeeper may be an interesting aid to informing future decisions, but that’s definitely not an ASW contender.

    I seriously doubt MQ-9’s capacity for appropriate ASW stores, even without the added weight and drag of the proposed belly housing and external fuel tanks: Think sufficient numbers of sonobouys, Sting Ray, additional communications equipment, etc.

    You’d be looking at something more akin to the MQ-8B/C CRAW concept anti-torpedo torpedo (ATT) based weapon. If that program’s even still going? ( @El Sid, @APATS: Do either of you know?)

    MQ-9 still has serious issues that need to be resolved if it’s to become SCAVENGER, let alone a serious maritime asset. Adverse weather protection (lightning strike, electrical discharge, anti-icing and de-icing systems) and well as non-segregated airspace operation (full suite of navigation lights, transponders, radio relays to talk to ATC and other VHF operated automated civilian systems, etc).

  119. @mcZ
    Strongbox Marine are fitting out the standardised new cabin structures on the T45/T26/CVF
    1 berth Cabin on T45/T26/CVF
    2 berth Cabin on T45/T26/CVF
    6 berth Cabin on T45/T26/CVF
    Add in the 15% spare cabins for specialist crews on T45/T26 plus the accommodation for 60 or so Royal Marines and the increased emergency escape routes and fire suppression mods and space for a half dozen 20′ containers or more and increased size for mess spaces and increased sized medical facilities and you get the picture.
    TD does it much better,
    Obviously for every set of crewman (watches) you can remove these spaces from your requirements but automation can only go so far whilst leaving enough crew available for Damage Control in time of combat. Remember the best way for a sub to ‘lose’ a pursuing ASW ship is to sink it.

  120. Some summer month not that long ago I was promoting exactly this kind of mixed fleet, without big upfront capital cost tying our hands for decades, but the fleet of 4 was laughed out of contention:

    “Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of expanding the capabilities of the Sentinel R.1. [206985]

    Mr Dunne: Enhancements to the Sentinel R1 aircraft are currently the subject of commercial negotiations. I am therefore withholding details of the potential costs, as the disclosure of this information would be prejudicial to the commercial interests of the Ministry of Defence.

    Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what communication (a) he and (b) officials in his Department have had with the Boeing Company regarding the lease of four P-8A aircraft. [206988]

    Mr Dunne: I am withholding the information requested, as disclosure would be likely to prejudice the formulation or development of Government policy.”

    >>> formulation has gone into the detail development (negoatiation). Would be lovely if someone could do the maths (a grand term) between the 70 people coming off Seedcorn, the four P8s operated in a dedicated role and half (2.5?… OK, one in maintenance at any given time, so 2) of the Sentinel fleet manned in the back by such specialist operators (what would be different for the guys in the cockpit?).

  121. The Lockheed SC-130J Sea Hercules’ combat radii and on station times are: 462 nm, 11.1 hours; 940 nm, 8.3 hours; 1325 nm, 4 hours. How big a gap do you need to cover, how far away is it, and for how long do you need to cover it?

  122. @Kent – I hope is that if there is a push to lease P8s and use other kit in conjunction, then someone has at least phoned Lockheed to see what deal they could do. I still think C295 would be ok for reduced expeditionary ambition and limited current EEZ threat (i.e. mainly to retain skills and base MPA rather than heavy ASW) but if the price is right, Sea Herc has a lot going for it, payload, commonality etc

  123. @Kent/Mickp

    is the Sea Herc still not just power point though? So any range and endurance figures are computer modelling and not saying that they are wrong but it would be brave to be the launch customer for a platform that cannot sell in its own country despite there being hundreds of the base airframe in service.

  124. @APATS

    My presumption is that the airframe/modifications would be basically what goes into an HC-130 for the USCG. I don’t think there is much risk there. I would be curious if you were to fit the exact same systems as a P-8 if there would be much difference in cost though. The C-130 base airframe is cheap but so is the 737 airframe (prior to the P-8 modifications). Airlines are probably getting 737’s cheaper than other nations can buy new C-130J’s right now.

