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

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February 3, 2013 3:09 pm

Shame on you TD with your F35 porn :-)

February 3, 2013 3:32 pm

Martin is right, away with you’re filth!

Seriously though how can people say it’s not a good looking aircraft. Fair enough it isn’t Spitfire angelic or Vulcan sleek but it still has a lot going for it.

paul g
February 3, 2013 7:25 pm

that was the entire UK order all in one line in the factory!!

there is a photo flying the tinterweb of a 2 F-35’s refueling at the same time froma KC-130

February 3, 2013 7:43 pm

There’s no point in this video… we all know the Iranian F313 will wipe the floor with it, so let’s just pack-up and go home.

Gloomy Northern Boy
February 3, 2013 8:26 pm

If we ask really, really nicely – and promise to eat up all our sprouts – do you think our nice Uncle Phil (Hammond) will get our mean Uncle George (Osborne) to buy our friends in the FAA enough of these for six squadrons an extra CVF to put them on?

Especially if we agree to clean and polish Uncle George’s Daimler every Sunday after Church…

February 3, 2013 9:34 pm

@GNB – hope so!

@Challenger – to be honest it looks like it does a job. I can imagine Top Gear types saying its not ‘aggressive enough’ or ‘sleek enough’ though (why do cars need to be aggressive??). I think one of the key things is it seems to give the pilot good visibility in a large canopy near the front rather than set back behind a massive radome

February 4, 2013 1:54 am

I always thought it was a good-looking aircraft. I just don’t think it has the eccentricity to appeal to some in the British defence establishment.

Phil Darley
February 4, 2013 8:22 am

It may look good but its still a flying brick. What did the Rand report say ?

It can’t climb
It can’t fight
It can’t run

As long as it does not meet another aircraft it’s fine!!!!

Bullshit baffles brains

February 4, 2013 11:17 am

Great vid.

Pitiful roll rate.

Good high-angle of attack snippet.

That production line looks impressive.

But that lift-fan is still bugging me. I’m not against the lift-fan fan, twisty, bit… that’s fine. It’s the clutch and top-door that worry me. Why haven’t they gone for bomb-bay style doors at the top? I know they wouldn’t “scoop” any air in forward flight, but at least they’d stay on at 600 knots if you wanted to “viff”.

I don’t work at Rolls-Royce (yet) but would certainly have looked into (and, I know, they probably did) variable geometry, contra-rotating, fan blades rather than a clutch.

February 4, 2013 12:15 pm

I cant remember the reference, but I remember reading the lift-fan door was redesigned AWAY from a bifold flap and TO the current air-brake arrangement because of deficiencies in entraining air into the top of the fan at any significant speed or angle of attack… The lift flap is rather flimsy looking, but good for 150 kts (?) from memory.

“Viffing” has (regretfully) never been seen as a design requirement.

February 4, 2013 1:07 pm

@Simon as Ant has pointed out making assumptions about engineering decisions often leads to egg on face. There’s always a reason for doing something that may seem odd on the surface.

Ace Rimmer
February 4, 2013 5:08 pm

@mickp: “Why do cars need to be aggressive??” So men with small appendages, no sense of adventure and too much money buy lots of them.

@Simon, wouldn’t variable geometry blades require constant power input which would reduce the thrust? How about a viscous coupling instead of a clutch, to reduce the chance of shock-loading the transmission?

Jeremy M H
February 4, 2013 5:32 pm

@Phil Darley

That all very much remains to be seen. The F-35 is not going to beat airshow configurations of 4th generation airplanes. It will probably come pretty close to matching them in anything more than a 2 missiles on the wingtips configuration and it will wipe the floor with them in a mutli-role configuration.

The best estimates I have heard put its kinematic performance in a range between a very lightly loaded F-16 and an clean F-18 and those numbers are with 4,500 pounds of ordinance inside the F-35. It short I would imagine it will be plenty good enough. In the era of missiles that can pull 40G’s and be targeted by helmets (or in the case of the F-35 in any direction damn near automatically) I am not sure that being able to pull an extra g is sustained turn is all that important. I am also damned sure that no 4th generation aircraft is going to do it with a realistic combat load (which for almost all aircraft of that type includes external fuel).

February 4, 2013 5:52 pm

Isn’t the F-35B meant to have performance KPI’s that require it to exceed the performance of a clean F-18C? And isn’t the case that it is only just meeting those performance KPI’s?

These aren’t rhetorical questions, rather a case of a faulty memory and a refusal to do my own research as nine tenths of information on the internet is either Lockheed Martin PR bollocks that is hopeless spun or anti-LM bollocks by F-35 haters

Phil Darley
February 4, 2013 6:12 pm

@Jeremy MH

For any kind of decent payload the F35B will be carrying fuel and weapons externally. At which point it’s no more stealthy than the likes of Mig 29, su27, let alone Su30/37 pak50 etc. which will eat it for breakfast!!!

Sorry this is a load of overhyped bollox a

February 4, 2013 6:31 pm

I don’t think the issue is whether the F-35 will ultimately meet all key performance requirements. It will be refined and redeveloped until it does. The question is at what cost will it achieve the necessary standards?

The implicit assumption that it is the only game in town and with so much sunk cost in the project that it is too big to fail seems flawed. The more it costs, the fewer we will buy.

At what point do a larger number of F-18Es make more sense than a vastly reduced quantity of F-35s?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not an F-35 hater by any stretch. I am, however, appalled by the failure to control costs. What this video fails to point out is that overall the flight test program(me) is still only a third complete.

February 4, 2013 6:32 pm

I believe the door at the top had to be like that due to the air flow into the lift fan itself they even changed the fuse lip. Think there was pressure recovery issue which were seriously degrading fan performance and life. Viffing would never happen all the doors would need deployed including the swivel bearing nozzle it puts huge stress in the airframe don’t even think it was approved on harrier. Simon if you mean a fan fwd facing a la harrier then wouldn’t of happened needed to be behind the cockpit and the fan would degrade low observable characteristics the current ducts to the main engine are s-bends for that reason.

We don’t have enough info on the released performance degrades to make a judgement of exactly how problematic they are but reduced they have been and I’ve read pilots use these sustained turns to either avoid or break bvr missile locks following there own missile launches at range more than actual dog fighting.

What maybe interesting to follow is any implications of the latest 787 grounding due to battery issues as f35 uses similar batteries for a similar function there being no apu per say on f35 only the integrated power pack which is electric.

Jeremy M H
February 4, 2013 6:41 pm


I believe that is an accurate generalization of the KPI’s. Most all of them for the various models fall somewhere in the F-16 to F-18 realm. Really would depend on which one you are talking about. I think the important point is that from the outset there was no real push to build a state of the art dog fighter. That is why I doubt the military is too pissed off about sustained turn rate (which I would venture 80% of the people complaining about can’t even define anyway).

February 4, 2013 6:47 pm

@ Mark
‘What maybe interesting to follow is any implications of the latest 787 grounding due to battery issues as f35 uses similar batteries for a similar function there being no apu per say on f35 only the integrated power pack which is electric.’

I think they’re the only 2 a/c that use such a system?
Does the battery turn the sps g/box on a normal gear train or is that electric too? If it’s electric I assume it turns all the normal sps functions; hyd, dc/ac geny etc?

February 4, 2013 6:47 pm


I was actually suggesting the fan as-is but with no clutch (i.e. always engaged) therefore needing to produce zero thrust in normal flight, hence the need for variable geometry.

However, I have since realised this is a stupid idea simply because of something called gyroscopic rigidity and precession. Silly me!

Those boys at RR huh?

February 4, 2013 6:56 pm


Yes I think so 787 was a first in civil aviation and f35 is a first in military aviation. A350 plans to use lithium batteries but is under review. I can’t think of any others its relatively new tech.

