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Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!


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@ Gabs,

The official sources quote a £4.8 billon cost for Tornado into the 2020's. You routinely quote £7 billion, which so far appears to be only the work of The Times. Thus, you're not quoting official sources.


@Chris B.

Actually, no. The SDSR DOC Audit was very clear that the expected savings from immediate grounding of Tornado would likely total some 7.5 billion by 2018. This figure was debated in Parliament as well. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/101027-0001.htm

The MOD DOC audit is also referenced in the analysis of SDSR made by the Parliamentary Defence Committee, even though the document does not appear to be directly accessible to the general public. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmdfence/761/761vw22.htm#note112

It also emerges that the original Tornado upgrade bill was 1.1 billion of which the Engines would get £650 million, fatigue life would be corrected at a cost of £207 million, rear seat training would get £243 million.
Almost all parts of this upgrade have been cancelled, leaving an expected 300 millions of indispensable interventions.
This also explains why 96 planes are projected to deliver only 18 elements at readiness, probably, due to the relatively low number of them being available for flying at any one time.

The 7.4 / 7.5 billion figure also does not appear just on The Times, but is reported by many more newspapers, including the Daily Mail in its beautiful farewell piece on Harrier (worth conserving even just for the images, by the way).

Before the SDSR was published, a MOD Audit was made, and several details emerged. Including the 7.5 billions Tornado bill and the 2.7 bill for the confirmed Tranche 3A Typhoon buy which could not be cancelled.
Interesting to note how, 5 days prior to SDSR publication, it was widely expected that Tornado would go.

It is very easy to find if you google it.

The 7.5 billion figure was, as far as i'm aware, NEVER denied by the MOD or Government, even when it ended up on all newspapers.

The 4.8 figure that you reference, which i'm guessing comes from here: http://services.parliament.uk/hansard/Lords/ByDate/20101116/writtenanswers/part005.html

Covers only the logistics relating to the fleet. Expenditure on an aircraft type, i'm sure you know it, is not just about logistics. 4.8 billions come from the contracts with BAE, Rolls Royce and other contractors.
What about training? Crews? Bases? Training sorties? At 22000 sorties a year in average, with a 5000 pounds per hour marginal cost (excluding of course depreciation and capital costs which make that into the better known 35.000 pounds figure) we already log a minimum of 1100 million pounds out to 2021.

We both have incomplete patchworks of information, Chris. 7.5 billion might be the top estimate, and perhaps savings would have been effectively a bit lower.
It is an estimate, after all.
But the 4.8 billion is, on the other hand, merely a component of the overall savings that could be expected.
The 7 billions saving figure came from the MOD, it is not a press invention. And it sure is not mine invention. It is based on rather solid data which suggests it is actually realistic.


The only reason I could think of for saving Tornado, was to avoid burning through Typhoon hours.

However, the T1 Typhoons are all going to be scrapped in a few years anyway, so that doesnt really hold much water, unless a decision has been made to, not, scrap them....


£4.8 billion would buy an awful lot of TLAMs.



In 2003 the UK asked for the possible acquisition of 105 TLAM Block IV. Total cost was put at 143 USD million, or 1.361 million dollars per missile including all support. A true bargain. http://www.dsca.mil/pressreleases/36-b/UnitedKingdom_03-36.pdf

Yet only 65 missiles were acquired.
If i have understood the FMSs thingy correctly, the others in the original request are "available" for successive orders - example; for replenishing the stock after Libya - without re-presenting all the paperwork for the buy.

The UK, after all, made a request for 10 Reapers very early, but initially only got 3, and ordered the others in other periods. The last 5, as we know, have yet to arrive.

However, yes. I'll always support an expansion in the TLAM stock. It always is the first thing that we end up using, yet buying more never seems to gain support.

... Horrendous suspect:

"We have more than 800 Storm Shadows still to use, what the hell!"

But moreover, the point remains:

Even assuming "just" 4.8 billion were saved, say that we used that for: 1.3 per Harrier to 2018 and Ark to 2015 (make that a year longer, an QE arrives, so no gap), 390 millions for weapons integration on F35C (covering Brimstone and Storm Shadow, which got delayed to "one day"), as much for Typhoon accelerated integration, additional funding for more Harriers to be pulled out of the hangars to have a better contingency capability.

Saving remaining, well over 2 billions. Still more than what was obtained with Harrier and Ark.

Doesn't it make more sense...? To me, it does.


@ Gabs

"Actually, no. The SDSR DOC Audit was very clear that the expected savings from immediate grounding of Tornado would likely total some 7.5 billion by 2018. This figure was debated in Parliament as well. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/101027-0001.htm"

-- The only reference to the £7.5 billion figure in that text is from Lord West of Spithead, or as he's otherwise been known Admiral Adam West, former First Sea Lord (ret). The MoD only seem to have a figure of £4.8 billion.

"The 7.4 / 7.5 billion figure also does not appear just on The Times, but is reported by many more newspapers, including the Daily Mail..."

-- As I said earlier, many papers jumped on the story by the Times and quoted their figure rote. I can find no official source yet which states the £7.5 billion figure.

"Covers only the logistics relating to the fleet... What about training? Crews? Bases? Training sorties?"

-- Really? This argument again? How many personnel does it require to operate Ark Royal? How much does it cost to base the crew the Harriers on land when not at sea? How much does Harrier training - widely acknowledged as the most difficult aircraft in the RAF inventory to fly - cost?

"The 7 billions saving figure came from the MOD, it is not a press invention."
-- Then where is this MoD data? If you have it fine. Show it to me.

@ X

With the cutbacks to the Sub fleet thanks to Carriers, we wouldn't have enough platforms to fire them from ;)


No arguments here either.

I am not sure whether SS fired from F35c isn't just a fudge......

Oh well.


Morons the other Lords and Commons who do not check the goddamn MOD Audit and call Lord West's bluff, if it is a bluff, then.

Chances are that it is not a bluff.

But of course. The MOD Audit has only been read by parliament members, MOD and others. It is quoted, as i linked, but not accessible to the general public.

So the excuse is always the same: "He is an ex Sea Lord! He is clearly biased! He is saying false things to the Lords in parliament!"

Again, NO ONE in Parliament contested the 7.5 billion figure, and they are in the position of doing it.
You are not, yet you clearly call Lord West a liar.

I've supplied evidence. You've supplied the old and unimaginative "he is biased".

If you can sustain your point with a bit more substantial back up, perhaps you should.


The Lords tend to come out with some gibberish.

Put a random word, like Corned Beef, into TheyWorkForYou and see what utter gibberish a Lord has spewed about Corned Beef.....


By the way.

"Really? This argument again? How many personnel does it require to operate Ark Royal? How much does it cost to base the crew the Harriers on land when not at sea? How much does Harrier training – widely acknowledged as the most difficult aircraft in the RAF inventory to fly – cost?"

That's because you assume that the savings declared for retiring Harrier and Ark Royal do not keep any track of these factors.
On which ground, i do not know.

Logistics of the Harrier, signed in 2009 and to 2018, were worth GBP 574 million [http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/britain-moves-forward-on-harrier-support-agreements-03368/], plus 198 millions to Rolls for the Pegasus engines support, again to 2018/19. http://www.rolls-royce.com/defence/news/2009/280109_support_pegasus.jsp
Savings from the Harrier retirement are put at 1.1 billion, roughly.
The difference, of course, tells nothing to you.

Again, morons the government officials that - oh, they are not biased, they do not try to tell everyone how right they were in retiring the Harrier, they are pure and sincere! - do not include all those expenditure voices in their savings estimate and deliberately justify one of the most contested decisions ever on weak and incomplete figures.

Half of the UK population now hates them for scrapping the Harrier and they, poor idiots, also tell them wrong figures. They saved loads of money, but only say they saved a tiny amount, just so they can be hated a little more.

If you think that it makes sense... then your politicians really must all be donkeys.

But then again, it is perfectly logic to say that 7 squadrons of planes with twice the crew and much more ground support technicians cost less than 2 squadrons with less personnel in, so why do i bother...?

We are in the world of the Opposites, and all that say otherwise are obviously and evidently biased.


@ Chris B

One would suggest it has more to do with chicanery at the MoD over who does deep strike.......


If we could all pay attention to me for a moment.....

I think I'm on to something here.
Harrier could only really cover Afghanistan, puting everything else on Typhoon.
Thats fine, if we have Typhoon hours to burn, which given the out of service date of the T1's, is true.

If the T1s are to be kept on long term, husbanding their hours suddenly becomes a priority.

Has anyone heard

One of the reasons the destroyers lost land attack missiles was, the carrier handles deep strike.


@ X

Possible ;)

@ Gabs,

This is why I can't "debate" with you for long without resorting to getting annoyed and just mocking you. You're harping on about evidence and facts and how I should support my argument blah, blah, yet we know two things so far;

a) Through Ministerial questioning the cost of keeping Tornado is estimated at £4.8 billion, by ministers who work for the MoD and have seen all the detailed numbers, and have no service bias to prompt them into fudging numbers, and who are not legally permitted to report false answers to other members of the house,


b) The only "evidence" you have to rebuke this are a newspaper article, copied by other newspaper articles, and then an off hand and slightly fecious sounding comment during a debate in the Lords by a former First Sea Lord, that dates after the Times article, with no indication of where he acquired said data.

But you've not ended there. Oh no.

You're now trying to argue that;

a) the official reported cost of keeping Harriers and Ark Royals in service accounts for not just support but also personnel and basing,

b) while the figures for Tornado do not, presumably because that doesn't tally with your argument.

And no one is arguing that Tornado is cheaper, we know it's not, but the margain by which it is more expensive is considerably less than you are representing and you're failing to take into account that for the little extra money spent we are getting;

- higher numbers,
- double the service life,
- and the (even you agreed) more capable aircraft,

So my advice to you? Stop digging holes for yourself and go find an online magazine to copy/paste some more material from.


Its nice that TD created a area for chrisB and gabby to play in.

Remembering of course that the storm shadow cost is total program cost per missile and that tomahawk price is per missile. Also remembering that storm shadow attacks a different target set to tomahawk and further remembering that an a/c can attack a huge variety of target or conduct various other non kinetic missions which is beyond a missile.


Is the target set that much different?


Storm shadow is deep penetrating, TLAM isnt.


Not sure I'd agree with that really.
True, Storm Shadow is much harder to shoot down, but lack or range means aircraft have to risk themselves as well.

I know what I'd trust to break through a deep air defence.


"I know what I’d trust to break through a deep air defence."

A B-2 Spirit...

Storm Shadow has a much shorter range, but still a not insignificant 155 miles. The BROACH warhead is a two stage job, specially designed for penetrating hardened targets; first bang is a shape charge to clear a path, then the big bang comes next.

Price according to ministers (though this data is often not good enough for some it would seem) is £790,000 pound per unit, which is inclusive of VAT and the development costs. Future missiles will likely be cheaper. TLAM block IV is £870,000 a pop now, but with better range. A case of horses for courses I guess.




I dont mean harder to shoot down I mean deep penetrating bunker busting. Again its range is classified but not tlam range.

If it's sub launched it's about another 350k for the launcher. I would add that very long range tlam also requires very long range intel assets.


"Again its range is classified"


In excess of 250km (155 miles). Still not a patch on TLAM, but then it's;

a) much smaller (you can carry two underneath a Tornado)
b) Air deployable, so you can still fly it into range if needed,
c) Different warhead type,
d) Flies faster and incorporates low observability features to improve survivability,


I thought Storm Shadow was a light blue plot, instigated by those naughty chaps at Deep Strike, just to piss off the one true Senior Service and stop them getting more TLAM shaped toys.

We should immediately withdraw Storm Shadow and fit Mk41 VLS on Type 45, CVF, Type 26 and HMS Gleaner so we can get more TLAMS, more I say, MORE


I was just going to say this "If it’s sub launched it’s about another 350k for the launcher" but Mark got there first...
more exactly it is just for the wrapper, to get the missile through the torpedo tube and to launch properly when it has reached the surface, so add the cost of the missile (they are mass produced, so that helps).

But who wants such expensive, even-though long-ranged missiles that you can't reload without going to port, or the easy to shoot down SS's. JASSM can carry a 1,000-pound warhead to an effective range of 200 miles/ 320 km, while transmitting back via a 1-way datalink... having an extremely low radar signature... the USAF sees it playing a critical role against targets defended by sophisticated, long-range air defense systems.

The USAF is JASSM’s main customer, and Australia as well as Finland have ordered it. Orders may also be coming from the Dutch, from South Korea...


So it's longer than 155m then as I said it's range is classified but not as long as tlam.
We have about 200 launch platforms for storm shadow and seven for tlam. Uk has sufficient tlam stocks for any uk only operatiion do we need anymore than that, stock can be replenished quite quickly from us navy stocks.


We've discussed this befiore, I think conventional thinking was 155miles is the SS's range on its sea skimming terrain following mode.
Whereas 1500miles is a Tomahawk launched from 60,000ft from a mach3 platform following a glide route.

Cant the broach warhead be fitted to pretty much any (big) missile?


Dom are you asking can broach be fitted to tlam? If you are only if the yanks want to we can do it independantly. The fact they haven't done something similar suggest perhaps not.



I'd imagine the actual BROACH warhead itself wouldn't be compatible due to size and weight issues, but the theory (a two stage warhead) could be adapted to TLAM if needed without too many problems I'd imagine.

And yes, I believe the range is based on a skimming profile. While the precise range is classified as Mark points out, a missile that size travelling at that speed probably won't go a huge amount beyond 250km in the skimming mode.

What should be born in mind though, before conspiracy theories start reaching their peak, is that Lightning is supposedly going to be able to carry two SS, one on each inner pylon.

I'd guess this is why the Navy isn't up in arms, because it quietly has designs on being the main user of the weapon in future. And as Mark pointed out, a Lightning firing SS will be able to fly back to CVF and reload for another strike sortie the next day. A full compliment of Lightning's carrying SS will be able to deliver twice as many cruise missile shots in one mass package as a single Astute, even assuming that the Astute carries nothing but TLAM. When you factor in that the aircraft will likely rotate (not all flying in one mass sortie), the pace they could probably maintain over a weekend (or Day 1 & 2 door kicking) will likely make the yanks SSGN's look like amateurs in the cruise missile delivery business.

CVF could yet redeem its mahoosive budget.


Don't forget that BROACH is also on JSOW-C, but the USAF explicitly rejected it for their needs.

Mind you, the main problem with BROACH is not delivering it, but getting it to go bang when it gets there....


DomJ said: "Whereas 1500miles is a Tomahawk launched from 60,000ft from a mach3 platform following a glide route."

LOL, seriously..... the RB70 Valkyrie somewhat pre-dated the Tomahawk Dom !!

1500nm is range dropped from a B52 at medium altitude and dropping down to "low" altitude, how that differs from it's terminal approach "terrain following" altitude, and at what distance you switch between such modes, and the effect that has on range is not public "open source" information.


chris b
pretty much what i'd figured, average two launches an hour.
Not quite 72 in 6 minutes, but a relentless assault all the same.


@Chris B.

MOD DOC Audit, note 112 in the link.

Do not try to ignore the fact that the Parliamentary Defence Committee and Lord West himself clearly have a document in their hands that they reference and present it instead merely as the diabolic machination of Lord West, will you?

Try also to not ignore that your 4.8 billion cost is stated very cleary being for LOGISTIC.
It is not the whole story. It is like saying the Army is only made up by the RLC. Same realism.

As to Storm Shadow.
Perhaps it is not clear. I'm not advocating retiring Storm Shadow.
But 900 SS and 65 TLAMs in stock...? That so not makes any sense in light of operations. It just makes NO sense.

"Whereas 1500miles is a Tomahawk launched from 60,000ft from a mach3 platform following a glide route."

Not really. Also, the ALCM is derived from TLAM concepts and components in some parts, but it is NOT a Tomahawk, and has really little to share with the naval TLAMs, especially with the latest Block IV. It makes no sense to compare them. The TLAM the Uk and US Navy use is not at all air launched.

For the rest, by all means, keep going on with your "sea Lord lies" smart arguments and all that lot.


You do appear to be pushing the borders of gentlemanly conduct here....


If there was a document that actually showed the 7b savings in black and white I would have thought it would have surfaced, or someone would have made an FOI request. FOI and Parliamentary Questions have been asked on this subject, I remember a whole raft of them but I can't recall seeing anything that cam out in favour of the £7b.

That doesn't of course mean that such a document never existed because it is likely that the costs of various options would have been investigated, pretty normal really.