    Would be an interesting study. I would imagine that the big issue with going that route is that it would have to cost substantially less than the P-8 and to do that you are likely leaving some substantial capability out.

  125. The UK has plenty of existing infrastructure, several crews training on the latest airframes and systems, a very close relationship with the US and the two of us are coordinating incredibly intimately on a number of projects.

    P-8 is the way the wind’s blowing, 15 aircraft as per the Aussie programs do not appear to be an outrageous purchase given the Unallocated and Contingency budgets running at near to five times that amount.

    P-8’s basic design is as the MMA aircraft discussed by the senior service heads, the production run in the commercial sector is going to continue for years and spare parts won’t be a problem. Amortise your initial spend over that period and/or build your fleet gradually.

    Your choice of a mix of P-8’s and MQ-4C’s numbers with Sentinels in the meantime.

    Maybe a Son of Nimrod deal (i.e. P-8) is why we’re happy to slow down the F-35 purchase to match the project and talking USMC Harriers, err, AV-8B’s for a couple of years…

  126. @APATs it is indeed powerpoint so I agree there are unknowns but as I understand it, its a tried and tested P3 kit in a tried and tested airframe – what could possibly go wrong!?!

    Seems we are wedded to the P8, not quite sold on the logic as to why we need such a high end platform, especially given numbers will be low and certainly not immediately the 15 that Australia may get

    That said, its in service and if we are sensible and use the 737 going forward as a basis for AEW, etc to minimise the several handfuls of jet types we seem to be collecting, there will be economies

    Might want to explore covering routine MPA by converting some of our Hercs to USCG standard at least, low risk and taking the routine SAR type work off the limited P8 fleet.

  127. @JMH

    The USCG HC130 J has no facility to deploy buoys or weapons. It is a surface surveillance CSAR asset only.

    @Mick p

    I am merely pointing out that as far as I know they have not built one and added the mods and weapons then flown it, never mind sold one.

  128. @APATS

    Understood but those shouldn’t drastically alter the range of the aircraft in the end. You should know about what you are going to get. I still think the biggest issue is that to reach a useful range you need an aircraft in the 150-200,000 pound range to carry the weapons, fuel, and sensors you need to do the job. And of airframes in that class you really can’t buy much that is cheaper than a 737 or A320 as your base to work with. A C-130 might be a bit cheaper but not much.

    Might as well buy the thing already up and working.

    I think business jets are a non starter if you want to arm them. Their payload/range curves just aren’t going to work out very well with big heavy things like torpedoes and the like being lugged around. They are made to haul around a dozen or so people and their bags. Range is going to fall off fast if you add substantial weight to the equation.

  129. @APATs, I agree with you I was just replaying, with a hint of sarcasm, the LM sales pitch. If Sea Herc was in use now I think it would be a sensible contender, but alas it isn’t. P8 signals to me the desire to keep a strategic outlook. HMG could take an alternative view and curtail strategic ambition with C295 or similar and I am sympathetic to that view. P8 certainly keeps us at the top table in terms of existing ASW / MPA assets and skills maintenance even if a little overkill for current threats. I don’t object to P8 provided we have enough to keep it a credible force (I don’t know what the number is, 9-12 airframes possibly?) and also we look at ways of rationalising airframes going forward

    Still think might be worth a small upgrade to existing C130s on the lines of USCG as an enhanced CSAR capability at least in the FI

  130. ‘Mickp
    My issue with CN295 is not what it can do but where and when it can do it. We have a lot of posters on here that suggest existing platforms that can be there but do little or that can do lots but not where and when you need them to. Then there are those that suggest airframes that can get to where and when you need them but will need serious mods to do what you need them to.
    Those are all risks in either capability or cost. After Nimbat is it any wonder a lot of people are not really sympathetic to any of those views?