Simon ok if you want a supersonic stovl jet I think your stuck with a lft an I’m afraid.

February 4, 2013 7:19 pm

@ Mark,

“… and I’ve read pilots use these sustained turns to either avoid or break bvr missile locks following there own missile launches at range more than actual dog fighting.”

— Isn’t the first (break) an example of Instantaneous turn (rate) and the second (dogfight) sustained turn (rate)?

February 4, 2013 7:21 pm


I think it looks like an aircraft of it’s time, and in a good way.

It’s like when people say the T45 isn’t as good looking as the sleek cruisers of 60+ years ago, well how can it look the same, they are so far removed as to make the comparison pointless.

Jeremy M H
February 4, 2013 7:37 pm

@Chris B

Sustained turn rate is simply the turn rate (at a given loading, speed and altitude) at which an aircraft can turn and not lose speed or altitude. The F-35 could turn sharper but it would bleed some amount (who knows) of speed doing it.

Instant turn rate is basically how hard you can turn the thing all other factors be damned without it flying apart.

Sustained turn rates are kind of an interesting thing to look at. They are going to vary a ton depending on fuel state, weapons loading and other factors.

The design concept of the F-35 would find instant turn rate to probably be the more important of the two because, in theory, if everything works right with the distributed sensors they should be able to cue a shot at an adversary WVR as soon as they are aware. They don’t need a visual on the target to engage it and the other guy will, even if he has helmet mounted cuing systems. If that plan does not pan out then the F-35 has a problem. Everything I have seen indicates it largely will (you can use the DAS without the helmet to cue shots and right now the F-35 helmet is the big stumbling block) be sorted out relatively soon. You might not get the nifty ability to look through the floor from day 1 but the system should be able to locate and engage targets even without the helmet.

February 4, 2013 7:55 pm


Yes that a gd definition of the two types of g. I was thinking more of the profile flown immediately after you launch a bvr missile to avoid a retaliation launch and the profiles flown on detection of a surface to air launch. Sustained turn in general is prob somewhere between 30-90 secs.

February 4, 2013 8:37 pm

Firstly, thanks Jeremy M H for your confirmation.

Generally, my opinion is that while I am no great fan of the F-35, if a F-35B is kinematically as good or better than a F-18C then surely the F-35B should have relatively similar, if not better kinematic performance than a Mig-29 if they are both armed in the interceptor role (only carrying A2A missiles), and the F-35B will then have the edge in radar and EMS which combined with sensor fusion, better man-machine interface, and superior missiles (such as helmet cued ASRAAM and Meteor). Under those circumstances, does anyone think that there would be any situation where a 1:1 engagement isn’t going to favour the F-35B, even in WVR?

While it has been relatively easy to find information that suggests that general consensus of the arm chair fighter pilots that the F-18C and the Mig-29 have similar performance (I suspect overall, not just on their kinematics), I have not found anything so clear cut on Su-27, so I am not sure if there would be any part of the merge where the F-35B would find itself at a disadvantage – does anyone have a good source I can go an look at to find the answer?

Finally, given that building a VLO aircraft results in lots of aerodynamic compromises, is there really any evidence that the PAK-FA or the J-20 will have superior kinematic performance than the F-35, especially as given that neither Russia or China are advanced in engine design as the US and UK?

Ace Rimmer
February 4, 2013 10:41 pm

@ Simon, re: gyroscopic rigidity and precession, doesn’t this occur with the gas turbine anyway, never mind the lift fan? Couldn’t this be off-set by increased area of vertical stabilisers and control surfaces?

February 5, 2013 12:06 am

Ace Rimmer,

Different axis.

The pretty neat thing about the lift fan is that actually it creates stability in the hover… exactly when you need it. It’s just that you don’t really want to be roll and pitch limited when you’re dodging bullets ;-)

All Politicians are the Same
February 5, 2013 9:43 am


Finally, given that building a VLO aircraft results in lots of aerodynamic compromises, is there really any evidence that the PAK-FA or the J-20 will have superior kinematic performance than the F-35, especially as given that neither Russia or China are advanced in engine design as the US and UK?

Precisely! The amount of info from their programmes is non existent. they have no prior experince on something like an F22. Their engine tech etc is well behind the US and do not get me started on their quality control. Yet we are meant to believe that they will be superior aircraft.

February 5, 2013 7:48 pm

Tubby, http://www.ausairpower.net/jsf.html has a lot of analysis on F-35 vs Flanker, etc. They really dislike the F-35. I’m not qualified to judge their conclusions, but its worth a read whether you end up agreeing with them or not.

My concerns about it are:
1. It is inferior in kinematic performance and maneuverability to rivals, i.e. in areas that are unlikely to improve much over its lifetime (higher power engines offset by weight growth, etc). On the other hand, its advantages in sensors, sensor fusion, better man-machine interface, etc, are more subject to Moore’s law improvements in electronics, and thus will come to rivals in time anyway. For example, aren’t helmet cued missiles common now on other aircraft?
2. The limited number the UK will get, leading to our carrier only having about 12 in normal use, and more only in extreme circumstances (i.e. an actual major war). This brought to mind an old blog post by Lex on the Russian carrier Kuznetsov:


If similar calculations hold for F-35, then a carrier with 12 is an excellent tool for force projection when no serious air threat exists (e.g. superb for the likes of the Sierra Leone intervention in 2000), but becomes another self-licking ice cream cone if forced to constantly maintain a few planes on CAP.

Jeremy M H
February 5, 2013 8:44 pm


The problem with ausairpower is that they want the F-35 to be what it is not…namely an F-22. This ignores the fact that Australia has never bought the absolute frontline of interceptor aircraft F-18’s instead of F-15’s of F-14’s because it needs a multi-role airplane. They have never been able to let go of that fact that Australia is not getting (and does not actually want if you ask the government) F-22’s.

On your specific concerns.

1. This is somewhat true but we don’t really know what its rivals will be at this point. To me, the SU-27/35 (or any non-LO plane) are not rivals. Against stealth aircraft they will simply operate at too much of a disadvantage to be a realistic option. the cost delta is not high enough that one can afford to lose multiples of them for every F-35 downed. True rivals will be of the same basic design as the F-35 (PAK-50, J-20, that other Chinese one I can’t remember ect) and will have similar penalties on their performance. Other nations are not working on these designs just because they felt the need to blow a boatload of money.

Moore’s law is a bit (drastically IMHO) overblown with regard to stealth. Yes, processing power will help for things like bi-static radars and many other applications. But the big bottlenecks are programing and bandwith limitations on systems which are not advancing nearly as fast. You can generate and crunch a huge amount of information but being able to efficiently use it is a different thing all together and that field is not advancing nearly as fast. Neither for that matter are many components of the IADS and aircraft sensors.

Specifically in regards to helmet-cued missiles. Yes, this is common but there are different levels of this. The F-35 lets the pilot see through the aircraft with his helmet and also allows cued shots at anything the distributed sensors can see without the pilot having to get his helmet point at them. Essentially if you enter a bubble within the visual range of some very good IR cameras the F-35 can shoot at you without having to turn at all.

February 5, 2013 10:16 pm

We might all be underestimating the technology of the plane here. The F117 wasn’t a fighter and if it had been probably would have been useless. If it had met an adversary its life expectancy would probably have been low. The turn, the speed etc. didn’t define the craft, it was its technology.

Is the F35 a plane that is higher tech than the competition …. certainly

February 5, 2013 10:22 pm

The F in F117 was just cover.

Phil Darley
February 5, 2013 10:26 pm

It seems that nobody is giving very much credit to the facts that the F35 can carry very little internally. If its to play its LO stealth card it won’t be carrying very many A2A missiles at all 2 meteor. Asraam can be carried internally but limits its lock on before launch ability.

As I say LO is exaggerated… As are many if the fancy sensors.

