U.K. Plans Review of Future Sub-Hunting Aircraft Needs Next Year

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. Ministry of Defence will make a first assessment next year of how to meet future maritime surveillance needs after the cancellation of the BAE Systems Plc Nimrod MRA4 patrol aircraft two years ago.

A study of airborne intelligence needs will deliver initial findings in April to the Military Capability Board, the ministry told Parliament’s defense committee. That will lead to some options being investigated further to decide before 2015 whether to initiate a formal program, it said.

The U.K. canceled BAE’s Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft as part of the 2010 Strategic Defense and Security Review after cost overruns and schedule delays, leaving the country without aircraft to detect enemy submarines. The shortfall for an island nation has caused concern in Parliament.

“The government fully recognizes the importance of maritime surveillance to the U.K.,” the ministry said. While the country “has accepted a capability gap and increased risk by deleting Nimrod,” the ministry said “other assets, used as part of a layered approach, can reduce this risk to some degree, and it remains within tolerable levels.”

Boeing Co., which builds the P-8 for the U.S. Navy and India, and Lockheed Martin Corp., provider of the C-130 transport aircraft, are among the companies that have expressed interest in a replacement program. Marshall Aerospace, the Cambridge, England-based aircraft maintenance company, also has promoted the concept of a C-130 modified for sea-surveillance.

The U.K. has deployed some personnel with units from the U.S. and other countries to maintain skills in hunting submarines. That program, called Project Seedcorn, should remain active until a decision is made on how to replace the Nimrod capability, the ministry said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Wall in London at rwall6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net