UK defence issues and the odd container or two

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…


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!


  1. Repulse

    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 :)

  2. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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?

  3. Repulse

    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…

  4. Mark

    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.

  5. Hannay

    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.

  6. Brian Black

    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.

  7. Challenger

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

  8. Ichabod

    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 ….

  9. Waddi

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

  10. Topman

    @ 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.

  11. The Oncoming Storm

    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?

  12. Waddi

    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?

  13. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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?

  14. Think Defence

    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

  15. Hannay


    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…

  16. Ichabod


    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?

  17. George

    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….

  18. Ace Rimmer

    “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…… 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.

  19. Ace Rimmer

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

  20. Jed

    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 !

  21. Jed

    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.

  22. jackstaff


    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 ….

  23. Aussie Johnno

    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.

  24. Jed


    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…..”

  25. Jed

    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.”

  26. STV

    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.

  27. martin

    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.

  28. jackstaff


    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 ….

  29. Repulse

    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.

  30. Topman

    @ 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.

  31. mickp

    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

  32. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  33. repulse

    @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…

  34. Lord Jim

    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!”

  35. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  36. Topman

    @ 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.

  37. 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?

    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).

  38. Topman

    @ 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.

  39. Topman

    @ 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.

  40. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  41. George

    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


  42. Topman

    @ 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.

  43. Topman

    @ 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.

  44. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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?

  45. ALL Politicians are the Same

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

  46. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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.

  47. Topman


    ‘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?

  48. erebus

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

    “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.

    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.

  49. Topman

    @ 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.

  50. x

    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……?

  51. Topman

    @ 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.

  52. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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.

  53. Topman

    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.

  54. Mark

    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

  55. Topman

    @ Mark

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

  56. x

    @ 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.

  57. Topman

    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.

  58. Ichabod

    @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”).

  59. Brian Black

    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.

  60. x

    @ 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.

  61. x

    @ 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.

  62. Repulse

    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?

  63. Ichabod

    @ 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?

  64. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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

  65. Bluenose

    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)

  66. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  67. Bluenose

    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)

  68. Repulse

    @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.

  69. Topman

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

  70. Topman

    @ 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 :)

  71. x

    @ 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.”

  72. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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.

  73. Topman

    @ 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?

  74. Mark


    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?

  75. Topman

    @ 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?

  76. Monty

    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.

  77. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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.

  78. x

    @ 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……. :) 😉

  79. Topman

    @ 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?

  80. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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.

  81. Bluenose

    @ 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.

  82. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  83. wf

    @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….

  84. x

    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.

  85. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  86. Bluenose

    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.

  87. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  88. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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.

  89. Waddi

    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.

  90. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  91. x

    @ 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…….

  92. wf

    @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

  93. ALL Politicians are the Same

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

  94. x

    @ 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.

  95. Bluenose


    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.

  96. martin

    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.

  97. Waddi

    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.

  98. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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.

  99. Topman

    @ 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.

  100. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  101. SomewhatInvolved

    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!!

  102. LurkMike

    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.

  103. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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?

  104. Bluenose

    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.

  105. x

    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………

  106. x

    @ 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…… :) 😉

  107. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  108. andyw

    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

    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.

  109. martin

    @ 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

  110. Waddi

    One question not 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.

  111. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  112. 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, 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.

  113. martin

    @ 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.

  114. Fat Bloke on Tour

    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.

  115. Observer

    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.

  116. Bluenose

    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.

  117. Jackstaff

    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.


    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.

  118. Hannay


    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)

  119. Repulse

    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…

  120. andyw


    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.

  121. Jackstaff

    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.

  122. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  123. x

    @ 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…..

  124. Jed

    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….

  125. Brian Black

    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.

  126. Ichabod

    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:

    Let’s hope he can pull something off …

  127. jackstaff


    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.


    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.


    :) :) :) 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?

  128. jackstaff


    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.

  129. jackstaff


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

  130. Jed

    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

  131. Topman

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

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

  132. Bluenose

    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.

  133. Mr.fred


    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.

  134. ALL Politicians are the Same

    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.

  135. Brian Black

    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.

  136. andyw


    “Less’n you dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body”

    I’m now going to have Flash Aaaraaagh stuck in my head all bloody night now

  137. Bluenose

    @Mr Fred.

    300nm combat radius is – as always – a best case scenario and takes no account of excessive fuel wastage during the sortie, flight-path, weather, threats etc. When things are hot, heavy and going against you the manufacturer paper figure falls by an order of magnitude. The fuelling issue of the B also removes a contingency

    The sea state issue is about the restriction on successful recovery with any ordinance based on fuel needed to find and circuit the ship. A conventional landing, though arguably as or more difficult in high sea states, continued to make use of aerodynamic lift rather than fighting Newton with thrust or the hybrid rolling approach. The air temp / density is also a key question for take-off and landing for the B if it is going to balance load and fuel.

  138. x

    @ Jackstaff

    Ugly? It is a thing of beauty. I can never get over how tall they are. And the engine or engines are a marvel.

  139. Observer

    It also depends on how they calculated “combat radius”. If it’s just how far it can travel on a full load of fuel, you’d have to halve the distance (there and back), and this is not considering patrolling/loitering time. A plane isn’t doing it’s job of setting up a barrier against enemy aircraft (BARCAP) if all it’s doing is touching the max range, then having to fly back. So what distance you get must be divided by more than half. And that isn’t even considering using afterburners.

  140. Jackstaff


    I’m sorry; I think you said something there but I suffered a sudden loss of blood pressure and it’s all a bit hazy.


    True that. Panem et cirences. Does that at least mean new naming conventions that will give us HMS Cilla (no, not another HMS Scylla) out of the MHPC, and RAF Crinkly Bottom?

    On a related note, the number of times I’ve had to browse past the Daily Fail website these last couple of leaky days makes me want to renew a long-cherished relationship with bactitracin….