With regards to slagging off Russian technology I think this is also over played. For example soviets are way ahead on thrust vectoring, the aircraft may not be as technically advanced but they are solid and robust, with exceptional agility.

I simply don’t see the F35 surviving with the likes of SU27/35 especially with the numerical advantage they are likely to have

Ace Rimmer
February 5, 2013 10:28 pm

@EdS, don’t forget that thrust vectoring could be applied to later models of the F-35. My concern is that thrust vectoring for the Eurofighter seems to have fallen by the wayside. Given the advent of Russian and Chinese technological advancements, we’ve got to future proof the Eurofighter with a significant advantage like thrust vectoring.

Jeremy M H
February 5, 2013 10:40 pm

@Ace Rimmer

I think future proofing the EF in that way is probably not realistic. I think the best bet to keep it viable is the Meteor and continual updates to that and its radar. Fight at a range other 4th generation craft can’t effectively fight at. The EF is plenty good enough in a tangle with other aircraft of its vintage. The long term future of it has more to do with how many and how widespread Russian and Chinese low-observable aircraft get (and to some extend the F-35 as well).

I think thrust vectoring is one of those things that I would say is nice to have but less useful that it probably first appears. You won’t turn inside of a missile regardless (human body can’t take it). It certainly helps but I am not sure it is worth the high cost that is involved in putting it on an aircraft and writing flight control laws to take advantage of it. In the list of things I would want in an aircraft thrust vectoring is on there but it is way down the list.

February 5, 2013 11:01 pm

I think the capabilities in typhoon are somewhat overlooked it does have state of the art avionics today. It’s long term future is more to do with how gd the the enemy opposing tech actually is and the level of risk we carry dealing with it. The surface to air threat is more the long term worry than air to air with typhoon.

Thrust vectoring offers most advantage in the supersonic manoeuvre environment.

The cost/performance balance will unlimitly decide f35s fait the latest report card was dissapointing and very much a must do better. Confidence in the product is hard to build easy to loose.

February 5, 2013 11:14 pm

@X I didn’t know that.

What I like about the F35 is it’s integration, the advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and Electronic Warfare (EW) suite the Electrical Optical Targeting System (EOTS) and Distributed Aperture System (DAS) are designed to work together as a combat system with system level capabilities. The Chinese and Russian aircraft will still require some poor sod being flung around at 9g to act as the decoder and to take actions. The F35 suites are meant to integrate so that the data is informative. Less effort and time is required to make the right decision fast.

For EW, and I mean electronic protection, electronic attack, and electronic support. The F35’s EW system is meant to be so good that the development of a Navy/Marine EW platform has been abandoned. Now I know about the Growler, but my point is this shows some confidence in the system which gives 360-degree coverage. Is it possible that these planes may actually be more capable than AWACS? A radar that offers advanced jamming resources, and the EW techniques seems pretty cool.

The helmet is clearly an issue at the moment, but those of us who have used NVG will know how they have improved, the helmet will too.

February 6, 2013 12:21 am

@ Phil D,

Two internally carried bombs was the standard set by F-117. A single deployed sqaudron of F-35 has the capability to drop a significant amount of precision ordnance over the course of just seven days, all with a significantly reduced risk of loss compared to current alternatives. It’s easy to over estimate how many potential targets there are of real, significant military value.

As for an F-35 carrying weapons externally, it’s not an on/off equation, in the sense that if it’s clean then the stealth is “on” and if it’s carrying external weapons then the stealth is “off”. Rather, we’re talking almost about moving a slider up and down a scale.

Clean, the F-35 is closer to the “invisible” end of the scale than it is to the “standing out like a sore thumb” end. Carrying ordnance externally it moves a bit closer to the sore thumb end, but still not as far as say an F-18 or F-16. Even carrying weapons on external pylons the F-35 will still retain many “stealth” benefits over current generation aircraft.

Phil Darley
February 6, 2013 8:24 am

Chris B and others…

I hope you are right

My fear is and remember this is Anerican ( and they can lie and bullshit like no other) that it wont do a fraction of its predicted performance.

This is going to be a very very expensive aircraft, we will only get a handful if the fancy technology is found wanting we will have no plan B. if the carriers were at least Stobar we could adopt another naval aircraft. Putting all our eggs on the F35 and the B variant at that. A plane that can’t climb fight or run if the technology dies not prove to be as predicted scares the hell out of me.

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2013 9:53 am

Not sure what the septics have done to you in order to justify the comment but I have worked extensively with them and they tend to either be very good or bloody awful. Their kit however is nearly always top line.

The kinetic performance of the F35 variants will continue to develop and early F16 F18 programs went through very similar criticisms. As Jeremy M H points out the actual figures do not back up the cant, cant, cant rant.

Now I am not an aviator but I know a fair bit about AAW, ASuW and ASW and by the far hardest part of any of them is finding the enemy and building the picture.

It does not matter how great a kinetic performance advantage you have and as Jeremy M H points out with external fuel tanks and missiles it will not be that great anyway if you do not know where the opposition are. If the first thing you know about it is the detection of a BVR missile which is one of 4 launched by each F35 without detection then you are going to look pretty, climbing and running whilst you die. Of course any survivors could then chase down those pesky F35s and kill them, assuming you can see them now and If you are prepared to accept 4 or 5 to 1 kill rates so you go high supersonic chase any you can see down and get ambushed by another group who were still stealthy but receiving the full data link picture from one active unit and sharing it, or from an AEW asset.
I hate to do it but to use a football analogy, it would be like the greater skill and vision of Barcelona simply playing keep ball against a team of brute force athletes.

February 6, 2013 1:41 pm

APATS, China and Russia have almost always relied on brute force as a tactic, and it does sometimes have an advantage. Using your football analogy, what if the other team had 16 men in the field? More than enough to keep everyone on the other team marked on nearly a 2 for 1 basis with one guy free to do whatever he wants.

Admittedly, I don’t think the F-35 is going to be that bad, my main gripe is not with the performance, which I suspect is going to be on the good side of average, but with the cost and development time. It has been a bloody long wait, and a lot of airforce regeneration plans have been knocked askew because of the time overruns.

Mark said it best when he said “Confidence in the product is hard to build easy to loose.” and with LM’s continuous backpedeling and requests for more money, confidence in the project seems to have taken a few missiles of its own. Right now, the prevailing feeling is that we have to accept the F-35 regardless of how it turns out because we spent too much in it not to accept it. Not really a good confidence level and more akin to a “too big to fail” mentality. Justified or not is a different story. LM really needs to work on its PR. Or learn not to publicise projects that have not been researched to maturity too early. Nothing wrong with keeping F-35 as a “need to know” at governments level only.

February 6, 2013 2:02 pm

Thinking about the limitations and lack of choice offered by STOVL alongside the potential performance problems…

Would we be happy to accept a carrier with only F117?

The reason I ask is that this is sub-sonic, not agile, but still a stealth strike aircraft.

What would be missing from the carrier airgroup equation (assuming we have some AEW and ASW too)?

Do we need air-defence jets?

Are we assuming that CAP/DLI is still important?

Is it possible that T45 can actually defend a fleet to the levels we need? Personally I have reservations about this since even two of ’em can only shoot down 96 missiles/aircraft before they’re useless. So £96m worth of Exocet renders a £10b fleet obsolete!

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2013 2:24 pm


Not really sure what your point is ref the F117 and the F35B? The F35b having far superior performance combined with a sensor suite generations ahead of the F117 which flew some pretty tasty missions in its time.

The F35B is actually a pretty decent fleet defence platform. It knows the enemy has to come towards it, can be radar silent taking and sharing the feed from radar pickets/AEW platforms/other F35B etc and then engage the enemy.

