II (AC) Sqn to become fifth Typhoon Squadron

It has been announced that the final Typhoon squadron will be II (AC) Squadron, which will begin transitioning to the Typhoon from the Tornado after it has completed its current OP Herrick rotation.

This will mean that this is the first time since the days of the Hawker Hunter that all three of the RAFs senior squadrons will be equipped with the same aircraft.

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 II (AC) Sqn to become fifth Typhoon Squadron

 

 

About Tom

Mechanical Development Engineer based in Somerset

191 thoughts on “II (AC) Sqn to become fifth Typhoon Squadron

  1. Bob

    And there it is, 7 frontline fast jet squadrons.

    Nos.12 and 617 disband in March 2014, No.II (AC) in March 2015 leaving a force of five Typhoon Squadrons and two Tornado Squadrons. 617 Squadron will reform as an F-35B squadron and will be supplemented with 809 NAS to produce the two F-35 squadrons replacing the two surviving Tornado Squadrons.

    Forget fantasies about retaining Typhoon Batch 1 to get back to 8 or 9 Squadrons. This it, 6 RAF Squadrons and 1 FAA squadron- 9 in total down from the equivalent of 33 in 1990. Bagwell’s 2010 statement that the RAF would have just six fast jet squadrons was entirely correct and now the deniers and fantasists need to apologise and face reality.

  2. Tom Post author

    Your not wrong Bob, though if the funding to get the 2nd CVF operational, I could see a third F-35B Sqn (9 Sqn or 800 NAS) being formed, though that’s along way down the road at the moment.

  3. Bob

    Correction to an above typo:

    That should be 7 front-line fast-jet squadrons down from an equivalent of 33 in 1990, for further context the fast-jet inventory will have fallen from a planned 800 (approximately) to just 155. In the same time-frame the MPA capability has vanished completely (four front-line squadrons in 1990), the RAF has lost it’s tactical nuclear weapons and the Transport fleet has been halved.

  4. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Bob

    Of course that is making the assumption that the F35 buy is capped at 48. Due to the timescale of airframe delivery. The lack of a credible conventional threat of a non expeditionary nature and the 2015 GE this puts the Government in a comfortable place whilst actually finalising nothing.

  5. Bob

    Tom,

    The second CVF would likely just provide greater availability of hulls. It is likely that the CVF will also be the Ocean replacement so a second hull is unlikely to provide sufficient demand for an additional F-35 squadron. In my opinion.

    TED

    SDSR15 will be about correcting the over-optimism of SDSR10 and excepting the reality that there is even less money available now than there was expected to be back in 2010. It is not likely to be a review that will spring many happy surprises. The fast-jet force structure cuts will largely have been completed by 2015 anyway.

  6. Bob

    APATS,

    That is completely wrong. The fast-jet force structure cuts will be complete by 2015- well before the F-35B actually enters service. As of March 2015 there will only be 7 UK fast jet squadrons. We already know which units will get the F-35 and roughly when they will get it- we also know that the Tornado will be gone by 2019 which means almost the only way this ends is with 7 squadrons- 6 badged as RAF, exactly as Bagwell said it would.

  7. Bob

    TED,

    It assumes no such thing. It actually assumes that the MoD’s public statements with regard to Sqaudron disbandment and aircraft retirement dates are accurate. The Number of F-35s is a side effect of that as the UK will be down to just 7 Squadrons of fast jets by March 2015, before the first F-35 squadron stands up in 2018.

  8. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Bob

    No it is not, nothing exists in a permanent state. Yes we will have a 2 frame 7 squadron force for a time but look at my post again.
    The CEO of LM has said that we have not altered our F35 order and the 48 was always tagged as an initial order. We have a GE in 2015 and an SDSR, the current state is one which is comfortable for the Government and as I said given the total lack of non expeditionary threat actually almost workable.
    It is not by any means a final state.
    As for SDSR 2010 being over optimistic, I can only assume that was a typically poor US attempt at humour.

  9. TED

    Ahh I see RTFQ! “It assumes no such thing. It actually assumes that the MoD’s public statements with regard to Sqaudron disbandment and aircraft retirement dates are accurate. The Number of F-35s is a side effect of that as the UK will be down to just 7 Squadrons of fast jets by March 2015, before the first F-35 squadron stands up in 2018.”

    Right the so when we get F35 it could go up to any number.

  10. Challenger

    Disappointed that in about 18 months time the RAF will be down to 7 squadrons, with a force structure of just 6 RAF and 1 FAA looming (Bagwell was indeed horribly accurate).

    I still think the strategy should be to keep the Tranche 1 Typhoon’s around for a bit longer, just until 2022-2025, thus allowing the Lightning force to work-up in it’s own time and to keep fast-jet numbers at a decent level whilst we drip buy some more T3 Typhoon’s, I’d say 23-33 new air-frames so the total force stays at a respectable 130-40 jets in 6-7 squadrons, leaving us with 8-9 squadrons (including 1 FAA) without having to wait for a second Lightning purchase which may not happen until the late 2020′s or even 2030′s.

    The British government and British industry are always banging on about how fantastic Typhoon is, and I agree it’s shaping up to be a very fine aircraft (despite the ridiculously slow pace and high cost), but if we want to keep pushing it for export then I think it’s about time we showed some confidence and faith in it ourselves. Shedding our numbers from 232-160-107 and publicly stating we may look to replace it altogether in 2030 doesn’t send the right message. How can we expect other nations to take an interest when quite often the vibe over Typhoon in British circles seems to suggest it’s an embarrassing mistake that we can’t wait to get rid of in favour of some sexier, pointier, shinier Lightnings!

  11. Bob

    APATS,

    Fantasy and denial I am afraid. Firstly the LM number, this is just a vague planning number dating back to the very beginning of the programme, it is NOT an “order”, it is utterly meaningless at this point (for all countries in the programme, not just the UK).

    That SDSR10 was overly optimistic in its planning assumptions is a statement of fact. That entire comprehensive spending review was based on higher GDP growth rates than actually occurred. If you recall the original plan was to eradicate the fiscal deficit by 2015, that has now been pushed back to 2017/18 and that reality will have to be built into SDSR15.

    TED,

    Theoretically a lone scientist could accidentally create a species of invincible dinosaurs that destroy mankind. In reality the UK will have just 7 fast jet squadrons as of March 2015 of which Tornado will equip two. The Tornado will be retired in 2019 with the first of two announced F-35 squadrons standing up in the UK in 2018 as the Tornado’s replacement meaning there will still be just 7 squadrons in 2020 based on current plans (6 RAF and 1 FAA).

    This should not be surprising to anyone as it is exactly what Air Vice Marshall Bagwell said would happen back in 2010.

  12. TED

    @Bob No i’m not surprised and I completely agree with you. But Post 2020 I can see at least one more F35 squadron. What about an OCU?

  13. Simon

    If you look at the financial budget for F35 it implies (by dividing the total by the unit price) exactly 72 units.

    I have no idea what the effect of recent price increases will have, but it’s certainly the number I’d procure to cover carrier strike and the existing two Tornado squadrons with.

  14. Harbinger

    People assuming that F35B standing up over time will add to the 7 squadrons seem over-optimistic to me.

    F35B will most likely first replace Tornado, and then as more are procured beyond the initial 48, start replacing Typhoon squadrons.

  15. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Bob

    It must be wonderful to see the world in black and white but I bought a colour set years ago.
    You ignore a whole host of issues.
    1. We have been more succesful at driving down the MOD black hole than envisaged.
    2. The economy is now growing faster than we expected.
    3. No decision has to be made for some time.
    4. Different Governments have different priorities.
    5. The Geo Political situation may change.
    6.Well ref the LM number I believe them and the statement of an initial order and my contacts before you I am afraid.

    In short there are a lot of complex factors that have many people thinking, people who are intrinsically linked and connected with the UK MOD yet you jump in with your size 12 from across the pond and know best?

  16. Bob

    TED

    Gabrielle did an excellent analysis of this in which he demonstrated that the 48 aircraft (if all are actually ordered- this will be decided in SDSR15) will fill two Squadrons plus supporting functions (including an OCU).

    What may happen after 2020 is pure speculation- what we know is that the UK will have seven fast jet squadrons in 2015 and it will still have seven in 2020.

  17. Mark

    The raf goes to 7 fast jet Sqns in 3 months time not 18 months. On 1 April 2014, 4 typhoon and 3 tornado Sqn is all that’s left.

    Lockheed still states the Dutch are buying 85 f35 were in reality that number is now 37. As they have refused to increase there original budget for jets

  18. Bob

    APATS,

    Those coloured lenses appear to be filtering out far too much light. The UK 2013 Autumn statement declared the UK would still be running a deficit in 2017/18 (even with the economy now growing) whereas when SDSR10 was produced the deficit was meant to have been gone by 2015.

    The decision has already been made; that is why the squadron disbandment dates and aircraft retirement dates have been announced.

    The UK currently has the most pro-defence government it is likely to get.

    The LM number is a vague planning number, the UK has only actually ordered 22 aircraft in total. The remaining 26 are unlikely to be ordered until after 2015.

  19. x

    I would still like to know if a pilot once cleared for B is automatically (or as near as dam it) cleared for A too.

  20. Simon

    The UK currently has the most pro-defence government it is likely to get.

    Is that based on the fact that usually it is Conservative governments that cut defence spending or the fact that the “other” governments waiting in the wings can say anything until they’re actually in power?

    Surely the UK’s most pro-defence government was the last labour one?

  21. Bob

    Simon,

    It is based on known realities of UK politics. The Lib Dems despise everything to do with defence and Labour has benefits to pay. The previous Labour government loved wars but did not like defence spending thus the defence budget barely grew in real terms at all and a series of swinging cuts were undertaken to the force structure.

  22. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Mark

    The Dutch Government have however made this clear.

    @ Bob

    It is a fallacy that the Conservatives are the most pro Defence Government and if you think this one in coalition is the most pro, well illustrates something.

    We will have 7 FJ Squadrons next year and if you read my posts I say that is enough currently. It is not however a guarantee of a permanent state. I will leave you to this and we will see what happens.