  141. Brian Black

    If we absolutely, positively have to have some Lightnings flying from the first carrier, would it not be an idea to have a minimum number of Bees within our early airframes; then just continue with the plan to fit ship number 2 with cats’n’slaps. Ship 1 could be refitted five years and several budgets down the line to meet the needs of the growing F35C fleet.
    I’m not keen on such a mixed buy, but if we want the F35 to replace Tornado, F35B aren’t going to satisfy the RAF, and we’ll end up with two types anyway.

  142. ALL Politicians are the Same

    I must have been imagining the Su33 ops we saw flying off Kusnetsov in the Med earlier this year. My watch must have been malfunctioning with the time they spent airborne and the weapons they were carrying must have been made of cardboard then?
    I am glad your equations help you feel better ref the F35B. I notice you now maliciously add on another 12 years, sometime before 2030?
    I am glad you are confident we will be rich post 2020 because I am not but because we will have 2 carriers the option to retrofit them in turn will exist should the requirement arise.
    As for CAS, well firstly the AV8B was not designed to have an A to air capability and every operation the USMC has conducted with it has been done under complete air superiority.
    if you read the doctrine though the F35b is designed to allow local air superiority and CAs CSCAR escort and CAp to be provided for an amphib group without a CVN needing to be present.

  143. Jackstaff

    You pays your money and you takes your chances ’round here.

    I will give you the engines, I have seen them as you have and they are gorgeous. Get those blokes working for JLR, stat.

    Don’t worry about flight school; the good ladies of Viper Command know the flyboys will be on to the next nugget out of OCU sure as breathing. Its groundcrew that give them what they need reliably. Need your tank topped up, ma’am?

  144. x

    Didn’t Ward always say that a VTOL jet could be landed in worst sea states than a CTOL ‘plane could manage? And that perhaps a CATOBAR carrier would have struggled at times in the South Atlantic? So surely the F35b would be a tad better?

  145. Mark

    Below is the current f35B KPP in relation for the US marines which is real world assuming an engine at the end of life and is currently being meet. Also as testified to aus parliment despite changes to the jet so far in sdd no weight has been added to the f35b to incorporate them

    With two 1000# JDAMs and two internal AIM-120s,full expendables,execute a
    600 foot(450 UK STOVL)STO from LHA, LHD,and aircraft carriers (sea level, tropical day, 10 kts operational WOD) and with a combat radius of 450 nm
    (STOVL profile). Also must perform STOVL vertical landing with two 1000# JDAMs and two internal AIM-120s,full expendables,and fuel to fly the STOVL Recovery

  146. Bluenose

    I must be thinking of different Su-33 carrier strike aircraft; please elucidate me on their air-to-ground capabilities and the way they have been used by the Russian Navy.

    I indicated 2030 based on military programmes to date; you really think they’ll have anything approaching a FOC before then?

    Not personally convinced by the VTOL better in bad weather argument; basic physics suggest otherwise and the rolling vertical approach has yet to be tested under benign conditions, let alone anything more demanding.

  147. Mr.fred

    An order of magnitude? That seems quite a severe modification. Would you also apply that to other carrier aircraft? With similar restrictions, the F/A 18s (both A-D and E-G) would struggle to meet a 100nm combat radius (although your earlier comment would imply 100nm RANGE). What fuelling issue? The inability to operate AAR from a STOVL carrier?

    The difference in methods between CATOBAR and STOVL are obvious. The usual assessment is that STOVL operations can continue in higher sea states than CATOBAR. Temperature and pressure effects will have an effect on both methods – the CATOBAR aircraft need to generate thrust to achieve lift, especially for go-arounds. While one method may triumph in aesthetic appeal, does it actually provide an advantage? CATOBAR may have aerodynamic lift, but the speed it needs to maintain that lift counts against it. The STOVL aircraft can close at a more amenable speed and land with much smaller impact.

  148. ALL Politicians are the Same

    The definition of combat radius is “the maximum distance of an out-bound leg with a full load of weapons and fuel” The profile this is calculated against is far from an ideal high efficiency cruise.

  149. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Ichabod @ 8.18

    LP is always a bit mental with his arguments but he does make you think. He is probably more anti BWoS than I am so is moving in the right direction.

    His talk of alternatives to get things flying quickly and in numbers follows my own thoughts, rent some F/A 18s and get things moving. We could run them for 10 years and see how things turn out.

    Loved his stuff about the RAF and dogfighting.
    It just shows how useless the RAF has become and the crap aircraft that have been foisted on them.

    Regarding the 600mile shift – did this not have something to do with DG and the plans to build a base there which ultimately ended up in the hands of the US?

    The story has now attained legend status but I thought there had to be some sort of plan or sense behind it.

  150. ALL Politicians are the Same

    Blue Nose,mm basic physics versus decorated pilot with combat experience and no one else who has flown is actually disagreeing. Damm relying on Sharkey to make a point.
    The Su33 air to ground capability is irrelevant we witnessed them flying long patrols with a lot of weapons onboard and also practice dogfighting, suggesting an ability to launch at high take off weights and with plenty of fuel.
    Yes we will have an operational F35b capability long before 2030.

  151. Bluenose

    I am aware of the difference between range and radius; the issue is the outbound leg is subject to restriction on bringing back or not those expensive weapons, the realities of flying a complex approach at low altitude in difficult conditions.

    The difference between relying on lift to mitigate weather conditions is that you are more flexible in terms of the fuel required to undertake a return under difficult conditions (again, with greater mass onboard the aircraft. You land with lower forward velocity with a lift fan at the price of lower supportable landing weight and much greater fuel burn to accomplish this. Again, the rolling approach remains a WIP.

  152. Bluenose

    ‘Long’, ‘Lots’, ‘dog-fighting’ – you were watching all of this? Which weapons, how many, how long a sortie, what weights, any adverse circumstances? Sounds like a thin basis for judgment.

