Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin today signed a P-8A Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) declaration with her United States counterpart, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, to further strengthen the uniquely close defence relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.
In 2019 the UK will receive delivery of its first Poseidon P-8A aircraft and both nations have committed to deepen their defence cooperation when operating in the North Atlantic region. Through seeking opportunities to share logistics and support bases and optimise the use of P-8A aircraft, particularly in Europe, the declaration should ensure increased value for money and operational effectiveness.
Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said “The United States is our pre-eminent Ally in global defence and collective security. This declaration is further evidence of how our two countries continue to cooperate and build mutual security, particularly in the North Atlantic region.
“Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178 billion Equipment Plan, the P-8A programme will provide us with enhanced surveillance capabilities.”
As leading members of NATO, the UK and US are committed to the collective defence of each other and their Allies. We have also pledged to deepen defence cooperation, bilaterally and within the Alliance, to further improve the ability to operate together in exercises and operations.
The declaration provides a new opportunity to maximise value for money for the taxpayer and continue to strengthen UK-US interoperability and to pursue efficiencies in operations and support, including at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, where the P-8A will bring some 400+ jobs.
The Department of Defense and Ministry of Defence plan to cooperate closely on operation of their P-8A aircraft in the North Atlantic to ensure a coherent approach to MPA activity.
Delivering on the commitment of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the UK is purchasing nine Boeing P-8A Poseidon MPAs to be based in RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland. The aircraft will add to the UK’s surveillance capabilities, including conducting anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search and rescue and intelligence gathering.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said “Today’s signing of the Declaration on P-8A Poseidon Bilateral Cooperation exemplifies the importance and strength of the US-UK partnership.
“This cooperation agreement ensures and deepens our interoperability and maritime patrol capabilities. Together, the US and UK will continue to deter regional threats and maintain a robust military posture.”
With the first P-8A aircraft due to arrive in the UK in 2019, the RAF has ensured that we have maintained the skills needed to operate these MPAs through the ‘seed-corn’ programme, which has embedded former RAF MPA operators within the MPA squadrons of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.
Air Commodore Ian Gale, Senior Responsible Owner for the Poseidon P-8A programme, said:
“This agreement will enhance the UK’s maritime patrol capability and further strengthen UK-US defence relations. The arrival of the Poseidon P-8A in 2019 will provide the UK with significantly increased capabilities and bring hi-tech employment to Scotland and the wider UK.”
This agreement follows Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon’s recent visit to Norway, where he also committed to cooperate on Maritime Patrol Aircraft operations, ensuring that the UK will continue to play a key role in delivering collective maritime security across the globe.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Readers struggling to find anything of substance in this remarkably vacuous ministerial declaration need not continue: it is an entirely hollow attempt to show that the Ministry of Defence doing something – anything -- to compensate for the misguided scrapping of its entire fleet of Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft in 2010 to save money.
This has proved highly embarrassing, as on several occasions the British government has had to ask allied nations to deploy maritime patrol aircraft to hunt for foreign submarines in its territorial waters, notably around the approaches to its nuclear submarine base at Faslane, Scotland.
A similarly meaningless declaration was signed during the UK Defence Secretary’s last visit to Norway, in November 2016, when it was “announced that the UK and Norway would work closer on Maritime Patrol Aircraft cooperation, including in reducing costs and increasing operational effectiveness.”
Given that Norway operates a small fleet of antiquated P-3C Orions, and that the UK has none, it is difficult to take such a statement seriously.
As far as it means anything, today’s declaration simply states the obvious – that US Navy P-8A Poseidons will have access to Lossiemouth air base, where the Royal Air Force plans to base its own P-8As when they finally arrive, sometime in 2019 – but dresses it up in grandiloquent phrases to give it some substance.
The only saving grace of this bilateral declaration is that it didn’t cost much, and that it allowed the Ministry of Defence to trot out its latest favorite mantra: the claim that it has “a rising defence budget and a £178 billion Equipment Plan.”)