Defence Committee - Future Maritime SurveillanceWritten evidence from Airbus Military


1. EADS Airbus Military (hereafter referred to as Airbus Military) welcomes this opportunity to respond to the Defence Select Committee’s inquiry on maritime surveillance.

2. This response opens with an executive summary followed by background information on Airbus Military’s presence in the UK and its maritime capabilities. It then addresses some of the specific issues raised by Committee.

3. We would welcome the opportunity to contribute to any further work investigating a broader range of issues beyond the scope of this present inquiry.

4. It is important to note that maritime surveillance has a number of facets including surface and underwater detection and tracking, support to and coordination of search and rescue, protection of naval deployments (including the nuclear deterrent), strategic intelligence, attack of submarines and potentially surface ships. The decision to scrap the Nimrod means that the UK does not have the ability to carry out these roles at long range or from a fully integrated airborne system.

Executive Summary

5. The UK has a significant maritime surveillance capability gap following the deletion of the Nimrod MRA4 programme. This has raised serious concerns over the protection of naval capital ships, supporting merchant ships and the strategic deterrent.

6. All these assets (including the new Queen Elizabeth II Carriers) constitute large capital expenditures over the coming decades and they need adequate protective insurance policies.

7. The effort required in the future to track increasing submarine numbers around the UK will require constant effort using aircraft equipped to locate and track these potential threats.

8. It is believed that MoD studies concluded that a medium sized turboprop Maritime Patrol Aircraft would be the most cost-effective means to ameliorate the MPA gap. Currently the Airbus Military C295 MPA is the only proven off-the-shelf solution in this category.

9. Other Government Departments (OGD) studies show that there is an opportunity to provide aerial surveillance for up to 6 separate Government agencies potentially using a single procurement source. These tasks could be satisfied with medium sized Airbus Military MPA/MSA like C295 MPA and CN 235 (MPA means Maritime Patrol Aircraft with an attack capability. MSA means an unarmed Maritime Surveillance Aircraft).

10. Although some of the former Nimrod crews have been loaned to other nations to retain skills, after five years these assets will no longer be available. Therefore, it is essential that a MPA capability is regenerated within this timescale.

11. Airbus Military recommends that the Government acknowledges the severity of the MPA and maritime aerial surveillance capability gaps. Further Airbus Military believes that, because of the time constraints on the availability of trained crews, it is necessary to start a new programme as soon as possible. All the key requirements for MoD and OGDs could be met by a medium sized MPA, as concluded by MoD studies.

About EADS

12. EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related sectors. The EADS group of industries includes Airbus, the leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft, Eurocopter, the world’s largest helicopter supplier, Astrium, the European leader in space programmes from Ariane to Galileo, and Cassidian, a leading provider of cryptography and other security solutions. EADS is the second largest aerospace and defence company in the world and a major partner in many of Europe’s largest aerospace projects, including Eurofighter Typhoon. EADS has a major industrial presence in the UK. Over 17,000 highly-skilled jobs are directly employed at EADS’ 25 key UK sites, and a further 135,000 jobs are indirectly supported throughout the UK supply chain.

Airbus Military in the UK’s Maritime Surveillance Capabilities

13. Airbus Military is the only military and humanitarian transport aircraft manufacturer to develop, produce, sell and support a comprehensive family of military airlifters ranging from three to 37 tonnes of payload.

14. Airbus Military is responsible for delivering the FSTA and A400M programmes in the UK.

15. Airbus Military in the UK is based in London, Filton (Bristol) and Brize Norton where FSTA and A400M will be based and supported through life under service contracts.

16. The Airbus’ Filton facility in Bristol is responsible for the design and production of all A400M wings.

17. C295 is an Airbus Military family of medium sized configurable multifunction aircraft. One version is fitted for MPA operations and includes surface and underwater surveillance and anti-submarine weapons delivery. This aircraft can deliver a cost-effective capability. This aircraft is successfully in service in the MPA role in Portugal and Chile. Airbus Military recommends that the Committee obtains a briefing on the MOD MPA Capability Investigation/WAMUS study (Wide Area Maritime Surveillance Study).