    Note that this is not irrelevant; the Russians do not use the aircraft as attack platforms, expected to undertake precision attack over long distances – not because the aircraft cannot but because the naval package does not work.

    Hope you’re right about the pre-2030 actual operational capability. Not sure I believe this or that it will turn out to be much ahead of the C in USN service.

  153. Think Defence

    @Bluenose, Ichabod, Lurkmike, welcome to Think Defence.

    Wow, the conspiracy theorists are out in force today. This endless light blue versus dark blue nonsense is going to have to stop at some point because it is tremendously counterproductive and I suspect, only prevalent outside the services where I am sure, there are professionals trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities to deliver the best outcomes for the nation.

    I find it quite sad that so many people expend so much energy on stoking the inter service political fires and dreaming up ever more outlandish conspiracy theories instead of being constructive.

    Anyway, I think we all agree that going for 2 CVF with 30 F35C each and a collection of supporting assets would be the ideal but we can’t afford it unless that it is you want to trash the rest of defence to pay for it.

    Sometimes I think those calling for the RN to get back its proper top tier position in the league of world navies see that as the objective, not defence as a whole and therefore don’t care what impact it would have on everything else.

  154. ALL Politicians are the Same

    BI was not personally watching but they were watched and monitored. a thin basis, radar tracking of speed altitude etc and behavior allowing fuel burn to be calculated, take off and landing times and visual on stuff carried? Pretty comprehensive actually.

  155. Fat Bloke on Tour

    TD @ 9.20

    The real issue for UK defence policy is the ridiculous costs of doing anything.
    Value for money / reality / delivery are now alien concepts – the outlandish and indefensible are now taken as read.

    The RAF leads the way.
    They are now down to 8 squadrons of fast jets and falling.
    That is not a sustainable posture it is nice chaps trying on uniforms.

    No matter what they deliver they will cost a lot.
    That cannot go on, consequently now is the time to recognise the failings.
    Not try to rationalise them through the prism of US MIC waste and greed.

    Consequently please don’t see it as inter-service rivalry and back-stabbing.
    See it as a necessary first step towards self awareness and redemption.

  156. Bluenose

    But, old chap, that does not a combat sortie make. A mixed AA-11 / AA-12 on a traning jollie is one thing, conducting sustained sorties in adverse weather in the face of air defences and a dynamic environment is quite another.

    I don’t see this as an inter-service issue by the way, TD, more a question of second-rate forces being the most expensive toy. This seems to be that kind of decision; lots of other things on which the money could have been spent, after all.

  157. ALL Politicians are the Same

    BN, I never claimed it was a combat sortie it does however prove the ability to get the aircraft off the deck with a high take off weight.

  158. John Hartley

    Its not just defence, you can see the same short termism, poor value for money, endless U turns, putting off tricky decisions, all over the UK public sector.
    Taking more time to make a sensible decision, find the best deal, then stick to it, seems alien to our out of touch politicians/senior civil servants.

  159. Fat Bloke on Tour

    JH @ 10.13

    England is an incredibly centralised country.
    Add in the Oxbridge angle and the private school influence and you have an incredibly limited talent pool to pick from.

    One issue always stood out for me.
    Pre 97 NHS / lowest share of GDP in Western Europe – but the UK had the highest paid doctors.
    The upper middle class were brilliant at playing the system to their own advantage.

    My favourite at the moment is the number of journalists and commentators who got the private education subsidy from the MOD.
    They all seem to be same age – death of the grant maintained sector? – and their fathers all appeared to be RAF types.
    Again the upper middle class playing the system to their advantage.

  160. Challenger

    The more I read about it the more hopeless it seems.

    Is it time to take the really hard decision and go with the Super Hornet?

    Any takers?

  161. Hannay


    With the RN down to less than 20 frigates (and who knows how many more Nellie and Dumbo will despatch), you can level exactly the same criticisms. Just a bunch of chaps in uniforms standing on boats, and if we’re really lucky, a single ship might be available to deploy to a crisis the other side of the world.

    Is it time to can the RN and simply buy some coastgoard vessels with some transports (container ships?) to transport the Army around the globe?

  162. wf

    @Challenger: I’ve always been a Super Hornet advocate. But right now we need operational fighters, so I’d prefer we lease AV8BPlus. Given the time cats and traps take to fit, by the time it’s done, F35C will probably be ready

  163. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Hannah @ 11.09

    Fair point.
    High unit costs / total lack of value for ,oney is a MOD problem.

    However I think that the RAF are holding the Yellow Jersey just now regarding spending a lot and getting very little in return. I think it comes down to the Typhoon and how quickly they appear to have dumped it to get the 5th Gen stealth of the F35.

    That and the huge support contracts that are given out on a regular bais to BWoS and the “all must win prizes attitude” that comes over any new development however small.

  164. Challenger


    I appreciate that the time it will take to convert is the main concern in this debate (given that the costs are almost certainly inflated and would probably be covered by the Americans).

    Remind me, when would the first carrier be ready if they were to be given cats and traps?

  165. Hannay


    You’re a bit out of kilter on the support contracts. Sure they seem like a lot of money, but bear in mind that it’s spread over a number of years over a number of aircraft. In practice over the last few years, the various supprot contracts put in place have been a massive success from a capability front – we are getting much much better availability from platforms which corresponds to more capability.

    At the end of the day, with a shrinking number of aircraft (or ships) it becomes more difficult to justify having a large number of service bods set up for maintenance. I’m sure over the next decade or two we’ll move towards a much more Industry solution, whereby the same pool of Industry people does production, upgrades and deep maintenance. it’s a sustainable way forwards that doesn’t involve sacking a few thousand people every time a production run finishes.

  166. wf

    @Challenger: I believe POW is supposed to be ready 2018 with cats and traps under present plans.

