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Defence Committee Questions Given the above factors we believe that the substantial reduction in RN assets and the lack of a capable MPA in the UK military inventory leaves a serious and frightening gap in the maritime surveillance capability available to properly defend the UK and its interests worldwide. It is interesting to note that, since the Falklands conflict, the Argentineans have purchased P3 aircraft to provide a surveillance and ASW capability!
117. We agree with our witnesses that there is a risk associated with the capability gap in maritime surveillance. We acknowledge that the Government accept this and we welcome the work being undertaken to investigate how to mitigate the risks inherent in the gap and ensure the longer term provision of maritime surveillance. The MoD asserts that it has robust risk assessment and management procedures in place to spot any risk escalation in the maritime surveillance arena, but we remain unconvinced it has the capacity to respond to any sudden escalation in that risk. Furthermore we believe the risk is likely to worsen in the medium term as further maritime surveillance capabilities are withdrawn or not yet filled. The UK's maritime flank is likely to be increasingly exposed: this risk must be kept under close and continuous review, and we will continue to take a close interest in the MoD's work in this area.
118. The MoD has acknowledged that there is a strategic and national security requirement for maritime surveillance. We are concerned that the MoD is sending mixed messages in respect of the need for a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). On one hand it says that there is no requirement for such an aircraft and that it is not funded or in the programme but on the other hand it acknowledges that its absence is a risk and something may need to be done. The MoD must explain why it is satisfactory to wait until 2015 or beyond before deciding how to close the capability gap in maritime surveillance particularly as the MoD acknowledge that a MPA is the solution in the short to medium term. We commend the work that the MoD is undertaking to explore the wide range of possibilities such as unmanned aerial vehicles, lighter-than-air vehicles and space technology, for the future long-term provision of maritime surveillance capabilities. This work must not be allowed to lose momentum, particularly as no one individual is responsible for maritime surveillance in the MoD.
119. There is a wide demand across Government departments and agencies for maritime surveillance capabilities. The establishment of the Maritime Security Oversight Group and the National Maritime Information Centre are welcome first steps towards a more strategic and coordinated output and as a way of mitigating some of the capability gaps. The challenge is to develop these further and we are keen to see a more prominent ministerial role particularly given the number of cross-government interests involved and as a way of arbitrating disputes between departments and ensuring that the differing interests are focusing on the right areas at the appropriate time.
Good to see the ex-RN crowd expending so much effort to show why Maritime Patrol Aircraft are so ineffective and why they should not be procured. They seem to have provided years worth of ammunition to the Treasury as to why we should never-again invest in such a capability.
How they link the MPA discussion piece to F/A-18 buddy tanking capability is remarkable (although their analysis of the capability to extend the range of a strike or fighter package is fanciful) but threading in the cost of Typhoon is a masterstroke. Apparently the ex-RN admirals think it costs £34 billion to run for 15 years. They get even more creative with the 15 year cost of Sentinel and E3D!! Thankfully the carrier can do everything that land-based aircraft can do with a 15 year cost (all inclusive) of just £8 billion.
Why do the ex-admirals invest so much time trying to fight with the other services?
Last edited by Just This Once...; 19th Sep 2012 at 07:35.
Got to say I agree with Just this once. The retired Admirals bring nothing to the debate and turn over the old embers of Service in -fighting with claim and counter claim about costs. ASW and ASuW are activities that rely on layered defence/offence.
There is one paragraph that is very valid from the good Air Vice-Marshal
18. Because of the very highly classified nature of operations in support of the UK's strategic deterrent few, even within the Services, have been aware of the past contribution of MPA in this important field. Indeed, I have authoritative reason to believe that ministers were not fully briefed on this aspect of MPA activities before the SDSR 2010 decision was made.
The prioirities are:
(a) Protection of the UK's strategic deterrent.
(b) Protection of naval forces—in particular, the new aircraft carriers.
(c) Protection against threats to commercial and other shipping, including counter-piracy.
(d) Operations in such areas as the Caribbean in support of counter-drug operations.
(e) Protection of oil rigs and shore facilities against potential threats, including assistance in counter-terrorism operations.
(f) Protection of overseas territories, including the Falklands.
(g) The gathering of ELINT, acoustic and photographic intelligence.
(h) Search and rescue in aid of shipping and aircraft in distress.
Finally, in this public document it is spelt out what a Long Range MPA does in broad terms and bloody SAR is not at the top of the list as it was in many of the arguments put down on paper, often staffed by people with no knowledge of that field of warfare and unaided by the Dark Blue who had other priorities but, who were first to bleat when LRMPA was scrapped without replacement. In my humble, 25 years of ex- naval experience, they should have made more noise about that than they did with SHAR/GR9!
Just reading the report, some of the ignorance displayed is simply staggering. Just a couple of examples :
"and include, for example, the withdrawal of Sentinel and the loss of the four Broadsword-class Type 22 Frigates’ information and intelligence gathering capabilities and towed array sonar"
Last time I looked, the old passive 2031Z tail had been off the ships for the best part of ten years. Dr Lee Willetts appears to be from the Jane's Fighting Ships school of technical knowledge...
The other one is the absence of any consideration of the S3 Viking in the options for replacement capability. While the sonobuoy capability is unlikely to rival MRA4, it would have provided most of the capabilities that the DASH8 & Gulfstream were assessed as missing, at a reduced manpower cost and would also have allowed carrier ops (before the reversion) and potentially filled the "tanking" role, thereby reducing the "buddy-provision" costs that were wrapped up in the "conversion cost" for QEC.
Now the combined thoughts of the admirals in Just This Once's link appear to be trying to answer a question no-one asked - specifically "should we buy an MPA capability or more ships?" and supported by some "interesting" cost data. So of very limited relevance, right up there with Roger Irrelevant - with one exception - they do point out the limits in radius of action of "purely land-based" MPA without AAR and access to bases.
However, AVM Roberts in the next bit of written evidence is equally guilty of using selective stats in his evidence which assumes only land-based MPA and ignores the possibility of CV-based MPA. He also answers a question no one asked in comparing an MPA to a frigate.
It's all OBE now, given the reversion decision for QEC and the low probability of funding an MPA in the near-term. It does illustrate the p1ss-poor quality of thought that goes into these exercises, which is probably a clue as to why we're in the state we're in......
Not trying to be picky, but I am guessing that S3 wasn't considered because it went of service in 2009.
And of course this HCDC report isn't just about ASW, it's Maritime Surveillance. Carrier based MS assets might be OK close in to the carrier, but they aren't much good if you are trying to patrol the UK's waters or provide ASuW coverage off Somaila but with no carriers around/available.
VX-30, NAS Point Magu, California: First assigned in late-2009, their S-3s are used for their surveillance capabilities on the Sea Test Range. Because of their agility and speed, they are able to much more quickly identify and locate various vessels which may impact the operations being conducted. 3 aircraft.
Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Hawaii: They are used for the same mission as those with VX-30. 4 aircraft.