Ref exocet and T45. I assume since we are talking about 96 missiles that we must be on an air launched variant. AM39 has a range of just under 40Nm so that is how close the enemy aircraft have to come and then go active on their radar, acquire a target and fire the missile. First they would have to get past any CAP present.
This would bring it well within the range of any T45 with aster 30 before they even got a chance to launch. Unless the screen orientation was totally wrong or there was not an AD escort close in to the HVU. Once the missiles are launched and got to low level they will fly towards the pre programmed point before popping up for a look and going active themselves at a certain range.
At this point a combination of good soft kill and Sea Ceptor would be more useful as wasting 65NM range Aster 30 missiles on targets you are not going to get until they are 10-12Nm away seems a waste.
I hope that the plan will be to quad pack Sea Ceptor in several of the T45 silos and phase out Aster 15.

February 6, 2013 2:36 pm


‘Is it possible that T45 can actually defend a fleet to the levels we need? Personally I have reservations about this since even two of ‘em can only shoot down 96 missiles/aircraft before they’re useless. So £96m worth of Exocet renders a £10b fleet obsolete!’

It’s a very valid point and one that is very useful to counteract with when you here people saying that escort ships/missile shields are sufficient to protect a larger fleet.

Id add that in a war situation you could well have accidental launches due to heightened tension and the fog of war, how many sea darts, sea wolfs, depth charges and torpedo’s were fired at imaginary or mistaken targets!

The capabilities the T45 brings to the table are indeed very useful, awesome even, but they are still part of a larger and layered defence.

February 6, 2013 2:57 pm

APATS, think he’s trying to cut corners on the force and cost by leaving air defence purely to the escorts and using the air wing as a pure strike instrument with semi-legacy stealth bombers. Interesting idea, though a bit on the risky side. The best defence against a fighter is still another fighter. T-45 may be able to handle close in fleet defence, but that is only at the expense of conceding the outer engagement envelop and pre-emptive problem solving. One of the key advantages of the F-14/AIM-54 combo for fleet defence was that it could shoot down bombers at range before they could fire their missiles, which would have more than quadrupled the potential threats (Think the Backfire had a 5 round rotary magazine?). Better to shoot the bombers down before they can fire rather than leave it to the T-45s to face 4x the number of threat sources.

February 6, 2013 2:58 pm


The point in picking the F117 was that IF that were the only available stealth strike platform, would the UK still be interested? Obviously they are not carrier capable either, but with that aside, are we actually buying into stealth strike and almost no credible air defence capability?

I’m not having a go at the F35, I’m merely asking if the air-defence capability (can’t run, can’t climb, can’t turn issue) ends up absolutely rubbish then is it really a problem?

Also I picked Exocet as an example. Assume I really mean a missile with more than 100km range like the MM40 Block 3, Harpoon or C-802.

February 6, 2013 3:07 pm

USN carrier cap has been all about BVR for eons now. As long as our £1 million air-to-air missiles out fly their £50 million aircraft then their £1 million AShM wont hit the carrier.

Keep on saying it. The important platform is the ASaC/AEW/Crowsnest carrier. Between the latter, Sea Viper, Sea Ceptor, and F35b and whatever that new missile RN air defence will be all right.

Of course the lack of systems to attack ships and launch mass cruise attacks against an enemy means GB CBG won’t be worth attacking. So it will be doubly safe. ;)

February 6, 2013 3:08 pm

Simon, I think the can’t can’t can’t part of the criticisms are actually hyperbole by extremely disgruntled critics, I’d split the baby and assume an average performance profile. In that case, it IS still capable of fleet defence.

Doesn’t mean your wallet won’t cry though. That has always been the biggest worry of the F-35, cost, not performance.

Phil Darley
February 6, 2013 3:25 pm


Am I the only one that has witnessed how the Americans exaggerate stuff..

Just look at MS Windrows as one example!!!

As for the comparisons with the F16 that is not filling me any confidence. That plane was next to useless for years. Are we really going to accept that we don’t get the F35 we need for another decade or more and after spending another fortune (with America)???

This is looking more and more like a grand plan to kill off any combat aircraft production outside of the USA.

I would have spent the money on fully developing Typhoon… Possibly developing a true LO airframe and Carrier version than get bogged down with this nightmare.

I hope I am wrong snd it turns out to be a fantastic aircraft but it will certainly spell the death of our aircraft industry.

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2013 3:28 pm


It is all about targeting information. I know I harp on about it but I have seen it so often. The inability to successfully target at long range rendering really long range weapons ineffective.

Are we actually buying into stealth strike and almost no credible air defence capability?
I would say definitely not an F35B CAP even with external BVR missiles is going to get a feed from an AEW platform which allowing the detection of incoming aircraft long before the incoming aircraft have any idea that they are there. The ability to share information on secure data link and plan the engagement as required then places the ball firmly in their court.

The F35B is not designed to be a high performance interceptor or an air show trick pony but what it gives us is a stealthy penetrating strike aircraft which with good tactics can use its stealth characteristics, incredible sensors and comms fusion and top end BVR fit to offer a blasted good Fleet Air Defence Capability against ateh real threat which is a missile attack. An RN TG with T45 and T26 is not going to be attacked by FBA with bombs and rockets wanting to mix it with the CAP. It does not matter how many Gs you can sustain you are not going to sustain more than an Aster or CAMM missile and aircraft and pilots are expensive.

Back to my picture building again, at what range can an MPA accurately build up a picture of your TG in order to provide over the horizon targetting for an extremely long range missile launch. That is the key distance as launching a 300Nm range anti ship missile without targeting is a waste of expensive missiles

February 6, 2013 5:26 pm

Which could be an interesting future project APATS, a small missile that carries nothing but fuel and EO/small radar sensor packed 4 to a silo or preferably as a clip on pack to the hull and fired in a high lobbing trajectory for targeting might be worth a look at. The advantages I can think of over AEW is

1) that you can lob the thing at a target and not actually worry about it surviving. This also means it can penetrate an enemy’s airspace much deeper, past the point where AEW would have turned back for self-preservation.

2) AEW tends to loiter near a HVU for all round surveillance, a sensor missile lets you maintain that while at the same time offensively probe the enemy battlespace for information.

Come to think of it, that sounds too much like the initial rational for UAVs in the first place. Might be a redundant project, but still something to think about.

Jeremy M H
February 6, 2013 5:31 pm

I find the whining about the F-35’s development schedule to be kind of odd. Is there an aircraft development program that has not gone way long and way over budget? The development to production timetable is not all that different from the Eurofighter or any other modern aircraft after all.

The biggest problem the F-35 has is that it is wide open to people looking into most aspects of it. Hell, the UK was hiding the actual cost of the Eurofighter program from the public for a number of years on the grounds of it being commercially sensitive information. Does anyone want to subject that program to the level of public cost scrutiny the F-35 has gotten because the results won’t be pretty.

I think there is an important discussion to be had regarding the fact that governments seem to be incapable of properly managing such projects. With multiple bidders involved they (the companies) know they have to bid low. The projects are so complex that the governments are not really capable of giving a good analysis of the correctness of the bids. It is just a messed up process that goes beyond encouraging the vendor to bid a number they know they can’t hit and basically demands they do so or lose out to an unrealistic bid by a competitor. And it happens everywhere in the world on complex military projects.

@Phil Darley

That is an ironic comment regarding military equipment. The US military is a huge institution so as APATS said you will run into all sorts of people as you deal with it. Some are very competent others not so much. That is the nature of the beast. But as he said as well, the equipment is generally top notch and on the vast majority of it there is not nearly as much chest pounding as there could be. I think the UK (and pretty much any nation that builds equipment) can give the US a very hearty run for its money when it comes to preening about its military equipment.

All Politicians are the Same
February 6, 2013 5:32 pm


Come to think of it, that sounds too much like the initial rational for UAVs in the first place. Might be a redundant project, but still something to think about.

