The First UK F35 in Flight

The first flight for the U.K.’s first F-35, known as BK-1, took place on April 13, 2012. BK-1 is also the first international F-35.

The timing of course, could not have been more interesting!

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And here is another interesting picture…

F35
MoD ‘reconsidering aircraft carrier changes’

Take your bets…

About The Author

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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jedibeeftrix
April 16, 2012 6:44 pm

lol, to call it a circus would be an understatement!

Repulse
April 16, 2012 7:03 pm

They couldn’t cause more damage by spending money if they tried… Whoever got the PM to make a rushed last minute change should be named and publicly held accountable.

Let’s sea if those Sea Harriers still work :)

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 16, 2012 7:11 pm

Repulse @ 7.03

LF isn’t looking very clever as all this stuff comes out.
Dave the Rave is just the pitch man, others do the thinking.
If they go back to the B version then he will pay a heavy price.
Looking more and more like the Grocer with every passing day.

One question will the UK F35s be assembled in Britain / Warton?

Repulse
April 16, 2012 7:24 pm

FBOT: Do we know though that LF was the man? Sounded like the PM was getting direct lobbying from the service heads as the announcement loomed and the last minute change took most people by surprise…

Mark
April 16, 2012 7:24 pm

No the uk passed on the offer of a final assembly italy took that. The uks f35s will all come from forth worth Texas. We will however build all aft fuselages and ejector seats for every a/c produced.

Hannay
April 16, 2012 7:52 pm

It’s worth pointing out that we don’t have actually have the aircraft yet and this flight was by one of the LM test pilots.

The reports in the Times regarding the service chiefs support for B likely comes down to being told that they’d otherwise have to make very large cuts in the short term to pay for Nellie and Dumbo. Totally ignoring that we’re going to be paying through the nose for the next 50 years or so.

Brian Black
April 16, 2012 8:41 pm

That Telegraph article seems a little garbled, like it was written by someone who isn’t quite sure which F35 is which. Do wish these defence correspondents could figure out the complexities of wikipedia sometimes.
I’m pretty sure the military chiefs apparently lobbying for a re-switch back to B would rather have the F35C, if there were no strings attached. Coin-flipping defence planning wins the day though, great.

The Navy’s site posted and then pulled an F35 story just a few hours ago. Wonder if they pre-empted an official decision.

Challenger
April 16, 2012 8:44 pm

Going with the B saves some cash in the present but sticking with the C plans for the future.

Challenger
April 16, 2012 8:45 pm

Simply stunning looking aircraft btw!

Think Defence
April 16, 2012 8:45 pm
Mark
April 16, 2012 8:57 pm

The UK will not reconfigure its aircraft carriers so that French fighter jets can land on them, senior government officials have told their French counterparts.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f276fbaa-87e4-11e1-b1ea-00144feab49a.html#axzz1sEdVmmkY

Ichabod
April 16, 2012 9:13 pm

Did the Navy sacrifice the Ark Royal to try to get F35C? … and has the RAF outwitted the PC Plods who run the Navy once again?

Tell me at least that the Navy will get to own and operate its own aircraft … or maybe even get to keep the second carrier ….

Repulse
April 16, 2012 9:28 pm

All we need is some VSTOL aircraft to train our pilots on… What a bunch of twats.

Waddi
April 16, 2012 9:37 pm

F35C too heavy to land on CdeG, amazing, don’t these people check Wikipedia before making billion pound policy decisions?

Topman
April 16, 2012 9:49 pm

@ Ichabod, ‘and has the RAF outwitted the PC Plods who run the Navy once again?’

I’m not sure what you mean?

‘Tell me at least that the Navy will get to own and operate its own aircraft ‘

The exact outline hasn’t been announced yet, but they will have 40% of the manning and various posts throughout the Joint fleet. Although ‘ownership’ I think will be done through 1 Group although there maybe RN snr ofs within that. As to sqns; whether this an entire sqn or all mixed isn’t clear yet, although the first posts have been drawn up.

The Oncoming Storm
April 16, 2012 9:53 pm

The thing I can’t get is the F-35 is too heavy to work off CdG, so in all the discussions we had with the French in the last two years did no one ask them or did they not say “Err sorry guys bit of a problem there…” Or is that going to be used as a scapegoat?

Waddi
April 16, 2012 10:05 pm

Given that the French dropped out of the EFA programme (that lead to the Typhoon) as they wanted a smaller plane that was carrier capable surely to god somebody in the MoD/RAF must have known that as well?

But hold on if it is true that would mean that the F35C could only land using AAG not the current US Navy standard arrestor gear which as also used on CdeG? That would mean it could only operate on the new still to be built US Carriers not the existing Nimitz class. Something smelly here?

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 16, 2012 10:19 pm

Repulse @ 7.24

Dave the Rave doesn’t like the military.
They are just a useful electioneering tactic.
I fear he was bullied by the Eton branch of the OTC.

If LF was not involved in the opriginal decision then it was worse than a shambles.
Dave doesn’t / can’t do detail as the ongoing shambles of his administration proves on a regular basis.
Consequently someone with braid will be up for the chop.

This really is a VC10 class fiasco.
The only difference appears to be that it could not be kept internal
You have to wonder who started laughing at Dave dancing bollock naked in the street?

Interesting that RN/Frog co-operation was the main driver regarding the change.
Am I alone in thinking we are far too reliant of the French and other allies?

Think Defence
April 16, 2012 10:24 pm

Blame the French, I don’t think so

CDG wont be there forever and wasnt the plan to use their investment in CVF design to build a replacement, one that one would assume would have the same handling characteristics as the UK CVF design.

Setting the French up as a convenient excuse I think

Hannay
April 16, 2012 10:25 pm

@TD

If the Daily Fail is right then I think the only possible thing to make this clusterfuck worse is if the US cancels Dave B in their defence cuts…

Ichabod
April 16, 2012 11:15 pm

@Topman

The issue over control of aircraft is that if Joint Air Base Queen Elizabeth is ever to be more than a floating near-offshore runway it needs a full suite of aviation assets – not just the ones the Royal Aircraft Force want to play with. Like AEW, ASW, cargo etc etc.

Unless a fully capable organic air group is stood up, the rationale / national intent to possess a carrier is fatally weakened …. the RAF would never want that, would they?

George
April 16, 2012 11:27 pm

My God.

It’s reached the stage where I don’t care what they decide, JUST MAKE A FECKING DECISION

That said if they do decide to go down the B route, then only sell 50 Harriers to the USMC (ideally none but …) and keep the rest for the FAA to keep their hand in until the Bs start arriving. Probably cheaper than reactivating the SHARs….

Ace Rimmer
April 17, 2012 12:01 am

“F35C too heavy to land on CdeG, amazing, don’t these people check Wikipedia before making billion pound policy decisions?” Waddi, the runway for the CdeG was only found to be too short during its sea trials. Now that’s a huge fu** up……..is this what they mean by closer military ties? Even bigger mistakes, but with the ability to blame the other partner?

George, I think its too late for the Harriers, I’m sure they started leaving in November last year, packed in crates under cover of darkness. Will have to check.

Ace Rimmer
April 17, 2012 12:07 am

….still think its a truly amazing aircraft though. I sincerely hope it never gets canned.

Jed
April 17, 2012 2:34 am

I reckon Solomon (of SNAFU) has been, erm’ “leaning” on various UK politicians to ensure his beloved USMC get it’s equally beloved “Dave B” as it won’t be easy to can it now if were back on it……

what a load of bollocks eh – Gimme some Growlers !

Jed
April 17, 2012 2:41 am

Ref: “Unless a fully capable organic air group is stood up, the rationale / national intent to possess a carrier is fatally weakened …. the RAF would never want that, would they?”

Shock news just in via Financial Times of Yorkshire:

“In a quiet Monday night news release, the MoD has revealed that in future all Tomahawk missiles launched by RN submarines will be flown by RAF pilots. Air Vice-Marshal Biggin Hill noted that “Air power is the RAF’s business, if UK military policy requires deep strike capabilities then they will be provided by the Air Force, as it is the branch of the armed services that has the key role of “reaching out to touch” the enemy”.

Although the Admiral of the Fleet was unavailable for comment (on a run ashore in Gib), a naval spokesperson stated that there should not be any problems, as long as the RAF personnel will fit in a standard diameter torpedo tube.

jackstaff
April 17, 2012 3:25 am

Jed,

That was fecking magical. Will their standard diameter torpedo tube be en suite with turndown service, 300-count bedsheets, and Continental breakast with cappucino provided in one’s, erm, quarters? Because if not there will be hell to pay at High Wycombe ….

Aussie Johnno
April 17, 2012 3:26 am

So, what is QE’s day to day airgroup going to look like?

12 F-35B’s;
5 EH-101 ASW
3 EH-101 AEW
2 CH-47 with long range tanks for COD.

????

Atleast it would allow training when Queen Elizabeth commissions.
Assuming no further delays on the F-35, full production should be authorised by 2017 so an RN order around 2016 for 20 or so aircraft with deliveries between 2018/20 and you are in business.

The question then becomes when and to what extent the RAF gets F-35’s.