    I think a 10 year lease of Harrier would give us capability very rapidly, as well as buying time to take a sensible decision on F35/F18

  167. Challenger


    I thought that the recent news over the cat and traps wasn’t just about the expense but also claiming that the fit could potentially set back the in service dates by several years?

    The lease of Harriers would indeed give us some crucial breathing time over the decision, but really…leasing Harriers after selling ours for next the nothing, can’t see that going down well!

  168. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi ALL Politicians are the Same
    April 17, 2012 at 9:45 pm
    – interesting post as it contradicts written sources
    – I have no way of knowing the true state of affairs, but with the soonish refit for the carrier the SUs should go out of service, and the MIG29 (available now as the carrier version’s development was paid for by India)replacing it. The smoke screen given for this switch by the Commander of Naval Aviation was “we don’t need several makes of aircraft”

  169. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Bluenose,
    not quite sure what was the thrust of this argument “more a question of second-rate forces being the most expensive toy”?

  170. Chris.B.

    I think people seem to be forgetting that the F-18 is not a cheap run around. The USN is buying them at prices similar to projections for the F-35A, and you’re not going to get F-18’s at the same price that the USN does.

  171. wf

    @Chris.B: Australia got them at USN prices, and so will we if we order before the USN stops buying. Since the F35C is further delayed, I expect there will be another MYP IV lasting until 2019.

    Not only does the Hornet cost less than half the F35A price, it’s predictable. Wanna bet when the F35A/B/C will actually reach IOC? Anyone doing so over the last 10 years would have lost their shirt several times over…

  172. Mark

    Really wf we keep hearing of the 50m dollar superhornet from the us and Australia paid double that just to buy the planes. To buy and support 24 for 10 years is costing aus 6b aus dollars not really cheap. Also how much to pay for the block software upgrade to operate uk weapons aus didn’t have that problem they only needed to get asraam integrated we need to do somewhat more than that.
    The f35s original isd was 2012 it will now been in the 2016/17 time so not great but not a total disaster

  173. Jim

    There has been a lot of talk about having two carriers. No matter what we will have two as DC claimed it cost almost a much to cancel than build. The problem no one seems to have considered is there will be no crew for the second carrier. The navy just does not have the manpower.

  174. ArmChairCivvy

    @ Mark “To buy and support 24 for 10 years is costing aus 6b aus dollars not really cheap.”
    – quite right, and it is the only bench mark to go by
    – I understand formally the deal is a lease and buy-back (?), not that anyone expects it to turn out like that. Would explain the USN proc price, and also the ten-year tenore (v short for such a major purchase)

  175. ArmChairCivvy

    @ Jim ” The problem no one seems to have considered is there will be no crew for the second carrier. The navy just does not have the manpower.”
    – in one of his interviews Adm. Stanhope said so pretty clearly
    – the original plan (now invalidated by the in-service dates disappearing over the horizon)was balancing the crew rotation between Ocean/ Lusty/ sea-trials with the 1st carrier and in the end actually having an operational (2nd) carrier – with aircraft and all

  176. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Hannay @ 11.47

    You make a fair point about the effectiveness of these contracts.
    But this then opens up the can of worms that is service – RAF / RN / BA controlled maintenance.
    I still remember being shocked by the great Scammell Commander Disgrace of 84.
    From what you say it must be endemic across all three services – people did not look after stuff.

    As for moving to a contractor based regime – where is the split?
    What do service people do and what do BWoS people do?
    My issue is the cost and the fact that a lot of upgrades / deep maintenance appears to be scheduled to suit BWoS factory work schedules rather than actual need.

    Also you have the Typhoon contract that appears to we a wrapper for just about everything going on with the aircraft – I think that there is a development element to it. my thoughts are that this is wrong, it allows inflated figures to become the norm and it lacks focus to be able to measure apples with apples if every contract is a mixed bag of servicing / enhancements / refurbishment and development.

    Consequently greater focus and transparency is required.
    Although the main issue remains – what does the need for them say about service management abilities?

  177. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Jim @ 8.26

    The bigger question is what size of RN do we want, do we need?
    My thoughts are that the numbers are too low.
    We should enlarge the numbers and make it more efficient.

    How many berths are there on commissioned ships?
    How many people are there in the RM section?
    How many people in total are in the Navy?

  178. ALL Politicians are the Same

    Blue Nose, yes the Russians are going to Mig 29K as the Su33 needed replacing and building more of them in small numbers just for Russian use was impractical and expensive.
    As for manning a second carrier, the ships company is listed as 679 for a Carrier fully operational and capable of conducting flight Ops when the air group embarks. it will be far less than that to simply get the hull to sea and test systems. No need for full department manning. So just 3 or 4 bodies to test ops room equipment, We equipment etc and a reduced complement in other areas. You then start to transfer from the carrier coming off its op cycle.
    Though want to bet we would manage to man both in a crisis?

  179. Ichabod

    @Think Defence 2120

    If the elimination of the RAF is a logically valid outcome of advances in technology and the abandonment of its former independent task of urban area bombing as a war fighting technique then why can’t that be debated?

    Is this blog sponsored (in the broadest sense) by the RAF or is it not ?


    The MoD-owned Point class Ro-Ros and the River Class coastguard vessels are already in service …. the reduction of the Navy to these types is also a logical conclusion – if you never need to truly control an area of sea or the seabed outside territorial waters.

    The argument is not that air tasks do not need to be performed, simply that, as the blog comments amplify, splitting it across 3 entities doesn’t make for stable decision-making.

  180. Observer

    Ichabod, normally, I’d be content to let Chris shoot you down, but this time, I’ll make an exception.

    1) You’re biased.
    2) You’re trying to force your bias on others.
    3) When you fail, you accuse others of being bribed.

    In sum, you’re an ass.
    And irony is still lost on you.

  181. paul g

    TD is an RAF sponsered site, ha ha that’s class. Get a cup of tea and read old posts on here.

