Open Thread 20

The open threads are not going to be based on Week Numbers but on number of comments.

This thread is about SDSR speculation.

Will the Army actually get reduced, promises notwithstanding?

Will Successor actually navigate Main Gate with 4 boats, promises notwithstanding?

Type 26, 13, 12, 8 or some other random number?

How about the RAF, will they get the P8 or some other combination?

Gurkhas, Army Reserve, Amphibious Capabilities, RAF ISTAR and mine countermeasures all have question marks against them.

About The Author

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

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May 10, 2015 12:19 pm

I gave up try to figure out British Navy Ship Typing. But as far as P-8A Poseidon, earliest delivery day might be (BIG “IF”) September 2015…

May 10, 2015 1:51 pm

First ‘official’ pre-SDSR rumour:

Don’t read the Sun so I don’t know what it says, although I can guess.
The bigger question for me as cynic/realist (delete as applicable), is what goes to find that £2 billion?

May 10, 2015 2:07 pm

@ ChesherCat.

If you Parliament is as Screwed-Up as our American Congress, Then “Robbing Peter, to Pay Paul” out of the Defense Budget…

May 10, 2015 2:15 pm

P-8 numbers will be small in exchange for more Merlin Mk2s.

Tony Williams
May 10, 2015 3:35 pm

There is of course the small problem that in the frantic pre-election bidding, Cameron committed himself to loads of unfunded extra expenditure. Presumably he believed that he could just abandon these promises in any coalition negotiations, but now he’s lumbered with them…

May 10, 2015 4:53 pm

The thing is, now CMD has only one set of masters- I think the other departments may well start circling over the welfare budget- easing the pressure off defence…

May 10, 2015 5:41 pm

How does it work that a little carrier bird , the F35B , cost as much as the huge MPA ,P8A, with its trans Oceanic range , 8 hours + flight time, ability to be kept flight ready and refueled by its own crew from ANY 737 capable airport globally, control its own drones , etc. Just asking.

May 10, 2015 6:17 pm

Or put it another how does a low observable supersonic vertical take-off aircraft cost the same as a converted airliner. 2b pounds may get you 12 large paperweights certainly won’t get you 12 operation mpas.

May 10, 2015 6:52 pm

The increased cost of the F35 will be something to do with slightly more demanding operational environments.

May 10, 2015 7:12 pm

Interesting point, is that speculation or based in fact/rumour?
To be honest, 12 is at the higher of my expectations, particularly as Nimrod had got down to 9 by it’s demise.
Clearly much less than 9 and you’re into the realms of self licking lollipops!
Regenerating the 8 stored HM 1’s is a no brainer, you only need to look at Ebola and the Med to see that the grey Merlins are in high demand.

May 10, 2015 7:14 pm

@Mark and Mr Fred
I know just stirring the soup to see what floats :-)
I think monies for the MPA/DRONE has been costed in for some time , hopefully as an UOR type re Putins activities rather than from the core budget. I personally think DC will push for the 2% he asked others to meet in soon to be iWales while he can . George Osborne has reiterated his desire for the tax base to be no more than 35% of GDP so all this 0.7%, 2% etc start to get a little tight etc rather than real numbers. On the 0.7% we really really should get a more ‘ flexible’ return on that in terms of long term resources. The EU accountants won’t let us offset 6 containers full of dried tapioca sitting on an £1bn Air defence destroyers deck anymore so we need to get inventive and buy some brown envelopes and an card for an ATM in Brussels to fill them (Swiss bank accounts being out of favour ATM , get it :-)

May 10, 2015 7:15 pm

P-8A Increment 2’s are being purchased by the USN for $150m.

F-35B’s in LRIP 8 were purchased by the Project Office for (under) $130m.

Both in FY14 money. Both flyaway costs. Use your own conversion rates for forex. Add in your own program, training and operation costs.

May 10, 2015 7:48 pm

I think our present ongoing costs on the F35B are going very well. The embedded RN/RAF staff are doing great learning from the ground up as it were with their USMC compatriots. As I said I was getting the big wooden spoon out to stir debate over relative costs. We are onto a massive massive winner with the F35B , both financially and technologically. It will give us a missing LO option and all the things to learn both maintenance and operationally and a financial boost to a very high tech sector our own , be it unmanned, LO programme can use. The huge aspect we can learn from is the sensor/sharing info step change with the F35 series I read about a generation ago on the now Typhoon and the F22 which only now seems to bear fruit. We are not the only ones in the game but we are keeping pace at least.

Red Trousers
May 10, 2015 8:17 pm

Can we equip the F35B with dipping sonar? They might have some limited utility in that case.

May 10, 2015 8:27 pm
May 10, 2015 8:40 pm

@ monkey

Up to 10,000-pounds with internal ordnance and 14,000-pounds with external ordnance. Cannon Pod carried internally…

May 10, 2015 8:45 pm

I propose a Swap, You (the UK) need Fighters and We (the USA) need Frigates…

May 10, 2015 8:49 pm

@ Red Trousers.

Only if that Dipping Sonar is capable of withstanding a 350-knots towing through the water…

May 10, 2015 8:56 pm

Secundius – OK; scrap the range-and-bearing dipper, make it side-scan…

May 10, 2015 9:32 pm

Very astute observations. Based on the Crosby Textor pattern, expect to find out some promises are ‘aspirational’ or ‘non core’

May 10, 2015 9:36 pm

I think you will find they are mostly in pieces- as a low cost spares source.

May 10, 2015 9:56 pm

@ Chris.

According to Thales, for Side-Scanning Sonar to work effectively. it has to submerge to a depth of ~200-meters…

May 11, 2015 5:59 am

Pure speculation, but as the new initial number of F35Bs stated to operate from the CVF in 2020 is 9, does this mean a shift from 12 a/c sqds to smaller ones? If so, will our 48 a/c order result in 2 FAA and 2 RAF sqds plus a OCU / training sqd.

Not a Boffin
May 11, 2015 6:55 am

You’re right. It’s pure speculation.

Can’t remember when the last FAA squadron to have 12 cabs was. Probably 899 in the 90s. AE for 800/801 was eight or nine, similar when JFH stood up and eight was the number on Herrick for each JFH sqn IIRC.