Jed
April 17, 2012 3:28 am

Jackstaff

You can imagine the mirth among the wardroom stewards:

“ere, make sure that bleedin’ crab get’s a hearty breakfast, he ain’t figured out yet that ‘is Tomahawk don’t come back….. least we can do do is send i’m off with a big fry up…..”

Jed
April 17, 2012 3:31 am

From Financial Times of Yorkshire:

“In a related development, Air Marshall Sir Topam Hat has noted that for the RN’s planned T26 “global combat thingy” his service will be looking for “tall, lanky individuals” that can be packed 4 at a time into a VLS tube, so that if the RN ever gets any land attack missiles into the surface fleet, the RAF will be ready to provide the pilots, so that they too can be flown by “proper” aviators.”

STV
April 17, 2012 4:15 am

Which aircraft do you mean Ace Rimmer?

If it’s Harrier I think it’s a perfect candidate for a CAS and expeditionary aircraft much in the same vein the U.S.M.C uses them.

Generally I’m supportive of having the RAF but I don’t think there is much argument that they have utterly failed to justify their large and expensive armed wing with the last two wars and been shown to be severely deficient in other regards.

They seem to have failed to notice this particular shortcoming, probably because the politically correct brigade that runs them thinks their efforts are better spent being nice to Lesbians and getting the LGBT seal of approval.

However, I think most people will agree that the ‘show of force’ is the most limp wristed and useless contribution to the field of modern warfare.

The other options are limited to buying some of the A-10s that the air national guard in the U.S are losing or armed Tucanos much like the U.S navy COIN programme.

martin
April 17, 2012 5:57 am

The problem with the CDG is not the arrestor gear but the actual deck its self. The F35C is a big aircraft and lands at a very high approach speed. Obviously CDG was never designed with such an aircraft in mind. It really shows the callibare of the MOD top brass that no one thought to check this before coming up with our new grand strategy. If it’s back to B then I am okay. Atleasst we are likley to get carrier air back 1 or 2 years earlier and we have a much increased chance of keeping both QE and Ark Royal (POW).

In terms of holding some one to account for this farce I am sure it is the current governments fault. I doubt the service chiefs would have liked to announce such a decision in the short period of time that SDSR allowed with no clear indication on cost. But it made a great headline and every one at the navy was to busy congratulating themselves about having a proper carrier to note that half the fleet was gone in one go.

jackstaff
April 17, 2012 7:05 am

Jed,

And here I thought Topham was spending his retirement as colonel-in-chief of the RLC these days….

Nah, don’t waste a fry-up, cold launch does nothing for the crabs’ stomachs, just a banjo or two and they’re sorted. If they want tall, lanky individuals all that Fenland inbreeding ’round the old Bomber Command bases will come in awfully handy ….

Repulse
April 17, 2012 8:00 am

This fudge can only go so far surely… If the switch goes ahead, the FAA should get just enough to support a permanent 12 a/c squadron with a token ability to surge 36 in extreme circumstances – this needs what 40 a/c? These will be to provide layered air defence of a task group. Apaches / wildcats should be used for ground air support.

The RAF should in the meantime go back to the drawing board and decide what they actually need / want for deep strike – though one of the requirements should be it can fly from a CVF. In the meantime, extend the life of the Tornado, upgrade the Typhoon and get the RN another SSN – to cover the requirement.

Topman
April 17, 2012 8:18 am

@ Ichabod
‘Unless a fully capable organic air group is stood up, the rationale / national intent to possess a carrier is fatally weakened …. the RAF would never want that, would they?’

I’m not sure how/why you’ve linked capabilities such as AEW etc with who ‘controls/owns’ the F35 fleet unless I’ve missed something.

@ Repulse, I think the split on manning has already been done, the FAA won’t get 40 a/c.

mickp
April 17, 2012 8:30 am

Let’s not get disappointed by the switch back to B. If the decision is made it only gets us back where we started which I believe was realistic for our budget and needs – i.e. a substantially more capable VSTOL carrier provision than that offered by the Invincibles and a ‘carrier strike’ capability second only to the US with swing role to more helicopter focussed for assault role. It also gets it much earlier than cats and traps and will hopefully allow both carriers in service, one active, one hot reserve (two active in major crisis). As for the RAF, lets sweat the enormous investment in typhoon, keep all tranche 1, withdraw tornado immediately and take time to consider the most appropriate longer term typhoon replacement (Dave A B or C – or D?). RAF then focusses on getting right MPA / land based AEW and transport and other important aspects of its service. These to me are equally important as expeditionary fast jet capability. Yes, one extra Astute please

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 8:32 am

Topman, If we can switch one way and then another we can easily do a switch on manning especially as it looks like we will have F35B and another type of fast jet as a tornado replacement.
Surely F35B will become Joint Force VSTOL or something? 3 operational squadrons and one training/OCU.
Manning TBC, in the mean time back to the drawing board for the RAF and tornado replacement with F35A being favourite but not nailed on.

repulse
April 17, 2012 8:40 am

@Topman – I agree with APATS, changing the ownership of the F35B would be a mere fleeting blush on the crimson face of a goverment who is doing more U turns that a learner driver practicing for their test.

Let’s have clear accountability and decision making for a change…

Think Defence
April 17, 2012 8:47 am

Excellent comment Mickp, couldnt agree more

Lord Jim
April 17, 2012 8:55 am

As has already been mentioned I fear the F-35 will be operated just like the Harrier Force, never permenently asigned to a carreir but flown out for exercises and operations as required. How many squadrons is unknown but there has always been a shortage of RN FJ pilots (Reason 2nd FAA harrier squadron never stood up) So in reality they will be under RAF control and if needed on land will not be available for carrier rotation again like the harrier force when committed in Afghanistan. SO we are going to have 1 or 2 very expensive mobile airfields, but definitely not Carriers in mould of the USN, france, India, Brazil and China or as most people understand what carriers mean. Bloody great HMS Ocean replacements!

Everyone involved in the CVF/JCA cock up since 1998 should be put against a wall and shot with photographs of the event widely distributed around the MoD, Government departments and Industry with the logo “Mess things up again and this is your future!”

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 8:57 am

Mickp I broadly agree with you but worry that Typhoon will never be an adequate replacement for Tornado. So we lose the capability that Tornado gave us. Would love an extra Astute but not cheap and with spreading capability maybe the money could be spent on putting in the 16/24 cell Mk 41 silo on t45 to give us more units capable of land attack.

Topman
April 17, 2012 9:11 am

@ APATS, yes a change in manning could occur and in the grand scheme of these is nothing at all. Yes it will be a joint formation. I was just putting what had happened so far, and what was likely to happen rather than what people want to happen. I can’t see the FAA getting all the F35 for various reasons.

Ichabod
April 17, 2012 9:15 am

@Topman

Simply that doing naval aviation is a complete package not just the fighters. If you have the two organisations sharing a common fighter only based part-time at sea the RAF may justifiably ask why they should support the Navy to get funding for manned aircraft for the other parts of the task.

If you have full-time naval fighters, getting the funds from the Treasury for the full package ought to be easier?

BTW – doesn’t the whole French excuse stink to high heaven? Who is to say they will even clear F35B for operation off CDG?

So we are switching back to what is objectively a less capable aircraft because the better one can’t land on the French mini-carrier (but can land on the USN’s 10+ platforms).

Topman
April 17, 2012 9:15 am

@ APATS

‘So we lose the capability that Tornado gave us’

Extending it’s life would be the cheapest option, the German are doing a similar final upgrade as us and are looking at 15-18 years until OSD.

Topman
April 17, 2012 9:21 am

@ Ichabod

‘Simply that doing naval aviation is a complete package not just the fighters. If you have the two organisations sharing a common fighter only based part-time at sea the RAF may justifiably ask why they should support the Navy to get funding for manned aircraft for the other parts of the task.

If you have full-time naval fighters, getting the funds from the Treasury for the full package ought to be easier?’

My thoughts would be not, even if it is part time, it would be in both parties interests to have a full capabilities on board. Infact it’s more likely, it’s both sets of blokes in the firing line both services are tied to the same project. My thoughts are a single service force would make it less not more likely to give you what you want in your earlier post. 2 voices are louder than 1.

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 9:21 am

Topma, How would that go down with the US if we decided that actually our total F35 buy was going to be 48 B variant? The German airframes will almost certainly have less hours on them and definitely less hours in places like afghanistan and Ops in Libya. they do like to squeeze every bit of life out of an airframe do our Deutsch friends. They will have F4Fs in service until september this year i believe.

George
April 17, 2012 9:27 am

I have to agree with the comments above – 40+ Bs for the FAA and let RAF take its time over Tornado replacement. Jfh was too much of a compromise IMHO

G

Topman
April 17, 2012 9:28 am

@ APATS

Sorry I think I’ve missed something, how would what?

‘How would that go down with the US if we decided that actually our total F35 buy was going to be 48 B variant?’

‘The German airframes will almost certainly have less hours on them and definitely less hours in places like afghanistan and Ops in Libya. they do like to squeeze every bit of life out of an airframe do our Deutsch friends. They will have F4Fs in service until september this year i believe.’

