A Royal Air Force A400M Atlas aircraft has been flown from RAF Brize Norton this morning to support Border Force operations in the English Channel.

As some pointed out, then Home Secretary Theresa May terminated a £4 million contract with aviation firm Cobham to provide an ‘eye in the sky’ over British waters in January 2016 despite warnings.

Earlier in the year, we reported that Elbit Systems had been selected by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to conduct maritime demonstration flights in the UK using a number of its unmanned aerial surveillance systems.

The firm say that the demonstration flights are designed to demonstrate the advantages of using long-range unmanned capabilities in civilian airspace, with the ability to utilise multiple sensors on a single platform. Elbit Systems UK will collaborate closely with the UK Civil Aviation Authority, supported by additional UK companies, including Inzpire and Aviation Systems Group.

The solution will be based around the Hermes 900 aircraft.

With a wingspan of 15 metres, the 1.2 Ton Hermes 900 Maritime Patrol is a long-range maritime surveillance system tailored for littoral and blue water operations, say Elbit.

“It features maritime radar, an Electro Optic payload, Satellite Communication, an Automatic Identification System receiver and an Emergency Position-indicating Radio Beacon receiver. The Hermes 900 Maritime Patrol enables persistent monitoring of vast swathes of sea and long coastlines with effective advanced search capabilities to support with valuable search and rescue work as well as the identification of potential hazards. Elbit Systems’ Skylark I-LEX will also be taking part in the demonstration flights.”

Elbit say they will support the MCA in their existing efforts, providing a 24-hour maritime search and rescue service around the UK coast and in the international search and rescue region through HM Coastguard.

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Patrick
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Patrick

As long as the Home Office get sent the bill.

liam
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liam

Wow, which other taxi service gets its own air support?

Ian
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Ian

What a waste of a major asset ……. could border force not rent a small plane or contract a company to carry out this work……

Julian
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Julian

Or invest in some drones. RN already did a trial, subsequently de-funded, of ScanEagle so we have some operational experience with them at least.

One way to turn a problem into an opportunity might be to use this Channel policing issue as a test case to spin up some new drone evaluation projects but this time hopefully leading to us actually investing in some permanent assets.

Herodotus
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Don’t we have ISTAR King Airs….much more suitable I would have thought!

farouk
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farouk

I was thinking that as well and seeing as the BEECHCRAFT SHADOW R.MK 1: are smaller (cheaper to run) come equipped with underfuselage electro-optical sensor turret, I cannot see how a huge Cargo plane can do a better job? whoever signed that off needs to be sacked.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Considering the Shadows support DSF in sandy places I wonder how many are even in the UK for this tasking?

Would 5 Regs ( now RAF ) Defenders be better?
They also have such a role.

4thwatch
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4thwatch

We seem to be way behind in developing our own drones. Presumably our anti- Engineering Wokey Universities push people into social studies and hairdressing, rather than such dreadfully supremist studies.

Julian
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Julian

I agree that it’s disappointing that we don’t have more local drone technology especially in the medium weight area (Schiebel S-100 Camcopter sort of league) but I think it’s unfair to blame the universities. The major universities (Russell Group and a few others that are still good but not in that group) produce many great scientists, engineers and software developers. I think the fault lies elsewhere – lack of government support for building local capabilities (and even worse often allowing those that do exist to be sold off e.g. ARM and very nearly AZ to Pfizer) plus maybe also a… Read more »

Mervyn Carter
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Mervyn Carter

Excellent 👌😁! We’ve been made to look stupid since the lack of the Nimrod’s and the other ones keeping the UK Safe and Secure!

Herodotus
Guest

According to a BBC article that I posted a link to on this site, HM Coastguard are already operating a drone for surveillance activity in North Wales…????
It is nothing more than the usual ‘late on parade’ style actions taken by successive governments. Stable doors and bolting horses come to mind about an issue that has been going on for decades!!

Cam
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Cam

It’s to help search and rescue, and seems a great drone for the job, it’s got long legs and lasts for 24hrs.

