Defence Committee - Future Maritime SurveillanceWritten evidence from Dr Sue Robertson

1. Introduction

1.1 I am an independent consultant working in the field of Electronic Warfare and ISTAR. I was until October 2010 the Subject Matter Expert on the Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system for the Nimrod MRA4. I worked, on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, on the evaluation of the equipment and advised on changes to the system. My previous role had been to carry out the same function on the Merlin Mk1 helicopter programme.

1.2 I have previously provided evidence to the Defence Select Committee Inquiry into the SDSR(March 2011) concerning the cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 and also to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy (September 2011) describing the impact of the lack of maritime surveillance on the security of the UK.

1.3 With the 13th longest coastline of any country in the world, the lack of a maritime reconnaissance capability is a serious short-coming in the protection of our nation. The need for a maritime patrol capability is recognised worldwide with many countries buying maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) or upgrading existing fleets. Annex A to this document lists the countries with the 30 longest coastlines, together with the maritime patrol aircraft operated by each country. The UK is the only country in the top 20 that does not protect its borders in this way.

1.4 There are several levels of maritime reconnaissance from wide area surveillance to close-in fleet protection. In this document consideration is given to the roles that would have been carried out by a platform such as Nimrod MRA4.

1.5 The traditional roles of a maritime patrol aircraft include submarine and surface surveillance. Over 40 countries operate submarines and many, such as China, North Korea and Iran are still building them. The possibility that submarines may also be used for criminal activity should not be discounted.

1.6 The requirement for surface search is not limited to the waters surrounding the UK. Counter-piracy has been dominant in the maritime surveillance activities of many nations in recent years. The actions of pirates in the Gulf of Aden pose an increasing threat to world trade and could potentially have a great impact on the UK in terms of denying passage of essential resources.

1.7 During 2010 there were 104 pirate attacks resulting in the capture of 51 vessels, 39 of them were still being held on 1 January 2011, including 15 cargo vessels and six oil tankers.

1.8 In addition to the maritime surveillance roles, the UK has a requirement for an ISTAR/ELINT platform. The Nimrod MRA4 would have been excellent for this purpose, in addition to its maritime reconnaissance role. The UK is now to rely on Rivet Joint for its ISTAR/ELINT data gathering, but it is unlikely that this will provide sufficient capability in this area. In devising a maritime reconnaissance strategy consideration should be given to using platforms that can also carry out ISTAR tasks.

1.9 Section 2 of this document lists some options for providing a maritime reconnaissance capability. It is hoped that the Ministry of Defence will have considered the availability, technical specification and cost aspects of these options in detail, but a few thoughts on each of them are provided in Annex B.

1.10 The countries that are currently investing most heavily in maritime reconnaissance are the US, India and Australia. Both the US and India are planning to use dedicated manned MPA in the form of the new P-8 aircraft in conjunction with Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs). Australia is considering the same strategy, though a $1 billion Orion P-3 upgrade project is also underway there.

1.11 It seems reasonable that the UK should also consider using a mixture of different platforms for maritime surveillance. However, there are two major issues that need to be taken into account when devising a strategy for maritime reconnaissance and especially when considering the use of UAVs for this purpose.

1.12 The first is the way in which maritime patrol tasks are carried out and the second is the way in which the sensors are operated.

1.13 Section 3 of this document describes the roles of the MPA and discusses whether UAVs are suitable for each of them. The reason for exploring the use of UAVs in this document is that it is my view that the Government may decide that it is going to use UAVs for maritime reconnaissance without properly considering the issues.

2. Possibilities for Maritime Patrol

2.1 Following the untimely destruction of the Nimrod MRA4 aircraft, the possibilities for the provision of a UK maritime patrol capability include:

Continued use of Merlin Helicopters and Type 23 Frigates.

Procurement of a new fleet of large manned aircraft, such as P-8 or CN-235.

Purchase of second-hand P-3s and upgrading them to an acceptable standard.

Procurement of smaller dedicated MPA aircraft that have been derived from commercial airframes such as DASH-8 or Gulfstream.

Use of UAVs, such as Heron or Global Hawk.

The installation of sensors on other aircraft such as A400 and A330 so that maritime reconnaissance can be carried out as a secondary role.