They may well have, but as you say they’ve kept F4 going for 20 years since we last got rid of ours so airframe hours is no barrier to extending the life of GR4. The one going through ours now would see easily past 2020, it’s other issues that might stop it.

Topman
April 17, 2012 9:35 am

@ G

’40+ Bs for the FAA and let RAF take its time over Tornado replacement. Jfh was too much of a compromise IMHO’

That possible but is it likely? To my mind the question is would the RN want that? Which isn’t such a stupid question as it sounds at first.

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 9:38 am

Topman @ 9.15

Surely the big issue here is the cost base of the RAF and its high unit cost of doing anything?

We are spending more and more, doing less and less.
8 squadrons and falling of fast jets is not an airforce it is nice chaps dressing up in uniforms.

Maybe now the education subsidy is for the chop we will get people interested in the job at hand and not distressed gentle folk trying to make good private schooling affordable.

Why does every aircraft type need a hugely expensive BWoS support contract attached to it?
We seem to have run out of 3LAs and we are now onto 4LAs / 5LAs to describe them.

Wasn’t the Jaguar run pretty efficiently over its last decade?
Did the support infrastructure actually work or was it just MOD spin?

How many squadrons do the IAF have?
What costs do they work to?
How does the RAF compare?

Was this not an issue when MP was involved in the mid 90s?

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 9:39 am

Topman, well we said we would buy 138 didn’t we. So if we turn round and say actually we only want 48?

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 9:42 am

All PATS @ 8.57

Just what are the costs of an 8 cell MK41 VLS system?

I am looking at £4mill, £6mill tops.

The MOD will be on the ball when they get the VLS system free with every missile order they place.

Topman
April 17, 2012 9:45 am

FBOT

‘8 squadrons and falling of fast jets is not an airforce it is nice chaps dressing up in uniforms.’

I wasn’t aware there was a minimum number.

‘Why does every aircraft type need a hugely expensive BWoS support contract attached to it?’

It’s what the gov of the day wanted. A reduction of service manning and an increase in civilian manning.

‘Did the support infrastructure actually work or was it just MOD spin?’

That depends on whether you believe the stats and who produces them.

‘How many squadrons do the IAF have?
What costs do they work to?
How does the RAF compare?’

Do you mean the Isrealis?

erebus
April 17, 2012 9:47 am

On this occasion, I agree with the Phoenix Think Tank.

http://www.phoenixthinktank.org/2012/04/angled-deck-or-ramp-for-our-queen-elizabeth-class-carriers/

“From a review of all the data and the implications associated with reverting to the F-35B, it is concluded that such reversion would be against the national interest and would lead to a severe reduction in Britain’s planned strategic ability over the next 50 years to project Foreign Policy in terms of military, political and diplomatic power.”

Cats and Traps are the only sensible approach, for Nellie and Dumbo, giving the option of the F35C, F/A 18 E/F or Rafale and ancillary aircraft.

If you want compatibility with the French CdG, buy French aircraft (Rafale, 92 Million USD).

If you want affordable aircraft buy the F/A 18 E/F (60 Million USD).

If you want the full cream, buy the F35C (130 Million USD – Full Rate).

If you want the complex, expensive (F35C + 25%) and heavily compromised (range, bomb load) solution then F35B it is.

p.s.
Aviation week gives full rate production costs (circa 2019 – slipped from 2016) prices for the F35 as double the F/A 18 E/F and rising.

Topman
April 17, 2012 9:49 am

@ APATS

‘Topman, well we said we would buy 138 didn’t we. So if we turn round and say actually we only want 48?’

I see know, my apologies, I guess they would have to take it on the chin. The Italians have reduced their buy, I don’t think they will be the only ones. Just about every project in the last 10 years has ended in a reduced buy. I think they’ll get over it, they I think will end up reducing their buys as well.

x
April 17, 2012 10:00 am

Is/wasn’t the German navy the biggest operators of Tornado?

Where are we now with the manning of all this? Is going to be like JFH with RN maintainers and RAF maintainers and what appeared to be a common pool of pilots? All RAF? All FAA? All USMC……?

Ian
April 17, 2012 10:06 am

Anyone else notice the grey national insignia? seems a bit pointless

Topman
April 17, 2012 10:07 am

@ x

No I don’t think so, they had a few though, not sure how many. They were very similar to our GR1B. Someone could probably check numbers on wiki.

So far yes a mixed pool on the postings now and in the future. The precise details haven’t been released and are no doubt still projects in working.

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 10:11 am

Topman @ 9.45

If the numbers keep falling when do we move to a UKDF arrangement?

With the RAF we seem to spend lots but get little.

IAF = Our friends in the ME.

Topman
April 17, 2012 10:16 am

We wouldn’t lots of countries have far smaller armed forces but still have all 3 arms.

They I’ve never studied it but they are a bit of a one off and aren’t really set up for the same sort of ops as us. There’s other difficulties in comparing for example I believe they still have conscription.

Mark
April 17, 2012 10:19 am

Tornado had an original service life of 4000hrs this has since been doubled to 8000. In the early 2000s the fleet leader was at 4500hrs so were getting close to a decision. As typhoon same issue with tranche 1 6000 hrs life going at a rate of 30hrs per month since 2003 and I was told recently 80hrs per month during Libya. Extending will cost quite a bit. Is typhoon tranche3 safe if Saudi want another 48 and Oman 12 or will we see another slight of hand. Upgrade typhoon with conformals and aesa that along with f35 from carrier covers all based with tornado replacement. I ask people to look at are strike targets the last 30 years and see how far we’ve actually gone from fwd base or a possible location with and without aar it not as far as some may think

Topman
April 17, 2012 10:24 am

@ Mark

LEP 5 pushes it to 12000 if I remember right. The fleet leader isn’t far off 8000 now.

x
April 17, 2012 10:37 am

@ Topman

I still think young people don’t join the RAF to go to sea if you get my drift. A one off draft yes. But I can’t see how the FAA will maintain a mass of FJ tech’s if it doesn’t become the F35 centre of gravity. The FAA onboard carriers may be just passengers but at least they “expect” to go to sea. All of this especially if “we” buy just 48 airframes.

Topman
April 17, 2012 10:45 am

No they wouldn’t but people join up for all sorts of reasons those on Harriers managed. They will have enough keep their hand in but not for the whole lot. If we get B instead makes it a lot easier for that sort of thing. FAA more like full time, RAF add on with training to surge but not there all the time.

Ichabod
April 17, 2012 11:10 am

@Topman/FBOT 1011

The reality is that the democratisation of air power (drones) is wresting control of airspace from the high priests of aviation (“air” forces) across the world.

Think CIA, US Army and even the secret Luftwaffe of the Royal Artillery (Watchkeeper/Fire Shadow).

Even if smaller countries today support a separate air force that isn’t a justification for the existence of the RAF … in the long term EVERY military and para-military force will have air power (lethal or non-lethal).

The RAF can only see its hold over aviation slip further and ultimately the Treasury will have to consider the facts.

In 2009 the head of the RAF predicted the takeover of the FAA & AAC, claiming there should be no “sacred cows” … yet the RAF is itself a “sacred cow”.

Ignoring the indiscriminate carpet-bombing of German civilians, they stake their emotional claims on the nation around their part-role at the time of the stillborn invasion of the UK in 1940.
Oh, and the Dambusters … which even at the time was another attempt to hide the fact they were mainly focussed on cooking civilians in their own homes (“de-housing”).

Brian Black
April 17, 2012 11:12 am

We shouldn’t be disappointed by a switch back to F35B, but I feel that the B is just a fleeting whim of the defence chiefs in order to keep hold of both ships. As soon as they’ve both completed their sea trials the F35B will immediately be considered unsuitable for the needs of the UK.

Dave should just accept that the carriers are as much (or more) political and strategic tools as they are military weapons, be a man and just suck up those costs.

We’re prepared to pay billions for nuclear weapon systems that we’ll never use for their strategic worth and Great Power symbolism; there should be a few billion for cats, traps, and indeed, flaps.

x
April 17, 2012 11:12 am

@ Topman

I can only speak from what I saw through cadets. A good number just didn’t want to go to sea. It wasn’t so much being away from home more the ups and downs and ups and downs and ups and downs of life in a ship. And some just didn’t like the idea of living out of a small “wardrobe” or being “confined” Just as some who went into the RN wouldn’t have liked much the idea of 6 months in say Bastion. Different folks, different strokes.

x
April 17, 2012 11:18 am

@ Topman

I will confess I had slowly come around to the “idea” of an all RAF FJ force.

x
April 17, 2012 11:26 am

@ Brian B

We choose not to have certain capabilities through the democratic system. We vote in parties that choose to give billions in cash in over seas aid instead of investing in UK companies to provide practical help. We choose to be members of the EU and pay billions into that organisation. We choose to vote in parties that have an open door immigration policy that costs billions both in term of benefits and fatigue on infrastructure. Compared to those 3 areas nuclear weapons are cheap. Carriers are cheap. FRES is cheap. F35 is cheap. One years over seas aid budget could buy the RAF/FAA the 100 or so F35. It isn’t just the “bomb” that costs us.

