https://rusi.org/publication/rusi-defen ... lacing-raf’s-sentinel-r1-fleet-additional-p-8a-poseidon#.Xru8Woo6s4c.twitter
It is thus a fair assumption that the RAF’s P-8A Poseidon fleet will find itself heavily utilised, and with only nine aircraft there will be an inherent and inescapable trade-off between the capacity and crew proficiency for the core (and critical) ASW mission set, and other global surveillance and enabler missions. This brings us to the central point. If the UK can buy its way into the highly capable AAS radar programme, which is not a certainty but there are multiple historical precedents for, then the RAF could replace the remaining Sentinel R.1s one for one with additional P-8As equipped with the AAS pod.
It would also give the RAF commonality with the US Navy on a system which sits at the heart of the latter’s naval integrated fire control – counter-air (NIFC-CA) construct for advanced networked warfighting, and provide an additional tool for enabling UK joint force integration at the tactical level. AESA radars such as the AAS are potentially extremely effective electronic warfare and high-bandwidth communications tools in addition to their role as sensors, and the AAS will be progressively upgraded by the US Navy for decades with such capabilities. Whilst the additional aircraft would be expensive to procure, the fixed costs for P-8A operations have already been paid by the UK, and additional aircraft will be significantly cheaper than those bought already. With the RAF’s E-3D Sentry AWACS fleet being replaced by the E-7A Wedgetail based on the same 737-NG airframe as the P-8, replacing Sentinel with additional P-8s with AAS would also allow the RAF to fully exploit the efficiencies of standardising most of its fixed-wing ISTAR fleets on one airframe. Finally, additional P-8As with AAS to replace the Sentinel fleet would add sorely needed resilience to the ASW capabilities of the UK as a whole, as aircraft equipped with the radar pod could also perform other MPA tasks if demand for overland missions is lower – and at the very least will reduce the otherwise almost inevitable tendency for the existing P-8 fleet to be drawn off its core mission by other commitments.