The production of Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft has been accelerated as domestic and international orders pick up pace. The increase will see production capacity grow beyond the numbers already committed to under Boeing’s current US and Indian Navy contracts leading to speculation by many that the UK is looking at purchasing a number of the aircraft.

Jimmy Dodd, VP and general manager of Mobility, Surveillance and Engagement at Boeing Military Aircraft said:

“The whole idea is to make sure we create a little headroom for the international market as we build the Navy units out. Everything was stalled out waiting on the UK elections, and now that’s over we are hoping activity will increase and there will be a commitment.”

Further fuelling the speculation, in a report on Future Maritime Surveillance, the House of Commons Defence Committee noted that the UK has a strategic requirement for maritime surveillance on a world-wide basis, for both military and non-military purposes. It stated that it had serious concerns regarding the MPA capability gap and its impact on the UK’s ability to undertake the military tasks envisaged by SDSR 2010.

In his evidence to the same Committee in October of last year, the Secretary of State for Defence stated that SDSR 2015 would need to consider the MPA capability in detail, considering whether ‘based on our experience since 2010 of managing this risk – largely by working with allies – it is a capability that we need to regenerate and, if so, how we would most efficiently regenerate it.

Discussions with the Ministry of Defence are believed to be centred on an initial contract for six firm plus six options, Boeing’s involvement has so far been minimal as the US Navy will lead any negotiations.

“We’ve never actually given them (the US Navy) a proposal. They know what they are paying and they know what it costs to support. They also understand the differences in configurations, so they haven’t been asking us for a lot of detailed price and cost data at this point, I’m sure that will come. We will engage directly (with the UK MoD) at some point. It just hasn’t happened yet, and it will happen.”

p8-18
A cutaway of the P-8 Poseidon

Earlier this year Mark Francois confirmed that an initiative which maintains the training of staff formerly based at RAF Kinloss has been extended. Mark Francois is Minister of State at the UK Ministry of Defence, with responsibility for the armed forces, cyber activity, and force generation.

“A number of short-term post extensions, varying from three to fifteen months, were agreed in 2013 and 2014.”

The Seedcorn initiative exists to sustain the UK’s capability to operate fixed wing Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and maintain associated skills. The estimated cost of the initiative on average is £2.4 million per year.

UK aircrew are on exchange with a variety of allied forces, operating alongside our allies. There are currently 32 personnel deployed overseas in Maritime Patrol Aircraft roles under the Seedcorn initiative with a further seven on traditional exchange programmes. 115 personnel are currently operating in other flying roles in the UK.

For quite some time, we have been hearing from colleagues and friends in the forces and industry that they expect Seedcorn to be extended and, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the regeneration of the capability lost when Nimrod was retired in 2010 is to happen at this years Strategic Defence and Security Review. While the ordering of new aircraft this year isn’t definite, we’re confident it’ll happen.

 

16 COMMENTS

  1. nice to see the MoD have got some money to spend….seeing our current government cannot commit to NATO budget,even though Cameron promised it at the last NATO summit…i think these will make a nice addition as we have not really had anything capable since Nimrod which like everything else was a bit out dated

      • The MRA4 was already paid for, and the first production aircraft had all but finished its trials, which went as well as any trials go. It was a fantastic aircraft for the job, and could have been the best in the world, as its predecessor, the MR2, was, right up until the MoD grounded the fleet for political reasons. There was nothing wrong with the MR2, other than the problems with air-to-air refuelling into tanks that were never designed to withstand that kind of pressure. We only started air-to-air refuelling in 1982, during the Falklands war. The MR2 could stay airborne for 11 hours at a push on one tank of gas. Its Searchwater radar, despite being from an older generation, was still better than anything the USA had at the time, and its acoustics suite was more advanced than that in the MRA4 which would have replaced it. It had world-class EW and EO suites, which were greatly appreciated when operating in the Gulf and overland in Afghanistan. The P8 Poseidon is almost twice the cost of the Japanese P1, it doesn’t have a MAD sensor, and is a modified two-engined short-haul jetliner. The Japanese P1 is a purpose-built military aircraft, has the redundancy that 4 engines brings (which is important when you are flying low-level in airspace frequented by seagulls, and waters where an enemy can take pot-shots at you), is substantially cheaper than the P8, and we can form a partnership with the manufacturer for develpoing the platform, unlike the offering from Boeing. The simple fact that it is NOT American is a good enough reason to choose the Japanese airctaft in my opoinion, because we need to wean ourselves off so much technical dependancy from the USA, and steer our future towards where we naturally live – in Europe.

  2. My hands crush the desk every time I read anything about UK MPA, we may have given away our Vanguards propellor signatures because of the loss to our marine patrol capability. If it turns out that we lost billions of pounds worth of equipment for the sake of a couple RQ 4 BAMS I’ll blow a blood vessel.

  3. The Nimrod program was overly influenced by a single crash in Afghanistan. The MRA4 was a good aircraft, as opposed to the elint version. And the money spent was a sunk cost, never to be recovered by slashing the program. Even 6 MRA4 a/c could have helped sanitize the area around western Scotland.

  4. Angus Robertson blasted current security arrangements, saying the disposition of the armed forces had left Britain relying on “intelligence from Scottish fishing vessels and social media” because the military did not have “appropriate assets in place in time.” We need either of these two Aircraft the P8 or the Kawasaki P1 seeing that most of the Maritime Protection to uk is being supplied by the Americans when we cannot find Russia submarines close in to Faslane. USA had to supply 2 x P 3 Orions to search fro Russian Submarines of our coast in Jan this year

  5. Poseidon would fill the MPA gap nicely. Be sensible to get it upgraded for inflight refuelling, otherwise range is a bit low for UK needs.

  6. Ah but would one group ever let it drop stormshadow? A fantastic capability that only needs a UK probe mod to become a fantastic asset. I wonder if we are getting to a point with C17, sentinel, rc135 and now P8 where we need to consider getting boom modified Voyager.

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