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

This is just a temporary solution offered from the Mod, it’s not a long term solution, it clearly states this in the press releases.

Gavin Gordon
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Gavin Gordon

Border Force Maritime Branch did just that for anti-smuggling work. I’ve been out of that for years, plus retired, so don’t know who fulfils the role now. Wont be tempted to find out either, but nothing had changed with regard to powers.

Cam
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Cam

There are plenty coastguard Light places, this is probably a publicity stunt to make it look like we are doing something! It should be a crime entering the UK illegally! These ppl should be charged and sent packing And It’s Royal Navy and Border Force boats in French waters we need! to turn the boats back and take them back to France and then destroy the boats and engines or impound them,… we can’t have mass immigration like we have had for years now! Our country’s not large enough and it’s making British people’s standards of living even worse!! Import… Read more »

Cam
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Cam

“Light PLANES “ not places!

Paul.P
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Paul.P

We need to sort out Syria so their people don’t have to leave home. Putin and the Assad family need to be brought to heel.

Herodotus
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And who is going to do that Paul….Bojo, Sloppygob or the Mekon. I think not! Too busy counting the cash from their Russian donors!

Paul.P
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Paul.P

Well, our response to the Lebanon disaster might be an opportunity. Stabilising Lebanon economically would be a good first step. We have already dispatched some service personnel to assist the Lebanese military. The French have a traditional fatherly interest in Lebanon. Between us, after helping with the disaster recovery we should offer significant and extended ‘foreign aid’ to the Lebanese govt, to include a presence. Their refugee camps are the departure point for many of the refugees. The idea of targeting aid at the camps isn’t new.I think the previous govt tried it. But not hard enough.

Herodotus
Guest

Yes I agree with, and approve of, your sentiments. The Lebanon was always thought of as the cultural capital of the near east. They are very western orientated (as are many Syrians) and we should be doing our utmost to support stability and restructuring of their country. Of course, the French have much more influence in these countries as the were part of the Versailles post WW! mandates. But we have our part to play. By the way, citizens from both countries will be excellent recruits to Britain should it be required. I would accept Syrians seeking asylum any day!

Mark
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Mark

Border Force did have a contract for such a service, May axed it in 2016 to save money.

Fedaykin
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Fedaykin

Theresa May cancelled the Aerial Border Surveillance contract worth a paltry in public spending terms £4 million with Cobham in 2016.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Better than nothing, but it is not great, is it?

It carries out this role in the S Atlantic, again for want of anything else.

The main problem is that France is obviously quite happy to send them on their way here, so we can monitor all we like it is not dealing with the problem, which is human smuggling gangs.

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

Why wouldn’t they. There just as much a nuisance to France as they are for us.

Daveyb
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Daveyb

The UK Government has been paying France (around £35 million) to put a stop to the sea crossing. Yet clearly the money is being used for other things. The rumour of push back as used by Australia could develop into something nasty, especially if the French said “Non”. Funny how on this morning’s news it showed a dingy of about 20, all from Syria and looked like all males in their 20s! Refugees?

farouk
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farouk

Davey B wrote: “Yet clearly the money is being used for other things.” Hi, Davey, I think the success of cutting down on the overland route for these people has resulted in a loss of earnings for the smugglers who have look at other avenues , dropping people off in ribs just off shore from larger is now the thing to do. As for the Syrians, they as a people know they are guaranteed Asylum seeker status across Europe (The UK has taken in 17K) the top 10 countries for people seeking asylum in the Uk are as follows; Iran… Read more »

DaveyB
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DaveyB

Cheers mate, I still find it hard to believe that we have an agreement with France that is costing using money annually, yet there seems very little to show for it. It would be good for the media, to stop spouting about the money given to France and find out what is actually being used for?

farouk
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farouk

DavyB wrote: ” It would be good for the media, to stop spouting about the money given to France and find out what is actually being used for?” I think the UK Gov keeps quiet on that, simply if we P off the french, they could say ‘F’ you and look the otherway. The one thing i cannot understand is how Greece faced with an even worse problem (and a much larger sea area to cover) is managing to prevent fleets of migrants crossing the sea between Greece and Turkey. In fact the Turkish coastguard have played devils advocate in… Read more »

Mark
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Mark

Greece still has the issues, though I think more try the land route through the Balkans now

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

Greece is doing what it can, but they have too many islands to monitor to stop this.