  23. Bob

    APATS,

    Deliberate twisting of my words there. Based on the current political situation the conservatives are the most pro-defence party. Neither Milliband’s Labour party or the LDs have shown much love for the MoD.

    The stated plan is 7 fast-jet squadrons, there is no other plan. Claiming that something might change in the future is just plain silly. Anything could change in the future but it is stated plans that we have to accept and deal with and that plan is for 7 squadrons only.

  24. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Bob

    The current Government are in coalition and influenced by the Lib Dems, no twisting required.
    No its not silly it is an acknowledgment that we approach a period of flux in UK Defence terms with a lot of major programs completing in next 5-10 years.
    We also approach a referendum and a GE.

    Apologies to all for typos, at home lap top died ( not being replaced to sales) so on tablet.

  25. Bob

    APATs,

    And it is common knowledge that aside from Trident the Lib Dems have largely stayed out of defence affairs. Stop clinging to fantasises and accept the stated plans- the UK is going down to just 7 fast jet squadrons with no plan to reverse that cut.

  26. Simon

    TD,

    96th anniversary! Just wait till it’s 100… It’ll get a telegram from the Queen saying the jet is dead, long live the missile.

    Obviously things will change the following year when a trojan virus and built-in EM susceptibility in some if their chips renders them useless. ;-)

  27. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Bob
    It is common knowlege the Lib Dems have largely stayed out of Defence?

    The Minister for the Armed Forces was a Lib Dem until Sep 2012. They produced a Defence paper. They had a thing at their conference.
    The view from inside is they have done anything but stay out.

    I will concede the point that there are no definitive plans to increase beyond 7 FJ Squadrons if you promise not to try and lecture us on UK Politics again :)

  28. Bob

    APATS,

    I am astonished about how little you understand of the country you claim to live in. The Lib Dems got the trappings but aside from Trident have had practically no influence. White Paper or otherwise.

  29. Bob

    From 2010:

    “We are heading for five Typhoon squadrons and one JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] squadron,” said Air Vice-Marshal Greg Bagwell, who commands the RAF’s air combat group. “It will be a six-squadron world; that’s what’s on the books.”

    Add in the one FAA badged F-35 squadron and he was spot on.

  30. Simon

    As an aside…

    How many jet squadrons do we actually need in peacetime (assuming this is peacetime)? Two? Plus dedicated flights for a few overseas territories, OCU and OEU? So 48 Typhoon?

    Do we really need any expeditionary capability beyond what we’ll embark for fleet air defence? Say, 24 F35B?

  31. Think Defence

    Bob, you are wrong, they influenced a number of areas although most of them were out of the limelight and welfare related.

    OK, they didn’t reverse any major equipment/numbers policy decisions but to say they had ‘no influence’ flies in the face of reality.

    In any case, was influencing yet another delay in Trident not enough?

    Think we are into arguing about what we can fit on the head of a pin and hardly relevant to Typhoon

  32. All Politicians are the Same

    @ TD

    You cannot debate with Bob, rule 101, what do we know living here? I mean as an Officer in the Armed Forces with a keen interest in how the Politicians affect my job what am I supposed to know?
    I also love the way he insinuates I do not even live here.

  33. Bob

    TD,

    That’s wrong. LD influence on defence was minuscule and only really amounted to things the Conservatives would have done anyway. Delaying Trident was significant for Trident- not much else.

    Anyway. That is irrelevant to this thread. The important point is that the UK is going down to just 7 fast jet squadrons and all the deniers and fantasists that claimed it would never happenj now need to admit their obvious mistake in ignoring the clear statement from an Air Vice Marshall.

  34. Bob

    APATS,

    You can debate with me when you bring evidence to the table, you have brought none. Either give some facts or stop waffling on about things you want to happen but for which you have no evidence because they are not happening.

  35. Think Defence

    I think you are missing the point of influence, they clearly influenced, degrees, that is a fair discussion, although not in this thread anymore please, not relevant

    You can debate with me when you bring evidence to the table

    Cuts both ways Bob

  36. Brian Black

    Come 2020 and we might have some idea how unmanned fits in.

    If toying around with Taranis paves the way for some kind of surveillance and strike platform, then that could well end the wishful dreams of more Typhoon and Lighting, even if a bit more cash was sloshing about.

    In particular, the fairly low number of 48 Lighting was excused by ministers stating their intent to explore other fixed-wing options for the big fat Queens, both manned and unmanned.

  37. Bob

    TD,

    Let me see. Above I presented the disbandment dates for three squadrons, the activation dates for two squadrons, the retirement date for one aircraft type, a quote from Air Vice Marshall Bagwell and the exact number of F-35s currently ordered by the UK.

    Perhaps you could point to any evidence that APATS has provided?

  38. All Politicians are the Same

    So having the Minister for Armed Forces as a Lib Dem for 2 years responsible for.

    1. Armed Forces Operations.
    2. Armed Forces personnel and policy issues.
    3. Force Generation.

    Who sits on the Defence Board. Of course they also have the Deputy PM. This amounts to no influence?

    You can go back to being smug when you admit that you should really not try and lecture an informed audience on the Politics of their own country. Sorry forgot you were American :)

  39. Bob

    APATS,

    On their lack of policy influence. Ironically best summed up by Trident which they described as a “red line” issue in the coalition negotiations but have managed to do nothing more than delay. In fact if anything defence as influenced them as their policy has now shifted from scrapping Trident to reducing the number of submarines.

    Perhaps you could show a major area of influence? It would be the first piece of evidence you have given in this thread.

  40. Simon

    This beer/latte voting system is interesting.

    It takes a certain level of arrogance to vote one’s own comments “up” and everyone else’s “down”.

  41. Brian Black

    Lib Dem defence priorities seem to be primarily about changing nuclear posture to something that is neither a credible defence or disarmament.

    Then it’s be nice to squadies and their families – pay & conditions, housing, equal rights for Gurkhas.

    Then finally that the Army was not properly equipped going into recent conflicts, but it ought to be.

    Does anyone actually know what the Lib Dems defence policies are, in terms of what capabilities the armed forces should have and at what scale? What is it that the Lib Dems want the armed forces to be able to do, either alone or with coalition partners?

  42. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Bob

    The Lib Dems played a full part in the 2010 SDSR and the implementation. The minister for armed forces led a lot of the process for the redundacy packages as that was in his bailwick. The cuts would probably have been worse but they played their joker to ensure Trident main gate would not happen with a Lib Dem presence in number 10.
    Numerous cabinet meetings on Defence issues were chaired by the DPM in the PMs absence and decisions taken.
    Now as for policy influence, I will make a few points.
    1. How much more drastic can things get in one term than what came out of the SDSR and they were fully involved in that.
    2. Do not conflate conflict with influence. Throughout the coalition time in Government the Lib Dems have acted as a balance vs the more gung ho and right wing of the Conservative Party, exerting influence in all sorts of ways, including Defence.
    Policy influence does not always come out of a drone or a project canvellation.

  43. mickp

    So 5 front line Typhoon squadrons of 12 aircraft each and one FI flight of 4 aircraft, 64 operational assigned and the remaining 43 cover OCU, attrition etc? Is that right and a normal ratio?

    F35B – 2 front line squadrons 1 FAA one RAF – 24 planes, 24 for OCU, attrition etc? Again is that how it will work?

    Presumably if that’s how it works we could generate another 3 squadrons (2 Typhoon, 1 F35) in a real crisis or is that unrealistic? Is there a ‘reserve squadron’ structure to cover that?

    If we wanted another new build Typhoon squadron or an extra FAA F35 squadron, would we only have to buy an extra 12 aircraft or would we have to factor additional attrition etc into that purchase, say buy 15/16 airframes?

    Thanks

  44. Bob

    APATS,

    That is a list of meetings a lib dem has attended or titles they have held. It in no way describes their policy influence. Now try again.

  45. Bob

    mickp,

    Generally there is a reserve squadron associated with each OCU as a continuation of the Cold War Shadow Squadron model.

  46. Think Defence

    Bob, we all know such evidence is not possible because it would require access to government and ministerial papers to prove or disprove the general position. I think we can assume though, that being a minister of the crown, sitting in cabinet meetings and horse trading in terms of policy decisions does infer influence is there.

  47. Bob

    TD,

    Actually it does not infer that. Titles and meeting attendance do not automatically mean influence. If there was a substantial Lib Dem policy influence on defence we would hear them crowing about one of their policies being implemented. Have I missed a major Lib Dem 2010 defence policy being implemented?

  48. Martin

    @ Bob – when did the UK ever not operate at a deficit? does it matter to anyone other than George Osbourne who is highly unlikley to be in number 11 in 2015. I can only think of a handful of years in the late 90,s early 2000′s under the Blair Brown years when we ran a fiscal surplus. The UK along with virtually every other country operates at a permanent deficit. what matters is if the deficit is above inflation and we are a pretty inflation prone economy.

    I think priority number one for the RAF is keeping the tranche 1 typhoons in SDSR 2015. This may not be as outlandish as its sounds given the delays in getting the AESA radar ( the only real issue for T1) and the number of upgrades the T1′s seem to be getting. I know some of them will be knackered but with a decent midlife refit I can’t see why it would not be possible to stand up 2 more squadrons with 2 in T1 for QRA a and 5 in T2/3 for Expeditionary warfare and the two F35B for carrier. This is hardly fantasy fleet stuff.

    I seem to remember a figure of having to find £2 billion more down the back of the MOD couch to keep the T1′s in service until the mid to late 2020s which is no inconceivable if the economy keeps growing.

    48 F35B’s gives us a decent capability for the carriers in the interim and as the aircraft is likely to be in production for decades there is plenty of time for us to eventually make good on our obligation to by an amount north of 100 which I can bet LM will hold us to if we want to keep our uber 15% work share. With the USMC desperate to get the thing I can’t see much scope anyway for getting too many production slots before 2025. especially if the like of Singapore, Japan and South Korea start to order b versions.

  49. Engineer Tom

    There is no way of knowing what influence the Lib Dems have on defence, though I believe they do influence it, because the whole point of the UK system is that the government provides a united front. Yes this doesn’t always happen, but you wouldn’t last long in the cabinet if you started openly opposing the Government decision in public. How many arguments and there following compromises happen behind closed doors, we will just have to wait the 30 years to find out the truth.