  131. @APATs, I agree again that the C295 is a substantially reduced capability but it comes back to what HMG want our capabilities to be and I guess that depends on who gets in and SDSR 2015. I am sympathetic to(but not wildly in favour of at this stage) hearing arguments to reducing our capabilities / ambition in a political sense and cutting our procurement cloth accordingly, hence I can see an argument where a C295 type would fit if that level of capability was dictated by a sensible politically developed strategy. (ok so that ain’t going to happen)

    If we want to maintain a decent CVF lead expeditionary capability with fully organic support, and maintain the ability to police the GIUK gap then I agree P8 is the only game in town

  132. The L-188 Electra was an airframe with a mtow of 110k pounds it did ok as a sub hunter still does, atlantique 2 another in the 100k pound range. There of course hasn’t been any reduction in weight in any asw equipment or aircraft fit out since 1960. 737 was choosen because it was the smallest aircraft that boeing produced and it had to be a boeing aircraft that was used. It’s why boeing are desperately scrambling round on the jstars replacement offering another different version of the 737 as its to much aircraft for the role.

    P8 is based on a 737 variant whos end is almost here. 737 max is what theyre building now the variant the p8 is based on will be gone from airline service within the next 15 years fuel prices and emissions with see to that. P8 forever ties us to US ITAR restrictions and thanks to wiki leaks we see the lengths they go to, to shaft allies using that as a cover (gripens new radar being british as a result).

    If p8 wins the day it will be at the expense of something else be prepared for a trade 8 x p8 aircraft or type 26 numbers 9-13 and sentinel it will be that expensive.

  133. ‘mark

    “737 max is what theyre building now the variant the p8 is based on will be gone from airline service within the next 15 years fuel prices and emissions with see to that”

    An aircraft with 2000 plus orders on the books and 100 new orders last month will be gone from service in 15 years.I know there are 2 of you i just hope it is not the RAf mark coming out with such blatant bullshit that pays no heed to orders, historical trends or the move away from hub and spoke with capacity maxing at traditional hub airports.

  134. @APATS – The Sea Hercules is available now, albeit without all the bells and whistles. The advanced P-3 sensors are already mounted in a mission systems pallet that can be loaded into a C-130J in a half-hour and powered up 15 minutes later. The AC-130 gunships got their start when the crews cut holes in the side and mounted guns from 7.62X51mm miniguns to M-61 Vulcan 20mm guns to Bofors 40mm/L70 to 105mm howitzers. Current MC-130H ships mount Hellfire missiles and Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs) on wing strong points. They also can use Griffon missiles and SDBs from ramp racks. They’ve already tested dropping sonobuoys from the ramps and/or paratroop doors. What hasn’t happened yet is the extension of the main gear pods forward to provide torpedo/depth charge/missile bays. An advantage of the C-130 as an MPA or MMA is that the mission modules can be tailored to the users’ needs.

    Yeah, it’s more than just a PowerPoint.

    As for the home country not using the Sea Herc, the US didn’t use the Martin Maryland or Martin Baltimore either.

  135. @ APATS

    I think the orders you mean are the MAX version, Mark (I think) means the 800 series which is what the P8 is based on. It’s about 15 years old now, although still plenty of orders. But it doesn’t seem unreasonable to say they might be in largely reduced numbers if not gone completely in 15 years.
    Although I don’t think it will be too much of a worry, we’ve operated stuff for decades long after everyone else has got rid, think VC10. Although clearly it’s not ideal costwise.

  136. Can someone please explain to me why we’re getting rid of Hercules?

    Are they not almost exactly the right size for most of the things we need to do?

    I am starting to wonder if we shouldn’t cancel the A400M order, buy more C17 and invest the money in a proven platform (which could be enhanced slightly) in the form of the C130.

    This may well then prove to be the perfect platform for an MPA.

