UK to be Without Maritime Surveillance Capability Until 2015 At Least
A report issued by the Parliament Defence Committee (PDC) has highlighted a gap in the MoD’s ability to monitor the open seas.
Worryingly, the report advises that the gap will not be closed for another 3 years.
The report, entitled “Future Maritime Surveillance”, voices concern over the Strategic Defence and Security Review’s (SDSR) decision to cancel the Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). This decision was taken by the SDSR 2 years ago.
The report comes just days after the Chinese government announced its intention to build 36 new maritime surveillance vessels.
The MRA4 was set to replace the Nimrod MR2, the MoD’s previous maritime surveillance aircraft. However, according to Armed Forces Minister Andrew Robathan, the MRA4 was already hundreds of millions of pounds over budget in a time when the MoD is being urged to cut back on its spending.
To the alarm of the committee, the MoD has stated it does not plan to review the need for a MPA until the next SDSR in 2015. It also admits that it does not currently possess any solution to fill the current gap in its maritime surveillance capabilities.
James Arbuthnot, Chair of the PDC, has said that the committee is “unconvinced that the MoD has the capacity to respond to any escalation in the risks that may appear beyond the UK’s shores.” He goes on to say that he believes these risks are likely to worsen in coming years.
Think Defence has commented that whilst Britain’s defence strategy for the coming years makes long-range maritime surveillance capability a necessity, the cost of the scrapped MRA4 (just under £4 billion for a plane that never passed air-worthiness tests) means that any talk of a replacement would be “as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool”.