Maritime Patrol – Go Left, Right or Straight Ahead

If we look beyond the maritime patrol aircraft and into the future, it strikes me there are two roads to take, or maybe a third.

Option 1; concentrate on the multi-mission ISTAR space and look at either the P-8 or P-1 in terms of a future replacement for Sentinel, Sentry and Air Seeker.

Both provide a gateway to the future.

141119-N-AZ408-120

Sentinel is planned to go out of service before 2020 and Air Seeker and Sentry will eventually need replacing. Opting for a P-8 provides a ready-made pathway for the simple reason that this is the way the US is likely to go. A 737 based platform for SIGINT, Airborne Early Warning and Battlespace Management and Ground Surveillance seems eminently sensible.

Although the P-1 has a less obvious path in this regards, the aircraft would equally provide an ideal base to do so.

Cutting away all the arguments for and against either, to me, this seems the most compelling argument in favour.

Option 2; look across the air transport fleet to explore synergies there.

There seems little doubt that there is a gap between the A400M Atlas and Chinook with regards to payload and tactical air transport. There has been a great deal of discussion about the need for ‘something’ that fits in between the two. Suggestions include some future heavy lift rotary aircraft or an aircraft like the C27 or C-295 for example. Retaining existing C-130J’s, buying new, or looking at alternatives have been suggested and again, it is beyond the potential narrow requirement where synergies can be found.

C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA)

If we purchase such a medium sized ramp equipped transport aircraft it could be used for many roles; air transport, Special Forces (including gunship), surveillance, VIP, parachute training, and of course, maritime patrol. There is potential to replace a number of in-service aircraft by going down this route. Likewise with an Alenia C-27J purchase. Both are mature aircraft with all manner of role fits and options available off the shelf.

By concentrating on the air transport area we would have to accept some compromise on the maritime patrol aspect. No one is suggesting that a C-295 or C-27J is comparable to a P-8 or P-1, and neither are people suggesting that a conversion to SC-130J or even A400M modular MPA fit comparable either.

But both are options that might be good enough if some compromise is accepted.

The degree of compromise is the crucial question to ask, if it is such that it renders the capability useless for the UK then it is no compromise at all, it is folly.

Option 3 is to look at teaming.

The capability that sets the P-8 and P-1 apart from the pack is their ability to hunt and destroy submarines, the ASW mission. Surface surveillance and other ISTAR type roles are likely to be the bread and butter activity with the ASW activity being used less. But it is this ASW capability that drives us towards the P-8 and P-1 type solution despite, it arguably, potentially being the least used.

Is there an option to use a modified business jet type aircraft for the bread and butter type work in order to keep purchase and in life costs down, and then team that with a smaller number of unmanned or transport aircraft to deliver the ordnance and expendables?

We know that transport aircraft are used for air despatch and we know that solutions exist and are in service for delivering munitions like cruise missiles (Taurus) and decoys (MALD/MALD-J) using ramp launch systems. Modified C-130 door launch systems for sonobuoys also exist.

None of this is science fiction.

Business jet derived platforms are relatively cheap to operate and tend to have excellent endurance. Payloads are lower and the lack of internal stores carriage could be a serious issue to resolve but we won’t know the scale of the issue until we know.

IAI Global Maritime Patrol

Now this is verging into fantasy fleets territory to some degree and there is certainly no guarantee that it would be a) effective or b) cheaper, but it must remain an option on the table, even if only to eliminate it.

Industrial Issues

Whether we like it or not, industrial issues are important.

The MoD’s budget comes from the UK economy, if the UK economy doesn’t generate wealth the MoD won’t have a budget. The defence aerospace industry contributes more to the UK economy than any other defence sector, land or maritime.

It is therefore of critical importance that sovereign skills and capacity retention is a decision-making factor.

What does the P-8 or P-1 option give, indeed, what would any of the other options provide?

It is an unknown factor at this stage but the issue cannot be wished away.

So What to Do?

The obvious answer is just buy the sodding P-8 and accept the advantages and disadvantages for what they are, maritime patrol is an important gap in our capabilities, one that is not getting any smaller and importantly, underpins the credibility of Trident.

If it were just maritime patrol I would be inclined to agree, but is far more complicated than that, there are implications beyond ASW.

Having just finished re-writing the sixty odd thousand word FRES article it might ssem to be a counter-intuitive thing to say, but I think we need to stand back, think very hard about the subject and not rush.

I don’t think it would be money wasted to invest in a handful of technology demonstrator contracts with Alenia, Airbus and Lockheed Martin; ramp/door launched torpedoes and expendables, palletised mission systems, podded sensors and external carriage of torpedoes spring immediately to mind. Answer the question of whether a transport aircraft like the C-130J could be viable without dismissing it based on limited information. Perhaps fund a business jet derivative representative trial contract to understand the pros and cons and look in depth at the bandwidth and airspace integration issues/costs of potential unmanned solutions.

This will certainly add overall cost and increase the time to a solution, which is never a good thing, but this is a large and complex strategic issue that is much more than a maritime patrol aircraft. It is a decision that needs to be based on a thorough understanding of the technology and costs for all potential solutions, not just the obvious ones.

The answer may still be Option 1, the obvious one.

But all that I am suggesting is…

Measure twice, cut once.

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All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 23, 2015 8:02 pm

Nobody is dismissing CN295 or CJ27 based on limited info. We are dismissing them based on very well known operational performance vs requirements. I have had 295s work for me on live Ops. The CJ27 offers an extra 250-300 miles with a semi useful payload, no Mpa version in existence?
Sea Hercules is @ the moment PP. Do not confuse different requirements from Med countries to limited information.

Barborossa
Barborossa
September 23, 2015 8:36 pm

Can’t see the UK adding a third transport fleet… I know the 146 will be part of the core fleet, but that has utility as VIP transport over most of Europe. And the occasional mid-sized transport… Which TBH is all I think the UK need- As far as i can see, we generally move our military in Hercules+ sized units, over somewhat longer sectors than a twin turboprop can handle.

…And If you demote ASW to the sub’s bench (‘scuse pun)- you basically get rid of the reason to buy anything- HMG purse string holders will say: ‘You’ve got Air Seeker, and Sentry, and Sentinel, aaand Shadow-Why do you want another thingy?’

As for the whole biz jet thing- only some of them have a good range, and only when you’re moving the sheik’s daughter and her latest Harrods chandelier purchase. Start putting chunky bits of electronickery, associated gadgetry and appropriate button-twirlers on and range/ endurance is foreshortened. The Sentinel should be your guide here… by my reckoning it has 1500nm less range than the equivalent civvie model.

… Why do you think most financially endowed sheiks and oligarchs have ACJ’s, BBJ’s or Exec Wally Birds?

Barborossa
Barborossa
September 23, 2015 8:44 pm

….And I can see the Japanese being very willing to offer industrial offsets- particularly if it gives them an ‘in’ to European defence… Boeing not so much, but they have substantial research and development investments in this country, so….

The Other Chris
September 23, 2015 8:58 pm

Still sensing room in the budget to retain C-130J regardless of what we pick for an MPA…

The Toshiba HPS-106 capabilities on the P-1 are… interesting… well worth researching.

But does one 360 degree sensor a whole system of systems make?

mickp
mickp
September 23, 2015 9:15 pm

Some may rightly say well we’ve managed without an ASW MPA since Nimrod, why do we need anything other than a basic MPA (or anything at all). Ivan is not presently either willing or capable of sending hordes of SSNs through the GUIK gap. However, and this for me is the primary reason we need high end MPA, we need to secure the deterrent against future potential threats. What gapping the MPA has shown is that in the absence of a present threat, we can take our time (with sensible limitations) any have an open competition. Set the operational requirements (which may or may not be rebased based on threat assessments) for e.g. range, payload, interoperability, future proofing and alternative airframe uses. whatever they may be and see what people have to offer. Value for money will have to come into it. Setting those op requirements (assuming they remain high end) may, as APATS tells us, cause the smaller prop MPAs to fall off the list early in the race but they have a fair chance to prove their capabilities. We probably then end up with P8, P1 and Sea Herc in the realistic frame for a fly off. LM would have to get their skates on but they let’s face it the are slightly further on than powerpoint. At least they would have to put their money where their mouth is. Let’s do it properly as TD alludes to.

stephen duckworth
September 23, 2015 9:22 pm

On this subject I am confused as too what we want at the end? A single existing airframe/engine/DAS etc as used by the worlds largest defence organization with an existing MPA version, a future Sentinel version , a future Sentry version, all fitted and fixed with the bulk of the operating maintainance now being simplified by having a common airframe/engine/DAS etc but the tricky bits being inevitably unique regardless of what you mount them on or would we like to do a service life extension in the existing C130 fleet and with those kind souls at LHM help to achieve the same but with roll on/roll off modules but we don’t know if it would work yet , just fingers crossed and a lot of hope? The US have poured billions of their own tax dollars into the P8A and other nations such as Australia are buying into that as being good enough to patrol the Eastern Pacific ,the Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean to boot . There will be a global support chain in place courtesty of the USAF for the P8A and all our existing MPA crews are very familiar with it and by all accounts happy with it. I think it’s a no brainer.

duker
duker
September 23, 2015 9:46 pm

The C130J would hardly need a service life extension as it only was used operationally from around 2002 due to delays with certification. A 15 yr old plane of this type is usually only half way through its ‘service life’ The sole reason to offload them is budgetary due to introduction of A400.

mickp
mickp
September 23, 2015 10:14 pm

@SD – I agree it would appear to be, but what if we want just the best ASW MPA, and , say, the P1 is better than the P8? Would that outweigh some of the other, very strong, factors in P8’s favour? If a 100% high end ASW solution is really what we need above anything else (at the moment) should we at least carry out a proper assessment? Until that is done, most likely in trials / competition, none of us, or the people making the decision can answer that.