  137. Apas

    If you think it’s bullshit that fine it’s only my opinion, but the 2000+ order for the 737 max and 2500+ orders for the a320 neo are the clearest indication I can give that legacy version are going to be replaced and replaced quickly prior to an all new narrow body arriving in the 2025-2030 timeframe with concept for that already underway. The 737-800 first flew in 1997 and is about as similar to the max as the updated type 23 that’s coming along is to the one that entered service in 1990. Personally the Orion 21 would have been about ideal.

  138. I do not understand the blind faith in P-8A, in the byzantine empire that is the US Navy anti-submarine warfare was not specified as a KPP for the aircraft and when tested by the DOT&E their assessment was “not effective for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission and is not effective for wide area anti-submarine search.”
    Proponents will point to the power point presentations of future untested ‘Increments’ so once again we will be spending the odd billion on a system that may or may not do what it says on the tin and number of aircraft is minimal so that it’s military effectiveness is very questionable.

  139. Ah the old Sea Herc debate,

    The aircraft isn’t a mere concept, says the company. “With the exception of some test and development required for the full ASW configuration, the majority of SC-130J capability has been developed and is currently in operation. LM has developed many operational mission configurations for the C-130 based on customer requests. LM has considered the development of full ASW for the C-130J over the last ten years, but recent customer demand has moved this past the concept stage into development and test.”

    With the Sea Herc we will have an aircraft that we are familiar with using and have the infrastructure in place to operate.

    The many variants of the airframe will allow us to consolidate all our int gathering capability into one type of airframe which is more deployable than the P8 and would be more than good enough for the times when we will be doing ops on our own against our potential adversaries. If we need the P8 then NATO or a coalition would be involved (although there is nothing to suggest that the Sea Herc would be such a drop in capability).

    Just because we have some money in a pot does not mean we need to blow it all on one toy, there are a lot things that require investment in the armed forces such as housing improvements, retention, energy efficiency etc all of which would be of as much benefit as a new MPA.

  140. @Mark and APATS
    Boeing is looking to evolve the construction aspect of its fleet producing three primary variants based on capacity. The first is all ready in service the 787 with a smaller and larger variants all ready in the late design stage based on what they have learnt on the 787 .The project is called Yellowstone with the being a Y1 (737 equivalent) and Y3 ( 747/777 equivalent) with the Y2 being the 787.

  141. Max and P-8 are both classed as 4th generation 737’s, both being based on the NG families. All three lines are still being pumped out in the 7-/8-/9- variants depending on customer (NG and Max, including the green airframes for conversion work to P-8) and will be for quite some time.

    Funds wise, £3b out of £15b unallocated/contingency (how much is already in Allocated as a long existing requirement?) is hardly “splashing the cash” to put into place equipment to satisfy roles that all three services are asking for.

    As for assessments, thank Christ some of you don’t make decisions based on your ability to read reports. The 2013 DOT&E assessment referenced all Increments laid out in the project objectives of which only Increment 1 had been completed at the time. Increment 1 is equivalent to suitability in replacing P-3 in the ASW role. This it has qualified for and was stated as such in the assessment (neatly omitted above…).

    Increment 2 introduces the “wide area” capability. Incidentally, P-3 itself doesn’t pass the same “wide area” criteria… (I wonder how C-295, P1 et al would fare on that assessment? If you’re going to penalise, compare the lot). Increment 3 introduces the other roles, including the completion of ELINT and replacement of the LSRS role performed by a number of P-3 variants which will be scheduled to retire at this point.

    So the DOT&E assessment is quite correct, those Increments are not in place yet and so the Programme hasn’t delivered what it plans to yet, and equally presents no reason to shit-can the project.

  142. Reviewing comments over the last year here, objections to P-8 can be summarised in two points:

    1) Cost perceived as too high
    2) Resistance to an American airframe

  143. @TOC

    How many airframes do we get for £3Bn? considering Nimrod was meant to provide us with 9 after the numbers being revised down due to costs.