  50. HurstLlama

    Moving away from the politics, if the RAF is to have a combat force of half a dozen squadrons what possible reason can there be for all the brass? Group Commanders, Air Vice Marshals, Air Marshals, Air Chief Marshals, Marshal of the RAF. What nonsense. In WW2 terms the whole thing barely makes a couple of wings and that’s including all the helicopters and trainers. Just abolish the thing before it becomes terminally embarrassing.

    Helicopters can go to the army, fast jets to the navy and transports to Richard Branson. The RAF Regiment should become part of the cavalry, because it would upset Mr. Trousers of this Parish and because the two arms deserve each other.

  51. Bob

    ET,

    Not disagreeing with something does not mean you influence it. Cabinet collective responsibility means you have to publicly support something even if you rigorously oppose it. The fact is the Lib dems have not demonstrated any influence of defence aside from a minor delay to Trident.

  52. mike

    @HurstLlama

    Re senior staff, same can be said about the RN – a subject several authors here have tackled.

  53. Martin

    sorry Bob to infer the lib Dems had no political impact on defence decisions would infer that the other two party’s did have. There are no politics in UK defence because the majority of British politicians along with people don’t give a f**k about defence. other than playing a game of who can cut the budget faster I can’t think of a single political party in the UK ever standing on a defence issue in their manifesto other than labour in 1983 and that was a nuclear issue rather than pure defence issue.

    This differs from US politics where the republicans talk a good game but also don’t give a f**k and the only real defence issue revolves around how many jobs can be kept in their home state.

  54. Bob

    Martin,

    You forgot the big defence spending increases undertaken by the Thatcher government through the mid-late 80s.

  55. Think Defence

    The minor delay to Trident will have cost x Pounds, that x Pounds comes from a finite budget so something will have to have been deferred, deleted or delayed = Influence

    We all understand how cabinet works Bob but we all understand there is also ‘deals to be done’ in a coalition government. Deals, as above = Influence

    Reinvigorate Franco-British and wider European defence co-operation to ensure procurement costs are kept low
    We will not purchase tranche 3B of the Eurofighter
    Give a pay rise to the lower ranks
    We will reduce the number of civilian staff in the Ministry of Defence and reduce numbers of top brass officers

    Now admittedly, these are pretty high level but still followed through

    They also proposed others that did not happen but such is the nature of coalition government

    There is a spectrum of influence

    None and lots

    I suspect the Liberal Democrats sit somewhere in the middle of the left half, certainly not a huge influence but equally certainly, not none either

  56. Bob

    TD,

    None of those are examples of Lib Dem influence. Tranche 3b was already dead. Franco-British arrangement was pushed by the Conservatives, as was the lower ranks pay rise and cutting civilian staff and brass was a Liam Fox obsession.

    None of those are influence, just converging desires that would have happened anyway. Any influence the Lib Dems have on defence is minuscule. I suspect deliberately so in order to give them negotiating powers in other areas of government.

  57. HurstLlama

    @Mike

    True, but unless one wants to repeat the not altogether succesful Canadian experiment there has to be a line between the ground and the sea.

    The third service was introduced for particular circumstances and military concepts that no longer hold, not that they ever did but no one knew it at the time. Now that the RAF as a whole is planned to have rather fewer combat aeroplanes than Douglas Bader had under his command as a wing commander in 1940 , surely the time has come to put it to bed. 31st March 2018, a nice service in St. Clement Danes, and let us have done with a branch that has become an anachronism.

  58. Phil

    Bob says

    “The stated plan is 7 fast-jet squadrons, there is no other plan. Claiming that something might change in the future is just plain silly. ”

    but then says

    “What may happen after 2020 is pure speculation”

  59. Bob

    Phil,

    Surely even you can see the difference between stated plans and wishy washy hopes that something might be different in the future without any presentation of evidence?

    This habit of trying to deny stated reality by claiming that “but one day something might change” is very tiresome.

  60. Phil

    “Surely even you can see the difference between stated plans and wishy washy hopes that something might be different in the future without any presentation of evidence?”

    I see a future that is uncertain.

    I see a past where re-armament on a global scale has been accomplished in less than 5 years ie by 2019.

    Stated plans always give way to events dear boy, events.

    30 squadrons (not 33) down to 7 in 15 years, why couldn’t ever go the other way Bob?

    This habit of trying to deny stated reality by claiming that “but one day something might change” is very tiresome.

    You should realise how myopic that statement sounds! What happened between 1989-1991 Bob? Stasis? What happened in 1973? Time froze?

  61. Think Defence

    But cash increases have to take into account inflation, buying power and many other factors to demonstrate actual increases or at least the intent to better fund defence.

    % of GDP is a good indicator of this intent, and as the graphic shows, no party can lay claim to spending more national treasure on defence. There are slight changes here and there, post 82 is a good example, but in general, the trend line is down, no matter the colour of the party logo

  62. mike

    @ HurstLlama

    Do remember one tornado can deliver a blow that a whole squadrons worth of Lancaster’s could do.
    Also remember that the RAF is more about combat types but also support types and roles.Its not just the pointy and shiny jets…. like the Navy…and Army, its way more.

    Particular reasons and concepts that have evolved as equipment and thinking and usage has evolved. Trying to compare any of the services to WW2 or even their creation is…dumb…sorry but it is. Because a lot of what we have now and the kind of threats and challenges and needs did not exist then… for example ISTAR and transport (a core part of RAF responsibility) and also Submarines (which if the old navy had its way, would have reminded a backwater of naval tech…. the Germans made sure that changed…). I can’t believe I have to mention that… I thought it was blindingly obvious. But then some seem to think the number of frigates and submarines is also the sole part of the Navy,.. its way way more.

    Anyway, I was talking about Officers – the level of officers is a contentious subject the papers love to have a go on… and THE service that has more officers than actual combat equipment is the Navy.

    I was talking about the number of staff. Why more captains than ships…

    The Royal Navy has a – seemingly – ridiculous number of senior officer staff compared to their (compared to the RAF) even fewer combat units.
    There is of course a reason. Bigger and deeper reason than simply headline numbers…

  63. Bob

    TD,

    That’s wrong. % of GDP is only useful if you know what GDP is doing. For instance defence spending could theoretically grow as a percentage of GDP but still shrink overall if nominal GDP is falling.

    If you want to show real terms changes in defence spending you need to show defence spending at a constant value- that is currency normalised to its value in a single year.

    Phil,

    There is not uncertainty, there is a series of already announced target dates for aircraft retirements, squadron disbandments and squadron stand-ups. In fact things are very clear. The Cold War only ended once.

  64. Phil

    There is not uncertainty

    So you foresaw the Falklands? That changed force structure. You foresaw Gulf War? That changed force structure. You saw 9/11 coming? That changed force structure.

    There is nothing but uncertainty in the future.

    The Cold War only ended once.

    But I guess you cleared your diary for 9 Nov 1989 back in 1983?

    Your entire argument is predicated on a static view of the future and some pretty blatant political biases. APATs argument is based on the very verifiable fact that the future is uncertain and verifiable and historical fact that force structures flex to events.

  65. Think Defence

    Thanks Simon, so not much of a sustained increase ever then, two phases, cold war then post cold war

    I still think % of GDP is a good indicator because it frames ‘intent’

  66. Phil

    It’s odd TD.

    There appears to have been some real term increases in the defence budget.

    They seem to correlate with a couple of little scraps we have gotten into.

    One which changed the planned structure of the Navy. Another which changed the planned equipment and structure of the Army.

    But they couldn’t have happened because nothing untoward ever happens.

    And nothing ever changes as long as its a negative trend.

    The future is certain.

    I think I’ve solved where Bob resides.

    I believe he resides in the Shire.

    Cosy and comforting.

  67. Mark

    IMO the real intent on fastjet numbers is not just that fact the fastjet force is at 7 now it’s the number of bases. There at 3 bases now leuchars has been handed to the army and they’re is only a finite number of sqns that can be based at them. Marham and the f35 looks like it will bare an uncanny resemblance to conningsby and typhoon. If there’s any increase in size it will be either squeeze another f35 unit into marham if the ocu stays states side or another typhoon into Lossiemouth I really can’t see funds being spent turning one of the other bases (leeming being the only likely candidate) into a fastjet base considered they haven’t operated front line types for rather a long time.

  68. Not a Boffin

    Bob is correct in that the near-term force structure & equipment plan (5-10 year horizon) is pretty certain and covered by a number of announcements. The danger is (as Phil & APATS point out) believing that those structures and equipments are set in stone beyond that horizon, they’re not.

    Or at least, they shouldn’t be, but there is a tendency to “groupthink” within MoD & Defence circles that thse things are immutable facts, rather than tbudgets and planning assumptions with a temporal limit.

  69. HurstLlama

    @Mike

    “Do remember one tornado can deliver a blow that a whole squadrons worth of Lancaster’s could do.”

    I am not sure that is actually true but even if it is, given that the Tornadoes are soon to be withdrawn the point is moot. The fact remains that the RAF is due to sink to below below the point where it is viable as a third service and a few ISTAR aeroplanes don’t change that.

    As for the number of senior officers , I agree that the RN is ludicrously top heavy and so is the army where we have had Brigadiers doing jobs that once would have been the responsibilities of majors.

  70. Phil

    Or at least, they shouldn’t be, but there is a tendency to “groupthink” within MoD & Defence circles that thse things are immutable facts

    Groupthink is something more attributable to small groups. What goes on in the Mod is probably more akin to structural secrecy where discord and disagreement and complexity gets distilled at each level into something approaching consensus. You might still have different opinions at a high level but they will often be distillations of far more complex arguments. Add a good dose of personal agenda and a good dose of politics and it’s a wonder we have a single soldier with a shirt on his back.

    Bob is right, the plan is pretty certain (although I’d argue as above it is not as certain as all that) but the world in which it will unfold is anything but.

  71. Mark

    Hurstllama

    The RAF in Force 2020 is larger than the royal naval should it be merged with the coast guard then?

  72. dave haine

    S’funny people think all the RAF do is operate aircraft… There is also the Air Defence Ground Enviroment, air traffic services, both in the UK and deployed overseas, airfield operations, both in the UK and deployed overseas.

