This point was about the aircraft itself, as a mechanical structure (without sensors, without navigation hardware and software, without the equipment to send the information or without the equipment that can need a crew to read the data of the sensors inside the aircraft. This cost is significantly lower in the case of the unmanned aircraft since it has a lot lower mechanical and safety requirements. Also it has a lot lower size and weight.
By reducing redundancy and safety system on board an aircraft, you do make it cheaper and simpler, but an MPA has the most computer intensive job in the military... collecting and processing enormous amounts of raw data takes a lot of computers and of course large expensive sensors to collect the data in the first place...
The aircraft themselves will be very expensive whether there are people on board, the point is that an MPA will never be disposable, and removing redundancy and safety equipment just makes them less likely to complete a mission in difficult situations.
Sure it means you can send them into more dangerous situations, but if they are shot down or just lost then you might as well have not sent it because when it is lost you get no data and it is the data it collects that you defend yourself with. A crewed aircraft might have made it back and delivered data that might have saved your ships entering a trap, or getting the chance to create a trap for the enemy.
the cost to build might be lower but higher attrition in peace time and war makes them rather more expensive.
Then it is necessary to put people inside the satellites to see them working well enoug?
If satellites could do everything there would have been no role for MPAs.
Satellites are good because only a few things can threaten them, but for finding an enemy sub they are not so useful.
The satellites are UAVs in fact working at high altitude. I think you are giving too much value to this point. The need to save the platform is a lot lower if it is unhabited, and if it is smaller and cheaper
If you could do the same job with a satellite in space that you can do with an MPA then why do all navies of the world today continue to buy MPAs?
MPAs will be expensive whether they have people on board or not. Computers and sensitive sensors are expensive.
Also an Il-114 based aircraft or an Il-38 are not the best platforms to scape to attacks.
But most of the time they just patrol Russian air space looking for problems/threats... something they would not be able to do 500km above the surface.
MPAs have a range of sensors and systems to detect Subs and ships, but some are good for pinpointing subs (MAD) and others can detect their presence from further away (radar/EO).
Sometimes a radar contact... a 6mm bulge in the sea surface attracts the aircrafts attention and it uses sonar bouys to triangulate the likely position of the sub and then the MAD stinger lets it know the precise location for depth charge attack.... can't do that with a fighter or a satellite.
This is a constant trend going forward, because arguments against it are not consistent enough.
I agree unmanned platforms have appeal... but for the moment I think a decent manned MPA that might operate with high flying or low flying unmanned aircraft would be a much better solution to the problem.
An airship could land on the water surface and use a dipping sonar to locate subs... it can check different depths through different layers that a sonobouy would just bounce its signal off of... it could even drop depth charges and torpedoes... disposable sonobouys are very expensive but a dipping sonar can be fully reusable, so while it is expensive too you can just keep using it.
The crew of the smaller ships mentioned is 200. Sovremenny destroyers have 350, Slava class cruisers about 500, and we are talking about 6-8 persons by aircraft. The effect would be of about a 2-3%, a 4% at worst. I doubt it would affect to the endurance of the ships. It seems to me that this is in the range of problems that can be solved without a big effort.
So food and water for an extra 6-8 people, plus at least 2 or more 5 ton aircraft plus fuel and space and ordinance for everything, plus a control deck to operate them from... I don't think that would be nothing, and it would certainly effect helicopter operations too.
Surely we would find the most advanced of these systems working in the most modern satellites.
The Ka-31 is not ideal, but it exists because the data it can collect is useful enough to warrant the cost. If the Kuznetsov had a catapault there would be a proper fixed wing AWACS or at least AEW aircraft and the Ka-31 would not exist.
As technology improves then performance of helos an UAVs will improve but when the next gen Russian carriers arrive with EM cats then a fixed wing AEW will be developed... simply because its time on station, its operating altitude, and flight range and radar performance will be superior to anything a 5 ton UAV or 12 ton helo can manage.
UAVs and Helos will improve but it is always easier to make a heavy fixed wing aircraft more capable... the only advantage a helo has is dipping sonar and airships can do that better too.