18. Another smaller member of the same aircraft family is the CN 235 MSA used by the United States Coast Guard in the search-and-rescue and maritime patrol missions. Other operators are Spain, Turkey and the Republic of Ireland.

Detailed Response

The Defence Committee asked “how the MoD has determined the future strategic requirements for the UK Armed Forces’ maritime surveillance capabilities, including current and evolving threats”

19. The MoD has determined the future strategic requirements for the UK Armed Forces’ maritime surveillance capabilities through emerging policy guidance: Defence Strategic Direction 2011 and the Strategy for Defence. The Strategy for Defence sets out a new vision of how the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) will deliver Future Force 2020 (FF2020). Based on the National Security Strategy (NSS), SDSR has given Government an opportunity to balance policy, resources and world commitments for the first time in some 30 years. SDSR concluded that the UK should adopt an “Adaptable Strategic Posture” investing in programmes that provide flexibility and advanced capabilities, and that provides for the UK’s Armed Forces to fight and win across the spectrum of operations in seven Military Tasks.i Airbus Military considers that for this aspiration to be made possible one key requirement is to ensure security of the maritime environment across a wide range of potential operations including those that are strictly national and sovereign.

20. Airbus Military stresses that maritime surveillance requires an ability to establish a wide area recognised maritime picture both below and above the water rapidly at long range. Without the capability to conduct comprehensive underwater surveillance or even warfare, the efforts of above water surveillance could be easily undermined by an otherwise unseen submarine threat. Maritime surveillance capabilities should be developed cognisant of current and emerging threats, as summarised below:

Torpedo attacks from nuclear powered or diesel electric hunter-killer submarines.

Long range anti ship missile attacks from submarines, warships and fast attack craft.

Enemy surveillance of key strategic UK facilities including the strategic deterrent.

Pirate attacks.

Maritime terrorism.

Trafficking in drugs, weapons, humans and contraband.

Below Water

21. There are growing concerns about the resurgence in the Russian submarine building and deployed operations programmes. Russian President Vladimir Putin sees submarines as critical to re-generating Russian strategic influence.ii This has caused the US to invest to tackle the increasingly quiet Russian submarines. It is believed that China intends to exercise its rights to defend its rapidly expanding global trade concerns with the use of deployed military naval vessels that will include submarines.

22. The original stealth weapons, submarines, may be second only to unmanned systems in the degree to which they have exploited new technology in the past two decades. Major advances have included air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems, increasing submerged endurance and mobility; automation, reducing crew size (and consequently, life-cycle costs) and improving habitability; electro-optical masts that can sweep the horizon with high-definition in seconds and drop out of sight; and new torpedoes and other weapons. Vigorous AIP and mini submarine building and export programmes are being conducted in Sweden, Germany, Russian, Korea and China. Operating worldwide in both littoral and blue oceanic waters they are emerging as the asymmetric weapon of choice for both state and non state actors since these types of submarines can be operated semi autonomously with reduced skill sets. The effort required in the future to track increasing submarine numbers around the UK will require constant effort using aircraft equipped to locate and track these potential threats. The Airbus Military C295 MPA has surface and underwater sensors comparable to Nimrod with a fully integrated tactical mission system and weapons carriage capability. The aircraft is capable of deploying and transiting rapidly out to long ranges and has an endurance of around 10 hours.

The Defence Committee asked: “what current maritime surveillance capabilities and assets will remain in service by 2020, including their specific roles, effectiveness, deployability, coordination, and interoperability; and what are the likely gaps and deficiencies?”

23. Developing an effective surveillance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability requires several layers. The Sea King Airborne Early Warning (AEW) helicopters, the Lynx (Wildcat) maritime surveillance helicopters and the T22 frigates may have all have been retired or drawn down by 2020. The inner layer of defence will in future be dependent on a small fleet of ageing T23 frigates with embarked Merlin helicopters from a small pool of 30 aircraft. With tight maintenance schedules and extensive global commitments, the availability of these assets in the numbers required for standing and contingent tasks is a significant risk to maritime surveillance. Six DARING Class T45 air defence destroyers could also embark Merlin helicopters but, again, with global commitments their availability for dedicated ASW or maritime surveillance is dubious. The multi-purpose T26 Global Combat Ship is not planned to enter service until later in the 2020s (numbers are not yet known) and then only after export markets have been satisfied.