May 11, 2015 9:41 am

@NaB: since you have stated before that to maintain a pair on CAP, 8 cabs are required, it seems to me that 8 is a better squadron size than 12 anyway.

May 11, 2015 9:49 am

Sqns don’t have to send all their a/c away with them when going on the boats (or anywhere else) when they deploy. We don’t know the final number but 48 won’t end up in what is 6 sqns (you forgot about the OEU). It would seem to be stupid unless there’s a drive to increase the amount of posts for middle ranking officers…

I wouldn’t worry too much about the exact construct of the sqns. 2 or 3 would be a better number although that depends on a number of factors.

Not a Boffin
May 11, 2015 10:28 am

If only maintaining 2 cabs on CAP was all a squadron had to worry about…….

Topman has it right. We don’t know the final number. Everything else is generally speculation….

May 11, 2015 10:37 am

Well, if we’re allowed to speculate. 48 gives us 16 in sustainment, an OEU of 8 cabs and two squadrons of 12.

How we build up to that is anyone’s guess.

May 11, 2015 10:48 am

Worth noting that even the “base-line” number of twelve F-35B’s being discussed for a CVF is triple the number of Harriers that we were deploying on Illustrious leading up to the fleet retirement.

The Other Nick
May 11, 2015 10:59 am

The Israelis signed a second contact for the F-35i (first buy 19 a/c) in February 2015 for an additional 14 at a cost of $2.82 billion. Stated as $110 million each, so necessary training, maintenance, simulators cost $1,280 million, so to be operational talking of approx. $200 per a/c. Note that US offered Israelis a special price for the the F-35’s.

Assuming F-35B price is as you state $130, you are looking at total cost for first UK squadron of 14 a/c plus necessary additions at total contract value of approx. $3.3 billion, $236 million per a/c / £157 million.
Lots of unknowns but these are ballpark figures as though maintenance is mentioned in Israeli contract no spares mentioned.

May 11, 2015 11:48 am


Presumably some of the expensive electronics will be removed from the I model and replaced with Israeli kit, which would be costed separately (integration/assembly costs for Israeli sourced equipment might also be a separate charge) ?

May 11, 2015 12:00 pm

@Repulse, I think we could squeeze 3 active squadrons out of the 48 plus OEU / OCU with say 9 per squadron. Its all a bit notional but I have no issue with a 9 cab ‘flight’ being the routine load on CVF. Was worried we might go as low as 6 but if 9 gives a margin over the minimum for decent CAP then that will be good. Might need to buy a few more to give 4 active squadrons – the max I feel we should have. Five Typhoon squadrons (assume 12 or 14 active airframes), plus an FI flight plus 4 F35 (9) squadrons is probably just about enough, and allows room to develop UAVS / drones for future CAS and long range strike. I think other assets are equally important and give us the broad capability. ISTAR / AEW / MPA / Airlift / Tanker etc should be given equal weight in the sustaining of our air capability. I have visions of some near future desert conflict where european nations send half a dozen FJ each and we send a few C!7s / A400’s and offload the drones

May 11, 2015 12:50 pm

Taranis, or an iteration, has some time left to run – the £200m FCAS deal signed last November funds both UK and French (presumably nEUROn iteration) UCAV before a decision on how to proceed at the end of next year (2016).

Really do agree with the chaps at ID who want the UCLASS to target contested strike above an ISR platform. The Taranis planform suggests that’s the route we’re taking. Hope we tackle it aggressively.

May 11, 2015 1:31 pm

@ wf.

There’s an American Aphorism, made in 12 November 2012 by Chicago Cubs First Baseman Mark Grace. “If your not cheating, your not trying hard enough”.

Don’t sell yourself Short on Air Power. On of the Reason’s the Burn-Out Rate was so high with Harrier and Sea Harrier Pilots. During the Falklands War, because they were required up to 1/2-dozen sorties a day. Lack of Sleep and I-N-I, will Screw-Up any Performance Rating…

May 11, 2015 3:53 pm

We could squeeze out a few more airframes if we tied more deeply into the USMC fleet replenishment squadron (effectively join in their OCU much like how we train our C-17, E-3 and RC-135 pilots).

Sol atm is rather convinced that we – the whole British people – are about to do some nefarious scheme to claim the CVF is the worlds best heli-carrier ;)

May 11, 2015 4:30 pm

TD and others are right in saying that squadrons sizes, like all other ORBATS only tell you so much.

On the one hand 8 or 9 F35B to a squadron would seem more likely because that’s how all Harrier squadrons operated for years. However the figure of 12 has been quoted a lot so even though all numbers should be taken with a pitch of salt it could be a good an indicator to the direction the F35 fleet structure will be heading.

Seems that 48 F35B either gets you 3 8/9 air-frame squadrons or 2 larger ones, with possibly either slightly leaner or more well provisioned OCU/OEU’s and reserves depending on the outcome.

Irregardless i’d say whether CVF regularly deploys with 6, 8, 9, 12 or more F35B isn’t as important as having the provisions in place to be able to add more if necessary, which means a large enough overall fleet and enough larger ‘surge’ exercises occurring to make sure CVF can seamlessly operate more jets for long periods of time.

Power is important, but so is stamina, and as frustrating as deploying only 6-12 in peacetime is i’d say it’s acceptable if we know they can double or triple that number in wartime.

May 11, 2015 4:58 pm

The two planned operational F-35 squadrons are expected to have 12 F-35 each. What we’re talking about here however is only 9 being available for QE in 2020. That is because things have been pushed back, and we will have less F-35 delivered by 2020 than initially planned. We simply wont have a full strength squadron by 2020.

May 11, 2015 9:52 pm

That maybe optimistic whitestelhant probably closer to 6a/c available in 2020 for short periods. I suspect we may an increase to 6 typhoon sqns thru 2020 to take up the shortfall in f35 readiness.

Anyway it would appear are Nepal chinooks are somewhat stranded.

May 12, 2015 8:44 am

S’alright TD – I like the older one better anyway. Its the Luddite in me…

Deja Vu
May 12, 2015 11:24 am

@TD much cleaner appearance, Just tried to register not yet working.

May 12, 2015 12:31 pm

@ Nick.

