He’s hooked you: The Hookham Ripley P-8 scare

No it’s not an April Fools Joke though if you read carefully it could be one. The article “MOD sinks £2bn sub-hunter jet deal” the Sunday Times 1 November 2015 written by Mark Hookham and Tim Ripley tried to cast more doom and gloom on the future of the UK’s Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). I paste the article below, since the Sunday Times likes to earn money for any of its factual or non-factual articles.

THE Ministry of Defence is understood to have dropped a £2bn plan to buy a fleet of US-made submarine-hunting jets for the RAF.

 

The proposed purchase of up to nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft was expected to be the centrepiece of the government’s forthcoming defence review, but sources say the project has been shelved after ministers decided the aircraft were “fiendishly expensive”.

 

The move has raised fears that Britain’s four Vanguard nuclear deterrent submarines and the navy’s new £6bn aircraft carriers could be inadequately protected.

Senior retired RAF officers argued earlier this year that Britain’s nuclear deterrent has been left vulnerable after plans to update a fleet of Nimrod submarine-hunting aircraft were axed in 2010.

 

The defence review, due to be published later this month, was widely expected to announce a replacement for the Nimrod, with Boeing’s P-8, which carries torpedoes, depth charges and anti-ship missiles, regarded as the frontrunner.

Sources said Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, has ordered a rethink after receiving costs from Boeing. Each P-8, a modified 737 airliner, is thought to cost about £100m. It is understood that Fallon was also concerned that the deal would involve few UK firms.

 

One senior industry source questioned the decision: “The public need to recognise that we have a resurgent Russia. We are an island nation and we have two new carriers about to come into service. What’s going to protect them for the next five years? There is nothing else out there that can do it.”

 

It is believed Fallon hopes to fill the “capability gap” with a cheaper “interim solution”, possibly by installing anti-submarine warfare equipment into C-130J Hercules transport aircraft or Spanish-made C295s. In the longer term he is believed to want to review new submarine hunting technology and drones.

 

Andrew Brookes, a retired wing commander, said: “If you are in the business of power projection with our new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers then you need support assets, like maritime patrol aircraft, that can operate at long range from shore bases. CASA 295s and C-130s can’t do that – they are the poor man’s plan B.”

 

The MoD said it “continues to assess future requirements www….no decisions have been taken”.

On the surface, ST readers (if you bought to buy the paper or subscribe) would immediately think, this government sucks, it is weak on defence, this is SDSR 2010 all over again….

Reader deeper the article is riddled with factual errors and more importantly, is more a rumour than a actual news. First, “The proposed purchase of up to nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft” has not been stated anywhere else but this news article. Not in military news sites, not in other defence related newspapers or newsites at all. Second, this sentence, “The move has raised fears that Britain’s four Vanguard nuclear deterrent submarines and the navy’s new £6bn aircraft carriers could be inadequately protected” is slightly inaccurate. Since when do carrier strike groups, Royal Navy or allied, sail with MPAs overhead all the way? That sucks up lots of fuel and pilot time–the MPA most certainly cannot follow the carrier task force every where. Second, while MPAs assist submarines, they should not always flight out everytime a UK SSBN sails out. By gosh, all the aviation geeks and plan spotters would then be able to tell the SSBN sail patterns and timings!!!

Another fault lies in these phrases “Senior retired RAF officers”, One senior industry source” and “Sources said Michael Fallon”. Which sources are these? Are they people or companies directly linked to the future MPA project or just some small level official you got drunk? Who do they represent? How could they have spoken to two reporters, bearing in mind that this is defence and the MOD, not some circus company. More of this later.

Yet another mistake lies in line “The defence review, due to be published later this month”. Exactly how can the reporters know for sure that the 2015 SDSR will be published in November? Are they sources credible? Also look at the glaring typo “The MoD said it “continues to assess future requirements www….no decisions have been taken”.

The only credible source is the named source retired RAF officer, Andrew Brookes. Still he is just a Wing Commander, not even an Air Commodore or senior rank. And how much can one retired officer know about the future MPA.

Bottom line: The article lacks credibility due to its mistakes and dubious sources. It could just be churned up by Hookham and Ripley taking a MOD clerk or retired MOD low-level staffer to drinks and use him or her as a source. As I pointed out, if the P-8 is being dumped, why haven’t IHS Janes, Defensenews, Breakingdefence or any or credible military news site reported the same topic? Why hasn’t this been reported on the defence section of the Telegraph, a newspaper oriented towards defence? Or even major newsites for that matter?

Second, who ever said the P-8 is the only MPA the UK should chose? What about the others, some which are mentioned in the project? Why always buy American? Why splurge money on one damn expensive airframe when you dont have sufficient capability in other areas?

So please Hookham (mainly him not Tim Ripley), stop your scare warmongering.

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One thought on “He’s hooked you: The Hookham Ripley P-8 scare

  1. Pingback: NSS and SDSR 2015: My review of the military context | The Future of the British Armed Forces

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