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Can someone explain why the MRA4 has been cancelled before we screw up big time.

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Can someone explain why the MRA4 has been cancelled before we screw up big time.

Old 31st Oct 2010, 01:24
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DFM
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Can someone explain why the MRA4 has been cancelled.........

This was previously posted in the "Nimrod MRA4" thread but got lost amongst the impassioned debate. All I ask for is reasoned discussion about a decision by the Govt that is fundamentally flawed, both in terms of the defence of the UK and the cost to the budget. Please do not get sidetracked by emotion or hyperbole, this is a decision that has to be challenged properly:

I would contend that agreeing to the removal of the Nimrod MRA4 is an act of stupidity and an abrogation of responsibily by the Govt, the MOD and the AFB. Irrespective of the impact this decision will have on the good people of RAF Kinloss and the local populace in Moray, the impact it will have with respect to the defence and safety of this country in the long term is clearly the more significant and one that cannot be ignored. As a maritime nation how is it possible to defend the fact that we will no longer have an airborne platform capable of essential support to the independent nuclear deterrent, maritime surveillance, long range SAR, maritime interdiction and strike, rapid and adaptable intelligence gathering, maritime force projection and long range focused intervention.

The threats posed towards the interests of the UK in 2010 and beyond are well known; there are others around the corner that we can only make reasoned assessments on. This defence review obviously had to have a focus on the immediate plans that we have in support of OP HERRICK. At the same time we were led to believe that it was also looking beyond Afghanistan; this decision clearly shows that either the Govt have their heads in the sand or there are ulterior political reasons behind it.

Having listened to the AFB message since the current CAS took charge it was clear that Combat ISTAR was central to the future of the RAF. And I do not hold with the parochial view that the FJ centric AFB would not give full support to the MRA4. There is no single platform in the RAF inventory, let alone one that is so ISTAR specific that fulfils more of the UK Military Tasks than the MR variant of the Nimrod, either MR2 past or MRA4 future; so how can the Govt and AFB concede we can do without it? Or, does the Govt not understand what this platform actually provides, what ability will be lost; or are they quite simply afraid of the bad publicity that the name “Nimrod” seems to generate with a section of the general public. I am just not convinced this is about pure cost saving, and I can only hope that many people in the know will now come forward with the real facts about the supposed savings to be had as a result of this decision. Already there is significant doubt as to whether or not we will actually get the £200m year on year saving over the next 10years. I for one will be surprised if it is proportionally any more cost efficient than the reasons given behind not cancelling an aircraft carrier; a carrier that will be without strike aircraft for the foreseeable future or any LRMPA surveillance and protection at all.

We have just reached a crossroads in defence. When CAS publicly commented at RAF Kinloss on how he had reiterated to the NSC and the PM why this capability should not be lost, everyone summoned to listen understood why, but it appears the Govt clearly does not understand the magnitude of the risk they have accepted. Therefore, I wonder if anyone within the AFB, MOD, or even the Govt front bench, namely the Secretary of State for Defence, will now have the integrity or the will power to look again at ways in which this ridiculous decision can be reversed. Or, if this is deemed impossible, that they indicate how strongly they believed in the advice and direction they brought to bear and simply do the honourable thing. Because if they do not, I believe all that they have said privately and in public on the run up to SDSR is hollow, meaningless and undermines their position. This is not just about being principled, this is about refusing to publicly support a policy that is downright reckless and dangerous in the extreme. I do not want to wait for a time in the future (and it will happen) when someone is wheeled out to explain how they opposed the decision but were powerless to act. A Govt understands all about presentation, and if significant sections of the great and good made their feelings more public we might even get the Govt and MOD to rethink.

Here are the Military Tasks from 2009 that I believe the Nimrod MR2 has contributed towards over the last 10 years and what the MRA4 is capable of contributing to in the future. Some would argue it does not tally, others may think it falls short:

MT 1.2—Nuclear deterrence
MT 2.1—Military aid to the civil authorities (MACA)
MT 2.2—Integrity of the UK
MT 3.1—Defence and security of the Overseas Territories
MT 3.3—Security co-operation: support to current and future contingent operations
MT 3.4—Security co-operation: strengthen international peace and stability and support wider British interests.
MT 4.1—Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief
MT 4.2—Evacuation of British citizens overseas
MT 4.6—Power projection
MT 4.7—Focused intervention


As a total aside, let's just wait and see what impact this decision has on the (behind closed doors) special relationship.