Ronald W. McVan
Ronald W. McVan
September 23, 2015 11:42 pm

Something else to consider is search and rescue. The Japanese ShinMaywa US-2 seaplane (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ShinMaywa_US-2) uses the same engines as the C-130j and C-27j (Rolls-Royce AE2100) as well as the AW-159 Wildcat (LHTEC T800) engine. Plus a US-2 could actually pick up someone at sea. A family of these aircraft with the same engines and avionics would make sense logistically. You already own the C-130’s so turn them into special mission craft like Harvest Hawk, Compass Call or a gunship. Just offering my view to confuse things more. LOL

Nicky
September 24, 2015 12:22 am

I would say for the UK, the P-8 is the way too go. It’s proven, in service and in production right now. The British would simply get the P-8 that is in production and the US would expand training to include the British as well.

HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
September 24, 2015 2:59 am

I say they will say P-8 towards the end of the century, some turbo-prop lease at the meantime.

Mercator
Mercator
September 24, 2015 3:20 am

The opportunity to turn a transport aircraft into a maritime patrol aircraft has been around for a long time across many aircraft types and many end users. I think the reason that MPA tend to end up with a dedicated crew and a dedicated aircraft is probably because if you want the job done right for the least amount of money, that’s the way it goes.

The split roles between transport and maritime is superficially attractive, but if a back-end crew is fully employed on maritime duties, the aircraft is unavailable for other roles. Having enough flex to swan about between roles means someone is under-employed. To my mind, before long, the economics of having dedicated crews and dedicated aircraft wins the day.

By all means, run the numbers again, but I’d be surprised if it’s somehow different this time.

Re: industry policy. There are some opportunities for the UK that don’t involve giving up the high-end capabilities of the P8. For starters, there are a large number of European sensors and weapons that could conceivably be integrated into the aircraft for a respectable number of European users. JSM, MU90, Spear Fish, European ESM, expendable UAVs, sonobuoys, etc. Then with Wedgetail, there is the opportunity to update the mission system, defensive aids and ESM as it approaches its midlife and then supply the solution to the UK and NATO. Europe could develop its own solutions to the MPA and AEW requirement, but if you worry that the economics would not stack up against the existing US product (as I do), perhaps it’s better to buy into what you can.

Kert
Kert
September 24, 2015 3:52 am

ISTAR/maritime patrol is only as good as the systems aboard. The negative to business jets is future proofing the airframe. Mission creep is inevitable.

For comparison sake, info about 737 Wedgetail operations (Sept 15): http://apdcpodcasts.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/advise-and-strike-development-of-e7.html

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 24, 2015 5:29 am
Reply to  mickp

What sort of trials do you have in mind? It is not exactly that simple. We have a very good idea of the performance capabilities of the in service western MPAs as we have either operated them or with them extensively. Some of the suggestions do not exist to be trialled and the Japanese option whilst attractive is pretty bespoke but probably the only one that we would benefit from trialling.

JamesF
September 24, 2015 5:37 am

Our main ISTAR assets (apart from Airseeker) have been heavily used and need to be replaced – they are based on 707, Challenger and King Air platforms and we have a handful of each. I think what we want is a single ISTAR platform, rather than a plethora of different types. We haven’t got the resources for dozens of specialist types like Japan or the US, so its better to have one multi-mission ISTAR platform that can be configured for JSTARS, ELINT, MPA/ASW/SAR & AEWC rather than a handful of multiple types.

P8 is of course a transport aircraft turned into a maritime patrol platform, and it offers potential with Wedgetail already in service (albeit a contracting nightmare) and USN trialling a wide area surveillance SAR bolt-on package. Challenger is more restrictive, but if USAF goes that way as JSTARs replacement it might make some sense. The turboprops offer a solution not just to expand the multi-mission roles to Special Operations/Gunship and provide an emergency medium lift transport capability, but because they are much better configured to accept different palletable payloads through their cargo doors – they would be the most flexible solution. I am certain the UK specification will not be for a single role ASW aircraft, its not affordable.

The question is, as TD well explains, which multi-mission route do we take?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 24, 2015 8:02 am

@Jf

We do not have dozens of specialised types and the requirement to replace the MPA gap is now not 10 years down the line. We are actually in a position to buy a new MOTS solution that fulfills a requirement and can open a multi role pathway.
What we actually cannot afford to do is fanny around trying to find a one size fits all solution that does not currently exist and end up with another Nimrod style fiasco.
Thankfully those in charge at least seem to have grasped this.

rec
rec
September 24, 2015 8:24 am

ASW is not a second core activity, the proliferation of Submarines is not some minor issue. If you beleive that having a nuclear deterrant is important, then protecting it is vital and MPA helps with that. Surface survaliance of the oceans is also something MPA does. 2/3 of the earth is water, not to have survaliance capability over that is at best foolish. What veryone seems to forget is that a hanfull of German Submarines caused havok in both WW1 and WW2. A handful of Submarines operated by anyone could cause serious damage. I think the P1 is a better MPA than the P8, But the P8 offers a platofrm that can eventually perform ISTAR and AEW roles too, so the simplicity of one platform would enable a fleet of up to 16, with 8 for MPA, 4 for ISTAR and 4 for AEW. Makes sense. The transport gap is another issue, I would think Osprey might prove useful there in that it can be carrier or land bourne?

JamesF
September 24, 2015 8:31 am

Or maybe not: there is an ISTAR optimization study out there feeding into SDSR. Wonder what is says? according to this report, “Industry executives at RIAT said one of the options being looked at is a rationalization of platforms by dovetailing out-of-service dates to coincide with the introduction of a new multimission aircraft offering maritime patrol, airborne early warning, special forces support and other capabilities”. http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/air-space/isr/2015/07/19/uk-leaders-highlight-need-boost-istar/30273215/

Stu W
September 24, 2015 8:34 am

Economic offsets are important. Looks like we’re going with Boeing for the Apache upgrade and if we buy P8’s on top that’s a large amount of money going out of our budget to the US. The P1 has more chance of offsets/reciprocal purchases of UK equipment to my mind. With Japan increasing its defence spending there’s perhaps a rare opportunity on offer.

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 8:48 am

ISTAR is a massive problem for the following reasons:

Reaper OSD: 2018
Shadow OSD: 2018
Sentinel OSD: 2018

These capabilities were supposed to be taken on by Scavenger- obviously that programme as a new-build MALE UAS has gone nowhere so this issue needs resolving somehow.

Then there are the unfunded issues:

Sentry: needs a big and potentially expensive upgrade at some point in the next few years (Block 40/45)
RAPTOR: After Tornado this very useful system does not have a funded home at this point

And finally the existing capability gap:

MPA

This talk of a multi-mission aircraft makes me very nervous; there is no way such a platform can get near the capability of the current inventory- it just can’t. It actually sounds like desperation.

What should happen is the govt should abandon the Army manpower commitment and take an axe to that service’s very substantial equipment programme to fund an uplift in the RAF part of the ISTAR budget and the combat air budget. The Army isn’t and isn’t going to be used in a major conflict, the Air Force is already stretched across its primary assets, there needs to be a rebalancing.

mickp
mickp
September 24, 2015 9:05 am

@APATs “What sort of trials do you have in mind?”

A thorough one – as you say its not simple, so it needs doing properly. If the powers that be decide we are inviting tenders solely for a high end (whatever that is defined to be) ASW MPA, then as of now its down to two active ones (P8, P1) and varying degrees of powerpoint (from Sea Herc to some A400 / Airbus ones). If they rightly or wrongly decide it will be a broader request for some sort of MMA, with inherent role compromises, then there might be a larger range of options. Don’t get me wrong, there is a huge amount of sense in the P8, but if the P1 is proven to be a markedly better ASW platform then we would be already be accepting MMA type compromises on going for P8; and that as some have suggested perhaps opens up a wider field of MMA type options.