  144. Toc

    The schedule boeing are currently running on is final assembly of the first 737max in 2015 with flight test to commence in 2016 and will last for approx 1 year with deliveries commencing in 2017 around the end of that year production of 737 will be solely max -7,8 and 9. The ng will no longer be produced as the max will offer fuel improvement of 14-20 percent against a/c being produced or flying today they already have several hundred orders being changed from ng to max and more will follow as migration of build is further refined as recounted when speaking to Boeing commercial supply chain mangers less than a month ago.

  145. Australia are getting 15 (a mix of Poseidon and Triton), entire new facilities and conversion training (amongst big ticket items) for that amount.

    Nimrod numbers weren’t limited by cost, that was the number of workable airframes that could be converted. That was it, there could never have been any more. We’d bought the last suitable airframes up. The program had already hit the £400m (ish) per airframe mark and needed even more funds to complete. Given that only 9 could ever be built, it was an unsustainable solution to the requirement.

    It’s a shame, reports were that MRA4 could prove to be extremely effective. Wrong choice of airframe.

    In many ways P-8 represents the US recognising that the MRA4 approach was more effective than the P-3 approach. When you compare notes, MRA4 and P-8 echo each other quite closely in premise. I’d rather P-8 (MRA4 approach) than C-295 (“P-3 light” approach).

    Would I like a UK built airframe? Yes. Would I live with work-share in an Airbus airframe? Yes.

    As APATS is repeatedly pointing out, there’s no program in process along the lines of an A400M or A319/320/Neo beyond PowerPoint or CAD that de-risks conversion. P-8 and P1 are light-years ahead in that respect.

    It would really take the manufacturers (including Lockheed with a C-130) to build a prototype of their MPA offering and demonstrate the paper plans properly to suggest a program wouldn’t be as risky as MRA4. The kind of thing that Bombardier/L-3 are doing with a C-295 type platform. Kudos to them for that.

  146. ToC

    I think it is a bit more complex than that

    1. Cost is perceived to be too high when measured against the likelihood of use when compared against other lower cost AND lower capability alternatives in other words, trade offs across the whole of defence

    2. Resistance to an American airframe because that commits us to an American industrial supply chain and ecosystem from which we get very little industrial benefits that pays taxes that contributes to the defence budget. It also cuts off any long term strategic desire to standardise on Airbus products – cockpit training, sims, logistics etc

  147. The differences between NG and Max largely surround engines, the nacelles and root areas that house them and your choice of wingtip (strakes, winglets, etc). One of the reason Max is achieving certification so quickly to meet their aggressive schedule is the similarities with the NG.

    Got to say the nacelle positioning is clever. Not only does it combat the transonic drag experienced by the wing, it also covers the other difficulty Boeing has competing with Airbus on the established designs: ground clearance of the nacelles limiting the newer engine diameters.

  148. ‘Australia are getting 15 (a mix of Poseidon and Triton), entire new facilities and conversion training (amongst big ticket items) for that amount.’

    If we used the C130 airframe we could dispense with new facilities conversion training etc. We could palatise the Sentinal systems to fit into a C130 airframe. Do we need Triton if we did that? and would it be less cost?

    Originally we wanted over 20 Nimrod, when we signed the original deal for production the number was for 12 aircraft. The C130 has a proven record of palatised mission systems it’s in production and has been continually upgraded it’s no where near the same level of risk as Nimrod.

  149. @TD

    All valid. You know my desire to see UK industry flourish and arguments pro-industry when considering programs.

    1) There’re a number of requirements (not just MPA) that we’re looking to fill: AAS as a long-term ASTOR replacement for an example. Does the cost of multiple fleets compare against a multirole fleet given the decades lifespan and ability to increase a fleet over time? You said yourself we’re in a position where we must sweat our assets: Spending the large amount of funds to convert Sentinel for performing MSA is a sign it’s happening.