  73. Bob

    If anybody here knew what they were talking about they would have seen the actually reliable Defence Statistics Agency chart that shows a sustained real terms rise between 1978/9 and 1984/5- under Thatcher and obviously had very little to do with the Falklands. In fact that was a cumulative rise of approximately 30% and the budget has never again reached that level.

    But hey, fact’s aren’t important. Much more important is comforting ourselves that although the RAF badged fast jet force is now to officially sink to the size of a single US Tactical Air Wing something may change in the future….

  74. HurstLlama

    @Mark

    The RN became a coastal defence force (albeit with some submarines) in 2006 so that merger could be said to already have happened. The recent draw down of what was once HM Coastguard is just a recognition of reality. The 2015 defence cuts will likely make the position clearer.

  75. Phil

    something may change in the future….

    Unlikely to be your stinking attitude and patronising demeanour.

    Who do we need more than 7 squadrons of aircraft to fight against Bob? Without even going on about how useless a squadron is as a unit of measurement anyway.

  76. Bob

    Phil.

    Nice insult.

    Need? Well that depends on ambition.

    The squadron, especially now standardised at a UE of 12, is actually an excellent comparative measure of capability,

  77. Simon

    It is certainly interesting to see that real-term defence spending hasn’t moved much (we can quibble here and there but generally it goes down, we have a problem, it goes up, peace dividend, repeat).

    What I find concerning is the use of these financial terms to befuddle the population. Real-term spending means diddly squat. Defence has its own inflation rate that bears no relation to CPI or RPI. Just like the recently hyped 2.1% inflation rate bears absolutely no resemblance to those on the bread line or anyone that spends a lot of time in a car and buying the associated fuel.

    If I am a company that makes £100m a year and spends £5m on R&D and then I see some good times and my revenues go up to £200m but I still spend £5m on R&D… Well that is a recipe for a failure. Your investment in the future is amortised over ever greater and greater revenues until it represents practically nothing. A competitor that sticks to a 5% R&D budget will likely win in the long term.

    The other thing that makes by blood boil is the lack of understanding of the economies of scale that come from 100 expensive aircraft versus 200 cheaper ones. That, along with development costs being a huge percentage of the final bill make almost all defence procurement a recipe for disaster.

    The problem we have with (essentially) a constant (real-term) defence budget is that we become an ever smaller slice of the International cake which will drive costs upwards (due to lack of EoS) and control of requirements ever further out of our reach.

  78. Phil

    The squadron, especially now standardised at a UE of 12, is actually an excellent comparative measure of capability,

    It might be an excellent measure of comparability with other similar units (squadrons) but it tends to have a less reliable relationship with how many aircraft are available for doing what and when.

    Need? Well that depends on ambition.

    Please, go on.

  79. Bob

    Phil,

    Why would I continue? It’s not for me to state what UK defence ambition is, I would just say that it looks increasingly pathetic based on its rapidly shrinking force structure.

    Sure the Squadron is not the only metric to be considered but it works very well amongst near peers- ie most of NATO.

  80. Phil

    Why would I continue? It’s not for me to state what UK defence ambition is, I would just say that it looks increasingly pathetic based on its rapidly shrinking force structure.

    Right. So you like to take the piss out of a force structure but have no rational justification for an alternative one?

    Do you not think that undermines your credibility?

    Sure the Squadron is not the only metric to be considered but it works very well amongst near peers- ie most of NATO.

    Do NATO air-forces manage their fleets in the same manner as the RAF and deploy air assets in the same manner as the RAF? When was the last time the RAF took a peacetime squadron and dumped it wholesale and unaltered into a conflict?

  81. Bob

    Phil,

    You are getting overly emotional now. No piss taking here, simply pointing out the increasingly small size of the UK fast jet fleet. Sorry that upsets you.

    Actually most NATO air forces do operate their air assets in a similar way.

  82. Phil

    You are getting overly emotional now.

    I’m not an X-Factor judge.

    simply pointing out the increasingly small size of the UK fast jet fleet.

    Without any valid reason for believing such a fleet size to be considered a necessarily negative thing. When asked you’ve ducked and dived and not given an answer. Yet use words like “pathetic” and “sink” to describe it.

    There’s no substance to what you are saying. You’re simply making a statement and taking a position and then you refuse to back up with a particle of evidence. Your argument is wafer thin. You look foolish. I’m embarrassed for you. As I’ve said you should stick to tanks.

  83. wf

    @Phil: @Bob is making a reasonable point in that it takes 3-4 years to train a fast jet pilot, so will take an extended time to expand the force. Yes, there are UAV’s, but they have to be commanded by someone with relevant experience….

    There are plenty of gaps in our capabilities that will cost us dearly if there’s another big war. In WW2, we could rely on the Channel and our Empire to give us the time to re-learn what we had thought irrelevant. Not so much anymore.

  84. Phil

    @wf

    But he’s not making that argument. He’s actually argued that there is no uncertainty. That implies he sees no great change in events in the near future which makes me question the basis of his argument since why is it bad to have a small FJ force when there is no major regional threat we’d fight on our own or any existential threat?

    I completely agree about regeneration but let’s not forget that it took a long time to train up some trades and crew in WWII (18 months for specialist roles) but force structure still expanded massively. Having a core of high end capability massively reduces the time needed to regenerate it. It becomes a question of scale, not re-creating capabilities.

    I’d be willing to bet we could double or even treble the number of FJ pilots and planes before we could rebuild even a small effective MPA capability. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration but you know what I mean.

    So no, Bob isn’t making a reasonable point. He argues the force is poxy and that it will remain poxy because nothing will happen to mean a poxy force needs expanding – the plans are set in stone and there is no uncertainty. If nothing happens to show that a poxy force needs to expand then that poxy force will be as good then as it is now.

  85. wf

    @Phil: but a pilot took half the time to train in those days, plus we had thousands of aircraft already. Scale may not be everything, but we really are “lowest low” right now. The reason for this is not hard headed strategic estimations, it’s purely that Typhoon was chronically delayed by the combination of handing the Typhoon flight control system to Germans who had no idea of how to make it work, then those same Germans compounded the error by trying to stretch the project. Then the geniuses in the RAF command saw a way of screwing the FAA by disbanding some Harrier squadrons too. But for this, we would probably have 12 ish squadron sized units rather than 7.

    We have Puma and Merlin because we couldn’t manage to make the decision to just fucking replace one class of aircraft at a time. Ditto way too much stuff. We have the money, just keep spending it on political projects or fail to take big decisions.

    And our top brass are no better. When not trying to pretend failure is success in Basra, they grandly declare other operations will “never happen” or “cannot happen” due to yuman rites laws which only we take seriously. They fail to notice that the reason we have a Security Council seat and were taken seriously has nothing to do with whether Uncle Bull is considered nice, nothing to do with how much foreign aid we send to corrupt Third World governments, but purely on the basis we were perceived to be both willing and able to take military action in defence of our interests. Become the unserious nation we are becoming, everything will go: fast, really fast.

  86. Martin

    Its not reasonable to track military spending in real terms against economy wide inflation. Defence inflation like education inflation does not correspond well to general inflation. Its always significantly higher as the falling cost of LCD TV’s from China makes little difference compared to the rising energy costs and staff costs.

    when talking about government intent and record on spending its only prudent to look at % of GDP or % of government spending. Thatcher like the rest of the Tory’s talked a good game on defence at least after 1982 but did nothing.

    Let’s not forget the previous labour government was able to divert an argentine invasion of the FI in 1978 with the swift deployment if naval forces. Thatcher did not even know where the islands were after they had been invaded and her gutting of the Navy was the major reason it happened in the first place. yet some how she managed to come out of the entire affair smelling like roses.

  87. wf

    @martin: actually, the Thatcher government adhered to the NATO “3% in real terms per year increase” requirement from 79-85. Not too shabby.

    As you say, % of GDP or government spending is indeed the only proper way of measuring government interest in defence long term.

    I think you’ll find the Falklands *would* have happened before January 1983 whatever happened. The junta wanted it back before the 150th anniversary, and their planning went back to 1981 before Endurance and the carrier decision: it was a condition of Admiral Anaya for joining the junta in the first place. Thatcher got credit because she responded very well, took a lot of necessary decisions and succeeded. Not a perfect political performance, but can you imagine what Michael Foot might have done?

  88. Repulse

    Good points being made all round. 7 fast het squadrons does sound low, but as Phil says I cannot see the need for more at this stage. What I do not see a need for however is why the RAF needs the F35B. I’d argue that keeping the Tranche 1 airframes and considering a small order for Tranche 3B would give the space needed to allow UAVs mature to a point where a clearer future manned/unmanned mix can be determined – probably 10 years away.

    We need the F35B to fly off the carriers and 48 are probably enough – that’s it.

  89. Phil

    @Phil: but a pilot took half the time to train in those days, plus we had thousands of aircraft already. Scale may not be everything, but we really are “lowest low” right now.

    And if it was the Cold War or we were squaring up against China or Syria on our own I would agree with you, numbers are too low. But there is no regional threat we could conceivably face on our own requiring large numbers of aircraft. In 5 years certainly this could change, but we are also able to re-generate. We re-generated in the 30s, we re-generated in the late 40s and early 50s and there was a modest increase in RAF strength in the 80s.

    Pilot training could be considerably shortened if it needed to be with no ill effect on the outputs by simply getting rid of a lot of the Officer fluff stuff and flying more often. You could also re-call pilots to the colours as it were and put them through conversion courses. There’s ways and means to expand an existing capability very fast where there is the will and the money to do so.

    The US went from crewing 7 aircraft carriers in December 1941 to 24 bigger and better ones three years later even with carrier losses and the loss of gold-dust experienced crewmen.

    We just don’t need loads of very capable fighters right now. Maybe one day in the future, and very unfortunately in my view, we will. In which case we can build the things and train the pilots or if its dropping in the pot faster than that (perhaps Russia will have a Simpsons moments and tanks will start to come out of the ground on Parade Day) we can nuke the bastards.

