Enough of the mince pies.
In a previous post I suggested the RAF revert to a single swing role fast jet, replacing the Harrier, Tornado and cancelling the JCA in favour of a slightly increased overall number of Typhoons.
I argued that the UK could do without the F35’s capabilities largely on the grounds of cost, losing some capability in this area in order to redeploy the significant resources that would be freed up, elsewhere.
If the RAF could do without the JCA then could the FAA, this would of course open up the huge can of worms that is the CVF but he principal argument against the CVF and JCA is simply their cost. The UK is facing an austere decade and defence will not be immune, the CVF and JCA combination is going to absorb a huge proportion of a finite and seemingly constantly under pressure equipment budget.
If the RN retained a small number of JCA/JSF then its cost would be disproportionate to the effect delivered but it would at least mean a small core of expeditionary naval fast jet capability was retained and the investment to date would not be entirely wasted.
In the context of when the decision was made the F35B represented the most sensible option to fulfill the JCA requirements, with a high sortie rate, commonality with the RAF for training and logistics, elimination of complex and expensive catapult and trap arrangements on CVF and a host of other reasons.
Today though, it looks like a high cost, high end capability that is vulnerable to the red pen treatment.
Are there lower cost alternatives?
A comment on one of our earlier posts caught my eye, the Indian Navy has issued a request for information on navalised fighters for its future indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) project. Besides the usual suspects of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Sukoi and Dassault joining the fray a few others have also chipped in with their own proposals.
Eurofighter , SAAB and HAL have all indicated that they could modify the Typhoon, Gripen NG and Tejas Light Combat Aircraft respectively to operate from a carrier.
Extreme short take off and landing without cats and traps has been proven before, the X31 demonstrator showed what is possible with advanced flight controls and thrust vectoring, slowing the approach speed, reducing the rate of descent and increasing the angle of attack opens up the possibility of carrier operation without the disadvantages that conventional carrier operations bring.
It’s a tantalising thought, having a future version of the Typhoon or even a low cost aircraft like the Gripen operating from the CVF is a very interesting option.
The accepted wisdom is that it is almost impossible and very expensive to modify a land based aircraft for carrier operations but does most of this wisdom come from those with a vested interest in F18’s, Rafales, Mig 29’s or F35’s
Subject for future discussion so feel free to post your comments and I will include them in the future post on the RN and specifically the CVF.