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Jeff

Have the US trialled the system against a German 212 or similar. How successful were they against a Seawolf?

Jeff

Or embarrassing. Of course I believe the US pint pot asdic sonobuoy processors are far better than the passive tail used by HMS Vanguard when it found Triomphant the hard way so these Boeings should have had no problems

The Ginge

The simple fact is that this writer makes some sweeping assumptions. Firstly he assumes that the UK Government will purchase air launched Harpoon (an old system that apparently the RN are comfortable deleting the ship launched version from Frigates and Destroyers using the fleet with no anti ship capability) which the UK has never used before. Secondly that we are going to introduce a second new weapon in the shape of the Mk54 Torpedo at the expense of our own expertise in this area. Thirdly we are then going to buy glider kits for every Mk54. Finally we are going to purchase a completely different set of Sonar buoys again impacting our world leading industrial position.
Quite clearly the writer has significantly greater faith in budget allocation in years to come. The British government has a long history of buying “off the shelf” American solutions, then not buying all of equipment to create the capability and in the meantime having significant impact on our indigenous world leading technology suppliers.
Next, we seem to gloss over the issue of numbers. The fact is by buying the P8 you intentionally limit your fleet to 9. That’s all the money there is. We all agree that the RAF short of ISTAR capability but to suggest that the P8’s are going to be used like their predecessors in also providing ISTAR capability in every theatre of deployment. Ultimately by buying 9 they have to be used in the N Atlantic and around the UK. If you wanted to provide that capability as per the original needs study you need 18 or so airframes. Ultimately one aircraft can only be in one place at any given time. if the P8’s are in Afghanistan they can not be clearing the sea for Nucleur Deterrent deployment. It shows that a) if the RAF want more ISTAR airframes then they need to make the case and find the money b) the danger of Navel assets being controlled by another service. That when needed those assets may well be elsewhere.
The other point is one of range. It is not good enough to say “oh if they cruise at 40,000 we might get time on station that is adequate” the fact is your assessment has to be can we refuel and keep this asset on station for the period we need. If not then it fails at the first hurdle, in that it can be the best MPA in the world if it isn’t there it can not do anything.
Finally he again glosses over the issue of the long term damage that will be done by repeated low level flying. The 900 ER wing, is still a commercial aircraft design, the “ER” standing for “Extended Range” and as part of that model there is a strengthened wing to carry additional fuel. It does not address a lot of the issues of wing load and flex in the wing whilst flying in heavy weather at low level. Unfortunately the MPA does not have the luxury of flying around weather, above it or not turning up at all. Ultimately as numerous Nimrod crews will attest due to necessity, Rules of Engagement and just sheer physical necessity UK MPA’s have for decades flown low and into heavy weather for a very long time.
I am sorry the P8 is a wonderful aircraft if you have unlimited funds and own 100 of them. It is not an aircraft to operate on a shoe string with a small number.

ATH

So given the budget what would you buy?

Jeff

It is not just the wings but the entire aircraft. An aircraft designed with the premise that it will operate at 35000 feet cannot be switched to low level by any quick fix. You need to redesign from scratch. Older aircraft were built like the proverbial brick ….house because technology 60 years ago was relatively unsophisticated. Now when everything is lightened to save weight (and fuel) you could start to see fatigue problems if these aircraft operate more at lower altitudes than what is now being planned. Do not be surprised if you see these aircraft being rebuilt quite early in their lives.

ATH

In commercial service a 737 is good for 80,000 hours and cycles. Military aircraft are used far far less. I would be surprised if a P8 averages a thousand hours a year over its 30 year life. That and the strengthening work That’s been done should give a margin to allow for the needed low flight.

Jeff

To put this in a maritime perspective you are asking the same as a boat designed to operate on day trips on Lake Coniston to now operate in North Atlantic storms. A few extra nails should do it? Remember the US Navy expects to get all the extra drones that will do the actual low level work. It is unlikely (budgetary restraints) that the RAF will be so lucky. One good thing about the few aircraft being purchased is that there will be fewer to fix. They are also easily convertible to airliners…..Only time will tell

Ian L

There is an article/report at the IHS Janes 360 website dated the 4/4/2017 that would indicate the RAF is purchasing Mk 54 torpedoes and Harpoon missiles as used by the USN aircraft.
If true would have an interesting knock on effect for the RN surface fleet anti-ship missile situation?