When it becomes a loitering data processing and information providing unmanned platform then surely it is a UAV :)

February 6, 2013 5:35 pm

Yes F35 is late and over budget, but then, what isn’t? Also consider this: you want to replace A10s, F16s/F18s and AV-8Bs. How much would it cost and how long would it take, for THREE new aircraft to replace that lot? Seems funny to say it now, but F35 is actually meant to save us money and probably will.

Edit: I think the question for the UK is, could we have come up with a better Harrier replacement than F35B with the money we’ve spent? I rather think not.

February 6, 2013 5:38 pm

And THAT is what I really hate about the proposed all singing all dancing future UAV. Capabilities creep. Soon, you’ll find your “cheap, expandable” UAV is not so cheap and not very expendable any more. Oh wait, that already happened.

So much for KISS.

Not a Boffin
February 6, 2013 5:44 pm

Simon has been told the adage “shoot the archer not the arrow” and that SAM ships are part of, not the, air defence capability for a force before, glad to see it’s taking hold.

What some people seem to be missing is that the FCBA (as was, before it became JCA) requirement was always primarily about air defence of maritime forces and an amphibious force in its AoA including troops ashore. Stealthy strike is not (nor has it ever been) the primary UK requirement for the Navy, although it is part of theh requirement. A problem has arisen in the “public” perception, in that some (particularly in light blue) see JCA as purely a strike aircraft, a perception that has been perpetuated by some in “capability world” who think that because there is a T45 air defence ship, it does the air defence, job done….

There are a whole raft of things that fall out of the air defence requirement including (in no particular order) BVR capability, economic supersonic capability, endurance, RAP reception / dissemination, NCTR capability, good AAM load etc.

None of it is predicated on a “must be better than an F16” basis – particularly when it’s unclear whether the comparison is with a clean F16 or one configured for AD.

As X and APATS rightly point out, situational awareness is the primary enabler for any of this. If you can’t detect, track and identify a target, you haven’t got a target. You could have the hottest jet in the history of the world, but faced with a lower performance jet with better SA you’ll be toast. We will have to wait and see how F35 actually turns out. For some overland DCA missions, it may turn out to be a bit of a beast, going where other jets can’t.

As for stealthy attack aircraft, the Nighthawks have been retired for a few years now and apparently live in a dismantled state in Tonopah. What you’re describing in a carrier-based sense is the A12, which unfortunately never made it into development, despite a shedload of money. Another reason why the USN can’t afford for F35 to fail.

February 6, 2013 5:48 pm

“Is there an aircraft development program that has not gone way long and way over budget?”

*cough* A-4, F-5, A-10?, F-4. Though I’ve to admit things seem to have gone downhill from there.

February 6, 2013 5:52 pm

I am going to copyright GBCBG……..

February 6, 2013 5:57 pm


The navy told us for years the sea harrier mk2 was the best fighter in Europe so having an aircraft ” is sub-sonic, not agile, but still a stealth strike aircraft.” Shouldn’t be an issue.

February 6, 2013 5:59 pm

“The ability to share information on secure data link and plan the engagement as required then places the ball firmly in their court.”

EXACTLY. It is part of a system, a very powerful system in which command, control, information, tactics and munitions will count for FAR more than how many Gs a plane can pull or how fast it can go.

Jeremy M H
February 6, 2013 6:11 pm


While you are right in a technical sense think about what those were.

The A-4 was a light attack bomb truck really. It basically had one mission though a few more were added over time.

The F-5 was an aircraft with no BVR capability until late in its life and something with very limited avionics.

The A-10 was a highly specialized aircraft to be sure but was made almost wholly of things that already existed. It was not exactly pushing the boundaries.

Most of those aircraft made use of existing engines and sensors. You can’t really compare them to what was attempted with the F-35.

February 6, 2013 6:22 pm

Well, you did ask :) and I agree, the ambitiousness of the F-35 is massively different from those examples. Problem is, overambitious projects also come with underquoted price tags and time frames and problems, for example the MBT-70.

February 6, 2013 6:51 pm

@Observer: F18E/F was on budget and schedule. However, although the airframe and engines were effectively new, the avionics were lifted straight from the C/D…

John Hartley
February 6, 2013 7:22 pm

Well the reason the RN wanted 12 T45 in the first place, was to protect the fleet with no holes, in the air defence. If you only have 6, then it is obvious there will be holes.

February 6, 2013 7:27 pm

We need more Sea Viper systems at sea that’s for sure.

All Politicians are The same
February 6, 2013 7:36 pm

John H

You have to define a “hole”. You will have less assets available for sure so the ability to deploy as many units in different locations will be hurt. You can certainly never have too many escorts but the ability to provide adequate air defence of an HVU or TG in a single effort will still be achievable.

It should also not be underestimated the difference that Sea Ceptor will make. You will go from having Sea Wolf equipped Frigates, a system that engage targets out to about 4Nm in a purely self defence role. That cannot engage a non threatening “crossing target” and is reliant upon 2 dedicated “fire control channels”.

To a system capable of engaging multiple targets out to approximately 17NM. These units will be capable of being integrated fully into the air defence plan and have targets designated and allocated to them.

Jeremy M H
February 6, 2013 8:10 pm

I agree that the performance of Sea Ceptor is a real key. Aster-15 is a dog in my view (missile is fine but too short legged and isn’t quad packed). Aster-30 is very good.

John Hartley
February 6, 2013 8:12 pm

There was a (Rand?) report saying that because the Earth is round, to provide protection for a taskforce, without holes & allowing for some ships to be in refit, then 12 is the minimum. It was around the time of the 1998 SDR. All to do with radar horizon.

All Politicians are The same
February 6, 2013 8:21 pm

Jonh H

Funnily enough on AAWO course you tend to concentrate on the actual threat versus you assets to configure a screen that is appropriate. Radar horizons are indeed important which is why we have sectors, pickets, AEW and then look at things like soft kill, EMCON plans, height and range of launch platforms etc.

There is no one solution fits all answer. there is always risk. Is the it a multi threat or single threat environment? Do you have CAP either from a Carrier or ground based, what are the enemy targeting and EW capabilities, your AEW capabilities etc. How hard will the enemy push their attack?

Generic surveys tend to make me want to ask them questions. If it was done in 98 then it certainly would not have factored in the capability increase from Sea Wolf to Sea Ceptor.

For instance a Sea Wolf equipped outer screen concentrating on ASW could not engage any missiles passing between the units as they would be seen as non threatening whilst Sea Ceptor units can engage multiple targets that pass within their MEZ.

Jeremy M H
February 6, 2013 8:34 pm

@John Hartley

Too many variables to really answer that. It depends on what threat you are talking about. I would guess the answer is derived by simply computing the radar horizon of each ship vs a given target and then making sure you can connect them all together at your chosen circumference around the high value asset. It reality deployments are never quite so simple. Most task forces leave not so much holes but less defended sectors knowing that the threat is highly likely to come from certain directions. My coverage against a given threat might look more like a oblong oval as I want to put the most depth I can down my likely threat axis.

Theoretically if I accept a small enough defended area I can make do with just one escort. Just park it right on top of the carrier.

That is why airborne radar (in particular airborne radar that can cue weapons in a networked fashion) is so critical. It removes those radar horizon issues and vastly expands the defended area of a ship against low-level threats. Someone could probably do the math if they wanted but if we pair an E-2D with an AEGIS destroyer I can suddenly make use of long-range missiles and my defended area is increased by an order of magnitude. If we use the diameter of the circle I can engage targets in as a reference it essentially goes from around 40 miles (20 in each direction) to 200ish miles with SM-6 and E-2D.

RAND tends to study very specific things. It is hard to say what they were really working towards without reading the whole study and knowing who ordered it and why.

John Hartley
February 6, 2013 9:24 pm

Have not got the source to hand. I think Warship World/ Warships IFR quoted it at the time.
Yes AEW can fill the hole as long as it is continuous. Otherwise you need 12 T45/Aegis destroyers/cruisers.
The shiny new toys do not have the range of the retired Sea Dart.

