Military AviationA forum for the professionals who fly military hardware. Also for the backroom boys and girls who support the flying and maintain the equipment, and without whom nothing would ever leave the ground. All armies, navies and air forces of the world equally welcome here.
So looking at the questions; if we're talking 5kgs per sonobuoy then that's 270 by weight, if we're talking the bigger ones then about 90 by weight. Endurance is no problem at 6 hours (they would have 8-12 hours spare!). So for 200 buoys in 6 hours let's say we need 2x Pred Bs and then one on station with 4x airdropped torpedos like Stingray that are about the same size and weight as JDAM (and an MQ-9 successfully carried 4 of those and dropped them against 4 seperate targets at the same time). Now that makes 3 aircraft to accomplish the sonobuoy and torpedo task. As for MAD - I don't see it on the P8 - I wonder why?
I'm not saying that Pred B is the answer to our requirement, but it might be an answer. As everything it comes down to money, being able to multi-role and be able to be in a military that often says that an "80% fit" will do.
There are other options on the table and I'm sure (I hope) that far better analysis than my "fag packet" sums are being done. I do however believe that at first look, the SofS' and CAS' suggestion might be plausible with an unmanned system of some sort (Pred B sized as a minimum). It doesn't seem too much of a crackpot plan to me as it does to some...
PS. Standard Pred B can carry 1710kgs under the wings and there's a new model that has just come out that can carry more (Block 1 plus). So you could have more sonobuoys on that aircraft to the one carrying the RADAR.
Last edited by Leon Jabachjabicz; 10th Dec 2012 at 23:52.
Tac Nav, Co have you considered Barra? All very interesting POV. Perhaps one of the greatest faults of the Maritime community was its unwillingness to consider other options and dismissing suggestions out of hand. Personally I believe this lost the MPA a lot of support from the rest of the RAF community which is why, in part, MPA is no more. How about a dipping UAV working with others to form a barrier/tracking capability.
Can't see why the UK would spend so much money on the Seedcorn initiative just to throw them away and buy a UAV at SDSR 2015. BAMS or a Predator/Reaper based solution can cover the Maritime Surveillance aspects of the MPA mission but would a submarinr hunter-killer swarm of UAVs be any more cost effective or mission effective than a P-8?
PS I'm not an expert in MPA but the S of S also seemed to confuse the Sea King 7 mission with that of the ASW Merlin. Not convinced he understands much of what he is told but tries to repeat it back when questioned.
Last edited by WhiteOvies; 11th Dec 2012 at 01:29.
The Indians are getting MAD on their P8s, the Americans ummed and aahed for ages before the decision not to have MAD fitted. This was due to the fact that the Americans envisage doing higher level ASW which precludes the use of MAD. High level ASW will create more problems than it solves, the main problem it solves for the Americans is, the P8 don't like it down low.
So for 6 hours
2 x Predator B's for sonobuoy drops, 1 x Predator for weapons carriage and 1 x Predator for MAD ( just to keep the Indians happy), RADAR and EO.
Only the sonobuoy carrying predators would need to be relieved for replenishment.
So for 24 hour coverage, I make that 10 predator sorties to track one submarine. (Assuming the RADAR and Weapon carriers have 24 hours endurance.
Dipping UAVs would mean a rotary type UAV, which is being investigated for use in the P8, and would need to be dropped from a fixed wing platform due to range and speed etc.
10 Predators would be cheaper than 3 MPA, the problem would be the bandwidth needed to operate the UAV swarm and transmit all the data back to be analysed.
This number of UAVs could be reduced with bigger payload carrying variants as LJ suggests.
The MAD capability could be provided by one of the towed types that are fitted to helicopters (they've even fitted one to the Firescout unmanned helicopter which is tiny). Therefore, if using Predator B the number in surplus' example could be reduced.
The B Word
Last edited by The B Word; 11th Dec 2012 at 06:18.
The current S of S is a career politician and as such knows very little about defence and must rely on being briefed by those who should know more but often don’t. He will be doing a different job in a few years (or months) anyway so let’s just forgive him his rather limited knowledge.
The current CAS is a former Tactical Reconnaissance pilot and as such ought to have an understanding of surveillance (albeit dated) and not related to the Maritime role. Given this it is easy to see why he is such a fan of ‘Scrimager’ as he calls it and UAV’s (sorry Steve RPAS) in general.
If the MPA job was simply surveillance then it is just possible that in some circumstances an RPV could do the job. But an MPA is much more than that, take a look at all the other countries that operate them and see what they do.
RPV based surveillance could well complement the space based Ship Plot style systems to detect and perhaps identify surface targets – then what?
It's not that it couldn't be done. It just couldn't be done in a realistic timescale at a realistic cost.
Ignoring the Arthur C Clarke view of the future, the reality is that in the early 80's UK plc tried to design and build it's own AEW ac. It happened to be called Nimrod AEW and although the airframe worked (ugly as it was), we the UK failed completely to achieve the mission and the ac was scrapped. Into the 90's, our biggest defence contractor was tasked with giving the MR2 a lick of paint, new wings and engines and a bit of an upgrade. 15 years later, they/we/UK plc had failed again. Do you really think we could do what your asking on our own. If not, and we tried some European consortium approach, then how long to IOC? RP suggested 20 years. I think nearer to 35!
So developing an entire new system that can operate at 1,000nm with 6hrs on task and the ability to carry 200 sonobuoys and 9 torpedoes that is fully networked linked would be challenging to say the least. Granted, there would be potential to make the add ons a bit smaller but how much smaller is a 500lb bomb nowadays compared to 1940?
