Libya and Aircraft Carriers


I stand accused of being an anti carrier zealot, looking at the RAF through rose-tinted flying goggles and seeing dark blues under the bed, so I thought instead of throwing water on the barby I might try a little petrol instead!

One of the objectives of Think Defence is to get people talking and in that I have to thank every single commenter, seriously fellas, we are getting very close to 15,000 comments which for a blog that has only been running a couple of years is great. Apart from the service-centric forums like ARRSE, PPRUNE, WARSHIPS1 etc I don’t think there is anything to match the numbers out there in the UK interwebnet.

However, the second objective of Think Defence is to try and counter the service-centric bias that understandably and inevitably creeps into any discussion; we are all products of our background after all. The difference between bias and honestly held opinion is often difficult to see, one man’s irreplaceable capability is another man’s white elephant and I make no secret of the fact that I think project CVF is not right for the UK. This does not, however, mean I think carrier aviation is not a great capability to have, it is entirely complementary to land-based air power and in an ideal world, we would have both, overlapping land and sea-based air power.

It is absolutely the sensible thing to do.

If we had an unlimited pot of cash then CVF with 36 F35C’s and 4 E2’s makes perfect sense but the problem with this nirvana is that we don’t have an unlimited pot of cash and no matter how much whaling and gnashing of our teeth we do, that fact isn’t going to change any time soon.

The argument, therefore, is not about CVF/F35, it is about CVF/F35 in the context of a decreasing defence vote, increasing defence costs and the strategic reality of SDR and SDSR, both of which always seem to be conveniently forgotten when bitching about carriers.

In short, it is one of prioritisation.

And here is the problem; prioritisation will inevitably create so-called winners and losers and it is into this maelstrom that bias and corrosive inter-service rivalry is pitched. I sometimes think that creative tension between the services is a good thing but then I wake up and realise that it is responsible for many of the problems that have beset UK defence in the modern era, perhaps even longer. If fighting one corner or defending one service means that UK defence as a whole gets a battering then we must all question if we need to step back and ask ourselves some searching questions.

The UK does not have a small defence budget, yet we get tremendously poor value for money and end up with the inevitable Ford Focus capability for Rolls Royce cost. We can have the major projects but they inevitably fall short of the promise and the really important capabilities like ISTAR, logistics, maintenance, personnel development, training and intelligence go short.

It is service-centric thinking that is responsible for much of this.

So when I rail against project CVF it is a reaction, a reaction to the MoD and Service Chiefs who see military capabilities through the prism of their service and the prestige they bring, not what is good for the UK.

As soon as Libya kicked off I could have put my mortgage on the fact that various blogs, notable ‘ex somethings’ and others would be spinning the importance of carriers, how much better/faster/cheaper it would have been with the Harrier and how they were right all along, the RAF being crap etc.

You might think I have too much sympathy with the RAF but this could not be further from the truth, as my previous post will show. That said, if since their birth they have been fending off calls for their disbandment then one can understand a certain flair for self-preservation.

So what about Libya and carriers?

Does the operation prove that carrier-based fast air is intrinsically better than land-based, of course, it bloody well doesn’t?

It proves nothing except that a series of complementary and overlapping capabilities, in a coalition, can deliver military effect.

Channel 4 News led the charge of the dark blue (rinse) brigade with a contribution from a certain well known Falklands aviator and measured viewer of all things light blue, the headline proudly proclaiming that Axed carriers Could Have Saved Lives

The lack of a sea-based strike option initially left the RAF with no choice but to fly sorties from bases in the UK, sending Tornado jets on 3,000-mile round trips at a cost of £200,000 per aircraft, according to estimates from analysts.

Commenting, Commander Ward said

The USMC Harrier is almost identical to the RAF Harrier in capability. Its flexibility is perfectly clear. They are they now on-site doing a job. Wherever there is a troublespot in the world, it’s so easy to put a carrier there and provide a deterrent. When Cumberland went in to rescue Britons from Benghazi, you could have had Ark Royal with harriers on board just sitting there, saying: ‘Okay, we’re watching you.’ It would have been a significant deterrent to Gaddafi escalating his actions, and then when the UN resolution came through, we would have been ready to move.

