Foreign Military Sales

Recent reporting has announced that Governmental process in the US has approved the sale of P8-A aircraft to the UK, pending Congressional approval. I will be the Senior Responsible Owner for the delivery of this aircraft and capability to the UK inventory and wanted to take a moment to explain the significance of what has just happened and the hopefully forthcoming Congressional part.

The UK is acquiring the P8s under an arrangement known as Foreign Military Sales. This is a process the US has established to share military capabilities with allies and partners and is governed by The Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act. To secure a sale under FMS, a government to government agreement is reached (although the negotiations can be complex, the letters that seal the deal are often straightforward) and the customer country then buys the equipment or service from the US government, not the manufacturer. This helps keep costs down for all as it allows us to benefit both from the sunk costs of research and development and from the economies of scale of joining a larger US order.

The actual way this process is managed is that the UK would typically submit a non-binding Letter of Request for Pricing & Availability – it's exactly as it sounds and allows a rough cost to be determined. If the decision to go ahead is made a Letter of Request for Offer and Acceptance (LOA) is sent and when this is returned, we have a limited time period to go ahead and buy, or to withdraw. It's similar to getting any price quote, only on a grand scale

Who is Involved?

The key organisations that make this happen in the US are the Defence Security Cooperation Agency, which administers and supervises all FMS cases on behalf of the Department of Defense. In the case of the P8-A, the

US Navy has primacy so the Navy International Programmes Office provides the Single Service oversight whilst the day to day negotiation and contracts are worked between the US Navy's Programme Management Office 290 and the UK's Defence Equipment & Support

Congressional Notification

For certain programmes, usually high value or ones that fall under the International Traffic of Arms Regulations, US Congress retains the final say and must approve the Foreign Military Sale. This approval comes right at the end of the process described above and means that subject to UK agreement and approval, the deal can go ahead!


Thanks for reading, please leave any feedback or questions and I'll try to get back to you.I'll write a separate piece on how the UK goes about procuring and approving new capabilities another time – there's only so much process anyone can read! I hope this has been useful in explaining how we're going about getting the P8-A and why this Congressional approval is so important. The process is very similar for anything we purchase through this route and if you want to find more detail, the DCSA guide to Foreign Military Sales is here.




About Ian Gale
RAF Air Commodore working as the Senior Responsible Owner for delivery of RAF Command & Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance programmes

8 Responses to Foreign Military Sales

  1. Alun says:

    Thank you Ian. Have we bought into the US programme, with all the benefits of spiral upgrades that might entail, or ‘just’ bought the platforms?

    • Ian Gale says:

      It’s a great point Alun and one that also speaks to the point someone made about the Australian deal appearing ‘cheaper’ than ours. We aim to stay very close to the US ‘programme of record’ so that we stay completely integrated. We are joining the US training and maintenance programme too, at least for the early years and the biggie – our buy will feature the first ‘Increment 3’ aircraft. These have substantial advantages over the previous ones and don’t require hardware modifications. More on that in a later blog!

      • Ray Dunn says:

        I’m curious as to what level the ‘US Training and Maintenance’ standard will take our people to. Will it be to some sort of IOC (Post Finningley in old money) or to the full ‘post OCU’ standard?
        There must be some sort of theatre specific training envisioned for UK Operations with feeds in to and from the various UK Agencies etc planned for and explained.
        As you have said, buying the jets is the easy part of the job.
        There are a number of us from the former MPA Community working away in isolation to bring back future based skills. When the time is right we could all get together and help each other. It was good to see the Seedcorn crew spreading enthusiasm around recently, it made it all seem more real somehow.

  2. HP says:

    Interesting article! The P-8 opens up many possibilities for future UK ISTAR, with the P-8 being a “multi mission aircraft” as opposed to a purely maritime platform. For instance, the Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS) pod under development for the P-8 should allow it to perform the overland surveillance role currently carried out by the Sentinel R1, allowing Sentinel to be retired (I believe this is the MoD’s intention). In addition, a Signals Intelligence pod is also under development that may, in future, allow the P-8 to assume the role of the RC-135 too.

    It will be interesting to see whether the UK purchases any of these “add-ons” for the P-8. Also interesting will be what weapons the UK chooses to arm the P-8 with – I suspect initially it will be Mark 54 torpedoes + AGM-84 Harpoons, with Harpoon ultimately being replaced by SPEAR Cap 5, the joint UK-France “Future Cruise & Anti-Ship Weapon”.

    Paveway IV, Brimstone, and the future SPEAR 3 should also be integrated at some point, in order to give the P-8 land attack capabilities, thus allowing it, when used in conjunction with the AAS pod, to both identify and destroy targets from the same platform.

    Lastly, the P-8 opens up the interesting possibility of a future procurement of Boeing E-7 Wedgetail AEW aircraft to replace the ageing E-3D Sentry. The E-7 and P-8 have many common parts/systems (same engines + cockpit, amongst others), as they are both based on the 737, and so could save money in the long run via pooled maintenance. Perhaps aircrew could also be shared between the two platforms too.

    Interesting times ahead!

  3. Daniel says:

    Very interesting read.

    What is the rough timescale for bringing the P8-A in to service?

  4. Ian Gale says:

    Hi Daniel – the PM announced 3 aircraft by the end of the decade but Joint Forces Command is working on the exact profile now before I take over the delivery after the main investment point in the summer. As soon as I have that exact profile, I’ll aim to publish it.

  5. Mike Tomlinson says:

    Hi Ian. Very interesting article. I note you say ‘we are joining the US training and maintenance programme’ – does this include ALL the training for the boys & girls ‘sitting in the back’ too?

  6. simon020962 says:

    Again a fascinating read Ian. Will this mean you spend more time in Lossie’ or London?? S

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