Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson cut the first turf on a £132m facility for the UK’s new fleet of submarine hunting P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland today.

The site will be the future home to the country’s nine-strong, new P-8A Poseidon MPA fleet. The aircraft’s key role will be to protect the UK’s submarine-deployed nuclear deterrent and its two new aircraft carriers, whilst it can also deploy missiles capable of destroying enemy submarines beneath the sea.

The new Lossiemouth facility will be completed in 2020, to coincide with initial operating capability of the P-8 Poseidon aircraft. Built by Elgin-based Robertson Northern, it will comprise a tactical operations centre, an operational conversion unit, squadron accommodation, training and simulation facilities and a three-bay aircraft hangar.

The MoD say it is investing £3 billion over the next decade in its Maritime Patrol Aircraft capability, and last year confirmed £3.7bn to start building the first three of eight Royal Navy Type 26 frigates on the Clyde as it continues to boost its capabilities.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“These submarine hunters will play a vital role in keeping the UK safe from the increasing threats and aggression we face in the skies, on the sea and below the waves.

This massive investment demonstrates the huge contribution Scotland makes to protecting Britain and how defence generates prosperity and opportunity.

Moray is benefitting from 200 local construction jobs during this building phase, with the number of personnel employed at RAF Lossiemouth growing by 470 to 2,200 people when this is complete.”

30 COMMENTS

    • Historical and practical. The RAF used to maintain Coastal Command with long range maritime patrol and ASW staying as a responsibility until the modern day. Because of that SEEDCORN that retained Nimrod crews after the type retired bridged the gap until a new type was selected was an RAF thing.

    • The UK do things differently.

      RAF also operate the Support Helicopters that would usually be with the army.

      I personally don’t have time for the inter service rivalry crap because as far as I’m concerned as long as the UK has the capability I’m not usually interested who operates what.

      If the RAF SHF passed to the army, and the MPA mission passed to the Navy, and the F35B was all FAA as some suggest there would not be much RAF left.

      Our RAF Pilots are no less capable, dedicated or professional than those of the RN and AAC in my view.

      • Thank you both for the replies. I’m certainly not suggesting the RAF is any less capable than the RN – far from it. I do know that both services crew the same aircraft such as the F35’s, however, out of tradition the FAA ought to have at least a squadron or two of the total of these shared types IMO. I think there are only going to be 2? FAA F35 squadrons to be stood up. It’s such a shame with so many grand and historic FAA squadron colors dormant that more can’t be resurrected.

        Cheers!

        • I know Helions I did not mean it that way towards yourself!

          I was getting my excuses in before the anti RAF mafia on here rear their head. They are few but have posted occasionally.

          • Totally understand Daniele! Just a shame both services have got to the point where the transfer or reassignment of even a few aircraft could cause so much damage. The pols will regret those decisions sooner than later IMO.

            Cheers!

  1. Ground based I think. One way to force more joint working and reduce duplicated capability would be to say if it flies the RAF does it, if it floats the navy, if it walks or drives then the army does it. To overcome competing chains of command, the function would determine the chain of command. So for instance, RAF helicopters flying Apache under the command of the land forces commander. Maybe it’s impractical but when the navy can deploy a brigade, the airforce can hunt submarines and the army can fly stuff…what’s the point in three sperate services?

    No I haven’t been smoking anything but yes it’s been a long hard day.

    • That’s a question many have asked over here too Anthony – It’s one of the reasons that my own service – The USAF – is so doggedly determined to avoid the creation of an independent Space Corps, In the end as technology continues its unabated progress a Space Corps would probably eventually “eat” the USAF.

      Cheers!

  2. Who operates them isn’t a problem so long as the crews are properly trained and have enough interaction with submarine crews (which they do) to understand each other’s trade. My concern is that the P8 is designed for conducting maritime patrol in the Pacific theatre at medium altitude. It’s designed for a different CONOPS. Neither it’s sonics or it’s radar are as good as the MRA4’s, although I believe UK sonics technology will be inserted into the type as part of its pre planned upgrade programme. Has anyone heard any more about this or whether Seedcorn crews have in fact developed a different CONUSE to the USN? Or will we be forced to adopt the USN’s CONOPS/CONUSE? Also, the Mk54 torpedo is not as good as the latest version of Stingray, but I suppose good enough? Anyone know more about this?

    • It will be interesting to make a comparison in a few years between the detection record of the British P8’s vs the USN’s operating out of NAS Reykjavik… Especially after they are modded with UK kit.

      Cheers!

