Germany buys seven additional Boeing P-8A Poseidons and buries the MAWS project

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As part of a massive rearmament program announced by the German government, sources have confirmed that the German Navy will add 7 additional Boeing P-8A Poseidons to complete a fleet of 12 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).

The move represents a boost for the Maritime Airborne Warfare System (MAWS) program, which sought to initially develop a replacement for the German and French maritime patrol fleets, although a European MPA would quickly find other interested parties. .

In 2017, a Franco-German council had decided to move forward with the search for a common replacement for the veteran Breguet Atlantique 2 operated by the two countries. In 2005, Germany replaced its Atlantic 2s with Dutch Armed Forces Lockheed P-3C Orions.

France continued the modernization of its Breguet Atlantique 2 and the Standard 6, implemented in 2019, will enable it to maintain its operational capacity until 2030. It incorporates an AESA Thales Searchmaster radar, underwater listening systems and a navigation console manufactured by Dassault Aviation, in addition to incorporating the Wescam MX-20 electro-optical (EO) turret, the same as that carried by the P-8A.

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The development of the MAWS would start, like any advanced technology weapon system, from the systems: the T-HED consortium (Thales, Hensoldt, ESG and Diehl) had begun to work on the design and development of the mission and combat systems .

The choice of the platform that would then carry the systems would come later: Airbus had offered its A320neo M3A – a multi-mission military variant of the civil 320neo – in the MPA version and Dassault was offering both the Falcon 8X – already chosen to be the new Air Force warfare platform – and the new 10X.

In 2021, the Bundeswehr decided not to modernize the Orion veterans and to withdraw them in 2025: this decision would have left Germany without means of maritime patrol until 2032, date on which the platform resulting from the MAWS program would reach its operational capacity.

France offered Germany four Atlantique 2 Standard 6s, but the Bundeswehr began negotiating the purchase of the P-8A Poseidon from Boeing in March 2021. In July of the same year, France announced that it would was withdrawing from the MAWS program.

In September last year, Germany finally announced the deal with Boeing.

The palliative that becomes a permanent solution

When the purchase of these five P-8As was finalized, Germany indicated that the idea was for these aircraft to be a temporary capability until the MAWS was brought into active service. But it appears that the purchase of these seven additional planes means the cancellation of the continuation of this European platform.

On the one hand, the war between Russia and Ukraine has highlighted the need for modern defensive and offensive capabilities, immediately available: there is not enough time to develop a system that corresponds, at best, to the current capabilities of the Poseidon, a true state-of-the-art platform. Now is not the time to investigate the recipe for warm water.

On the other hand, the certain cancellation of the MAWS program will not leave many options for other operators in the heavy MPA segment: without a European counterpart, the options would be reduced to the P-8A and a few projects with theoretically similar characteristics and performance.

We will have to see how the Sea Sultan project, based on the Embraer Lineage 1000, progresses in its development for the Pakistani Navy. With the first aircraft delivered in September 2021, the Italian Leonardo is under contract for the conversion of two others and the possibility of increasing this fleet to 10 aircraft.

In the same segment, the Kawasaki P-1, currently in service with the JMSDF (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force) presents similar performance, even if it is extremely complex for the Japanese industry to want to export a system of such technological sensitivity.

With the decline of the MAWS and an A320neo MPA, potential customers such as Spain, Greece and Canada will have to decide whether to seek alternatives in the same segment, downgrade to a smaller aircraft or succumb to the trend and opt for the Poseidon all immediately.

The size of a platform like the Falcon, a Swordfish – Saab’s system based on the Bombardier Global 6000 – or similar should impact operational range and station time, but miniaturization of electronics should not not significantly affect its mission capabilities, although the offensive payload is also reduced.

In a complex spectrum such as ASW/AsuW warfare, a full-capability MPA is important to supplement reduced-capability, tactical-range platforms such as a C-295 Persuader or ATR-72MP, in addition to capabilities monitoring of certain remotely controlled systems. .

Germany buys 12 Poseidons, forgets the MAWS and sends it to the bottom of a drawer. We’ll have to see if the Airbus A320neo M3A still has any lives.

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