Now there is a good idea for patrolling the EEZ


I remonstrated with Wayne Mapp at the time of the 2010 Defence White Paper release. In fact I called him an outdated silly old fool, which he didn’t like.

But basically the white paper advocated the continued use and reliance on hordes of people and equipment that required people to perform routine tasks. Mapp thought he knew best and tried to tell me that a P3 Orion with upgrades and some fancy new patrol aircraft would solve our problems in the EEZ.

I told him that drones and UAVs were the way of the future. Turns out I was right and Mapp has gone.

The Ministry of Defence is considering using huge drones to patrol Britain?s coastline to help replace the axed Nimrod surveillance aircraft.

A military team will travel to America this summer to train for two months on the US navy?s Triton reconnaissance drone which has the wingspan of a small airliner and can fly at a height of 10 miles for more than 24 hours.?

The training comes a year ahead of a government decision whether to buy new maritime patrol aircraft.

Defence chiefs complain the axing of the troubled Nimrod programme in the Coalition?s 2010 cost-cutting defence review robbed Britain of a critical surveillance tool, leaving it unable to protect its waters and ships, and reliant on patrol planes from America, Canada, Norway and France.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH?370 underlined the problem, sources said, showing Britain would have no planes to find the aircraft or its black box if something similar happened near the UK.

The RAF is lobbying the Government to buy a mixture of drones and conventional manned aircraft to plug the gap.

A defence source said: ?We are looking at complementary capabilities. There is great mileage in drones for persistent surveillance and a maritime patrol aircraft for the more specific actions.?

The US navy has agreed to buy 68 of?Northrop Grumman?s MQ-4C Tritons?and the drone has just finished its first flight tests. The drone?s sensors allow it to scan a 360-degree view of its surroundings at a range of more than 2,000 nautical miles. The first US navy Tritons are due to begin service in three years.

America will operate the drones alongside its Boeing P-8 Poseidon sea patrol planes and Britain also has personnel training on those. Last month Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, visited the P-8s at their base in Jacksonville, Florida and sources said he had been impressed by their operations.

US equipment is very expensive, and the Israelis make some very, very good drones with as much capability and sometimes more than US versions.