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 9:35 am
Reply to  Hohum

@Hohum

Could you expand on this point further please?

This talk of a multi-mission aircraft makes me very nervous; there is no way such a platform can get near the capability of the current inventory – it just can’t.

I don’t want to respond without understanding a bit more about where you are coming from.

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 9:50 am

TOC,

Airframe numbers: an MPA can’t be protecting a deterrent departure from Faslane when its doing a surveillance mission over Syria

Flight profiles: different types of ISTAR require different flight profiles (different altitudes and locations even for the same target)

Airframe space versus sensor quality: P-8, Sentry and even Sentinel are big because they use very high-end sensor systems, if you try and squeeze all that capability onto one airframe you will end up sacrificing sensor quality

JamesF
September 24, 2015 9:58 am

@Hohum – a MMA is not desperation if you can push back the OSDs and pan for a proper procurement of a single platform with a number of capabilites – these could be either discreet versions, or alternatively some sort of modular solution. The demonstrators would find out what works. Harmonising OSDs around 2025 is possible – alothugh all of the ISTAR fleet will need upgrades. As @rec says a single buy of around 20 airframes configured for these roles could provide a strong long-term programme. In the meantime, of course, we will need to find a short-term MPA solution. Sea Herc or P8, I guess.

Ian Skinner
Ian Skinner
September 24, 2015 10:00 am

One pertinent consideration is that we need MPA now, not ten years down the line; which option, P1, P8 or any of the other options would deliver this most quickly- are there free production slots in the P8 or P1 pipeline that we can have?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 24, 2015 10:09 am

Ron @11:42 wants the Sunderlands back (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ShinMaywa_US-2)
– I agree.. only somewhat

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 10:10 am

JF,

Yes it is desperation. P-8 is not short term solution. We have a broad range of platforms because those platforms are best suited to their respective roles.

From Luddite Lodge
From Luddite Lodge
September 24, 2015 10:26 am
Reply to  Nicky

Given the billion pound bill faced for upgrading the Apache and the shambles with the codes for our Special Forces Chinooks that ended up costing hundreds of millions, I think we should giving Boeing a wide berth and have a serious look at the P1.
Fly by light v fly by wire? 21st Century design v 1970s design

JamesF
September 24, 2015 10:28 am

Some were UORs (Shadow, Reaper), some were cold war legacy (Sentry and failed MRA4) and some were part of the 1998 SDSR (Sentinel). The world moves on and innovative thinking is always welcome (I think we will see some satellite assets considered this time around too). As I say, I have no idea what will happen, but there is definately some mood music about MMA coming from RAF/MoD, and I would really like to know what the RAF’s ‘ISTAR optimisation’ report says.

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 10:34 am

JF,

So what if they were UORs or “cold war legacy”, they are now in the core budget and providing significant capability currently in use on operations.

There is innovative then there is desperate.

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 10:35 am

FLL,

The Chinook debacle was the customers fault, not Boeings.

TAS
TAS
September 24, 2015 10:39 am

The ASW role is gapped now and needs to be filled. A 10-year design study bastardising sub-optimal aircraft into some sort of ‘cheap and cheerful’ alternative is not a solution. P8 and P1 are available now; a decision needs to be made as to which we buy.

What matters is the airframe and the amount of modification required. An MPA has to have a bomb bay; there is a well-accepted military requirement for at least 5 weapons to be carried to make an effective prosecution. One could argue that it should have external hardpoints as well, but it’s not as significant. Carrying torpedoes externally is sub optimal; they are then subjected to weather, extremes of temperature, etc – they have to be protected.

However the ISTAR requirement is far less challenging. The only external requirements are antennas which are far less of an issue to mount. However, an AWACS needs to look up, whilst ground surveillance aircraft need to look down, so a single antenna mounting location is not possible. The radars themselves are almost irrelevant; modern AESA arrays can pretty much do anything from SAR to long range air search, you just need to increase or decrease the size of the array and the procesing behind it, and there are any number of mature mission systems available. ELINT aircraft need even less modification – the requirement is in the onboard software and mission system, plugged into a number of basic antennas.

The argument of business jet over civil airliner is, I think, moot. Business jets might be smaller and cheaper, but have significant advantages in sheer numbers produced and equipment support, plus the smaller jet has less room for expansion. A 737MAX or A321 is listed at about $113M, an A330neo is about $250M and a 777 comes in at about $330M. A business jet comes in at between $45-50M ish. So 2 bizjets for the price of a 737 but if they’re not big enough, they’re useless. But reworking the C130’s – they have been bashed and abused their entire life; they are regularly thumped into the tarmac and are often broken. Quickly repaired perhaps, but not reliable enough; plus, the cost of refurbishing and adding bespoke systems is not insignificant, and they will not be ready any time soon.

The trouble with folding this all into the tactical transport requirement is availability. Any bid to offer a re-configurable aircraft will compromise on overall numbers. I personally don’t agree there is a capability gap between A400M and Chinook; A400 carries more than a Herc could and lands in the same space, whilst offering strategic range. We have no established requirement for gunships – that’s a US SF luxury and a cheap alternative for small nations needing something persistent.

Three requirements, I submit. An MPA, either P8 or P1 or similar (if Airbus want to start chopping up an A320). A family of ISTAR aircraft covering AWACS, ELINT, ground SAR coverage and (maybe) RPAS control (would be nice), based on a common airframe and mission system but different antennas. Commonality with the MPA is optional, nice to have but far from essential. And finally, a strategic-ranged tactical delivery capability answered by A400M. Anything else is frankly nice to have and therefore, irrelevant.

If all our cash ends up in US hands, well, bad luck – European industry should have seen this coming given the range of ancient aircraft currently delivering all those capabilities.

TAS
TAS
September 24, 2015 10:41 am
Reply to  TAS

Sorry, typo:

The argument of business jet over civil airliner is, I think, moot. Business jets might be smaller and cheaper, but civil airliners have significant advantages in sheer numbers produced and equipment support, plus the smaller jet has less room for expansion.

Martin
Martin
September 24, 2015 10:48 am

I would disagree that we have a luxury of time in which to make a decision. Demonstrators from the people like LM for a Sea Herc would likely take atleast a year or two. Seedconr can’t keep skills alive much past 2019 and P8 production won’t last much past 2020.

I just don’t see the point in going for anything other than P8. The only question in my mind is how many and can we use other fleets such as Sentinal to supplement them. Is that worth while or even feasible given that Sentinal is pretty much our most useful platform and stretched to the max hunting terrorists along with the rest of the ISTAR fleet.

Buy 7 P8 and re equip two of the voyagers with AAR booms and job done me thinks.

mickp
mickp
September 24, 2015 10:53 am

@TAS – very important point made about airframes for ASW v ISTAR work. P1 possibly in the driving seat in that regard as being designed from the outset for ASW.

I agree with your summary.

TAS
TAS
September 24, 2015 10:55 am

In reality, you get a fleeting contact you shoot if the threat is real. A submariner will drop everything if he is threatened by a weapon running in the water. So you can keep the pressure on by maintaining a persistent attack chain, and either kill him or get the TG away from the threat. Sonobuoys is about combing vast areas of the ocean and localising, then maintaining tracking once you find him. Modern buoys are good, but not cheap, and it’s a big ocean.

So yes, this puts us firmly in large aircraft territory. Frankly I’m not convinced the 737-based P8 is big enough, but what alternative do we have that is available in a realistic timeframe?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 24, 2015 11:02 am

I would pretty much concur with TAS:
“Three requirements, I submit. An MPA, either P8 or P1 or similar (if Airbus want to start chopping up an A320). A family of ISTAR aircraft covering AWACS, ELINT, ground SAR coverage and (maybe) RPAS control (would be nice), based on a common airframe and mission system but different antennas. Commonality with the MPA is optional, nice to have but far from essential. And finally, a strategic-ranged tactical delivery capability answered by A400M. Anything else is frankly nice to have”

Budget-wise there are the refinements to consider:
– MPAs with the ability to prosecute vs having higher numbers available, to assist with surveillance (can be done through price, ref: Sentinel tests for the role, or, better persistence, which would take us towards a complementary UAV solution)

… so-oo, the IOC could be 5 a/c (if we can factor in the refinements, and they need not be either or, but rather the manned stop-gapping for the unmanned when the latter is deemed mature and affordable enough).

Peter Elliott
September 24, 2015 11:08 am

In wartime the fastest way to get a super long range large ASW plane could well be to crash – develop a sensor and weapons canoe for Voyager. It’s ultra long range. It’s already got military comms and DAS. Airbus has the palletised FITS system from C295.