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

Thanks for that link Farouk. I added it below for others because IMV the data helps illustrate the broader UK strategy that uses hard and soft power to try to mitigate future migration issues at source, among other aims. Clearly from the data, conflict (regardless of whether the UK is involved or not), terrorism and government repression drives migration. Hence the military actions of Europe in the Sahel to try to stabilise that region. Notable though, the significant contribution that political and/or religious repressive regimes/environments, such as Iran’s, make to granted asylum numbers, where there has been no open conflict.… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

No. Economic migrants, as most have been for years.

But it suits some that they are refugees, who have fled across several safe countries to get here.

Herodotus
Guest

Quite who would it suit other then the refugees and traffickers?

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Just about every human rights group going who want the UK to accept seemingly unlimited numbers, the BBC, the SWP who just a few years ago was encouraging students, hippies and any rent a mob going to storm the border crossings with placards demanding open borders, which at one point they did, the silly fools.

A simple google search will give you the answers H.

Herodotus
Guest

Shocking revelations there Daniele….such high power groups with enormous influence on the British people. Haven’t you noticed that a good percentage of the population are right-wing reactionaries who probably, have never even heard of the SWP. No doubt the BBC is really subversive and trying alter the cultural balance in the country by encouraging illegal immigration…..I’ve always suspected that David Attenborough was a pinko. Time to ditch the Daily Torygraph and the Daily Heil and get a better grip on who really influences thinking in this country….it isn’t any pathetic lefty group or the poor old BBC…it’s lazy thinkers that… Read more »

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

35m is peanuts if you need to do sea and air patrols 24/7 all year round. Any idea what an hour of flying costs?
Most importantly let’s not forget what all this migrant crisis in the middle east is a direct consequence of, it was the WMD invasion of Iraq in 2003 by Bush and Blair. Chicken is coming home to roost.

BB85
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BB85

I’d love to know what the solution is in the med as I would expect it to be worse. It is interesting how most of the traffickers come through Tunisia rather than Morocco so it shows how a stable government can significantly reduce the amount of criminal activity when it wants to. France could easily nip most of this smuggling in the bud if it wanted to but it wants them out of the country.

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

Why is it France’s responsibility to monitor UK’s borders? These migrants did not enter EU via France. Blame Italy or Greece then.

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

Would it not be cheaper and more effective to use drones? I thoughy i read a recent article about available reapers in storage. They are cheaper to fly and have sensors. AFAIK A400 are not equipped with recon optics etc..

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

Surely the Shadow R1 or the new Defenders would be better suited.

Herodotus
Guest

Yes…it would make more sense than sending a bloody great removal van!

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

Guess we weren’t the only ones to think of this.

Herodotus
Guest

I don’t know to what extent the A400 is being used in RAF service. If they are underutilised, perhaps this is a way the RAF can justify their existence with a forth-coming defence review on the cards?

Alba Air
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Alba Air

The RAF never wanted A400 in the 1st place, they wanted owned C17’s so their full ability could be utilised and more C130’s.
A400 purely political to appease our ‘friends’ as we didn’t join the euro.

Levi Goldsteinberg
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Levi Goldsteinberg

I’ll pay to be able to do it. Send me out into the channel in a jet ski with an air rifle to pop the dinghies

Herodotus
Guest

Compassionate as always Levi 🙁

Meirion X
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Meirion X

What about those ultra sound devices that are a repellent, to turn around those dinghies quickly?

BB85
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BB85

I’m shocked we don’t already have the best part of 100 drones in rotation monitoring the complete stretch of the English channel directing border patrol and collecting evidence of French assistance into English waters. What use is an A400 are the sensors basically the air crew and a pair of binoculars? Complete waste of time and money and resources being stollen from the mod so the home office can free ride.

