Military AircrewA forum for the professionals who fly the non-civilian hardware, and the backroom boys and girls without whom nothing would leave the ground. Army, Navy and Airforces of the World, all equally welcome here.
The real question is: Is the P-8 good enough for role.
Boeing and the USN have taken a low risk route, there is a significant amount of P-3 stuff in it and the mission system is a variant of that fitted to MRA4. In effect British tax payer has helped out the USN plenty with that. Any legacy systems can be replaced at a later date when funding permits. As for the airframe and configuration might not be as ideal as the P-3 or Nimrod in role but has some significant advantages when it comes to commonality with the civil world. The Boeing 737 is one of the commonest airline types on the planet, any country operating the type will be able to shop around for spares heck they could even buy retiring high cycle B737 used by the airlines (Ryanair recently retired its first B737-800 series) sit them at an airfield and use them as parts hulks! Nimrod and to a degree the P-3 are single source when it comes to parts. In respect of Nimrod MRA4 with less then ten to be completed BAE Systems would pretty much of had the RAF over a barrel when it came to spares.
As this is always about Nimrod in the end looking back we have to accept that the process that led to its selection and the following mess was flawed.
BAE decided it was a contract that had to be won, they dangled an aircraft under the nose of the RAF and treasury that sounded very attractive. An ideal airframe and engine configuration in the RAF's eyes and the apparent savings of recycling components for the treasury. Any consideration about development issues of recycling elderly airframes or the through life costs of adopting a small number of a unique type were ignored. Of course it should be remembered that the preferred solution at first was the P-7 which in itself was a warmed over P-3. When that was canned then we had the contest that led to Nimrods selection. I do wonder about the sincerity of the RAFs desire to have the P-7 considering that the eventual contest had two different P-3 based solutions one involving rebuilds by Lorel and the other involving new build from Lockheed Martin! Presumably Lockheed Martin didn't reinvent the wheel and used a significant amount of the working from the de-funked P-7 program.
I feel BAE should of looked at alternatives to the Nimrod Airframe preferably based on a civil airliner type. My personal favourite is a solution based on the Boeing 757. Boeing had already done a significant amount of work to develop that aircraft as an ASW/MPA type as a rival to the P-7. It was spacious, long ranged, has British engines and operated by many airlines including British Airways offering clear maintenance synergies. I have heard the main barrier to operating an aircraft with podded engines for the RAF was ditching characteristics. The counter to this is, what is the survivability of the crew with Nimrod (in the North Atlantic in a storm probably low) when ditching and is the B757 good enough for the role. There is another thing as well, the B757 would of made a perfect, cheap replacement for the VC10. Just imagine the maintenance and cost synergies if that had happened...not to mention troops flying out to A-stan now in a modern reliable airline type! Plus you have the added attraction of a possible USN purchase to replace the P-3 with British companies being major sub contractors.
Considering the P8 debate now I wonder if more pragmatic decisions had been made all those years ago we wouldn't be in a better place now. Imagine a B757 based ASW/MPA operating today as well as a transport variant...
You dont have to be pretty to be succesful. Susan Boyle showed us that a few years back.
Anyway the shelf life of a 737 after a few years of a corrosive work area should be interesting (magnesium alloy) . Even MRA4 the design team never took that into consideration. Years of MR2 and we wrote the book on corrosion, as most experience sails of to the North Sea as it pays 3 times more than the RAF, we can have shiny new jets that look cool, but simple fact is you will have nobody to operate them or use past experiences to maintain them.
Shame really our government sold us out but its all due to cost saving so we accept that.
There seem to be two P-8 stories on low-altitude ops. The airframe's been beefed up a lot, but there's still a lot of work on weapons and concepts for high altitude operations. Apparently a few operators are beginning to look at re-lifed P-3s from Navy stocks.
I remember the Boeing Rep a few years ago (pre-binning UK MPA) challenging the very knowledgeable UK/US audience for a Maritime activity that could not be done from high level. The shouts came thick and fast especially when the tricky concept of cloud came up:
'Drop a tight buoy pattern'
'Read a ship's name'
'Drop a dingy to a survivor'
'Take a photograph'
'Lase for a weapon'
'Perform a show of force'
'Discriminate a survivor from wreckage'
'Spot an oil slick'
'Spot a vessel on fire'
'Spot deployed fishing nets'
'Perform a MAD run'
'Discriminate between blue ships and red ones'
On and on it went and the poor chap looked quite upset. He didn't even challenge the bloke who shouted 'strafing seals'.
Location: Squirrel Heaven (or hell!), Shropshire UK
Lookout never really seemed to be one of the requirements on the P-3 - once caught a periscope (and ECM mast) almost directly underneath a P-3 which was at 2000ft as we came in at 200 ft to relieve him on task, just as he finished telling us the area was clear. He seemed a bit miffed as we called in Certsub and exercise kill at the same time. Presumably this (lack of lookout requirement) has carried over to the P-8.
Surely there is a lesson to be learned. Instead of insisting on a Rolls Royce solution, as presumably many/most of you reckon the Nimrod was, the USN accepted a "good enough" but affordable solution in the P8, based on a commercial airframe that may not be ideal, but is affordable. I would remind the posters who put down the P8 with such apparent relish, that it is real, and future ideal/best/superior/magnificent Nimrod is extinct. I am sure that with a "can do" attitude, the P8 will be very effective.
Putting my head above the parapet, but with the new approach to defence matters with the Japanese, and their relaxing of the rule on export of defence material, would the new (four engined) Kawasaki P-1 be a suitable/likely option?