    2) Can’t and won’t argue with that at all. If you’ll indulge me and take on APATS experience that C-295 is not a fit for the MOD requirement, is there a Comet or 737 class platform around that the UK has involvement in (@DN we don’t manufacture C-130’s) that demonstrates MPA (leaving out MMA for now) capability? You discussed the “Long Shadow” of MRA4 a while back, is there genuine stomach for learning from our MRA4 mistakes and taking on an A320 based project (for example) when the manufacturer is making no noises in that direction themselves?

    Aware of packages such as FITS and the UK derived and inspired kit on the P-8 to which we could tap. Do you see it happening?

  150. The 12 aircraft deal came after the wing problems emerged. Hindsight: That should have been when the project was canned or placed on extended hiatus until an appropriate airframe was found and conversion designs completed. A319 for example.

  151. ‘The 12 aircraft deal came after the wing problems emerged’

    Which means our requirement was for at least 12, how many P8 are we planning on buying? and if it’s less why?

  152. There’s a difference between a requirement and the solution being proceeded with, but it doesn’t really matter as I agree with the angle you’re coming from.

    Numbers-wise nothing official yet, the only hint out there was the question to the House earlier this year about rumours of renting four P-8’s (presumably in the context of an initial or even interim number), which wasn’t answered.

  153. ‘There’s a difference between a requirement and the solution being proceeded with’

    I agree, but as the P8 has not got the legs of the Nimrod it cannot cover the same area and as Triton cannot search for subs, why spend that much money on the P8 when we could get a perfectly usable solution from an airframe with similar range and with less infrastructure and training costs etc? could we not purchase enough airframes to cover what we wanted the Nimrod to do with the money saved?

  154. @TD: I’m all for doing things ourselves to provide UK industry work and preserve a sovereign capability, but we have to keep our powder dry. At best we’re buying 20 MPA, building our own when an off the shelf option exists is nuts. We will at least have a requirement for three figures for say fighter aircraft and or drones.

    I think you should be very cautious when it comes to assuming that European interests largely coincide with ours. That’s not been our experience over the last couple of decades, and when you throw in the frankly crap execution of Euro projects like the A400 and Typhoon, traceable to political interference, the caution starts looking like wilful blindness. Gosh, I am being rude….:-(

  155. Every time “mpa” comes up, it makes me want the last 50 comments feature back! As the activity just hides all the rest of the discussion to catch up from (easy) view.

    RE mark’s (are there two now? Or did I misread APATS?) comment

    ” and thanks to wiki leaks we see the lengths they go to, to shaft allies using that as a cover (gripens new radar being british as a result).

    If p8 wins the day it will be at the expense of something else be prepared for a trade 8 x p8 aircraft or type 26 numbers 9-13 and sentinel it will be that expensive”
    – make it 4xp8, the modded sentinel fleet… And the pushing out of the t26 is already happening… Bcz of this being planned, the Scottish referendum or the speccing problems that some are hinting at? Not an either or question; between three it could not be, either.

    It all comes down to capabilities, not hull numbers. And leasing costs, as a way to avoid capital expenditure crowding out other sensible & necessary things. After the botched SDSR, in the next one the gvmnt (whoever thay might be, then) will have to be able to tick boxes for essential capabilities….but not over the whole time horizon that the t26 run will be for.

  156. @APATS
    Nowhere I said, I would replace the whole T23 class with a light frigate. I wrote, that we paid BAE a lot of money – half a billion pound – for three OPVs and a lot of paperwork about vessels we can’t afford in numbers. If you compare those OPVs to existing solutions allied navies with a similar set of problems came up with, really, how can you honestly defend any aspect of it?

    Not that I’m fundamentally opposed. River B3 IMO could’ve been the Black-Swan-sloop of 2012s “Joint Concept Note”. I like that concept a lot (especially because they use my skysail-idea), but there is simply no step in this direction. What are others doing?
    – ASW? The Chinese are adding VDS to a 1,440 ts corvette design without changing displacement, to be poured out in huge numbers. A Black Swan should have no problem to take a helo and a VDS, with another providing a second helo and a UAV or UUV.
    – AAW? The Israeli Navy will put the Elta EL/M 2248 MF-STAR radar + Barak 8 on their planned 2,200 ts corvettes; currently, the Sa’ar 5s are being refitted. Not too bad. Think, what a 2,700+ ts Black Swan could be, especially when supplemented by a Crowsnest-Merlin.