    We should be pretty chilled – we’ve never been in such a position of peace. And yet we moan when we cut our cloth accordingly. I don’t want to live in a world where we need 30 FJ squadrons and 4 armoured divisions sat on the German Plain thanks very much.

  90. dave haine

    Time for me to wade into this increasingly acrimonious argument…..

    Frankly, sqn size as a metric on anything is bollox…..A sqn size within the RAF has never been about how many airframes.
    The RAF started WW2 with established strengths of 12 a/c per sqn for single and two seater aircraft, and 9 for large or multi-seat. If they were in remote locations or the only air command in an area they could be a sqn with only three or six, and different types too…The numbers of a/c of the sqn was determined by management function, i.e. The complexity of the task, or environment, and the number of personnel required to fufil a role. And always commanded by Sqn Ldr’s (Squadron Leaders).

    By the end of WW2, The RAF were regularly fielding sqns of 20+ bombers, commanded by Wng Co (Wing Commanders):- It was felt that having an experienced operational commander was more important, than having a overburdened management task, and of course, experienced operational commanders being at a premium.
    Fighter sqns remained at 12, but tended to be deployed as ‘wings’ anyway.

    Just after the war RAF sqn establishments were 9 aircraft and had silly numbers like 9/45. The idea being, that if nastyness did start the sqn would reproduce like bacteria and the core of two sqns would appear, bolstered with reserves and auxilaries whilst the training machine started revving-up, and industry started knitting new a/c.

    That idea was kicked into the long grass with the cold war, so the RAF were back to lots of sqns, and an establishment of 12ish.

    Even in the eighties, Harrier sqns could have upwards of 18 a/c, whilst Hercules sqns didn’t have any…

    Notice I keep referring to ‘establishments’, this because an RAF sqn will actually would have an established, or declared strength of, say, 12 a/c, but would actually ‘own’ 15. The extra three would be to cover maintenance schedules and modification programmes, and act as a reserve. In the cold war turning hot scenario, the sqn engineers, re-inforced by engineers from EFTS’s, trade schools, and trainees assuming their war-role, would bring all airframes to operational status, aircrew would be re-inforced by reservists and desk types assuming their war-role, and rapidly the whole force would expand by about 35% (And deplete just as rapidly as warpac, tried to give everyone a good shoeing), not forgetting OCU’s which would assume their war role. (Personally, I loved the idea about Chipmunks having a war role!)

    Now the RAF has sqns, but they don’t necessarily deploy a sqn- because it’s not just about the a/c, it’s about the capability and the task…This is why the RAF have now Expeditionary Air Wings- you could see 18 tiffys and 2 Alberts deployed along with an RAF regiment field sqn, an intelligence cell, an air movements sqn, Air traffic services sqn, maintenance and engineering sqn, head shed and a small black dog.

  91. Phil

    What was the war-role of the Chipmunks?! One must know!

    And totally agree with you. Same as the Army really – a battalion never deploys as such, a squadron never deploys as such. Even a RN warship doesn’t always deploy as such if you consider they don’t always carry their full war-loads.

  92. dave haine

    I would agree with Phil ref pilot training…we have history as an example.

    In 1934 the RAF was a 25 sqn force of stick and string biplanes, by 1939 it was a 52 sqn, and expanding, force of metal monoplanes.

    The RAF was structured from the start, by Lord Trenchard, to expand and contract to meet a need, hence the reason for it’s emphasis on training and skills management, and the structure of an air squadron to be a fully independent unit, capable of undertaking and maintaining operations wherever it’s put.

    Excellent paper that gives a good if somewhat brief explanation:
    http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/mediafiles/F21C6257_ABD1_7132_E8716B8C2DA98948.pdf

  93. Martin

    One thing to note is that with 48 F35 b pretty much confirmed should we not expect to get more than two squadrons of 12.

    f35 is expected to have very high availability and virtually all the training is being done in the USA relying heavily on simulators. with these considerations could we not expect to get 3 squadrons out of the 48 giving us 5 Typhoon and 3 F35 B.

    if we are going to spend £100 million on a single aircraft we can’t afford to use the old ratio’s and we defiantly can’t afford to have so many aircraft set aside for training. Maybe 48 is not enough for three squadrons but we could defiantly do it with less than 60 so it might be worth buying a few more to make up a third squadron. 48 over three squadrons would suggest 16 per squadron which sounds doable if we use USMC planes for training.

  94. Martin

    Put another way 48 sounds like too many for two squadrons if we can get five squadrons out of 107 Typhoons including trainers.

  95. dave haine

    They would have been painted an appropriate colour, probably with a roller, and used for general communications duties, airfield damage surveys and area recon and patrol. Similar use to the ones in Berlin, during the cold war.

    Aahh, De Havilland…:
    http://www.simplyplanes.co.uk/de_havilland_canada_dhc-one_chipmunk.shtml

    And just in case, you think they’ve gone:
    http://www.raf.mod.uk/bbmf/theaircraft/chipmunk.cfm

    Yep! Still in service, the andrew are still trying to crash a couple too.

  96. dave haine

    @ NaB: Ref yr 17/04:51

    I wonder how they would have selected the 3%? Could you imagine them asking a Royal Marine Commando to undertake Yogic Flying Training.

    Or maybe they would have intended it for the Parachute regiment?

    Mind you, as the andrew seem to be up in the air about lots of things…perhaps….?

  97. dave haine

    @ Martin

    I believe the ultimate plan was for 2 FAA sqns and at least 7 RAF sqns. However, I have read that the Typhoon out of service date has been pushed back. So I wonder if we will see 4 sqns in total, which would be about 70-80 airframes.

    All up in the air until SDR2015 though…

  98. wf

    @Phil: we could certainly compress the training pipeline. Moving training to the US or Australia to take advantage of the better weather, allow NCO aircrew again to increase the proportion of pilots who don’t need staff tours, use more simulation. Personally, I would like to see a shadow potential pilot pool of serving personnel who have been screened for the role; hell, this should be the default way of becoming a pilot, with the top 20% allowed into training every year. But producing combat ready pilots will still require a 2 year pipeline at least, and that’s a long time when you think of the time we might get.

    Be nice about the Chipmunks. I had a whale of a time looping those things, and many a happy afternoon over Yeovilton being towed into the air by them :-)

  99. Phil

    I don’t believe it is a long time compared to the length of time it would take for the threat to develop. Our potential enemies would be limited by the same time-frame as well. Plus if you really positively had to I imagine you could increase pilot numbers by a reasonable chunk in 6-12 months by shuffling people around, calling people back and also poaching from the RAAF!

    I’m pretty relaxed about FJ numbers because the ones we have are part of a modern command and control system and carry the best weaponry money can buy. That counts for an awful lot. Yes numbers definitely have a quality of their own but numbers are less important in wars that do not involve an existential threat. If we really felt like we had to kick say Syria’s behind we can wait to build up a force or wait and replace initial losses and try again. This is what made the Romans powerful – not their ability to always win first time but their ability to keep trying.

    The world has changed. I am sure it will change again but when it does we’ll change with it.

  100. Simon

    Martin,

    5 squadrons of 12 Typhoon + 12 (OCU + OEU + FI flight) = 72.

    72 x 1.5 = 108 Typhoon.

    2 squadrons of 12 F35B + 8 (OCU + OEU) = 32.

    32 x 1.5 = 48 F35B.

    A bit of artistic license :-)

  101. dave haine

    @ Phil
    Precisely…..although the romans were good at moving troops to where they were needed rather than maintain huge regular forces- and they used local forces as much as possible.
    … A handy british empire trick too….We had an empire with less soldiery than we have now, but were very good at raising local units: Bengal Lancers, Kings African Rifles to name but two.

    The aircrew and engineering training I don’t think is the issue- what will limit us is the capacity to produce aircraft quickly enough, I think you’d be looking at two years before we could mass produce airframes, in anything like the numbers required, in time.

  102. Martin

    @ Simon

    But F35 is suppose to have higher availability than typhoon and currently 17 typhoons are earmarked for training. So do we need the same ratio? Surely better just to hire USMC f35 b’s for training and use our handful of precious machines for front line squadrons. I’m sure we could form 3 squadrons with less than 60.

  103. Sir Humphrey

    The issue with the T1s is that they become increasingly unsustainable from an obsolesence perspective. There is a vast difference between T1/2/3, and the T1s are older and will have issues staying operational in the medium term without very large expenditure to keep them going. Do we spend this money on T1 or on new build F35?

    The issue with F35 is that the final numbers are not determined yet – the build delivery profile seems to assume that post 2020 more will be ordered, but its about understanding how many we need versus Typhoon capability, versus emerging UCAV possibilities. There may be an initial buy of 48, but the emphasis is on initial!

  104. Think Defence

    In the same manner as the continuing debate about high end v workhorses in the maritime domain, would you chaps settle for a fewer number of top class fast jets like Typhoon and F35 for a greater number of lower end aircraft, Cesna Combat Caravans or armed Shadow’s for example?

  105. Phil

    It does piss me off that we seem to have spent huge sums of money building a version of Typhoon that we seem to have got next to no use out of.

  106. Martin

    @ Phil – could be worse we could have the F22. Four times the price are far too precious to ever actually use in combat.

    @ sir h

    I’m not too sure about obsolescence of the T1. They will require a midlife upgrade but so does every plane and my understating is that everything bar the radar can be upgraded to the same as the later stages. since the AESA radar will not reach full operation capability until 2021 at the earliest and even with a mid life upgrade the T1′s will be leaving service in the late 2020s anyway I don’t see the AESA radar as an issue. also many countries will be operating T1′s for a while so plenty to share the ongoing sustainment costs of T1′s with. it’s not like the apache issue. also if they are only used for QRA no need for the AESA radar unless the Russians ever manage to develop that stealth bomber.

    If we want more combat squadrons in the RAF the only way I see to do it is to keep the T1′s.

  107. Bob

    Wow, that escalated quickly.

    Phil,

    Your rants are always entertaining but I do have one minor correction- my statements actually have quite a lot of substance in the form of stated UK MoD plans as opposed to wishy-washy dreams of what could happen if this or that occurred. Reality is probably the most sensible place to dwell.