In terms of attacking tanks and army units the Harrier is just as capable as the Tornado, and the Harrier has indeed got a better capability for ensuring no casualties for civilians, because is system is more accurate for the delivery of precision guided bombs.

Quite clearly, it is a better aircraft. We’re getting a lot of spin to denigrate the capability of the Harrier to justify a bad decision, and that is an appalling record for this Government

The Tornado is very old. It is suffering from heavy fatigue problems. It’s being held together by a lot of engineering work. In terms of airworthiness, serviceability and maintainability, it’s awful.

That’s pretty strong stuff but does it hold true.

Cmdr Sharkey estimates that the fuel needed to fly one Tornado from RAF Marham to Libya and back would cost the taxpayer £200,000 – about 35 times what it would have cost to get a Harrier from the deck of an aircraft carrier.

He calculates that it will cost £22,500 per jet to fly from Italy rather than £5,750 from a carrier near the coast of Libya.

Other sources, including Commander Ward’s own log pile on the accusations, in two posts here and here.

In the interests of balance, let’s have a look at those claims.

The Cost

The first point being made is the cost of launching the strike package from Norfolk instead of from an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Of course, the cost of fuel to go a few hundred miles will be significantly less than the cost of fuel to go a few thousand miles, especially given the need for tankers but this assumption misses off a rather important element.

The cost of fuel and manning for say, HMS Ark Royal to steam from the UK to the Mediterranean and stay moving whilst on station would knock the cost of aviation fuel for the Tornado strike into a cocked hat. Plus of course, the cost of the Ark Royal’s escort force (Libya still has some naval anti-ship capability, however small, it would have to be defended against) and attending RFA vessel has to be considered.

The point was also made about drop tanks being discarded, despite video and aircraft spotter evidence to the contrary and unsubstantiated claims about tanker numbers.

A detailed analysis of costs would have to take into account many many factors, much more than the one-dimensional claims floating around the media now.


As we all know, the claim that USMC Harriers are virtually the same as the recently retired GR9’s is somewhat wide of the mark.

Unlike the USMC Harriers, GR9 does not have any radar so air to air engagement would be reliant on AWAC’s, visual detection and hope. Whilst the GR9 could carry anti-aircraft missiles I am not sure if they were ever cleared for such and going against a supersonic aircraft, equipped with radar, with a subsonic aircraft, not equipped with radar would seem to me to be an unacceptable risk just to prove a point.

Because the GR9’s cannot carry Storm Shadows they would have had to penetrate the Libyan air space to drop their missiles and bombs directly over the target. Again, in a subsonic aircraft, this would seem rather risky. This is exactly the reason for Storm Shadow, to launch outside the air defence envelope.

We have heard many claims that not integrating Storm Shadow on Harrier was a blatant light blue plot to protect Tornado but look behind this nonsense and you see a host of very good reasons why Storm Shadow and Harrier was a marriage never meant to be.

Storm Shadow is very large and heavy. Because of asymmetric loading and release issues, dropping one of these from a wing pylon would be a serious issue to overcome, even for a Tornado, the Tornado carries them on the fuselage hardpoint for this reason. A Harrier does not have the ability to do this because of under fuselage clearance; wing pylon mounting would be the only option. This means those asymmetric release issues become more pronounced and because of the length of the missile and relative size of the Harriers wing, it is difficult to see how it would be carried on a wing pylon without some additional costly modification.

Because of the Harriers relatively poor ‘bring back’ performance and vertical landing restrictions, if there was a need to bring back a weapon then the pilot would be faced with a difficult decision. Ditch the weapon, ditch the aircraft or try and divert to a land-based airfield. This issue ties into the cost argument, at roughly £750k each, dropping a Storm Shadow into the sea would be a very expensive thing to do.

Given that the target information changed mid-flight in such a way that it resulted in the need to abort the launch of a recent Tornado/Storm Shadow mission, this would seem to be rather relevant to the cost argument as well.