Use of Lighter than air (LTA) vehicles.

Satellite Surveillance.

Use of alternative sources of information such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) data received from ships coupled with data from land-based electronic surveillance systems.

Collaborative programmes with allies to make use of their platforms in our territorial waters.

2.2 Table 1 shows the various tasks that are carried out by a MPA capable of wide-area surveillance and the ability of each of the above options to perform the MPA roles.

Table 1

MPA ROLES AND POSSIBLE PLATFORM OPTIONS FOR THEIR FULFILMENT

Asset
Task

Merlin

New Long-

range MPA

Upgraded P-3

New Short-range MPA

UAV

A400

/A330

LTA

Satellite

Submarine Detection

Yes

Yes

Yes

possibly

No

No

No

No

Shipping Surveillance

Limited Sensors

Yes

Yes

Limited Range

Limited Sensors

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fleet Protection

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

ISTAR

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

ELINT data gathering

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Counter-terrorism/Border Protection

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes?

No

No

Weapons deployment

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes?

No

No

Search & Rescue

Limited Range

Yes

Yes

Limited Range

No

Search only

No

No

Emergency Comms

No

Yes

Yes

No

Possible

Yes

No

No

Overseas Maritime Patrol

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

Counter-pirate operations

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

Protection of Trident Submarines

Limited Range

Yes

Yes

Limited Range

Yes

No

No

No

2.3 As can be seen from Table 1, there are two options that will provide a “drop-in” replacement for the MRA4—the procurement of a fleet of new aircraft or the refurbishment of a fleet of second-hand P-3s. The other options can only provide limited maritime patrol cover.

2.4 Annex B provides some notes on each of the options and Table 2 gives examples of the time-scales and costs of some typical maritime reconnaissance procurements and the Watchkeeper UAV programme.

Table 2

TIME-SCALES OF PLATFORM INTRODUCTION AND COST PER PLATFORM

Platform

Contract

Award Date

First Flight

In-service

Programme Cost

Cost/Platform

P-8 (US)

2004

2009

2013?

$30 b

£200 m

P-8 (India)

2009

2013?

??

$2.1 b

£167 m

CN-235 (HC-144A)(US)

2010

2011

2012?

$117 m

£25 m

CN-235 (South Korea)

2008

2012

$96 m

£15 m

P-3 (Australia)

2005

2012?

A$1 b

£37 m

P-3 (New Zealand)

2004

2011

2012?

NZ$360 m

£31 m

P-3 (Brazil)

2005

2011

2012?

€320 m

£30 m

P-3 (Germany)

2003

2006

2006

€295 m

£31 m

P-3 (Taiwan)

2007

2012?

2012?

$666

£35 m

RQ4 Global Hawk (US)

2009

2014?

£35 m

Mahatz I (Israel)

2007

£3 m

Watchkeeper (UK)

2005

2010

2012?

£800 m

£15 m

2.5 The first thing to note from Table 2 is that the time-scales for buying a well-established aircraft type such as CN-235 are at least four years and the development of the expensive P-8 is taking considerably longer.

2.6 P-3 upgrade programmes are typically taking more than five years and most of them will not be completed by the desired in-service date. The cost per platform for P-3 upgrade is consistently between £30 million and £37 million.

3. The use of UAVs for Maritime Patrol

3.1 There are a few UAV programmes for maritime reconnaissance in development, but all countries that are considering the use of such platforms also have continuing plans to use manned aircraft, due the unsuitability of unmanned aircraft for some of the key MPA roles.

3.2 UAVs have now been extensively and successfully used for IMINT (imagery intelligence) and for short range SIGINT (signals intelligence) overland in Afghanistan. However, many of the important maritime surveillance tasks cannot be carried out by UAVs.

3.3 The traditional role of the MPA is in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) using both “wet” (acoustic) sensors and “dry” (radar, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and Electro-Optic (EO)) sensors. UAVs cannot use wet sensors and although they can gather ESM and radar data, the need for specialist operation of these sensors leads to onerous requirements for data transfer so that the information can be interpreted by expert operators located on the ground.

