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.
It is obvious that the cost of an aircraft as a mechanical structure of the size of the Il-112, is bigger than the cost of an unmanned aircraft of 5 tons that need not to meed the requirements of habitability.
It means not that the aircraft will not have sensors, navigation hardware and software and the rest of the things, but its cost was considered in other points of my comment.
The role of the MPA will continue being of high technological level, but the computers related to this work need not to travel inside the aircraft with the sensors. If you have a competent system to send the information of the sensors, to lose the aircraft means not to lose the data, like in the case of the current big MPA aircrafts. This is how the satellites and other spacial material works today.
It is not efficient (economically) to mix the maritime patrol with other roles more related to combat. It is not necessary to have a big amount of weapons traveling constatly with the sensors while them are doing their job, and also it is not necessary to risk the expensive sensors involved in combat operations that are not of a "fire and run" nature. The work of the sensors is "to see", not to get involved in combat operations.
In the 50s of the previous century it was necessary to mix both roles (maritime patrol and antiship/antisubmarine war) because it was no way for other long range attacks and it was not the chance of coming to the place of the threat in a reasonable time. But the things changed, and other ways to do this work must be considered.
GarryB wrote: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.
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.
I mean if it is necessary to put people inside the satellites to do their current work, not for maritime patrol work, since the satellites are in fact unmanned aircrafts working at high altitute and we see as obvious and natural that they have not a crew inside. The proposed solution for the MPA role is basically the same. It is to apply the philosophy of the satellites to the aircrafts that need to do the maritime patrol work. This is something technically doable and it is coming.
The proposed solution to do this work is not to use fighters or satellites, it is to use a mix of unmanned aircrafts for maritime patrol and weapons based on ships, based on other available shipborne aircrafts, and on strategic bombers based on land to do the combat operations related.
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.
It would be a small relocation in relative terms (for ships of big size like these). I would not expect that it would affect to the endurance of the ships. I would expect an important benefit for the ships in their capabilities of maritime patrol, but I would expect a minor effect on the life of the ships in other issues.
GarryB wrote: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.
Today it is necessary to think in a solution that can remain the next 50 years. The aircrafts of the size of the Il-38 have a long life of service in part because they are expensive. Today the complete role of maritime patrol is not being done entirely by unmanned aircrafts, but we are not far from it. It can come in 5-10 years. I do not think we are at 20 years from this even in the case of the research and development going slow (it is going fast). A new maritime patrol aircraft based on the Il-112/114 adopted as a solution to close the gap, would be still in the armed forces long time after the new solution comes and the gap exist not. It has a big risk of becoming redundant and unuseful in early stages of its service life.