The head of U.K says he wants to "bust the myth" that the P-8 Poseidon is the only reasonable solution fo Britain's lack of a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).
is proposing a version of its MPA, and Airbus Military U.K CEO Richard Thompson says that it will “meet 90% of the requirement,” cost half as much to acquire and fly at 20-25% of the operating cost.
“All we’re asking is to have competition. We’re not scared of it," he says.
The C295 ASW version – including an acoustic system – is operational in Chile, and Airbus is in “final discussions with a NATO nation that I can’t name,” Thompson says. Several other nations fly the aircraft as a surface-surveillance MPA. “It’s a rugged military platform that doesn’t mind a salty maritime environment.”
The C295’s Elta EL/M-2022 radar is superior to the’s APY-10, Thompson asserts, and Ultra’s latest acoustic processing system, used on the upgraded Merlin HM2, supports multistatic active coherent (MAC) processing and “is ahead of the American solution.” Airbus has doubled sonobuoy capability compared with the Chilean aircraft, and has a wideband satcom product, which would be part of the UK offer; the P-8A has a simple Inmarsat fit and will not get wideband until Increment 3, late in the decade.
The bigger P-8A has a longer range, “but 90% of the U.K. mission is within 500 nm,” Thompson says, and the C295 would be fitted with a refueling probe for longer missions. It could therefore be refueled by the’s Voyager, unlike the P-8, which is equipped for boom refueling only.
This is part of Thompson’s pointed critique of a British choice of the P-8: “You’re not buying an aircraft with the P-8; you’re buying a system of systems and a whole doctrine and concept of operations.” As the U.S. Navy transitions to MAC with Increment 2 of the P-8A program, it is also moving to high-altitude ASW. That means a new generation of sonobuoys, with GPS guidance and steerable parachutes, and the wing-kit-equipped version of the Mk. 54 lightweight torpedo, because neither buoys nor fish can be paradropped accurately from high altitude without those features. The Airbus/Ultra concept is based on traditional low-and-medium-altitude ASW and can work with the U.K.’s inventory of buoys and Sting Ray torpedoes.
Airbus is offering the option of a mixed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance fleet to cover multiple missions. One approach would be to deliver basic aircraft capable of maritime patrol or overland reconnaissance, with interchangeable pallets for ASW, signals intelligence or other high-end missions. A further option would be a mixed fleet with some switch-role aircraft and a few dedicated ASW variants. The rear ramp would also permit launching rafts or personnel.