3.4 The interpretation of sensor data is complex and it takes years of practice to be able to extract the important features from complicated pictures—the possibility that UAVs would be able to operate autonomously in these areas is many years in the future.

3.5 As can be seen from Table 1 there are some maritime patrol roles of the MPA that can be undertaken by UAVs but there are also tasks that definitely require Operator intervention including “wet” sensor and ESM Operation.

3.6 Two of the major issues with using UAVs are the way in which maritime patrol sorties are carried out and the remote operation of the sensors. When deciding whether a UAV is a good option for maritime patrol, the mission profiles must be taken into account. Although a typical mission may encompass more than one of the roles, each of the significant roles is considered here in isolation in order to decide if a UAV would be suitable.

3.7 Submarine Detection (ASW)

3.7.1 A typical maritime patrol mission to monitor submarine activity will start with the aircraft following a pre-determined flight plan and the aircrew monitoring the dry sensor displays. The objective of the mission may be to locate a submarine that is known to be somewhere in vicinity of the aircraft flight-path. When the target is located the aircraft will alter its course and altitude to refine its location estimate and to find out more information, possibly circling the target at low level and using the Wet sensors.

3.7.2 This mission cannot be accomplished by a UAV because although it is being remotely piloted, the data transmission necessary to monitor the dry sensor output cannot be carried out using line-of-sight when the UAV is at low level. In any case, wet sensors are not available on a UAV, severely limiting the capability for submarine detection.

3.8 Shipping Surveillance (ASuW)

3.8.1 In this role wide-area surveillance is carried out to build up a picture of surface vessels. The main sensors used are the radar and ESM. A UAV can fly a pre-determined route to gather data to build up a surface picture, but the data-gathering is only the first part of the process.

3.8.2 To make use of ESM data in real time requires constant manipulation of tracks (see figure 1) by the Operator in order to filter out the many spurious tracks that are produced and to direct the ESM search strategy. This is the case for all ESM systems in use world-wide. A massive amount of data would need to be transferred from the UAV for use by the remote Operator. Commands for the change in mode of the ESM would need to be sent back to the UAV in a timely manner.

3.8.3 An example of the picture that is typically seen by the ESM operator is shown in figure 1. There are just 3 radar targets, but there are many tracks and location fixes seen on the Operators screen. The experienced Operator can look at the parameters associated with each track to make sense of the situation.

Figure 1

TYPICAL PICTURE SEEN BY ESM OPERATOR

(DOA = Direction of Arrival)

3.9 Search & Rescue

3.9.1 This significant role involves the intensive use of sensors, including the eyes of the aircrew and decisions have to be taken about changes to the aircraft flight path in an extremely timely manner. UAVs are not suitable for this role. In any case, they cannot deploy dinghies for rescue purposes.

3.11 Counter-piracy

3.11.1 The use of manned maritime patrol aircraft provided by the international community has had a positive impact on the outcome of Somali pirate attacks.

3.11.2 Recently there have MPAs from many countries including Australia, France, Germany, Norway and Spain patrolling the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa. The sight of a large war-plane circling above a merchant ship has had the desired deterrent effect. The surface search task that must be carried out to find vulnerable merchant ships and the pirate vessels that are targeting them requires expert sensor operation and is not suitable for UAVs.

3.12 Weapon Deployment

3.12.1 There are no UAVs for maritime patrol that are armed. Reasons for this include the restrictions of operating UAVs in civilian airspace and payload weight limitations.

3.13 ELINT Data Gathering

3.13.1 Although not a primary requirement for maritime reconnaissance, this role is one for which UAVs are suitable. Data can be stored in the UAV for download at the end of a mission for off-line analysis.

4. Conclusions

4.1 The current UK provisions for maritime patrol are inadequate; the borders of the UK are unmonitored and undefended; the rest of the world know this.

4.2 When considering providing a maritime patrol capability it is possible that the Government will choose the fashionable option for this purpose, namely the use of UAVs. Whilst there are some good reasons for using UAVs for some maritime patrol tasks, there are significant short-comings that mean that at best UAVs should only be part of the strategy for maritime patrol. Manned aircraft continue to be the only effective platforms to carry out all the roles of maritime surveillance.