    Bottom line to me is: River B3 is designed to make smaller vessels look incapable of handling more complex task. Without any of the Black-Swan-goodies (called “capability packages”), but having double the envisaged unit price nevertheless. The modular payload experiment will be introduced into the indispensable ASW-frigate, together with accommodation and strike-length VLS pushing tonnage and cost. In the meantime, GP-vessels become sparser.

    So, you might want to hammer the MEKO 200 as you want. But they are real things, with real prices, while costing of a single T26 is wildly guessing and in service dates are, well … things will get interesting. Only one thing seems certain: a T26 at half a billion a pop is not affordable, and it will be trimmed.

    As you mentioned growth and stability; the Anzacs have received a major overhaul adding 32 ESSMs. The design is qualified for an additional second 8-cell VLS (64 ESSM in total) and 8 Harpoons, both not fitted. Together with a 5”-gun, this is matching the current T23s equipment bar helicopter capacity. Our Commonwealth brethren in SA, NZ and Oz are patrolling vast swathes of violent southern oceans with them, so stability seems OK, at least for their task as GP assets.

    Re. the “business jet MPA”; I never proposed storing weapons under the wing. There is a 30ft “canoe” under the belly, which is tested aerodynamically; I asked, if this can be designed to carry payloads!? My guess is: if a Wildcat can carry 4 Stingrays, I cannot see, why an aircraft double the length should not. I admit you have a point re. flight profile; so does the P-8 and the A400M, for example.

    MQ-9 is meant as a proxy for MALE UAVs; I think, it will happen, not too soon, but mid-20s. The question is, if we are leading or trailing this development.

  157. @McZ, Interesting, do you have any links one could access the details through?
    “– ASW? The Chinese are adding VDS to a 1,440 ts corvette design without changing displacement, to be poured out in huge numbers.[ A Black Swan should have no problem to take a helo and a VDS, with another providing a second helo and a UAV or UUV.]
    – AAW? The Israeli Navy will put the Elta EL/M 2248 MF-STAR radar + Barak 8 on their planned 2,200 ts corvettes”

  158. McZ, just a quick point on flight profiles etc, the version of the engine used in MRA4 was optimised for low level flight, salt water ingestion etc and you know what, it is the same engine as used on Sentinel!!

    Oh, and everyone, pallets

    Just sayin :)

  159. ‘ASW? The Chinese are adding VDS to a 1,440 ts corvette design without changing displacement, to be poured out in huge numbers.’

    So would a couple of off shore support vessels with a towed 2087 coupled with facilities for Merlin/Wildcat/UAV and Sentinel be enough for the home waters?

    Buy a few more OSV’s and use them as MCM and HADR support.

  160. @Mcz

    The Chinese may be adding a TAS to a corvette but they have very different accomodation and indeed stability standars, not that you would care.
    Australia and NZ are looking at replacing the Anzacs and guess what they are not getting smaller bacause they cannot get much bigger.
    I do not mock simply illustrate facts.

  161. There are VDS available that would suit lower tonnage frigates and corvettes, e.g.

    Ultra Electronics have had success this year in winning contract with the Canadians for the update to the Halifax frigates with their HPA (Horizontal Projector Array) VDS. It can do sprint and drift operation as the HPA does not have the drag of a towed body, therefore have to be recovered then redeployed.