      • (Chris H) helions – well if past performance is anything to go by the RAF lads and lasses will do OK. After all they did beat all the US Navy crews in Poseidons in ‘Fleet Challege 2014’ based in Jacksonville

  3. HELIOS, that should be interesting. Any feedback from USN use so far? I suppose the guys and gals must prefer it to the P3…

    • MUCH better! Far less gutbusting low level antics. P3’s are a ROUGH wave top ride I assure you from personal experience! 😀 Lot more automated functions as well. Turbo Props DO spool faster than jets though…

      Cheers!

      • Ah, but that’s just the point! European ASW has always been and continues to be low and dirty stuff. Can you hunt a submarine from 15,000 feet? Don’t know, maybe you can. But when you need GPS para-guided sonobuoys, torpedoes dropped with a glide kit and MAD on drones (UAV) it begs the question: is the tail wagging the dog? Are we saying we’ve got to develop complex, expensive (doubtful?) technology to fit a concept of use dictated by the need to cover vast expanses of water between Pacific islands from mid altitude? However clever, is the submarine still going to be there when the torpedo finally enters the water? My Nimrod friends told me the final stages of killing a sub was really violent dirty stuff, really low level and hard banking manoeuvres with at least five torpedoes expended. Don’t know but it all sounds a bit like a comfortable video game and doesn’t sound very convincing to me, but I may be wrong. But even if I am, I cannot imagine Britain being able to afford to buy many GPS para-kits for its sonobuoys, torpedoes with flying kits and UAV MADs… It concerns me.

        • Anyway, RAF Poseidon’s will be delivered at Increment 3 standard. It will have US sonobuoys, torpedoes and the US processing system compatible with American multi static sonar technology. The Ultra/Qinetiq MSS technology/processing/sonobuoys operating on Merlins is not compatible with the US processing. I’ve heard however that there are plans to make it so at some stage in the future. Ultra’s technology is a world leader. The all singing all dancing gliding sonobuoys, torpedoes and MADs are not yet available so for now the aircraft has to release these at low level like before, or so I am reliably informed. We shall see…

        • SR,

          I believe the new Poseidon’s are actually designed to operate and detect at altitude vs the low level P3 profiles. If I recall correctly it’s why the aircraft doesn’t have a MAD boom anymore, the system doesn’t need it. Also the USN’s newest torps are also designed to be precision dropped from altitude as well.

          I’m afraid I’m simply not very up on the fine points of side by side differences between the two… However I agree that European / Atlantic ASW work is very different from that being done in the Pacific. I’d be interested to see what the results would be if the UK continues low level work with its fleet vs the USN high level profile. Did find a good articles on the challenges facing both theaters of operations now though.

          https://news.usni.org/2014/08/27/opinion-new-era-anti-submarine-warfare

          Cheers!

    • There is a very interesting article in Australian Aviation Magazine on the operation of the P8A in 11 Squadron RAAF. 10 Squadron RAAF operates the AP3C until end of 2018 when it will move to the P8A.

      The attached article is quite informative including information that the USN is seeking feedback from the RAAF in terms of how it operates the P8A. Not also the information about range in the article.

      https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?hl=en#inbox

  4. Chris, is that so? I did hear first hand that one of the Seedcorn crews operating on a USN Poseidon out of Pax River had scored the highest of all the crews in the OPEVAL trials…

  5. To this day, I still can’t understand why it takes 10yrs to procure 9 aircraft – especially aircraft as critical as these. 2 airframes in 2019 and order to be complete by 2027 – a solid 10yrs after order was first placed. Boggles the mind!

    This means, it has taken the UK a full 17yrs after scraping Nimrod (SDSR 2010) to fully reconstitute our Maritime Reconnaissance capability. Political dereliction of duty!!!

  6. I’d wonder if it would have been cheaper to keep open Kinloss, the original base, plus being an alterate landing in case of “outage” at Lossie.

  7. Morning all
    Whilst the numbers are on the low side there is enough of them to fulfill their primary mission.
    When the requirements are set they are put in an order and from that planners work out how many aircraft are needed to satisfy all the “musts” and then the “should’s“ and finally the “could”
    They must be sufficient in number to provide adequate barrier patrols for the CASD.
    They should be sufficient in number to fulfill barrier patrol for the CASD and GIUK patrols, at the same time.
    They could be sufficient in number to fulfill barrier patrol for the CASD and GIUK at the same time whilst being able to provide an overseas detachment in support of U.K. or allied missions.
    What you are seeing with the purchase is the minimum number of frames that the RAF believes it can fulfill the above.
    This is why you will see news items and press releases with regards to working closely with the Norwegians and USN, the will fill any capability gaps with regard to GIUK if the U.K. has to deploy the aircraft abroad.
    You will hear a lot more about operating together with our allies over the next couple of months.

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