A sad day indeed…………DFM, over & out.

Last edited by DFM; 16th Feb 2011 at 23:42. Reason: History
DFM is offline  
Old 31st Oct 2010, 01:29
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The 'over & out' being ironic of course ?
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 01:31
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Originally Posted by DFM View Post

A sad day indeed…………DFM, over & out.
Like the TSR2 we cannot afford it, get over it and move on
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 01:55
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Because Gordon Brown ensured his own survival by creating a carrier contract that we can't afford to get out of.

Now get over it we'll never get the bloody things.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 02:31
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Can someone explain why the MRA4 has been cancelled before we screw up big time.
Because it is a bloody Comet, and shouldn't be here in this day and age?
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 09:28
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BTW, those military tasks dont exist anymore....

The list of 18 MT's has been reduced to around 7, which makes it easier to assign platforms to, and not miss the Nimrod element.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 09:44
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DFM

As others have already told you, your MTs are out of date. These are the ones we are working to these days (and were also the assumption for SDSR):

MT1 Defending the UK and its Overseas Territories
MT2 Providing strategic intelligence
MT3 Providing nuclear deterrence
MT4 Supporting civil emergency organisations in times of crisis
MT5 Defending our interests by projecting power strategically and through expeditionary interventions
MT6 Providing a defence contribution to UK influence
MT7 Providing security for stabilisation

I know that MRA4 could provide to all of those in the maritime role, but take a look at what is left in the RAF inventory post SDSR and you could fit all of those left in a similar way. Look at how the old priority of MT1.2 has been usurped by the new MT1 and MT2.

Why has MRA4 been canned, well IMHO these are the main reasons (and put together they make a convincing case):

1. Cost, the whole project was spiralling in cost and showed further potential to continue. Not only the aircraft themselves but also the support contract. The company would have dearly liked us to say "thank you" and just got on with flying it, but the Senior Officers were right to question and delay the RAF taking it on, because of...
2. Build quality. To quote an engineer working on the program "Every time we fix one issue, we find another two...". There were so many issues they had to reject all of the previous work on the Safety Case and start again with some re-work - that is why the main reason why the first aircraft was delivered in March and was still not flying on a UK RTS by October (last estimates were for a UK RTS in Feb 11 - 11 months late).
3. The MRA4 did not have all the extra UOR "bells and whistles" that MR2 had attracted. That was also going to add costs for modification. For example the Northrop Grumman Nighthunter EO/IR turret fitted to the MRA4 was worse than MX-15 and therefore was not suited to the overland role that MR2 had done well. So read extra cost and also it was a one-trick pony MPA at delivery.

Now for the political bits (RAF vs Navy vs Army)
4. Seeing as there was so much "back biting" going on between the 3 services, why would we, the RAF, want to protect something that effectively supports the Royal Navy? Conjecture, but a possibility? The support that the RAF provide the Army in AFG is essential and seen as "main effort" within the SDSR; maritime patrol, I suspect is not.
5. Swing towards unmanned ISTAR. There is a long term aspiration to use RPAS/UAS for all ISTAR. The main driver is cost, platform endurance and manpower savings. Again, conjecture, but why introduce a manned system with 30-40years life when it doesn't fit with the strategic vision?

Were they right to canx MRA4 - in a perfect world, No. However, as we're totally skint at present, I believe it was a tough decision but probably right in the medium term if we replace the capability with something different (ie. within 5 years).