Take our time over developing a full on bomb bay inside the cargo hold and it could be even better. Packed full of sonorbuoys, torpedos and AShM and able to stay on station for hours miles from anywhere. What’s not to like? Oh yes, the cost. Not going to happen is it :/

McZ
McZ
September 24, 2015 11:10 am

“There seems little doubt that there is a gap between the A400M Atlas and Chinook with regards to payload and tactical air transport.”

A year ago, most people here were telling me, the A400M was the single and only transport platform needed for the UK. And now, we have a capability gap?!

If that is the case, we should have continued to buy C-17, with the KC-390 being the obvious choice as a Hercules replacement. We could easily derive a perfectly sized MPA from this aircraft type, which is a much better fit than any of the prop-driven aicrafts mentioned.

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 11:11 am

Main conceptual difference is that for me an MMA isn’t one aircraft that performs several roles simultaneously, but a platform that can be tasked to perform a role (or more) from a list of capabilities available.

e.g.

– Aircraft 1 set up for sub-hunting;
– Aircraft 2 set up for ISTAR with a 12′ array Skynet AESA pod (or AAS) fitted;
– Both Aircraft 1 and 2 perform automatic ELINT/SIGINT/Relay as a secondary function while in-flight and appropriate;
– Aircraft 3 ostensibly set up for sub hunting but “scrambled” for an urgent SAR mission off the Hebrides.

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 11:16 am

@TD

Sonobuoy battery life, geo-positioning and a high altitude platform that can hand-off are also factors to add to your thinking.

The smaller sonobuoys being developed by ULTRA for the likes of UAV dispensers may be as capable, but may lack the potential battery life and/or variable depth of the larger ones dropped from the larger platforms.

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 11:18 am

KC-390 was a PowerPoint and is now only a significantly delayed prototype not meeting key performance points with budget problems.

Jeremy M H
September 24, 2015 11:23 am

@Luddite

Wasn’t the Chinook s few up almost entirely on you guys? Didn’t the MOD decide to try and integrate its own software and botched the whole thing up?

As for Apache you certainly don’t have to upgrade. Feel free to forgoe the capability, establish your own sustainment chain for what you have or buy something else entirely.

The P-1 is certainly a valid approach but don’t kid yourself. It will be significantly more expensive in the end. You would be the first international customer trying to integrate a major Japanese weapons system. It won’t be easy nor is it likely to be cheap. Given the amount of work to do the UK will be even more tempted to British the thing up which only will drive up cost and invite even more issues like you had with Chinook.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 24, 2015 11:57 am

“Barking mad or a visionary solution way ahead of its time!!!”

Often the same thing, just that very few people manage to do the Round 2 themselves… like Steve Jobs did with his Newton

JamesF
September 24, 2015 12:04 pm

@TD, yes I agree. The ASW sticking point is actually quite agricultural, its what has the capability to lug ordnance and sonarbuoys. SB’s is probably a red herring (they are small and getting smaller and HELO no bigger than biz jets do just fine). So its really about having the capacity to carry six stingrays and maybr some ASMs? Apart from that there are planty of plaforms with the range and ability to carry a wide area search radar the processing equiment, ESMs/ELINT and operators. I think there is probably an aesthetic aversion among some to using a military transport platform (doesn’t look like a sub-hunter), but if it can use palletised multi-mission modules to deliver the same capability and do so much more, and has the legs and capacity carry enough buoys and weapons into the ASW fight, what’s not to like?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 24, 2015 12:17 pm

@JF

Helps no bigger than business jets fulfill a very different mission profile and have handy Ffs to land on. Command intentions for ” help cs” are land on rotors running rearm refuel relaunch are very familiar words. Hard to do that with an MPA.
The problem with your last paragraph is that they cannot offer the same capability.

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 12:24 pm

I’m all for system of systems (SoS), you know that, and there’s going to be room for a sonobuoy truck. Work out how to fit a rotary launcher to the A400M (or the retained C-130J’s…!!) and handover to the controlling aircraft.

It should be complementary however, or the SoS concept begins to break down with multiple single points of failure.

There’s also always going to be the point when an asset could have done with system x, analyst y or weapon system z actually on board and ready there and then.

The elephant in the room with business jet based systems is the trail of ground and relay equipment that follows them around if you want to exercise a full suite of capabilities.

For example, the Sentinel dispatched to monitor Boko Haram may have operated with just the crew it had on board, however Operation Shader more likely would need to leverage the full range of mobile and fixed ground stations with SATCOM and LOS repeaters involved more often.

There’s a lot to said for the British “cruiser role” thinking being applied to any MPA selection as well. One aircraft carrying what and who it needs, available there and then, possibly with a (Boom equipped? Get on it AirTanker!) Voyager being the only required key enabler for delivering fuel, ground crew and pallets where we need to relocate it to.

Fewer moving parts, more eggs in fewer baskets maybe, possibly (not necessarily) at a lower overall cost, certainly easier to think about with regards rapid deployment.

A lot of this thinking isn’t limited to P-8A, but I think most here are thinking in terms of the larger offerings now. P-1, P-8A, SC-130J, etc.

On a related note, and just because nobody’s mentioned it for a while, thoughts on Textron pitching Scorpion to the US Navy for training/flight hours?

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/navy-interest-in-scorpion-jet-as-textron-seeks-usaf-417101/

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 12:34 pm

Guiding “80%” thoughts a little.

Note difference between an asset fulfilling 80% of a role and delivering at 80% of a desired capability.

The former may necessitate other assets in addition to the first to work in concert. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, just keep it in mind as well as the need for complementary/overlap capability to avoid single points of failure in your system.

The latter is the difference between determining if what’s being detected are whales humping or a mechanical sound, or determining if Seaman Jones is listening to Pavarotti or Paganini. If you can’t tell the difference, your system might very well be worthless, regardless of what else it can do and what else you managed to buy because you saved some cash on it.

Apologies for the reference used…

Rocket Banana
September 24, 2015 12:50 pm

The only problem with the MMA + Atlas approach is the time taken to get the “ordnance truck” to target.

I’m not sure how effectively something could keep tabs on a subs movements whilst it waits a couple of hours for it to be identified and/or prosecuted. So if for example the sub captain of the ultimate boat accidentally runs aground and has to surface for a few moments to check the pressure hull but then vanishes what was the point in ever seeing it in the first place?

I do however subscribe to the concept of splitting detection away from prosecution. It’s not like E3 carries a load of AMRAAM is it. However, I think what is needed is an everyday MPA and a wartime MPA. The latter being a more expensive to run aircraft in fewer numbers used when the threat is high… P8. The former being something that could probably carry half-a-dozen stingray and/or a few active sonobuoys to keep tabs on the thing only until the “big boy” arrives on the scene… C295/Q400.

JamesF
September 24, 2015 1:15 pm

@APATs. Yes I’ve seen this said a lot – ‘they can’t do this or that’. Ok maybe the smaller ones (on range), but SC130 or A400? We have developed Crowsnest and HM2 upgrades – both of those could go into an SC130 or A400 derivative, I’m sure they would be good enough – do we really needc to gold plate? Also there is the pressing issue of keeping a defence industry in the UK. There are serveral potential big procurements that can be made to make sense for a UK led-solution if we harmonise OSDs and give Brtish industry a launch customer platform sufficient for a major competative effort to develop a new product. One is Puma/Merlin, another is Sentry/Sentinel/MMA. A third is Typhoon. One could look at AS90/MLRS, the Hunts, Sandowns and Echos. Start these programme s slowly and low key, a long way in front of the curve and they might actually deliver something useful without too much razamatazz, when it s required (like the complex weapons programme has done). They need to be very focussed and not overambitious – (unlike FRES or MRA4) – on particular capabilities and OSDs, but with room for innovation. But if we let things get very far behind the curve, we end up either grabbing anything that looks remotely ok off the nearest shelf, or having to revive the industrial capability from the dead – with cost consequences (like Astute, and probably MMA). Also we need to have major programmes going on in the background to keep our industry/exports in one piece. Voyager is done, A400 soon will be as will Typhoon. Complex weapons is coming to an end, and Scout SV is reaching production, as is Type 26, F-35 is nearly mature, Hawk is history, Watchkeeper deliveries complete, Wildcat nearly completed. I think we can expect an Anglo-French RPAS programme. But would be good if everything else is not just a shopping trip in Paris or Washington DC.

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 1:31 pm

Boils down to the question of whether the Merlin HM2 mission system expanded to five workstations is as effective as the Boeing/BAE P-8A mission system for the MPA role.

Which we’re unlikely to be told if we don’t know.

Crowsnest added to a Merlin bedecked Sea Hercules is AEW icing. The cake itself is the key requirement.

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 1:46 pm

TOC,

It isn’t.

I am sure the RAF will be really chuffed at having its high-end AEW capability replaced with a Crwosnest system.