The “Scuttlebutt” on my Side of the Pond is, that the Raytheon AN/APG-79 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar or APAP (Active Phased Array Radar) is to be integrate into the F/A-35A/B/C’s airframe…

Lord Jim
May 12, 2015 12:39 pm

As others have stated, deploying only 6 – 9 F-35Bs on the QE routinely is not a problem, as long as personnel are regularly rotated to ensure there is a pool available to easily increase the number embarked when needed. So in principal, 48 airframes should be sufficient to cover most operational scenarios for a single carrier. Where I have issues is how we intend to use the new carriers. The MoD and Government are very vague on this, preferring to talk about the flexibility and size of the Queen Elizabeth class. Surely these ships primary role in wartime should be as CARRIERS, with their primary weapon system being between 24 and 36 F-35Bs supported by CROWSNEST. What we seem to have built though are two very large HMS Ocean replacement with the ability to operate STOVL platform, more akin to the USNs Wasp class amphibious ships than a real carrier. Yes they will be able to carry our secondary roles, but we must focus on the core role and ensure at least one of the new carrier is able to operate as a carrier with the right assets.

Given the size of the F-35 fleet, initially the work of the OCU/OEU should be dovetailed into the units the USMC has stateside. In fact if the fleet remains around 50 a/c setting up a UK based OCU and OEU would be a waste of resources. Having a limited number of airframes stateside and operating in a combined manner with the USMC seems to be a win win.

As for Squadron sizes, I am more in favour of the wing system where a base operates a pool of airframes. Given the small size of current squadrons, do we need the admin/support tail for each one! I know this runs into the same “Cap Badge”, issues the Army has when combining or deleting regiments, but in the case of the RAF, paint and decals would allow a wing to display the colours of 2 to 3 squadrons even if they are actually the same unit in practice.

Finally a P-8 purchase will need funds form other departments. This shouldn’t be to complicated, just look at which departments benefit from regaining a MPA capability. As for numbers, ignore anything related to the Nimrod. At the end it was a case of a fixed pot of funds and try to work out how many we could get as the price kept going up and up. Little or no consideration was really give to operational needs etc, the RAF simply wanted the new shiny plane in whatever quantity it could.

May 12, 2015 1:12 pm

@ Lord Jim

‘ setting up a UK based OCU and OEU would be a waste of resources.’
Not neccesarily, if you base them where the rest of the fleet are then it’s not a really a waste. Don’t forget keeping that many (enough to man a OCU sized Sqn) servicemen out in the US will be very expensive. Alot of the resources would be shared across the fleet and can reduce costs.
The OEU is slightly different and wouldn’t be a surprise if it stayed out there.

‘As for Squadron sizes, I am more in favour of the wing system where a base operates a pool of airframes. Given the small size of current squadrons, do we need the admin/support tail for each one!’

Not really the same as army cap badges at all. We are well used to adding and removing the Sqns as required, no-one notices. No press outrage, no retired officers letters to print in the Telegraph.
The wing idea has been knocked about a few times and trialed once (that I know of) it just doesn’t work. Sqns are the basic building blocks of the RAF, to better liken it to the Army, it would be like having no battallions sized units and just have brigades instead. Admin/support per FJ sqn is minimal there are some functions you could (try to) centralise but you’d lose more than you gain in very minimal manpower savings.

May 12, 2015 3:13 pm

Oh dear – Rory Stewart has been given a role in DEFRA – does that mean he will no longer do his Defence Committee work?

May 12, 2015 4:18 pm

So if and when the RAF or in reality Mr Osbourne gives the MOD the Green light for a MPA purchase. Where are we going to base them. Is it to late to reactive to RAF Kinloss.

May 12, 2015 4:44 pm


Kinloss is now an Army base, and i’m guessing Lossiemouth is getting pretty full. Could put them at Waddington seen as the rest of the ISTAR fleet is already centralized there and any MPA will probably share the current 54/56 OCU/OEU squadrons, but it is of course quite far away from the North Sea-North Atlantic-Irish Sea area of primary operations.

Does anyone know how far Leuchars transfer has gotten? Wiki says it was only handed to the Army in April of this year.

The Other Nick
May 12, 2015 5:25 pm


Ref. the cost of Israeli equipment specific to the F-35i , they talk about a $3 billion for the 14 F-35i, but contact is only for $2.82 billion so maybe that is the difference or it could be their equipment is less expensive than the US gear it replaces. The deal requires Israeli weapons to be integrated into the aircraft.

They have negotiated an offset procurement deal of $5.3 billion, so far 810 wingsets to be manufactured by IAI and the the most expensive, trouble prone and complicated piece of headgear ever constructed, the F-35 Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS), manufactured by Elbit and Rockwell Collins 50/50.

As the F-35i’s are paid for out of the US foreign military aid budget, and as far as I know no Israeli development funding it makes the MoD negotiating skills look limited as the UK investment £2 billion in development funding for the F-35 has resulted so far as I know only in the contract placed is with BAE.

Please note that LM has been pricing the F-35A, and therefore F-35I, as ‘competitively’ as possible, because the US Airforce is by far their main customer. The pricing by LM on F-35B and F-35C is under less pressure due to the US Marines have no other option and US Navy are not that keen, (recently reduced F-35C numbers) would prefer to continue with the F-18, so am surprised the F-35B is quoted at only $130 million, knowing that the $110 price for the F-35i was a ‘special’ price granted by Hagel.

The Aeroweb gives the cost of the F-35B at $183.41 which sounds more realistic than the $130 million previously quoted as the NAO quote £5 billion as UK total cost to first squadron IOC including the £2 billion development.

“The unit cost of the F-35B is $139.87 million (recurring cost) or $183.41 million including non-recurring (flyaway cost) in FY 2015. The airframe costs $83.04 million, the F135-PW-600 engine (coupled to the Rolls-Royce LiftSystem) costs $32.49 million, the avionics cost $21.59 million, while non-recurring and other costs make up the remaining $46.29 million.”

May 12, 2015 5:58 pm

Cant see them being based anywhere but waddington if purchased they would be classed as multi mission istar aircraft of which maritime patrol would be one mission they would undertake..

May 12, 2015 7:51 pm

On that very point, I have a horrible feeling that Sentinel will be sacrificed to get P8’s, on the basis that it will be a MMA that can replace it and Nimrod in the same airframe.