LJ
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 09:46
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I am not well informed on this topic but do I recall there were major software development problems with this project which ran on for years.
Were they ever resolved?
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 10:58
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Why was MRA4 cancelled..? Simples .... to save money. It was too expensive and in these times of economic restraint we need to save money. Same as the Harrier / Tornado debate. One had to go because we couldn't afford both of them....The Tornado has RAPTOR and the Harrier does not...therefore the Tornado stays.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 11:47
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Because it is a bloody Comet, and shouldn't be here in this day and age?
Does it have Comet Wings?
Does it have Comet Engines?
Does it have Comet Systems?
The only commonality is the pressure shell.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 14:05
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DFM
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LJ,

Many thanks for your points as well as the update on the latest iteration of MTs. I had previously been made aware of the list used for SDSR, hence my 09 timeline, but agree with you that the MRA4 could indeed fill all of the new ones in the maritime role. It is also interesting about the reprioritisation of tasks but I have to disagree that all the aircraft left in our depleted inventory are similarly capable of providing towards MT 2,3 and 4. And with the greying of definitions, if everything in the UK Armed forces cannot contribute to MT1,5,6 and 7 then clearly they shouldn’t be a part of it.

In response to the points you make: Your reasoning behind its cancellation due to cost is undoubtedly the most obvious, but after spending close on £4Bn already I am still not convinced the cancellation option is a more cost effective answer. And that is even before we start to unravel the true extent of the cancellation costs. The RTS issue is also quite emotive and all those close to the project know that this has undoubtedly been unduly influenced by the fall-out from the “Nimrod” handle as well as being the first in-production aircraft post the advent of MAA and so close to RTS. I could also find engineers who will give you a different take on the one forward and two back analogy. When goalposts are moved in mid-task then a reworking of estimates is the invariable result.

Your point about the camera not being as good as the MX-15 is correct; however, this platform was built for specific roles and overland was not one of them. Whilst the MR2 did a superb job in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was never the most cost effective or long term operationally sensible; hence it was only seen as an essential stop-gap until we could get something like Shadow to carry it forward. So to plan to place an MRA4 into this kind of overland operational environment from the outset would make no sense whatsoever. And I just don’t understand the one-trick pony MPA comment, especially when we have agreed it will fulfil all of the MTs in a maritime role.

I totally agree with your comment about HERRICK focus maybe impacting on the decision making process. However, I thought it was well understood that the MRA4 was never intended to participate in an overland OP that will end during this Govt’s term in office. SDSR was also supposed to look to the future protection of our Island Nation, so how does this decision stand up to inspection for the MTs 1 thru 7 in a maritime context? I have to admit that your last point is one I had not considered and is something that would have to be thrown into the strategic planning melting pot, but I would be amazed if the PM used this as the lever to cancel MRA4.

Yes we are skint but I am convinced that when CAS presented his options and analysis of risk to the MOD and Cabinet that the AFB cost-saving estimates must have added up. Furthermore, as CAS repeatedly tried to convince the PM that cancelling the MRA4 would be wrong then he must have had another preferred option on the table, what was it? Indeed this does appear to have been a very tough decision but I still maintain an incorrect and dangerous one that will be challenged in the future when this capability gap comes home to bite us.

Finally, thank you for your constructive criticism to my question and the interesting points you have raised.

Regards, DFM.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 16:25
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(If you read this post please note I have got ASW and ASuW the wrong way around, but I can't change it because my iPhone can't scroll down in edit mode!)

DFM

I suspect that not one thing cancelled the project - it was everything added up as whole that did it. I hear (rumour) that on top of £3.5Bn we were looking at a whopping £200M per year in support costs for just 9 aircraft - I think that the Camel's back finally gave way! That's £390M each plus £22M per year to support each aircraft.

Out of interest the Boeing P-8 MMA is approx $20Bn for 122 aircraft, that's $160M each or £100M in UK money.

Now to get really simple (I'm good at that) take a 4 year capability gap and in support costs alone you are now in the market for 8x P-8s and I bet their support is cheaper, with less risk of further increases and doesn't have the "Nimrod stink" about it (I use that term light heartedly).

Now if we look at something like Predator B "GUARDIAN", then you could buy half a dozen aircraft and all the supporting paraphernalia for 1 year's worth of MRA4 support. The aircraft can fly for 20hrs at a time or more, has a cracking EO/IR turret and a great surface search radar. You could adapt an ASRA payload for it as well. No good for ASuW though, so we would have to rely on RN T22/23, Merlin/SK ASW and SSNs. But you could run 3x 20hr ASW/LRSAR sorties a day with about 15% of the manpower currently at KIS.