  182. Chris.B.

    @ Ichabod

    What were you saying a week or so ago? Something about service politics and special pleading by the RAF derailing the defence debate?

    And yet every single post you’ve made so far on Think Defence has been about how the RAF should be eliminated. You’ve not contributed a dime to the actual debate. All you’ve done is proclaim that the RAF should be removed.

    You haven’t even given any solid reasons. You talk about area bombing in WW2, but I think things have moved on a little since then.

    I think you’ve set a new record time for the fastest “from first posting on a forum to becoming its laughing stock”.

  183. Observer

    Well, to avoid being called Ichabod number 2, I’d state here why manned air is still needed over drones, which was the main thrust of what Ichabod thinks is the need to demob the RAF.

    1) Situational awareness. All the fancy cameras cannot at this point replicate the experience of being at the scene itself, as well as direct info-processing. This also has massive implications in combat. No peripheral vision means you’re vulnerable to flanking by enemy air, and when bombing, you’re limited to what you can see on camera only. There may be a more important target just out of camera view (SAM site, AA vehicles, radar etc), but you won’t know it as you won’t have that “corner of your eye” spotting ability.

    2) Manpower. A UAV requires 3 crew to run, a launching crew, a transit crew, an onsite ground control. This is due to the UAV not carrying it’s own crew, but transiting from one area to another. Manned air on the other hand, carries one crew through all the areas. Lots of manpower savings.

    3) Engines. Most drones are propeller or turbofan for endurance, FJs are turbo-jet. Much higher performance. A FJ vs a drone would result in a dead drone in short order. As of now, despite AAM armed drones, no drone has successfully downed a fighter. Fighters on the other hand, have shot down drones. Upgrading to turbojet drones don’t really work, one of the things we discovered with camera shells is that if the camera is moving fast while the operator is not, there is massive disorientation as there is insufficient info for the operator to localize the drone’s actual location, which is why camera feed shells got scrapped for snapshot airphoto of a location. This means that there is a limit to how fast a drone can go before the operator “gets lost”.

    4) Bandwidth. Lots of radio users out there, and only a fixed number of channels for UAV control. Unless you want to discover that turning on the News causes the drone to launch missiles :)

    There are other reasons too, but these are enough to put paid to any rosy picture of a totally drone dominated air farce. Pun intended.

  184. x

    The only light blue sponsorship this site receives is from Maersk……

    TD is only as biased and just as wrong as we all are here.

    Of course I tend to be more right than wrong. But that is just a cross I have to carry. :)

  185. Chris.B.

    I can just imagine a secret slush fund of Maersk money pouring into TD. It’s no coincidence we see so many containers on this site 😉

    I’d also have to agree with Observer about Drones and add that the current generation of jet powered drones cost a significant sum of money for what they are. Once we start getting into the realms of high performance engines and avionics, we may actually reach a bizarre occurrence compared to predicted trends whereby automated/remotely piloted aircraft actually become more expensive than manned air, not less.

    Funny how these things turn out in the end.

    And if it gives Ichabod any remote pleasure, most people on here agree that the RAF is far from perfect in many regards. But that is a reason to tweak the service, not disband it.

  186. Ichabod

    … I’ll simply ask why can’t the 1 vs. 2 vs. 3 services proposition be debated … surely it isn’t off-limits as a topic?

    Anyway, I promise to read the “Future of …” posts from the archive with a cup of tea (probably camonile) as paul g recommends …

  187. Observer

    Actually, I’m for the total intergration of all services, air, land and sea. Saves us this mess of service rivalries. It might end up a huge organization but instead of allocating resources by service, why not put someone “in charge” of a region and let him configure the force mix he thinks he needs in regards to air/land/sea? Someone in command of the mediterranian might want more ships as opposed to a higher ground force mix that CinC Europe might want, or CinC Asia might want more air to counter the lack of sea and road access in jungles. Saves on the cookie cutter “one size fits all” solution.

  188. Observer

    And I left my brains at home. Drones and jets all use turbofan, just that jets use low bypass turbofans, drones use high bypass…

    My apologies. I plead zzzz…

  189. Observer

    Same thing isn’t it?

    CinC Home
    CinC Somewhere else?


    But it seems that the one thing we agree on is that the individual services do not get to choose their own fates.

  190. Ace Rimmer

    Observer, I’m with you on combined services, given their future size I’d amalgamate the lot on the lines of the USMC. If the current Chiefs of Staff can’t make their forces work together, rip it up and start again.

    Ok, its not going to happen, but I’d break it into one main force amalgamating the tactical and amphibious forces and have a Royal Strategic Air Force for the C-17’s and tankers, plus a few Typhoons and Tornado’s and a Royal Strategic Navy for the SSN/SSBN’s.

    That way the RAF and RN still have a few toys to play with and the rest of the forces can get on with fighting wars.

  191. Bluenose

    @APATS, the SU-33 was also simply too big for anything smaller than a Nimitz; you can bang on about the ordinance loads but it has never carried anything bigger than an AA-12, is not used for strike operations and does not appear to have ever conducted anything approaching an actual combat operation; it’s a white elephant given the size of its carrier. This is my worry about the realities of the F-35B – there’s manufacturer brochure figures and there’s trying to actually do something useful when everything’s going to hell in a handcart.

    On the subject of merging services did the Canuks not recently un-merge because it turned out to be at least as inefficient as have thing separate?

  192. ALL Politicians are the Same

    Bluenose, well forgive me for banging on about actual things that happened. How dare I actually know how long we have witnessed them flying for and the ordinance they carried. As for an actual combat op, Russian carriers have done precisely how many combat op, answer zero so they have taken part in zero out of zero! The strike role from russian carrier groups falls to the SU25 and missiles. The Su33 is there for air defence.
    So now the argument against F35B is that it is meeting its requirements but that is not good enough? The USMC as primary customers are unable to assess whether the aircraft will be ok when it “goes to hell in a handcart” due to their lack of experience?