May 12, 2015 8:29 pm

I don’t think there is a problem with replacing Sentinel and then Sentry, Shadow Seeker etc with the P8, if it can do the job with a few modifications then great, why not get our moneys worth out of an expensive platform.

The issue is numbers isn’t it. 8-9 for MPA and 4-5 for ISTAR would be more than reasonable, but i fear as i think you do that instead we could see a paltry 5-6 P8 ordered to fulfill both roles with the usual ‘it can do more so we need less’ spiel.

May 12, 2015 8:56 pm

Yes indeed cheshirecat and part of the flight profile reasons for choosing that platform for sentinel would be lost as a result. one opinion is that trying to cram multiple istar roles onto a single aircraft can lead to very expensive high value critical points of failure that take some time to get to work.

It leads to larger aircraft than is required for a specific task which is at least in part how the U.S. Navy ended up with the p8 based on a larger 737 than was initially the case. ( more cynical minds may point to the severe downturn in commercial aircraft production and Boeing really needing an order as to why 737 was chose at all).

On the whole having fleets of aircraft dedicated to a specific task in the istar game based potentially on a similar aircraft type that can all talk to each other to see a common picture and transmit that to a relevant ground station for interpretation can lead to smaller planes with smaller crew and potential to integrate unmanned options.

May 12, 2015 9:11 pm

What happened there I went to edit a comment which I thought I did but it appears it was deleted instead

May 12, 2015 9:20 pm

Yes, exactly that!
I don’t have a problem at all with commonality across the ISTAR platforms, but it can’t be a one size fits all, dropping capabilities here and there, and in ever reducing numbers
Look what’s happened to the RN!

May 12, 2015 9:53 pm


Thanks for that TD, yes on looking at the editing button it is entirely possible that fat fingers and or poor eyesight may have played a role in the posts deletion. Hope you didn’t waste to much time testing the system.

May 12, 2015 10:32 pm

On the Mistrals potentially going spare. I know we can not justify an increase in vessel numbers but would be a shame to see them cut up or sunk. How about a deal with the French: scrap Diligence and allocate one of the Bays as a permanent replacement support / repair vessel. Scrap Argus and purchase the two Mistrals into the RFA with a day job of HADR, aviation training and second tier presence and support with a wartime role of amphib support, auxiliary carriers and PCRS. 50:50 cost split (acquisition and running) with DFID, modifications limited to ‘anglicising’ and base comms / radar defensive kit commensurate with other RFAs rather than full RN spec. Just an idea.

Lord Jim
May 12, 2015 11:29 pm

How about doing what the Italians did with their third San Georgio and get other agencies to purchase one of the Mistrals as a disaster relief platform with the “Secondary” role as amphibious warfare vessel?

Lord Jim
May 12, 2015 11:38 pm

Returning to squadron sizes etc, my concern is maximising the number of airframes available for operational deployment. Gone are the days of a large reserve pool to help manage fleet airframe hours, these are the majority of Typhoons we are no longer getting. Especially with the F-35Bs, all airframes must be available for deployment, with even the OCU and OEU available if we need to deploy both carriers, and so we would need those aircrew to be deck qualified.

I seem to remember that a few years ago the RAF dramatically downsized the number of airframes that were needed for operational deployments form over thirty to a dozen or so. Was the reasoning for this anything but financial?

Is it me or have the MoD decided that in the age of PGMs where a single platform can hot multiple targets, they have decided that the number of platforms can be reduced by the same ratio with no regard for capacity or redundancy?

May 13, 2015 5:40 am

@The Other Nick

Thanks. I think it remains fair to say that the actual cost of the F35 (in all variants) remains unclear and that LM is pricing in these sales on the assumption that full scale production delivers the decreases in unit production cost they claim (but have not yet delivered).

I wonder if the US will consider giving us some F35A on a similarly priced cheap deal. As the only European (or elsewhere) partner to actively support them they may miss our absence in the future.

For all the talk of 48 F35B acquisition, let’s remember we have actually announced we will purchase 16 aircraft (if I recall correctly on a 4,4,4,4 per year basis) in addition to our 4 test aircraft and of those only 4 (for delivery in 2018 ?) are actually on order.

By 2020, the RAF will be Typhoon only with a small “squadron” of F35B, which will (probably) not yet have met full operating capability as originally designed.

May 13, 2015 5:42 am

@TD for what its worth, on the version of explorer we use at work (8 I think?) there is no edit or delete button at all. Only reply and share. Maybe I have to subscribe ?

May 13, 2015 6:38 am

@TD I take that comment back. Edit function has now reappeared.

May 13, 2015 6:38 am

As per the link by Repulse, the make-over of UK’s image on the other side of the pond has begun:

“”Cameron Attempts to Put Britain Back on the Map
The prime minister has a lot of ground to make up in restoring his country to its traditional leadership role.
May 11, 2015 1:39 p.m. ET
Trying to put Britain’s slouching status as a world player behind him, a second-time-around David Cameron now gets described from up-close as an “interventionist” comfortable with the use of “hard power.”

May 13, 2015 7:15 am

Goes for Chrome, as well!

May 13, 2015 7:18 am

Events have overtaken the comment: Does not go for Chrome as well… i.e. there is no EDIT button in sight

May 13, 2015 8:06 am


What you say above about putting all your eggs in one basket and that basket getting very, very expensive is an interesting one.

I personally agree with you. But we always tend to go for “fewer more capable” assets.

It’s a bit like rejecting an OPV sonar tug as useless and putting it onto an all-singing, all-dancing ASW destroyer platform. There’s no redundancy in the system and the ASW ship becomes ever more complicated.

Is it possible that, like with the RN, we simply can’t afford to have all these distinct platforms?

May 13, 2015 8:07 am


It seems you have to “hover” over “Time remaining | 30 min.” in order to see the edit and delete button.

Since you can’t hover with a touch screen, I’m not sure how it works in that environment.

May 13, 2015 8:21 am

On Android and iOS touchscreens you can tap the “Time Remaining” text once to reveal the Edit/Remove links.

May 13, 2015 8:39 am

first thing this morning, the “time remaining” bit wasn’t there either. It is now.