And thats why this is a silly idea.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 24, 2015 2:09 pm
Reply to  JamesF

We have the opportunity to buy a modern in service MOTS solution to a capability gap and you want to fast around trying to convert a a cargo aircraft at costs unknown and capabilities unproven.
A400 is already expensive, converting it will be even more so and the capability in the end will still be compromised.
The UK SC130 have had a very hard life so it would be a US product anyway, it also still does not exist so more extensive modifications required.
Crows Nest is not a replacement for an E3 by any stretch of the imagination.
as someone said earlier far too many people do not understand that 80% of the requirement is bugger all use.

JamesF
September 24, 2015 2:23 pm

@APATS, I guess I’m funny like that ;-). But it does osund like an argument for only having the ablosute best of everthing – or ‘gold plating’. Logic tells me however that 80% of the requirement is 80% better than 0% of the requirement – can’t be a bad thing. Also was not thinking of Crowsnest for Sentry replacement, was thinking of it as part of SC130 MPA suite. I guess I’m argunig for a few C130 conversions now (with new central wing boxes) and to cover other needs (SF support) and a longer-term multi mission procurement for a large ISTAR platform to provide an MPA and Sentry and Sentinel replacement.

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 2:24 pm

Most of whats being suggested here won’t even get you near 80%.

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 2:29 pm

TD,

Sometimes MOTS is good, sometimes it isn’t. In this case its very good. The UK can get an excellent off-the-shelf solution with almost zero risk that will provide the required capability for decades.

The other suggestions here are just stupid.

Peter Elliott
September 24, 2015 2:33 pm

TD we should have spent the last 5 years doing those things. But the “long shadow of MRA4” stopped us.

We could spend the next 5 years on it. But how urgent is the requirement now seen as being? If we want it “sooner not later” then P8 and P1 look like the only options.

JamesF
September 24, 2015 2:33 pm

Its not so much the crowsnest as a radar, its the software and systems to allow battlespace management and command and control – if they are coupled with HM2s ASW sonor data processing capability could be an awesome maritime suite – add the sensors you like and Robert’s your Dad’s Brother.

Jeremy M H
September 24, 2015 2:35 pm
Reply to  Think Defence

@TD

Given the budget in the UK would you agree certain portions of the major equipment plan do need to be off the shelf?

I mean we kind of have to acknowledge, given past history for all nations, that any development program is to some degree an open ended financial risk. The simple reality of the budget would dictate that one can’t take on that risk and expense across all major projects would it not?

It really doesn’t matter to me what the UK buys off the shelf and what it develops. But every time one of these comes up everyone always argues to the end for domestic production and content. There is no real consensus on what the core in house technologies you want to develop really are. If MPA falls into that category then fine. What doesn’t?

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 2:47 pm

JF,

No, its the radar too. The solution being proposed here is little sort of a joke.

JamesF
September 24, 2015 3:35 pm

I think I spotted something small, hairy and Norwegian on TD.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 24, 2015 3:38 pm
Reply to  Think Defence

Unless some aircraft are going to become more efficient flying less fuel efficient profiles with extra weight then some certainly can.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 24, 2015 3:45 pm
Reply to  Think Defence

We maybe should have bought DD51 some decades ago but the completely differing manning profile put us off. last meets no UK requirement. We should have bought F15 instead of developing F3, capabilities now surpassed by Typhoon.
aegis is strapped to DD51 and Tico, paams fell out of the already in motion horizon project.
HMG has dictated we retain the sovereign capability to build complex warships.
P8/P1 suffer no DD51 manning issues, have ot been surpassed in capability, have no competing UK programmes and meet UK requirements.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 24, 2015 3:48 pm
Reply to  JamesF

80% of the requirement in military terms is bit different from what you are used to. We tend to deal in can or cannot achieve. If you cannot get to where you need to be, or detect what you have to detect. Or kill what you have to kill it does not matter if you fail by 20% or 50%,

JamesF
September 24, 2015 3:58 pm

@APATs, I think you might be right. I was serving RN when we had SeaCat, which fulfilled 0% of the requirement but was bolted to nigh on 100% of the fleet. Great distress flares though.

Donald of Tokyo
Donald of Tokyo
September 24, 2015 4:09 pm

TD

If not P-8 nor P-1, I still stick to the option having “re-wing P-3C”.

– Virtually, it can fly for another 30 years from now.
– Their ASW equipments are proven and many update kits are available. And the upgrade kits could be of UK origin, as well (say, greatly modified Merlin ASW kit ?)
– Size of the airplane is larger than any buis-jets, and can be converted into anything you want: AEW, ELINT and supposedly get the canoe radar for land-survey.
– It is surely one of the “cheapest and low risk” solution. In other words, you can increase its number or spend much money on other issues, such as successor submarines, 2nd carrier and MBT replacements.
– for future, you can go for replacement in collaboration with France, Germany, Netherlands and so on, 15-20 years from now. May be Airbus solution? Actually, in such a timeframe, UAV based ASW will also come into reality.

– But the strongest merit here is that you can have it, say, within “half an year”. Training and support/maintenance chain will be the driving factor of the schedule, and not the airframe itself.

– The weak point is that it does not “look” brand new (and actually not brand new), although the sensor kits and weapons can be pretty much brand-new if you like, just putting new wine into old bottles.

For US-2, it is surely the best sea plane in history. You can see its great STOL capability in youtube, several stories of ejected F16 pilots and distress yacht crews far in the middle of pacific ocean. But it is “hand-made” (really by hand, and hence not easy to mass-product), expensive, and flies slowly. It is beautiful, so I hope Japan will keep that technology, but I do not think there is something to do with UK.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 24, 2015 4:12 pm

RE “The simple reality of the budget would dictate that one can’t take on that risk and expense across all major projects would it not?
It really doesn’t matter to me what the UK buys off the shelf and what it develops. But every time one of these comes up everyone always argues to the end for domestic production and content.”

That is so well said: three dimensional, n projects. defined budget (constraint), DECIDE where the risk is worth taking, and then compensate for that extra risk (=cost, prolonged delivery… or no delivery at all) by doing a lot of COTS&MOTS, when it applies

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 24, 2015 4:20 pm

@APATS, I have a lot of sympathy with this argument:
“We maybe should have bought DD51 some decades ago but the completely differing manning profile put us off. last meets no UK requirement. We should have bought F15 instead of developing F3, capabilities now surpassed by Typhoon.
aegis is strapped to DD51 and Tico, paams fell out of the already in motion horizon project.
HMG has dictated we retain the sovereign capability to build complex warships.
P8/P1 suffer no DD51 manning issues, have ot been surpassed in capability, have no competing UK programmes and meet UK requirements.”

Luckily we have PAAMS… funny how the next gen surface combatant is growing to the same dimensions with the mast height (capacity for it… even though only elements of PAAMS will live on in the next gen radar, hopefully modular and upgradable to different modalities?)

In your post right under the one quoted you miss a point, however (maybe just for the effect of making a point in this discussion?) that you can’t do much capability trading (trade-offs in the design) if you only have zero – one variables (not meet, or meet fully).

Stu W
September 24, 2015 4:28 pm

I’m surprised BAe haven’t got in on the act. With LM offering to refit the 130’s, BAe 146 anyone!! Maybe if BAe had gone ahead with the RJ120 version it could have been a contender instead of Nimrod.

Hohum
Hohum
September 24, 2015 4:42 pm

T45 is in many respects a more modern and capable design than DDG51 Flight I/II. Something weird happened with the VLS farm up front and there is supposedly issues with the propulsion plant but the net result in excellent ship.

Versus DDG51 flight II with SM-6 and ESSM Block II should reverse the situation.

mickp
mickp
September 24, 2015 4:47 pm

– requirements is the other variable though – just keep scaling that back until your 0% flips to 100%

Jeremy M H
September 24, 2015 5:03 pm
Reply to  ArmChairCivvy

I would say that key areas from where I sit that must be maintained are the following.

Nuclear submarines
Surface warship construction

On both of those fronts you know two things really. One that you alone are likely responsible for providing the work to keep the industry viable. Two that this means there is lots of cost risk associated with it. You really can’t buy these things from somewhere else, at least not with reliability.

On a second tier I would put aerospace manufacturing, complex weapons and military electronics in general. These are important because they are key elements to getting involved in many international programs and have more sport potential than many other things. You likely have to be an active supporter of these areas where you can and push to get them international work as well. Still you have to choose your spots. Norway has done well her focusing on a few weapons classes for example. I don’t think you can do everything in this segment.

Where you don’t want to piss away development money in my view are things you can readily buy elsewhere and that have little to no export potential. I don’t see any reason not to buy a howitzer designed by the Germans for example or a rifle from the U.S.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 24, 2015 6:57 pm
Reply to  mickp

mickp, comment 76… just too true!