    “Ultra’s new generation of variable-depth sonar (VDS) is a single in-line active-transmit and passive-receive array. In its full specification it can include an active horizontal projector array, a towed low-frequency source, a flexible, towed torpedo acoustic countermeasure body and a directional receive array. Ultra’s fully-modular VDS marks a step change in technology and capability, away from the constraints of traditional towed sonars. It needs only a single, lightweight winch, which can be operated by two personnel. Additionally, the low weight and footprint of the VDS allows it to be fitted to vessels not specifically designed for ASW operations.

    The VDS nested receive array is populated with quad receive hydrophones, allowing left/right and target above/below ambiguities to be resolved in real-time.

    Would be interested to know the actual space and weight specs. as two of the five key points they highlight in their pdf.

    At Euronaval 2014 Thales were marketing the BlueWatcher a compact hull mounted sonar developed from the FLASH helicopter dipping sonar (used by the RN on the Merlin) with a range of >10 km and a VDS suitable for OPV’s the CAPTAS-1 with a single ceramic ring and a weight of only 9 tons (the CAPTAS-4 used on the Type 23 and FREMM).

  162. Interested to know how much operational advantage and flexibility the Ultra VDS HPA line confers over a towed body such as the CAPTAS in that in the sprint and drift operation it does not have to be winched in and redeployed in moving to a new position. An unknown is the sprint speed limit when towing the HPA line.

    Though to meet TD approval would have to be redesigned to fit into 20 ‘ containers.

    Out of interest the LCS ASW mission package currently planned is the Thales CAPTAS-4/S2087 VDS in the active mode and the Lockheed AN/TB37 MFTA (multi-function towed array) in the passive mode, towed separately. Additionally the Light-Weight Tow to be streamed for torpedo countermeasure plus the MH60R with active and passive sonar systems. The NAL (Naval Architectural Limit) of the Independence 3,188 tons and Freedom is 3,550 tons.

  163. Anything tasked to escort a CVF group should be as big as a T26/T45 for legs, accommodation, stability and upgradeability. In fact I think they should probably be bigger and T45 to an extent has the T42 mistakes in that ultimately it will be seen to have been too small. We should really have been thinking modern T82 with ASW and a bigger missile load out. Equally any ship required to undertake a long range deployment into a potential hostile environment should be big and multipurpose. Once HMG has decided on our capabilities in respect of the above, that should govern T26 numbers. In my view any other retained tasking should be covered by enhanced OPV style vessels or RFA. Personally I think T26 numbers based on the current design should be capped at around 8 and that design work should then switch fairly quickly to a T46 ( or T27 whatever) that merges AAW and ASW in one platform that becomes the true global combat ship and common CVF escort. For UK waters, EEZ and even GUIK gap with shorter term deployments, potential UK air cover I see no reason why a smaller vessel couldn’t be tasked for ASW with some of the solutions available. At the moment we don’t need anything local other than TAPs /SSBN cover but if DPA changes due to increased Russian activity say it might be time to dust off plans for smaller more austere ASW vessels. Any future OPVs or the MHPC should in my view have a base hull sonar fit

  164. @TD
    Ha thought you would fool me with that Thales video didn’t you !
    This one ids the crudest CGI you’ve tried so far!
    Everybody knows you cannot perform effective ASW from a OPV !
    On a serious note nice link with even a container in shot.

  165. If I ever meet Capt White, RN I will beat him silly with a rolled up copy of Joint Concept Note 1/12…….

  166. Watching the select committee video again, you can interpret some of the responses in that Zambellas is actually getting the numbers of aircraft he’s actually asking for (including the Sentinel upgrades).

    The wincing being down to the other services wanting the aircraft for their roles as well, but no increase above Zambellas’ numbers.

  167. @x

    “All that is modular is not gold.”

    So if Argentina put a CAPTAS 1 system on a commercial vessel, as its cheaper than buying a new frigate you would not be bothered? and if you would be bothered and have to honour the threat why would the fact that we use a modular system not be a threat to some one else?

    Modular may not be gold but it’s allowing more people to play in the higher leagues with pretty good capabilities and having the best and most expensive of everything just for the sake of it will not help.

Comments are closed.