Monday, 17 July 2017

A Poseidon adventure

I spent a little while talking to a crew chief for one of the P-8 Poseidons yesterday. He's been on secondment to the US Navy, along with the rest of his squadron for a few years now. Britain is not due to operate the P8 until about 2020 but it was felt that retaining experienced ground crew after the scrapping of Nimrod was essential in order to retain and build on institutional knowledge.

Since 2010, British airmen have been working to support US operational squadrons with a view to bringing those skills back to the UK and training their replacements. Likely it would have cost considerably more to let all that knowledge go, and rebuilding squadron support from the ground up would have caused significant delays.

What surprised me was that the MoD had taken an eminently sensible long term view. But then this is actually the whole point of the P8 - to have a standard maritime patrol aircraft throughout NATO, one based on a commercial airframe, meaning these aircraft can be kept running all day, every day with spares and major overhaul costs kept to a minimum.

In that regard we have a NATO wide force all operating to the same standards, methods and practices but each free to innovate of their own accord. Each nation owns their own aircraft and are free to try out different ideas.

It's been a long time since I could say unequivocally that the MoD has got something right. I suppose this was a no-brainer though so even those without brains could not have screwed this up. What's interesting, though, is this requires a good deal of cooperation between Boeing, BAe Systems, the Royal Air Force, the US Navy, NATO, and all the contractors and families involved. Since a lot of it is highly classified this all has to work within a network of close cooperation agreements.

And that's really the point. As close cooperation and operational integration goes, it doesn't get closer than this. It's a true partnership between nations. Absolute cooperation in the common good, in the cause of peace and security. The deepest kind of international engagement. I must have been imagining it though. We all know that cannot happen without political union and being in the EU! So they say.

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