A Different Gareth
A Different Gareth
September 24, 2015 7:03 pm

TD said: “As a devils advocate position then, how does this sound…
Business jet MMA teamed up with something that can carry and drop things off its ramp, that has prodigious endurance and carrying capacity, it could look maybe like an Atlas”

Would there be enough carrying capacity on an Atlas to also refuel the business jets a bit? Or reverse that suggestion and have an aircraft like Voyager doing high altitude surveillance and also refueling whatever you used for the low level roles.

Alternatively how about two of the same aircraft. Then you have the same endurance and greater economy of scale for your fleet. Might even be able to network the sensors and work on an interferometry basis? Bog standard patrols could be done by individual aircraft and ASW done in pairs to ensure sufficient weapons and sonobuoys were available.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 24, 2015 7:08 pm

Jeremy,

Other than me lifting these two (not considering any overlaps for the sake of the argument) on par with your top two
“, complex weapons and military electronics”

I think we are in complete agreement!

Also your example is well chosen. Saab is the unchallenged Nordic defence company… they saw the peace dividend coming and went to geographies where peace was ” not a given”, just in time to get away from the budget axe in Sweden falling hard. Kongsberg is probably the example you wanted to give? Half the size of Saab (Defence), but as big as the next two (Nammo and Patria put together).
-Nammo itself being a three nation company, doing the basics for all , while Kongsberg can run away with the sexy new things that, commercially, might or might not succeed
– Patria of course having been told that you have a place if you provide at least as good as what can be procured fro the international market, at the SAME PRICE, which is what has driven their export success (can’t do it without the benefit of scale, by whatever means that is achieved; bashing metal in the country of origin is not the only way)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
September 24, 2015 7:19 pm

Wasn’t the minimum requirement for Nimrod 12 after scaling back the numbers from the initial 20 odd? which was subsequently scaled back again to 9 on cost grounds and not requirement numbers. Our EEZ has not shrunk and we still require the taskings for the deterrent etc so that means a minimum of 12 airframes for MPA. If we have not got the money to buy either of the two top end airframes in the numbers required then does that not preclude them, what would be the point in buying too few airframes?

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 8:06 pm

The requirement that MRA4 filled was at 21 airframes.

Being a little loose and fast with the truth and series of events, how Nimrod got to “12” went roughly thus:

– We discovered we couldn’t put the last three airframes together from all of the bits we’d bought from around the world leaving a total 18 airframe husks to work from;

– MAA comes into being

– Someone realises that the remaining 18 airframes are not identical and that there are roughly 3 groups: a 6, a 3 and a 9;

– Expensive wing problems;

– MAA starts sensibly clamping down on older, unsafe airframes;

– Only the group of 9 are fit for certification, the group of 3 needs more work and the group of 6 will require a lot of money that we’ve just spent on wing problems;

– Group of 6 husks go into storage;

– Agree a deal with the MAA to waiver the group of 3 if they are used training and testing purposes, with the intention to spend the necessary money to bring them up to spec later as part of an ongoing upgrade program;

– Group of 9 will be the number of aircraft we’ll operate with.

– 9 aircraft in the fleet tops. Maybe 12 if the testing and training aircraft are rolled into the fleet if there was a crisis;

– Overbudget, need more money to roll out the 9. String suspicion that most of the figure quoted is probably to bring the 3 “up to spec” as well;

– Someone pipes up that a fleet of just 9 (or even 12) means we have a “cannot achieve” scenario (if you don’t mind me using your phrase APATS?)

– Someone else realises that there can never be any more, ever;

– Another person mutters we should probably cancel the project and cut up the husks so nobody is stupid enough to repeat the “I know! Let’s reuse an uncertifiable airframe!” mistake;

– A brave soul says that it’s the right decision and manages to take the right action or persuade those who could;

– The figure 12 gets stuck in peoples heads as the figure Wikipedia listed as going into service at the point MRA4 was cancelled. It may also be because it’s easily transposed from the actual requirement of 21;

– [The lost MPA gap years]

– Captain Nemo almost sinks an Irish trawler off the Calf of Man, decides not to surface for some unknown non-upcoming-SDSR-decision-making reason, and everyone thinks it’s those damn commies;

– It turns out Captain Nemo didn’t speak Russian in a Scottish accent after all but everyone realises, especially when reading about Irish trawlers over bacon and eggs on a Sunday, that we haven’t done anything about that MPA gap in the last few years, and asks “shouldn’t we?”;

– Someone suggests we buy 12 new MPA aircraft from a type that we can buy more of in the future, because wasn’t there something about 12 and Nimrods?;

– Lots of commenter’s start arguing/debating suitable candidates on a certain immensely knowledgeable online forum;

– The Powers that Be listen to those commenter’s sage advice and make the right choice…

And lo the readers of TD rejoiced as 21 of their collectively and sensibly chosen airframe (under no pressure at all from NAB and APATS who are most definitely not Boeing shareholders) were purchased as the start of an immense MMA fleet that would ultimately grow to swallow the roles and budgets of Sentinel, Sentry, Shadow and the parking space reserved for Jeremy Corbyn.

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 8:13 pm

In all seriousness though, purchasing a new MPA system may mean that less airframes can fulfill the requirement.

This is more likely on paper to be possible for P-8A due to its HAASW concept allowing one aircraft to cover more area, although longer duration sonobuoys and ever increasing altitudes were thereabouts in the MRA4 thinking as well, due to oft-mentioned similarity of system heritage shared between MRA4 and P-8A.

I would expect that P-3X would strictly speaking require more than 21 airframes, P-1 probably around the same number, and the twin-turboprops on offer would likely require a change of requirement.

Worth remembering that, so far (SDSR 2015 don’t you know), the requirement that MRA4 was fulfilling hasn’t gone away.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
September 24, 2015 8:18 pm

Didn’t the twelve number come from the mouth of Geoff Hoon when he announced a further reduction in numbers, saying something along the lines of ‘we could probably get by with 12’?

The Other Chris
September 24, 2015 8:46 pm

Hmm.

“Nine plus three, maybe, in a pinch, equals twelve we can probably get by with, ish.”

Sounds about right.

Nicky
September 25, 2015 12:53 am

On top of that, the Boeing P-8 Poseidon is in service with the US Navy and Indian Navy. It’s soon going to be in service with the RAAF as well. So the Boeing P-8 Poseidon has something to go on that it’s already in the fleet and operational. Which I think for the UK, they should look at getting the Boeing P-8 Poseidon. It would be cheaper cause they can get in on the production and even modify it to suit their needs like India.

Jeremy M H
September 25, 2015 1:48 am

There isn’t a thing about the Indian modification that you would want. The Five Eyes nations, from what I hear from someone I believe, can get the full fledged P-8 exactly the same as the USN model. India very much does not. The only part I can’t get a clear answer on is the big detachable radar. I am told that is not being sold to anyone.

Martin
Martin
September 25, 2015 2:30 am

another argument in my mind that does not hold water is the British industry argument. Any solution we use from a319 to c295 or A400M will be a foreign built airframe.

Any sensors we add to it such as sea spray will likely be off the shelf so little R&D and there will be zero export potential for anything other than the most basic of aircraft. Better to keep our scarce R&D resources for areas like fast jets where there is export potential or areas like SSN’s where there is no foreign market to buy from.

even P8 which is basically the only high end capability available from the worlds largest exporter of arms has only managed to gain a handful of foreign orders.

It’s just not a market worth being in.

JamesF
September 25, 2015 7:31 am

.

A market not worth being in? Single role ASW aircraft – maybe you are correct (despite a big market for P3 and Atlantique replacement worldwide). But a multi-role ISTAR platform? I suspect that is an expanding market.

Airbus is ‘foreign’ assembled, but at least 20% of every type is UK designed and built, and that can rise to 50% if you include the supply chain and engines – I drive by a major Airbus plant every time I’m in Bristol. Ok, a lot of Boeing is UK designed and built too. Nevertheless a UK-led programme, incorporating UK technologies and engineering will engage our industry – like Watchkeeper or Scout – which use ‘foreign’ base vehicles but all of the systems intgration and much of the technology and engineering is British. Also an ISTAR programme is an opportunity to leverage all the work we have done on the systems integration for MRA4, Sentinel, Merlin HM2, Wildcat, Crowsnest and Watchkeeper and sustain and develop that ISTAR technology and engineering capability.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 25, 2015 8:25 am
Reply to  JamesF

“A market not worth being in? Single role ASW aircraft – maybe you are correct (despite a big market for P3 and Atlantique replacement worldwide). But a multi-role ISTAR platform? I suspect that is an expanding market.”

A market that does not exist is an expanding market? In fairness with the advances in radar size and open architecture systems there may be a possibility for future multi role ISTAR aircraft but I am talking about ISTAR/AEW.
So an aircraft may with no or very little conversion be able to perform AEW or SIGINT or ELINT. That does not mean they can also do ASW/ASuW effectively as well. Also do not confuse an MPA as a single role ASW aircraft, P8/P1 wil be able too perform ASuW and dependent on ESM fit also ELINT.
The minute you want to carry and deploy internal stores be they sensors or weapons you start complicating the air frame issues far more than a joint “ISTAR” platform would.

