Since we last looked at maritime patrol and number of options have emerged that make the P8 Shoe In not so obvious.
Only a few months ago the obvious runners and riders were the Boeing P8 Poseidon as the natural Nimrod MRA4 replacement or the Airbus C295 as the low cost options. There were other options from Saab or Alenia or the less likely combinations of refurbished P3, new build business derivatives, those based on transport aircraft and even unmanned aircraft but at the time they looked, for any number of reasons, less likely.
What a difference a few months make.
First was the situation with UK Japan defence cooperation which although has been bubbling along for a while took an interesting turn with comments from Kawasaki officials that they see the P1 as a contender for a forthcoming UK decision on maritime patrol. The P1 has a lot going for it, first, the Japanese take ASW seriously, second, the manifestation of that seriousness is a design built from scratch for the mission.
A Japanese defence official was quoted by the Telegraph
If the UK gives it serious consideration, then the P-1 will garner attention internationally
Japan's TRDI to windtunnel-test AEW version of Kawasaki P-1 maritime patroller, fitted with rotodome AESA pic.twitter.com/vz2GLF50Rj
— Graham Warwick (@TheWoracle) November 18, 2014
Although not in any way approaching an official position from Airbus a number of commenters saw the announcement of a potential A321 Neo with its extended range and being an almost perfect base platform for a European replacement for the Atalantique’s and P3’s in service with various European nations.
Again though, still an outside possibility.
Finally, what is arguably a more credible option, a Bombardier Global Express proposal from IAI.
There are obvious commonality benefits with the RAF’s Sentinel and the aircraft has longer legs that either the P8 or P1, certainly much longer range that any of the turboprop alternatives. As we have discussed, carriage of torpedoes on an unprotected pylon might be an issue to resolve but what these options do is open the field up a little.
As the the Reaper is becoming the de-facto European Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) and the joint user group focuses on operability in non segregated airspace and integration on European payloads there may be a companion role for a maritime patrol variant of the Reaper. Using a combination of manned and unmanned types might offer additional capabilities.
The IAI proposal includes a sophisticated EW/ELINT/ESM which would also provide multi mission capabilities, i.e. the desired direction of travel.
One of the lesser discussed issues with the P8 is that it effectively ties all AWACS operating nations into the 737 platform, a Bombardier Global based AWACS does not seem so outlandish either, Israel and Singapore seem to be OK with business jet based AEW aircaft.