4.3 With regard to acquiring a new fleet of MPAs, the P-8 is an expensive option, there are known short-comings with the mission system and the development of this aircraft type has already been subject to delays. The CN-235 is a cheaper option, but information about the performance of the mission system should be sought before a decision about the purchase of this aircraft type for maritime patrol were to be made.

4.4 The popular choice world-wide for maritime surveillance is still the Orion P-3, with several countries in the process of acquiring second-hand airframes and upgrade programmes in progress elsewhere. The use of a fleet of upgraded P-3 would probably not be the choice of the Government especially as they have wasted £3.6 billion by destroying aircraft of superior capability.

4.5 However, some of our closest allies are currently embarking on P-3 upgrade programmes, so it may be a good option to seek to make use of facilities that have been developed by them. For example, the Safe Air Ltd. facility at Blenheim in New Zealand is upgrading P-3s that will provide them with maritime reconnaissance for the next 15 years. A fleet of 10 aircraft with adequate maritime patrol capability could probably be acquired for £350 million, based on what other countries are paying for similar capability.

4.6 In addition to the use of MPAs, the development of land-based sensors using ESM and AIS data would be a cost-effective way of providing short-range maritime surveillance.

March 2012

Annex A

MPA PROGRAMMES WORLD-WIDE

A.1 Table A ranks countries of the world by coastline length. The numbers and types of Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) operated by each country are also shown.

Table A

LIST OF COUNTRIES RANKED BY COASTLINE LENGTH (SOURCE DATA = CIA WORLD FACTBOOK) AND MARITIME PATROL AIRCRAFT IN OPERATION AND ON ORDER.

Rank

Country

Coastline
(km)

No. of MPA in service

No. of MPA on order

1

Canada

202,080

4 CP-140

2

Indonesia

54,716

12 NC-212

6 CN-235

3

Denmark inc. Greenland

52,387

3 Challenger 604

4

Russia

37,653

>100 Su24MR

>100 IL38
+ many others

Not Known

5

Philippines

36,289

2 F-27

? CN-235

6

Japan

29,751

110 P-3

80 Kawasaki P-1

7

Australia

25,760

18 P-3

Considering P-8 + UAV

8

Norway

25,148

6 P-3

9

United States

19,924

154 P-3

108 P-8 + UAVs

10

New Zealand

15,134

6 P-3

11

China

14,500

4 Y-8 MPA, 2 Y-8J, 4 SH-5

Not Known

12

Greece

13,676

6 P-3

13

United Kingdom

12,429

0

0

14

Mexico

9,330

7 C212

10 N235

15

Italy

7,600

7 Atlantique

4 ATR 72

16

Brazil

7,491

16 EMB 110

9 P-3

17

Turkey

7,200

10 ATR 72, 9 CN 235

18

India

7,000

8 TU-142, 5 –IL38

16 P-8

19

Chile

6,435

3 C-295, 4 P-3

5 C-295

20

Micronesia

6,112

0

21

Croatia

5,835

5 AT802

22

Solomon Islands

5,313

0

23

Papua New Guinea

5,152

2 CN-235

24

Argentina

4,989

6 P-3, 2 P-95, 2 Beechcraft

25

Iceland

4,988

0

26

Spain

4,964

20 CN-235,7 P-3, 3 F-27

27

Madagascar

4,828

0

28

Malaysia

4,675

4 Beechcraft

4 CN-235

29

Estonia

3,794

0

34

France

3,427

27 Atlantique

A.2 The United Kingdom appears at number 13 in Table A and as can be seen, countries one to 20 all have maritime patrol capability.

A.3 Two of our nearest neighbours, France and Spain, each have over 25 MPAs, and have coastline lengths one third of that of the UK.

A.4 However, the UK is not the only country in the table that does not carry out airborne maritime surveillance. We share this short-coming with Micronesia, the Solomon Islands and Iceland—all of which have no military capability at all and have to rely on their neighbours and allies to provide for them.

A.5 It is part of the UK Government stated strategy for maritime surveillance that we also rely on neighbours and allies, but the difference is that Micronesia and the Solomon Islands do not say that they have a “Full Spectrum Defence Capability” as the Prime Minister has claimed.