BB85
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BB85

Surely those 30 watch keepers held in storage could find a full time job here when not on deployment.

Cam
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Cam

A good training opportunity too.

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

And who is going to operate these 100 drones?, you? The A400 is a temporary solution.

BB85
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BB85

The 100 drones will not be in the air at the same time. Border Patrol will obviously monitor them, in the not so distant future they will be able to operate completely autonomously and flag any situations that need an operator to track and make a decision on.

Herodotus
Guest

Well my Roast Beef amies….ze chickens are, ow you say, coming ‘ome to roost.
‘Take Back Control’ the wise-men wisely said! And we believed (though some did not), yet nothing changed…in fact, illegal immigration is now twice as bad. Perhaps the Mekon has a suitably compassionate solution to offer this ‘poor man’s circus’ of a government. Personally, I don’t think he could stop a fat girl in a thin alley!

Paul T
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Paul T

For those that think a Drone would make more sense there is one already being used – its been pretty well reported in the Aviation community.

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

I presume your reference is what Wired have also referenced, i.e. a Tekever AR5 operating from Lydd Airport.
https://airray.tekever.com/ar5/

Paul T
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Paul T

Yes GHF thats the one .

BB85
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BB85

From what I’ve read most of the boats intend to be caught because it streamlines the processing. So do we even need to go to huge lengths to search for them when they are doing the bulk of the work to get caught? They might even be curious enough to avoid areas with large shipping and ferries.
There doesn’t appear to be any legal arrangement to stop them so sending in the RN will just increase the available capacity to pick them up.

Paul T
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Paul T

Ive just looked on a Tracker – the A400 is certainly putting a Shift in.

Crabfat
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Crabfat

Bloody hell! Just looked at the past track. Looks like miles of bad knitting. It’s been on task since 07.11 – over seven hours – and still at it.

Cam
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Cam

And what surveillance Capability does an A400 have? Or is it looking out the windows!

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

The Atlas carries out the maritime surveillance role in the South Atlantic, amongst other things. I guess just crew with Mk1 eyeball and binos. The Atlas force crews are trained for it, with SAR dinghies, and such.

Hopefully a UAV takes over in due course.

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

It does beg the question that if we are going to temporarily use military assets for this task then wouldn’t an ISTAR platform like Watchkeeper be more appropriate. It is supposed to be certified now for operation in civil airspace and specifically non-segregated airspace, which seems like a useful capability to have over the channel, and is already based at Boscombe Down. While Watchkeeper is based on on the Elbit Hermes 450, a precursor to the Hermes 900 UAV mentioned in the article and is not optimised for maritime surveillance, it seems like it should be able to do the… Read more »

Mark
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Mark

Wasn’t there a recent report that the Watchkeeper operational rates are less than 50%?

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

I assume you’re probably referencing the written parliamentary answer that UKDJ wrote an article about recently, linked below. Specifically, “45 Watchkeeper airframes were in service as at 23 July 2020. 13 have flown in the past 12 months and 23 have been in storage for longer than 12 months. Of those flying, 10 have been operated by the Army from Akrotiri in Cyprus and Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, three have been used for test and evaluation. The airframes in storage are held at specific, graduated, levels of readiness.” In the case of Watchkeeper’s role and the likely attrition rate if… Read more »

Paul.P
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Paul.P

I’m amazed the French authorities allow these immigrants sail offshore. Surely they don’t have their Permits Mer Cotier?

Mark
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Mark

You think any nation can patrol all of their coastline all of the time?

dan
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dan

Wait. Trump is trying to stop illegal immigration/migration to America which has gone on unchecked for 60+ years now and world leaders call him a racist. But it’s somehow OK for the U.K. and other countries to do the same?

Can’t wait for all the left wing Trump hate comments. haha

Mark
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Mark

Wonder what terms the French will agree post 2020, given that talks haven’t even started to replace the dublin protocol.