The British P8 fleet will be insufficient

On June 28, 2011, Britain's last Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft was retired without a replacement, with competence sacrificed on the altar of budgetary savings and the end of the Cold War.

5 years later, the British armies had to urgently order 8 copies of the new P9 Poseidon anti-submarine warfare device from Boeing, to cope with the increasing power of the Russian submarine. 

The P8 has much better performance than the Nimrod MR2 retired a few years ago, including a much greater range, and a greatly improved detection capacity. These performance gains made it possible, according to the British General Staff, to compensate for the reduction in the number of aircraft, from 21 to 9. 

Unfortunately, the operational reality is a little more complex than a simple rule of 3, and the article by Vice Admiral Roberts (ret.), shows that the 9 devices ordered will be very insufficientto ensure the missions assigned to maritime patrol, first and foremost the protection of the Royal Navy's nuclear missile submarines, the backbone of British deterrence.

 This reasoning invites us to question the formats defined during the period following the 2008 crisis, with an obvious desire to reduce army spending as much as possible, considered an unnecessary expense by many governments.

Thus, the transition from 60 F-16s to 34 new generation aircraft envisaged by the Belgian Air Force, as was the case in Denmark and the Netherlands, will pose major operational problems in terms of availability and projection capabilities of these NATO members. 

In France, the reduction in the number of Air Force fighters is already posing problems of projection capacity and training, while the format is still much higher than the 185 fighters targeted by the LBDSN 2013.

The problem is not specific to aircraft. The insufficient number of frigates in the French Navy, also linked to the disappearance of the fleet of Avisos, led the Naval Staff to decide to operate with double crew per frigate. If in time of peace the measure is obviously effective, in time of war, the number of frigates will remain very insufficient and the slightest attrition will significantly undermine the operational capabilities of the French Navy.

The paradigm according to which technology compensates for numbers therefore seems to be reaching its limits...

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