    All,

    With regard to F-35, the current order is only for 22 in total (including test and evaluation aircraft), that is the initial order- not 48. 48 is the current planning number but will not be finalised until after 2015 (so is still subject to the upcoming spending review and SDSR). From a scheduling perspective we know the Typhoon Full operating capability will be achieved in 2018 and that the F-35B will have initial land based operational capability in 2019. Thus, what we know is that as of March 31st 2014 there will be 7 RAF FJ squadrons, by April 2015 this will be 5 Typhoon and 2 Tornado Squadrons and the latter to be replaced by F-35 squadrons in 2019.

    If you want to speculate then the 2020s are far more interesting once the Typhoon and F-35 procurement expenditure winds down.

  108. Sir Humphrey

    @Martin
    No disrespect, but I know a lot of extremely qualified people who are very familiar with the issue who may disagree with you!
    Also don’t forget that its not just about FE@R – we also need to consider the ability of the RAF Pipeline to deliver basing, maintenance, flying training capacity, technical training and so on. If you look at the outcomes of the SDSR, you quickly realise that even if we kept T1, we’d lack the ability to ramp up the rest to support it properly without vast expenditure. One of the outcomes of SDSR was a rapid rundown of capacity, meaning what is in the pipeline now has to suffice for many years to come.

  109. wf

    @Phil: the T1′s have their “issues” because the Euro wrangling over the Typhoon was that it should have an empty weight of 9.75 tonnes, thereby ensuring that fitting everything in became a struggle (and it’s now 11 tonnes). Lesson: don’t specify unnecessary physical parameters, specify only those directly related to operational requirements. Radius, ability to fit in a HAS, take off distance etc are all essential. Weight is not :-(

  110. Bob

    Sir Humphrey,

    Excellent post. It is not just about finding airframes- it is all the other costs that go with it. Take for instance the infamous 2011 sacking of trainee pilots, it was all about rescaling the RAF as a MUCH smaller force.

  111. Phil

    my statements actually have quite a lot of substance in the form of stated UK MoD plans as opposed to wishy-washy dreams of what could happen if this or that occurred.

    Morning Bob!

    I haven’t said that this or that can happen. Just that some form of this and that WILL happen.

    There seems to be some mental block in opinions on defence where what goes up must come down but can never, ever go back up again. But in actuality what has been shown is that structure and funding moves down and UP the axis.

    You’ve yet to reveal the reality behind your assertion that 7 squadrons is not enough. Anyone can gob off that something is “pathetic” but I’ll suggest you’d be taken a lot more seriously if you managed to have a rationale for your opinion that 7 squadrons is pathetic. Force structure is a product of context – an area you’re clearly afraid to tread.

  112. Bob

    Phil,

    I never said it was “not enough”, I mocked it for being pathetic- because it is- but never said it was “not enough”. As for context, well after the Syria debacle and Libya escapade it’s clear the UK still wants strut it’s stuff, for that it will need some stuff to actually strut and 7 squadrons is very little stuff.

  113. Phil

    or that it will need some stuff to actually strut and 7 squadrons is very little stuff

    Thank God we’ve not got 11 squadrons or you’d be taking off your shoes if your counting is anything like your ability to take a holistic view on what happens in the real world.

    Anyway, I thought you weren’t mocking and I was just being over-wrought?

    As a medic my impression in this instance is ?troll.

  114. a

    “I never said it was “not enough”, I mocked it for being pathetic- because it is- but never said it was “not enough”. ”

    Not that anyone expects a straight answer on this, but: do you think 7 squadrons is enough? If yes, why call it “pathetic”? If not, why don’t you think it’s enough?

  115. Bob

    Phil,

    I was looking for anything of value or substance in that last post of yours- perhaps a contribution to the discussion- but there was nothing, the usual insults you spew and that was it. A low ebb even for you.

  116. Martin

    @ sir h

    no doubt we will need additional funding to run the T1 airframes along with the rest but I simply can’t believe its beyond the capability of an RAF with 30,000 + personnel to run an extra two squadrons of typhoons.

  117. Bob

    a,

    Given the UK’s evident aspirations for global reach and regime toppling the answer is no. If the UK focussed on self-defence then yes.

  118. Martin

    @ sir h
    “No disrespect, but I know a lot of extremely qualified people who are very familiar with the issue who may disagree with you!”

    No disrespect sir h but I am sure if the highly qualified people new as much as they thought they did we would not be in as big a mess as we are and junking nearly new extremely expensive aircraft.

  119. Phil

    A low ebb even for you.

    When in Rome!

    Anyway, I’m done. You’ll get substance when you offer something approaching some intellectual fodder on why you think 7 squadrons is mock-worthy.

  120. Think Defence

    Lets play nice boys

    I will say though, for whatever reason, when the final one roles off the line, Typhoon does seem like a lot of money spent for not a lot delivered (yet)

  121. Keith Campbell

    One small point: the official MoD/RAF story states that II (AC) Sqdn will be the fifth operational Typhoon squadron. It did not say that it would be the last one. Significant? Maybe, maybe not. But interesting.

    To digress a little: I have heard that RAF fighter squadrons now have more aircraft assigned than they used to. According to a recently retired senior RAF officer, the MoD wants fewer but bigger fighter squadrons, to help reduce personnel costs (fewer Wing Commanders, Squadron Leaders, etc).
    As of April 2013 the RAF had 79 “forward available” Typhoons (MoD figures; excluding attrition spares). With 4 front line squadrons & 1 OCU, this comes out at a average of almost 16 each (although there are the 4 in the Falklands to remember). Is this actually the case?

  122. Think Defence

    Could we all agree that;

    1.
    As established, plans are likely to happen unless there are external (and perhaps unforeseen) factors that will change the basis on which they were made

    2.
    Apart from the odd blips here and there, neither party has in recent history, been particularly friendly or generous to the armed forces

    3.
    Capabilities should flex up AND down depending on risks, strategies, resources and overall national objectives

    4.
    Capabilities can be flexed up but some are easier and quicker to do so than others

    5.
    Anything is possible re T1 but at a cost which might not be palatable to an MoD that has to consider the resource requirements of a gazillion other things

    6.
    6 or 7 ‘squadrons’ of fast jets (whatever a squadron actually means in practice) is small but this may well be exactly what is required, sensible and achievable (argue amongst yourselves on the definitions)

  123. Phil

    It’s mock-worthy because it’s tiny, something I suspect you may be used to.

    Touche!

    plans are likely to happen unless there are external (and perhaps unforeseen) factors that will change the basis on which they were made

    It would be interesting to see how many plans (as per a definition) have gone through unchanged. None of the defence reviews have ever gone to plan as it were.

  124. Simon

    TD,

    I’d love to know exactly what is wrong with T1 for QRA and the FI flight?

    All (inc Bob),

    Is this order of 22 true? Can I have a link please? I can only find evidence of an order of 4 or 48 with my limited Google skills. 22 seems to be the Italian purchase plan or the recent USAF order.

  125. Bob

    Keith,

    Not significant at all; the MoD business plan only references five squadrons.

    TD,

    Re No.6- It is what is affordable, nothing else.

  126. Think Defence

    Simon, I don’t think I have seen anything official release wise for the 22, as you, I thought the only confirmed orders were for the 4 but could be wrong.

    Isn’t the oft repeated party line that SDSR 2015 will define the numbers of JCA, and hence F35?

    On the T1′s, I suspect it comes down to fleets within fleets and the costs of maintaining such across the whole spectrum of support activity

    Phil, that sounds like an interesting basis for a post, compare previous defence reviews with what was actually achieved, I suspect it would not make for pleasant reading!

  127. dave haine

    @ Keith Campbell

    Ref yr para. 1: I suspect the RAF would like more sqns but are playing a close hand, just in case.

    Ref yr para. 2: Like I said in another post (18/09:55 on this thread). RAF sqns have always had an establishment strength and an actual strength, and in this case 16 a/c a sqn sounds about right. especially as the sqn is becoming less a fighting unit and more an administrative unit.

    The RAF seems to deploy in whatever size it thinks appropriate for the tasking. Although I’ve noticed it seems to be in multiples of four now…so each sqn perhaps is now four flights of four aircraft and the reserves are held centrally.

  128. All Politicians are the Same

    Speaking in the US on 19 July 2012 Hammond said that we would initially buy 48 F35B to equip the Carriers with a final decision on total numbers to be mafe post the 2015 SDSR.
    I phoned a friend :)

  129. Phil

    Phil, that sounds like an interesting basis for a post, compare previous defence reviews with what was actually achieved, I suspect it would not make for pleasant reading!

    When I finish this stinking dissertation next month (or fail to finish, either way!) I’d like to get back into writing for here. The 1981 defence review is interesting as having read some Cabinet papers on it, it seems the objective was the opposite of what people often state it was.

  130. Bob

    48 is the planning number- only 8 aircraft have actually been ordered to date, Main Gate 4 (supposedly imminent) will reportedly order a further 14, Main Gate 5 is meant to order the balance sometime after 2015.

    The UK has not ordered 48 aircraft.

  131. All Politicians are the Same

    I spoke to Rear Admiral Harding earlier this year and he certainly expects to have at least 48 F35 B.

  132. HurstLlama

    “The UK has plans for 48 a/c.

    Therefore it will have 48 a/c.”

    Bold! Isn’t he bold? Experience suggests that such confidence is misplaced. The UK had plans for 12 T45s and got 6. When was the last time, outside a UOR, that the planned numbers of any ship, aircraft, tank were actually procured?

    The full war load on a single QE class carrier is expected to be what? Is it 24 aircraft? What ever the number is that will be what we end up with.

  133. Sir Humphrey

    @Martin
    Generating a Typhoon squadron is not as simple as saying ‘here are 16 extra pilots, go make them fly’.
    TO put a squadron into service takes many years of work to get the right number of trained personnel to do the job. Manpower levels are under constant and tight scrutiny, and much like the RN would struggle to suddenly man 4 new Type 23s overnight with suitably qualifed people, the RAF would be in the same boat.

    The training pipeline is sized to deliver an RAF of about 35000 people based on a small number of Typoon and Tornado/JSF squadrons. The spare capacity in the pipeline is absolutely minimal, and there are a lot of pinch points out there which mean that even if the desire existed, the ability to generate them is probably impossible without 5-10 years of work. I speak daily to a lot of RAF people on Typhoon and its not a ‘we can’t do mentality’ its an acceptance that if you cut the pipeline and training stream in one year, then you do not have the ability to create a whole new squadron two or three years later.