The Ginge

Thanks for the reply. The reality is that as explained in some of the other replies by buying the alleged of the Shelf option it has knock on effects. So if we go through the points you make
1. Firstly Weapons. Since it would appear that we will be buying Mk54 torpedoes(later comment) for the P8 it looks like that in the long-term will have an impact on our own weapons manufacturing. The same goes for Anti-Ship Missiles, Sonar Buoys all of which it makes no sense to operate multiple versions of. If as you suggest we gap until the FCASW then we could be looking at 10yrs with no RN Surface Weapons.
2. Further still no news on any of the drones that are needed to get the most out of the P8’s operating model.
3. Numbers. The simple fact is we all agree 9 is an inadequate number, further compounded by hints that the RAF now wants them to perform wider surveillance tasks roles. But by choosing the P8 as the most expensive option we really do limit the number to 9, at least until 2030, and then we have to hope aircraft purchased in 2018 as serviceable. Remember in commercial aviation 737’s are only used for about 5 to 10yrs before going to the bone yard or to airline not so concerned about safety. This was my point about the fact we had 12 C130H’s that whilst tired and in need of of deep overhaul there were 12 airframes readily available. Secondly buying second hand C130H’s is not a problem to boost numbers. If you had 12 role on kits, as and when the airframes went down for maintenance the systems could be swapped over maintaining a high availability rate with the 12 kits you would have. I do not dispute that the P8 if operated with all its bells and whistles is a fine aircraft the problem is if ain’t there it can’t do anything. 9 P8’s probably amounts to 3 available and another 3 with some notice. That is not enough, 24 C130’s probably gets you 12 ready to go using the kit methodology, and 18 with notice. A big capability upgrade.
4. This brings me on to the issue of range. Again the quicker transit time of the P8 means longer on Station, but this is severely limited by the issue of no refuelling option. Again in an ideal world this is solved by putting booms on 4 Voyager aircraft. But again reality bites. The Mod and the RAF have no money for this. We are going to be either reliant on either USAF Aircraft which will immediately get diverted if any shooting war starts or the very few European Aircraft which will even in peace time be in great demand. As to operating in an environment where we do not have the support of the EU and/or the USA such as the Falklands it can be forgotten. The other problem is this then means you get about 4 hours on Station at Range from the P8, rotating Aircraft in to maintain a presence in any given area is going to eat up flying time.
5. As to the Hercules’s Lash up. I believe that proves my point about prejudice within the RAF and Navy concerning not flying nice new shinny jets. With people remembering the old Shackletons that became a laughing stock and then our pilots lauding it over the yanks in Nimrods whilst they flew P3 Turbo Props from the 50’s. The fact is that I would take any aircraft that is built like the proverbial brick. Unfortunately because of the modern design requirements of Commercial Jets there is not a modern Nimrod equivalent. The fact is the Hercules option would have been brought together by the same team that has in 18mths provided the Merlin AEW solution. The Hercules already has the Hard Points, Electrical generation capacity etc that is required. Yes there was a development risk, but this was known engineering on an aircraft designed in the CAD/CAM era. This was no Lash Up, but would have provided more Platforms, Air Refuelling, Longer time on Station, Equivalent detection equipment (if state of the art Merlin equipment and P3 developed IT Solution not good enough, it is vitualy the same as P8), Low Level ability (yes we know the P8 can do it, but the safety margin and fatigue issues on any modern Airliner are limiting factors), High Level (Pressurised and sound deadened work environment) operations exactly the same as the P8 if you wish.
All of these provide a sound advantage to an aircraft that over its lifetime has been reengineered for many different roles, including an already used Elint aircraft. The big benefits would have been a) UK weapons fit b) cheaper solution c) UK manufacturing d) Day one Air Refuel able e) no need for an expensive maintenance build up with £100m (which will be built in to the price) Boeing Facility f) UK export potential to the EU/Nato air forces replacing P3’s but who can afford P8’s. Who could have even swapped kit out of P3’s straight in to Hercules Operation Module to save costs. The list is endless but we have come up against the MOD being scarred of cost overruns, the reputation of Lockheed with the F35 overruns (although the C130 is such a well-known product in my view that is minimal) and the RAF wanting shinny me too kit syndrome. G) Available straight away and operational now. H) Lockheed keen to provide to the European ASW Aircraft replacement field being keen to have a lead customer giving a good deal. I) Rolls Royce Engines.
Again as we did with fighter aircraft in the 1960/70’s we are going to give up a huge manufacturing base for the simplicity of buying a compromised of the shelf product. It is short sighted and will not be funded correctly, just as the UK E3 Awacs has fallen behind in the upgrade path so will the P8.

ATH

You are total wrong about the life of a 737. On average they stay in serevice for 25 years flying about 3500 hours per year. I have no idea what your source is for the 5 to 10 year life but it’s utter rubbish.

ATH

I am also not sure about your idea that any other nation would buy new C130J for the maritime role. The 130 is an expensive bespoke military aircraft. The airframe of the P8 is for the most part made up of mass production parts from the Boeing 737 line. About 25 C130’s are built each year,over 50 737’s are built each month. The C130 uses 4 sets of props, gearboxes and engines. The P8 just 2 mass production engines.