I have to say that Lord West does not have a great deal of credibility or reputation for being unbiased, he of talking out of his ermine clad arse on several occasions about the FI etc but giving him the benefit of the doubt and lets just say that 7b is the right number, just for argument sake.

What next, what prompted the Defence Board and SDSR team to reject a cost saving of such magnitude if it was such an easy decision to take and so obvious to everyone that it was a genuine shock horror surprise that they decided not to take it. Lets not also forget that the Tornado fleet was cut pretty heavily which will have also accrued savings.

To get back to the argument, Gabby seems to be saying that the opportunity to save a billion a year over the next 7 was justified and we should have taken it.

Gabby, what do you think the implications of a total withdrawal of Tornado would have been


@ Gabs,

Your link has no follow on to any actual document. The reference doesn't lead anywhere. Where is the document that the good Doctor is linking to? I also read just his general comments on the RAF and the Tornado/Harrier decision. He seems particularly misinformed on their capabilities. In fact his whole article on the RAF sounded like a Dark Blue diatribe of the kind I'd expect from you, so I did a bit of research on Dr. Duncan Redford.

Turns out he's a research fellow at Exeter University. Allow me to quote his complete bio that he provides;

Dr Duncan Redford joined the Royal Navy in 1991. After officer training at Britannia Royal Naval College as well as onboard HMS Broadsword and HMS Boxer, he was selected to attend the Royal Naval Engineering College, Manadon, Plymouth where he completed a BA (Hons) in Maritime Defence, Technology and Management. A volunteer for submarine service, he served on HMS Torbay, Tireless and Turbulent between 1996 and 2001. In 2001 Dr Redford left the Navy to study for an MA in War Studies at King’s College London. Having won the Laughton Naval History Scholarship at King’s College London in 2002, he was awarded his PhD in 2006 for his research into ‘The Cultural Impact of Submarines on Britain 1900-1977’. Prior to the award of a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship he was the visiting Lecturer in Naval History at the University of Westminster.

"My research interests centre on the Royal Navy during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I am currently working on a research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the University of Exeter examining the role of the Royal Navy in the construction of British national identity between 1870 and 1980"


I'm sure he doesn't have a horse in this race though....


I see that evidence from Dr Redford also reference the PTT

When I saw that I genuinely had a LOL spit the coffee out type moment

This statement

The MOD DOC audit is also referenced in the analysis of SDSR made by the Parliamentary Defence Committee, even though the document does not appear to be directly accessible to the general public.

Just skim read it, if I was marking that for accuracy and coherence it would get a D-, see me after class!

Its not analysis by the committee Gabby, it's written evidence submitted by the Dr


OOpps, looks like I put my entry re:"BROACH is also on JSOW-C, but the USAF explicitly rejected it for their needs" and what the USAF chose instead on the "wrong" thread Air-Land-Sea
- they prioritised stealthiness and range and have JASSM in 320km and 900km versions


Continue to believe in fairy tales, and continue to tell everyone that has had a link to the RN is a biased incompetent. Go right ahead.

"Your link has no follow on to any actual document. The reference doesn’t lead anywhere. Where is the document that the good Doctor is linking to?"

How smart. The MOD Audit was an internal document redacted during the SDSR and containing the options presented to the NSC with their estimated economic implications as valued by NAO and MOD.
It has not been publicly released, and probably never will be made accessible, for obvious reasons.

"can’t recall seeing anything that cam out in favour of the £7b."

The 7 billions figure DID surface. In parliament, and even on newspapers.
But both these sources you do deny.
The MOD Audit is not released to public. So you can just say that the sources that quote it without showing it are simply biased. That's it! We decide what's the truth, and that sets it.

And no, the parliamentary answers about the cost of Tornado are of two kinds, in fact, if you check:

- One kind of answer lists the Rolls Royce and BAE contract and the cost per flying hours, but does not disclose savings estimates "because that would hurt negotiations efforts ongoing about other contracts" or other bullshit like that.

- The other kind, appeared once or twice, contains the "logistic support cost of Tornado was to be 4.8 billion" that Chris continues to bang on, oblivious to the fact that logistics are only part of the costs and thus of the savings.

You can check. The answers to the (many) questions about Tornado are ALWAYS the same answer, told again and again and again, always with "contract negotiations" issues preventing the revelation of savings estimates.

How funny, huh...?
Perhaps they are uneasy with telling people the amounts involved, one might cynically suspect.

"Gabby, what do you think the implications of a total withdrawal of Tornado would have been"

At least one base closed, possibly two, several thousands of redundancies, Leuchars that remains in its place and role, a retirement partially a little longer than with the Harrier for keeping CAS going in Stan to enable the Harriers to prepare to go to Afghanistan in their place. At the Harrier retirement there were at least 62 Harriers still in flying conditions, but with many parked in the hangars, and for what i read at least 50 crews. More than enough to sustain Afghanistan, and there would have been the chance to bring out a few of the many planes parked in the hangars after the (then still recent, and very suspect) cut of a Sqn decided in 2009, to bring the Force at Readiness from 10 back to 18 (the same planned now for Tornado).
Very possibly some of the other cuts would have then be avoided, and there would have been a definite relief on the next planning rounds which instead are currently regarded as Critical, in particular PR12 and PR13.
Capability E for the GR9 would have gone ahead and went online fully by early 2012, perhaps with Brimstone being urgently integrated for Afghanistan (actually, it is not like it is used that much over there, apparently).

Less planes deployed over Libya, but closer to the targets. No Storm Shadow raids, but faster response times and longer time on station, assuming the same availability of AAR but the elimination of the long travel back and forth from Gioia.

Cynically? Probably better kinetic results in some of the worst phases of the Libya war. Remember the reports from Misrata bombed savagely by rocket launchers, with no NATO planes in the area to hit them?
With Harriers a few miles away, that would have not happened.

Capability of deploying at least a small force even in absence of bases retained. No gap in air operations at sea. If the 2014 date is respected, a gap of sole 4 or 5 years in Storm Shadow capability, since after that there will be the Typhoon.

It wouldn't have been nice. There would have been evident loss in numbers and capabilities, and a lot of job losses. I never did say it would have been nice, nor i did say that Harrier was better than Tornado, nor do i like to propose it, believe it or not.
But it would have been financial realism, and operationally the impact would have been far less severe than you want to imply.

And the risk of 5 years without Storm Shadow is less than the risk of 10 years of incapacity to put fixed wing assets at sea, plainly.

"it was a genuine shock horror surprise that they decided not to take it."

Your irony pretends to forget that it WAS a surprise when the SDSR came out. Literally days before, the Tornado was set to be grounded.
But of course, i was forgetting! They are all controlled by Navy-biased evil spirits, and they surely faked even the surprise.

"Lets not also forget that the Tornado fleet was cut pretty heavily which will have also accrued savings."

Again, how expert you are in putting things in the way that best suits you.
The official position of government is that with the SDSR they endorsed a PR10 option that dates back to labour.
In 2009 they announced the cuts to pay for 22 Chinooks and the 7th C17, remember?
The RAF offered to scrap the Harrier (as they had done the year before already). The Navy once again fought to avoid that.
The end result was that one only Harrier squadron was disbanded, with "one or more squadrons of Harriers or Tornado to disband next year".

As a matter of fact, these cuts did not pay for 22 Chinooks as we know. And cutting two more Tornado squadrons alone would not suffice.
But in the meanwhile the Harrier force at readiness and fleet was scaled down.

And, surprise surprise, the RAF used the just scaled-down Force at Readiness level to justify the Harrier cut, which in addition to the two Tornado sqds was politically big enough to stop more cuts even though the saving was not big enough.

The third try in 3 years was finally successful.


The surprise of these days, you can easily find memory of it if you seek for it.
You can also remember the 1 billion hole in PR11 which was somewhat covered up by the Treasury when Libya popped up, making it impossible to present to the public yet more cuts. But it was there. You did forget it all already? I don't think so.

And further holes, sized in the billions, are reportedly still riddling the financial plans of the next years.

Militarily, it makes a good deal of sense to retain Tornado, even if it leaves a big and potentially dangerous hole in capability for a long decade.
But financially, no. And no matter how many people you call biased, the reality remains.


"Continue to believe in fairy tales, and continue to tell everyone that has had a link to the RN is a biased incompetent. Go right ahead."

-- Fairy tales? You have NO LINK to your figures. The only official links are to the £4.8 billion figure, which you deride as being the logistic cost, without understanding that the £900 million figure for Harrier was delivered on the same basis so it too, combined with the manning cost of Ark Royal etc, would be higher.

The only source you have for your £7 billion are two former Naval personnel, who took their respective opportunities to speak on the subject to play down the RAF, before quoting a figure for which there is no evidence to support it. NONE. Not a sentence, not a letter. Nothing.

And you're accusing other people of believing in fairy tales? It's just laughable.


If the Dr is quoting an MoD report in his evidence and given that he is not employed by the MoD or a Government Minister or Civil Servant, how does he know what was in the report?

If it was released to the public i.e. him, then surely it would be available for all to see

If it was not released to the public then how does he know what was in it?


TD said "I thought Storm Shadow was a light blue plot, instigated by those naughty chaps at Deep Strike, just to piss off the one true Senior Service and stop them getting more TLAM shaped toys."

I already said that earlier. Keep up! ;)


Cutting, feel wounded now :)


Field dressing or super glue?


I would also add that leaked documents prior to SDSR were ten a penny as the respective services and other vested interests sought to influence and stoke the dissinformation wars.

Does anyone actually believe, apart from certain gullible journalists and bloggers, that these leaks are anything more than shaping the battlefield as it were.

Saying the Tornado option was preferred 'according to defence sources' is exactly what a supporter of the opposite camp might say to try and force the issue.

Really, come on, lets not be tragically naive here

To quote the official justification

The overriding factor in deciding between removing either the Tornado GR4 or Harrier was the ability to support operations in Afghanistan. The Harrier fleet would have been too small to support Afghanistan operations at current levels, notwithstanding Carrier Strike and other contingent operations. Conversely, the Tornado GR4 force – even at its reduced size – will be significantly larger than the current Harrier force and would allow continuous UK fast jet close air support to forces in Afghanistan and the ability to support concurrent operations. It also has a number of key capability advantages over the Harrier GR9 including: greater payload and range and integration of capabilities such as Storm Shadow; fully integrated dual mode Brimstone; the Raptor reconnaissance pod; and a cannon. Thus, retaining the more capable Tornado allows continuous fast jet support to forces in Afghanistan and the ability to support concurrent operations. This would not be possible if Harrier were retained and Tornado retired.

As I have always said, it was a bad decision, but ultimately the right one and no matter how one dances around the issue of cost savings the figure is actually irrelevant (and wrong) because as I have also repeatedly said, anyone can save weight by chopping off a leg or in our case easily save 7 billion by flogging of the entire Type 45 fleet.

Harrier and Tornado were not comparable in either capabiliy or sustainability to their OSD so the decision actually made itself.

Even if we could have saved a 700 billion by withdrawing Tornado I think I would rather have CAS/RECCE in the Defence Main Effort with some contingent capability for strike and combat recce in other theatres.

Tornado delivers this, Harrier could not


I would rather they withdraw from the defence main effort but that's to political as opposed to uk security requirements. But I see little point in going over this it's done. It's like asking for direction and getting told I wouldn't start from here.


Withdrawing from the DME is not within the gift of the MoD but I would imagine they put supporting it at the top of the list of things to do, thats what people like Gabby and the PTT just don't get., which is a shame because it diverts energy from more productive engagement. However, I will continually challenge nonsense where I see it


I agree TD. I would say it wasn't mod that run the review it was NSC who are to over see future uk security requirements using military force as only one part. Afghan And the scale and type of our commitment was a difficult decision that I believe was ducked for politic reasons only. Helmand and future uk security is not IMO linked.


"I will continually challenge nonsense where I see it"

Well, there is plenty that you did produce yourself:

"Harrier and Tornado were not comparable in either capabiliy or sustainability to their OSD so the decision actually made itself."

As a matter of fact, the decision did not make itself. The two fleets were compared for months.

Nonsense: if they were equal in capability, they would have been either all Tornado or all Harriers. What the hell does it even mean?

Also, the differences between Harrier and Tornado in roles have actually been reducing in the years, since Tornado, a deep-strike platform, ended up doing CAS 95% of the time.

Sustainability to their OSD.
Again, nonsense.
Both were sustainable. Under many points of view, Harrier was more sustainable, for example since its support contracts were all signed out to planned OSD in 2018, and an extension to 2020 to cover the entry in service of F35 was judged possible. Indeed, there was talk of 2023.
The major BAE contract for Tornado support, worth well over a billion, will have to be renewed in 2015 unless the OSD is advanced further. Which might well happen, to complete the joke.

"Withdrawing from the DME"

Please. Again, this is nonsense. The reduction in the number of airframes available for ops in addition to Afghanistan is not exactly the same thing as the doomsday scenario you imply.

"The link is not working."

Have you looked down the Notes of the Parliamentary Defence Committee report?
Pretty much none are links, but only static notes. Even several notes about the SDSR.
But the SDSR document does undoubtedly exist, and the DOC Audit must exist in the same way as well, otherwise i doubt they would have made a note about it.

"If the Dr is quoting an MoD report in his evidence and given that he is not employed by the MoD or a Government Minister or Civil Servant, how does he know what was in the report?

If it was released to the public i.e. him, then surely it would be available for all to see"

This is the worst of nonsensical affirmations.
Internal documents like that can be shown to a pretty wide range of people, officially or not. The MOD seeks well-paid consultancy all the time.
He could have been shown the document by anyone inside the MOD involved in the SDSR process, along with quite a few others, for the most diverse reasons.

And that still does definitely not mean that said document would be thrown on the internet for the whole world to see.

This said, it might even be available, at least in part, somewhere. Unlikely, but it might be. And if i find anything about it, i'll share.

"I would rather have CAS/RECCE"

Yeah, because Harrier cannot deliver that. Especially the second. "Oh, it has not got the RAPTOR!"
But it flew with its own RECCE pod for years over Afghanistan.



I don't mind admitting I talk nonsense on more than many occasions but then I don't claim some divine insight from my muckers in the stan who fly baggers off the mighty o, or that predicting that night follows day and then telling everyone how clever I am because night did indeed follow day, or don't deliver a judgement that the gunners are adapting to change better than the rest of the Army because I read it in a magazine.

This is what makes you lose credibility and look like a bit of an obsessive with no real grasp of the underlying principles or realities at hand.

What I do know for a fact is a few things

Harrier has gone so any discussion should be in terms of history

It was a crying shame that it went, it was a very bad decision, increases risk across a number of domains and although we are talking about bits of kit there are real people behind them as well

Finally, the decision was made on the basis of Afghanistan being the first priority. Most fair minded people see this as the case and agree it was a sensible decision with the facts at hand. The broad consensus seems to be that Tornado made more sense from any number of perspectives across the whole of defence, now whilst that consensus might be wrong, you and others think so, I do not.

Anyway, no dramas


I don't know if this is the right place but I put it there, a cut of one billion pounds more.


Already posted before but it fits together.



But it flew with its own RECCE pod for years over Afghanistan.

sniper is more of targeting pod it's equavilant would be the litening pod not raptor. Raptor carries on where the pr9 left.



I am aware of what SNIPER is.
In fact I did not mean the Sniper targeting pod, but the Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod (DJRP).

Not quite as powerful as the RAPTOR, but a good system. Besides, it was handy because it was routinely carried, along with a vast arsenal of weaponry:

GR9 standard Afghan weapons load:

Sniper targeting pod
2 Paveway IV
2 CRV7 pods; or 2 Paveway IV; or 2 Maverick; or 1 CRV7 pod and 1 Maverick



"This is what makes you lose credibility and look like a bit of an obsessive with no real grasp of the underlying principles or realities at hand."

Might be. Probably not, though.
I also do prefer to base myself on evidence, numbers and facts when i talk about reality.

You choose the way of arbitrarily deciding what fits reality and what does not, in this kind of comments. Just as you use "financial reality" as a password that opens all doors, to justify all kind of observations, UNLESS, of course, a financial observation is made about Tornado.
A bit cheap.

"that predicting that night follows day and then telling everyone how clever I am because night did indeed follow day"

The only one prediction i made and got right, which i'm guessing you are referring to, is that about Cats and Traps.
If it was so easy to predict that Prince of Wales would be the one getting the catapults, why didn't you predict it yourself, instead of bitching about it later?

I don't think i ever claimed to have the gods giving me the Truth. I'm no prophet. But i have eyes and ears, and i think i can make my observations and guesses, without you having to bitch for it, thank you.