Repulse
April 17, 2012 11:35 am

I think we should think about a F35B fudge as a way to get us to 2030, after which we should be planning for the long term. Who honestly thinks that manned a/c will be the weapon of choice for deep strike post that date?

Ichabod
April 17, 2012 11:44 am

@ Repulse

RN Tomahawk – range 900 miles
F35B – range on internal fuel 400 miles

Why are manned aircraft the weapon of choice for deep strike today?

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 11:45 am

X @ 11.12

It is easily sorted.

Do you want to fly?
Can you live on a ship for 3 / 6 months?

Two positives and you are in.
Not two positives and MO’L / EJ awaits

Bluenose
April 17, 2012 11:45 am

Using some quick figures for the debate about ‘C’ ability to use the C de G:

Rafale M Empty Weight: 10,200 kg
Rafale M Max T/O Weight: 24,000 kg
Rafale Max Landing Weight: 22,000 kg (not clear to which variant / exactly to what this refers)
EC-2 Max T/O Weight: 26,100 kg (for reference)

Against which

F-35B Empty Weight: 14,515 kg
F-35B Max T/O Weight: 27,216 kg
F-18 E/F Empty Weight: 14,500 kg

F-35C Empty Weight: 15,785 kg
F-35C Max T/O Weight: 31,751 kg
F-18 E/F Max T/O Weight: 29,900 kg

So it looks like the B and C at max T/O weight might not be able to land on C de G, but clearly both could at less than max. Given landing at max weight is usually not undertaken, this point ‘in favour’ of the F-35B is suspect to say the least. With a larger deck, the Rafale could operate from QE class (though I am not sure if EMALS would in actuality rule this out)

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 11:50 am

Ichabod, the capabilities are complimentary, Once you fire a TLAm that is it gone. Once they have all gone you go home and rearm. a FJ can fly to the target and decide not to drop, it can be used as a show of force. it can fly day after day as long as the carrier has bombs and missiles and fuel.
They are not mutually exclusive.

Bluenose
April 17, 2012 11:50 am

Using some quick figures for the debate about ‘C’ ability to use the C de G:

Rafale M Empty Weight: 10,200 kg
Rafale M Max T/O Weight: 24,000 kg
Rafale Max Landing Weight: 22,000 kg (not clear to which variant / exactly to what this refers)

EC-2 Max T/O Weight: 26,100 kg (for reference)

F-35B Empty Weight: 14,515 kg
F-35B Max T/O Weight: 27,216 kg

F-35C Empty Weight: 15,785 kg
F-35C Max T/O Weight: 31,751 kg

F-18 E/F Empty Weight: 14,500 kg
F-18 E/F Max T/O Weight: 29,900 kg

So it looks like the B and C at max T/O weight might not be able to land on C de G, but clearly both could at less than max. Given landing at max weight is usually not undertaken, this point ‘in favour’ of the F-35B is suspect to say the least. With a larger deck, the Rafale could operate from QE class (though I am not sure if EMALS would in actuality rule this out)

Repulse
April 17, 2012 11:56 am

@Ichabod, I agree in principle about the preference for unmanned strike but question our ability to do it at scale (currently). I see any F35 order primarily for layered air defence / supremacy around a task group. F35 used in the way I describe plus Apache / Wildcat / Tomahawk will meet all of our likely needs till 2030.

Mark
April 17, 2012 12:08 pm

Topman

Is that the tornado mid life fatgiue program initialised in 2009?

Topman
April 17, 2012 12:22 pm

Yes it’s tied in with the latest upgrade I would imagine both if possible to be done at CMU on similar timescales.

Topman
April 17, 2012 12:28 pm

@ Ichabod

‘Think CIA, US Army and even the secret Luftwaffe of the Royal Artillery (Watchkeeper/Fire Shadow). ‘

Other arms have had such capabilities for years, the started in the 60s.

‘Even if smaller countries today support a separate air force that isn’t a justification for the existence of the RAF’

Well if it’s a global trend it’s something to be looked. Although your arguement could extend to all sorts, why should we have an army just because other countries do is no real reason.

‘they stake their emotional claims on the nation around their part-role at the time of the stillborn invasion of the UK in 1940.’

Have you been earwigging at the MoD ;-)

@FBOT I like your ideas about streamling the recruitment process it would save us a great deal :)

x
April 17, 2012 12:30 pm

@ FBOT

Pilots aren’t the issue. It is maintainers. The differences in how the RAF and RN go about their business. Differences not because of different cultures but because one operates from a fixed point in benign environment and the other on a platform that takes several weeks to get where it is needed in what could be described as at times less than benign. I spent over 10 years listening to kids make their minds up about which service they wanted to join. And then when they returned as young adults listening to if they had made the right choice. Being at sea isn’t for everybody. Living in a messdeck isn’t for everybody. I think you have to either have been in the RN or like me spent an awful lot of time around the RN to appreciate that.

There is a saying in the RN, “That’s life in the blue suit. If you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined.”

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 12:37 pm

X @ 12.30

Fair point but the RAF needs to learn how to live out of the back of a container.
We cannot have £5bill of kit tied to a field in Norfolk.

This issues crops up in every area of human endeavour.

Car mechanic – AA Man vs Garage guy.
Consequently we only employ AA men and leave the garage guys for MO’L / EJ.

Topman
April 17, 2012 12:44 pm

@ x I’m not sure the differences are that great. People adapt and get on with it after a good winge and a bit of huffing and puffing. Maintenance wise there will be some differences but it’s all much of a muchness. There’s others too, ops staff other techies and the such like will have to onboard and from the RAF.

@ FBOT,

‘Car mechanic – AA Man vs Garage guy.
Consequently we only employ AA men and leave the garage guys for MO’L / EJ’

What’s MO’L and EJ’

‘We cannot have £5bill of kit tied to a field in Norfolk.’

Aircraft are expensive and need quite a bit of support, you can’t put all that to sea. Where should we put it?

Mark
April 17, 2012 12:47 pm

Topman

From reading a bit about it at the time was there not a final decision to be made around now about going ahead with structural mods to the fuselage to allow the a/c to increase its life and was only to cover a fleet of 40 a/c?

Topman
April 17, 2012 12:49 pm

@ Mark

I haven’t read the policy on the LEP yet. But from my understanding it’s similar in scope to the other LEPs. What structural mods were mentioned?

Monty
April 17, 2012 12:50 pm

At the time the decision to change form the F-35B to the F-35C version was made, let’s not forget that the F-35B had been put on probation – which was shorthand for: ‘if you don’t get this aircraft’s development process back on track we will cancel it.’

That represented a huge risk for the UK; so we had to consider an alternative. We thought the F-35C would suffice. Now the boot is on the other foot: the F-35B has overcome many initial development hurdles, while the F-35C is proving to be too heavy and thus less agile. It is possible that the F-35C may require a redesign that would substantially delay its introduction into service. Which is why we cannot not depend on it.

Like FRES UV, which we abandoned in the early noughts, we are a key partner in the JSF. Exiting FRES UV cost us almost half a billion in sunk costs without a single vehicle being fielded. To do the same with the F-35 would also cost us dear.

Given the ups and downs of the F-35 development process, we had no alternative but to re-consider our decision to change. If Labour had remained in power, they would have been forced to make the same U-turn and we would have vilified them too. What was not acceptable was to pretend that nothing was wrong. In fact, our decision to switch aircraft may have been a key factor in making the US Govt apply pressure on LM to get it right.

As things stand, however, the F-35B is making steady progress. It already offers the following advantages over the Harrier:

– Faster
– Longer range on internal fuel tanks
– Greater payload
– Easier to fly
– Easier to service (you don’t need to remove wings to get at the engine)
– Safer due to great reliability (Harrier was at the bleeding edge of technology with a massive loss of aircrew and airframes in accidents over the years)
– Stealthier

There can be no doubt that with the F-35B we will give us a better aircraft than we had before. I believe we are right to stick with our original aims and intentions.

Would the F-35C give us a greater capability? Possibly, if it can be made to work. But, right now our defence policy must be consistent with our available budget. How can we acquire an increased capability at a time when we have limited resources and when there is no particular threat we need to respond to? We are not a world power nor are we the world’s police force.

LM totally underestimated the time and resources to develop three versions of the same aircraft. The differences between them are much greater than anticipated. Their performance has been lamentable. We had every reason and every right to expect more of them.

The major issue that has retarded testing for all F-35 variants is software coding. The level of automation in this aircraft is mind boggling. It requires 10 million lines of code (whereas the F-22 required only 5 million lines of code). It means that when the on-board systems are finally configured, the presentation of key flight and target data to the pilot will enable him to focus on combat itself instead of needing to interpret information first.

Just to reiterate, this isn’t merely about the airframe itself, but the weapon systems it supports. The goal was ambitious, but if we achieve it we will have a great aircraft.

In fact, the F-35A for the USAF is actually performing well as it notches up test flight hours, although there is still a long way to go before it catches-up with the projected flight program milestones. In spite of everything, there are signs that the F-35A too will also be considerably better than the F-16 it is intended to replace.

At the end of the day, as far as UK defence needs are concerned, the F-35B will fulfil our requirements.

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 12:50 pm

Topman @ 12.44

Ryanair / EasyJet

Ships have home ports.
Aircraft would have home bases.
Service accommodation and heavy support.