24. The missing key ingredient is the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) capability that previously provided the outer layer, long-range indicators and warnings, and acted as the key node at the centre of the ASW web. It was able to monitor and provide effect with an impressive array of weapons in all environments simultaneously from a single platform. It was the glue that bound the layers together into cohesive ASW cover. Airbus Military believes that a C295 MPA would offer an affordable and cost-effective solution to providing the long range MPA cover necessary to protect naval deployments and routine surveillance operations. This layered structure is shown on the diagram. This is not to scale and the distance from the current limit of protection to the outer “MPA circle” is considerable.


Gaps and Deficiencies

25. The SDSR decision to cancel the Nimrod Maritime Reconnaissance and Attack (MRA4) aircraft was principally based on the austerity measure not to spend £2 billion allocated to the aircraft’s support costs over the next 10 years. The resultant capability gap is felt across many areas of Defence, Other Government Departments (OGDs), throughout NATO and allied communities, undermining many of the Military Tasks. MPA are the only assets that can provide rapid long range, persistent maritime surveillance and prosecution that is required around UK shores, within the whole Economic Exclusion Zone, throughout the North Atlantic and its approaches to the UK, as far afield as the Falkland Islands, and in support of any maritime operations worldwide. Coherent with the National Security Strategy’s Adaptable Strategic Posture, MPA can accomplish this adaptable and flexible maritime surveillance capability autonomously, and with a rapid response of just two hours representing a potent asset to politicians and commanders alike. MPA are invariably the platform of choice to deploy to a crisis area whether to oil rigs in distress (as in the Piper Alpha disaster) or to areas of conflict (as in the Gulf wars), anti-piracy or international terrorism. As the issues surrounding the Falkland Islands become more prominent, it is worth noting that an MPA does not incite the same hostile response from belligerents compared to a warship or troops on the ground. MPA is a potent tool and the eyes and ears of politicians and commanders alike. Specific impacts include the loss of the Military Task contributions.iii

The Defence Committee asked: “what are the future capabilities needed by the MoD and UK Armed Forces for maritime surveillance and what measures are being taken to address these, including applying lessons learned from recent operations?”

26. The SDSR noted that “we will depend on other maritime assets to contribute to the tasks previously planned for them”. The implication is that by doing nothing operational risks would inevitably be increased. To quantify the capability gap left by the deletion of the Nimrod MRA4 MoD commissioned a Capability Investigation to identify sustainable and cost-effective mitigations. This Capability Investigation (as stated at the Defence IQ Maritime Security Conference in Rome in 2011) examined over one hundred different ways, and combinations of ways, to mitigate the MPA gap within policy compliant analyses. After wide stakeholder engagement, unmanned air vehicles (UAV), hybrid air vehicles (HAV) and manned MPA were shortlisted as the most appropriate future maritime surveillance capabilities worthy of further detailed investigation. The large turbofan MPA (typified by the Boeing P8) and the medium turboprop MPA (typified by the Airbus Military C295 MPA) clearly emerged as the most effective methods to provide maritime surveillance and, if required, prosecution. From open sources the Committee will see that, the Airbus Military C295 MPA is likely to be the most cost-effective solution at around a third of the cost of Nimrod, to provide similar capabilities. It is also the only commercial/military off- the-shelf maritime patrol aircraft available in the near term that fulfils the key user requirements.