A.6 Although our neighbours and allies may be prepared to help the UK out by providing some information on activities around the coast of the UK, it is unlikely that they would come to our aid in the defence of any of the 14 British overseas territories, especially the Falkland Islands.

A.7 Madagascar appears at number 28 in table A and does not have maritime patrol aircraft, however it does have strategically important land-based maritime surveillance equipment, installed by India, to allow protection of the “country’s sea lanes of commerce”. Indonesia also has land-based maritime surveillance to protect the extremely busy shipping route through the straits of Malacca.

A.8 The only other country in the table with no MPA capability is Estonia which has 20 coastal defence radars covering the entire length of its coastline.

A.9 No such network of radars is in operation in defence of the UK coastline.

A.10 There are orders for maritime patrol aircraft from many countries spanning the globe. Some of the nations which have either recently ordered MPA or are about to do so include Bangladesh, India, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Pakistan, UAE and Vietnam.

A.11 Shortly after the decision to scrap the Nimrod MRA4 the French Government announced an upgrade to their fleet of 27 Atlantique MPA, to ensure that the aircraft will remain in service past 2030. The Atlantiques are to receive a new digital sonobuoy acoustic processing system and upgrades to the mission computer and surveillance radar. The new equipment is designed to improve the ability to track threats, including submarine periscopes in high sea states.

A.12 It is fortunate for the UK that France took this decision as a French MPA has already had to provide assistance when the factory fishing vessel Athena caught fire on 3 November 2010, 230 miles from the Scilty Isles, but inside the area for which the UK has responsibility for Search and Rescue.

A.13 Another example of the gap in maritime patrol capability has meant that the UK had to borrow MPA from the USA to protect our naval ships during the Libya conflict.

A.14 It is likely that the Olympics in London this year will require the good-will of our neighbours and allies to provide protection from possible ship-borne hazards.

Annex B

SOME NOTES ON OPTIONS FOR MARITIME RECONNAISSANCE

B.1 Use of Merlin Helicopter for Maritime Patrol

The Merlin helicopter has an ESM system that is not capable of producing an accurate picture of the electromagnetic environment when operated in littoral waters, so it is of limited use for maritime surveillance other than for blue water fleet protection.

The Search and Rescue region for which the UK is responsible extends from 45 to 61 degrees North and from three degrees East to 30 degrees West, the UK should be able to offer assistance to vessels which are up to 1,200 nautical miles from our coast. The Merlin has an effective search and rescue range of 300 nm (with one hour search) It cannot be effective for long-range search and rescue as the endurance of these aircraft is insufficient to allow for search patterns of useful duration to be carried out.

B.2 Procurement of a New Maritime Patrol Aircraft

There are a few options for the purchase of a new aircraft type that has been produced specifically for maritime patrol; the P-8 Poseidon, the CN-235 MPA and A319 MPA are some of the possible candidates.

The P-8 Poseidon is being developed in the US to replace its fleet of Orion P-3s.Following an order for P-8 placed in July 2004 by the US Navy, the first flight of a P-8 took place in April 2009 with initial operational capability scheduled for 2013.

The original order of 117 aircraft for the US Navy, has recently (February 2012) been reduced by 10, apparently saving $5.6 billion dollars. If this cost saving is taken literally it amounts to $560 (~£354) million per aircraft. However, other sources have indicated that the cost per aircraft is about £200 million.

The first, and so far only, international customer of the P-8 is India. In January 2009 India placed an initial order for eight P8I MPA at a cost of $2.1 billion dollars. The first aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2013.

Australia and Italy are potential customers so the procurement of a fleet of P-8 may allow opportunities for collaboration in the development and testing of the mission systems. This will lead to cost savings for these activities and more chance of getting the complex mission systems to work properly. This is an important consideration as part of the mission system on the P-8 is similar to that on the Wedgetail, (the AEW aircraft chosen by Australia), and that aircraft program is on the Australian Government “Projects of Concern” list due to issues with the mission system.

A cheaper option for a fleet of new maritime patrol aircraft is the CN-235 (or the C-295, a bigger version) The CN-235 is in service with many countries (including Mexico, US, Brunei, UAE, Pakistan, Turkey) for medium range Maritime Patrol. There are two versions of the CN-235, one made in Spain by CASA and the other manufactured in Indonesia by IPTN.

