RAF Calls for More Sub-Hunter Aircraft as Russia Increases Presence: Report

Royal Air Force commanders are asking for additional P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft as Russia ramps up submarine patrols near the island nation’s maritime borders.

The commanders told The Telegraph that Russian submarine sightings in the North Atlantic have doubled in the last 10 years compared to the Cold War period, necessitating a proportional response.

Three Additional P-8s Needed

Quoting Wing Cdr. Ben Livesy, the outlet reported that the RAF needs at least 12 P-8s — three more than the current fleet — for a “credible response” to an “aggressive” Russia. He attributed the development partly to the David Cameron government’s decision to retire the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft fleet in 2010.

“To call it an expansionist Russia is an understatement. I do not think we can take Russia for granted. We have to respect the threat that they represent,” the RAF veteran said.

“We have to have the ability in our arsenal to respond to it. If you do defense on the cheap, you do not have that credible response … you get worse sensors, cannot travel as far, and spend less time in the air.”

P-8A Poseidon
P-8A Poseidon. Image: Boeing Australia

‘The Time Is Right’

Livesy acknowledged that the aircraft’s 120-million-pound ($147 million) price tag is a hindrance to the fleet’s expansion but insisted that the time is right as “Boeing’s production facilities are already in full swing.”

“We have a time-banded opportunity to do so,” he said.

Boeing has snapped up multiple P-8 contracts in the last few years from countries such as New Zealand, South Korea, and Norway. In February, the defense giant offered the aircraft to Canada as a replacement for its CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.

Sensors, Weapons Package

The Boeing P-8 is a multirole maritime patrol aircraft fitted with sensors and weapons for anti-submarine warfare. The plane can fly 4,500 miles (7,242 kilometers) or up to 10 hours.

A single jet can deploy up to 129 sonobuoys — a tube-shaped sonar ejected from an aircraft to listen for submarine engine and propeller sounds — along with five Raytheon Mark 54 lightweight air-launched torpedoes to strike vessels from up to 9 kilometers (6 miles) away.

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