We don't just need a real airborne ASW capability now (and ASuW / LR SAR), we have needed one continously since aircraft were invented. That leaves the option of P8 (off the shelf). CN295 (80% performance/30% cost and off the shelf) or leasing/buying old P3's. Then maybe we could start talks with the French in 2020 to look at some form of UAV in about 2050!
...So developing an entire new system that can operate at 1,000nm with 6hrs on task and the ability to carry 200 sonobuoys and 9 torpedoes that is fully networked linked would be challenging to say the least.
Genuine question - why does it have to do both ? One platform for search and use something existing for weaponry ? Maybe not as elegant but having something 'cheap' out hunting and only bringing in the weapons at a later stage isn't that bad is it ?
Genuine question. What "existing" something did you have in mind for weaponry?
Especially given that your MPA/UAV package might be conducting autonomous operations (a choke point perhaps) some distance from land or other UK/NATO maritime assets.
ASW weapons don't have a particularly large area of effect. As with many/most weapon systems, maintaining tracking of a submarine and obtaining a sufficiently accurate attack solution are not necessarily the same thing. The ability to "find, fix and strike" in one platform (UAV package?) is better than trying to maintain tracking while you bring out an attack asset, from what is potentially a long way away, and risk losing the target while you wait for the weapons to arrive. Also, if your MPA/UAV package conducts it's own attack as soon as possible, it is immediately available to re-commence searching for new targets.
Flexibility and speed of response are the main reasons. Ideally, an MPA should have a full 'sensor to shooter' capability for that instant reaction to a threatening fast and fleeting contact that needs to be attacked immediately. Turning and burning at low level ready to drop a weapon on a 'MAD' mark made this achievable as opposed to calling in the cavalry that may be orbiting above and could take a few minutes to line up on an attack run against a target that can't be seen.
Having said that, ASW helos and MPA regularly practiced working together with the helo directing the MPA as a weapons carrier. A helo in the dip was effectively a large active sonobuoy and the MPA could readily be restocked with torpedoes on return to base unlike the ship that may be at sea without a restock for some considerable time.
The idea of using a UAV as a weapons carrier certainly has merit ('Pony' lynx/wasp/seaking?) and is not a new concept. Perhaps an issue not considered so far is maneuverability at low level. With acoustic ranges being what they are on modern subs, laying tracking patterns is quite a split arse type of flying and I'm not sure a vehicle designed for endurance at high level would be capable of that? Dropping weapons would be possible but tracking and aquiring an attack solution would be a challenge!!
At least it would stop everyone blaming the f*****g pilots for making them sick again...
So in summary we have now moved from finding some utility for our UOR Reapers post Afghanistan LJ 102147DEC12 (assuming they are brought into core - I wonder what other capability/how many jobs will be lost to pay for that?) to we need a different UAV, possibly bigger than the current Reapers, certainly a new version with some ice protection systems LJ 110004DEC12 and 110049DEC12 that might (or might not) be able to do the task of a manned MMA/MPA. Of course there will be no delay in designing, testing and operationalising this new UAV.
We may (or may not) need MAD which might be provided by another UAV, possibly rotary wing (always assuming that we have any assets capable of operating this UAV in the right air/sea space at the right time).
We need to redesign all of the sonobuoys to make them smaller (of course ignoring the fact that batteries, cables, hydrophones, floatation devices and transmitter/receivers will take up a finite space) and lighter.
We need to design a UAV portable sonobuoy carriage system, which can carry in the order of 100 sonobuoys varying in weight between 10 lbs and 60 lbs under each wing. Of course we may need to redesign the buoys so that they can be programmed remotely or the pod needs to be able to programme the buoy before release (see above).
We need systems installed in the UAV that can receive data from, lets say, 32 buoys simultaneously and retransmit that via satellite to a suitable ship or ground station. A decent radar, maybe some ESM systems, some TCAS and perhaps some autocat, plus other odds and sods.
We want a weapons carrying UAV that can bring the weapons to the party whilst other UAVs do the tracking of the submarine.
We might want to bring in some dipping UAVs which suggests some sort of hover capability, which suggests rotary wing, which suggests a lot of noise going into the water for the submarine to counterdetect and avoid
With all these UAVs out there its going to be mighty busy.
Now with all these UAVs pottering around we are going to need some form of C2 platform, perhaps with a few people onboard to make sense of the mess. I give you:
I don't own this space under my name. I should have leased it while I still could
Join Date: Dec 2002
Graham, detect to kill solution might be measured in hours as the datum is refined and the kill system is accurately positioned. OTOH you might have only minutes between detect and a kill shot - 6 minutes say. That would require a Nimrod to be within 15 miles or so of the target.
Using two platforms would virtually require two UAVs in near proximity. The failure of one would mean a mission failure. Oddly a larger MPA can operate successful with a high degree of redundancy.
On sonobouys, and to think we used to carry 63 or occasionally 94 (luxury) but that often meant we were channel limited and had to compromise coverage using X or X+1 is we used a Hellier Box rather than a chevron or X+2 or +4. Anything over X meant we ran the risk of running out of sonobuoys or channels. Some buoys designed to die after an hour or so might stay up for 2 hours and an 8 hour field might still be radiating for over 10 hours. The only way to 'free' up channels was to descend below the radio horizon. That rather scuppers the idea of high level loitering. At least with many more channels now that problem is much reduced.
Of course, you could always take one of those Reaper thingies, rip the wings off and put new ones on, re-engine it and pay BAe a s**t load of money to fix it while changing the spec every 5 minutes......
As a professional ASW Officer I'll take Reaper which can drop sonobouys and send the data back and then have someone talk to me at sea about what's going on. Not too fussed about weapon carriage or MAD frankly.