Fair enough gabby, although although djrp was good enough I really think raptor is well above in terms of quality.It's a real key asset asked for quite often, and can be carried along with a weapon load.


"Fair enough gabby, although although djrp was good enough I really think raptor is well above in terms of quality.It’s a real key asset asked for quite often, and can be carried along with a weapon load."

I do not put it in doubt.
My point is not about quality. Tornado has many advantages on Harrier, and i know it well.
My point is and remains one of balance between financial and military aspects. I'm not at all convinced that the right choice was made, and i'm worried not just for its already covered costs, but for those still present in the next planning rounds as well.


Britain Denies Troop Cut Claims in Leaked Memo



Loathe though I am to point to another Lewis Page article but apparently the USMC are buying all our stored Harriers....



High George, yes, have a look at the links on the TD Tumblr or Twitter feed



Hi TD - just had a look, lots of heated comments!

Nice photo from the deck of HMS Edinburgh though


The UK will "certainly" not be able to operate both Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers in 2020 if the Royal Navy is reduced to 29,000 personnel in line with current planning, the head of the Royal Navy has said.



I think the key line is here;

"It is ambiguous but, given the people, we certainly can't use both.

I didn't think they was a plan to? If so 29k might be enough if only one is used at once.


Topman - Around 6k of that 29k in the Naval Service will be Royal Marines.

The remaining 23k RN personnel need to encompass hundreds of wide-ranging skill sets with varying degrees of experience, expertise and responsibility at levels from AB to Admiral, e.g. submariners, aircrew, air engineers, aircraft handlers, air traffic controllers, fighter controllers, other aviation specialists, nuclear engineers, gas turbine engineers, diesel-electric engineers, weapons engineers, hull engineers, armourers, hydrographers, survey recorders, oceanographers, meterologists, radar operators, sonar operators, operations room supervisors, medics, divers, minewarfare specialists, logisticians, CIS, etc.

Take a look at the job types on the RN website at http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/Careers/Careers-Introduction/Career-Packs and then drill down into the specialisations and sub-specialisations. An SSBN can't go around short of one of its nuclear watchkeepers so there needs to be enough flex in the system to cope with leave, accident, illness or other reasons for a particular specialist being unavailable.

The complete text of 1SL's speech can be found at http://www.henryjacksonsociety.org/stories.asp?pageid=49&id=2508.


Dunservin, do you know if there have been any studies on the additional crew aboard and total extra personnel (trainers etc) for CATOBAR?

What is the penalty for the switch from STOVL?


@ Dunservin, I know there a lot of trades in the navy. I'm not sure what your point is?

Wasn't nuclear watchkeeper one of the most undermanned trades in the navy, I think it was highlighted in the AFPRB a few times.



I suspect the results of such studies are what's causing 1SL to lose sleep. The switch to CATOBAR must place a significant burden on ADQUAL (Additional Qualification) training at least, if not the number of personnel having the basic skills. As things stand, the range of esoteric systems and equipment that come within the purview of some personnel require up to a year or 18 months of PJT (Pre-Joining Training) courses on top of their basic professional qualifications. Often, these courses are at a premium owing to shortages of trainers/training resources and not scheduled to fit a particular ship's programme although they are modularised* whenever possible. When you combine the frequent turnover of deep-specialist personnel (routine moves to other vessels or shore billets, promotion, higher professional courses, termination of service, etc) with the constant changing or upgrading of systems, this becomes even more of a headache.

* ;-)


My point is that it's not simply a question of personnel 'numbers' that determines critical mass, e.g. the ability of the Royal Navy to complement its aircraft carrier(s) and all its other vessels so they can float, fight and move effectively in an operational environment. Individuals' attributes also need to be taken into account with a certain margin for attrition and contingencies.


Yes I understand that it's the same in the other two services, my point was that the item highlighted was the underlying numbers, and is 29k enough to contain all those specialites if only one carrier is operated at once?


"do you know if there have been any studies on the additional crew aboard and total extra personnel (trainers etc) for CATOBAR?"

I believe I've seen 50 people as the figure put around. This is presumably total personnel in the system, so perhaps 15-20 deployed on QEC at any one time? I think this was for additional deck crew and maintainers etc. for the catapults and arrestor gear.


Dunservin, this just reinforces my thinking that the implications across the RAF, FAA and RN of the switch to the F35C is yet to be fully realised and that the decision was taken in haste without the full facts being known.

Could it be that the switch to F35C has contributed to the shortage of crew to operate both carriers?

What is the ratio of aboard crew to total personnel needed to maintain that position


The V2 division who do the cats and traps on a US carrier has about 200 personnel to look after the 4 catapults and arrestor gear. The EMALS technology should reduce this by about 30%. As the UK will have only 2 cats we can questimate the number to be around 90-100 personel.

From the recent emals sale notification we have this

"Also proposed are other items for Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, software support, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and all other related elements of program support."

As F35 training will most likely always be done in the US as is the case with F16 training for european airforces I would guess the US navy system may train the RN personnel.


TD, I don't think we've got anywhere close to working that out. I wonder who drove this pushed this change. We've heard loads about the harrier and tornado choice and all sorts of stuff about imaginary 'mafias'. Yet we've heard nothing about the politics behind this, who wanted this and why?


@ Mark As the UK will have only 2 cats we can questimate the number to be around 90-100 personel.
Is that onboard at anyone time?

As F35 training will most likely always be done in the US as is the case with F16 training for european airforces I would guess the US navy system may train the RN personnel.

I wonder if that happens, what impact it will make on the a/c numbers bought since we would need a smaller ocu?



I humbly suggest that the range of roles, environments (surface, sub-surface, air, land) and systems (weapons, CIS, propulsion, domestic, etc) involving the Naval Service is somewhat wider and usually more sophisticated than those affecting the bulk of the other, larger services. Just think about it for a minute.

As I said before, around 6k of the 29k Naval Service personnel surviving redundancy will be RM, not RN. I can only speak from my own experience of gapped billets in floaty things but, even with the recent reduction in hulls, 23,000 personnel does not sound particularly viable to support the complex range of capabilities at every level I have described earlier. This is the crux of the Critical Mass issue.


You are now asking me questions where my knowledge is probably little better than yours and I am unwilling to speculate. However, I would say that the disproportionate cut of 5,000 Naval Service personnel (who tend to spend more of their time deployed than in the other services anyway) will probably contribute more than anything else to any inability to operate both carriers.


For some reason, I am unable to use the edit mode or I would have added "sensors" to the the list of systems in my first paragraph above.


You can suggest it, but I respectfully disagree, I don't think it so different from the two other services in a technical sense, if anything I would (no doubt with bias) it would be the RAF, I think till we have the largest numbers, percentage wise, in a technical trade.

But whatever the % my point was can 29k give the needed trade structures the room to produce enough people to man a single carrier?



I believe that would be. Around 200 crew do the cat and trap on board a US navy carrier from what ive read.

The OCU will be smaller no 2 seat trainer required much more simulator work and more mission stores work done on hawk prior to OCU. The OCU will I suspect stay in the US along with the OEU unless a large amount of investment is made here. Better weather climate in florida that here too.


I wonder how many that would work out across the navy then?

Yes I saw that, still not sure about no twin sticker, but it's too far down to do anything about it now. I've not heard of the ocu being set up in the us, I thought it was going to be pauxtant river anyway. I know that's where the first raf went to. The cost of keeping uk personnel in the us would be eye watering. I know of the budget issues at creech with 39 sqn, they would be much smaller than an ocu and they are under constant cost pressures. Because of the nature of the work I think the oeu would stay in the uk.



You are right the RAF going to Pauxtant that is home to the us navy and marine F35 flight testing program. Eglin AFB in florida will be home to around 60 f35s of all variant and will train all US f35 pilots.

It was awhile ago so it may have changed but not only the ocu but the first operation sqn was to stand up in florida and gradually transition to the the UK.

The OEU may stay in the US due to the source code/ weapon integration and mission system complexity on the f35 and the cost involved in the UK setting up a similar facility here.


Yes I understand the first sqn would stand up there most probably 1(F) sqn.

It would be a step change, but then this a/c is like no other and lots of things are changing. So you may be right, although it's hard to have an oeu so close to the us even if they are a friendly country there are still things that are uk eyes only and projects just for the uk. I'm not sure what value anything other than how we have the oeu now would bring. Might be best costwise just to leave it to the US.


I note the posts after this one "The EMALS technology should reduce this by about 30%. As the UK will have only 2 cats we can questimate the number to be around 90-100 personel."

- still seems the most accurate estimate - and that should be netted with the lesser maintenance hours for the C as opposed to "B"
- when the boarded aircraft are 6 or 12, that difference may not show much, but once you have a steadier workload across all specialist skills with a higher throughput, a good percentage out of the 100 or so will be cancelled out (as a delta to the original crewing plans)



I agree with everything you've said but then who would of thought we would give up sigint and get so close on the rivet joint.


a good percentage out of the 100 or so will be cancelled out (as a delta to the original crewing plans)

Sorry if I'm being dense but could you expand on that?


True I wouldn't have though it, but FJ tend to be slightly different, in that they have there own units and therefore a under constant upgrade so much so they justify their own units. Having worked under the AWC, I know how much goes on in an OEU it's pretty specialised stuff and a surprising amount of upgrades and trials on at the same time.


Hi Topman,

Good to have discussion! I agree with Mark's extrapolations and to be safe (in this discussion) I picked the top end number - C/B analysis between the two versions will still be going on ten years from now... assuming they both did enter service!

When this B-or-C discussion was at its hottest, about a year ago, I looked at the detail. Can't now recall the exact estimated maintenance hours (per flight hour, not something that the a/c would be facing in their "old age")but the difference was huge, in favour of "C".

Carrier air ops are based on pulsing (that is maximum capacity, but can only be maintained for so long... 2 days?). Then the sortie rate starts to tail off
- we are basically looking at an F1 pit stop scenario: they know the number of laps over which max effort will have to be maintained (well, we don't, it is as long as possible, and the sustained rate becomes something else - before the need to call in a port sets in)

Surely the number of maintenance personnel is affected/ can be derived from the known fact difference between B and C
- how to load a production line (optimally)
- basic queue theory: goes all the way from launch and recovery rates; lifts; rearming; refuelling

The turn-around times in the first hours and days of any battle are crucial, but now we are talking (disputing?) steady state manning level requirements between two options?


I remember a Nick Harvey answer that put the crew for the carrier, post CATOBAR announcement, at 760 men.
Earlier, crew was 679 in the ACA estimates and 682 in RN estimates.

Assuming that CATOBAR is the source of the increase, there would be an expansion of some 78 men or so from earlier RN assumptions.


The turn-around times in the first hours and days of any battle are crucial, but now we are talking (disputing?) steady state manning level requirements between two options?

I think we are yes, how many for a normal deployment say into the med no hostile actions.


I was coming from the angle of full operating/ fighting strength, not manning at training level
RE " how many for a normal deployment say into the med no hostile actions."
-I don't think the same argument applies here as with e.g. an infantry bn; that you bring it to full strength (from other units or by mobilising reservists)before you deploy.

Carrier (flight) operations are such a specialist trade that we just debated whether they can be regenerated after the long gap (and how disproportionately we will have to rely on two other nations helping)
- China is not trying to learn them on dry land (as opposed to their pilots using a mock flight deck for taking off and landing) but have sent their guys onto the Brazilian carrier instead


I don't see why they can't be relearnt, nothing is innate someone had to learn it the first time. I think it's more a matter of time and money. I haven't worked much on the ops side, I've seen 10 years mentioned, I think that might be over egging the pudding, although it will take a while.


10 years refers to only other nations' flattops being available
- you can slot in pilots (as training programmes run anyway)
- you can't have a large ops team learning by doing, observers yes (and of course the first EMALS will go to sea with the USN, not the RN, and even they have stuff to learn, I'm sure)so at least we won't be the guinea pig


I wonder what today's (release date) report really says, here's Guardian's take on it:
"The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be mothballed immediately it is launched in 2016, according to the existing plan. However, the second, HMS Prince of Wales, is not now expected to be fully operational until 2031. Moreover, it will only be able to stay at sea for up to 200 days a year, significantly fewer than envisaged, says the Commons public accounts committee.
It continues: "The technology proposed has yet to be tested and the [fighter] version the UK intends to buy will be unique to Britain...

Margaret Hodge, the former Labour minister and chair of the public accounts committee, told the Guardian: "The carriers' starting cost was £3.5bn, is currently about £6.2bn, and is likely to rise to up to £12bn. There will be nine years without a carrier, and it will be at sea for fewer than 200 days on average."


According to BBC

Our big eared friends will now be not fully operational until 2030 and cost 12 billion.

(Just a reminder that they were originally going to cost 2-3 billion and be ready by 2012...


4 times the cost.
18 years late.
1 instead of 2.
Not Stovl..
That one usually deployed with 12 aircraft not 36.

So a little calculation (and I accept these figures do not include plane costs).

We were going to pay £3billion for the ability to deploy on a sustained basis 36 aircraft.

We are now paying 4 times as much for the ability to deploy on a sustained basis 12 for half the time.

So capital costs, about £850,000 an average deployed fighter/year is now:- (wait for it)£2billion per average deployed fighter/year.

Oh yea and we don't get that for 18 years.

Sorry but this programme has gone form the dodgy, to the silly to the downright Pythonesque and an has now lost all connection with military/ economic reality.


12b actually includes the planes. I would say the report presents a more considered option than the headlines on the beeb. TD did the nao project costs a few days ago


Hehe, I can see the printed media wing of the BBC got there first


Talking of Monty python..


UK Conglomerate naval shipbuilding corner shop, in the corner the band of the Marines is playing 'A life on the ocean waves..

Shop bell rings..

In walks high ranking square Jawed son of Nelson in full dress regalia.


'I was just reading in the library Janes fighting ships when I came over all sexually excited by the big American carriers, so I curtailed my carriering activities and ventured hence to your emporium to purchase a like vessel complete with bells and whistles.


Well you've come to the right place.......

For our non English readers or those under say 40.
I should explain that in this classic sketch a man goes into a cheese shop tries to buy his chosen cheese, for which the shopkeeper makes increasingly bizarre and outrageous excuses for not having, and it eventually transpires there is no cheese in the shop at all, frustrated the customer shoots him dead.


"frustrated the customer shoots him dead"
- you forgot the punch line, or is it not your prediction?


Nao have released a supplement on carrier strike today also it make interesting reading and informs the tornado harrier debate in tornados favour.



You are so right. In stand corrected.

Of course the old figures are now so old. but I will do the maths again:-

Original cost we were told would be £2 billion for the ships.

36 fighter at the then projected cost of around 30 million would be £.9 billion. So total capital 36 deployed fighter year cost £3 billion.
£900.000 per deployed fighter year (ish) originally.

What a relief I got my sums wrong an we are only paying 2.2 x that (ish) now, I feel so much better.......

Or at least I will in 18 years time...18 years after we were supposed to have them.

Oh and if you think £12billion is the last word on costs I prepared to bet the mortgage money it is only going to get worse..



Very much my prediction. Thank you


So the fact the UK won't have 3x F35 squadrons the very minute the carrier goes in service in 2020 is a shock to some people? I'm confused.

As others have said the £12bn includes the planes. Hey we could always cancel the F35 and the predicted massive benefit to the UK economy because £12bn sounds a lot right?

Apparently the NAO report says EMALS is risky and untried. Geez, it's a wonder anything ever got invented.


All my figure rough approximations but that extra 12 billion we are paying for this devastating strike capability, would sure come in handy right now...

After all we could have:

12 more type 45 block 2, or
10 more Astutes, or
240 River Class!
75 bays...



Sometimes when I read your stuff I think spam. And then I think about spam, spam, and spam perhaps with extra spam. And then spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, with some spam on top. :)



The f35 thing is not a shock to me. It should be to some of the carrier junkies who talk like it is all done deal and it will all happen on time and on budget.

The f35 buy is not tied to Nellie and Dumbo.

How lucky we are that our enemies we are going to so devastate with our wonder weapon have agreed to 18 years, before doing anything naughty.

I have to ask if we can live from 2010-2030 without them, why are Nellie and Dumbo so god damn important then why is it 2020 'nope don't need them' 2030 'they are vital to our defence'?



'Is this 15 minute argument or the full half hour'?


"When the carrier is introduced it will be able to operate at sea for only 150 to 200 days a year, compared with the original plan to provide carrier capability for 435 days a year using two carriers."

Well, damn!


'The f35 thing is not a shock to me. It should be to some of the carrier junkies who talk like it is all done deal and it will all happen on time and on budget.'

