Friday, 29 October 2010

Why Nimrod Was Cancelled?

In Parliament on the 28th of October the reasons for cancelling the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft were yesterday given by Peter Luff,Minister for Defence Equipment,Support and Technology:

"The decision not to bring the Nimrod MRA4 into service announced by the Prime Minister on 19 October was difficult,owing to the nature of the military tasks to which it was designed to contribute,the amount of public money that had been spent on it,and the impact of such a decision on the people who have dedicated their careers to delivering this capability,or who depend on it for their livelihoods.
However,the severe financial pressures faced by the nation and the urgent need to bring the defence programme into balance meant that we could not retain all our existing programmes,and that we had to prioritise those capabilities that we could continue to maintain.
 This project has suffered from repeated delays and cost overruns.
 But it is the aircraft's future support costs that contributed to the decision not to bring it into service,despite its advanced state.
The Nimrod MRA4's role as an Intelligence,Surveillance,Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance platform was to contribute to a wide range of military tasks.
 These included the protection of the nuclear deterrent and deployed Maritime Task Groups,surveillance and tracking of surface shipping,and a number of other operations relevant to the security of the UK and its overseas territories.

The aircraft also fulfilled a secondary role in support of Long Range Search and Rescue.
Since the withdrawal of the Nimrod MR2 in March this year,the Ministry of Defence has sought to mitigate the gap in capability through the use of other military assets,including Type 23 Frigates,Merlin Anti Submarine Warfare helicopters and Hercules C-130 aircraft,and by relying,where appropriate,on assistance from allies and partners.
 Although it was originally assumed that such measures would only be required for a limited period of time,we are now developing a longer-term plan to mitigate the impact of cancellation on our continuing military tasks and capabilities.
 In view of the sensitive and classified nature of some of these military tasks,and the implications for the protection of our armed forces,including the nuclear deterrent,it is not possible for us to comment on these measures in detail.
Following last week's announcement we have also begun discussing with BAE Systems arrangements to terminate the contracts for production and support of the aircraft.
 Until these negotiations are complete it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the likely costs or the impact on personnel employed on the Nimrod MRA4 programme."

Unfortunately this statement does not help to answer many of the questions surrounding the Nimrod cancellation and the Strategic Defence and Security Review as a whole.

It would be helpful if we knew how much the operating costs of Nimrod were expected to be and what would have been cut in it's place if it had been retained.

In particular,it would be interesting to know if Raptor pod equipped Nimrods could have cost effectively replaced Tornados on operations in Afghanistan.

It must also be asked why the £600 Million a year Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (F.S.T.A.) project was not cancelled or at least significantly reduced in scale.

It could be argued that the retention of Nimrod and carrier capable Harriers would have dramatically reduced the need for tanker aircraft.

A public statement on the costs of retaining Nimrod,Harrier,F.S.T.A. and Tornado would perhaps explain the governments decisions.

At present there is a great deal of confusion over the rationale behind many decisions which have been taken.

There is also the question of whether Nirmrod was cancelled as part of an Anglo French agreement on military cooperation.


Mike Breslin said...

Reading between the lines, the MoD seem to be planning to equip a number of C130 Hercules to fill the role vacated by Nimrod MRA4. Alternatively, Messrs. Cameron and Fox may be secretly negotiating with our European allies and we may therefore see French AF Atlantiques or Norwegian P3C Orions coordinating search and rescue around the UK coastline.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Mike Breslin,

the French have just announced a major upgrade for their Atlantiques.
The intent of the European agreements is that nations specialise in certain areas to create interdependence.
For example,France supplies the European maritime patrol aircraft fleet,Germany supplies the tank fleet and so on.
The other side of this is that countries like Britain get rid of their maritime patrol aircraft and tanks.
It is all laid out in another recent post.