  193. Topman

    @ APATS

    What was yours (and the general) impression of the Russian carrier and it’s ability to conduct ops. I assume you were more an observer than taking part in joint exercise, still I’d be keen to hear your opinion on what you saw.

  194. ALL Politicians are the Same

    Topman, whilst they conducted flight ops and training they never conducted any form of high tempo continous ops that would give any clue to what they are capable of.
    They did not have that many aircraft onboard and as myself and Bluenose have been going round the houses on the Su33 is a big single role carrier aircraft which has to be supplemented with the SU25.
    Swap that for a complete group of smaller and lighter multirole Mig 29K which they are replacing the Su33 with; they are talking about an air group approaching 30 and you have a capable platform but one which will have to spend more time at sea.

  195. SomewhatInvolved

    Oh come on you lot, we’re all on the same side!! That said…

    Bluenose had lots of good points, the biggest being that F35B is NOT a Harrier. The transition from a small, relatively slow bomber to a fast, heavy jet, regardless of it’s STOVL capabilities, was always going to be a massive transition, not least in flight deck management issues. Cats and traps adds another dimension, sure, but you were still going to a carrier easily an order of magnitude bigger than the CVS types and consequently a Harrier-trained crew were never going to be able to simply ‘step across’ to the new type.

    I still don’t understand how so many people here can be in favour of the epically expensive and flawed compromise that is the F35B. I have completely gone off the F35 now, based on its continually spiralling cost, but no matter. It has unmitigatedly failed in its promise to deliver an affordable aircraft no matter which way you spin it. You’re all as bad as the politicians, willing to save a little money now knowing full well that you will spend more in the long run. Buying a smaller batch of B’s will still cost billions and waste more when we trade them in a few years later. Pull the plug on the whole thing, now.

    The biggest failure however is the widespread agreement and acceptance of the ridiculous price tag BAE have slapped on changing the deck over to CATOBAR. Over a billion and a half? Notwithstanding what some have said we have already paid for EMALS, that’s on good authority. This entire debate has ONLY come about because BAE have yet again decided to profiteer from the UK Government’s entirely sensible decision to buy C. Why the hell should we accept that? Find another yard and get them to do it. Why not the US yard doing the cats installation on the Ford? We need to stop pandering to BAE and LM and hold their bloody feet to the fire. Building our carriers as they should always have been, CATOBAR, at least gives us an opportunity to choose what we will operate from them. STOVL limits us to US aircraft and nothing else. And what happens when, as I confidently predict, the F35B gets canned later this year? Cameron knows full well that’s what will happen and the disaster that awaits. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, he must make the decision that will give us the greatest flexibility in the future.

    On UAV’s, they only need 3 crews right now. Don’t forget that Reapers are still very early models that have been rushed into service to fulfil immediate needs; they cannot fly in controlled airspace and lack many basic air safety and navigation requirements. Only when the US decides to shut down somebody’s airspace (Afghanistan, Libya) or ignore it altogether (Pakistan) can these things fly without restriction. BAE did work on this with their various UAV programmes, namely Telemos. Aircraft, including civil airliners, only actually need 1 pilot so a transit ‘crew’ of 1 is hardly a manpower stretch (number 2 is backup or training only). Same goes for launch/landing. Reaper is being flown by remote from Nevada; the time lag means they can’t be launched by the mission crew. All the aircraft requires to eliminate this ‘manpower’ issue is to co-locate the flight crew with the launch airfield; 1 man can launch and transit (if necessary) handing over to the mission crew later. I think this has been magnified from a non-issue.

  196. Bluenose


    you did bring up the Su-33, not I, as example of heavy aircraft ‘successfully’ operating with a ski-jump. I pointed out that it does not do quite the ‘heavy’ work expected of the F-35B and despite the capabilities of the airframe and lack of a CV-based alternative, the Russians have never used it as such even during the Georgian conflict when it might have been some use.

    Anyhoo, I’m more sad about the lack of non-F35Bs using ski-jump carrier and concerned this has been done for the wrong reasons (as SomewhatInvolved was saying regarding BAE)

  197. ALL Politicians are the Same

    SI, If the govt had bothered to do any research before making a political point and switching to C in order to ridicule Labour then we would not be in this position now. We may have been in the same position but it would have been in late 2010 or even before.
    The fact that they are only discovering this now is gross incompetence at the highest levels. Why are the chiefs saying we would not have cats and Traps until 2025 and we would only get 1 hull.
    If they are facts then the F35B is the least bad decision at this time. Once we have 2 65k tonne hulls we can alternate them through an upgrade package if required whilst maintaining capability with the other.
    As for F35b getting canned, it seems to be ok since january and remember it is going to Americas favorite service, the USMC has a place in the hearts of americans and power in the lobbies of washington DC out of all proportion to its operational impact.
    On a lighter not I am sure my auto spell check has switched to septic English! Oghh and if I was a UAV pilot I wouldn’t swap vegas for Afghan either!

  198. SomewhatInvolved

    Well the RAF UAV crowd are hardly likely to swap out of their Vegas hotels now are they?!

    On a more serious point, are you seriously trying to say that the decision to swap was to spite Labour? I mean, I know politicians are out for No1 but really? Mate, I have some scepticism about Government but that’s one hell of a stretch.

    A least bad decision now does not make it a good one.

  199. Bluenose

    Humiliating the opposition probably seen as a bonus; no need to do this for that reason. Ironically, of course, it’s had the opposite effect.

  200. ALL Politicians are the Same

    SI, Know I believe the Govt genuinely though swapping to C was the best option but they also pretty obviously did not do their homework. if you look a the announcement of the switch to c they were scathing and ridiculed Labours choice of the B variant. they had however not conducted due diligence themselves.
    As for not a good choice, unfortunately the question has become multi choice and none of them are good.