The cost of the basic empty airframe of the P8 will be significantly less that that of the C130. The total price of a ready to use sub hunter depends on the cost of developing and manufacturing the kit in the back more than the cost of the airframe used to move it about.

Jeff

The US Coastguard use various models of the C130 including the J for maritime Search and Rescue. The RNZAF successfully used the C130H as a backup to their Orions on at least one major S&R Mission involving dozens of yachts caught in a typhoon. The MP version is just a J with different modules. The C130 has also been adapted as a refueller in Marine service.
As far as 2 or 4 engines is concerned 4 is better for endurance which has been covered elsewhere not to mention redundancy.E(T)ROPs is based on long distance cruise at high level for airliners not low level MP missions. As far as “mass replacement” parts for the 737 are concerned how much use would these be if not strengthened and properly marinised for low level over ocean use?
Also you have to buy kit anyway whichever aircraft you buy. Lockheed Martin obviously have that in hand if you want to read their blurb otherwise you could easily use standard UK kit (sonobuoys and torpedoes) by plugging it into the modules instead.

ATH

I think you are placing far to much importance on the airframe part of an ASW aircraft. It’s just a way to move “the kit in the back” to the search area. A 737 is a much cheaper way to do this than a C130. Both can lift in the region of 40T of fuel and payload, but the 737 does it at a much lower cost.

Jeff

I love this “lower cost” bit. Just wait until you have to rebuild the aircraft because the “low cost” components are not able to cope with the actual conditions the aircraft will have to operate in rather than that which is intended. The 737 was never intended to fly low level except on take off or landing and was not built to do so. I cannot wait to see the bill to rebuild or replace them and I am sure Boeing are looking forward to them as well.

The Ginge

Again please note what I said in my piece. The kit should within reason 1 or 2 day interchange period. What I am saying is that the important Kit is integrated in to the P8, you can’t un-connect it and put it in something else. So airframe is down for deep maintenance the expensive kit in the back is going nowhere. Where as the modular system in the C130 version can be unconnected, and put on to the hard points and internal connections on another slightly modified C130, thus getting a disconnect between the airframe and the Kit. You as in any business work the expensive (and these days mostly electric) kit 24/7 365 something an airframe can not do. As to cost, yes an unmodified 737 is cheap as chips, but the last (wikki I know not always reliable) cost of the P8 airframe alone had it up at the £100m level. Secondly we had 12 tired C130H’s that can and are refreshed regularly by Marshall’s which would have been free apart from the maintenance costs, no new airframe cost to start with.

The Ginge

Yes they do stay in Service for 25yrs, but not in front line airlines which have similar profiles to the RAF on safety etc. For example Ryan Air has a lot faster replacement cycle. As I said in my piece above, with 3rd world airlines and other places I would not be putting my butt in to fly they do last 25yrs, but at most major airlines its 10yrs, until a slow decline of less maintenance, higher failure rates, second hand parts etc etc. Which the RAF can not support if it only has 3 Airplanes on any given day.

ATH

That is completely incorrect. BA, KLM and Lufthansa all currently have aircraft in use that are more than 25 years old.

Jeff

How many of these have you seen flying low level searching for missing ships or exercising torpedo drops after MAD runs?

David Stephen

What am I missing? Surley we can manage or afford to integrate Spearfish and our own sonar buoys. While we are at it get Spearfish ready for MK41 launch as well, adding capability to the Type 26 and maybe 31. As for Harpoon, the RN is ditching the surface launched version and it’s probably better to await LASRM to rearm the escort fleet but an arrangement to access the US air launched inventory of Harpoon for exclussive use by the P8s might be possible to fill the gap for a few years. If not a small outright purchase would be required.

ATH

The penalty for any UK only kit is that it takes the aircraft out of the main development path. If we put our own sonar buoys on the aircraft and the US changes the sound analysis system to one that is incompatible in a fundamental why with the UK system we are on our own with the costs of support and future development.

The Ginge

Plus the MOD have already shown with the E3 that they will drop out and degrade the equipment by not finding the money to keep up with the American Development path. I believe the E3 is at least 2 if not 3 upgrades behind the US and OTAN/NATO aircraft. It is exactly what the MOD will do with the P8, because a new IT Upgrade that massively improves performance is unseen. Once the Aircraft are on the tarmac the MOD are happy, bugger making them work.

David Stephen

Its a very good point regarding software and upgrades. I had not considered that but if the MOD fails to upgrade the P3s like the E2 then would we still not be better with our own gear that we can upgrade at our own pace instead of US kit that we probably wont be able to keep to their standards over time.