A few interesting snippets have emerged about the UK’s work to retain core skills in the operation of maritime patrol aircraft, while it doesn’t actually have any of its own.
I’ve been writing about Project “Seedcorn” – which has placed a little over 30 personnel with allied air forces operating types like the P-3 Orion – as and when details have emerged over the last couple of years. But the best breakdown of the initiative has just been given, showing that 20 of the 32 people currently involved are working with the US Navy’s P-8 Poseidon (service-provided image below). The rest are in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The gap in the UK’s wider military capability caused by the retirement of the Nimrod MR2 four years ago and subsequent cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 is going to be one of the hottest topics in the next Strategic Defence and Security Review, which is due to happen next year. The loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 must have underlined to some in Whitehall that an MPA really isn’t a luxury item for a maritime nation.
The availability of some kind of budget will be essential, but the Ministry of Defence and Royal Air Force are clearly leaning towards something perhaps 737-based. It’s interesting to note, for example, that there’s nobody seconded to the Irish Air Corps or Portuguese air force to check out the CN235/C295 as a potentially more affordable solution.
But of course, there’s always the prospect of just jumping straight to something without a crew onboard, or of using a mix of manned and unmanned assets. With that in mind, four of the UK’s Seedcorn personnel will from June be getting involved with the US Navy’s test activity with the MQ-4C Triton. Interesting indeed.