May 13, 2015 8:44 am

I am curious to know what others think about the fact that ‘two (RAF) Hawk jets,… are providing air support alongside US A-10 “tank buster” aircraft’ in Estonia

Is this a sensible use of resources (we have plenty of Hawks and fewer and fewer pilots needing to be trained so get some mileage out of the aircraft), or a proportionate response (scare the russians off with a red arrows type acrobatic display), or they have armed the Hawks (a lot of armchair commentators have advocated this), or a sign that we are really scrapping the barrel for available assets …

The same question could equally be applied to the use of Border Force Cutters sent to the Mediterranean

May 13, 2015 9:18 am


The very same questioned occurred to my yesterday when I read the article.

The optimist in me says that it is probably 100 Sqn who has provided the Hawks and as they routinely train JTAC’s they are probably the right people to send in this instance, with Uncle Sam providing their experts in the shape of the A10’s.

However, the realist/pessimist in me says that’s all we’ve got and in days gone by we would have sent a couple of Jags/Harriers/Tornados as well as the Hawks.

Can’t imagine Putin is actually shaking in his boots, the two major (currently in our case) powers in Nato sending a couple of Hawks and an aircraft destined for the scrapheap!

May 13, 2015 9:22 am

The release talks about UK and Norgie supersonic fighters securing the airspace ( a lot of that would involve BVR in reality).

The Estonian airspace is so small that you can’t afford the chance of (with a touch of reality inserted into the exercices) a NATO fighter straying into the Russian airspace, while taking avoidance action. Further, you would need all element of airpower present in a realistic exercise:
– A-10 doing the CAS bit
– the Hawks chasing away hostile AHs and low flying sub-sonic A2G jets

What these three elements, by way of a/c, would be in a real situation is one thing, but on an exercise a Hawk will do nicely.

May 13, 2015 9:56 am

@ Lord Jim

‘maximising the number of airframes available for operational deployment.’

Yes, the key here is to pay for it and avoid the fleets within fleets. As to the exact number the depends on how much we can afford to throw at it and it won’t be cheap. Shuffling around a few people around on a sqn or creating a ‘flying wing’ won’t do this. It needs serious money putting into it. Without opening a can of worms with regard to a/c carriers, have the navy decided they can man and deploy both at the same time? If so will there be a need to max out on F35 on both. Those sorts of decisions (and plenty of others) will drive how many a/c we will pay for to be deployable, both in terms of the a/c and the support required.

May 13, 2015 12:23 pm

Yuck! BBC reports Kim Jun-un fell out with his Defence Minister who according to the text dozed off while the Supreme Leader was talking. To show his displeasure the Minister was taken to a weapon test range, put on a dais and in front of a packed audience totally obliterated by concentrated anti-aircraft fire from 8 or so multi-barrelled AA guns.

The report suggests that the increasing brutality of the reaction to minor annoyances is indicative that Kim’s authority is fraying at the edges and he is looking for ever more violent ways to prove his power.

All I can say is that such barbarity is very unlikely to reduce any underlying dislike of the leader.

May 13, 2015 2:51 pm

Not so much SDSR news as long term resourcing, but hope springs anew for a new generation Harpoon.

May 13, 2015 3:24 pm

The EU Commission on migration today gave a press conference today outlining their plans to deal with the burgeoning migrant crisis , testing the water as it were before they consult the individual nations over the next month. They target accepting 20,000 genuine asylum seekers over the next 2 years across Europe at a cost of €50 million . Are they for real ? That’s 10,000 per year at €2.5k each !

May 13, 2015 3:44 pm


It’s been interesting following the developments. They’re really in a battle against Kongsberg now, with tube and VLS launching for JSM on the roadmap. Big question is whether the guidance/seeking/autonomy planned for Harpoon NG is going to be effective enough to compete with that on NSM/JSM and its inbuilt low observability given that the intended targets, range and warheads will be in the same ballpark? Can’t help but feel Boeing needs to move forward with the warhead development and demonstrate the package fully themselves rather than wait for serious interest.

May 13, 2015 5:18 pm

Not just the warhead (which ideally should be a derivative of the multi-effects warhead being trialled to offer both a penetrating and pure blast option) but the seeker. The battle between Harpoon and JSM is active radar seeker vs. IIR seeker (both having INS and GPS, presumably GAINS) – both very different. If Boeing is canny, they’ll add an IIR seeker to the substantially larger Harpoon to give a true multi-targeting capability. An imaging laser would be even better – try defeating that with soft-kill!

May 13, 2015 6:48 pm

On the use of the EU ,one arm I find that generally has bite is the Monopolies Commission. Compare the following list to the fine imposed on Egg Bank for deliberately miss selling the now infamous PPI by the then regulator FSA ( yes they new way way way back about it ) 40,000 customers were deemed miss-sold PPI and Egg were fined £721,000 ( that’s seven hundred and twentyone thousand ) or £18 per customer who the made 5 times that profit on.

May 13, 2015 7:11 pm

Britain’s warning for Putin: UK troops take part in Estonia’s largest ever military exercise yards from the border with Russia.

May 13, 2015 7:15 pm

RAF Typhoons scrambled to intercept Russian spy plane in latest high tension flashpoint.

The Russians are making everyone’s lives very busy at the moment.

May 13, 2015 9:03 pm

as – ref Estonian exercise – I bet the British contingent and their political masters are stinging a bit after the Estonian defence minister slammed NATO’s commitment to defence: “Mr Mikser also blasted the British government for failing to commit 2 per cent of GDP to defence spending, saying that while NATO had decreased spending by 20 per cent, Russia had increased it 50 per cent”

May 13, 2015 10:37 pm
May 14, 2015 6:07 am


If you don’t meet your annual quota of container information supply, TD gaps your capability.

May 14, 2015 7:59 am

Sorry guys but the CMA CGM Kerguelen is about as British as the Kia Cee’d owned by François Hollande.

I’m embarrassed, but then again, I suppose I should have been embarrassed when the Cee’d was used as the “reasonably priced car” in that top British BBC export.

Now, if I were Dictator, sorry I mean Prime Minister, I’d have had this built on the Mersey with Sheffield steel and Cornish tin – not sure what I could use the tin for but I’d use it all the same. I’d also try to incorporate some tungsten, antimony, and tellurium somewhere ;-)

May 14, 2015 8:29 am

British flagged = £1.5M per hour of revenue for the UK taxpayer. Who gives a **** where it was built?