It would just be a case that they could live out the back of containers for 3 / 6 months as a matter of policy not a one off emergency.

The containers can be in a new airfield / dispersal or another country or they could be located in the hangar of a CVF.

x
April 17, 2012 12:54 pm

@ Topman

When I say maintainers I mean personnel other than pilots. Maintainers is just one word. Personnel other than pilots is four words. :)

I can only speak from what I have experienced.

Of course I will take your “not much difference” to be an affirmation of my ideal that f35 should be an FAA only venture……. :) ;)

Topman
April 17, 2012 12:56 pm

@ FBOT
They already have home bases and all deployable equipment has been moving around in ISOs for years.

This is what we (broadly) have now

‘Aircraft would have home bases.
Service accommodation and heavy support.’

‘Consequently we only employ AA men and leave the garage guys for MO’L / EJ.’

Contract out the support to them? Is that what your saying?

Topman
April 17, 2012 12:58 pm

@ x

Fair enough.

No I’ll go with your comment @11.18 ;)

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 1:01 pm

Monty @ 12.50

We should not be comparing it against the Harrier, we should be comparing it against the alternatives.

Harrier = Light fighter / 13K lbs unladen / flexible but limited.
F35 = Full on heavy fighter / 30K lbs unladen approximately / the next gen of our air assets.

That is why we need to go with the F35C it offers the more capable aircraft and it will be cheaper.

We should have kept the Harrier as it offers a mix that we still need – cheap / flexible / capable.
If BWoS / RR were in anyway dynamic they would be busy thinking about the Harrier 3.
However given their history with the Hawk there is no chance they will do the right thing.

Bluenose
April 17, 2012 1:16 pm

@ Fat Bloke,

I concur; the F-35 is akin to an F-105 hiding in a very small suit. This is one of the problems that the programme has had; LM ‘sold’ it as an F-16, but it is far larger and more complex platform. This has backfired as problems grew, times lengthened and costs rose.

The C model has had a single issue; that of the hook (which, supposedly, is now solved). The underlying issues of the B model; especially range, payload and thrust-to-weight, all remain. Its ability to operate in hot environments with WOD is questionable and even if it could it would still offer less than the C for what is probably a higher through-life cost.

Since aircraft tend to get heavier and more expensive as they get older, this is pretty worrying.

You an also kiss goodbye to an kind of UCAV naval strike / other aircraft operation with the ‘small deck’ option.

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 1:45 pm

Guys we cannot always live in a jam tomorrow world. The official report is not out yet but if the leaks are true then.
1. If we go cats and traps no capability until 2025.
2. We can only afford 1 Carrier with cats and Traps.
3. We would have no interoperability with CDG anyway.
If we go F35B we get a capable platform in service before the end of the decade. We get both Carriers so always have 1 available and in crisis most likely 2, especially in the early years.
We are probably only going to commit to 48 F35B initially. if in 2030 the strategic outlook changes well we have to 65K Carriers which we can convert if we need to, keeping one in service whilst the other is being converted, EMALS will be a mature proven design. The aircraft options may well be different, F35 will be mature one way or another.
In short we get capability sooner whilst retaining flexibility against long term strategic changes.

Mark
April 17, 2012 1:52 pm

Topman

Fwd and centre fuse structural strengthing was there take.

Topman
April 17, 2012 1:59 pm

@ Mark

Who wrote the document on it? Did it specifiy which particular areas?

wf
April 17, 2012 2:02 pm

@APATS: my worries are thus. If we go with F35B now, we still have no effective capability until 2020 earliest. That is too long: I say go with CATOBAR conversion in slow time, waiting for F35C to mature, while renting 30 AV8BPlus in the meantime. We did just send them 74 GR9….

x
April 17, 2012 2:04 pm

For power projection we need to think more of USMC interoperability than USN interoperability.

Playing nice with the French is all well and good. But hard foreign policy wise who do back the most? The US. Do the US stuff us occasionally? Yes. But the French have a tendency to do the latter more often and to our greater detriment. And when it comes to hard foreign policy where are the French and the Germans? More often sitting on the sidelines complaining first about military action and then once the fighting is over complaining they aren’t being allowed to bid for reconstruction deals. We have to think a bit beyond Europe. Who do the Canadians deal with mostly over defence? The US. Who do Australia look to on defence matters? The US. In the next two to three decades I can see us needing to support the US and/or Australia militarily more than I can see the UK contributing to an EU (read French) military adventure.

I have said before I can see CVF being home to 48 or whatever F35b. Does it matter if 24 of those airframes belong to the USMC? No not really.

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 2:17 pm

Wf, The Queen Elizabeth will not be ready for an air group until 2018 or 2019. she is a first of the biggest class of Ships we have ever had. So the timings actually fit.
We are not going to be flying any fixed wing assets off Lusty that is just fantasy land.

Bluenose
April 17, 2012 2:17 pm

The times and costs are all very suspect and doubly so when you’re talking about assets in service for decades; why have a half-backed capability 5 years early? B is not even naval strike and by plumping for that kind of carrier you guarantee the RN will not have that capability at all.

EMALS has been, by most measures, a pretty successful programme; it offers a lot more for everyone involved and it is not clear it will be less expensive to fit in 10 years time or that the ski-jump arrangement and B model through-life cost represent any great saving.

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Bluenose, Yes but if what we are being leaked is true we only get 1 cats and traps carrier.
So you can have the capability offered by an f35 B air wing with 2 Carriers pretty much guaranteeing 365 24/7 availability of at least 1. Maybe 2 in a crisis. Compatible with Italian f35B and spanish AV8B as well as USMC F35B.
Be interested to see if Australia thinks of F35B for her Canberras.
Or we can wait until 2025 to operate 1 carrier with aircraft that can only use the CVF and US super carriers.

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 2:29 pm

All PATS @ 1.45

Your timelines just highlight the current absurdity of defence planning.

Why no CATOBAR capability until 2025 – 13 years away?
The CVF build is gathering pace.
The EMALS build is stable – we are up for the second ship set.
We learn the CVF ship ropes using the QE.
We learn the aircraft ropes using rented F/A 18s and a USN deck.
We learn the concept of TQM / Cost of Quality to sort out the EMALS cost.
We learn to walk and chew gum with the PoW and the rented F/A 18s.
We stitch it all together when the F35C’s arrive.
We then sort out the QE – sell as F35B carrier and build the Eagle (proper carrier name) with CATOBAR as standard or we convert.

Waddi
April 17, 2012 2:32 pm

Re X

Absolutely spot on, don’t forget the Aussies will have the Canberra class and the US the America class. This will be where the true interoperability will be , not with CdeG or a Nimitz.

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 2:43 pm

FBOT Do not shoot the messenger. The decision has been made to build the first carrier without Cats and Traps so we have to wait for POW. The US do not have enough hulls to give us one to play with and if they did we could not man it as it has a ships company measuring in the thousands.
where do you suggest we get enough FJ pilots to be Flying FA18s and training on F35C?
There is no good solution but 2 F35B carriers in service by end of the decade is the least bad one from an operational view point.

x
April 17, 2012 2:47 pm

@ Waddi

That is why I think we missed a trick with CVF not being a Mega Cavour. We have good well practised amphibious capability. We do heliborne ASW well. We do flying STOVL well. We haven’t done strike carrier what in well over thirty years? We can’t bring lots of platforms so why not two big fast flexible platforms.

All we need to do now is convince the GS staff to scrap the Army’s procurement programmes and just buy what the USMC buys…….

wf
April 17, 2012 2:58 pm

@APATS: nothing wrong with Lusty if it’s still operating helicopters. They haven’t removed the ski jump. And the QE already has a ski jump

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 3:00 pm

wf, no there is nothing wrong with her but it would be a u turn too far for even this Govt.

x
April 17, 2012 3:03 pm

@ FBOT

Manning the likes of Eagle and Ark were major head ache for the RN even when the service was well over twice the size it is today. No way we could we just borrow a USN vessel and use it.

Bluenose
April 17, 2012 3:04 pm

Well:

1) there is a requirement for 2 CVs; having 1 is a complete waste of money and given we seem to be building 2 and they offer 60 years of service, induct both and EMAL them.

2) Whatever any given agenda-based budget forecast might be, this country can afford 2 CVs if it is based on a common fighter type for RAF / RN (F-35C) with shared costing coupled with ongoing contracting out of non-critical military functions (let’s not start on the waste less public money on everything else aspect).

3) There seems little prospect of an F-35B wing being operational much before one composed of Cs, though this is always stated as a point of fact. I suspect given the lower complexity of the C and the contiguous development, IOC for either is likely to be close.

4) Interoperability extends beyond the aircraft; a proper carrier allows far better flexible and multi-national operations using fighters, fixed wing support fixed wing UAVs and greater vertical lift. Right now, I would not e terribly confident about Spain or Italy, Australia was not really interested in B models and it still does not solve the problem of the B not actually being able to do terribly much by itself.

martin
April 17, 2012 3:06 pm

I have to a agree about interoperability of CATOBAR carriers. Interoperable CATOBAR carriers be they French or American always sounded like a fantasy. It seems much more likely that STOVL aircraft would be interoperable and there are a far greater number of platforms both in US and other allies hands that could operate them.

