6 will be MPA of maritime patrol and 10 MSA of maritime surveillance

Spanish Air Force will receive 16 C295W MPA/MSA: this is how these aircraft are for maritime missions

The recent loss of the last P-3M Orion of the Spanish Air Force left Spain and its extensive coastline without maritime patrol aircraft.

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To this we must add that the eight CN235 VIGMA maritime surveillance aircraft of the Air Force, transformed from as many tactical transport units of that aircraft, will need to be replaced in the medium term. These aircraft are assigned to 801 Squadron (49 Wing, Son San Juan, Mallorca), 802 Squadron (46 Wing, Gando, Gran Canaria) and 803 Squadron (48 Wing, Getafe, Madrid). In turn, the P-3 Orions were assigned to Group 22 (Ala 11, Morón, Seville). It is, therefore, a matter of replacing a capacity already lost (maritime patrol) and covering another at risk of being lost (maritime surveillance) , if new means do not arrive.

A maritime patrol C295W MPA (Source: Airbus).

16 C295W to replace the P-3M and the CN235 VIGMA

The replacement of the P-3M Orion is already late, considering that they have all been withdrawn from service. Faced with this problem, today the Council of Ministers have approved the purchase of 16 Airbus C395W for the Air Force. The aircraft will be distributed in two batches: 6 in the MPA maritime patrol version and 10 in the MSA maritime surveillance version. It should be noted that Already in July 2020, the government had announced the purchase of 4 C295W MPA, in order to replace the Orion. Three years have passed, a delay that has left the Air Force without maritime patrol capacity.

Model of a C295W MPA (Source: Airbus).

This is the C295W MPA maritime patrol

As for the planes, let's start with the C295W MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). The C295 are already old acquaintances of the Air Force. Initially manufactured by the Spanish company Construcciones Aeronáuticas (CASA) and currently by Airbus, this model made its first flight in 1997 as a medium tactical transport aircraft Currently the C295 is operated by 35 countries, most of them in its transportation variant. The Air Force operates 13 aircraft. The MPA version, known as Persuader, is operated by four countries: Brazil, Chile, Oman and Portugal.

A C295W MPA, in this case with two of its underwing mounts installed (Source: Airbus).

The C295W MPA is a smaller aircraft than the P-3 Orion. Likewise, it is equipped with two turboprop engines instead of the four of its predecessor. The benefits of the Spanish aircraft are inferior to those of the P-3. Based on data To Airbus officials, the C295W MPA has a ferry range (ie, unarmed and with full fuel load) of 5,750 km, much less than the 8,950 km of the P-3 and also under 8,300 km for the US replacement for the P-3, the Boeing P-8 Poseidon (based on the 737). The cruise speed of the C295W, 480 km/h, is also much lower than that of the P-3, 815 km/h.

A drawing showing the dimensions of the C295W MPA (Source: Airbus).

To this we must add that Spain operated seven P-3 Orion, but the Air Force will receive six C295W MPA. Thus, with this acquisition, the Spanish Air Force loses benefits and capabilities, something that has already happened in other units, such as those dedicated to training. These are the effects of spending on defense that is not enough to replace our past capabilities.

The internal configuration of a C295W MPA (Source: Airbus).

The positive side is that the C295W MPA is much cheaper than the P-8 Poseidon, which would be the option that Spain should have chosen if it had not wanted to suffer that loss of performance. The purchase of these 16 MPA and MSA aircraft will cost Spain 1,730 million euros, that is, 108.12 million euros per aircraft (MPAs are more expensive than MSAs). The P-8 Poseidon has a unit cost of 221.6 million Euro. More than double. Likewise, the operating costs of the P-8 are also higher.

The C295W MPA has lower performance than the P-3 Orion, but its operating cost is also lower (Source: Airbus).

In terms of weapons and equipment, the C295W MPA has six underwing mounts in which it can transport torpedoes, air-to-surface missiles, bombs, depth charges and electronic warfare ECM pods. Likewise, in the rear part of the fuselage it has a sonobuoy launcher for submarine detection. In addition, the aircraft is equipped with an EO/IR turret with high-definition cameras, a multi-mode maritime search radar, an IFF identification friend/foe system, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and SATCOM satellite data links.

The cockpit of a C295W MPA (Source: Airbus).

Inside the aircraft, the C295W MPA has four FITS consoles (Fully Integrated Tactical System). FITS is a system developed by Airbus that integrates, displays and controls a complete set of sensors in real time, interacting with the weapons control system and with the aircraft's communication and navigation systems. The C295W MPA's four multifunctional FITS consoles reduce the workload of each operator and provide redundant access to system functionalities and sensors, Airbus says. Any sensor in a mission can be an operator from any of these consoles.

The FITS consoles of a C295W MPA (Source: Airbus).

This is the C295W MSA for maritime surveillance

As for the C295W MSA, it has a range of 4,352 km. Unlike the MPA, its functions are more oriented towards surveillance, search and rescue. To do this, it is equipped with an EO/IR turret with high-definition cameras, a multi-mode maritime search radar, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and a SAR kit launcher. Optionally, it can be equipped with ESM (electronic support measures) and ELINT (electronic intelligence) and maritime pollution control systems, in addition to a LIDAR detector.

A C295 MSA of the Brazilian Air Force (Source: Airbus).

Regarding its internal configuration, the C295W MSA has two FITS consoles instead of the four of the C295W MPA. Likewise, on the back it has a flare launcher and smoke markers.

The internal configuration of the C295W MSA (Source: Airbus).


Main photo: Airbus.

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