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Spain continues to seek replacements for its VIGMA P-3 and CN-235 after withdrawing from the NATO program. Unmanned systems will not be considered – Notes

In view of the need to find a replacement for the Air Force’s P-3 Orin and CN-235 VIGMA sea patrol aircraft, Spain became interested, given its years of experience with the Accelerated Interim Multinational MPA Solution (AIM2S) or the Accelerated Multinational Sea Patrol Interim Solution program. According to the Defense Ministry, the aim was to find synergies with the needs of other countries.

However, after NATO selected the Boeing P-8 Poseidon in place of the Airbus C295 proposed by Spain, it was not intended to continue the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the development and acquisition of the P-8. The Department of Defense is continuing the process of obtaining an interim (temporary) solution to meet its requirements for patrol and surveillance at sea (Maritime Patrol Aircraft or MPA and Maritime Surveillance or VIGMA).

The NATO AIM2S initiative, through the NATO Procurement Agency, the NATO Assistance and Procurement Agency (NSPA), aims to provide a rapid collective response to the need to improve the patrol capacity of various allies at sea. Spain was a member of this initiative, which did not include any obligation to develop or acquire. This program aims to examine options for obtaining a temporary solution that could meet the needs of member countries pending the arrival of a solution such as the aircraft resulting from the multinational maritime multi-mission aircraft capabilities cooperation program on which Spain has participated since 2017.

As confirmed by the Ministry of Defense, due to its temporary nature, the solution sought by the initiative cannot fully cover all operational requirements of the P-3 Maritime Patrol aircraft, but only partially until the final solution is found. In any case, the long-term solution is examined as part of the procurement process governed by the regulations in force by the Minister of Defense, at the stage of defining the alternative for obtaining it. Various alternatives are considered in this study to meet the ultimate need, the viability of which is being examined.

The Spanish proposal is based on the C295

The solution proposed by Spain for the AIM2S initiative was based on a multisensor C295 aircraft with maritime surveillance and maritime surveillance capabilities that could simultaneously meet the requirements of interim maritime surveillance and maritime surveillance (VIGMA). Spain will therefore join a multinational initiative to promote the C295, which can serve as the basis for replacing the VIGMA aircraft, but has limited range and autonomy compared to the P-3 and is therefore partially temporary until the other NATO- Program comes about.

The NSPA conducted an Industry Information Request (RFI) from which it selected three alternatives proposed by Airbus, Boeing and Leonardo. Subsequently, a call for proposals (RFP) was requested from these three on behalf of the countries in the initiative, the option of which would begin the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the acquisition and multinational operation of the platform. The platform that was ultimately selected was Boeing’s P-8, despite Spain’s commitment to Airbus C295.

A parliamentary inquiry in June last year reported on the situation when it was reported that the phase of identifying the alternative for the multi-sensor platform that will replace the P-3 Orin had already begun. With the Viability Document (DDV), this phase is ended in accordance with instruction 67/2011 of the Minister of Defense of September 15, which regulates the procedure for the procurement of material resources.

The first Operational Necessity Document (DNO) that addresses these needs was validated in May 2006. Subsequently, the developed documentation milestones were adapted to the new standard – Instruction 67/2011 of the State Secretary for Defense (SEDEF) – and the General Staff Objective document (07/13/2008) and general personnel requirements (01/21/2020).

This interpellation also mentioned the Franco-German Naval Warfare System (MAWS) program, which gathered the official response that Spain must receive detailed information about it before joining. Inclusion in multinational capacity building initiatives should be assessed as part of the department’s procurement processes along with other procurement alternatives and can only be undertaken if detailed information on the project is available.

Finally, as confirmed by the Department of Defense, the use of unmanned aircraft has not been considered for the current missions being carried out by the VIGMA P-3 and CN235. With that in mind, let’s remember that in 2019, representatives of the Navy and Air Force were present at the General Atomics Company demonstrations in Greece, where their unmanned SeaGuardian aircraft was unveiled for patrol missions at sea. (Jos M Navarro Garca)

Photo: The P-8 Poseidon selected for the AIM2S program (Boeing)

The Kingfisher CC-295 used by the Royal Canadian Air Force in SAR missions (Airbus)

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