We have to commit to F35 in one way or another for two reasons. Firstly it’s a massively important project for British industry. Secondly it really will be the only game in town for some time to replace the aircraft we have today. UCAS show great potential especially in COIN and A symmetric threat environments. However I think we are a very long way off from replacing deep strike missions against advanced adversaries.
Satellite communications will always be vulnerable to jamming or even anti satellite weaponary. At what point will we truly be able to rely on AI to conduct a bombing mission without a man in the loop somewhere? Would it even be legal? The Tornado is not going to fly for ever it will need replaced at some point and Typhoon is far from ideal.
We are broke today but we can’t keep waiting for the Jam. If service chiefs are saying 2025 for F35C with CATOBAR then clearly that is too long. A limited buy of F35B now seems the best course of action. We should follow the US lead and simply stretch out our procurement. Buying 40 B’s today in FAA hands lets us get back in the game of naval aviation with more capability than we ever had before. The RAF can then get 40 – 80 F35 C in the post 2020 period as a replacement for Tornado. The choice between 40 and 80 should be based on an assessment of the capability at the time of UCAS to replace some or all of the mission .The C seems to make far more sense than the A, prices are similar but the C has the greater range and drogue system of AAR. This way we maintain a credible air force, regenerate carrier strike earlier and meet most of our commitment to the F35 program. It’s okay to kick the can down the road a little when your broke as long as you don’t keep kicking more cans after it.

Waddi
April 17, 2012 3:07 pm

As a country we have never deployed more than a handful of fast jets. Even Libya where we were supposedly one of the “lead” nations our commitment would not have equalled half a CATOBAR flight wing. We are not going head to head with Iran on our own but we might tag along with the USA if they want to have a go. If that is the case we could fly our contribution, typically 6 fast jets off a Wasp/America as well as a QEC or indeed Argus/Bay/assorted RFA’s, would an F35B fit into a T45 hanger? Much as a full blown strike carrier would be nice to have again, sadly it isn’t actually needed.

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 3:17 pm

All PATS @ 2.43

Not getting at you just the timeline you introduced.

USN – Rent the flight deck not the carrier.
F35* – Where are the pilots going to come for any version?
We have a Harrier cohort twiddling their thumbs / stacking shelves at Tesco.
We have a 10 year gap opening up in front of our eyes.

The MOD / RN need to start learning how to move fast.
What was once counted in years is now counted in decades.
Renting F/A 18s offers the quickest way forward.

Topman
April 17, 2012 3:23 pm

@ FBOT

‘USN – Rent the flight deck not the carrier.’
That along with the F-18 how do you know we could convince them to rent them? Looking at the demands they have it seems unlikely to me.

‘We have a Harrier cohort twiddling their thumbs / stacking shelves at Tesco.’

Scattered to the four winds now.

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 3:23 pm

Is Bluenose Sharkey?
1. The Govt have said we only get 1 Cats and Traps. (we can moan about it or we can get on with it).
2. See my point 1. The decision has been made, we have no more money!
3. Excuse me, Queen Elizabeth will be physically able to accept F35b as soon as she is worked up, so before we even have POW in the water. we have experience in VSTOL ops but none in conventional ops and you think the inservice date for each air wing will be the same?
4. How can a conventional carrier offer greater multi national ops, we cannot fly c of CDG but they could fly Rafale off POW. Other than that we have the USN. Of course writing off Italy and Spain suits your purpose and well lets wait and see about the Ozzies. i have had a few interesting conversations. Greater vertical lift?
As for not able to do terribly much by itself? Please. it sacrifices range but look at ranges we have operated carrier aircraft out to and where we are likely to have to. it gives us a massive capability boost that we can actually almost afford.
I would love to have 2 conventional carriers to play with, both with 40 F35cs and attached support aircraft but it is not going to happen.

SomewhatInvolved
April 17, 2012 3:40 pm

Stick with F35C, tell BAE to just finish the bloody thing and we don’t care what shape deck it has, get the ship working and sail it to Virginia, and get Newport News to carry out the conversion. They will do it cheaper so we can ignore BAE’s staggeringly idiotic billion-plus price tag for changing the design. Then EMALS gets installed by the people who will be doing it for the Ford class, Americans are happy, we’re happy.

Bluenose, I read your figures for landing weights and I agree with you.

Wonder if we’ll get our money back for EMALS Set 1 since we’ve paid for it already.

F35B will get canned later this year. The USMC’s days of being its own private expeditionary force are rapidly running out.

I’ve had enough of F35 anyway. Buy Rafale.

Anyway, why are we all getting so upset? All you have to go on is the chuffing media leaking stories!! Reliable sources? Hah!!

LurkMike
April 17, 2012 3:42 pm

The choice of AWACS platform doesn’t seem to have been discussed here, surely changing from C to B means we’ll definitely be stuck with the helicopters, giving us less choice etc.

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 3:42 pm

All PATS @ 3.23

What is the build schedule for the F35?

When do the B’s come off the line and in what numbers?
When do the C’s come off the line and in what numbers?

Where would we fit in?

Bluenose
April 17, 2012 3:43 pm

No, I’m not Sharkey Ward but this seems a ridiculous half-plan for something which will be in service for 50 to 60 year. ‘The Govt’ says argument is not exactly conclusive, is it? The Govt says lots of things and changes its mind (quod erat demonstrandum), this is a debate about what should be done:
– We have less money, yet this is a 30 p-40 year aircraft purchase and the B is more expensive
– The QE will be able to accept Bs when she is ready (timeframe not exactly clear) and when the aircraft is ready (also not exactly clear). What IOC does that give you? Pick a figure out of the ether.
-We have experience with Harrier, a very different aircraft, and some experience with USN exchange pilots. It may take longer for the SOPs but the B is not a Harrier and the operation will be different in any case. Is learning the lesson to operate the C not worth the investment of time over 60 years?
– Multinational operations are about more than the fighter I pointed this out; about AEW, ISTAR, UAVS; all are better serviced from a larger carrier.
– Italy and Spain looking healthy to you at present, procurement and sustainment-wise? No, me neither
– Australia may or may not buy Bs. You might as well add Japan to your list
– The ‘capability’ boost is that it is better than a Harrier, but it is far less good than its own C model which would also suit the RAF better at a Tornado replacement. Just because we’ve buggered through in the past does not mean it is a good idea.

x
April 17, 2012 3:51 pm

Somewhat said “The USMC’s days of being its own private expeditionary force are rapidly running out.”

As one of our defence professionals on what do you base that opinion? What do you see that I don’t? I would say it is the US Army post-A-Stan that is struggling to find its way? Ditto USAF. Of course then there is Sol’s favourite devil SOCOM…..

If F35B can drop some bombs, provide an outer AD layer, and God forbid carry some form of anti-ship missile what more do we need? The days of deep strike by manned platforms is over. Forget the F35C………

x
April 17, 2012 3:53 pm

@ APATS

Bluenose was the name of a famous yacht. Perhaps Bluenose is Yachts and Yachting’s defence correspondent. The alias is to high brow for Practical Boat Owner…… :) ;)

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 3:54 pm

A ridiculous half plan for something that will be in service for 50 or 60 years, exactly! With 2 we can rotate and convert later if we need to. the F35B will still be useful and the c if purchased for the RAF later can be incorporated.
you know as well as I do that lifetime costs are of no interest to a body that has to stand for re election every 5 years.
The IOC for QE will be before that for POW and C and conventional carrier ops being learnt i will tell you that much.
We are not planning on buying E2 anyway so AEW will remain rotary or tilt wing.
UAVs yes, they are fab, the Canadians are operating one of a FF in the Med just now god forbid we could not manage on a 65K tonne Carrier without cats and traps.
Italy and Spain are not looking healthy just now but neither are we and you ant us to continue down the spend spend spend it will be ok in the end route.
I am sorry but whilst it is a debate and I have admitted that i would love to see 2 conventional carriers with f35C operating it is also a debate tinged with realistic financial and operational parameters. at least it is for me.

andyw
April 17, 2012 4:19 pm

some weird things going on with the US Navy – apparently the F-35C is NOT replacing the SuperHornet, but deployed alongside it. The F/A 18 will be replaced by the F/A XX and an rfi has just gone out

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/04/super-hornet-jsf/#more-78458

http://defensetech.org/2012/04/16/the-navy-kicks-off-the-search-for-its-next-fighter/

Perhaps the best solution would be to get CATOBAR and F/A 18 and tag on to the new project.

Primary missions for the F/A XX will “include, but are not limited to, air warfare (AW), strike warfare (STW), surface warfare (SUW), and close air support (CAS).” This seems suspiciously like the mission set for the F-35.

martin
April 17, 2012 4:52 pm

@ Andyw

If we go down the F 35 C route then we need F18 EF along side it. The US navy is not going to develop an AAR capability for its $120 million dollar stealth aircraft when it has F18 to do the job. Estimates for us to develop this capability on our own are around 1.8 billion basically meaning we can buy a squadron of F18’s for the same price.

