By: Aaron Mehta, Defense News
BRUSSELS — Poland and Canada have agreed to join a coalition of NATO countries seeking to jointly buy a fleet of maritime surveillance aircraft.
The two countries bring the total number of nations investing in the Multinational Maritime Multi Mission Aircraft Capabilities program to eight. The program launched with France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey in June 2017.
“This joint effort recognizes the fact that the majority of Allies’ maritime patrol aircraft fleets will be reaching the end of their operational lives between 2025 and 2035,“ NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said in a statement through the alliance.
Canada has decided to rejoin NATO’s airborne warning and control system program program, while Belgium has agreed to buy into the alliance’s tanker program — a pair of moves expected to strengthen NATO’s indigenous air capability.
By: David Pugliese, Aaron Mehta
However, Gottemoeller emphasized that “the goal here isn’t just a drawing board design — we need a new generation of aircraft, in the air, fulfilling what is an increasingly important mission.”
And indeed, the program is still in the earliest stages, and it is unclear what may actually come from it.
The NATO announcement notes that the partners have been working to “define a common requirements document,” with the goal of having those requirements laid out by the end of this year.
In terms of potential aircraft, Boeing will undoubtedly encourage the partners to buy the P-8, which is already operated by the U.S., U.K. and Norway.
Those three NATO partners have an agreement on joint procurement for maintenance and equipment on that plane, which could potentially be expanded for the eight nations in the MMMA program.
Additionally, the U.S. is close to beginning construction at the Keflavik base in Iceland to allow the P-8 to be stationed there to better monitor the Atlantic for Russian submarine activity, a big enough priority for NATO as it moves to increase its focus on maritime security.
However, Airbus is likely to offer its A319 maritime patrol aircraft option, which could appeal to the European nations in the program.
Additionally, Canada is embroiled in a spat with Boeing due to the American company’s battle with Canadian commercial aviation giant Bombardier. The row has already cost Boeing an expected sale of F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters; as a result, Canada may not be enthusiastic about buying the P-8.
Along those lines, the Saab Swordfish — based on a Bombardier Global 6000 body — would likely be another contender. The company has marketed the plane as having four “NATO-compatible hardpoints” that can accommodate up to six lightweight torpedoes for anti-submarine operations.