  201. Fat Bloke on Tour

    SI @ 4.10

    Whoever pitched the change to the F35C was an expert.
    He knew exactly what issues would get Dave the Rave excited.
    And the rest they say is political point scoring, MOD shambles and history.

  202. Waddi

    In one of my earlier post I picked up on the Daily Mail comment that the F35C was too heavy to land on CdeG and wondered whether the same was true the QEC and perhaps this was the reason behind the unbelievably high CATOBAR conversion cost. Quick Google search has turned up the attached article from theengineer which gives this previously preposterous idea some credibility.Please God I hope I am wrong.

  203. Brian Black

    Folks have mentioned leasing carrier aircraft. There are no aircraft to lease.
    The USMC bought the UK’s Harriers to keep their own fleet flying, to fill the holes that would otherwise have been caused by delays to the introduction of the F-35B. They didn’t buy them so that they could polish them until we wanted them back. And similarly, the USN committed to F-18 aircraft that it would not have bought had the F-35 programme been on time. The Americans, certainly, won’t have spare aircraft to lend.

  204. Brian Black

    Not fitting the PoW with cats’n’chaps would surely just be going back to the defence spending ‘bow wave’ problem. Pushing out an inevitable decision until after the ship has been completed and entered service; saving some money up front on the ship build, but having a consequently more expensive conversion later. And in the meantime buying the more expensive B variant too, which will leave the RAF clamouring for a different version to replace Tornado anyway.

  205. Think Defence

    Ichabod, I do not presume like you that the elimination of the RAF is a logical conclusion to anything. Of course we can discuss disbanding the RAF (and have done so many times in the past) but we can equally discuss disbanding the Fleet Air Arm or Army Air Corps, Royal Marines, RAF Police or much of the support functions across all three services.

    My view has always been that we need to ruthlessly eliminate duplication.

    To answer your tired, jaded old question of if Think Defence is sponsored by the RAF, in the broadest sense or not

    Just because I have the audacity not to think the same as all the chumps in the Phoenix Think Tank, Save the Royal Navy, the Navy Campaign and all their fellow travellers, that the answer to the nation’s defence issues is more Navy followed by an extra serving of Navy with a side order to Fleet Air Arm does not mean I am some light blue shill.

    I am sponsored by no one but myself.

  206. Topman

    @ BB

    I agree the leasing idea seems more hope than anything realistic. The fact they bought our harriers tells us they were streched for a/c and have little spare capacity. I understand the USN are struggling to meet the demands of the carrier groups air needs.

  207. Phil

    Why would merging services eliminate inter-service rivalry? And no, the question is not as dumb as it sounds.

    My employer has many service areas, all integrated under one chain of command as it were. Does that stop the human beings running it all from fighting and plotting and backstabbing and competing and engaging in special pleading and grabbing resources and resorting to petty tribalism?

    Does it f…

    Seriously, what is the empirical evidence that things would happen like that? Why has Canada for example essentially reversed the process and even small armed forces maintain independent services?

  208. Chris.B.

    Can I just congratulate the PTT for marking every paragraph of their paper with the number one. Apparently counting has now become a challenge for them.

  209. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Waddi @ 7.48

    It has all the hallmarks of a Grade 1 shambles.
    We have a poor Fiesta Design Team trying to build a 44 ton truck.

    It is difficult to know where to start.
    The talk in thge article is trying to reduce topweight.
    Given the dimensions and weights of the ship I wonder why?

    The dimensions look OK – deep draught / wide hull.
    The freeboard looks quite low for a 65K ton carrier, consequently the shape factor looks reasonable.

    However then we have the GT / powertrain issue.
    Instead of 8 heavyweight MSD’s deep in the hull we have 2 GTs above the waterline and two smallish MSD’s in the hull.
    Then there is the issue of the ridiculous number associated with the steel needed for the hull.
    Could it be the case that the pre-fab hangar sections have been drawn up in crayon and turned out to be porkers?

    Either that or the curse of BL engineering has struck again.
    Someone spots a new material in a magazine and then is desperate to use it to show how cool, trendy and with it they are?

    If the FD cannot take F35 weights on CATOBAR then someone needs to be held to account.

  210. Observer


    No it doesn’t really eliminate the oneupmanship between services, but it does remove the service rivalry from the budget considerations as it makes only a single commander responsible for procurement. If the mentioned commander wants to play games and neglect services, he can do that too, until he gets his arse handed to him on the field. Hopefully, the top guys are intelligent enough to realise they need balanced forces to survive, and having the person making budget decisions directly responsible for the consequences will also help things, unless he’s a total short sighted idiot. Then budget would be the least of your worries.

  211. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Topman @ 8.33

    Not sure that the issue is a lack of aircraft.
    I think that the issue is a lack of funded aircraft – budgets are being cut and squadron numbers are falling.

    When it comes to F/A 18s beggars can’t be choosers.
    If A/B’s are all they have got then we should learn on A/B’s.

  212. Phil

    Does it though Observer? Does it? You still have capabilities fighting for a limited pot of money. And you still have humans running it. People talk of these efficiencies in money and decision making paths but what is the evidence for it?

  213. IXION


    That is pretty funny.


    People are people etc.

    However I know people always quote Canada, but why never Isreal?

    I am also somewhat concerned that seperate forces allow for far more damage to be done by infighting.

    But along with

    ‘the Islands that shall not be named’,

    The doing away with the Raf is the

    ‘thought that dare not speak it’s name’

  214. Observer


    Give the GT/diesel rant a rest will ya, it’s getting repetitive.

    As for the steel figures, from your badly written previous rants, I’m not sure if you were complaining about why a 40kT carrier has a final displacement of 65kT or if you were complaining about why there is 40kT of additional steel ordered. You were ranting and skipping between the two so often you were not very coherent.

  215. Phil

    All I ask is what is the evidence that splitting the RAF would create more benefits than disadvantages. Yes people are people. And too many people forget that.