Also as far as I am aware we have not yet bought the EMLAS 1 system yet. If we have which given the current government I would not be suprised then we may as well go CATOBAR with F18 initally and purchase F35C in the 2020’s

Waddi
April 17, 2012 5:00 pm

One question not asked..is the F35C too heavy for QEC? If it’s too heavy for CdeG and given that the French Thales was the lead designer for QEC it may be that’s where the £2bn extra cost is i.e. welding a load of rsj’s under the flight deck. Pure speculation but it may be that the QEC design is simply not strong enough to land anything bigger than a Harrier, Rafale or F35B and not an F18 or F35C.

Ichabod
April 17, 2012 5:04 pm

Waddi – do you work for the same company as Think Defence … i.e. RAF info ops?

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 5:14 pm

Waddi, you would seriously hope not! The C is a beast though her max take off weight only very slightly lighter than an F14 was.

Waddi
April 17, 2012 5:18 pm

Nope, personally I would love to have seen two British CATOBAR strike carriers with Sea Typhoons and T45 escorts with ASM and land attack cruise missiles just like the Froggies have, hate to be second best. But have to be realistic as well would love an Aston Martin but can only afford and actually only need a mini.

martin
April 17, 2012 5:20 pm

@ Waddi

“Nope, personally I would love to have seen two British CATOBAR strike carriers with Sea Typhoons and T45 escorts with ASM and land attack cruise missiles just like the Froggies have”

A dream that nearly was. If only we could have found a few more quid down the back of that magic sofa in the MOD.

Fat Bloke on Tour
April 17, 2012 5:37 pm

Martin @ 4.52

£ / € / $ – 1.8bill to sort out a AAR capability?
That is what is wrong with MOD cost control.
A ridiculous number is put forward and nobody blinks.

You could develop a whole new aircraft for that sort of money.
Spending other people’s money comes far too easy to some people.

Observer
April 17, 2012 6:00 pm

He doesn’t mean a single plane bloke. He means a fleet of tankers.

As usual, you seem to be complaining about everything under the sun.

Bluenose
April 17, 2012 6:48 pm

Looks like decision for B has been made. Let’s hope the QE is not called upon to generate sorties in high temp, low-wind conditions or in an adverse sea state, especially if the aircraft are expected to be armed or fly more than 100 nm, all things the B model can’t really do.

Still, good thing we didn’t waste any money building a CV capable of using a genuine multi-role aircraft or a future mixed manned / UCAV fleet. Learned nothing and forgotten nothing, once again.

Jackstaff
April 17, 2012 6:49 pm

X @ 1531Z,

This. The USMC has been boxed in on a few fronts (some salutary — the EFV program was becoming an almost FRES-worthy mess) but it’s managed greater threats to its rationale. The USN has gained two hugely important portfolios — BMD and the branch of the American deterrent least likely to see cuts — but will end up paying with at least two CVNs (one because the pre-Ford “holiday” down to ten will become permanent, the other because of budgetary pressures and the fact USN supply chains are scraped bare trying to provide air wings for the extant decks.) The Army and USAF really are in a fix, the latter most of all which is why their moments of sanity in trying to develop a more expeditionary model of logistics basing (to keep a jet-speed global taxi/lorry service running even if its not sexy) and the drive for a new bomber to project firepower over strategic distances (recognsing the other three services have been steadily eating more and more of their lunch on combined-arms use of smaller aircraft, A-10 aside, since the end of the Gulf War in ’91.) The Army, which to be fair is still very deeply bogged down in the Stan till late next year, seems just to be in denial. That won’t last; get past this next election cycle and there will be hard reckonings.

Andyw,

Last year I would indeed have said Dave B was for the chop. But now, if A does in fact go ahead (instead of “Phantomising” C back into USAF as we’ve seen advocated for the UK often round here) looks like the runt of the litter now, mostly due to continued USN distaste for the sheer ugliness of the JSF program’s development cycle. The Boeing offering is supposed to be “sixth generation” whatever that is, probably cleaning up the coding mess and improving overall rcs reduction. And there’s a long working relationship there thanks to SuperBug, a long USN/Boeing relationship that is, where their recent LM experience is chiefly delays and farragos.

A general remark,

If there is in fact one operational carrier at a time w the other in reserve for a national crisis (not one carrier heads for port, the other makes to get underway, but one working up and down at a time) some of this angst about uniform colour and will to serve at sea (I have genuine questions and concerns re the latter) can resolve itself. If you have 2×12 sdns of B on line, don’t piddle them out a bit at a time — build two sdns of wafus and all 24 work up and down with the carrier as carrier air wings ought. Then if need be you can split one to each QE on a big-crisis mission and flesh out each sqdn w extra bods and spare airframes as done thirty years ago this month. That’s your baseline carrier air sorted until the 2030s. And it concentrates carrier air where it should be 1) combined arms for sea control in fleet action (how long has that been? Did we fight the Third Shock Army outside Hanover? Was it foolish, if you mean to have a military, to be prepared?) And 2) combined arms to seize a lodgement on shore away from enemy defences and (in the age of flashmobbed civil resistance and IEDs) urban port facilities so the khaki folk can be delivered by LOTS to go do their work. Making the RN again into a weapon that can, practically, fire the “projectile” Britain-based Army would be a huge step forward in the surface fleet’s rationale. And as a navalist I’m all in favour.

Martin (or was it Mark),

There was money down the sofa. They just used it on a piss-up in the sandbox instead. In my Shoulawouldacoulda land I would have two CATOBAR carriers, each with 1×15 navalised Typhoon (Tempest?) Flown by FAA and 1×15 Dave C flown, like the lumbering light bombers they are, by RAF. Still room to get TLAM and ship-killers on the T45s. The trick is to not be as madly in love with their own frigate-navy youth as Their Lordships. In the three key oceanic choke regions the UK can actuall effect (Bab al Mandeb area, Arctic near the soon-to-emergre Svalbard-Finnmark passage, South Atlantic) would post a T45/Astute combo and have done with it, and TLAM on each for regional striking power. Yes that means you need Dubious and Doubtful to make up task force numbers. Frigates to guard task forces through ASW and NGS 3yes of course they need PDMS.) The light stuff, and not too much of it ’cause the UK cannot and should not be everywhere, to light sloops.

I can see three likely options on this (no partiuclar order of likelihood)
Option 1 “Son of Harrier”
JFH all over again with Dave B and its build rate. Plenty of acrimony for Her Majesty’s Treasury to divide and conquer.

Option 2 “JCA? What JCA? Ooh, Look… Shiny!”
45-50 B variant to rebuild FAA, more Tiffs for RAF as T1 replacement, lots of pretty distractions about regional bombers, UCAVs, satellite platforms, and magical unicorn sparkle ponies that drink from angels’ teats and piss rainbows.”

Option 3 “JCA is Dead, Long Live JCA, or, The Italian Job”
B for FAA, A for RAF, talk of going back to a buy of 135 over time, cats and dogs living together.

What I’ve got, anyway.

Hannay
April 17, 2012 6:58 pm

@FBOT

The £1.8bn to develop aerial refuelling capability for F-35C was put forwards by Sharkey Ward and most likely plucked out of his arse to suit his agenda (which is maximising Boeing’s profit)

Repulse
April 17, 2012 7:02 pm

If the option is one carrier or two, there is no option. Get on with STOBAR and sort out what we need / can afford long term. We are in the territory of “least worse option” let’s stop digging…

andyw
April 17, 2012 7:05 pm

@jackstaff

The rfi also says “Also consider the ability of your concept to provide other capabilities currently provided by strike fighter aircraft, such as organic air-to-air refueling (AAR), Tactical Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA), and airborne electronic attack (AEA).”

If the F/A XX can do all this, then what is the point of the F35C? Also they will probably have x47 on board by then. At this rate they’ll be bankrupt before any F35 gets in service.

re 6th generation – I think this is a 5th gen but with a tailless design and optional manned or unmanned flight.

Jackstaff
April 17, 2012 7:09 pm

That should be “sea control *and* fleet action” in my above, and C as the runt of the litter. Blackberries and their tiny keypads, I dunno….

And yes, on all fronts, if future governments see some sense and start investing in a pair of flat-top phibs and angled decks for the QEs ahead of MLU, *fabulous*. If not, the phrase from my editing days was “don’t get it right; get it written.” The, I think, very real efforts by the top bods in the current government to kill the whole carrier enterpise (chiefly to bag quick savings and shank Gordon the Toad) make that approach a real and necessary consideration.

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 7:18 pm

Blue Nose, Nothing like being bitter. I will wait for the report but if it is a choice of 2 carriers with VSTOl F35 and getting that capability by 2020 or 1 carrier in 2025 with F35C and spending extra money we do not have well, I agree with 1SL. We will have 2 65k tonne hulls as I often like to point out the original T23 did not have a command system yet they will leave service with merlin, 2087, 997 and sea Ceptor making it one of if not the most capable multi mission Frigates in the world.
If the decision has been made then so be it and perhaps we can now concentrate on ensuring we it operational on time without more goal post changing. Of course unless like you, you already know the performance of an unbuilt carrier for an aircraft that has never been onboard or done any trials onboard.
How do the russians manage the Su33K with a max TOW of 33,000kg from Kusnetsov and as for the USMC well they are absolutely wasting their time with F35B from the 257M America class and no ski ramp.

x
April 17, 2012 7:28 pm

@ Jackstaff

Not sure if you are agreeing or not or just continuing on another of mad points. :)

Even the US Army with Pax Americana, pre-positioning fleets, and arms dumps world wide still is dependent on the sea to deploy. The problem isn’t just getting there but getting your equipment into play.