All Politicians are The same
February 6, 2013 9:57 pm


Have not got the source to hand. I think Warship World/ Warships IFR quoted it at the time.
Yes AEW can fill the hole as long as it is continuous. Otherwise you need 12 T45/Aegis destroyers/cruisers.
The shiny new toys do not have the range of the retired Sea Dart.

It is not about definitive range, unless missiles have started to kill you when they get inside 40Nm. (if we are nuclear all bets are off :)

It is about the quantum leap in capability. We have moved from having Frigates that can only engage missiles that fly directly towards them at 4Nm and only 1 or maybe 2 at a time to frigates that can engage multiple targets out to 17NM.

The T42 had 2 dedicated fire channels and a twin launcher, again 2 missiles at a time. T45 can track and engage multiple missiles simultaneously.

4 T42s and 6 Sea wolf equipped T23 have 20 fire channels. The T23 with Wolf can only engage targets that fly towards it so in close as a goal keeper for an HVU it can provide point defence for the HVU if it is correctly positioned. Even then it can only engage at 4NM. The 4 Type 42 can deal with a max of about 10 missiles simultaneously between them. The non goalkeeper positioned T23 only missiles flying straight towards them.

Now if we had 2 T45 and 4 T26.

The 2 Type 45 destroyers on the other hand can engage 12 missiles simultaneously each so we are already up to 24. The T26 in the goalkeeper role can engage at in excess of 15Nm, the limit to the number of missiles engaged simultaneously will be dependent upon the data link capabilities and when the seeker head on the missile goes active but 6 is a conservative estimate. So all of a sudden my goalkeeper can engage 6 targets through a much wider axis and at more than double the range.

The other 3 T26 can engage missiles at up to 17Nm even if they are not a direct threat and again 6 or so at a time.

The increase in fire channels is incredible as is the ability to engage crossing targets.

Now I simplify when talking about ranges a s obviously in real life we would take into account isoleths and closest point of approach before considering a max range launch but this applies equally and in fact more so to the Sea wolf ships, who require a missile to be considered a threat.

I would love to see 12 T45 but a report based on an unknown question and unknown factors using 1998 FF AAW capabilities is simply no longer valid or relevant.

February 6, 2013 10:04 pm

John how many type 82 destroyers where planned to provide air defence for the cva-01 aircraft carriers?

In the end provided we aren’t fighting Russia/china on are lonesome who’s got the capacity to launch 96 anti ship missiles at us not to mention the 40 odd jets its gonna need to get them to a position to launch said number of missiles at us the aar to support such a package the surveillance and c&c to find and then co-ordinate such an attack.

All Politicians are The same
February 6, 2013 10:24 pm

Perhaps a better illustration making more use of radar horizons and again simplified is this. Once more will use a single threat environment. ZZ is the HVU.

In scenario 1 we have our 6 T23 and 4 Type 42. The thereat axis is lets say 045 plus or minus 30 degrees. We put 1 T23 into the GK position and spread our 4 Type 42 out at 4NM from ZZ displaced by 3Nm and our remaining T23 at 10Nm separated by 3Nm. We have been targeted and launched at by by sea skimming missiles, initial detection comes from a T23 that picks missiles up at 10NM so 20Nm out from ZZ. Our 5 T23 all have missiles detected but can only engage direct threats. So they manage to shoot down 3 or 4 max, if we are lucky.
The 4 T42 have not seen them and cannot engage, they pick the leakers up at 10Nm, now 14Nm from ZZ and can engage a maximum of 8 simultaneously.
They can reengage if their is time and maybe hit 9 or 12. It is then up to the goal keeper who may get 1 or 2. So best case on a swarm attack we hit 16 or 17 (very best case scenario).

Now same scenario with our 2 T45 and 4 t26. Again lets put 1 T26 in the GK position. Our 2 T45 at 4Nm and the 3 T26 at 10NM separated by 4NM. Detection again happens at 10Nm by a T26 but now each T26 can engage missiles within their isoleth and they overlap, they can also engage 6 each simultaneously if required. They can also reengage this time. So we now get 12 or more. The 2 T45 acquire any leakers at 10Nm nut can engage 24 between them simultaneously and reengage. If I give 9 or 12 to 8 fire channels with older sea dart then 20 plus from the 2 T45 is consistent. The GK can engage far earlier and across a much broader axis making her far more effective

So despite less ships you have the ability to shoot down more than three times the missiles.

John Hartley
February 6, 2013 10:51 pm

Its more the 1982 scenario ie a pair of jets find the weak spot release an exocet(or similar) & then you have lost a ship, not the fleet.

Not a Boffin
February 6, 2013 10:58 pm

RANDs reports in my experience have looked good at a high-level but been poor when you got in the detail.

Thirty plus years ago, a “third-world” power was quite capable of launching multiple waves of 20 aircraft against a “first rank” NATO power. They sustained it for several days. They had rudimentary MPA and limited AAR. Had their fusing been better, we would have lost a lot more than the 200+ who died and the hundreds of others who were hurt.

Thank f8ck they only had a slack handful of ASM at the time.

February 6, 2013 11:16 pm

Third world power with a relatively modern airforce who had a total of 5 aircraft capable of launching Exocet. I doubt they capable of flying even them today. If we have spent billions building ships that are vulnerable to subsonic aircraft dropping dumb bombs as they fly overhead quite frankly someone screwed up. And other than re running the Falklands we aren’t doing it alone.
I think even the raf today would be stretched to put up 40 fastjet aircraft strike packages.

February 6, 2013 11:26 pm

Not sure the F35 suitably replaces an A10 but surely the jet’s abilities are not just about speed and turn. There is far too much criticism about the project but actually the inovations are not just about the plane’s stealth etc but also the design of the PRODUCTION process. It beats the Eurofighter way of doing things hands down.

We just underestimate the cost and time it takes to develop things.

Jeremy M H
February 7, 2013 12:12 am


I fully expect to see A-10’s flying for another 30 years. As a COIN aircraft it simply can’t be beat. I think it is oversold as a close air support aircraft anymore, at least in an opposed environment. But as a persistent fire support aircraft in a low-opposition environment (which is a huge percentage of operational scenarios) it is fantastic. They won’t replace the thing. They will just cannibalize the older ones to keep new ones flying as long as possible.

February 7, 2013 1:48 am

Doubt you’ll be rerunning the Falklands again either.

One of my biggest fears for the F-35 is the amount of tech that is built in. Heven help us if some doohicky or other blows a fuse, you might have to sideline the entire craft.

Well, all we can do is wait on LM to deliver the plane and get it into service before we see what that toy is really worth. Until then, I’ll defer judgement.

Jeremy M H
February 7, 2013 1:57 am


I just don’t know that that is much different from any aircraft. If a mission critical part is down on any modern fighter in combat they are not likely to fly. The things (and their pilots) are too valuable to risk if you don’t have to.

That could change and you might be forced to put them up less than ready if someone can push the pace against you and force you to operate at a vastly accelerated tempo. But I still don’t see a functional difference between the F-35 and any other modern fighter in that regard.

Not a Boffin
February 7, 2013 7:52 am

Mark – yes, the someone else will do it argument. Not so easy to believe now Barry O’Bama is off to WESTPAC.

By 1982 the A4 was nearing 30 yrs old and SE was pushing 20. I repeat we were lucky they only had a slack handful of ASM (including the launch aircraft). I wonder what Syria might be able to put up. Or Turkey for that matter. Or Egypt……

Every single ship in the world is vulnerable to subsonic aircraft dropping bombs – as is every single air base. The trick is to be able to keep them away. For which everyone (land or sea) uses a combination of C3I, f/w DCA, SAM and AAA/CIWS. It all costs billions.