I'm a carrier junkie and I fully understand the timetable. Stop being a condescending twat.


We could always buy Swedish if F35 is to be out of our price range.

A deck full of gen 4.5 fighters will always out perform an empty carrier and a photo of an unaffordable 5th generation all singing-and-dancing magic stealth aircraft pictured in a Lockheed Martin brochure on the Defence Minister's desk.


The report says ZERO new things.

In 2018 F35 UK will hit Land IOC.

In 2020 there will be six Force Elements At Readiness able to embark on the first carrier, supported by training fleet, to grow to 10 afterwards, and then to a full 12 planes squadron.

The capacity to embark all 36 planes won't be there until there are three squadrons of planes and crews.

So it all depends on when and how rapidly F35s are acquired and prepared for frontline service. At the moment, the 3-squadrons force is not expected before 2030, since the F35 acquisition was pushed largely to the right into the next decade to save 2.8 billion pounds.

IXION panicking and his fantasy figures backed by no reflections are frankly of no interest other than for the psychological extent of his carrier-hating illness.

Also, the reduction in at sea time, is a logical consequence of the current assumption of only using one.
The ship remains capable to operate 9 months in a row and support 70 days of air ops with the supplies it carries.

But without a second vessel operative, the single carrier cannot be at sea all the time. Indeed, in peacetime years it won't spend 9 months at sea, but less than that, the famous 150 to 200 days, to conserve availability as much as possible for when it is truly needed.

Just as the hysteria about 20 sorties per day against 72, and all that, without realizing that it purely depends on how many planes you do embark.

If people would think, or at least read, before opening their mouths to howl to the Moon, perhaps the debates would make sense.



I don't believe the figure but i've seen reported that F35 involvement for the UK could be worth up to £100bn. Let's not bite our nose off to spite our face.


That figures in the new nao report and is based on many many assumptions. also f35c launched from emals 10 days ago


“When the carrier is introduced it will be able to operate at sea for only 150 to 200 days a year, compared with the original plan to provide carrier capability for 435 days a year using two carriers.”

Thus the case for two carriers. Not that operational deployment for 150 to 200 days per year for a single ship and her air group is that bad. What does a typical RAF FJ squadron achieve?


The F35s price tag is too high for its advertised capabilities. With the carrier construction turning into an expensive debacle, I can't see that we can afford the F35 anymore.

I hate to say it, but I can see Rafale being purchased instead at this rate and our flight crews training on board the french carriers.


Why? Rafale was recently rejected by the UAE I believe because it costs an arm and a leg too. And it's a generation behind the F35.


"12 more type 45 block 2, or"

We could in fact have had another 18.5 Type 45's :P


Phil, Rafale would be a worse buy certainly, but I think the purchase will be made for political reasons rather than whats in the best interests of the Navy. The rising costs associated with the carriers makes this option more appealing for the more pro euro politicians out there.


I dont think there's even been a semi official hint at Rafale from anyone, not even Dassault. Buying it would make no sense unless F35 is binned.


@Bergendale: I really, really hope you are wrong. We don't need another PAAMS, a product we buy off the shelf from the French that doesn't work properly. F/A-18E/F, works, other people want to buy it, and it has an upgrade path. If the RN has done one really dumb thing, it was to insist on F35 when F18 was available at a fixed price and schedule. The carriers would have entered service in 2012 and 2014 as first planned, at cost, using C13 steam, which we could then upgrade to EMALS if necessary


@ Bergendale - "Phil, Rafale would be a worse buy certainly, but I think the purchase will be made for political reasons rather than whats in the best interests of the Navy. The rising costs associated with the carriers makes this option more appealing for the more pro euro politicians out there."

More appealing that £100B to the economy over the next half century?
More appealing the 25,000 high-tech UK manufacturing jobs?
More appealing than the £10B anticipated revenue to the exchequer?

I think not.




'I’m a carrier junkie and I fully understand the timetable. Stop being a condescending twat'.

Congratulations, could you bit some of the others? Because when I and others raised:-

'Great we get a carrier with no planes for some time after it is due to be commissioned', to put on it.

I was told off, because all 12 planes would be ready and waiting in 2020.


Of course When one RAF squadron Goes down the RAf has another. When one carrier goes down -errr


Without getting into a flame war with you ..

Sorry but 12 billion for the program for 12 deployed fighters- 12 billion per deployed fighter. That is not fantasy maths its first year primary school maths. 12 billion for a fighter to be deployed on average about 6 months = 24 billion per deployed fighter year.


Feel free to put up your own figures to contradict that. But as a carrier junky you won't care if it's 2,3,4,or 10 billion. It will be worth it, for the 20 sorties a day...

What was the sortie rate in the war for the Nameless Isles?


Oh and Gabs

If your going to post links, don't post ones which; (those of us who read govt and politician speak every day know), say in effect we haven't got a clue how much it will cost, nor have the govt.

Indeed Public accounts committee chairman said so on radio.

This program is out of control financially.



'If everyone is thinking the same thing then noone is thinking..'

Gen Patton (I think)



F18 road map is available provided we pay boeing to develop those capabilities. In the end you want fastjets of this capability level there will be little difference across the full life costs. Benefit of f35 we get some money back in the form of tax revenues we don't with f18 or rafale.


"It will be worth it, for the 20 sorties a day…"

I didn't want to go down to this level, but you force me.
Done the math, 20 sorties a day is already more than the RAF flew over Libya during the whole campaign, despite the count including the AWACS, Sentinel and other assets, you know.

3010 sorties on 217 days = 13.87 sorties per day.
Of these only around 2000 were strike sorties, so the actual figure is even lower.

The 20 sorties of CVF are all sorties of strike aircrafts and do not include any additional embarked asset, which could be Merlin AEW, Apaches, or whatever else.

12 F35C on the carrier are going to do on average more sorties than 16 Tornado (+some at Marham for the SS raids) and 6 Typhoons from Gioia del Colle did in all these months.


"Sorry but 12 billion for the program for 12 deployed fighters- 12 billion per deployed fighter. That is not fantasy maths its first year primary school maths. 12 billion for a fighter to be deployed on average about 6 months = 24 billion per deployed fighter year."

Other assorted nonsense.

The Typhoons deployed so far have been 6, soon reduced to 4, then brought back home entirely.
I didn't hear you moan and howl about that. Maybe you missed it.

You are saying idiocies.
Even when 150 F35B were planned, production of UK planes was going to end only in 2027, with last delivery 2 years later, so in 2029.
For the full 36 Force Elements at Readiness, and the document i've linked says it, but you won't go and read the written evidence in it, was always going to be around 2030.

The long time it takes to build up the F35C fleet, and its cost, is the inescapable reality of modern day - guess it - AIR FORCES.

Have you looked at the costs and times related to the Typhoon procurement, production, and entry in service?
It has been around for forever, but it is far, far from ready still. There are still two squadrons to stand up, ground attack capability won't be complete until 2014 in the most optimist estimate, and the full fleet won't be delivered until many more years in the future, with production having further been slowed down when already the Tranche 3 was planned to start delivering only in 2013.


With Gripen, F18 or anything else, things would not be much different.
Possibly, they would be worse.

A carrier-capable Gripen only exists on paper, and the F18 International is little more than mock-ups and paper.
Rafale is currently incompatible with all british systems and weapons that would have to be used on it, save for Meteor, which France is integrating.

The only B plan is buying F18 "as it is" and only put on it british radios and weaponry.
It would cost somewhat less, perhaps (not very sure), and would (again, perhaps) allow a bigger, earlier buy to have more planes ready to go in 2020. Provided that it was ordered now or tomorrow, and the whole training and all other plans were changed, again, now.
Because personnel is as much of a challenge as the plane.

But the F18 would make only Boeing happy, and steal the Uk industry participation in the 100 billion wet dream that F35 is estimated to represent for the UK.

And if you read your beloved document, the 100 billions figure appears in it.


Can someone expand a bit on that 100billion pound figure?
Assuming a 3.000 aircraft production run (I'm an optimist today) and a price of a 100million per aircraft, about one third of the total value would come to the economy of the UK.
Wishfull thinking?


Very wishful thinking would be my guess.



It also involves the support contracts which uk should get a similar share to production percentage. They being economic advisers for nao believe this will general 10b pounds worth of tax revenues. It long term an open to a number of variation. The new nao report is worth a read it states f35 was a main driver for keeping the carriers and it would appear significant us pressure.



2 billion per deployed 6 months of fighter is simple maths (not 24 as I slipped up and now cannot edit posts- TD can you do anything about that).

Should have been 2 billion per aircraft/year.


Look at all the qualifications, the outright statements in it, that the figures cannot be quantified, or the details are not available.

I did not mention Tornado, never mentioned RAF or Typhoon or Grippen.


Having read the Public Accounts Committee report and the NAO supplementary, I have to say that I can't see anything there that suggests any real change. To the program. I think the BBC might just be stirring the pot to be honest.


10 bn in tax; 100 bn to the UK over 45 years
- it is for free, seen from Treasury coffers point of view
-the carriers will last the 45 years (minus what it takes to build them; the planes perhaps 25, counting from average ISD 2020 optimistically)
... purchase costs are typically only 10-20% of total life costs (which tend to be calculated over 20 years max because no-one can predict the major upgrades in late life)

So,not only for free (to buy) but with F35 (part) exports, also Balance of Payments neutral - without counting on any derived warship exports

I would like to read this assessment and its assumptions


" To the program. I think the BBC might just be stirring the pot to be honest"
- and their journalistic wing

I must say that the summary of the report is quite badly written... may be to egg on the journos (knowing that they would not read any further into the report)

The best bit is the NAO note on the two NSC meetings (briefings & minutes) that specifically considered carrier strike; also the way amphibious shipping is used as spare change between the presented scenarios


The thing I don't get is the £100 billion figure. The NAO report said it had come from having some independent analyst look at it, but all BAE is doing is the control surfaces and some ECM I think.

Just running the numbers quickly, if there were 5000 aircraft built and BAE brought in £100 billion in revenue then that would mean that every F-35 had £20 million's worth of control surfaces and ECM.

I remember seeing a figure a long time ago which was £35 billion and that was on an expected order of 4500 planes.



BAE are doing a lot more than that aft fuse,v and h stab, cv wing tips, fuel system, crew escape, life support, health management integration and a number of support function such as testing and thermodynamic stuff. RR are involved with both engines should the f136 ever be selected and they are the alternate helmet supplier. On top of that martin baker provide the ejector seat.

This figure also cover there thru life support.


Fair enough. Didn't realise the extent of their involvement. Still, a report from I think 2009 or 2010 pegged their revenue over the life of the project at £35 billion, now it's suddenly spiked to nearly three times that amount? Sounds like some dodgy numbers. Unless the cost of the carriers and all their through life costs get factored in. But even then it sounds like an over estimate.


Capita isn't doing the study is it? The bastards.


IXION, stop it. You are plainly rambling.


Gabriele, "A carrier-capable Gripen only exists on paper"

That may be so. However, Saab's London office -with its co-sited Aeronautic Design Centre working on the Sea Gripen- opened in September. The Gripen concept also included a naval varient from the get-go (unlike the Typhoon and its fanciful Seaphoon proposal).
Sea Gripen will be a varient on the GripenNG, and NG technology demonstrators have already flown. Saab have said that they can begin delivery of Sea Gripen (not just a prototype) by 2018, which makes it a viable option for a cash strapped RN.


On the NAO supplemental

Interesting that of those 4 options it never considered building 2 carriers but mothballing, binning Harrier and retaining the F35B, the only context in which the B model was retained was in the most expensive option with ships and Harrier.

It also completely vindicates the Harrier v Tornado decision

The thing with these industrial arguments about jobs and money back to the taxpayer is that whilst they are undoubtedly valid, they don’t help the MoD’s budget much. On the 25,000 hi tech jobs does anyone actually believe this horseshit, I mean seriously, 25,000 jobs. Same for the so called £100b back to the UK economy, more wishful thinking maybe. BAe have about 1,200 people working on F35 in the UK, so that’s going to have to be some ramp up or humungous supply chain to make up the slack. I do agree that for any number of reasons the F35 is the optimal solution but lets not over gild the lily.

Dunservin, comparing the theoretical maximum sortie rate of CVF that is only achievable for relatively short periods with what the actual sortie rate of any RAF FJ squadron is ridiculous and you know it. The rate is somewhat irrelevant because what matters is effects and in any case, those effects delivered from CVF will need a whole host of joint capabilities and no small dose of things provided by the RAF in a joint operation.

Phil, Rafale is not a ‘good’ option but if I was a betting man I would put a sneaky fiver on a Rafale v CVF swapperoo and operating a joint maritime strike capability with le Francais

On the crew numbers increase, could we agree on an estimate of between 60 and 100 extra personnel aboard. Dunservin, Mark, APATS or anyone else, do you know what the total personnel need would be for that?

The PAC report and Mrs Hodges performance on Radio 4 were interesting, a couple of factual inaccuracies but the fundamental underlying take outs seem to be Project CVF is tremendously piss poor value for money and as I have been banging on about for ages, we really wont know the implications on cost and personnel etc. until some time next year.

Project CVF is going to suck the life out of the defence budget for some time

Anyone have any predictions on whether CVF will EVER deploy with 36 F35C?. We don’t yet know how many JCA we will end up buying, the programme still being pre main gate, sweepstakes anyone. I reckon 35 to 40 tops

Gabby, I knew you couldn’t resist dividing x by y and coming up with the answer that CVF will have a better sortie rate.


Hi TD,

What's the swapperoo rate? Over a year ago I put it at 1 to 58 and a half (the half would be spares?)

Of course we are only inflating the carrier construction price to get more Rafales on the deal! At this rate (of increase) we will have double your number (of 35 to 40)of planes to onboard



Rambling Sid Rumpo, thats me!

Look I know you probably shout CVF! At the point of Orgasm but...Don't just read the NAO 'figures and conclusions read the words they have written in the main body of the report about the unknowns and assumptions.

TD is spot on about the speculative nature of those figures.

I suspect 36 could be done in some sort of emergency nameless isles style. But only then. They will probably do it once for the cameras and then never again in peacetime, for costs reasons.

The RAF want f35. So as for the supposed economic benefit of F35, great! But got sod all to do with nellie and dumbo.


Swapping one of the two British ships with the French.

If continuing construction and building a third ship (for delivery to France) would cost less than a billion; and the French would haggle down the price of PoW way below that cost (because we strengthen the buyer's hand the longer we remain undecided on the ship's future, and they're French); then, wouldn't selling become too politically risky? Ending construction and flogging half a 5+bn project for 9/8/700,000. and to the French of all people! Could be easier to suck up long-term costs.


"Anyone have any predictions on whether CVF will EVER deploy with 36 F35C?. We don’t yet know how many JCA we will end up buying, the programme still being pre main gate, sweepstakes anyone. I reckon 35 to 40 tops"

Well, then why you do make all that noise just because PAC is saying things that have been around for ages now?

6 F35C embarkable in 2020, a 12-strong squadron for carrier ops in 2023, full operational capability of the F35 and carrier combination in 2030/2031.

Nothing new.
But here people howls at the Moon for nothing.


@ Admin - "We don’t yet know how many JCA we will end up buying, the programme still being pre main gate, sweepstakes anyone. I reckon 35 to 40 tops"

72-80 is my bet, but only by 2030 for obvious reasons.


I think it was Mark on another thread that said that when a USMC bde is deployed, it takes 65 jets with it.

Now, without factoring in QRA, but assuming 33% of the total a/c numbers are ready for use at any time, then we can answer the question (in the spirit of further harmonisation with the US forces):
- 107 Typhoons and 40 F-35s no good
- to get to 65, we'll need 48 more F-35s
... there's the answer?


40, just enough for an embarked squadron, at all times, two squadrons at a pinch and a full load for operation plc


Gabby, if you want to tell me I am howling at the moon you can, but that doesn’t make you look any less foolish does it. I asked a perfectly valid question, how many F35’s (if indeed it is F35 because as I keep on saying, main gate has yet to be driven through) people think is realistic, not what we might think is sensible and not what the planning assumptions are. In all these issues we all conveniently forget about defence planning assumptions, again, as I continually bang on about, go and match those with wishlists and you will see a rather large gap

Chris in Virginia

Maybe the question could be how many JAS-39 Gripens? The Swiss deal will give them a big leg up on the Brazilian, and Indian competitions... Why doesn't BAE grab some of that co-production, say if the UK steps up to the plate for a large order of the aircraft?