Many commenters also make the assumption that the Harrier and CVS would be operating practically next door to Gadaffis’ compound but this is simply not the case. In order to provide some defence against anti-ship missiles, the carrier group would need to remain well offshore. Of course, the threat is relatively low but that does not alter the fundamental fact that it would need defending against which means distance, escorts or both.

These add fuel and operating costs when measured against land bases.

So the reality is, for these initial strikes against the Libyan air defence system, the Harrier GR9 would have been a poor choice, risky at best and downright ridiculous at worst.

Maybe instead of slagging the RAF off, accusing them of showboating, perhaps some kudos is due for a clear demonstration of power projection. We should also give the fishheads some credit as well, two services coming together to deliver complementary effects on the target.

If we are talking about subsequent operations, either enforcing a no-fly zone with airborne patrols or reactive alert type forces then the closeness of a CVS would provide advantages in aircraft fuel, reaction time (assuming a standing start), airframe hours and other factors but as I have covered above, the GR9 would be a very poor choice for this role so the conversation is somewhat moot. Similar distances were present in operations in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then we must look at ongoing strike/interdiction operations, attacking Libyan ground forces or remaining air defence system for example. A GR9 force aboard say, HMS Ark Royal, would be closer and arguably more reactive but its range of weapons load is less so this would need more aircraft, more refuelling, more aircrew etc.

Brimstone and dual-mode Brimstone is not cleared and as we know, the Harrier GR9 does not have a cannon or RAPTOR pod capability. The Harriers manoeuvrability does lend itself to close air support but that is not the role it would be being used for and to suggest that CAS is a valid mission for UK forces is a clear indication of mission creep.

Finally, not sure what the claim that a Harrier is more accurate than a Tornado and therefore more able to reduce civilian casualties means. In fact, I would say the opposite is true given the selective effects of the 27mm cannon and Dual mode Brimstone are not available to Harrier, despite the relative merits of the two targeting pods.

I think that is an example of clutching at straws to justify a weak argument.


This is always an interesting point; no doubt an aircraft carrier allows one to imperiously float above concerns about basing rights. With Malta refusing and even Italy making noises (for its own reasons it must be said) the fact is that host nation support cannot always be guaranteed, but equally, it is not always denied. The Med is probably not the best example of HNS denial, there are plenty of other options but please let’s not think that aircraft carriers are the only answer.

At a political level, one might argue that for legitimacy, the regional nations must offer such support or we have no business being there in the first place, another argument perhaps but something to consider.

Forces the world over will always take a land base over an aircraft carrier, every day and twice on a Sunday. They only use sea basing when they have to and evidence of operations over many decades should show this to be the case.

This is not some conspiracy but just cold hard economics.


As usual, its swings and roundabouts;

GR9 might be closer to the action but it needs lots of support at sea, this might be balanced by additional fuel costs operating GR4’s from land.

GR9 is great at CAS but is slower and can carry less than a GR4, plus it has a smaller range of weapons/recce systems and lower endurance.

GR9 is not a credible CAP aircraft, sorry, it just isn’t.

What would have been a better situation is a combination of land-based and sea-based air power, each using its strengths to complement the other.

Arguing that one is better than the other is woolly minded and demonstrative of the wasteful service rivalry that has so damaged UK defence.

That’s is why I get ranty.

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254 Responses

  1. I don’t think anyone objects to someone or in your case the editor having a different opinion. It is when one is judged a ‘cock waver’ for having a different opinion that it begins to grate.

    Personally I think CVS with GR9’s was a considerable paper tiger and we were right to put funds into other assets at this cash strapped time. And yes the constant bleating about them is a nonsense.

    However, you have to accept that there are those of us who think future British armed forces based around the punch of CVF and that a naval centric doctrine is the way forward for the UK in a world where troops on the ground is going to be extremely difficult politically.

  2. “The argument, therefore, is not about CVF/F35, it is about CVF/F35 in the context of a decreasing defence vote. In short, it is one of prioritisation.”

    Very much agreed.

    But I hope you will appreciate that I have not been calling for the SDSR to be revisited, or harriers and carriers to be spared the axe.

    When we are argue about ‘balance’ I often get the impression you think I am bitching about the here-and-now, the SDSR, afghanistan, etc, when in fact I am purely looking towards a post afghanistan level.