The cost of buying a CN-235 is estimated to be between £15 million and £25 million pounds. Apart from being considerably cheaper than the P-8, the CN-235 has an advantage in that it has already been in operation in several different countries. Of course, clarification should be sought on its actual performance before a decision to buy this type of aircraft is taken.

B.3 P-3 Upgrade

Although the P-3 Orion first saw service in 1962, there are still many of this type of aircraft in operation world-wide The P-3 fleets of several countries are undergoing upgrade programmes to provide them with maritime patrol platforms that will continue in operation for at least another decade, in some cases with extra ELINT capability.

Australia is upgrading 18 aircraft, at a cost in the region of A$1 billion and expects them to be in service until 2018. New Zealand is also upgrading its fleet of six aircraft, providing enhanced radar and electronic surveillance capability and projected to remain in service until 2025 at a cost of NZ$360, with operating costs of NZ$166 per annum.

In June 2003 the Dutch Government announced its plans to sell its P-3C Orions. Germany bought eight of them, paying €271 million and Portugal bought the remaining five aircraft.. Germany paid another €24 million for training of German ground technicians and flight crews and took delivery of the first P-3C Orion on 28 February 2006.

Brazil bought 12 former US Navy Orion P-3A aircraft 10 years ago and awarded a €320 million upgrade contract to Airbus Military in Madrid in 2005. The first of the upgraded aircraft was formally introduced into the Brazilian Air Force in October 2011, with the introduction of 2 more in 2011 and six more in 2012. The remaining three P-3As are to be used for spares.

The Taiwan Navy obtained 12 P-3C aircraft under the U.S. Government’s Foreign Military Sales program in 2007. The aircraft are taken from desert storage at Davis Monthan AFB and will be completely overhauled and modernised by Lockheed Martin. Planned mission system upgrades include installation of electronic support measures, acoustics, communications, electro-optic and infrared systems, and new data management software and hardware, controls, displays and mission computers. The first modernised Taiwan Navy P-3C aircraft is planned to be delivered in 2012.

So, acquiring and upgrading some P-3s seems to be a popular choice when it comes to fill the gap in capability, albeit with aged airframes. There are still plenty of P3s stored in the US desert!

B.4 Purchase of a Short-range MPA

The advantage of purchasing short-range aircraft for maritime patrol are that they are relatively cheap to buy and maintain and a fleet could be built up fleet as funds allow. However, they cannot be configured to carry out all the roles of the larger dedicated MPA.

For example, Bombardier have teamed up with the Elta Systems division of Israel Aerospace Industries to develop a maritime patrol aircraft based on Q400 twin-turboprop. Elta’s airborne systems and radars division are offering the Q400 as a direct replacement with low operating costs for the P-3 Orion. The main sensor is the Israeli company’s EL/M-2022 maritime surveillance radar, also used on the Heron UAV.

B.5 Lighter than Air (LTA) Vehicles for Maritime Patrol

The US Navy LTA program, discontinued in 1961, was resurrected in March 2010 when with the introduction of the MZ-3A airship. This manned airship was used as a research platform until February 2012, four months after its acceptance by the US Navy, when it was “deflated and stored until future missions warrant its re-activation”. Not limited in payload, a LTA can fly/loiter for many hours and is cheap to operate. The main disadvantages are that it can only travel relatively slowly and cannot carry wet sensors.

B.6 The use of UAVs for Maritime Surveillance

UAVs for Maritime Patrol fall into two categories—those for wide area surveillance (taking on some of the roles of long- and medium-range MPAs) and those for close-in support to maritime operations, carrying out tasks that may be accomplished by helicopters (such as Merlin).

The UK has had research/trial programmes for the second category. The Joint UAV Experimentation Programme (JUEP) tested the use of a ScanEagle UAV and although these trials were deemed successful, in reality there were technical problems and weather issues that make this conclusion questionable.

A programme for the use of UAVs for ship protection has recently been cancelled by the US Navy. The medium-range martime unmanned aircraft system (MRMUAS) was envisioned as a multi-intelligence platform operating from aircraft-capable ships and providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in the maritime and littoral domains. The US Navy had wanted to field a limited MRMUAS capability as early as 2016, but due to “changing priorities” the programme was cancelled in February 2012, saving $200 million in Fiscal Year 2013.