Yep, for Brazil
"The Swiss deal will give them a big leg up on the Brazilian, and Indian competitions…"
Out from the other one, I'm afraid


Flightglobal has this snippet:
"It previously pledged to at least meet a 100% offset requirement linked to a Gripen NG purchase, while Stockholm also expressed possible interest in the Swiss-built Pilatus PC-21 as a potential replacement for its Saab 105 jet trainers"
- 100% offset anyway, and the trainers will have to be replaced anyway... so why not (except that the Swedish training model was unique in skipping one step on the way to jets, but never mind)

The same 'barter' model is in use with Brazil: Ohh, you've got that beautiful middle-weight transport plane in the works; our Hercs are actually quite tired and will need replacing (they will need replacing, that is true)


BAE was Saabs largest shareholder, and is still joint largest.

The Gripen bears a striking resemblance to the one engined "light eurofighter" Germany wanted in the early 90's....


Hi DJ,

You are a step ahead of me in the ownership stakes; I only knew about the cross-holding for international sales.

But on the euro-light and Gripen NG: Europe will only be in the game after Eurofighter if we can do enough commonality between the "light" and the the twin-engined design.
- there is nothing to stop Gripen NG being that "light edition" for budgetarily-challenged (if Switzerland and Sweden are, which of the smaller nations won't be?)
- but it does not seem that there will be a "full tar" version; rather the UCAV (which might fall down on the Franco-British discord... and the Germans pick up the pieces. No problem with that as long as the top tech still has a heart beat on this continent).


It was purely an accident of wikipedia.
I was just looking at a picture of the NG next to a picture of the Typhoon and alarm bells went off.
I vaguely remembered talk of a single engined Typhoon, and a bit more reading threw up BAE/Saab ownership.

All speculation on my part of course, but still.


the latest on the F35/F18 debate:


particularly recommend the posts from Istobie and Trouble.


I saw ironduke was back :)


guy has stamina. :)


GA...the leading UAV/UCAS firm...EMALS...carrier air

Will 1+1 equal 2?


Frogphoon and Saabphoon?

All Politicians are the Same

Alex, interestingly enough they do not exand their points with any data on RCS etc. Nor do they explain why not only the US but Russia, China and India are effectively building F22 clones. hey but if they are right that should make the Typhoon pretty much a world beater as the final evolution of the F15/F16 model high performance fighter.


Well, it can have the smallest RCS in the world, but if you can afford two, you can't do more than Iraqi numbers of hours on them, and one is permanently in the hangar because the O2 doesn't work...

All Politicians are the Same

Alex, it is cost vs effect. What annoyed me about the post at the link was the ludicrous claim that a Mig 21 could easily shoot down a F22. If that was really the case we should be breaking out the designs for the old English electric Lightning. People who write Blogs and posts inevitably have an agenda. These guys are merely at the opposite end of the scale from the guys at Air power Australia.


remember the uks airspace was defended for three decades by a bomb truck with super radar.
Boyds theories are just one way to roll.

Thats not say i agree or disagree


The blue circle radar.

All Politicians are the Same

The problem is BVR AAR combat has never been proven, believe an F15 engaged a Seribian mig 23/25/29 with an AMRAAM over former yugoslavia but every time we forecast the age of the BVR AAR it it os wrecked by things like the Falkland where SHAR beat Mirage with AIML9 at indecently short ranges.


What about the Israeli experience and the Iraqi losses?


The report leaked is interesting because for the first time it shows journalists some even in specialist aviation rages and the public the inside of a a/c program from an engineering perspective. It shows issues no different or more complex than any programs that has gone before or likely in the future. These issues are cleared in a number of ways with multiple teams working on potential flight safety issues first and none of these issues where not known for sometime. They are complicated and have multiple possible solution however many pushing an agenda have gone to the one extreme or the other to suit their angle. It should also be noted most problems will clear thru production jets by 2016. As such this issue is predominately a US problem we will only likely buy 3 jets prior to this date and is why no one really wants early production jets especially in a concurrent program nor do we pay to fix them. I would guess production will probably hold at the current rate of around the low 30s until 2015 this would be a sensible option.

For the UK we require a strike fighter to replace tornado. F35 is the only a/c available with the possible exception of f15e than can meet that requirement it complements typhoon perfectly and is precisely the air system required.

A number of air to air engagements were conducted in the 1991 gulf war at bvr. It is an incredibly difficult task to work out whos best in such a environment tactics training off board sensor systems and information management play a massive role and top trumps is only really gd for the card game.


@ APATS, re BVR never a proven case.

Gulp. In which case, it is astonishingly hard to make the case for the truly vast quantities of cash spent on BVR capabilities in missiles and by extension airframes of Gen 5 made by the MoD over the last few years. Perhaps a few Tucanos with some Sidewinders would do just as well (given that the RAF has since Korea in the 1950s never had a need to go gunsight to gunsight or BVR radar to BVR radar with an enemy).

The RAF in defensive counter-air missions is the world's most expensive insurance policy, and it is reasonable to judge that the risks of not funding this capability are significantly less than other defence capabilities. Of course, that makes the role of Biggles much less attractive and the remaining tasks for the RAF those that conceivably could be performed by unmanned systems. But that would strike at the very ethos of the RAF, who despite all, remain useful to the rest of Defence on a daily basis as bus drivers.


Just read the article by Chuck Spinney and while he makes some good points (personnel over etchnology), some of the points in his article were just as bad as those he was professing to be horrified by.

For example the comment about F-35's and their difficulty in identifying ground targets. That's a problem shared by all aircrews, otherwise there would be no need for forward air controllers. Even the A-10, acknowledged as an excellent close support aircraft, has no special features that make it more capable of spotting enemy vehicles without flying into the envelope of their air defense weapons.

As for BVR, there have been numerous BVR kills now. It's still not (and probably never will be) a silver bullet that means you can just do away with things like ASRAAM, but it is at least established now and is only likely to become more, not less, common.


Re: F-35B engines. A good spot http://battleland.blogs.time.com/2011/12/29/marines-f-35-engines-costing-way-more-than-other-services/" rel="nofollow">by Mark Thompson at Time :

"The Navy is buying six engines – 20% of the total buy of 30 – and is paying $167 million. That’s 15% of the total $1.1 billion contract. Works out to $28 million per engine.

– The Air Force is buying 21 engines – 70% of the total buy of 30 – and is paying $521 million. That’s 46.3% of the total $1.1 billion purchase. That’s $25 million per powerplant.

– The Marines are buying three engines – 10% of the 30-engine deal – and are paying $387 million. That’s 34.5% of the total $1.1 billion contract. That’s $129 million per engine."

OK, you never quite know quite what is included in these contracts. But it does look like there's some kind of systematic problem with the F-35B engine - the Marines http://www.defense.gov/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=4700" rel="nofollow">are paying $84.7m just for long lead items on six engines for LRIP6. $14.1m per engine just on a few parts, compared to $3-5m per engine for LLI for A/C engines in the same order. One plus point is that 25% of that cash ends up in Bristol, even though the UK is not buying any engines in that batch.

As an aside, here's http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14411" rel="nofollow">a source for F/A-18E/F prices - the historic programme cost has been $50,980.2m for 556 aircraft or US$91.7m per SuperBug. In FY2012 http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-112hrpt110/html/CRPT-112hrpt110.htm" rel="nofollow">they're paying $1001.6m for 12 Growlers and $2303.3m for 28 F/A-18E/F - $83.5m and $82.3m respectively per airframe. That's just for procurement - no spares or R&D - and was a bit less than the DoD requested.


'Perhaps a few Tucanos with some Sidewinders would do just as well'

May as well just not bother.


the big problem with bvr was (in my understanding), that pilots might shoot down friendlies.
Several times, in either korea or vietnam (on train so cant check) the us cleared the airspace of everything and then launched its bvrs (thinking nam now) in the same flight patterns its bombers were used, such operations were stunningly successful.


'Of course, that makes the role of Biggles much less attractive and the remaining tasks for the RAF those that conceivably could be performed by unmanned systems. But that would strike at the very ethos of the RAF, who despite all, remain useful to the rest of Defence on a daily basis as bus drivers.'

Ah right I see ;)


I can see that many cases of BVR have already been pointed out (and the main problem with it, too, by DJ)
- Iranian Tomcats routinely shot down Iraqi Migs in their 8 year war (the surviving planes' pilots of the latter wondering what the h*ll happened)
- explains why the USN went to such lengths in shredding their Tomcats when they were withdrawn (to deny all spares)

The real proof was in GW1 when the Iraqi AF had acquired (for the period) some top-notch Soviet air-superiority fighters


"But it does look like there’s some kind of systematic problem with the F-35B engine – the Marines are paying $84.7m just for long lead items on six engines for LRIP6. $14.1m per engine just on a few parts, compared to $3-5m per engine for LLI for A/C engines in the same order. One plus point is that 25% of that cash ends up in Bristol, even though the UK is not buying any engines in that batch."

Well, i can't say i knew the cost was THAT high, but the fact that the F35B propulsion plant is bloody expensive was known already.

Unless someone was thinking that all the fancy STOVL parts, Lift Fan, wing-mounted ducts, doors, transmission and all the rest of the unique, high-tech components came for free or cheap as chips.


Friendly fire was the problem highlighted most in Vietnam, along with a few dodgy AIM-7's.

Then along came things like proper AWACS, better comms and better IFF equipment. Still not a perfect world, I guess it never will be, but BVR is here and has been proven.



For the planned BVR engagement that saw the F4 trounce the MiG 21.


In the b engine system a larger number of bits of the system would be classed as long lead items for example the entire fwd lift fan maybe considered long lead due to the materials used to make it. While the overall cost will be higher the long lead price cannot be correlated to final overall power plant price for that very reason.


Obviously the folk bashing the F-Lots are members of the cult of John Boyd and therefore have a down on fancy fighters. But then, if you have to join a cult you could pick a worse one, and Boyd's influence gave the Americans the F-16 and F/A-18.

I do wonder if stealth is on the way out, though, due to the way radio technology is going. Three basic principles - make the plane smaller (fairy nuff, but obviously limited), cover its surfaces with something radio-absorbing (neat, but you can only go so far - it's still a lump of metal), and the biggy, design it so it reflects and diffracts more of the radio energy coming in away from the source.

Now imagine you have an RF source, and multiple receivers some distance apart. Essentially you've got a much bigger radar (synthetic aperture radar), or to put it another way, the other guy's RCS is bigger. Because some of the RF that gets reflected elsewhere than back at the source will get picked up by another receiver. Alternatively, imagine multiple, synchronised sources of RF and one receiver. Or even one radar, moving very fast relative to the target (which is how things like ASTOR work).

The big difference is that pretty much all modern radio comms technology is now using multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and other things to make use of multipath. Multipath was always considered a problem, because if you have several copies of the same signal arriving together out of phase they interfere, and anyway multiple copies of the same signal are a waste of Shannon information. With things like the OFDM MIMO air interfaces in LTE and modern 802 radios, though, we can spread information across multipaths, and suddenly it's useful because the information in them isn't redundant.

This means that the whole RF silicon industry is currently pouring resources into making use of radio signals that scatter..off..random..stuff and come back out of sync. Remind you of anything? Further, the other big trend is software-defined radio, i.e. a radio you can program with any waveform you like.

And, of course, military radars are all going AESA. So if you wanted to, say, rapidly change the alignment of the wave form so as to get returns from many different angles real fast and integrate the data...

For useful MIMO you have to have a half wavelength at least between the antennas to guarantee orthogonality, which is a constraint on putting it in mobile phones but not on things like fixed-wireless terminals. But I can well imagine an aircraft with receivers stuck all over it like the light-sensitive cells in a squid.


I've just had another look at Thompson's figures. I think he's using 34.5% of the procurement + sustainment http://www.defense.gov/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=4693" rel="nofollow">figure of $1122m, whereas the procurement cost is probably around the $358.6m "obligated at time of award". 34.5% of that would come out around $41m, which is a bit more plausible if you include spares and some tooling.

The LRIP 4 engine contract of 13 May 2011 cost $14.99m for the standard engine and $32.07m for STOVL. (http://armed-services.senate.gov/statemnt/2011/05%20May/Carter-Van%20Buren-Venlet%2005-19-11.pdf" rel="nofollow">page 13) Target is for the 250th standard F-35 engine to cost as much as an F-22 engine, currently about $10m apiece.


The Sunday Times covered POGO getting their mitts on the F-35 annual T&E report :


Commentary :

There were limited reports a while back, but there's now lots of detail in there for the F-35 sceptics......


Really what there saying is a/c program with 1/5 of testing complete shows signs of immaturity and has issues with concurrent engineering shock horror.


I just can't believe the mess that is CVF and F-35. It beggars belief. What options would the US go for if F-35 is cancelled?

1. Develop a new version of the F-18 Hornet?
2. Re-open the F-22 production line?
3. Develop a new version of the F-15?
4. Develop upgraded Harriers?


From what I can gather F22 is a curates egg.

It would have to be F18 to keep the numbers up; it would still be a good match for the Chinese a decade or so from now. And then ull stead ahead on UCAV; but I think too much faith in that route too soon smacks of Sandys-esque optimism in tech.

Perhaps we can persuade them to buy SeaViper instead of improving on AEGIS.........


This is a fairly balance report for an a/c at this stage of development showing some progress and some area where further work is being carried out. The further development of teen series a/c isn't really an option an ucav are a long long way away. I would question how these reports are being leaked as there's little reason for them to be.
I would also say I think these testers also completed reports recently stating global hawk and predator were not fit for front line service either. It is there job after all to highlight these issues in a confidential manner there running risks in future if that confidentiality of these reports are comprised.


The "teen series" airframes are perhaps at the end of their development cycle. But there maybe mileage in new subsidiary systems, new radar, new missiles etc. As I said I think it is a question of keeping numbers and a technical edge over the Chinese. Just because aviation forums are full of grainy images of what appears to be Chinese super-tech doesn't mean what is under the body is any good or if they can produce them in numbers if they are good or anything else.

@ Mark

What do you make of the tail hook business? I can't believe that it wasn't thought about in sufficient detail beforehand....

Should the UK go back to F35b?


I have been forced to read pprune on the matter; even if the smell of brylcream makes me eyes water.

A good chap over there has suggested we ask the US for any FA18 going begging because of their defence cuts to tide us over until F35 comes about.


The tail hook has a signifant number of options available to correct the problem. It's design was carried out in full consultation with navair and I can't be 100% sure only heard it second hand but I dont believe there is a min distance between hook point and wheels quoted in any design guideline but that work is all state side. They'll have a number of teams working a number concepts with different complexity but they only really know it works when they test it that's why it like most of these issues a major risks not because there isn't a solution they just haven't tested it yet. The worst case is moving primary structure at this stage that difficult and expensive. But I personally don't think it will come to that. The current design has caught wires though in what context Im not sure it certainly failed the roll thru. The B version probably has more issues than the c version. I would say the c is more robust design especially as this is now a tornado replacement the c makes more sense. I caution these reviews are all on lrip 1, 2 a/c and the engineering is very fluid so a lot of problems will work thru over the next 2-3 years and you can evaluate that till they do there's always a lag usually a long one.



Not sure I agree.

As someone pointed out the problems in very good post on this site a while ago.

In effect the F35 was to be a new generation F16 with all the latest avionics and added stealth, to take into account 30 years of general military development of the light fighter, and experience with the f16/18 platform.

There was also going to be a cut and shut Stovl version for the marines and other navies.

The whole was to be in effect a sort of technology bin special, emphatically not out to push the envelope of materials technology and aerodynamics.

When you have pushed the materials as far as they can go finding 140 pounds in weight is real issue!

Strengthening/ crack proofing areas of the plane will add weight not reduce it.

In particular the f35 B still seems to be in a lot of trouble.


But that's exactly what we have in the f35. From a dynamic perspective you have similar performance across similar flight regimes as f16 and f18 harrier ect. The added requirement due to future threats and to reduce support a/c requirements was to carry the same amount of ordnance twice the distance and add signature reduction to the airframe to allow similar access in future missions what current a/c enjoy today. Your not per say with the exception probably of the lift fan system in the b version pushing material further. Fatigue cracking isn't just as a result of thinning thickness. Composites add issues also be they civil or miltary and there isn't really any difference here lay up plys maybe different. Usually under pressure thing go out early without ful analysis and this is subsequently further analysised and corrected in later builds which is happening here you just don't want to have to fix hundreds of planes which is why production ramp up will prob be delayed by 2-3 years.
These are the issues with a supersonic VTOL a/c required to carry this level of ordinance at this range. It was the biggest reason Boeing lost it simple had no chance of ever working in there design but that was the requirement.


