For me the future of the Maritime Patrol and Anti-Submarine Warfare is different. Basically the loitering work will be assumed by UAVs of different size but mostly shipborne, while the combat work will be assumed by a mix of different options.
The main reason for this is in the costs:
- To carry important loads of weapons while loitering, to be not used, includes important requirements on the aircrafts that are not necessary. Today there are enough long range weapons systems to allow a new operational system in which the weapons only travel when are used.
- To carry persons while loitering also ads important requirements on the aircrafts that neither are necessary today. In the age of UAVs the operators of the aircrafts and the sensors can work from ships.
- The costs of operation of the Maritime Patrol and ASW aircrafts under the current model are not cheap. It leads to have the aircrafts on land most of the time. It allows not a continuous work, except in the case of focusing several aircrafts in a concrete area of trategic importance.
It was a nice series of comments in the topic of the naval aviation where all this was explained, like two years ago, but misteriously disappeared.1) Maritime Patrol, Early Warning, Reconnaissance, Surveillance:
This part of the work likely will be done by UAVs of basically 3 sizes:
- UAVs of small size for use from every ship.
- Helipad based long range UAVs. (New).
- Aircraft Carrier/Land based long range UAVs. (New).
Likely the most important would be the second type. The main requirements for this second type would be:
- Long range.
- Size well addapted (maximized) to use in the helipads of the current combat ships. It means not bigger than current combat helicopters and lighter than them (maybe 5-7 tons).
- Long range, maximized thanks to carry only combustible and sensor loads. It means unarmed.
The first time I commented all this, it was almost nothing like that, but now there are public projects in Russia that would be very useful for this purpose only addapting its size to the current helipads of the combat fleet:
This would the list of combat ships that would be able to operate UAVs of this type with the size addapted to the current helipads (it would make a strong share of points of maritime patrol and early warning able to operate without stop):
01 Project 11435 aircraft carrier
03 Project 1144
03 Project 1164
01 Project 1134B
09 Project 1155
06 Project 956
01 Project 61/01090
02 Project 11351
02 Project 11540
03 Project 11356
05 Project 20380/5
36 TOTAL SHIPS AT THE BEGIN OF 2018
The project of the picture is of 1.5 tons. A pretty and likely solid design only a little smaller than the necessary size to be well addapted to the current helipads of the combat ships. This is coming faster than what many people expect, and the current fleet of subsonic strategic bombers for maritime patrol can afford some years without replacement.2) Anti-Submarine Warfare:
This part of the work will be likely done by a combination of weapons (without mention land based tactical weapons of shorter range from the coast):
- Submarines (missiles, torpedoes,...)
- Ships (missiles, torpedoes,...)
- Shipborne combat helicopters. In the near future likely to become also unmanned.
- Aircraft Carrier/Land based long range armed UAVs. (New).
- Land based long range ASW missiles. (New).
- Land based Strategic bombers.
As commented I expect a new operational model for the use of Anti-Submarine weapons. A model where the weapons and ammunitions move from land or ships only to be used. The apparition of cheaper systems of long range weapons and the apparition of UAVs allow to it.
In the case of the ammunition (missiles, torpedoes,...) launched from ships and submarines, is likely a development of new solutions to increase the range. For me this is more likely than the development of ship based armed UAVs of small or helipad size.
Other option from the ships would be the use of combat helicopters, which natural evolution tends to make them unmanned in the future.
Also I expect big long range UAVs that can be used both from aircraft carriers or from land. They would be able to carry enough weapons and ammunition until long ranges. I think its natural size has a limit that is coincident with the limit of size of the aircrafts operated in aircraft carriers of big size. I do not expect UAVs too big to be operated from aircraf carriers unless they are spacecrafts (satellites,..).
Other possible option, in this case from land, is the development of land based long range missiles with conventional anti-ship and ASW loads.
And between the mix, of weapons, I think also the Strategic Bombers (Tu-PAK-DA (New), Tu-160, Tu-22, Tu-95/142, Il-38) have an important place, specially important while the cited new types of weapons emerge. It is necessary to remember that the current Maritime Patrol and ASW aircrafts are Strategic Bombers by nature, as military concept. Free of the need of loitering, Strategic Bombers for ASW need not to be slow, and the speed becomes an interesting feature. Under this new type of operational model, the speed of the modern Strategic Bombers is a positive feature. Fast approach to the detected submarines is not a bad feature. In the future I expect every new design of strategic bomber, including the modernization of the Tu-160, well addapted to the use of maritime weapons, basically because only will be one design of Strategic Bomber by armament generation, and the design needs to be open enough to cover all the strategic bombing potential types of missions on land and on sea.
For me the design, development and construction of new maritime patrol and ASW aircrafts in the old mold makes not sense at this point. The necessary for a new model of maritime patrol and ASW can be ready in 10 years, and this is far less than the life of a new aircraft built now:
- This is the reason why I was able to preview here the cancellation of the contract of the Be-200 for the Russian Armed Forces.
- This is for me the reason of why we have not news about developments in the old mold of the maritime patrol and ASW.
- This is why we see instead the development of new Russian VTOL UAVs of increasing size.
- And this is for me the reason of why the current Tu-95/142 and Il-38 are being modernized.