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 8:54 am

One thing this thread is demonstrating is that many people here seem to think that capability is binary, this has come up with AEW and ELINT.

This is nonsense. ELINT has always been an integral part of the MPA mission and most MPA’s have ELINT built into their mission system, but it does not mean they have the capability to replace a strategic ELINT asset like RC-135. Same with searchwater, it may be able to do some AEW and ground surveillance but it can not replace the capability offered by Sentry and Sentinel.

All politicians are the same
All politicians are the same
September 25, 2015 9:19 am
Reply to  Hohum

As the only person on the thread to mention ELINT I guess that comment was directed at me. I think if you re read my post you will find I said pretty much what you said with the difference that in the future it will become possible for a single airframe utilising the advances in open source sustem architecture and decreasing sizes of sensors to perform AEW/ISTAR/ELINt functions with minimal mods.

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 9:40 am

APATS,

Actually it was a general observation and not aimed at you at all. Generally speaking I respect your views, were I disagreeing with you I would have included a stream of invective.

However, I don’t entirely agree with you. Whilst one may be able to create highly adaptable RF systems their carrier air-frames will have very different flight profiles. In fact as BAMS shows the tendency is actually towards more platform types not less. Some assets need to fly very high and loiter, others still need to fly low and fast and others at medium altitude. Also, miniaturisation does not naturally mean smaller systems- the result is more often than not similar sized systems but much more capable with smaller systems providing lesser capability to people who previously could not afford it- see the proliferation of AEW.

I would also add a key point. We have become very comfortable with providing ISTAR in a totally benign air threat environment and thats lovely- but not a sustainable path. ISTAR in denied environments is a very different animal and further militates against the single platform solution.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 25, 2015 10:00 am
Reply to  Hohum

@ Hohum

There are different flight profiles required but if you look at current platforms you see that Rivet Joint is KC135 based, E3 is 707 based. Rusiian and Chinese AEW platforms are large, S Korea, Turkey and Australia use 737 platforms. Isreal 707 and a business jet solution for AEW. ELINT aircraft are again of roughly similiar size, ranginf from bus jet up to 707.
The size of the platform seems driven as normal by how much how far for what cost and capability.
As for providing ISTAR in a benign environment, yes this si true but has far more to do with tactics than platforms. You could hardly argue that Rivet Joint/R1/E3 were introduced into service at atime when we were expecting to operate in a benign environment. This si simply the environment that they have existed in for the last couple of decades.
Operating in a contested environment would require the implementation of different tactical considerations and the support of different platforms and packages.

a
a
September 25, 2015 10:05 am

Off the wall idea: If the “protecting the deterrent” function relates only to scouring the exit/entrance route from Faslane to the patrol area, could this be done with fixed sensors? A sort of local SOSUS bubble extending out a few hundred miles into the North Atlantic?

Martin
Martin
September 25, 2015 10:23 am

@ James Fennel

Currently Airbus is knocking out around 40 A320 a month and has a massive backlog of orders so adding 9 extra to that will be a drop in the bucket. There would be more industrial benefit if we decided to use something like a400m but a limited amount and who besides us would buy the thing if it was on a high end platform like A320 or A400M. most of the mission kit and senaors will be off the shelf and atleast half would go to foreign manufacturers like Boeing or LM.

If we used a small business jet then sure we could maybe snag a few orders abroad but then we would probably hamper the platform for the major role we need which is ASW at range. Also there are no shortage of smaller nations like Israel or Sweden offering all sorts of cheap ISTAR assets based on small aircraft. I am all for producing our own stuff but only to a certain point and I just don’t see spending 5-10 years and a few billion on a bespoke MPA or even MMA solution is worth it.

even if we did do this there is every chance that buy the time it’s rest in 2025 to 2030 that UAS will be covering all those requirements anyway. Then we will end up in the same position as we are now with typhoon trying to export 10 year old tech competing against next Gen systems for orders.

All this before we even think about integrating a weapon on the thing with current integration costs running around £500 million a go it’s just not worth it.

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 10:24 am

APATS,

Nope. The Global/EuroHawk were specifically designed to fly very high to fulfill the ELINT mission- altitude for that one is better, parts of the mission can be and is done at lower altitudes. Stand-off radar ground surveillance and AEW can be done at medium altitudes by airliner based airframes as there is little survivability requirement. Other types of ISTAR, I am afraid, are going to require survivable platforms.

Even then, multirole RF systems are evolving but they just aren’t there yet to support this mad MMA idea thats being suggested. Not to mention space required for other mission specific sensors and systems (an MPA needs weapons carriage, sonar bouys and arguably MAD for instance).

Martin
Martin
September 25, 2015 10:25 am

@ a it could be done in a number of ways but I believe the use for MPA is to track Russians subs as they enter the Atlantic not just outside the Clyde. If we spent enough on SOSUS we could do it but I am sure the cost would be much more.

Peter Elliott
September 25, 2015 10:34 am

Also no point in Airbus bringing an A320 MPA to market now. With P8 and P1 already mature the market for that size platform is sewn up.

The current C295 fills the niche for “near shore” patrol that most European nations see themselves as needing. Anything else Airbus brings needs to have a USP compared to P8 and not just be “me too”.

One route woud be to ‘go large’ on something that out-ranges and out lifts P8. Either A400 or A330 could do that but in the absence of thousands of tonnes of shipping getting sunk a month (“Third Battle of the Atlantic”) I just can’t see the imperative for such an expensive splurge of investment.

The other route would be to get in at the cutting edge with a big and sustained investment in unmanned sub detection and prosecution. That would also be really difficult and expensive but would give Airbus a real USP in 10 years time compared to where they sit today.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
September 25, 2015 10:36 am
Reply to  Hohum

I never mentioned UAVs at all, separate sub set and one which is even more vulnerable in a contested environment. Remember with ELINT it depends on which wave bands you are loking at. High altitude good for some but worse for others, it actually requires coverage over a range of altitudes and the altitude required will vary with range from the transmitter.
As for requiring survivable platforms, some missions will but do not generalise. In a contested environment we are operating at alevel of mission and conflict planning. You are into the realms of estimates and effects, you look at the effect/effects required and how this integrates with your aim. Then you assign resources to achieve the effect required. you do not assume that they have to be airborn never mind operate in a contested environment and be survivable within that enevironment without shaping.
there will undobutedly be a requirement for pretty special ISTAR platforms survivable through “stealth” or “kinetics” but they will be expensive, specialised and deployed in small numbers on very specific tasking.

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 10:53 am

UAS are absolutely not a seperate sub-set, they are part of the same discussion. The sensor is only half the capability, too many people forget the other half is putting and keeping the sensor in the right place, that requires different platform types.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 25, 2015 11:03 am

@ Hohum

It either requires different platform type or a platform that can conduct all or most of those roles. If you read my posts you will see that I am pretty strongly of the opinion that technology and the inherent flexibility of modern airframes will allow the vast majority of non kinetic ISTAR functions to be carried out by a single airframe which requires minimal mods to alter its optimised role.
These will be supported by small numbers of expensive platforms optimised for a very specific role be that driven by the requirements of the operating environment or the the threat. Together they deliver the full spectrum of EFFECT to the commander.

JamesF
September 25, 2015 11:08 am

@HH. On MAD ideas. revolutionary ones usually start out being considered crazy. BTW we have good open debate on many topics on this blog – its best not to turn that into ‘invective’ or dismiss other folks thoughts out of hand, as rudeness will kill debate. That said, I see the points being made very well – I am certain we will get P8, but this is a place in which we can blue sky a bit. I agree with you on the binary argument. Also that not all ISTAR can use a big medium altitude platform. And also agree that whatever replaces Reaper will need to be survivable (the Anglo-French son-of-Taranis/Scavenger maybe?), and could also replace the Tornado Raptor capability (although something interim will be needed). High altitude/space is also a consideration. But for the ‘wide area surveillance and battlespace management’ capability – land, sea and air – maybe a single platform around sychronised Sentinel and Sentry OSDs (and to replace or augment an soon to be purchased MPA) makes sense? There are a few avenues:
1. P8. Buy some now, buy a few more later and add a large Synthetic Apeture Radar package (being trialed by USN now) to replace Sentinel and then an AEWC package/variant to replace Sentry. That means Waddington has one basic airframe to look after, and the fleet can be managed as a whole. Could add Triton too, if you want to improve mision efficiencies (Triton cues P8).
2. A UK-developed platform leveraging our ISTAR technologies. This could be based on A400 or something else (biz jet anyone). A400 with weapons carriage and palletable mission loads – but same basic concept. In that case a shorter-term programme for SC-130J would make sense, both to test the concept and provide an immediate capabilty. Also would allow platform to also be used for SF support (relay, gunship etc.).
3. work with Japan on the same development pathway for P1.