@Monty: the F18E/F was going to be 2/3's of the USN airwings anyway. It would become 100% instead.

Personally, I would prefer we lease 30 AV8BPlus now to get robust air defence back into the fleet, which would allow us to take a slightly more relaxed view of F35C issues. However, unfortunately with the F35B issues, there's fat chance of that...so we may have to make a rapid course change to F18E/F...



I would make it clear I was very pro F35b at the start; it answered a lot of questions, and would have been.. Pause drum role..

"A Step change in capability"..

(Stop to wash out mouth after marketing bullshit).

Indeed it looked very good. But published data; (and as with so many of these things it is very difficult to get objective comparable information publicly); would appear to contain a common thread of it being overweight and under strength both mechanically and thermally.

Incidentally I think your reply really nails the problem right there:-

"But that’s exactly what we have in the f35. From a dynamic perspective you have similar performance across similar flight regimes as f16 and f18 harrier ect. The added requirement due to future threats and to reduce support a/c requirements was to carry the same amount of ordnance twice the distance and add signature reduction to the airframe"

It is the attempt to add the double payload range requirement, which has I suspect, caused most of the trouble. Driving engine and airframe state of the art to the limit, on what was supposed to be the low part of a high low mix with the F22.


All F-35 buyers are in the same boat, desperately trying to extend the lives of their existing fleets until the F-35 finally arrives. So the US doesn't have spare F/A-18's to let go - quite the reverse, they're having to buy more to tide them over until the F-35 is ready. So that one doesn't work.

Probably the only Western nation making defence cuts that isn't waiting for the F-35 is...France. We are never going to buy Rafale new, but it's not inconceivable that we might borrow a few for a few years. We'll never ditch F-35 in favour of Rafale though, the French would never give us the industrial benefits that could match our amazing deal on the JSF.



Yes indeed the F35B was and remains the most difficult from a technical point of view and while the lift fan concept allows a greater amount of lift to be generated we are contained by the materials we have. It biggest problem like harrier has been the bring back and hover requirement hence the not quite stovl landing option the UK put fwd. Weight growth is and will always will be the single biggest issue in any a/c program and always gets aggressive attention.

The understrength and thermal issues are difficult to quantify for several reasons. If in the pure sense of understrength they fail in the static testing then yes there understrength.
If things fail in fatigue stress tests its not quite the same thing and this is much more a black art. For example stress concentrations or as current jargon goes hot spots can be caused by several things poor fastener pitching to many small rads in areas, poorly design areas on structure so you dont necessarily just add weight to fix these problems you may just need more care and attention in the design process but that takes time which the "schedule" usually doesnt allow.

Reducing the requirement for aar and sead , recon assets is important as its generally the biggest failing in any coalition operation and as anti access threats grow so does range requirements. F35 goes a very long way for a single engine a/c. That will have drove the engine design and sub sonic aero performance. Signature reduction will most likely have drove its supersonic performance and the top ends of it dynamic manoeuvring capability and its overall size. Like everything in engineering theres trade offs.

Lightning strike requirements and thermal issues(excluding thermal signature) affect civil composite planes just as much as military ones as the materials(composite&metallic) used are actually very similar the military ones just use some of the more expensive materials in more places and certain thing added to the composite layup so state of the art is always relative on manned a/c most of the materials have been around for some time the use of the electric power supply on f35 is new. Composites also drive the initial tooling costs up but should level out much more over a production run.


Hi tech project has glitches shock!
Once hundreds of F-35s are in service worldwide, these problems will have been forgotten.
In my little fantasy world, the RN would operate the F-35B & C (RAF would get Regional bombers with proper range/payload to replace feeble Tornados).


Im out of play for two weeks, but what were the cost over runs on the 15/16/18/18.5



Don't actually disagree with any of the technical stuff in your post.

The point I am making is that:-

For a modern aircraft
For an aircraft with huge CAD input.
For an aircraft Where a lot of the principles were worked out in advance.
For an aircraft using composites which have been used for decades.

The F35 has a lot of problems and when you are working on the edge of what is possible there is no such thing as minor problem.

The F35 is a program that once again 'Has gone for broke' in order to be so much better than what went before.


Glitches are one thing. A series of structural issues that individually in some cases and all generally render it unsafe to fly are another.


@John Hartley: the issue may well be that the problems attending the F35 are not solvable within a reasonable cost, because the requirement to provide STOVL forced a reliance on a single engine which then drove up costs.


From the operational point of view, it also severely restricts the size of weapons bays



That far enough. But the a/c is not unsafe to to fly and no one suggests it is and nor would it be allowed to if it was. The problems with f35 are no more or less complicated or severe than any new a/c program.



Single engine a/c are cheaper to support over there life than twin engine a/c. That is a highly selective analysis and one this particular journalist particularly promotes.


We spend fortunes, panic when there is a problem, then scrap the whole project just as it is coming right. When the Yanks need something, they will put in the effort & money to sort it. Given the size of the orders, they are unlikely to cancel now.
Russia & China have new prototype superfighters. The USA cannot rely on old F-16/18 designs to stay ahead.
F-22 production closed, so that leaves the F-35.
So what if the B gains a little weight & loses a little range. In a mixed fleet of B & C, you use the C for long range heavy bombing & the C for short range fowl weather duties.


Sorry, should be B for short range fowl weather duties.


Fowl weather? Didn't know the Chinese were chicken :-)


@Mark: single engines are indeed cheaper than two all things being equal, but not if they have such a terrible thrust/weight ratio as to impose dramatic restrictions on aircraft performance. Life cycle cost includes capital cost as well, and the F35 is way over budget :-)


Rupert it has neither a terrible thrust to weight ratio nor dramatic restrictions on flight performance. But there you go.

On a general point Typhoon started flight testing in 1994 and achieved IOC in the raf with 3sqn in 2006. F35 started flight testing begining 2007 just to gauge the development cycle.


but the typhoon had funding problems, not technical ones didnt it?

Theres nothing overly complicated, beyond the computers that can keep it level


Can't we be a little bit patient, allow the testing to continue and see what happens with the revised tailhook design without panicking?

The cost, for now, is US bound. If the problem is solved, as expected, by a different tailhook design, it is little problem.
If it can't be fixed, it will go down in history as the most unbelieable screw up ever.

But there will still be options, in that case, for the UK, that might even be cheaper, namely the Super Hornet International, which is offered with significant improvements.

Much worse is the position of the Italian Navy which is currently facing the prospect of a F35B very possibly incapable to fly from Cavour without a chance of converting her to catapults.

I believe the F35C tailhook issue will be solved.


@Mark: I was referring to the engine, rather than the aircraft. Given that the parent F119 has a thrust/weight ratio of 9:1, the F135 ratio of 6.6:1 (for the A and C variants!), you can see how much the B variant has skewed the aircraft and engine design priorities



No there was plenty of problems as with every a/c but as should have been the case with this they were kept confidential i can remember typhoon turning up to an airshow and got slammed because it couldnt out turn a passanger airliner for example. Also gripen flight testing started 1988 entered service 1997 three hull loses in the process. Even a400m first flight 2009 entry into service raf 2015. This takes time let the teams work as there supposed to.



The f119 produces 35000lbs thrust at a dry weight of 3900 lbs
The f135 produces 43000lbs thrust at a dry weight of 3750 lbs

Both figures according to wiki for a ball park


@Mark: the F135 weighs 6504lb, not 3750. If it did weigh 3750, it would have a quite remarkable T/W ratio :-)


I suspect the poor T/W ratio is because the B variant requires maximum thrust at sea level without using afterburner, which dictates a high bypass ratio, while in actual use, rather than landing, you would normally look for thrust to be maximised at the tropopause at higher mach numbers


I'm not panicking.

I am however concerned that the story of this particular 'Quart in a pint pot' is going to struggle.


Sorry to go way OT, but gabby has your blog changed in some way? I can't post there anymore.


The F-35 tail hook problem is more a consequence of the stealth design requirement for internal carrage. The result is a hook which extended is only 7.1 ft behind the main wheels. By comparison the T45 trainer (navalised Hawk) has 14.6 ft and a Hornet (all types) has over 18 ft. Sounds like wishful thinking on someones part.
The simplist fix would be a lengthened semi exposed hook at some cost to stealth. Trying to move the hook foundations further aft would add more weight aft from the centre of gravity and would be a big deal.
All this is simply a demonstration that the JSF is a work in progress. Unfortunately that work in progress is unlikely to produce a mature aircraft before 2018.
Bad news for Aust as our oldest F-18A/B's are due for the junk yard in 2018.
Another thought, if the F-35C cannot take a wire would a F-35A, with effectively a lighter version of the same hook, be able to take a wire in an emergency/bad weather landing on a conventional airfield?
Maybe some airforces would be interested in the answer to that one?


Rupert yes because someone on another forum states that great for them much like me arguing here I hear you say. These numbers are classified after all but they may have inside knowledge on the power plant I used wiki as a public source for the engine data on both power plants maybe wrong maybe not, but 6750lbs for the basic engine sounds heavy to me and may include adds on specific to the b version. Will also add for stovl the B version only uses 18000 thrust from the main engine as the fwd lift fan must produce the most thrust in vertical flight to stop hot air ingestion in the inlet so not necessarily relevant thought it does require an additional turbine stage to power the lift fan. And while t/w of the engine is a parameter the t/w of the a/c in combat configuration is more relevant and it is comparable to the a/c it will replace in that regard.


Hi Johnno,

I remember reading about this "Another thought, if the F-35C cannot take a wire would a F-35A, with effectively a lighter version of the same hook, be able to take a wire in an emergency/bad weather landing on a conventional airfield?
Maybe some airforces would be interested in the answer to that one?" as in Norway they have considered the requirement all along (icier than most places as for the runways, and they use chutes on their current F-16s).

There seems to be a wide-spread opinion on the web that the Canadians have actually ordered their a/c with such a hook, using BAK12/14 land system that stops the a/c in less than a kilometer. (I don't know the end result of the deliberations in Norway, might still be on-going after 6 years from expressing the requirement.)

This type of land tail hook is much lesser of a lump (RE:your centre of gravity concern)not meaning that the strength requirement would be much less, but as it is only for emergencies it only needs to go down (which deletes a lot of the extra gear that would otherwise have to be placed with it, fairly far aft).


ACC, you are right an F-35A hook would be much lighter than the F-35C arrangement. As far as I am aware both the F-35A and F-35C have arrestor hooks as standard. The structure would be significantly different but in both cases they fit within a doored enclosure beneath the rear fuselage. The official F-35 web site (JSF.mil) has some photo's of the F-35C at roll out and one gives a good look at the hook extended. There is not much space or scope to move the hook further aft which is what as really needed (as the rear of the enclosure is already close to the support ring for the engine nozzle.

As to a breaking chute I remember it was on Norway's list of wants, but I think Lockheed's position was that it was a non standard change, if required Norway was to pay for. I am too far removed to know what the outcome was.

The constant revelations òn the F-35 is an issue out here because, in theory at least, the RAAF are supposed to decide on orders for another 56 aircraft this year (in addition to the 2 ordered and 12 authorised at the moment).
US deliberations over the next couple of weeks on the F-35 will be interesting indeed.



Nothing changed on my blog, as far as i am aware. I'm surprised to hear that you have problems commenting: i dunno what could cause that. Comments seem to work normally.


Me neither, still on the blink.


Two totally different hooks for two totally different situations and 2 totally different wire systems. But apart from that there the same. An just because these revelations are in the public domain doesn't mean they havent been known inside the program and governments for some time.
You get a much increased length on c version if it pivots about its aft point as approsed to its fwd point thats an option there are a lot of options and it's quite complicated due to the dynamics people always jump from option a to option z let's just wait and see


Hi Mark,

Surely we can only wait and see as A is not an option, B has been rejected, so C it will be.

But is the root cause of the problem not as simple as:
-because of the quoted minimal distance from the main landing gear to the tail hook
- the wire simply does not have enough time to come up again, after the landing gear passing over it has depressed it flat onto the deck
- approach speed, speed once on deck, "springiness" of wire...all known for ages and good stuff for an Excel simulation model (if it had been deemed worthwhile)?


"Russia & China have new prototype superfighters."

Russia has after years finally a flying prototype with a prototype radar. Too bad they can't afford many, too bad India with it's extraordinarily bad procurement record will not help either. RCS will be a dot above Typhoon, not comparable with F-22 or F-35, not to mention all these software-extravaganza called sensor-fusion.

Chinas J-20 is no fighter at all.


Sure "not comparable with F-22 or F-35, not to mention all these software-extravaganza called sensor-fusion."
- but put in range, weapon load and manoeuvrability, so what is the total score?

Not that it matters hugely, the PAK-FA (especially the Indian 2-seater version) and the J-20 will be counterbalances to each other (mainly)
- and Vietnam can't wait to get a few from India (that will make a huge dent on the available GDP per capita)


I think the latest JSF report is a precursor to the project being cancelled. The F-35 has failed across so many parameters that it has become an embarrassment for all concerned.

All is not lost, however, because many of the component technologies would be relevant to an alternative design. The requirement for the US Navy and USAF (the F-35A and C versions) is a strike aircraft that can serve double duty as a fighter when required. I think a new and more focused design should be developed to perform just this role. For that a new version of the existing airframe may emerge, pheonix-like from the ashes of JSF. If I were LM, I would take the existing airframe and lengthen it, abandon the need for stealth technology (because it is largely irrelevant) and therefore abandon the need for internal weapon stowage. I'd use the internal volume gained for larger fuel tanks and redesign the wings.

For the F-35B, I would start with a completely clean sheet. I might even put the Harrier back into production with a more powerful engine.

As far as the UK is concerned, we need four basic combat aircraft types:

1. Fighter. Air superiority aircraft for home defence of UK skies (our absolute top priority); if it can also strike ground targets, that's great but any extra capability should be at the expense of its primary role. I think we essentially have exactly this aircraft with the Typhoon.

2. Bomber. Strike aircraft capable of carrying a large weapon load long distances. This is an F-111 or TSR2 type aircraft. I think it is fair to say that this role is fulfilled in a fairly average way by the Tornado.

3. Fighter bomber. This is a medium range duel role aircraft that provides both fighter cover and strike capabilities. This is the role that the Tornado performs quite well and the F-35A/ C in only an average way.

4. Close air support / ground attack aircraft. This is essentially a short to medium range aircraft with a reasonable payload capacity designed to provide ground troops and ships with air cover. This is the role that the Harrier has fulfilled very well for many years and which the F-35B has so far proved itself incapable of fulfilling.

The F/A-18 Hornet performs role 3 very well. Is it considerably better than the Tornado to justify the latter's replacement? I don't know.


The F35 is not at all being cancelled. Even with the new US Defense Strategy (read cuts) the US officers said they are still planning for the same numbers of planes as before.

At most they will delay some 120 airplanes out of over 430 they planned to buy between 2013 and 2017 into later fiscal years.

Unless current issues prove unsolvable, and i don't think it is the case, there is no F35 cancellation on the horizon at all.


There's a poster on Warships1 that has described how every US carrier had to be re-designed and modified to operate the F18 un-expectantly when the catapult would, in some circumstances, rip the central fuel tank open on launch.

Many others have said it, this is an immensely ambitious and complicated engineering programme that is beset by problems, which is NORMAL for an immensely complicated engineering programme. Other planes that have done decades of sterling service had terrible problems at this stage of their development.

The bloody plane is in testing, it is tested precisely because problems are anticipated.

Having access to every little nitty detail of the programme is just giving people with an agenda against the plane, and those easily convinced by internet arguments grist to the mill that this particular engineering programme is somehow totally flawed.

What seems to be happening is that people who have a philosophical problem with the plane as a concept are using development problems to bad mouth it. Doesn't matter what the damn thing looks like or can do, they don't like it because of reasons other than engineering problems.


@ Monty

'This is the role that the Tornado performs quite well and the F-35A/ C in only an average way.'

It doesn't perform both roles well, it only performs one. The Tornado carries the ASRAAM but that's not the same as being dual role. F35 isn't even in service so no-one can say how good it really is yet at a specific role.


F18 isn't really an option, is it? It has very short legs - exactly the problem F35 was supposed to counter by carrying a higher internal fuel volume. Why buy an aircraft that has to be refuelled right after takeoff, tying up another asset (another F18)? Rafale is worse off still.


"‘This is the role that the Tornado performs quite well and the F-35A/ C in only an average way.’"

Substitute Buccaneer for Tornado, and Tornado for F35.......... :)


A Buccaneer providing fighter cover ? well you live and learn ;)



I am still thinking about how both Tornado and FA18 are short legged. I am only interested in dropping bombs.