    Further, that when I talk about a better balanced forces that does not mean I think any ability to sustain a persistent presence is pointless, I fully support the creation of the 5x large MRB’s which closely match the 4:1 harmony guidelines. Rather, I am merely delighted that our whole ground effect is not tied to persistent operations, as 16AAB and 3Cdo are specifically tasked with punitive/limited interventions.

    Finally, that while I respect your opinion that carriers do not represent the best way to prioritise a decreasing Defence vote I also disagree with it, and that if you get irritated by continual references to carriers it might be because you keep on taking cheeky jabs at them, even in articles that notionally deal with other matters. Red Arrows vs Bay class LSD’s being a case in point.

  3. Andy and Jedi, noted

    Will try and target my accusations of cock waiving better, to be honest, it was aimed at the grown ups in the services and out who seem to display those traits, not the esteemed readership of TD :)

  4. Absolutely agree – I am a carrier fan but even I will admit that Libya doesn’t make any sort of case for carriers. Sigonella’s only a couple of hundred miles away after all. From Sigonella, Gibraltar and Akrotiri you can cover pretty much the whole Mediterranean with GR4.

    It does make rather a good case for Storm Shadows, and also, perhaps, for thinking about getting a few of the sealaunched type that the French are building and fitting them in the Sylver tubes on the T45s. Yes, sub-launched TLAM is all very well, but we can’t guarantee there’ll be a sub nearby at the right time – ship-launched Storm Shadow gives us a few more options.

  5. Sven made a good point on another site about the cheapest way to launch cruise missiles is from a truck. Thought that was spot on actually and as you say, would give us more options.

    Of course, I would insist on a containerised version :)

    Consider the ability to fly, float or drive a 20ft ISO anywhere in the world, park it almost anywhere (back of a ship, a car park etc) and launch a salvo

    Now that would be a seriously flexible and impressive capability to have

    Thats it, I am arguing for a containerised Storm Shadow

  6. Interesting article.

    The first half I agree with, Libya is a poor case to argue for the retention our Ark Royal and Harriers.

    The second half I do not, sovereign and strategic power projection requires more than missiles and overflight, it needs boots on the ground, and that is most effective at achieving its political aims via punitive/limited intervention. This is best achieved with carriers & an ARG.

  7. MY issues with CVF Nellie and Dumbo, is not that I am anti carrier, I am pro carrier. Just not as realised by UK MOD procurement policy (very sadly aided and abbetted by RN Top brass); of sacrificing everything for a single carrier which as TD observes brings ltd practical capabilities (if any) compared to what we could have if we spent the cash elswhere.

    AS I have observed before and TD mentions, this debate has got to the stage where the pro and anti crowd are just shouting at one another.

    Each regards their view as a clealry expressed, honestly held, sensible apraissal of the situation.

    The opposing view is clearly held by ranting greybeard loons who are at best fools and naves, and at worst traitors.

    We have rather debated this into the ground.

    Can’t resist one Q

    IF Nellie and Dumbo were in full commission with 36 F35 each, could they along with CDG without land based support run the whole NFZ and interdiction campaign themselves opperating with Underway replenishment etc?

    Or would they need port facilities and land based support from tankers/Awacs etc?

  8. “IF Nellie and Dumbo were in full commission with 36 F35 each, could they along with CDG without land based support run the whole NFZ and interdiction campaign themselves opperating with Underway replenishment etc?”

    No they couldn’t, but it isn’t an either/or situation.

    Carriers/ARG’s are designed for limited intervention, not endurance runs afghanistan or iraq no-fly-zones.

    Horses for courses.

  9. @ TD – Liking the Containerised Storm Shadow idea – Will have to add it to IXION’s list in the Open Thread.

  10. “and in an ideal world we would have both, overlapping land and sea based air power.”

    Which could be achieved by getting the RAF to fly aeroplanes that can land on boats. F-35B or C/F-18/Rafale/dare I say it… Naval Eurofighter!. Economies of scale and a more robust airframe than a dedicated land based aircraft. But that would be putting all our eggs in one basket if a fault or weakness in the aircraft became apparent.