Here's some info on it: http://www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/...ardian_uas.pdf

So, my friend, I suspect the difficult decision was thought through with all the options laid out by Joint Capability and DUW/CapISTAR.

LJ

Last edited by Lima Juliet; 1st Nov 2010 at 00:58.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 17:38
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I completely agree. If there is one thing we should learn from the debacle of procurement in the last 20 years it is that in future the UK should buy off the shelf every time. Whilst we might not get cutting edge equipment we will get what we need to do the job faster and cheaper than hitherto. In any case if the assumption that there will not be a territorial threat against the UK for at least 30 years is correct why do we need to protect our Defence Industry. Furthermore it is not even as if companies like BAe are even British any more - they are international companies whose main business lies in the US, a Country which spends more than the next 20 big military spenders combined.

Let's stop pretending that we can build our own stuff any more and we will be much better off.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 18:00
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I completely agree. If there is one thing we should learn from the debacle of procurement in the last 20 years it is that in future the UK should buy off the shelf every time. Whilst we might not get cutting edge equipment we will get what we need to do the job faster and cheaper than hitherto. In any case if the assumption that there will not be a territorial threat against the UK for at least 30 years is correct why do we need to protect our Defence Industry. Furthermore it is not even as if companies like BAe are even British any more - they are international companies whose main business lies in the US, a Country which spends more than the next 20 big military spenders combined.

Let's stop pretending that we can build our own stuff any more and we will be much better off.
You are making the fatal error in believing that defence procurement is for buying kit and equipment for our Armed Forces.

Sadly, that is not the case.

Defence procurement is all about votes and jobs and in many respects that is how it should be.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 18:27
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Incidentally, there is nothing 'off the shelf' about the P8; they just have a better PR department.

The only 'off the shelf' MPA that I can think of (I am sure that I will be advised accordingly) are the Atlantique and the Japanese P1.

Duncs
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 21:03
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The main reason for the cancellation of the MRA4 is money. Despite all the money and effort expended on this late and costly project, BWoS would not provide a support contract that MOD could afford. These discussions have been going on for years and BWoS still wanted blood and more profit. They thought the project was too big for the Government to pull the plug on. Wrong! It is the future costs that broke the bank.

PS. There were no issues or delays with the mission system software. This was delivered some years ago to specification by Boeing. It just didn't have a working airframe to fly in.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 22:10
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LJ

A well argued piece as with most of your posts.

One topic that seriously affected the date of the military release to service was the new MAA not being really clear on their remit - and for a number of months, neither the MAA (which turns out in practice to be advisory not an 'Authority'), nor the 'Duty Holder' in 2Group - who was given some authority but was not informed of how he was to assure himself, nor the IPT (bar one or two class acts who worked round the clock to find a way of saying 'yes' when there was a whole range of 'my processes are not quite mature enough' stakeholders too worried about something this serious called a 'Nimrod' in the post HC world to say anything other then 'not yet') had much of an idea how to complete a release to servie.

Incidentally, I look forward to the first time the MAA ask a US supplier if they wouldn't mind reworking their design evidence, for free, in line with a newly introduced set of UK Def Standards, a decade into a programme.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 22:12
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nimrod

i agree.
we wouldnt have been able to track boats carrying arms to ireland without it.and boats carrying drugs.i remember a nimrod being used on surveillanve of a boat carrying drugs to north wales,without the minrod we would most likely have lost the boat.and top cover for long distance sar comms.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 22:17
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still wanted blood and more profit
Ah that old chestnut again.... Argh
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 22:24
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Originally Posted by Duncan D'Sorderlee View Post
The only 'off the shelf' MPA that I can think of (I am sure that I will be advised accordingly) are the Atlantique and the Japanese P1.

Duncs
Surely the Atlantic, and then Atlantique, were bespoke MPA and not off the shelf.

The Nepture was also a bespoke design.

The Shackleton was also bespoke although based on the Lancaster.

The P3 and Nimrod OTOH were both extensively modified from commercial aircraft and therefore nearer off the shelf (some shelf).
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