This video maybe of interest


Seems to be the way, not many a/c are long ranged compared to the Buccaneer, F111 maybe not very many others that I can think of.


@Mark: the thing that worries me about F35 is that the design is so compromised (primarily by STOVL), that there is really no margin. No weight or volume margin, so limited stealthy weapons fit. No margin for 2 seaters, so nothing too difficult and a reliance on non-stealthy platforms for EW for example. No plumbing for external tanks, so self deployment or extreme long range missions are impractical. No margin for "fill in what might be needed in 10 years time"...

F35 is trying to be all things to all people, and not satisfying anyone. I suspect we will end up with the A model only which will be a perfectly respectable F16 replacement, if not all it could have been. The B will go (no loss for the US, whatever the USMC thinks, it would be better off buying another couple of CVGB's), and the C will be replaced by more F18's and X47's.

In the meantime, we will wave goodbye to the 2 billion and buy the F18, which we should have done to begin with . CVF would have been entering service now as the trial platform for EMALS, with 3 squadrons of F18's already in service with crews trained on US CV's...and they would have done so within a greatly reduced and fixed budget.


Rupert I agree there was comprises for stovl in the overall design. I would agree also there is limited weight growth in the b version. However there is more room for weight growth on the other two. 2 seater was never a requirement and it has the capacity for 3 external tanks in non stealth configuration. Indeed the f135 has been bench tested at over 50000 pounds thrust so margin for future integration. On onboard processing better info management and better off board capabilty will allow single seat role in all envisaged capabilities.
I would not have developed all three simultaneously or concurrently to the extend they have.


Sorry about the fowl/foul typo. Long day, lack of a holiday, usual bleats.
F-18E would be lovely for RN if it came in service this year, but we are talking 2020. Will it still be credible in 2040? That is what we need from a new fighter.
You can laugh at the Chinese at your peril. 20 years ago, their main combat fighter was the Mig-19, now the SU27/J-20 combo. How far will they be in another 20? Will the F-18E still be good enough?
RAF should not get F-35. They should replace Tornado with a 2 seat conformal tank Typhoon + some long range regional bombers in the mix.


Two engines (less stressed) in a larger structure (more lift, less wing load, less stress) allowing bigger internal weapons bays (not just for a bigger weapon but simpler operation too) and simpler STEALTH.


RAF should not get F-35. They should replace Tornado with a 2 seat conformal tank Typhoon + some long range regional bombers in the mix.

Only problem then is what would the faa get?


@John Hartley: we get F18 by 2020 if we do things the MOD way. The Aussies bought off the shelf with minimal mods, and got them in service in three years. This is a platform in production, not vapour-ware. As for the 2040 assertion, I find it a little silly to be grandly worrying about that with an aircraft with a likely 6000 hour lifetime. If we stick to plan A of waiting for F35, we will likely end up with nothing, and the F18 is a lot better than nothing


And I'm not laughing at the Chinese either. Late nights can make for some light relief!


The FAA would get the F-35 B & C to my way of thinking.
Old designs will not cut the 20 year minimum service life with any credibility.


If we got the F-18 for the FAA in 2015, what would it fly from?
PoW will not have cats & traps till 2020.


We're constrained by money and no carrier until 2018 anyway. Tornado an typhoon meet uk fastjet needs until then. F35 spend will be post 2015 any purchase prior to that date which f18 has to be requires something else to be cut now in the order of 1.5b upwards just to buy 24 no support Or weapons integration so what's it to be. Even Boeing considers superhornets obsolete post 2025 as is marketing a 6th generation jet for that time frame. There is only two real choices go with f35 or scrap it and carrier air increase typhoon numbers and gap the interdiction strike requirement for 20 years until possible ucav technology matures.


"RAF should not get F-35."

Amusingly, the RAF wants it. Really really really wants it. Specifically, they wanted the F35C all along.

Guess what is being acquired...

"No plumbing for external tanks, so self deployment or extreme long range missions are impractical."

External fuel tanks are an option. And guess what, Israel is already coming up with designs for Conformal Fuel Tanks, F16-style, for the F35. http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/israel-to-boost-range-of-future-f-35-fleet-220748/

On growth margin, people tend to forget that electronics trend is to get smaller and lighter. Bombs have also gotten smaller and smaller due to collateral damages worries, improved accuracy etc. And engines tend to grow lighter and more powerful at the same time with each year that passes.

Yes, the F35 is likely to be a bit complex to upgrade and change due to stealth.
But it has growth margin.
And besides, as technology progresses, the weight of components actually tends to go down, not up, which helps.



Can't say as I can agree about technology getting lighter. EVERY aircraft ever built has only ever got heavier and heavier in service to the point where it is one of the drivers of the next design.

Can't think of a single aircraft ever replaced in the same role by a lighter aircraft. (Ok I am sure there was one, smart arsses please post here).

The harrier is an classic example of weight gain.

Every radar etc is lighter than the last, or it would be if the opportunity was not taken to increase capability, add an optoelectronic sensor, a new network enabled communication system etc etc..

My real concern with f35 b in particular is that it is too close to the current edge.


Whilst individual components benefit from technology derived reductions in size the overall package takes advantage of that by cramming more and more 'stuff' in, most of these require power and cooling and therefore drive growth in other areas.

The more I think of what is happening with The CVF/JCA project the more I think it is rapidly becoming a millstone around the neck of a declining in real terms defence budget. Once you get over the emotion and actually look at what it delivers compared to what we either need or use most often (depending on your view) the more it becomes incredibly distorting, shockingly poor value for money, destructive of other more useful/used capabilities, divisive amongst the services and adversely impact the welfare arrangements, training and general conditions of all service/civilian personnel past, present and future.

CVF/JCA has turned into a defence vanity/industrial benefits project that serves the UK's defence needs very poorly but no doubt lots of directorships, back handers and inflated egos all round mean that it will continue and leave a trail of wreckage far behind that one day will cost a British solder, airman or sailor his or her life.

Will look good in Navy News or Flypast Monthly though


RE "External fuel tanks are an option. And guess what, Israel is already coming up with designs for Conformal Fuel Tanks, F16-style, for the F35"
- there is even talk of them coming up with a two-man cockpit
- if there is any truth to being close to the margin, what comes off then (to accommodate not only more weight but the cubic volume take-up, a lot of it internal)?


TD, i think you are entirely out of reality and time when looking at CVF and JCA. All you say punches the UK strategy and requirements in the face and goes exactly against the trend that, also thanks to the new US defense strategy, is affirming withing the alliance.

But i won't lose time in a posts war on here, i've done it more than enough times already.

Just posting to let people know that in the second quarter of this year the revised F35C tailhook goes on trials on land and carrier trials remain planned for summer 2013. The problems are not only known, a solution is not being designed, and is already close to being rolled out for trials.


People may have already seen this but just in case:

"UKIP estimates suggest it would cost £1.4bn to develop a naval typhoon, with unit costs of around £80m.

In a statement the party said that the development costs would be similar to the cost of converting the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers to use the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) to be used with the F-35C. A naval Typhoon would take off from a 'ski jump' deck."



Hi TD - are you really Jon Lake by any chance, as his piece in this months combat aircraft monthly echoes your opinion quite closely.


"A naval Typhoon would take off from a ‘ski jump’ deck.”"

And it would land on an angled deck with AAG wires costing a few hundred millions, but this is not publicized as much, curiously.

CVF then would be compatible with Mig 29K and Su33 of Russia.
What a wonderful idea!


"CVF then would be compatible with Mig 29K and Su33 of Russia.
What a wonderful idea!"... and then sold to India

Just joking (or am I?)


"and then sold to India"

Already tried.
India does not want it: they want to build their ships at home and their first indigenous carrier is already being built.
With italian shipyards help.

About India, it would be nice if the UK finally managed to sell them something. Other than the Hawks, it is not going well if you think about Rafale, Scorpene, nuclear reactors, MICA missiles, Mirage modernization... Or C17, C130 and P8I.

Biggest defence market for the next years, and the Uk already appears to be losing that little grip it had on it.
This is the real worrisome thing. And you can bet that the white paper released today will change positively nothing of this situation.


"UKIP estimates suggest it would cost £1.4bn to develop a naval typhoon, with unit costs of around £80m."

I had missed this one... Very funny.
Development costs are almost certainly a wild guess, and 80 millions per unit...

Well. A non-naval Typhoon costs 80 millions or more.
How can they say it will cost the same once airframe is strenghtened, software changed, undercarriage changed, arresting hook added and all that?

A few years ago Typhoon naval was expected to cost 125 million per unit.

You tell me which figure you deem more likely responding to the truth.


About budget fighters for naval use; it has gone all quiet about the maritime version of Tejas

Checked, and the base version is only going to be delivered in a token quantity of 40, before going into a new iteration (again!):
"Aviation Week has reported last year that Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA Tejas) fighter jet failed to meet performance requirements laid down by the service for the limited-profile Mk.1 platform.

They quoted an IAF official saying that Tejas will not be the fighter the air force had agreed to accept for limited squadron service. Parameters which were not met by the DRDO last year included sustained turn rate, speed at low altitude, angle of attack and certain weapon delivery profiles.

IAF has already selected General Electric’s F414-INS6 for the LCA MK-II, a proposed improved version of the LCA"

When the Indian Navy switched from the Su33 to Mig29K, the former existed and they had to pay for the development of the latter. The reason quoted was an insurance policy to have "something" to fly off the indigenous (smaller than Vikramaditya)carrier from 2015 onwards
- that was years ago, so there must have been doubts about Tejas all along


good find admin, interesting to hear about the level of mechanisation.

it was always a question in the design process as to which side of the coin the cost burden would show up:
a) mech - higher up-front, reduced through-life
b) manual - cheaper, but bigger wage bill

looks like they went for "a".


Kind of chimes with one of the underlying themes of what I write about, personnel costs are the driver for increasing automation costs.


Great minds think alike. These things are going to be used like the LHA over in the States.


I agree with what the article says about the need for propper a MASC capability, but not the knee-jerk response of buying E2-D, which is very expensive and covers only one of our missing capabilities.

Becasue (unlike USN)we have nothing in service at present it gives us the opportunity to leapfrog to a more capable swing role airframe with palletised mission equipment to cover each of the support capabilites we currently lack: MASC, MPA, COD, EW and carrier based AAR.

The business case is made in terms of force multiplication: 24 F35C + 4 Swing Role support aircraft could plausibly do the work of 36 F35C without.

Also 36 F35C on the bottom of the sea becuase an undetected SSN or surprise airstrike sank the carrier are of no use to anyone!

Cue "The Fur coat & no knickers" argument. Does TD maybe have a bit of fetish in that direction? :-)


Peter, have you been talking with my wife?!!!?


@ Peter - 4? I was thinking of a squadron of 12; 3-4 AEW/ELINT, 8-9 ASW/ISTAR/AAR/COD, depending on what pallets (if any)it was carrying.

@ TD - Fur coats? I thought it was ISO Containers all the way...


I like the idea - but if we fill the hanger up with support aircraft there won't be any space left for the Jets and Helos!

Seriously the aim of the palletised mission equipment is to reduce the number of airframes needed. Intel of an SSN threat? Send up the MPA. Launching a deep strike? Convert to AAR. Supporting a land battle? switch to ISTAR. All depends on situation and threat levels - but no reason why you shouldn't embark extra airframes if the situation requires, but you'll probably need to disembark something pointy to make space.


I'm surprised no-one has picked up that to do the MPA role the Carrier Support Plane will need to have a couple of hard points for dropping torpedos.

Usually at this point in the debate someone pipes up saying: "why not integrate Storm Shadow etc etc and then we won't need any fast jets at all?"

Let's not go there. This is supposed to be a support plane with a few defensive aids not a whole new war fighting platform.


To do the MPA role off a ship we already have Merlin. At longer range - air and surface search using JSF.


A case of back to the future

Still the best long range strike jet old bananas herself


T gruniad

Reporting govt considering back to F35B.

As it's going to cost another billion, to modify Nellie and or Dumbo. to include cats and traps (Always thought the designing it so it could be easily altered was bollocks).

More expense, delay etc etc,


@Ixion - Just imagine how much it would be costing if converting to CATOBAR hadn't been considered at all previously.



Has anyone got any up to date idea of what these things are going to cost? Just the ships not the fighters as well?


Ixion, this is the point I have been banging on about since SDSR

We took the decision to switch based on nothing more than a fag packet calculation and then entered into an 18 month study to see how much it would actually be.

So the bottom line is, no, we don't

Plus, dont forget, operating CVf with CATOBAR and Helicopters in the CEPP role is something that no one else does and recognised as a risk.

So, switching back to STOVL allows that CEPP vision to be realised with less risk


So, not enough money to give the RAF any of the J(!)SFs
"switching back to STOVL allows that CEPP vision to be realised with less risk"?


Well on that evidence about as good as a bet on FA18 being purchased. Or, I think I am right, the same as bringing the Harrier back as I am sure there is a British pilot with the USMC.


Anyone know what is the maximum weight for EMALS to throw up in the air? And what is the maximum landing weight is for the QEC proposed arrestor gear?

Looking at maximum takeoff weights of legacy carrier aircraft it seems to top out at around 33,700KG for an F14. F35C is predicted to be 31,800KG on takeoff.

I am working on a 'quick and dirty' wiki comparison of some of the plane types that have been mentioned as possible prototypes for an adaptable Carrier Support plane.


Emals will accelerate 45000kgs to 130knts in 300ft.

Any carrier landing plane will require a slower approach than normal which generally means bigger wing and larger control surfaces. The arresting forces usually mean substantial structure beefing up and the landing gear mods tend to mean a deeper root joint on the wing and more space in the nose. Current arresting gear around 23000kgs with a/c at full power.


vid here of it launching a c-2 greyhound


Thanks Mark

I am also making a note of the wing surface areas as I go along.


Hi Peter, Mark already answered, but the question has interested me because A-12 got cancelled as getting the range and function packaged to anything under 80.000 lb turned out to be tricky.

Nipped over to aviationbanter forum, and the answers there seem to be in the same ball park:
"The cats haven't changed much over the years. The A-3 was about the
biggest thig to ever get catted off the pointy end, and that 73,000
pounds was approaching the max. I recall 80,000 pounds from a chat
many years ago. An article on an NAS Lakehurst site tells of shooting
a 79,000 pound sled, so that's about right.

Carrier suitability trials of the already-cancelled F-111B were conducted on
Coral Sea in 1968. That aircraft had a nominal "loaded weight" of 79,000 pounds."

Is there a weight limit as such? Not necessarily as long as the speed goes over stalling speed with the length (and strength!) of the deck available.
- wiki says that EMALS can put through 29% more power than steam
- without applying too much science I would say: take the proven 79.000 lb and add 25%
- our EMALS won't be identical to the existing ones as the one on land must be identical to the one going onto USS Ford, and that one is quite different in size (length) from our QEs... anyone know about this? (apparently the EMALS contract was signed in December, but it could be a development contract without a fixed spec)


79,000 lbs + 25% roughly matches Mark's figure of 45,000KG s that sounds good.

I think however that the 23,000KG landing weight will prove to be the harsher constraint.


Are we sure that the Advanced Arresting Gear cannot manage higher landing weights? It would certainly make sense, seeing as EMALS is launching heavier aircraft, that AAG should be able to recover them



wf You maybe right the number I quoted was for existing arresting gear in sure the new ones will increase that. I will caution though it will still be a steel cable the a/c grabs and it's limit will limit your a/c weight.



The only difference I know of is we're buying 2 cats instead of 4. The constraint to the deck will be you can't launch and recover at the same time.


I think we are in the ball park, but now the over-excited science (as flight decks are not armoured any more):
- given the approach speed and the mass (some bring-back weapon load and some fuel), how strong will the decks need to be to avoid direct entry into the hangar?


Acc also allow for the glide slope angle. It's not a total force straight down. There will probably be some large steel I beams directly under the landing area I would guess. The landing would need to be considered above 1g ie a hard landing would be say 2g limit. Then add a safety factor 1.5 and you get your final force the deck needs to withstand in a v simplified form. F=ma


My work so far suggests that EADS C295 is very comperable to C2 Greyhound in landing weight. C27J Spartan is havier but should still be under 20,000KG. The two jets I am looking at: BAe146 and Global Express are both over the current landing weight limit at 24,000 KG. Add to this the fact that both will be coming in faster than the turboprop aircraft so transmitting more force and it looks like curtains for them unless the landing limit can increase towards 30,000KG.

Anyone like to hazard a guess as to how many KG of landing weight the AAG might be able cope with?