  11. JDBTX

    IF they will not give us a sustained independant opperational cababilty against a country with the military might Libya, which is hardly that far away

    Then why: –


    Are we bothering with them!

  12. Is it worth debating cheaper ways to get the same effect as CVF and F-35C in other ways – for how much would it cost to build “cruisers” with large number of strike length VLS tubes for say 80 tomahawk or SCALP-N?

    Would 6 new SSGN’s based on Astute have been better use of the now £6 billion that we will spend on 2 new carriers?

    Also should we have cancelled the carriers (and gotten Carrier Alliance to build us twenty odd corvettes and OPV’s under the agreement that guarantees certain amount of work) once we suspected that the F-35B was a total load of old c*ck that costs twice as much as we expected and only works as half as well, and that our plan to basically use QE and PoW as overlarge LHD’s was now flawed?

    Is it worth going STOBAR and using the LCA (N) as our primary aircraft for the FAA, and concentrating on using CVF’s as primarily air defence carriers designed to escort our amphibious task force?

    BTW I am pro-carrier (see my comments on Another Look at Balance), but I think it is worthwhile discussing the carriers further, as long as the same rigour required to defend the carriers is also applied to those who oppose them (you only have to look on the Why do we need the navy thread on ARRSE to see posters who are incapable of justifying their anti-carrier bias while accusing pro-carrier proponents of being clueless).

  13. “IF they will not give us a sustained independent operational capability against a country with the military might Libya, which is hardly that far away then why are we bothering with them?”

    Why does it have to be sustained?

    The whole point of strategic raiding is that it is raiding that achieves strategic effect.

  14. Tubby

    Wecome aboard.

    See its easy once you start to think the unthinkable and ask ‘the questions that dare not speak their name’.

    You do not have to be a ranting greybeard loon to ask those very questions you have just asked.

    Of course you must come to your own conclusions after debate, which may well be that we need Nellie and Dumbo.

    But be carefull, the Carrier Junkies will come and get you just for asking about how many astutes we could have, and for example how many Absalon class we could have (About 24!) for the same cost.

  15. JDBT

    So thats £10 billion or so (to include some aircraft, + running costs) significantly weakening the RN’s remaining fleet, etc etc so we can strategicaly raid somewhere. When for a tenth the price we could still have a lot of the capability.

    IS that really worth it?

  16. Ix
    Not all of us….

    I’m rather partial to carrier power, but I’d have gone with V/STOVL on 20,000t flat tops, maybe even just Apaches, if we had a day one Storm Shadow Saturation Capability.

  17. “So thats £10 billion or so significantly weakening the RN’s remaining fleet, etc etc so we can strategically raid somewhere. When for a tenth the price we could still have a lot of the capability.”

    A lot of what capability?

    There was no status-quo option, so the only parity alternative would have been to kill carriers, amphibs and the RM (brigade), in order to stick with an army that could retain eight-ten brigades with the intention of deploying two.

    NOTHING else preserves useful expeditionary effect from the point of view of politicians achieving strategic aims.

    Escorts, fighter planes, and non-deployable brigades are great for defence, but utterly useless for coercion, and without coercion the military is useless to governments who want to achieve political effect.

    So, enduring land operations or limited maritime operations……….? I leave it to decide which the politicians will find easiest to sell to the electorate post Iraq/Afghan.

  18. A very interesting article, as was pchoskins’ over at Reuters. However, your arguments against carriers and the Libyan operation contain a number of flaws:

    Had the Hercules transports sent in to rescue nationals been shot down, what then? Chinooks from Malta to the rescue, sure, but who covers them going in? The evacuation of civilians from Beirut in 2006, resulted in over a thousand people being moved, had the evacuation of Libya been on this scale then the solution would’ve required larger ships and a more significant initial military intervention force and that would‘ve taken time, which highlights the flaw in the four days from Plymouth argument. In 2006 HMS Bulwark was on hand and could handle the numbers, as could a carrier, but not a Frigate. Had Malta denied access for the Chinooks, it would’ve created a serious problem.