27. A proposal to regenerate a “Future Long Range Maritime Air Capability” is expected from MoD around April 2012. This proposal marks the Government’s opportunity to deliver on the National Security Strategy’s (NSS) and SDSR’s Adaptive Strategic Posture with a cost-effective maritime surveillance capability so crucially needed by this island nation. As a pre-cursor, MoD has sent ex-Nimrod aircrew to allied MPA bases (Canada, New Zealand and Australia) to maintain otherwise perishable MPA skill-sets until a UK regenerative MPA programme has been established. Currently, these aircrews will remain with allies for between four and five years. After this the re-establishment of the capability in UK would take many years. Airbus Military agrees with MoD’s analysis that there is no satisfactory alternative to a manned MPA and believes that no alternative (eg unmanned systems) will be available until at least 2035 or beyond.

The Defence Committee asked: “what are the costs of current and future maritime surveillance assets of UK Armed Forces

28. This question is best left for MoD financial and planning staffs. However, as a rough order of magnitude comparator from open source material, it is believed that the purchase price of:

A Global Combat Ship is circa £300–£400 million.

A Boeing P8 is estimated to be circa £150 million.

A Nimrod MRA4 was circa £120 million.

An Offshore Patrol Vessel is circa £60–£80 million.

An Airbus C295 MPA is circa £50 million.

The Defence Committee asked: “how does the MoD intend in future to coordinate its work with other Government departments and agencies, including its effectiveness, their interaction, the lines of demarcation and the consequences for, and impact on, UK Armed Forces”

29. There has been a cross Government review of maritime security. There are a number of UK departments, agencies and other bodies (Marine Management Organisation, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, UK Border Agency, National Maritime Information Centre, Ministry of Defence, National Police Air Service) that have an interest in the UK’s territorial waters and beyond, and on how the UK responds to maritime security and safety issues. Each entity procures aerial maritime surveillance in virtual isolation and Government has sought that any procurement of aerial surveillance capability is conducted in the context of the national strategic need. The maritime security threats to the UK are at reference.iv The analysis of the OGDs maritime security needs are at reference.v

30. It is worth noting that the Nimrod MR1/MR2 maritime patrol aircraft fleets routinely conducted the majority of the tasks alongside its core Military Tasks before ministries decided to contract out various tasks to industry. Studies have shown the potential to satisfy all stakeholder needs with a single solution. However, it is important to recalibrate all the requirements and ensure that the force elements match the availability and capability requirements. Airbus Military has a well proven history of providing cost effective aerial surveillance solutions across the complete spectrum of the MoD’s and OGDs’ needs. For instance, Airbus Military has two medium sized maritime surveillance assets; the C295 turboprop MPA (as operated by the Portuguese and Chilean Air Forces) and the smaller CN235 (as used by the US, Spanish and Turkish Coastguards, the Irish Air Corps and the Spanish Air Force). Collectively these could deliver the UK’s needs cost-effectively.

The Defence Committee asked: “to what extent the UK should collaborate and is collaborating with allies, including through NATO, in the provision of maritime surveillance capabilities?”

31. The UK is engaged in several NATO, bi-lateral and multi-lateral MPA activities. Maritime Capability Group Number 4 (with MoD UK participation) has commissioned a NATO Industry Advisory Group study to determine the collective NATO requirements for MPA. Airbus Military is involved in this group and gives advice on possible solutions. This might lead to cooperative or collaborative MPA programmes or further MPA pooling recommendations. However, it must be noted that many UK MPA operations are very sensitive in nature and a discrete, sovereign UK MPA fleet would be an imperative. In addition, the availability of aircraft from a joint fleet for national operations would require a split fleet for core NATO and specific national operations (eg protection of the Deterrent and the Falkland Islands)

The Defence Committee asked: “what provision is the MoD making for the possibility that maritime surveillance forces might have to be regenerated at relatively short notice?”

32. The Olympics present an ideal opportunity to reintroduce an MPA capability through the leasing or loaning of MPA. There is an existing requirement to provide long range protection against maritime terrorism and Airbus Military believes that it could fill the gap in time with C295 MPA/CN235.


The UK is vulnerable in the maritime environment because of the loss of MPA. This limits the UK’s ability to protect national waters, naval deployments and operations, to protect properly the UK’s global interests and provide an effective contribution to coalition operations.

Because of funding limitations UK needs to acquire a cost-effective MPA capability which is affordable through whole life.