The Mintcake Maker

@ Everyone,

Just thought i'd post this here to provide some lite entertainment



Great balls of fire.


Anyone got a calculator and "How to cost out a project 101" book going spare?


@Paul R: I think the most insightful comment was that of a Pentagon procurement executive quoted in a book about the development of the F18A/B. He said the US had great procurement procedures: flexible, useful etc, but on the really big projects, they were never used due to political reasons. Ta dah!


So the ACA think the catapult conversion will cost £1.8billion, and some US Admiral thinks £1billion. I don't doubt the ACA (its not like they could be doing something fishy with the numbers; all of this must be open-book accounting), but the question is where that extra £800 million is going.

So I figure to spend that much cash, you must be re-designing a portion of the carrier to accommodate the catapults. The original intent was for the design to be able to accommodate a future conversion, so that means either the assumptions for the catapults requirements were dead wrong, based on a very different (steam) design, or were never clearly understood at that point in the EM catapults development.

So if you have to change internal compartments, that means bringing construction to a grinding halt (they are cutting metal on the PoW already). It means getting the naval architects to re-do drawings, getting mechanical designers to repeat structural and vibration studies (which would otherwise have only been done once). You loose commonality between the two ships, to an extent, and cause any number of manufacturing scheduling headaches. Then you have any potential EM issues associated with the use of the catapults; do these things kick out a pulse that might interrupt Radar, do systems need extra shielding? Do crew compartments need extra protection? The electrical integration of these ships is more complex and costly then the metal bashing, after all.


Mark, ACC, wf, and Topman,

The "maintenance mode" (upgrade) has given me time to think and stop going round the houses (and back round again). Seems I got caught up arguing about something that doesn’t really matter or at least isn’t the crux of the matter (or was even a sack of festering baloney ;-) ). All I want to say is that my point has never been that Typhoon can't "do strike", it's just that it doesn't (fully, yet) and shouldn't…

The latter is the point of our contention and I'll endeavour to explain why I think this is the case.

It's all to do with the big picture of UK fast jet assets, and to me, there are a number of options, which I will suggest and explain why I believe we are left with only one mid-to-long term solution…

1. CATOBAR Typhoon (UK and fleet air defence and ground attack/support)

2. Conformal Typhoon (UK air defence and tankered ground attack) and Apache support

3. Typhoon (UK air defence) and F18/Rafale/F35 (fleet air defence and ground attack/support)

1. Is not politically viable - it says the French were right with Rafale

2. Is not politically viable - we've wasted too much money on both CVF and F35

3. Does not spend more money on Typhoon but spends money on the CATOBAR conversion

4. The only other solution is the stop gap (short term-ism) which will cost us loads and give us little value and this is basically option 2 but with F35B being the "political filler" to justify CVF and F35 and performing a function that Harrier could have done for a fraction of the cost.

So, this is why I keep arguing for 3... i.e. leave Typhoon alone, and spend the money on carrier capable strike aircraft.

All of the options above are based on the idea of maintaining as few “flavours” of jets as possible on the premise that this is the cost effective solution.

I now have to hand this over to ACC since he’s the man that will be able to tell me/us which of the options is most cost effective. If it’s option 4, I’ll buy another hat ready to put in the oven for Sunday roast next week ;-)

Cheers guys, I do enjoy these discussions.



Relatively small amounts of money spent on clearing Typhoon for more weapons (i.e. tens-hundreds of million) over the next few years means that far more strike aircraft are available sooner.

Spending money on option 3 gives us a limited capability for the scenarios we must use carrier air. Investing fairly small amounts of money in Typhoon gives a much larger FE@R that can be used in land-based or non-ultra long range scenarios.

So what would I go for?

PWIV and Brimstone definitely. Then SPEAR I-III later. Stormshadow should probably be left out if GR4 is still available.

I wouldn't go for conformal fuel tanks. Clearing the aircraft for larger underwing tanks (e.g. the 2250L Hindenburgers) gives similar increases in range but with lower costs.

Longer term, then Dave C gives a common strike fleet able to be deployed to ship or land base when needed.


@ Simon don't you think there are any other options (whether you think they are good or bad)?

@ Hannay, larger tanks aren't a good idea as to GR4, you have more pylon options. The centre line on typhoon will only take the (i think) 900l tank. The only 2 others are where the larger weapon fits will go. There was a larger fuel tank on Typhoon I think they were 1100-1200l but they were deleted as an option to save money.

Oh the 2250l litre tanks are imaginatively nicked named 'big jugs'!



I guess there are plenty of other options, just none that spend as little as possible - given the current defence climate.

In addition, I'm assuming expeditionary strike is a must, hence all the stuff about CVF/F35.

How would you provide both land and maritime air power? - without spending the Earth.


@ Simon

'How would you provide both land and maritime air power? – without spending the Earth.'

Struth bit of an open question! Being miles away from those that make these decisions (and a fraction of the info!), I would say getting the maximum out of each a/c. Not to labour the above discussion we had but tens of millions would let us have more than we have now. Don't be scared of letting F35 slip to take advantage of even a slightly more mature a/c. Either stop the GR4 upgrade and wind it down or carry on and get the maximum life out of it. Ensure that all the platforms on 5 Sqn carry on the things few countries have. MPA I think we are past the point of no return in the big boys league something smaller may well suit the bill (as has been covered on here). More of a general mindset worry less about what it is more about the outcome and the effect it brings.

Not very comprehensive and a bit scattered but it's all off the top of my head.



Central pylons are only really necessary for Stormshadow. There's still four pylons for other air-to-ground munitions - the same number as GR4, and you've got full air-to-air as well.

Typhoon tanks are currently 1000L. Originally planned to go for 1500L small tanks from Tornado. I don't think clearances would be a problem with the 2250L wing tanks.


Accept that maritime air power is too expensive. Spend no more money on Typhoon A2G. Buy a few dozen Reapers off the shelf to deploy overseas to limited threat scenarios (or high threat after using GR4 and Stormshadow to take out air defences). For about a billion till 2020 able to provide much better ISTAR and CAS capability than we have today and probably for most scenarios.



You snuck out of that one :-) re: maritime air power.

Are you suggesting Reaper for CAS? What's wrong with Apache - it has a nice big gun as well as Hellfire.


About options and how we get to be conditioned to look into certain directions; I was penning this when the maintenance mode kicked in:

I think it was Mark who responded to Simon as to what an ideal strike plane would look like (something like B-2).

We can only afford a mini (hello FBOT... private joke!)model, when the X-47B wil be scaled up so that it can take off from a carrier with a useful payload (now, guess why we are getting so few f-35s and stretching today's manned fleet well into the 20's, just to keep the numbers up)

Of course this is where Simon's dreaded option 4 will kick-in and derail the more sensible future fleet composition!No CATOBAR, no unmanned strike anytime soon.

Now, separately, you guys don't believe in conspiracy theories? Some mega-speculation follows:

1.Raptor completing the physical side of fighter development ('congressionally mandated exportable stealth' stops there)

2. Why is F-35 so ridiculously over-specced in software, relative to the airframe?

3. Because when the world waits for long enough, they will still have to buy it (to replace the F-16s); you can always buy Russian...not necessarily PAK-FA, Mig-29 as in the guise being upgraded to with Israeli systems (for India) is a mean machine

4.B-2 and F-35 will be packaged together (airframe + systems), gives "you"

- Regional Bomber (land based)

- a bigger X-47B (carrier based)

5. Except that it does not give you (us)anything; it gives USA a monopoly in stealth aircraft fitted with cutting-edge systems & weaponry, and

5.1 LM will have a monopoly in fighters

5.2 Grumman Northrop will have a monopoly in bombers

5.3 BA will split, and the N. America part will merge with LM

5.4 What will Boeing do? Anyway, we will keep the National Pride by dabbling in missiles and AESA radars, even though buying what comes with the aircraft would probably be cheaper and the R&D could be directed to requirements that genuinely differ from what Uncle Sam's forces need (vessels, land vehicles)



I like your "monopoly on stealth" conspiracy theory but there's just too many alternative markets. I suppose this is based on my assumption that stealth isn't really that fancy a technology - just shaping. That DIY chap with the massive moustach on telly built a stealth boat out of spruce and black paint - and sailed it right up to a real enough looking radar.

Very concerned about 5.3 though... it's been bubbling for a while.


@ Hannay

'Central pylons are only really necessary for Stormshadow.'

That's what I was driving at, I should have made myself clearer. But if we do it's only 1 small tank.

'There’s still four pylons for other air-to-ground munitions – the same number as GR4,'

There's more than that on GR4 but I take your point about similar weapon loads in most cases as that's what really counts.

'Originally planned to go for 1500L small tanks from Tornado.'

I haven't the figures to hand but in it's first stage their were 2 options the larger drop tank option was removed to save £23m I remember that. Although I'm sure the bigger option was sligtly smaller but no matter.


I've mentioned previously the combination I prefer. Really a lot of the negative points on the b versions are very much overblown and needs to be viewed much more against what we currently have done. Its flexibilty is a asset that complements typhoons really quite well. In the longer term the a version could be a typhoon replacement option.

I would agree with topman on the conformals on typhoon the big tanks come with big performance impacts.

We really need to take a look at the vital very long range strategic Istar assets and plan a coherent future. Astor needs to be kept and possibly expended biz jet fleet for other roles. Shadows also used and expanded in replacing army fixed wing assets maybe an idea. The diamond/Uav issue needs more though this is starting to ramble so il stop



'The diamond/Uav issue needs more though'

I'd agree with you there, there are cheaper options to do what we do with UAVs. With the way we operate them now and other options instead.


Don't really like x-47b I have to say. It's already been pushed back 2 years by the navy and the ucav designation disappeared to be replaced with deep and persistence Istar asset. Putting this type of a/c on a carrier limits it's capability far too much and will cost to much. Anyone still remember the cheap and cheerful Uav hope? At a projected 200m plus they are no longer that. If we do finally head down this route for strike a/c then they need to be Vulcan/Canberra esq in range and payload.



Apache is ruinously expensive to fly for protracted missions and has much poorer ISTAR capability than MALE UAS.

At the end of the day, we can probably do 80-90% of scenarios acceptably by spending less than 10% of the budget of a big F-35 buy. and that means more money to spend on other things.


@ Mark

'I would agree with topman on the conformals on typhoon the big tanks come with big performance impacts. '

Yes there are knock ons using them, but still I wouldn't dismiss the idea totally. In some cases larger fuel tanks may be a cheap way of getting what we need. They aren't ideal particularly with SS but I still think that a slightly larger option should be something that we should have.

How likely is CFTs? I'm not in anything to do with typhoon at the moment but aren't there hyd systems on either side of the fin? I haven't seen any costs has a likely cost been mooted?


'Apache is ruinously expensive to fly '

Isn't it near Typhoon hourly cost?



"...Apache is ruinously expensive to fly for protracted missions..."

Is it? Then ditch it! I'm not surprised it's not great at ISTAR, just thought it made a better CAS asset.

I must say that although I love the UAV MALE type thing I have reservations about it's ability to operate in theatre. i.e. it has to carry a tonne of expensive sensors and still manage long endurance. In addition this needs to operate from a carrier.

Maybe a rocket boosted UAV launch with a net for recovery?



Hard to say on the conformals. Will greatly depend on the tranche 3 configuration current under discussion. Bae a/c side have precious little on the books design wise so they may push for it, a number of designers are getting out as the civil side is somewhat booming. Tranche 3 will be fully wired to accept conformals, tranche 2 is structural only final fuel system connections would need a retro fit farnbourgh might been interesting one to watch. Tranche 1 jet isnt an option for them.


Hi Simon,

Not only that "based on my assumption that stealth isn’t really that fancy a technology – just shaping" but materials, all the way to paint

- guess what; it peels!

- I wonder if there was any connection between the Chinese buying bits of F-117 off Serb farmers, and their embassy getting a bomb through its roof?


@ Mark I didn't know it had been wired in on latest version and partly on some others. Knowing that and looking at the past and the money issues I would say the usual will happen; fleets within fleets.


Some non-critical delays for the Advanced Arresting Gear :


LM's F-35 Q&A :


The jets have made 546 flights so far this year, compared to 401 planned, plus the jets continue to stay ahead of their scheduled test points....The Marine Corps’ F-35B is not quite as far along as the A, Lockheed says, since it’s the middle sibling, but it too has demonstrated much of its performance envelope. It has flown up to Mach 1.5, around 49,000 feet, and pulled up to 7 Gs. It has marked off more than half of its clean wing envelope test points....

The F-35 has begun “weapons separation tests,” with the goal of building up to an actual, no-kidding weapons release later this year...

87 percent of the software the F-35 needs is flying on airplanes today, including test versions of the next major block due out this summer. He said 94 percent of it has been developed in the lab...Lockheed and the program are “recovering schedule” on the software, and he laid down a marker for when we’ll be able to see how it’s going.

“The test of that will be when we release the complete Block 2A software to flight test – that’s where I’d be able to give you a metric to demonstrate that,” O’Bryan said. It should appear “this summer. I’d ask you to measure us to that.”...

we’ve redesigned [the F-35C hook] to make it a sharper hook point. And that allows us to pick up the wire. And we’ve already done testing on that. We’ve done it at 80, 90 and 100 knots and we’ve got a good design for the hook point now....The whole thing is a remove-and-replace assembly so any modifications we make to it is an easy fix.”

the plan is [for the F-35C] to go to the boat in early 2014, well in time to make the US Navy [initial operational capability]....we’re not scheduled finish Block 3F testing until after 2016. So going to the boat in 2014 – [the USN have] said IOC is post-Block 3F, so there’s some margin there.”


Interesting that the CNO has put down a bit of a marker in respect of Tomahawks versus stealth jets, in the course of an article which is mostly about "trucks" versus "Ferraris" :



Yes, looks like stand-off weapons and non-kinetic weapons will be the next priority. From the Navy's point of view they have already paid for the F-35 and from here on getting any other airframe in the numbers they need would cost the same, or more "Those developments do not herald the end of stealth, but they do show the limits of stealth design in getting platforms close enough to use short-range weapons. Maintaining stealth in the face of new and diverse counterdetection methods *would require significantly higher fiscal investments in our next generation* [as if they didn't stretch the budget already with this generation] of platforms. It is time to consider shifting our focus from platforms that rely solely on stealth to also include concepts for operating farther from adversaries using standoff weapons and unmanned systems—or employing electronic-warfare payloads to confuse or jam threat sensors rather than trying to hide from them.

Standardisation, to drive costs down and allow for the "next thing" to be rolled out quickly: almost eight and a half thousand VLSs in use... I wonder what the RN total would be


It's a good concept. Interesting to note how the US has allowed core roles to atrophy, something we've tried hard to avoid.


I suspect Greenert has been thinking hard about the relative merits of stealth vs missiles in the context of an attack on Iran - the other big advantage is that missiles don't need refueling which is a major factor when attacking central Iran. Supposedly both the US and Israel would now prefer to delay an attack until next year, waiting until JASSM-ER and MALD-J are in service.

Both show what might be done with Storm Shadow - in our terms JASSM-ER is a Storm Shadow that squeezes a new engine and more fuel into the same airframe to extend the range to 500nm, whereas MALD-J is like a Storm Shadow whose warhead has been replaced with an EA payload for jamming/spoofing.

LRASM-A is also interesting in this context, effectively it will be a JASSM-ER upgraded with anti-ship capability and the airframe adapted to fit in a ship VLS as well as on planes. In other words it's pretty much the Storm Shadow A50 I've been wanting for the Darings. I guess it should fit in SYLVER A50 without needing any structural changes, but it may well be cheaper to fit Mk41 rather than change the SYLVER software.

Going back on topic, here's some blogs from the ACA Engineering Director, with some nice pics of eg bows for 2x CVF, and some bits of QE that are starting to look recognisably ship-like, soon there will be over half of her in one piece and they're eg starting to use her own lighting circuits rather than external lights.






Greenert's underling http://www.dodbuzz.com/2012/07/03/the-navys-advanced-weapons-shopping-list/" rel="nofollow">has responded with a "clarification" - presumably Greenert has been sent away for reindoctrination.

"There’s a reason Adm. Jonathan Greenert didn’t call for the Navy to back out of F-35, his spokesman said Tuesday — he doesn’t think it should. The chief of naval operations continues to support F-35C"

Interestingly he doesn't go on to talk about MALD-J, but highlights JSOW-C, anti-shipping TacTom (things seem to have gone a bit quiet there) and LRASM as examples of what Greenert meant to say.


Just doing a post on it Mark :)