February 7, 2013 8:37 am


Em no it’s the argument that if with the capability we have its to difficult we won’t do it alone. We will build an alliance or we won’t be involved its that simple if you want the navy to hold off regimental strength air raids great maybe having an airforce equipped to remove Iranian or Syrian strength air defence networks and the army equipped with corp level armoured brigades to drive on some sods capital is the way to go. Defence planning assumptions and the funding to meet them however say otherwise.

The super e only first flew in 1974 and the skyhawk and mirage flew with many operators well into the eighties and early 90s.

Not a Boffin
February 7, 2013 9:41 am

An alliance with who exactly mate? That’s the point – the DPA have not yet accounted for the US shift East. You’ll also be aware that the DPA are very light on threat, as opposed to saying what “scale” we’ll send. There are an awful lot of instabilities in the Med / Africa area in which we may have to get involved because it is in the UK or European interest to do so. It may not be important enough to the US for them to pitch up. When you look across the European capabilities ourselves and the foul & most foreign excepted, there isn’t actually that much in the cupboard at all.

Scooter and Mirage did indeed last a long time, tributes to a very good basic design from the fifties – as was the basis for the Super E. The point being, if an AF of that capability back then can mount waves of 20+ for a sustained period, you’d have thought that quite a few others might be able to do so now.

That’s why we invest in high-end kit like QEC, F35 T45 and Typhoon for that matter and why Crowsnest is not a nice to have. It’s also where teh “somone else will do it” argument gets a tad sketchy to say the least.

February 7, 2013 11:02 am

The world is truly becoming multi-polar. There is a real chance that US defence interests in Europe will shift from “hard power” to essential intel’ and EW systems. Whether that is because of shift to the East or even quasi-isolationism who knows. And if the US is interested expect “events” to be more like Libya with them only supplying (essential) rear echelon capabilities. Indeed I expect some “events” won’t get off the ground because even those capabilities aren’t supplied. I think “we” gloss over the times our FP had run against US FP and forget they put their own interests first. (In fact “we” gloss over all “argie-bargie” that goes on between ostensibly friendly Western states.) The latter being a novel concept for today’s Westminster politicians. The UK (and France) may have to be the big stick. I don’t think many future disputes will become full-blown conflicts. But I think there is a real danger of small “firefights” where intentions are mis-interpreted or threats over played which leads to small exchanges of ordnance before politicians and diplomats from the concerned parties rapidly de-escalate the situation. And I think as these new powers become more “comfortable” and “secure” in their situation the bolder they will become. Especially if the older mature powers’ attention is elsewhere. Let say in 20 years time CVF is operating off Australia in support of operations against Indonesia (for whatever reason) and a Brazilian leader looking to cement his country’s lead in South America does something silly about those islands. Stunts and the like to force negotiation, climb downs, to save face, and carry opinion will matter as much as hulls in the water or battalions. But “we” need a base level of capability. “We” need a reserve however small. Systems like Crowsnest will be very important. That is why HMG should be throwing money at REL so we can loft satellites cheaply at a time of our choosing. And I know many of you laugh at me but this need to act without the US at various threat levels with us owning fewer platforms is why I think RN ships need guns and AShM and why I think RAF FJ need similar capabilities because they are cheap, they allow us graduated response, and they allow us to spread more expensive assets like SSNs further.

February 7, 2013 12:27 pm

Jeremy, yes, what I described can sideline almost all aircraft, it’s the base reliability I was on about. As pointed out, most of the outstanding aircraft that have been used for decades tend to either have simplistic requirements and systems or mature systems imported from another airframe with years of development and troubleshooting behind them. F-35 is totally new save for probably the RAM coating from the F-22. This drives up the potential of getting blindsided by some technnological new problem.

F-35 is not a simple plane, and I suspect their upkeep will also not be a simple matter.

February 7, 2013 2:38 pm

@ X

What you have said is perfectly rational. No one, saw the Arab Spring coming or where it what it may lead to! Only now has it woken up and recognised the potential danger, Fundamentalist Islam is to Sub-Saharan Africa. Even though the Alarm Bells have been ringing for years.

Unless the World can drag itself out of the Global Depression, things are only going to get worse!

Jeremy M H
February 7, 2013 3:08 pm


Europe really should have more hard assets than it does. You are right that Europe is likely going to have to become a major player, at least in keeping order in its own neck of the woods. There is plenty of money and people there to get the job done if the various nations of the EU start taking things seriously.

Not a Boffin
February 7, 2013 3:57 pm

TD – the latest DPA predate Barry’s shift of axis (and sequestration for that matter). They’re very clear about the scale of effort we have funded to deploy. Problem is, post US shift, the assumptions on who will provide what percentage of force and what specific capabilities (which tend to be in the classified bits) must have changed or should do if it is an honest assessment.

They also tend to focus on what we “want” to deploy, as opposed to what we may “have” to deploy and as a result do not look at actual threat capability. Something of an error IMHO.

February 7, 2013 4:17 pm

Simon, Arab Spring and Fundamentalist Islam are unnatural bedmates, one is a rebellion against corruption and tyrany, the other calls for imposition of one of the most harsh set of laws on the face of this planet. If not for the fact that the Arab Spring rebels are hard pressed for help, they would never have wanted anything to do with replacing one tyrant for another. Their goals are mutually contradictory.

February 7, 2013 4:55 pm


How long do we have to wait for part 5 of you’re F35 series?

Not a Boffin
February 7, 2013 5:55 pm

DPA vs funds – Chicken, egg, who knows?

I know what the bookies would favour though!

February 7, 2013 6:43 pm


I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t fund high end capabilities what I do mind is the assumption that the navy must do it all by there lonesome against the highest level threat. When people say 6 type 45s aren’t enough that’s there view but at one time the navy wanted 4 type 82’s to protect its carriers today 6 isn’t enough for some. 30 odd years a go in the Falklands the level of air defence capability available to the taskforce was poor particularly in shore when argie jets used dumb bombs to sink ships. Yet today with the systems on warships its forces aircraft to use more stand off weapons which generally mean less weapons per tactical aircraft launched from further away which means more targeting systems are required not just blokes on a hill several miles away with binoculars and radios calling the jets in. And our capability to deal with that I would like to think has also improved significantly.

While the dpa may not have taken account of the US shift to the Far East doesn’t mean the funding to correct that is available which in the end of the day limits are ability to become involved. The near bedrock requirement of uk involvmentis working thru the UN Security Council which make crisis the international communities problems though much milgned by bush and Blair it may have its faults but its the best way.

We can offer significant capability from the navy, airforce and army which together offer significant deployed capability to a coalition. And while you say with who it should be noted that the uk, France, Norway, Spain, holland, Italy all now operate very capable air defence destroyers. Europe also has significant mcm capability and a number of nations with subs.
France, uk, Spain and Italy all operate ships that can land aircraft at sea and most of the NATO countries in Europe operate prob in excess of 1000 modern and effective combat aircraft. Europe are also investing in over 150 strategic transport aircraft which has secondary or primary aar capability over the next 10 years.

Yes there is shortages in the big istar and targeting capacity as well as in the field of logistics. And Europes biggest failing is the number of countries this is spread across and the national red lines. But if the uk can bring some of these nations together they can expand our overall capacity to deal with most issues in the med and North Africa. I’m not suggesting this is easy or without risk but money or the lack of it tends to concentrate minds.

February 7, 2013 7:15 pm


Cheers! I shall look forward to it.


‘When people say 6 type 45s aren’t enough that’s there view but at one time the navy wanted 4 type 82′s to protect its carriers’

To be fair the RN wanted 8 type 82’s when it thought it was getting a couple of proper carriers, and I think then bargained first down to 4 and eventually just 1 in exchange for a lot of type 42’s instead.