    Do not undersestimate how strategic the average Typhoon pilot and engineer is now – we are almost at the point where a PVR becomes a force wide issue. The future RAF is going to be small, manning a small force and is not going to magically grow just because the Internets think it can.

  134. dave haine

    @ Bob

    Errr….no….

    Plans are just that, a plan, something that has been planned….a plan….a figured out intention.

    Reality is the thing, that suddenly comes up and bites you on the arse, when something happens that you hadn’t planned for….

  135. dave haine

    @ TD

    Thanks, TD, I just composed a witty little riposte to Bob…

    Now it looks like i’ve been at the oven cleaner again…

  136. Bob

    dh,

    For it to have been witty it would have had to have been correct- which it is not.

    The plans exist in reality- therefore they are reality. You are confusing reality with the probability of the plans reaching fruition. Not the same thing.

    I am glad to have had the opportunity to educate you though.

  137. Mark

    Wouldn’t get to worked up about the tranche 1 well have to wait and see but they may have found a home.

    No matter if 7 sqn are enough or not with that number the amount that’s been done and commitments sustained since the end of the Cold War will not be possible with that number of sqns.

  138. Challenger

    I think it would be helpful for people to advocate just how many front-line squadrons they think RAF/FAA/UK need.

    With 2 squadrons on QRA 3 swing-role Typhoon squadrons is clearly the minimum needed to have 1 at high-readiness to provide force elements to an expeditionary air-wing, but if we ever wanted to keep a longstanding deployment going again in the way we have with the Tornado on Herrick (and more to the point deploy small but substantial forces to more than one place at a time, 5 Tornado squadrons had 8 air-frames on Herrick and 12-16 on Ellamy, would 3 squadrons be able to do the same?) then I’d argue 5 swing-role squadrons are needed making a total of 7. If 29 OCU squadron could act as a shadow squadron to provide the necessary 5th rotational force when needed then I’d accept 4 permanent swing-role ones to make a total force of 6 and 1 OCU backing them up.

    With the F35B I think it’s a similar case of needing 3 squadrons to keep 1 available for deployment, I can’t see how just 2 makes it an effective force, bearing in mind that further growth of the force and it’s associated timeline are currently far from certain. Maybe a 4th could be contemplated to provide 1 on carrier ops for a few months a year alongside the primary one at high-readiness if/when the money is ever there.

    So I’m basically saying that in my view 8 squadrons is the minimum ‘frugal’ ‘diet’ force the UK needs to full-fill it’s 2020 Force plans (e.g doing QRA, being able to commit to a medium sized deployment or a couple of smaller enduring ones, getting a squadron on a carrier and having a sensible amount of flexibility and give in the system for unexpected challenges as well as routine maintenance and upgrades).

    However whilst 8 is the diet version we can just about get away with I really think around 200 air-frames and 9-10 squadrons (6-7 Typhoon and 3-4 F5B) is a level we would be foolish to drop below.

    How would I do this….simple!

    Keep the T1 Typhoon’s around as long as possible without spending a prohibitive amount of cash on upgrading them. If it’s still only until 2019 then so be it, but 2022 or 2025 would be a great boost to capability as the Tornado winds down and the F35B ramps up.

    Drip buy enough extra T3 Typhoon’s over a few years ( to keep the costs spread out and more under the radar and thus seemingly easier to bear) to replace the T1′s in time and keep a force of 130-140 air-frames in 6-7 squadrons going.

    Place a big enough order of F35B for 3 units. As Martin pointed out, with them costing 100m+ a pop and a lot of the training being on simulators it makes sense that we should use as many of them as possible in front-line roles and be able to reduce the active/reserve ratio a little. I’m guessing we would need a minimum of 48 for 3 squadrons, but 60 sounds more appropriate.

    So my conclusion is that actually with only 23-33 extra Typhoon’s and a dozen more F35B. purchased over multiple years rather than all at once, we could have the sort of force we need.

    Would it ever happen? With SDSR 2015 looming I doubt it. It’s not as if we should expect our politicians to invest in the armed forces and allow them to implement sensible, logical ideas is it!

    Let me know what you think….

  139. Mark

    Apas

    Facite plus apud minus.

    When you consider well need at least 2 sqn for qra and afghan required 5 sqn so as not to completely break the force as per harrier we are were we are.

    TD yes I would buy more Beechcraft and arm them with brimstone but the money to do it would need to come from somewhere as the fastjet fleet really can’t get any smaller.

  140. dave haine

    @ Bob
    To be honest, I wouldn’t say that you had educated me…I find you a risible figure, at the best of times, anyway.

    @ Challenger
    Apart from using the OCU as an additional sqn at need, your plan has much to commend it… I wouldn’t use the OCU, mainly because it is also a ‘standards’ sqn as well, which means it should be developing and disseminating best practice. But otherwise, i think I said much the same in another post

  141. John Hartley

    Its amazing how if Whitehall does not want to do something, then a purchase from a poundshop is deemed vast expenditure, yet if its their pet project they are happy to blow billions of taxpayers cash.
    I think for the Typhoon to get those jammy export orders, we do need to fund the uprated engines, conformal tanks & extra weapons. Doubtless this will be deemed vast expenditure, but giving aid to China & India (that was supposed to be stopped) is somehow prudent. We are governed by (smug) idiots.

  142. wf

    @Challenger: great as far as it goes, although given the increase in air traffic a total of 4 QRA pairs might be sensible. Given a 3:1 ratio on 365 * 7 availability, I can see 2 * 16 aircraft squadrons required for QRA. The FI really needs 8 rather than 4, so we’re at 40. Assuming 16 aircraft squadrons, we get another 48 required to keep one “up front” for the RAF expeditionary role (which is bloody thin given that we have to resource both ground attack and AD), and another 8-12 to cover OCU…lovely, we have 100 requirement, so another 43 T3 airframes required. Sounds like Tranche 3B all over again, which would be the low risk option compared to the F35 :-)

    2 carriers, so 2 * 16 aircraft F35B squadrons, plus a OCU, say 40 in total. Can’t see the point of giving the RAF these, so let the FAA have them, about 60 aircraft required. RAF get F35A later if that’s what we want at the time.

  143. Mark

    As an aside well done to Saab gripen for being selected as brazils next gen fighter according to reports.

  144. dave haine

    Yes ok

    Plans are plans
    whilst they may be published, they are not reality, they are only stated intention.

    Reality is reality…and reality is what actually happens.

    Incidentally, it wasn’t an insult- if you read my comment you see that it said I find you risible. This is a fact, I find you risible.

    ….and facts are reality….

    ….unless I only planned to say, it in which case you wouldn’t know, because it wouldn’t be real.

    End…of…discussion…

  145. Bob

    TD,

    Yes, radar- Vixen derivative if they go NG. Selex UK, formerly Ferranti in Edinburgh.

    Mark,

    Seconded, Gripen is the right plane for Brazil and it’s great news for SAAB and UK.

    dh,

    Idiotic response from you there. The plans are reality as they exist and are being acted upon.

  146. Mark

    TD

    Radar as bob says, helmet mounted display is almost identical to typhoons and I think we still do the landing gear.

  147. dave haine

    @ Bob

    Not really, bob, just demonstrating that your argument is facile….

    When we’ve actually ordered 48 F35, then you can say they’ve been acted upon…but as you have kept banging on at people the UK hasn’t actually ordered anymore than 4…

    so have the plans been acted on? No….are they then reality?….no

    They are just a stated intention….a plan, nothing more…

    And that is really my final word- I am really not interested in a petty, pissing contest.

  148. Mark

    TD

    Yes we the uk do more than most on lots of people’s aircraft most not that widely known! Did a quick google cobham also involved with gripen.

  149. Red Trousers

    Are you lot still yakking on about F-35s? Gordon Bennett, …… ;)

    Taking one of DH’s more recent posts, about tending to deploy aircraft in 4s, can anyone explain something that to me appears to be a mismatch. A Squadron is commanded by a Wing Commander, not a Squadron Leader. A Flight is commanded by a Squadron Leader, not a Flight Lieutenant. Not having a dig at the Kevin’s as I know the Army do equally odd things, and The Lord knows what the BATCO soup means that the Andrew use to describe the enlisted ranks actually means. So, is the a logical reason?

    Will have to wait until Christmas when I’m back on a proper keyboard for the next point (it needs more text than I have patience for on an iPhone). TD mentioned miles up thread that the RFC had 20,000 aircraft. I can’t believe it did, but research is in order. The interesting comparison for me would be the comparisons between 1917, 1944, 1989, 2013, and 2020, all in terms of total airframes / RAF manpower and against total services manpower (also including RN and Army airframes including UAVs) , in order to draw some level of comparison in terms of relative importance of air power for the UK over a century.

    Very interesting to try to parlay those raw numbers into some form of “capability” comparison, but I suspect the parameters would be too ill-defined and be argued about…. ;)

  150. Bob

    TD,

    Correct, even better Dassault has not won.

    dh,

    The plan is real, it is being implemented (see 2011 pilot cuts and MoD business plan)- it is reality. The plan is reality and it is really happening.

  151. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @RT – You realise you have just proposed a discussion with “Parameters (that) would be too ill-defined and would be argued about…” with M&S out there in the ether, and @Bob and @Dave Haine reprising the War of 1812?

    Too much turnip vodka, old boy…the site “willnaee stand” the likely outcome!

    GNB

  152. Jackstaff

    @Challenger,

    Thank you, kindly, for asking the right question in the midst of the slanging match. (Sidebar: thanks also to the folks who have mentioned the Gripen’s success, and its relationship to British industry. If order levels on Dave-A/B/C start to implode that’s very helpful. Also nice to think that “plan B” — the rancid ambiguity that is STOBAR — might be achieved, in the extremis that it is, with a part-British airframe rather than just Raf-M. Raf-M’s awfully nice though, as someone in the other thread said — and as Jed and I both maintained during past tenures on our barstools here, it’s the a/c the RN should’ve got. If anyone gave a tinker’s about aircraft that would be useful to the RN, rather than major aerospace shareholders, gussying up the Cousins, and the RAF in that order.)

