UK maritime patrol aircraft competition attracts global defense giants

UK MoD Copyright
UK is preparing to fill its vital airborne anti submarine warfare capability gap that resulted following retirement of the Nimrod MR2 submarine hunter aircraft in 2010, and cancelling the follow on Nimrod MR4 program.

Inability to check renewed Russian submarine threats past UK, in international waters has forced UK to rethink its decision which was then part of defense cuts.

Earlier this year, UK commanders were forced to call U.S., Canadian and French maritime patrol aircraft to track a suspected Russian submarine near Royal Navy's Faslane base.

Global defense giants are clamoring to compete for the multi-billion dollar program, which is expected to be announced in the British government's Strategic Defense and Security Review 2015.

Companies used the DSEI defense exhibition held in London to urge UK Ministry of Defense hold an fair and open competition for any requirement that may emerge from SDSR 2015, rather than a sole source contract.

Boeing is in the forefront, pitching its proven P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft based on the commercial Boeing 737 airliner platform. UK is reportedly inclined to the platform which is operational with U.S and Indian Navies. It will be the most capable aircraft on offer, in terms of range, sensors and armament.

British naval aircrew has already flown on the U.S. Navy P-8As, to maintain skills which could have been lost due to lack of platform.

European Airbus is offering maritime patrol aircraft based on the C-295 turboprop airlifter. Airbus says the platform could be acquired with one third cost of Boeing P-8, along with UK sourced radar systems probably the Selex Seapray AESA radar. The multi role C-295 could also be configured for Search and Rescue (SAR), special force operations, counter terrorism missions and paratroop deployment.

Lockheed Martin is offering an Anti Submarine Warfare upgrade program to the 24 Royal Air Force C-130J Hercules airlifter fleet slated for retirement by 2022, as the replacement Airbus A400M fleet gradually takes over.

U.S. based L-3 will offer a modified version of Bombardier's Q400 turboprop airliner, whose maiden flight is expected in 2016.

Japan is offering the Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft operational with Japanese Air Self Defense Forces, which marked its international debut during the RIAT 2015 airshow.

Italian Alenia Aermachi will offer its C-27J Spartan based patrol aircraft, which was showcased at the DSEI exhibition.

Swedish Saab is pitching its Saab 2000 turboprop based Swordfish maritime patrol aircraft.

The Nimrod MR4 maritime patrol and attack aircraft was a upgraded MR2 aircraft, featuring new Rolls Royce BR700 turbofan that almost doubled its range, new glass cockpit, improved sensor systems and reduced crew requirements.

The program which achieved its maiden flight in 2004, was cancelled due to delays and cost over runs. The roles intended for MR4 is being met by Royal Navy's Type 23 Frigate and Merlin helicopters.