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  • Intel Gap in U.K. Spending Review
    Posted by Robert Wall 3:35 PM on Oct 19, 2010

    Intelligence is the big winner coming out of the U.K.'s national security strategy update and Strategic Defense and Security Review, or so it would have appeared. In actual fact, the opposite may be the case.

    Even though Prime Minister David Cameron noted that the intelligence agencies would be supported as he rolled out the 8% topline MOD budget cut in the next few years, the documents show the U.K. is making some eyebrow-raising cuts.

    The MRA4 Nimrods will not be fielded. After more than ₤3 billion has been spent on the troubled program, the government has decided to bin the maritime patrol capability entirely -- the program was once to include 21 aircraft, was reduced to nine, and now to a big zero. It was a difficult decision, say government insiders, but that didn't spare Nimrod from being singled out by Cameron as a program that badly went wrong.

    More surprising, though, is the decision to retire the R1 Sentinel (or Astor) fleet early. The aircraft are currently supporting U.K. forces in Afghanistan. But when that mission ends -- the U.K. wants troops out of the country by 2015 -- the Sentinels will be gone.

    Apparently the U.K. feels tactical aircraft with modern sensors, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, can do the job.

    Nothing has been said, yet, about the cancellation costs associated with the decisions on Nimrod and Astor.

    The U.K. will go forward with plans to buy three RC-135 Rivet Joint sigint aircraft from the U.S. That was planned, but given the heavy dependence on the U.S. for the intelligence package, the phrase "Rivet Joint aircraft will provide independent strategic intelligence gathering" may have some sceptics snickering.

    The U.K. also will continue to bet heavily on unmanned aircraft, officials say, although the SDSR document gives no indication on the future roadmap in that realm.

    Overall, it's not a great day for airborne ISTAR in the U.K. More than ₤5 billion have been spent on the development of the MRA4 Nimrod and the R1 Sentinel, and soon there will be nothing more to show for it.

    Click here for the full Aviation Week story.

    Tags: ar99, U.K.

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