    I suspect that the ultimate figure is indeed 6 Typhoon squadrons. If we talk about “purely” operational aircraft (the max. a sqdn could put up in the air at one time if called on to actually do a bigger mission than COIN-sized detachments) then 6 x 12, with at least two of those sqdns the Tranche 3-alphabet soup capable of swinging to ground attack (conformals, missile integration, other gubbins, etc.) , sounds about right. So then:

    6 x 12 truly usable in squadron plus 1435 Flight (1 x 4) gets you 76.

    Add 2×10 OEU/OCU as per current norms (I think? Totally open to education by our resident Kevins.)

    That has you up to 96, and 130 total would give 34 spares — RAF would probably prefer 140 for 44 “pure” spares. (Of course we could write an entire article on backfleets, and how the RAF’s “generous” backfleet evolved both from cultural and institutional norms inside the service — to take some competent other airforces, the USAF, Armee de L’Air, Luftwaffe, and IAF would all giggle quietly in private about keeping so many aircraft on spare — and the “country house” mentality of UK defence spending, that you buy the shiny status symbol but don’t pay for upkeep like parts spares.)

    On the carrier front, as a Dark Blue FC partisan I’ve thought a long time about a suitable airgroup per carrier and what it keeps coming back to is:
    16 x FJ (whether F35B or other)
    12 x CHF Merlin*
    4 x CHF Wildcat* (*= neither of these are not purple and sexy like Apache and Chinook, but they’ll be marinised and have longer legs to start operating from further offshore)
    4 x HM1 Merlin ASW
    3 x AEW (of whatever flavour)
    1 x ship’s flight (Wildcat?)
    At a normal “surge” you can add a fast jet flight (gets you to 20) and a dedicated SAR heli, which is an “overload” the ship can more than handle. And it will handle the great majority of missions. So that’s 2 x 16 (one for each hull, or tour at sea, however you want to count it. Has the potential for 32 aboard one carrier with the other as an LPH, so that’s nice.) Since the RN could stand up one such sqdn now based on their qualified FJ pilot numbers, and plan to do OEU/OCU jointly (whether with USMC on Dave-B or in extremis — a real project death spiral in the midst of the US budget crisis, where USMC numbers drop, other orders don’t come, and cost-per-frame becomes prohibitive for HMG — with the French on Raf-M STOBAR), you could get by with around 45.

    Beyond that? Depends on whether the light blue are wedded to Son of Tonka (not their best option) or something that suits an independent air arm better — a transcontinental, unsexy, missile-and-sometimes-bomb truck. (To put it in terms of distance and capacity, something that can load up a bunch of Storm Shadow or a longer-legged successor, fly from home and hit Basra, and come back refueling just once each way.) In other words, Son of FOAS rather than Son of Tonka. Two squadrons of that (plus the stuff on the carrier/s and the two forward-deployable squadrons of Tranche 3 Tiffs) is something one could be getting on with.

  153. Red Trousers

    TD, the 20,000 figure remainining to be researched, but as a matter of principle, I believe the modern Kevin’s would’nt have stood a chance. For a start the RFC pilots were in the Army, and mostly moneyed young men who were quite at home in The smarter eating establishments and social circles of the time, whereas the Kevins struggle to gain entry to the congestion charging zone, and probably had their education paid for by the taxpayer…. ;). ( better have a double ;) ;) there).

  154. Think Defence

    Does anyone think the launch a bundle of Stormshadow off the back of an A400 or C17 idea was mental?

    I must admit, looking at the recent and most likely future launch profiles for Stormshadow I am beginning to think it is not actually such a bad idea and the FOAS dreamers were on to something!!!

  155. Red Trousers

    GNB,

    Worse than that, I have rather cheekily just posted a response to TD’s question just above that is more than slightly cheeky to the Kevin’s. Currently it is with TD’s spam monster who will be looking at it and wondering whether to let the social hand grenade into the public domain, or to manfully dive onto it and save the site from being carpet-bombed by indignation.

  156. Simon

    Challenger,

    The British Isles needs 2 QRA pairs to be maintains airborne if necessary 24-7. This requires around 36-40 aircraft.

    Our expeditionary requirements to support a brigade on roulement would amount to another 3-5 squadrons depending on the way we actually deploy Army 2020. So that’s 54-90 more jet.

    So a ballpark of 90-130 Typhoon.

    We’re likely to have 107/8 T3 Typhoon so given that the dedicated air defence squadrons mentioned above could actually be used to cover the surged Army 2020 brigades, I’d suggest that this is just about enough, possibly a little light, but not by much.

    As for F35B, we need at least 18 available on deck in surge conditions meaning a purchase of at least 30. However, due to the way we might cycle the carriers I’d say it will have to be 2 x 18 = 36. This is the minimum needed for air defence.

    Adding a further 6 to the on-carrier airgroup would provide a small dedicated strike contingent which means a total of 48 jets required.

    I’d add these to the 108 Typhoon for a total of 156 jets. Call it 160 for sake of argument.

    I’d then allow all but the dedicated QRA Typhoon to be replaced on a one-for-one basis with F35. This means that at some point we will need to source the next generation interceptor/fighter when our Typhoon numbers are getting to the 40 aircraft mark.

    Good question ;-)

  157. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @RT – It’s arrived…if you can hear an irritating whine overhead, it’s a reaper drone inbound from Lincolnshire….

    A concerned Gloomy

  158. Ant

    Mark @5.43 pm
    Re: Wouldn’t get to worked up about the tranche 1 well have to wait and see but they may have found a home.

    Tantalising. Can you say more?

  159. mickp

    @Simon – I agree 107/8 Typhoon is light, but it is workable and in these days of tough choices I’d rather have the high end MPA (P8) capability restored than 20/30 extra Tranche 3s.

    If we are operating both carriers rotationally then structurally at least, I feel we need two FAA F35 squadrons to provide the basics 12 aircraft deployment for each ship. One RAF squadron (as I write this I just see tokenism and wonder why all F35s aren’t FAA but never mind) of 12 would provide additional strike capability for the active carrier, either in a 6 plane flight or a 12 plane squadron. I think we can do that with 48 airframes if we accept the airframes rotate between active squadrons. If each squadron has dedicated aircraft, then the ultimate buy should be perhaps 60 at most. So 160-170 fast jets. I think that is enough, just, notwithstanding the huge wasted investment in the Typhoon programme for the small numbers obtained. Basically, the threat requirement has evaporated, at least for the medium term.

    On your question of what replaces Typhoon on QRA / home defence, I’d like to think it would be something more appropriate than an F35A, but that decision is a number of years away.

  160. Brian Black

    On the F35b numbers, the 48 figure apparently includes the four test aircraft. There will be eight left in the US with the multinational training establishment and OEU, and the internet suggests an OCU in the UK with another six. Two squadrons with twelve Lightning leaves a maintenance pool of six aircraft to keep those two squadrons at strength (near as damn it the same ratio as that quoted for the Italian navy) and no spares.

    Certainly wouldn’t be routinely using both aircraft carriers (as aircraft carriers) with those numbers, or standing up a third frontline squadron as I think someone suggested.

  161. martin

    @ Sir H – I take your point about training pipeline etc and I fully realise that adding extra squadrons can’t be done at the drop of a hat. However with so few left everyone is like gold dust and if the history of defence spending tells us anything its that the inevitable death spiral in defence procurement will continue and the next round of renewal may see us dropping down to less than 3 squadrons.

    Other armed forces around the world excluding us and the USA seem to be able to hold onto fleets of aircraft without worrying so much about the “obsolescence” issues that seem to plague us with nearly new Apaches and Typhoons off to the scrap yard while others fly them for decades after us.

    Perhaps the RAF needs to look at lower readiness levels and accepting some of the compromises the French have or using reserve units for sovereign air patrol in the way the USA do. The force is simply too small to behave in the way it has in the past and junking billions of pounds worth of aircraft because they are not quite as shiny as the latest toys or cost a bit more to keep in service is no longer an option.

    I have never seen anything outlined in historic Typhoon plans to scrap the Tranche 1 aircraft (before the AESA radar issue arose) so early so I wonder where the experts went wrong on this one.

  162. Tom Post author

    RT – Re ranks – The history of RAF ranks is interesting and dull in equal measures. Essentially It was agreed that the RAF should use a mix of Navy and Army ranks. The Army (as the Junior service) provided the OR ranks, the RNAS providing the Officer ranks.

    The growth in the size of squadrons (in manpower terms more so than aircraft numbers) lead to the weirdness of Squadrons being led by Wing Commanders.

    Wiki gives more details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_officer_ranks#Rank_titles

  163. Waylander

    There is speculation that the UK will order just 24 F-35Bs for it’s second tranche, giving a total of 72, which is more or less the number of Harriers
    GR7s/9s flogged to the US. The balance of the UK JSF buy would then be A’s, or even C’s to replace the Tranche 1 Typhoons. Apparently they may go with C’s because of a refuelling compatibility issue with the A variant? But it would be damned embarrassing if the UK buys a carrier capable aircraft for the RAF, that is completely useless to the RN.

  164. Brian Black

    Hi, Waylander. It’s a bit early to put numbers to an F35 tranche two. On refueling, this is LM’s take on the matter (quote taken from dodbuzz.com from an interview about 18 months ago).

    “We anticipated a number of the operators would want probe-and-drogue refueling in the F-35A and we kept that space empty on the F-35A to accommodate probe and drogue refueling. We‘ve done a number of studies – funded studies, not projects – funded studies to evaluate that, paid for by the countries who want that to happen. It’s a relatively easy … doable change.”

    A UK package of F35b & c would introduce unnecessary dissimilarity.

  165. Repulse

    Going back to the Typhoon what are people’s thoughts on it having a anti-ship strike capability? We are an island you know ;) Spain’s Tiffys have Harpoon capability (not saying that the RAF needs to use that syatem however).

  166. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Repulse

    Would love to see JSM integrated in the future but not sure how much it would cost. There would also have to be some specialist anti ship training. So maybe not an RAF wide capability. Be handy down South :)

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