Some think that the future will be full of enemies that will never go after your satellites. You will always have access to bandwidth when you need it. No one will be able to jam. Your computer networks ashore will always be secure.
You see - you never will need someone in the theater in the loop. You will never need line-of-sight back-up systems. Yep. What a brave new world.
Fighter aircraft and surface ships will never need guns again; nuclear weapons will make traditional warfare obsolete. We need to decommission the SPRU, non-Aegis CG/CGN in order to recapitalize the fleet of 2010 with LCS and DDG-1000. And so the story goes.
From Flight Global,
The US Navy has confirmed plans to retire the special mission versions of the Lockheed P-3 by 2020, and replace them with an all-unmanned fleet.The reasonable way to go would be to parallel the P-8A/BAMS program of a mixed fleet with a EP-8/E-BAMS mixed fleet in order to validate their utility. Oh well. With hope we go.
The decision comes as a blow to contractors who had been hoping to extend the service life of the fleet beyond 2020, or introduce new manned aircraft as replacements.
In written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month, incoming chief of naval operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said the navy’s ageing EP-3 Aries and special projects aircraft will be retired in 2019 and 2020.
They will be replaced by an $8 billion investment over the next five years in a family of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, Greenert said.
Those investments include $1.1 billion in the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout, $3.9 billion in the Northrop RQ-4N broad area maritime surveillance aircraft, $2.5 billion in the unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike programme and $1.1 billion in the medium-range maritime unmanned aircraft system.
Many of you here know the mission of the EP-3; if you don't there is enough open source to catch you up. Read the above and you will know where I am going.
Fire Scout does not have the endurance or payload capability to do much ES in the manner of even part of the EP-3 mission.
UCAV-ES by 2020? Interesting payload and COM challenges - but at least some ES comes back to the carrier. Will the intel weenies be local or via reachback? If reachback - nice peacetime project you have there. Oh, and what if no carriers are nearby?
Medium-range UAS doing ES operationally? Not by 2020, especially giving the funding challenges we know are going to be here in the run up to 2020.
That leaves BAMS. If you want to do ES in the role that the EP-3E - BAMS is about it. See payload and bandwidth issues in wartime.
In summary, where does that leave us? Contrary to all history of the last decade or so; we are throwing all away with a hope that technology risk will not take its course. Have we learned nothing with the A-12, DDG-1000, and ACS? It appears not. Pray for an exception.
Combine that with budget risk - and odds are there goes your ES - there goes your eyes, ears, and spies.
Mark my words, this "cost savings" effort will be seen in line with the British carrier plan.
How did we get here? Simple. Giving the EP-3 community to the P-3 community. The ACS dog's breakfast. Third, simple community money politics.
Hat tip Lee.