There have been relatively few pre-SDSR leaks this time around but as we get into the vinegar strokes, expect a few more. As the review work has nearly completed and various options presented to ministers the decision-making process gets into gear.
Decisions inevitably mean winners and losers, losers inevitably mean leaks to the Times and Telegraph, sadly.
The latest leak is regarding the Maritime Patrol Aircraft / Multi-Mission Aircraft gap/requirement. The smart money had been on a purchase of Being P-8 Poseidon aircraft with a longer term plan for additional capability based on the same aircraft that might eventually replace the E3 Sentry and R1 Sentinel. Then Kawasaki came in with an option on the P1, cemented with an increasingly favourable UK/Japan defence trade relationship which muddied the waters.
Then Airbus, Alenia and Lockheed Martin/Marshall said, hang on a minute, what about a lower cost option using the C-295, C-27 or C-130 ‘Sea Hercules’ which would also include greater UK content, again, muddying the waters even more.
Ultra Electronics and General Atomics even suggested a manned/unmanned combination using the, now named Protector RPAS and pod mounted sonobouys.
All of a sudden, there were loads of options that allowed a capability-centric long term view to emerge, the obvious option is still a known obvious, but at least there were alternatives to consider.
Then, a British steel controversy, indirectly, a commentary on British jobs for British workers being financed by British taxpayers.
Finally, this morning, a story from the Sunday Times;
MoD is understood to have dumped a £2bn plan to buy a fleet of P-8 sub-hunter jets from Boeing – see tomorrow's @thesundaytimes
— Mark Hookham (@MarkHookham) October 31, 2015
This suggested that the obvious answer, the Boeing P-8, was not so obvious anymore and the £2 Billion project for nine P-8 Poseidon’s was back into the long grass because it was ‘fiendishly expensive’
The story speculates that the favourite position is now an interim purchase of C-295 or SC-130 until rapidly maturing unmanned technologies can fill the gap.
Now with all these stories, they must come with a health warning attached, it could be a simple fishing exercise, a well-timed story to scare Boeing into dropping their prices for example.
It could just be total nonsense.
Or, it could be true.
At the end of the day, having already spent the best part of £4 Billion pounds on MRA4, finding another £2 Billion was always going to be difficult, no matter how important or glaring a gap it left, because quite simply, it means £2 Billion not being spent on something else.
Meanwhile, somewhere near Coventry!
— WR963 (@WR963) September 7, 2015