Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P-8A - How Others See It

I guess it is MPR week at CDRSalamander ....

My take is as it has been ... the P-8A program has actually gone quite well. I think some of the compromises will have to be fixed down the road if it actually sees combat (such as the lack of MAD gear), and computer interface and bandwidth issues are sloppy - but on balance it has gone well.

That being said - it is healthy to read different opinions. From ThinkDefense in the UK;
The Indian versions will come with a Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) that is not present on the US version

The point of the P8 is that it is multi mission but if we consider its roots and the mission focus of the USN and USGC it is very much a military system, the US version of the P8 for example, does not have any provision for SAR equipment.

One of the problems that will prove rather thorny is in-flight refuelling, unrefuelled, the P8 can transit for 1200 miles, remain on station for 4 hours and return. This is much less than the MRA4 and even the P3 although it will be quicker than the latter, in-flight refuelling might therefore be considered something high on the optional extras list. Although the US version does not have an in-flight refuelling capability the base design is equipped with something called the Universal Air Refuelable Receptacle Slipway (UARSSI) that can take fuel from a boom.

Another issue is that of weapons and sensor integration, in order to reduce airframe stress and fuel burn, and of course, to compensate for the simple fact that 737’s are not designed for low altitude tight turn flying, the concept of operations developed means that anti-submarine detection, classification and attack is carried out at a medium altitude (hence the omission of a MAD detector which is only of use at low levels and to save weight). To support this, the US has developed a wing kit for the Mk 54 lightweight torpedo, called the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapons Concept (HAAWC) that might also be developed to allow a sonobouy pattern to be deployed from higher altitudes.

The US Navy has also contracted Boeing to develop an air launched UAV that will carry a MAD sensor. The UAV will be based on the Boeing/Insitu Scan Eagle, called the MagEagle Compressed Carriage (MECC) and carried in the bomb bay or wing pylons with recovery by surface vessel or on land. It is an interesting and neat concept, but we don’t use the Scan Eagle.

A lot of work has gone into compensating for the lack of low level capability, or to provide a stand-off distance for the aircraft, depending on how cynical you are.
The sticker price for the initial Indian P8I buy is $2.1 billion for 8, roughly $260 million each inclusive of initial logistics and support.
A few comments are due. Modern digital MAD systems do not require an aircraft to fly as low as they had in the past. MAD via disposable UAS is just silly in the extreme. In no way affordable for any sustained air-ASW operation.

Also, the P-8 is more than capable of flying low enough to drop a weapon without any appreciable loss of range.

The altitude issues really isn't an issue on balance. Everything is a compromise, and I think those made here are good.

The whole article is worth your time to read as it gives a nice summary of reconnaissance and surveillance options out there for nations. It also reminded me of one of my hobby horses since I was in NROTC.

Why on God's green earth don't we have any type of seaplane capability? SOF, SAR, and remote access - it just screams to have this in our toolkit. Just watch this video of the BOMBARDIER 415 and tell me you can find no reason to have at least four squadrons of these.

I know ... yes, yes, yes, the Millington diktat would throw up the career path slide .... but again, imagine the additional access for SOF and more ... heck make them 2 active and 2 reserve squadrons based out of NAS Norfolk. Mix it up USN/USCG if you need to. You'd have to hold a lottery to determine who would get to fly them. Fill the squadrons up with non-command select CDR and LCDR. They won't mind.

What was that FITREP bullet in the 90s .... "think outside the box."

Hat tip Lee.


Anonymous said...

I guarantee you every person on a P-3 aircrew is going "NOOOOOOOO! No refueling! 11-hour missions are enough as it is! Plus the pre-flight and post-flight...they're going to have to start fiddling with 3710 to adjust the crew rest requirements if they start putting in for 15+ hour missions.

Anonymous said...

I also guarantee taking a two-engine turbofan to less than 1000 feet (the "low level" P-3s see on a regular basis) is not something to instill confidence in aircrew. When you want power on a turboprop, you get it immediately. Not so on a turbofan. Turboprops are designed for the rough handling found at low levels (salt sea spray, heavy clouds, turbulence, etc.) and can be repaired much more easily in the field; turbofans are delicate machines and require more TLC. Not to mention having four engines instead of two is always comforting.

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