I have said here at least once that the USAF actually proves the separate air service model is flawed in that it does nothing but support the US Army with a limited strategic role (hello Bx bombers!), has its main combat power residing in holes in the ground in the Mid-West (that don’t need pilots are more akin to artillery), and seems to be constantly on the search for new areas to exploit to justify its existence (space and cyberspace.) The other US armed services all have considerable air assets of their own which directly support their main missions. US Army helicopters move US Army soldiers about or provide fire support. US Navy aircraft defend the fleet and strike land targets. USMC aircraft defend the fleet, provide top cover for marines, and provide CAS. USCG aircraft support SAR, law and order, and protect the US sea margins. etc. etc. Air power used as a tool not as a reason to be…..

Jed
April 17, 2012 7:50 pm

oooh did someone mention RAF Info Ops…..

Exlcusive to the Finanical Times of Yorkshire – transcrip of Air Chief Marshal’s speech is leaked.

Dateline: Tuesday 17th April, Hull, Peoples Republic Of East Yorkshire.

Today the FToY got it’s hands on a secret transcript of the the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Douglas Vader’s speech to the Royal Society of Rocketry on the future of air power:

“We have to accept the future of air power is not going to look like Dan Dare ! Nor is it going to look like Terminator, however much we think we are rushing towards the ‘singularity’ there is as yet no chance of fitting an Artificial Intelligence (AI) to an unmanned combat aircraft. This provides us with a problem, as communications bandwidth is not infinite, and the enemy has a input to the equation, by jamming our comms and datalinks.

Therefore we are very pleased to announce the Cybernetic Ucav Pilot (CUP) programme. Through the advanced technology provided by the Tryell Corporation, we can now fit a human brain into in the BAe Taranis UCAV ! This is a world beating, revolutionary development. Luckily for the RAF, there was a group of young, single and unemployed RN Harrier pilots, who were happy to sign up to have their brains implanted into RAF aircraft, if it meant an additional unlimited number of years of flying.”

Sir Douglas was also said to have mentioned that he now did not care if Argentina purchased Russia’s best possible S300 based integrated air defence systems, as his new CUP enabled Taranis had the top secret “Red Eye” EW system.

However Sir Douglas was apparently challenged by ex-FAA fight pilot Capt. Nobby Clarke (RN, Retd.) who stated that even if a Taranis with it’s CUP did look like a Cylon Heavy Raider, it’s not actually space ship, and therefore would have a problem reaching Argentina if not flown from an RN carrier. Apparently Sir Douglas became highly agitated, demanding the Capt Clarke take an immediate blood test to prove that was in fact human….

Brian Black
April 17, 2012 8:07 pm

Hi, x. “The days of deep strike by manned platforms is over. Forget the F35C”.
But the options for carrier borne deep strike from NG and Boeing involve cats’n’flaps. I would guess that the independent development of stealthy, automated, long-range STOVL aircraft capable of carrying a couple of thousand pounders would make the catapults look like small change. And the American possibilities have quite a head start on anything done this side of the water.
The F35C opens the door to other existing programmes, whether you want the C for deep strike or not.

x
April 17, 2012 8:07 pm

The spec’s of V22 oddly match those of the Fairey Gannet. Go figure.

Ichabod
April 17, 2012 8:08 pm

Info ops? … if moving Australia 600 miles west on a map in a staff paper worked in the 1960s to help kill CVA01 why wouldn’t the same techniques pay dividends again?

After all they had to hone their propaganda skills to a high pitch after WWII to explain away their carpet bombing war crimes.

The real cyborgs are the recent and current leadership of the Navy though … generally bamboozled by the superior intelligence of the light blue crew

Lewis Page said today that Stanhope ought to resign rather than support the RAF/BAE stitch-up:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/04/17/f35_carriers_plot_by_bae_and_raf/

Let’s hope he can pull something off …

jackstaff
April 17, 2012 8:08 pm

andyw,

Thanks kindly for the update, that’s very useful. Definitely makes you go “hm.” Whether that “hm” is about Dave C or X-47B I’m not sure. I’m sure they want a Tomcat replacement in time: some of the Air-Sea wags have likely done the math that, if you mean to bollock A Redfor That Looks Suspiciously Like China with stand-off missile batteries, those need to be defended by a spectrum of capabilities against counter-saturation, including a “fighter” that actually is. But yes, I would bet on quite a bit of hedging wrt both JSF and X-47 going on.

x,

Oh, agreeing — just while perambulating as usual ;) But at least, at least, the Zoomers are making a semblance of effort to fulfill the “we cover the globe” business rather than chuffing along across your own continent, sweating like a Pioneer doing his multiplication tables, while topped up by tankers soon to be replaced by the Worst. PFI. Ever. No. Really. As for the rest, that was my point wrt combined arms: much more sense, unless you come up with a genuinely unique mission, for a substantial military (and even now the UK’s is substantial compared to most) to combine arms for best effect. Less’n you dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body, that means there’s actually less cause for a separate air arm than in a small military, where the fairly tiny number of fixed-wing airframes (plus a CSAR heli or two — really, or two) can be put in a singular air arm for efficient management. But efficient management and woolly bits of Douhet aren’t reasons to turn away from creating effective structures to win wars, even little ones. And Gates’ admonishment (it was, flat out, an admonishment) to the wild blue yonders a year or two ago is a sign even senior admin may have noticed.

Jed,

:) :) :) Is ACM Vader working on the new remote-sensory-muscle-control technology codenamed “FORCE CHOKE” ? (Scifi nerds always need a mashup ….) Are we going to be recruiting feisty blonde birds from the Pacific Northwest for the FAA then? Because, bloody hell, I might be on the next flight back and damn the age restriction….

Speaking of Yorkshire and money management, does that mean I get to do my bass-baritone version of “The Yorkshire Couple” at last orders?

jackstaff
April 17, 2012 8:11 pm

x,

Ah, the Gannet, an ugly bird but reliable. (Mind out of the gutter….) Love to see if the deck on the QEs is long enough for some mad OAP from Eagle/Ark days to run one to takeoff from them.

jackstaff
April 17, 2012 8:14 pm

Jed,

Ref: FAA blondes
Yes, yes, I know, you’re more interested in their Korean oppos — just means there’s more to go round :)

Jed
April 17, 2012 8:16 pm

Jackstaff – you may want to sit down for this, but I work with a small asian girl who looks like Boomer, and fair haired girl who is actually called Kara !

Where do I sign for the Viper pilots course….

In real defence news – the UCAV versus manned is now moot for the USN – they have released plans to get a naval UCAV operating earlier than previously planned AND released and RFI for their next manned aircraft – the so called “generation 6” F/A-XX

http://defensetech.org/2012/04/16/the-navy-kicks-off-the-search-for-its-next-fighter/

Topman
April 17, 2012 8:17 pm

@Ichabod ‘generally bamboozled by the superior intelligence of the light blue crew’

Thanks for that, I was always to modest to say it myself.

Bluenose
April 17, 2012 8:17 pm

Not being bitter, being depressed. The Russian Navy manage by flying their Su-33s with almost no weapons or fuel (and certainly not on actual operations). The USMC undertakes CAS with a support element the UK could only dream of (including, of course, Super Hornets from Nimitz class).
If you think I’m merely making up F-35 B model shortcomings then good for you, but please have a look at the weight, thrust, wing-loading, fuel fraction, payload and what this means for effective operations and bring-back if things are less than perfect.
So at some point – maybe before 2030 – the RN will have a small number of short range aircraft with limited payload and significant operational restrictions that have next to know no long term future capability evolution owing to inherent design limitations. And the carriers will never be able to host any other form of fixed wing aircraft, even after 2020 when UK finances are likely to be back on an even keel.

Mr.fred
April 17, 2012 8:21 pm

Bluenose,

An aircraft with a combat radius of 300+nm cannot fly more than 100nm? Would you care to explain that one to me?

While you are at it, would you kindly expand on your other comments, especially the one about adverse sea states. The received wisdom is that STOVL carriers can generally operate in higher sea states than CATOBAR carriers, and that is comparing a 20k tonne CVS to a 100k tonne CVN.

ALL Politicians are the Same
April 17, 2012 8:21 pm

Ichabod, Please not Lewis page, I can almost stomach Sharkey due to his achievements but Lewis was a whinging MCD who never even qualified as a PWO.

Brian Black
April 17, 2012 8:23 pm

x @ April 17, 11:26

We don’t choose to have military capabilities or not through the democratic system. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a one party state; where the differences between the party’s factions can be boiled down to bickering about pasties.
There is no real choice. The only semblance of democracy we have is the right to vote in tv talent shows.

Topman
April 17, 2012 8:23 pm

That’s some choice there; Lewis or Nigel.

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