May 14, 2015 8:35 am

According to the Smithy at a local museum (real work a chartered surveyor I think) something over 99% of all steel is from recycling. A tiny fraction is from new mined ore. So this big ship will have bits of our old broken up ships, bean-cans, glorious steam locos, and long-gone Morris Marinas embedded in its hull. What could be more British than that?

May 14, 2015 9:36 am


On a Sandy Bottom theme, Trinidad and Tobago have now ordered 6 x Damen 5009’s in two flavours and 6 x DI 1002 interceptors.

May 14, 2015 10:43 am

Sounding like the potential sale of 3 x Scorpène with tube-launched MBDA MdCN cruise missiles from France to Poland that’s been discussed for a while has been authorised at the French end:

Russia won’t be happy and has already threatened action.

Would be the second operator of the MdCN missile with France deploying them from A70’s on their FREMM’s so far.

May 14, 2015 11:06 am

Risk reduction contracts for JSTARS replacement given green light:

Thought the RAF/USAF officer exchange already included Sentinel operators for risk reduction? ;)

Shall we open a book?

– New build behemoth based on a four engine commercial airliner?
– Boeing built cut-down “I’m not a USN P-8 in disguise honest” USAF only 737?
– BizJet as specified, but based on a 605 to make it look different enough compared to a Sentinel to justify a completely new design program?
– USN manage to sell P-8’s to the USAF (or to Congress) with an AAS
– Global Hawk gets the gig ($4b investment and U-2 tech transfers now approved)

May 14, 2015 11:17 am

Not defence related exactly, but an opinion piece from someone who seems to have travelled fairly extensively in Russia. Interesting context in which to consider Putin’s current and future actions in.

We used to consider knowing your opponent to be an important factor.

May 14, 2015 11:22 am

TOC, thanks for that Poland piece.

Russian IADSs, with their reach, can turn the whole of the Baltic (save the non-relevant northern tip of it) into a no-go area, so a sub-launched cruise missile (stealthy?) is a logical counter.

Russia deployed their long-range artillery missiles into Kaliningrad. Poland got air-launched cruise missiles. Russia now pushing their air defences further forward, not only IADS but a base in Belorussia. Poland doubles up on the countermeasures
… this is starting to sound like an arms race; and very close to the heart of Europe. But we are an island, so never mind

May 14, 2015 11:32 am

Thanks Nick, quite accurate, in my view, that article.

At the bottom of it there is a link to the Nemtsov report, too, about the casualties of Russian regular forces in Ukraine.

May 14, 2015 12:33 pm

Talking of Russia’s new armaments, its interesting to look a bit closer at the T-14 that was on display earlier this month.

The first point is that there is a coverplate over the mantlet that limits elevation to something between 10 & 15 degrees. you have to believe that was a bit of dressing up for the world’s press – covering up a ballistic weakness is the obvious reason, but maybe its not that. Next is the extreme height of the turret, not just along the centre where the breech would swing but out to normal turret width. But its not to make a good armour solution as the skirt of the casing stops maybe 250mm above the hull and what may be large bore smokes are fitted in the gap. But they are horizontal, not angled upwards, so not much use for sending smoke grenades a long way up-threat. Then there are deep recesses around the casing currently seemingly not occupied. The bustle is not high in itself but spaced a long way off the hull. Taken with the undercut on the flanks, were the casing primary armour then an opponent would have little difficulty targeting the turret ring. And to top it all off – literally – the remote sight is both big and high.

I am beginning to think that maybe the hull is representative, but the turret is a mock-up? Moreover a deliberately non-representative mock-up.

Especially since many arty images had been circulating that show essentially the same configuration (for example) – note that the hull in these images is remarkably like the vehicle that was on parade. Maybe the real turret then would look more like the artists impression than like the gawky thing that we all saw on TV?

May 14, 2015 1:31 pm


If the design wasn’t finished, I could see why they might do that, but surely you’d chose to put something more impressive looking on display, that would seem to be a real hi-tech advance in design to get us all going. It seems to me that historically we (in public anyway) over-estimated the technical capability of Soviet tech. Even as a complete lay person, nothing in this design gives the impression that this is state of the art tech that would make you consider that our current tank force (such as it is) needs replacing.

I expect that they will have used the results of studying actual US equipment from Iraq or else where although, with espionage support. Perhaps they have found that Russian manufacturing equipment just cant make use of these materials without creating such a boxy design.

Apart from survivability (?), putting the entire crew alongside each other at the front seems particularly perverse choice to me.

May 14, 2015 1:37 pm

Dynamic Mongoose

Underwater drones are for the future.
But for now one of the most important assets in any nation’s armoury to conduct anti-submarine warfare is the long-range maritime patrol aircraft.


May 14, 2015 1:39 pm

Nick – ref “nothing in this design gives the impression that this is state of the art tech that would make you consider that our current tank force (such as it is) needs replacing” – well there’s one reason why the mock-up might have been intentionally unimpressive…

May 14, 2015 1:51 pm


I wonder if its a Double or Triple bluff then (ie this is so 1980s, that I’m going to make you think my real secret design is so much better that you should really worry – followed by – but this is my real design, so more fool you).

I feel the need to add LOL and a :) for some reason !

I guess we’ll have to wait until one turns up in Donets.

May 14, 2015 2:20 pm


This could all be utter Russian propaganda balls, the truth or something in between – I read it on some another forum a week ago, but I’ve forgotten quite where – but…

What you’ve suggested are “large bore smokes” are apparently the (some of) the launchers for the tank’s extensive active protection system and again, apparently, the projectiles of the protection system do not launch out of the flat, circular front of the “large bore smokes”, but out of a small slot toward the front of the curved cylindrical face. The cylinders, apparently, can rotate to elevate the protection system’s shot and each cylinder contains multiple rounds of protective shot.

Again, apparently, the sensors the active protection system relies on are radar transmit and receive modules that are the trapezoidal and rectangular objects housed in the recesses on the turret just above the protection system’s launchers.

There is also apparently a separate set of sensors and projectile launchers on the top of the turret to defend against threats from the front and from above. I don’t recall there being an explanation for the huge recess on the front of the turret behind the driver’s head though. To house a classified optics package that was removed prior to the parade, perhaps?

