British naval theorist Sir Julian Corbett saw the navy’s proper role as “directly or indirectly either to secure the command of the sea or to prevent the enemy from securing it.” Airpower plays a prominent role in both of those missions. In 1996, Britain began a program to rebuild their existing Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol planes to the MRA4 standard with new wings, new engines, and new internal technologies and mission systems.
Unfortunately, that program has faced a series of budget cuts, stalls, and conditions that have reduced the program from 21 aircraft, to 12, to 9 – and then to 0. In 2010, Britain decided to give up fixed-wing maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft entirely, then scrapped all of its Nimrod MR2s. Its MR1 electronic eavesdropping planes followed, in June 2011. Leaving the burning question: now what? Periodic “reminders” from Russia and other entities have kept that question very current, indeed.