World-wide there are two main UAV types that have been developed for wide-area maritime patrol. The Heron/Mahatz, manufactured in Israel and the RG4 Global Hawk is under development by Lockheed in the US.

The Heron (or Mahatz) family of UAVs is used by Israel, India and Turkey for maritime reconnaissance. The latest version has Synthetic Aperture radar and ELINT capability. It has an endurance of 36 hours, can operate up to 45,000ft altitude and can carry a payload of 1,000kg. Each UAV costs $5 million and there would of course be additional costs for ground stations and satellite communication infrastructure.

In 2008 Australia carried out a six week trial into using Heron for maritime reconnaissance. The results of that trial should be taken into account when deciding on the value of using UAVs for this purpose in the UK.

The other UAV in development for maritime reconnaissance is the RQ4 Global Hawk. It is to form part of the US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) capability. Trials have been carried out since at least 2009 with the Global Hawk being piloted remotely from the US. The demonstration phase of this project is due to conclude in September 2012. Other versions of the Global Hawk are in use for surveillance by the US military.

In conclusion, UAVs do have some advantages for maritime patrol:

Endurance.

Low observability.

No on-board crew to get tired and hungry, though significant man-power is still needed to fly and operate the sensors from the ground.

But, there are signification disadvantages:

Range limited by communications capability—if the UAV is further away than line-of-sight, then satellite communications must be used. Data transmission rates are limited by power requirements.

Payload weight considerations—a capable radar requires an appropriately-sized antenna, typical radar weights may be ~50kg and Optical sensor weights ~40 kg.

Operation in civilian air space is restricted.

Remote control of sensors is limited due to bandwidth required for communications.

Lack of Flexibility of Operation—UAVs are not autonomous, they are unable to automatically change flight course in order to investigate a self-identified target.

B.7 Use of A400 and A330

These platforms would be ideal for ISTAR roles, with their patterns of deployment including loitering for re-fueling(A330) and carrying out routine flights for transport purposes along relatively repeatable routes (A400).

They could be fitted with radar, Electronic Surveillance and even EO sensors that could be suitable for secondary roles as MPAs, to be used if an Urgent Requirement for Maritime Patrol were to emerge .

Much of the sensor systems from the MRA4 has been destroyed, however, the skills to operate the kit are just about current, so if such a capability needed to be reconstituted in a hurry, this could be a good option.

B.8 Collaboration with Allies

Annex A provides a table of the maritime aircraft operated by the countries with the 30 longest coastlines. Our close allies Australia and New Zealand appear in this table and both have very active maritime patrol upgrade programmes. Although it is extremely unlikely they would be able to commit aircraft for regular surveillance around the UK, it may be possible for them to fly occasional sorties in UK territorial waters.

For our allies this would have an advantage of gaining experience of flying in a different, more dense shipping environment than they would normally encounter. For the UK the occasional operation of maritime patrol aircraft around the coast would have strategic importance as anyone with mal-intent would not know whether or not surveillance was being carried out at any particular time.

B.9 Use of Satellites

I have made use of data downloaded from satellites for the verification of airborne equipment performance. Satellites cannot carry out the roles of the MPA.

B.10 Use of AIS/Land-based Electronic Surveillance

The advent of Automatic Identification System (AIS) has meant that it is now possible to see a picture of ships located anywhere in the world from any computer attached to the internet—and it doesn’t cost anything.

AIS (Automatic Identification System) data is transmitted by all ships over 300 tons and all passenger ships. This information can be used together with pulse data from a ship’s radars, received using a land-based electronic surveillance system to verify the identity of a ship. The pattern of pulses from an individual radar is unique, so can act as a “finger-print” for the ship. It is easy to try to disguise the identity of a ship by using false AIS data, but changing the characteristics of the radar to match that of another ship whose identity has been stolen is not possible.

Such a system has been proposed to the MoD, but not taken up. It would be cheap to implement, could be introduced incrementally as funds allow and would give border protection to a range of about 30 miles.

Prepared 19th September 2012