May 14, 2015 4:06 pm

Sorry guys, I feel I’ve been too hasty with my critique of CMA CGM Kerguelen.

You wise people have educated me that it actually supports British engineering. I’m a little surprised however that the RAF chose a 175,000 tonne MPA :-)

May 14, 2015 4:35 pm

Before people get to excited about hawk doing close air support I suspect these Hawks maybe from 100sqn

“100 Squadron now operates in a mixed target facilities role along with exercise and training support which include WSO training, and dedicated aircraft to support the Joint Forward Air Controllers Training and Standards Unit.”

May 14, 2015 7:23 pm

First one looks a bit twitchy but after that it’s steady as she goes:

May 15, 2015 7:45 am

In the noble aim of educating the young, the BBC have a series of lightweight information pages on various subjects. Here is one on WW1 submarines: Its very thin on detail, even by banal webpage standards, but what caught my eye was the silhouette of Astute in section 2 – my how much like the Soviet Typhoon (real name Akula) it is! Clearly the BBC use really informed people to produce the stuff educating our kids. On the same image it states the ‘battery engines’ produced hydrogen – wrong on two counts; they are motors not engines, and its the batteries not the motors that gas. But it does include the mandated reference to double deck buses so its met the BBC style guide. Bless.

May 15, 2015 8:02 am

Slightly more up-to-date, here is a piece on how the Russian media is casting Putin as an ordinary guy from the suburbs, no different from any other Russian citizen:

Clearly part of the media angle is to make the population warm to an ordinary person working hard rather than portraying him as an ex-KGB head with control over the Russian state that is absolute and verging on tyrannical. I think Stalin used the same ‘just an ordinary Joe’ image in the post war period? Just saying, like.

One of the facets of the re-branding is that to the Russian people their leader is the image of reasonableness, and in comparison the NATO states will be being portrayed as threatening and militaristic and ‘on a march’ towards Moscow having – um – taken? the ex-Warsaw Pact states and the Baltic states. Footage of the RAF bullying poor Russian aircraft going about their lawful business in international airspace will no doubt be regular items on Russian state TV.

May 15, 2015 8:13 am

Textron Scorpion has had test flight comparisons with an AT-6 by USAF Students with an average turnaround time of 31 minutes, flown a long leg down to South America:

Will debut at the Paris Airshow next month and then go on a European tour, including the UK.

May 15, 2015 8:28 am

Date for diary: Request for Proposals for AETD engines expected in June.

May 15, 2015 8:29 am

And a Request for Information released by Spain for 8×8’s is out:×8-infantry-fighting-vehicles

May 15, 2015 8:38 am

TOC – as GD have a major AFV manufacturing plant in Spain my money’s on Piranha getting the contract. Because unlike UK, all other EU countries seem to manage to buy locally made kit even complying with EU free competition rules. Strange how the UK is the only state that doesn’t value? trust? like? its own defence sector manufacturers more than those of other nations, and how as a result the UK no longer has strong defence exports.

May 15, 2015 9:04 am

Russia’s unveiled a new destroyer design, Project 23560E Shkval:

Why have one integrated mast when you can stack three on top of each other?

May 15, 2015 9:15 am

‘ the UK no longer has strong defence exports.’

The UK still exports plenty of defence equipment, figures vary from year to year but it’s consistantly in the top 5. We might not be knocking tanks out of factory gates left, right and centre but still have a strong export in defence sales.

May 15, 2015 9:36 am

Topman – I applaud all UK exporters, defence or otherwise, for trying to keep the nation’s finances healthy. I would be interested to see how many companies in the defence sector exporting goods are UK owned and UK based – a UK based facility owned by another nation will create employment and generate a modest amount of revenue for the Chancellor, but the profit goes offshore and so does much of the business tax if I understand the Amazon model right. A UK owned business with production contracted out to cheaper foreign production plants will be taxed on profit but the employment and related income tax stays abroad. There are a few companies that are wholly UK (apparently) and doing well – RR aircraft engines and that fine bunch at Supacat for example, but the majority I can think of are incorporated in far off states.

I suspect the difference from our EU neighbours is a matter of commitment. I’m pretty sure you’d find in France that SNCF only have Alsthom built trains, and in Germany the DB only have Siemens built ones. Our new InterCity trains are? Hitachi. It seems to me other Governments have policies to buy from their own nation’s businesses where the UK goes for cheapest windscreen sticker price even if employment, exports and tax revenues suffer because of it. I think the holistic approach is called ‘investment’.

May 15, 2015 9:50 am

I’m not sure tbh, if it seems that way or is a matter of perception. Off the top of my head, Air France for example do buy boeings and I’m sure there are plenty of other examples. TD covers quite often smaller companies that are UK based and owned. As to the exact construct of many of the UK defence companies I can’t say I’ve researched it but’ll I bet it’s far better than most think.

Just as a general point I think we as a nation do tend to look on the worse side of life*, I think it’s a nationwide mentality.

*That’s nothing at all personnal to you Chris, just a comment on people in general in the UK.

May 15, 2015 10:10 am

In defence of Hitachi, the 800 has involved UK design teams and the folks being hired in Durham to build them are British. Think we can proud of their move.

Similar story with Siemens Green Port in Hull and Nissan battery design and production via NMM (UK) in Sunderland. The companies may not sound British but the HQ’s, teams and manufacturers here are.

In contrast I’ve been worried about RR for a while. The Qatar Trent deal is a much deserved shot in the arm, but if you look at supersonic engines they saw the F136 cancelled and have been on the fringes or frozen out of ADVENT and build up to AETD so far.

Hoping they have something up their sleeve for the anticipated AETD RFP mentioned above, a home-built advanced adaptive/hybrid engine being talked about in the F135 class is just the kind of endurance and performance that would take the likes of Taranis up to truly fearsome levels.

May 15, 2015 10:10 am

The Russian ‘destroyer’ seems to be covering all the bases’ on one hull similar to the Arleigh Burke class. The mast seems to endeavouring to combine stealth with capacity with two ‘bridge’ window levels showing. At 15-18,000t it comes back to this definition thing of tonnage does not equate designation purpose does but still :-)

May 15, 2015 10:28 am

a “Global Surface Combatant” a la russe?