Currently Airbus Military offers the only off-the-shelf and affordable solution to meet both defence and the security needs of Other Government Departments.

Expert opinion is that manned MPA is the only cost-effective solution until at least 2035 or beyond.

Although the former Nimrod crews have been loaned to other nations to retain skills, after five years these assets will no longer be available. Therefore, it is recommended that a MPA capability is regenerated within this timescale.

Airbus Military recommends that the Government acknowledges the severity of the MPA and maritime aerial surveillance capability gaps. Because of the time constraints on human skills it is recommended that a MPA programme is started as soon as possible. Airbus Military is happy to contribute to any future work that requires to be undertaken on the Maritime Surveillance capability.


i MT 1: Providing strategic intelligence, MT 2: Providing nuclear deterrence, MT 3: Defending the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories, MT 4: Supporting the civil emergency organisations in times of crisis, MT 5: Providing a Defence contribution to UK influence, MT 6: Defending our interests by projecting power strategically and through expeditionary operations, MT 7: Providing security for stabilisation.

ii In August 2009 a pair of AKULA Russian submarines was reportedly located 200 miles off the US Eastern Seaboard to the surprise of the Americans. The Daily Telegraph reported that, with Russian submarine activity around UK waters reaching levels not seen since 1987, AKULAs were attempting to track VANGUARD-class ballistic missile submarines which embark the UK’s nuclear deterrent and that, in one instance, an AKULA had attempted to station itself off the VANGUARDs’ home port of Faslane, intending to track a particular VANGUARD boat as it sailed.

iii MT1 Strategic Maritime Intelligence—providing early warning and indicators to key UK strategic facilities, including the strategic deterrent.

MT2 Protection of the Strategic Deterrent – anti submarine warfare against a resurgent Russian submarine threat.

MT3 and MT6 Protection of deployed UK and Allied Naval Task Groups and the protection of merchant shipping during long sea transits to the Middle East, the Falkland Islands and maritime surveillance worldwide. This includes ASW and anti-surface unit warfare protection from hostile warships, Fast Attack Craft, Fast Inshore Attack Craft and submarines, including over the horizon missile attacks. Sanitisation of sea lanes and littoral waters for amphibious assaults would have been conducted during pre-cursor operations:

Queen Elizabeth Class/Joint Strike Fighter Carrier Strike Task Groups,

HMS Ocean class helicopter-carrying amphibious Task Groups,

RO-RO, large “Atlantic Conveyor” size container ships and other merchant resupply shipping.

The potential loss of a capital ship, escorts or significant support shipping poses significant risk.

MT4 Support to Special Forces in long range Maritime Counter Terrorism operations. The protection of key maritime assets and shipping in UK waters and in areas of strategic UK interest worldwide against maritime terrorism.

MT4 Long Range Search and Rescue for downed military aircrews and submarines in distress. A Long Range Search and Rescue service was also provided to the Department for Transport for civilian souls in distress at sea under the terms of the Chicago Convention.

MT7 Security Through Stabilisation. Counter narcotics operations, counter piracy.

iv Illegal imports and exports, Unauthorised arrivals by sea, Criminal actions at sea, Maritime terrorism, Ensured sustainability of the Economic Zone, Marine pollution and accident.

v All stakeholders have an on-going requirement for maritime aerial surveillance. Although up to 75% of the perceived requirements of the stakeholders were identified as “common”, it was acknowledged that a thorough requirements capture process was needed to ensure analytical rigour before any single aerial surveillance solution was contemplated. Another area of concern was the lack of a home-based and routinely available national surface vessel capability to quickly respond to the range of threats that would be initially identified by the aerial surveillance platform. The National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC) is developing a capability to provide a collegiate response to the diverse threats to the UK maritime surveillance problem. However, there needs to be an agreed structure in place for governance, prioritisation, funding and command and control. The MSOG identified that further work is required in the areas of aerial surveillance, surface response, and governance. A framework paper, once agreed in principle with stakeholders, would need to be briefed to individual ministers.

March 2012

Prepared 19th September 2012