  216. Topman

    @ FBOT

    My understanding, somewhat limited, is that there is an issue with a/c managerable but challanging. I really can’t see any spare a/c that they would rent us, it would make their already tight situation even worse.

  217. Topman

    @ IXION

    ‘I am also somewhat concerned that seperate forces allow for far more damage to be done by infighting. ‘

    Which would be replaced by intra service infighting. See RLC/RE EOD for further details.

  218. Observer


    Difference now is a single human making the final decisions, though he can be advised by his air/land/sea subordinates. This should cut the backstabbing down at the decision making level, unless that guy wants to backstab himself that is.

    This is the extreme drastic solution of course, caused by centuries of individual service traditions. A less drastic possibility is a centralised teaching institute where all officers, air, land and sea, go study their basic strategy and get it pounded into their heads that they either work together or they get canned, along with an intergrated teaching program of using all 3 services together in ops. That could also reduce interservice conflicts if officers are taught from the beginning that they are part of a single organism as opposed to enemies fighting for limited resources.

    OTOH, you could also be right and idiots will be idiots and screw up the whole thing too. We’ll have to wait and see how it all turns out.

  219. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Observer @ 9.11

    Cut the crap.

    There are issues people want to discuss.
    If you don’t understand the issues or you don’t want to join the debate then keep quiet.
    Failing that away away and play Naval S-S missile Top Trumps.

    Consequently away and throw sh*te at yersel ya muppet.

  220. SomewhatInvolved

    FBOT, don’t follow you on the power issue so here are some figures to get you excited. According to RN press and Wiki, the “largest diesel ever supplied to the RN is an 11MW Wartsila” and is installed in the CVF. The marine Trent is rated at 36MW. So unless a Trent is three times the weight of a Wartsila and uses three times the fuel, it’s an improvement to have the turbine generator instead of the diesel. Isn’t it? GT’s are more efficient at higher power outputs.

    On a ‘generic’ warship of personal experience, a diesel generator generated 1.6MW for a fuel burn rate of 0.25 cubic metres of fuel per hour. The gas turbine generated 18MW for a fuel burn rate of 3cz/hr. So that’s 6.4MW per ton of fuel for the diesel, against 6MW per ton for the GT – but you need 11 diesels to generate the same power. Efficient? No. In 5 years of service we never once had to change a gas turbine.

    The flight deck issue sounds like a cost saving measure self generated by BAE and if so, they should be liable for all costs associated with strengthening the flight deck. Unless the original contract was so badly drawn as to fail to specify the structural integrity needs of the deck, for a design supposedly ‘adaptable’ to CATOBAR. I shan’t hold my breath on that one.

  221. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Topman @ 9.11

    I know that the USN have issues with aircraft numbers.
    When they next lose a carrier it will be because they do not have the aircraft / flight crew / squadrons for it rather than the running costs of USS Three Mile Island and her 6K hungry mouths.

    However that is not to say that we can’t ask to see what they have got rattling about at the back of the cupboard. We would only be looking for a time limited lease so they could re-jig their attrition stock, just a thought.

    Very interesting that the IDF use the Skyhawk as an advanced trainer.
    Needs must and a bit of flexibility can make a little go a long way.

  222. Topman

    @ FBOT

    ‘When they next lose a carrier it will be because they do not have the aircraft / flight crew / squadrons for it rather than the running costs of USS Three Mile Island and her 6K hungry mouths.’

    I can’t say I’ve looked into it a great deal, but I would think the 60’s levels of manning would have an impact on costs? 6000 personnel is huge, that’s more than the biggest RAF station.

    ‘Very interesting that the IDF use the Skyhawk as an advanced trainer.’

    Intesting, how so?

  223. ALL Politicians are the Same

    SI, on your ‘generic’ warship which may or may not be in line to be replaced by the type 26. Do you agree we should keep the same propulsion system but with modrn GTs similar to the more fuel efficient ones found on a T45 and more modern DGs?
    This could potentially see a DG cruise speed of 20kts plus whilst retaining the acoustic benefits and allow a 30kts plus sprint capability.

  224. Fat Bloke on Tour

    SI @ 9.35

    Article talks about changing the steel spec to save on topweight.

    I highlighted the fact that we are missing some heavy kit deep in the bowels of the ship because we have went for a Hybrid GT / MSD diesel install with the GTs in a non trad position to save on trunking space losses.

    Heaviest kit on the CVF will be the MSDs.
    The ones we are installing are not the biggest.
    They may be the biggest in use with the RN but they are not in anyway special out in the real world.

    Consequently your experience / RN experience is very limited when it comes to ships powertrains.

    GT are finished as prime movers for large ships.
    They are not as economical as MSDs and while they may have had a bit of popularity in the recent past that was when oil was $20/30 per barrel their time has gone.

    As for economy figures I fear you are mistaken.
    From the figures I have seen upmarket / high tech GTs have just managed to get under the 200g/Kwhr barrier recently – last 10 years – and only at very high loadings.

    Modern MSDs are 10% better at high loadings and significantly better at lower loadings.

    As far as outputs are concerned MSDs are heavier but as the RSN have shown it is possible to fit a powerful – 36MW / 4 x 9MW sets – powertrain into a 3.5K ton vessel.

    As always issues and complications abound but the slope is towards diesel / diesel electric installs as warships get bigger plus range and payload requirements get more demanding.

    Moving to diesel electric means a significant weight increase no matter the choice of prime mover. All the generators / motors are much heavier than any GT that would power them

    MSD reliability is a given.

    Regarding the specifics of the FD issue I know only what appears on here or in the press.

    Regarding the potential for problems and mistatkes I can only offer up my comments on the corporate lack of product knowledge within the UK ship design community.

    It would appear to me that the team working on the CVF are having the same problems as you would expect if you asked the Fiesta Design Team to build a 44 ton truck.

  225. x

    I think I am right in saying the largest ship in the RN crew wise is HMS Seahawk aka RNAS Culdrose.

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