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POLITICIANS will be politicians, often saying what they mean in a roundabout way. When British Prime Minister David Cameron this week made comments about UK defence, commentators seized on every word, trying to read between the lines, second guessing what he really meant.

What has become apparent this week is that the UK is now committed to the NATO minimum standard of spending 2% of GDP on defence. David Cameron’s observations, that more money should be spent on what he referred to as “spy planes” has again brought the UK’s lack of a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) to the fore.

In 2010, the coalition government scrapped a (MPA) called Nimrod MRA4. An all-British hi-tech aircraft, based on the previous generation Nimrod MPA which in turn was based on a British Comet jet liner which first flew in 1949.

As ridiculous as it seems that was the plan. To build a new aircraft based on a design that was knocking around in the first half of the 20th century. Nimrod MRA4 had problems, and to resolve them was going to cost a lot of money. Cameron’s 2010 defence review pulled the plug on the programme.

On the face of it, that made sense but it left the UK, a land surrounded by sea, without any form of fixed-wing MPA.

What does a MPA do?

It is much more than a spotter plane to catch illegal fishermen. A proper MPA should control huge areas of sea, with the ability to find and if necessary destroy hostile ships. Crucially is must possess the capability to detect, track and destroy submarines.

Nimrod did all this, including providing vital protection for the UK’s four Trident nuclear missile carrying submarines. Since the last Nimrod left service in 2011, the UK has been without this capability.

David Cameron talking about the need for more “spy planes” has therefore sparked renewed hope that the UK is about to order a new MPA. If it does, it will probably be an off-the-shelf product, an internationally marketed aircraft like Boeing’s P8.

Nothing in the world of politics or defence is certain.

Enter Japanese industrial giant Kawasaki. You’ve no-doubt heard of them. They make motorbikes. They also to a pretty impressive line in aircraft including a home-grown MPA called the P1.

Original from the wheels to the top of its tail, the P1 is Japan’s answer to the still-born Nimrod MRA4 and America's P8.

Here is what Kawasaki have to say about it:

Their website is too modest. Fully loaded the P1 can carry 20,000lb of bombs in an internal weapons bay. It can launch torpedoes and depth charges, as well as Harpoon and Maverick air-to-surface missiles. The P1 can hunt submarines with deployable sonabouys, and the 11 strong crew is in charge of some very impressive electronic data processing and communications hardware.

Kawasaki is already in talks with the MoD about a possible deal on the P1. This month two aircraft are in the UK to show off their capabilities.

Here are a couple videos of them operating at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford. For the geeks, anoraks and spotters reading this, listen out for the “blue note!”

Impressive stuff!

If the price is right, and if the MoD don’t insist on expensive and delaying bespoke modifications to the specification, there is just a chance Kawasaki could have cracked it. Watch this space.

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