Ok 2 and 3 are no likely or template solutions and full of risk. But hey, worth a look at.

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 11:47 am

APATS,

And that is where you are wrong. A single airframe may be able to carry out bits each capability but not adequately. It also raise the mass issue (you need x number of airframes, adaptable or not). Indeed one can soon end up spending more money when you start using say an A330 airframe for a mission that can be (and is) performed by a King Air.

JM,

Not everybody’s view is worth hearing, in fact a good many are utterly worthless and do nothing but dilute the debate with toxic intellectual inadequacy. Some people on TD are informed and intelligent, others not so much.

The UK has an excellent AEW capability, it just needs to follow the USAF development path and it will stay that way, no need for a big new procurement. It can get an excellent MOTS MPA, the P-8, it should do that. Trying to shoehorn existing viable capabilities into a multi-mission platform in less capable forms is a recipe for disaster.

AndrewB
AndrewB
September 25, 2015 11:58 am

@ADG I like your thinking. A business jet that has long range,can loiter and fulfil pretty much all tha capability apart from strike. Use an Atlas to do the strike and support it with refuelling capability. I think we will get better value with a two tear asset.

TAS
TAS
September 25, 2015 12:05 pm

Hohum:

“ELINT has always been an integral part of the MPA mission and most MPA’s have ELINT built into their mission system”.

Don’t confuse ELINT with ESM. An MPA can identify radars, not communications.

I hesitate to mention this, but there is a story on FG that bears some interest. The 1000nm range and 10h endurance of Reaper in the maritime environment is interesting. However, I am not yet convinced that the idea is more than ‘nice to have with spare cash’ as opposed to a genuine game changer. A Reaper cannot carry that many sonobuoys.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/new-maritime-capability-developed-for-mq-9-417133/

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
September 25, 2015 12:08 pm

@Hohum

An extreme assumption there. based on opinion, as you yourself said it is about where you can put the correct sensor. I never suggested using an A330 to do what a King air does, in fact I never even suggested using an A330. what i did suggest was that in the future we could use open source architecture and technology to use a platform to conduct roles that are currently done by platforms such as E3D/Air seeker and Sentinel.
The effect offered by Shadow would be examined and it is an UOR which filled a very specific role in a totally permissive environment where we were operating over short ranges. It is a niche capability that I talked about in my previous post though not expensive, small numbers designed to offer an EFFECT in a permissive environment at close distances to bases.

clive F
clive F
September 25, 2015 12:17 pm

As an aside,

Isn’t Shadow a really cost effective asset? And if it is scrapped the savings would be minimal? ie Are we not better keeping it and not considering replacing it?

mickp
mickp
September 25, 2015 12:23 pm

@HH “a good many are utterly worthless and do nothing but dilute the debate with toxic intellectual inadequacy” I’m off then…

But where I am, let’s say in a ‘thick layman’s’ perspective, having taken in all the debate from those far better informed (in this field) than I am:
1) Fill the number one priority MPA gap with a high end ASW capable aircraft – P8 / P1 choice purely based on ASW capability v our requirements for such (too close to call but can’t help feeling support, logistics and one eye on adaptability will get us P8 – no bad thing). On numbers – the proper number to meet requirements, seems at least 12 but others can advise
2) We should remain high end broad spectrum (but admittedly on a smaller scale than US) and if that means niche specialist aircraft buys then so be it. We are already on that route with sentinel, airseeker and C17. If one type does more than one role at ‘100%’ then that’s an advantage but it shouldn’t be a starting requirement
3) Next one up – Sentinel replacement – again best type for requirements
4) Don’t start down the route of palletised MMAs for high end roles – it’s not for us. We’ll end up with fewer airframes and less flexibility overall
5) Strategic and tactical life remain a hugely important capability – retain a niche C17 fleet (an extra whitetail perhaps?) and get as many A400s as we can. Resist the temptation to make them MMAs
6) On C130Js – again a case for retaining a niche SF capability with some upgrade work, and one or two with a US CG style sensor fit in the FI giving them a bit more utility in a non ASW MPA role. If however a niche buy of a small turbo prop to replace the C130 fleet in those roles is more cost efficient, then ok. A smaller transport as a low end type MMA to replace a number of ‘support’ types we have around wouldn’t be something I would rule out

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 12:24 pm

APATS,

“Open source architecture” doesn’t help you, its the physical attributes of the sensor that are key and those attributes have an impact on airframe configuration. Take a look at any AEW aircraft to see that.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 25, 2015 12:36 pm

@Hohum

You mean, take a look at the majority of the current AEW aircraft with large mechanical domes strapped onto the fuselage? Then go away and read my posts about the future. Also take into account the fact that AEW may well drive certain airframe characteristics more than other mission profiles.
As for open source architecture if you do not think that is a huge advantage is conducting multi role missions within a single geographical space then not much I can say really.

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 12:45 pm

APATS,

You should look at some more recent AEW aircraft, even non-mechanical arrays require large airframe modifications. The same applies to the JSTARS mission and ASW. It is the sensor that change the airframe. “The future” and “open architecture” won’t change that.

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 1:07 pm

TD,

Yup, thats one of the big risks of being an importer, applies to all industries though.

JamesF
September 25, 2015 1:18 pm

@HH “a good many are utterly worthless and do nothing but dilute the debate with toxic intellectual inadequacy” In your opinion, I guess you should add. Unless you are God? Good manners are the hallmark of adequate people.

JamesF
September 25, 2015 1:24 pm
TAS
TAS
September 25, 2015 1:29 pm

APATS,

I’d forgotten this, but a conformal fuselage-mounted array could achieve both roles – and more. In theory at least, a large AESA could be configured to deliver an ESM and ELINT capability. The Israelis have cottoned onto this.
comment image

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 1:40 pm

JF,

Manners must be earned. And on that note, AAS works because it fulfills a maritime mission, it therefore has virtually no impact on air-frame numbers, it basically plugs a capability gap in the standard MPA sensor suite. Also, it’s not JSTARS. The USAF currently has a dedicated recap effort for JSTARS though.

TAS,

Nope. The Israeli CAEW aircraft have some ESM capability (as do most AEW aircraft) but the same squadron that operates these aircraft also has dedicated ELINT aircraft- because one system can not adequately fulfill multiple roles.

TAS
TAS
September 25, 2015 1:49 pm

HH,

Nope yourself. The Israeli aircraft may well have some ESM capability; I don’t care. The theoretical principles underlying active electronically scanned phased array radars would allow a system with sufficient processing power to process ELINT data as well as ESM data and, indeed, active radar transmissions. The option that becomes conceivable is one aircraft that could conduct AEW&C, SAR/GMTI and ELINT, either singly or in limited combination. This is a lesson proven through operational experience with the SKASAC (admittedly only the former two, not ELINT yet). That gains flexibility, rather than loses it, so long as you maintain numbers.

However, it’s all pointless speculation anyway as we are signed up to the RIVET JOINT programme. Whatever the US buys, we get. So this is about Sentinel and Sentry only, for which a dual-capability aircraft is both proven and valuable.

TAS
TAS
September 25, 2015 1:50 pm
Reply to  Think Defence

Less intrusive and less challenging than cutting out a bomb bay, though!

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 2:02 pm

TS,

Nope, no they are not, and thus you should care. If you actually bothered to look at the Israeli CAEW aircraft you will notice they have ESM aerials on top of the fuselage, thats where the ESM capability is- not in the radar array.

JamesF
September 25, 2015 2:13 pm

@HH – so my understanding is that you are saying that AAS only works in a maritime environment (even though its called a Littoral Surveillance Radar System – which kinda suggests land and sea?) and I can see no technical reason why it should not? But you are saying it can’t track and manage the battlespace on land, right? and because USAF have a programme called JSTARs with a different platform, it is therefore not capable of a similar mission? Sounds dumb to me, but then again what do I know? And I was told manners are something you have, not something you give to others.

Hohum
Hohum
September 25, 2015 2:30 pm

JF,

Yes, what do you know. AAS is designed to do something very specific (which is why it spent most of its life black). The key part for us is mass. AAS is very good at what it does, a fantastic sensor, but it would be silly to hang it under a P-8 to perform the JSTARS role when you could use the cheaper and smaller Sentinel. As pointed out earlier, a P-8 flying over Syria can’t simultaneously cover a boomer departure from Faslane and most of the MPA mission fit is redundant for the JSTARS mission.

With regard to manners, you were told wrong.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 25, 2015 2:40 pm
Reply to  Hohum

Yet if you did you could surge far more numbers for the specific task/mission increasing flexibility when one is a clear priority.
You are American? No Brit with military knowledge would use the word Boomer.

Also manners are the mark of a man.

Hohum