I don’t think at any point they saw 4 anti-air destroyers being able to escort the carrier fleet, be it a CVA-01 or Invincible based one.

Peter Elliott
February 7, 2013 7:23 pm


What you say about the overall European force levels has some merit. But all is not rosy in the garden.

“Could but Wouldn’t” and “Would but couldn’t” were both features of the Libya campaign.

It seems unavoidable to me that SDSR should inlcude some changes to DPA to reflect the Pacific Pivot and recommend funding some specific addtional capabilities to fill in key gaps in the areas of ISTAR and Logistics, even if the overall scale of the teeth arms remains as planned.

I share your scepticism as to whether these will be funded in addtion to the exiting 10 year equipment plan. But it would be utterly negligent not to make a reasoned case. What you don’t ask for you don’t get.

Not a Boffin
February 7, 2013 7:37 pm

Not sure how we got to X AD ships to escort QEC. Had been under the impression that we were trying to get various people to haul aboard that you can’t do maritime AD with just ships – you need organic F/W and AEW/MASC as well, but hey-ho.

Not often I agree with PE, but the “Could but wouldn’t” and “wouldn’t but could” arguments are valid.

February 7, 2013 8:34 pm
Jeremy M H
February 7, 2013 9:31 pm


I have to say all the bickering about an aircraft operating at high angles of attack is just about the most pointless thing ever. I get why LM is firing back a bit here but the honest answer is that for the most part performance at high AOA is just not a critical metric. You bleed too much speed to do it too often.

Jeremy M H
February 7, 2013 9:39 pm

Also I would add that the F-18 pilot sounds flipping bonkers. How can you bitch about the F-35’s wing size and say something with a small wing can’t do something when the A and B have a wing 91% as big as the F-18E so lift should not be a problem. The F-35C has a much bigger wing than the F-18E. All models should generate more body lift as well most of the time as they will have clean belly’s and an F-18 basically never does.

I don’t know about the specifics of control surfaces but I have a hard time believing they are any smaller than those on an F-18 really.

February 7, 2013 10:34 pm

It’s not really the wing area as per, the F-18 has a conventional straight wing layout by which it is designed for pure lift/control, while the F-35 has a half hexagon wing designed for LO, which means that the Benolli effect might not be as pronounced on it as opposed to a pure long cord straight wing. The deeper the wing, the less lift on it per square area, which is why a lot of conventional planes have long, narrow wings.

Don’t think the F-35 is a flying brick though, a lot of criticisms do seem over the edge, but it really all depends on the research lab queen actually getting into the field and showing her stuff. Until then, I’ll withhold judgement. The waiting is getting to be a pain though.

BTW, AOA and transonic accel doesn’t have much to do with wing area, more to do with thrust/weight ratios. Think the article was more anti-advertising than anti-F-35

Jeremy M H
February 7, 2013 10:50 pm

Even if one looks at span the wing is the F-35 still has the same basic wingspan as the F-16 (for the A models) and the F-18E (for the C). The performance is just not going to be that different from a lift perspective. It all gets very complicated when you start comparing the exact shape of one to the next and even more so when you add in the fact that the F-18 nearly always is going to carry fuel under its belly at the very least.

The F-18 pilot sounded like he was talking about an F-117. I would be really curious who he is. F-18 test pilot sounds a lot like Boeing flunky to me. The guy won’t put his name behind the statements.

February 7, 2013 11:13 pm

Jeremy, lift is generated by the difference in airspeed going over and under the wing, as I said, how deep the wing is also affects the effectiveness of lift per surface area. Normal wings bulge forward and above the cord and are thin, so the airspeed drop over the top is very drastic. F-35 wings I suspect do not bulge forward but gradually slope up to the highest point somewhere within the middle of the wing, which means that the airspeed drop is not that drastic, meaning less lift.

This is actually countered by the F-35’s low weight as mentioned. Less to lift means that overall performance may be better. I’m not one to say payload above all, I’m more for right weight limit for the right job, so having a low limit is not “wrong” any more than having a high weight limit is not “wrong” either, but in this case, LM did put their foot in it. It really was an apples to oranges comparison.

And on a more serious note, what both the anonymous pilots said makes sense to me, it was the LM spokesman that went too far.

And on an ironic note, “F-18 test pilot sounds a lot like Boeing flunky to me.” Glass houses and stones, you’re sounding a bit too pro-LM to me.

February 7, 2013 11:13 pm

I think LM would have been better servered not to comment and get dragged into this particular squabble its very circular.
F35c wing will have most likely been sized for ship recovery it’s bigger than f18s because lots of flaps and LO characteristics don’t sit well together so the basic wing needs to do more of the work.
Sustained g is linked to aspect ratio and induced drag.

February 7, 2013 11:27 pm

Mark, from the timeline that I read (and could be wrong), LM started making some fantastical claims about their product and others stood up to refute it.

Translation: They should not have commented at all, period. They simply set themselves up for an arse whipping putting bombastic claims like that out.

Best case for the plane would be to get it out into service and let the pilots decide. Flight time > press releases. You can make all the claims you want, but actual hardware performance beats all. I can say my F-35D can go exo-orbital and get to the moon and back in 8 minutes, but will you believe it? :)

February 8, 2013 5:40 pm

What concerns me is the timing of these claims and the fact that LM have relied for years on the line that F35 doesn’t have to be agile etc. Why the sudden startling claims? Customers backsliding on orders? Easily tested of course; RAF has some Typhoons in US for Red Flag exercises, so pop over to Patuxent for some “dissimilar” training. If F35 can hold its own against Typhoon it can do so against anything out there.

I’m guessing that’s not going to happen.

Jeremy M H
February 8, 2013 6:08 pm


I think your assumptions about the F-35’s wing are very worst case scenario. There is no reason to design a wing like that for the aircraft. It is very much based on the F-22 which has fine aerodynamic and agility characteristics so I don’t see why the F-35 wing would be appreciably different. We know that the overall platform (the A model) has to generate similar lift to the F-18E as it has a greater MTOW on basically equal thrust otherwise it could not get into the air. I think the most accurate statement on the F-35 is probably going to turn out to be that it behaves a lot like an F-18 in the air which is not great but also is no wallowing pig either.


Certainly not until they finish flight testing of everything. Losing an aircraft in testing is something that is almost expected in a major fighter program (eventually one always crashes) but the last thing the F-35 program needs right now. Until they are 100% confident that the thing won’t depart controlled flight you are not going to see air combat in a free form environment.

February 8, 2013 6:51 pm


Jeremy, my assumptions on the wing are based on the requirement on LO, not any plucked from air scenarios. A buldged front of the wing reflects a fair bit of EM radiation. And we were talking about lift, not agility.

The agility part is due to the motorised quad planar tail, not the wing. They are two seperate things, you need to seperate and be specific on which characteristic you are working on, not equate lift = agility. It’s not.

The best way to compare lift is actually to check their maximum ceiling at a fixed weight. The one that hits equilibrum later has the higher lift. Which is a bit hard to do as the F-35 is not ready yet for operational testing. And like above, they’ll try to fudge by using a loaded competitor vs a clean F-35, claiming “operational reality” which may be true in a combat sense, but not true when you’re doing a technical evaluation.

Sorry Jeremy, but in this case, LM really put their foot in their mouth with a mis-publicity stunt. Nothing against the plane, technically I think it would perform closer to the F-16 than the F/A-18, which is pretty fair. Just facepalming at the “we are the best at everything against everybody” claims. It smacks of either arrogance or ass-covering as Wise says.

February 8, 2013 7:15 pm

A bit of addatum, thrust vectoring and negative stability of the fly by wire system also plays a part in agility, so it’s not purely the tail, just in case people were picking on “only the tail” part.

February 8, 2013 7:23 pm

Speaking of Red Flag (tenuous, moi!) the Chinese have their own version:


February 9, 2013 11:44 am