Not a Boffin
May 15, 2015 10:44 am

Whatever the Shkval is, a “destroyer” it ain’t. That’s a surface action group centrepiece, a bit like the Kirovs, or more likely the old Slava’s.

Someone in their design bureau has been looking at too many old Japanese battleship pictures…

May 15, 2015 10:53 am

Spaceship Yamato was my first reaction too…

May 15, 2015 11:08 am

So Shkval is really quite tall with a large faceted structure in the middle, and T-14 Armata is really quite tall with a large faceted turret in the middle – seems the designers got the same memo.

Or is it this?

May 15, 2015 12:06 pm
May 15, 2015 12:54 pm

What the new “Arleigh Burkeski” will likely be escorting: The new Russian Super Carrier has been unveiled in more (model) detail:

May 15, 2015 2:17 pm

NaB, how so on the Shkval? With that huge radar and I suspect an equally huge space for VLS in front of the bridge, I’m sure it can work as an air-defence destroyer as well. It might look like a WWII battleship, especially with the red paint job, but my gut call is air defence. Huge ass radar.

May 15, 2015 3:39 pm

SDB-II production and deployment is Go:

Can MBDA get their SPEAR down to £73k each?

May 15, 2015 3:58 pm

Delayed Hercules C-130J update underway but look how long it will take.
The Block 7 update will be rolled into the Block 8.1 to be completed by 2019?
Does this mean we will keep some for Special Forces and how many. Hard to save money if we retain Herc and move to A400M.

May 15, 2015 4:01 pm


How much will the Raytheon weapon cost when they make it a powered weapon to compete with spear.

Not a Boffin
May 15, 2015 4:05 pm

The clue is in the huge numbers of both SSM/LA missiles (60-70) and SAM (128) she carries which are in the article – you don’t have to suspect them. That is a primarily offensive platform for the centrepiece of a SAG, not a ship whose role is primarily to screen other forces (eg a destroyer). That’s why she’s comparable to Kirov and exceeds the capabilities of Slava (or USS Long Beach for that matter).

That carrier is a bit ambitious as well. A lot of ship for a 20-cab strike package. The mini-ramp at the end of the angle will give them problems too.

May 15, 2015 4:12 pm


A good point well made. Offset by adding a tri-mode?

May 15, 2015 4:13 pm

How are they going to build a 100,000 ton super-carrier when they had to look to France to build them some Mistrals?

May 15, 2015 4:40 pm


Don’t know what’s the tri mode do that the brimstone 2 seeker can’t?

May 15, 2015 4:55 pm

Good point. Think they can cram 60 anti-ship missiles in? Even the old Kirovs had 20(?) tubes of Shipwrecks I think? IIRC most of the Kirov’s loadout was SAMs.

May 15, 2015 5:20 pm

The Russians do have a big hill to climb to get a supercarrier and all that entails operational . And what’s the use of one ? To maintain a constant availability at least two per theater of operations , so two in the Pacific , two out of Murmansk for Atlantic ops and a spare? So 4 to 5 at $5bn each plus $5bn of aircraft ( assuming Russian assembly costs not Western) so $40 to $50bn plus the support infrastructure . Its not to say they can’t achieve it but is there a will? The Gerald Ford supporters in the US will be pleased anyway showing the ‘obvious’ need for global reach super carriers ;-)
They would do better building a lot of PAK FA/DA and getting their version of the Variable by-pass engine to work the built in the eighties for the Mig 1.44 prototypes giving them the over ocean range to project influence , it’ll happen a lot sooner than these carriers being operational in what 20years time?

May 15, 2015 5:33 pm

@ Challenger re “how”

The same as before, have them built in Ukraine (even the one for India was refurbed there, even though it was a Russia/ India deal).

On that topic, how many of the heavy airlifters were actually built in Russia (rather than in Ukraine)?

May 15, 2015 6:10 pm


Just infrared alongside the MMR and laser options.

May 15, 2015 6:20 pm

x3 Chinooks are on their way back to the UK from India.

May 15, 2015 7:41 pm
May 15, 2015 8:28 pm


Very disappointing that the country’s population seems in desperate need chinook would of been ideal. Rumours of Indian and Chinese political involvement.

Toc thanks

May 15, 2015 8:35 pm

@ Mark

TBH no inside info on this one, but something is amiss when it was cleared with them beforehand. Now we are sending them home. I can understand their concern about downdraft from them, but they would still have a role, limited but still useful. Sad especially when there is so many in need.

May 15, 2015 9:52 pm

Top, IIRC the first responder teams are all on their way back, our Civil Def teams came back from Nepal on Wed or so. More likely that they think they got all that can be saved and are handing over to the NGOs for longer term rebuilding.

Red Trousers
May 16, 2015 7:59 am

What’s the point of Russia having a Navy?
They’re not going to be invading anyone by sea.

Still, let them waste their money.

May 16, 2015 8:12 am

A relic of the Great Game, the Russian Navy used to be pretty decent, ranked 4th in the world until they bumped into the Japanese. These days, it is used more in the hope of keeping US carriers away from their shores than foreign adventures. Defensive tool and prestige. And there is Russia’s Far East coastline which IMO is where most of the Russian Navy should be based, if the facilities there were up to par, which I suspect is not. Russia is huge, even bigger than China, but a lot less developed.

Red Trousers
May 16, 2015 8:17 am

They only need a submarine fleet, for power projection. Much like we only need a submarine fleet. A few thousand sailors, scrap the surface floating targets.

May 16, 2015 10:41 am

Osborne says to spell out new plans for economy on July 8

‘That means deep savings will have to be found in welfare spending and public services as they pursue their plan to fix Britain’s still-weak public finances.’

Is there any point in a new SDSR?

Not a Boffin
May 16, 2015 12:17 pm

“(even the one for India was refurbed there, even though it was a Russia/ India deal).”

Errr. No. Gary Google “Severodvinsk”. It’s a little bit north of Ukraine…….

Their big ships were however traditionally built on the black sea.

May 16, 2015 2:29 pm

@David Niven
So long as Osbourne by the North , the Barnett formula already favour Scotland at 115% per capita compared to England 97% per capita.