    Yes, Tornado’s can operate from the UK, but for how long? Yes, Typhoon’s can operate from Sicily, and Italy is an ally, but the Italians have already threatened to withdraw use of her airfields if NATO doesn’t assume command of the operation, so cracks are beginning to show in our ‘steadfast’ alliance. Would the French allow us to operate from their territory if necessary? What if a future operation was in Sub-Saharan Africa, what then? No airfields, no operation.

    A carrier is more than a floating airfield, it is a mobile piece of sovereign territory that can rescue civilians, support allies and threaten tyrants. It removes a lot of ‘what ifs’ from an operation and simplifies and reduces the need for diplomatic negotiations. If we want to strut on the global stage, then we need global props and the carrier is one of them. Given the turmoil in the Middle East, we will not see an end to these operations and relying on frigates and Tornado’s to do the job is simply not enough.

    Harriers GR.9’s may not be ideal for CAP and have limited capability in this respect, but then do you need a radar for a short range Sidewinder in the cloudless, azure skies of Libya? Israeli A-4 Skyhawks have shotdown enough Migs without the aid of a radar. Harriers do however, excel at ground attack, whereas Typhoon is ‘austere’ in this respect and untried in combat. To police a no fly zone, just having fast jets in the area is a deterrent in itself, the type may be of little relevance as they can still have a significant impact. If you lined up a row of Harriers in Tripoli, I’m sure Col Ghadaffi would salute as he drove past, he wouldn’t know the difference between a Harrier and a Mirage, most politicians can’t and neither can most civilians. But, if they know the Libyan Air Force is grounded and they hear a loud jet engine, it will have a psychological effect. Fast jets carry out fly-by’s in Iraq and Afghanistan to deter ambush’s and insurgent activity, so we know it works. As for the Harrier requiring AWACS as support, I’d be surprised to learn if the Typhoon’s over Libya at this time didn’t have an AWACS in the vicinity. I would’ve assumed this was a standard operating procedure, why denigrate the Harrier because of it? Ok, a Harrier cannot carry Stormshadow, but then a Tornado cannot take off from a short runway. Given the 3000 mile round trip from the UK, it would have been more cost-effective to launch Stormshadow from a VC-10 or a Tristar and cut out the middleman.

    But then, that’s just my personal opinion.

  19. I should’ve added: “And you can get the crew to gather on the flight deck and spell out the name of the ship, which you can’t do on a frigate!” ;-)

  20. JDBT

    What capability?

    You have just agreed that the millitary giant Libya comes under the ‘Too hard to have a go at on our own’ even if both carriers with full compliment were up and running.

    If 2 of them fully kitted out; (and i remind you that the 10 billion is only projected to get 1 with at best 24 aircraft on it); can’t destroy the Libyan airforce and enforce air supremacy and provide air cover for land forces on their own, when are we going to be sending in the marines? Anywhere?

    Who are we going to coerce with them if we can’t coerce Libya?

  21. It’s a classic business dilemma – do you go with low upfront costs and higher operating costs, or expend capital to get lower operating costs. The longer we’re there, the easier it is to justify fueling up a carrier. The other aspect is flexibility, so you need to account for some option value as well.

    You’re right that this is a poor case for the Invincible/GR9 combo, the GR9 is a second-day-of-war aircraft. I wouldn’t be too hard on the Harrier – it’s a better CAS aircraft than the Mirage 2000, and it seems that the armoured column going into Benghazi was sorted by USMC Harriers rather than French land-based air. Suspect Sharkey is being a bit cute with the accuracy thing – Sniper may well have a better accuracy with Paveway than LITENING (the whole point of getting it was that TIALD wasn’t accurate enough), but Harrier doesn’t have Brimstone. It’s long been cleared for AIM-9L.

    TD, it seems that you’re saying that carriers carrying planes with no radar, BVR AAM’s or Storm Shadow aren’t much help. If only we had a carrier with planes that could do all those things…. :-)

    IXION asks a nice question. I think the basic answer is that a fully-loaded CVF battlegroup could do the mission, but you’d miss out on some nice-to-haves. AWACS would be covered by Hawkeyes, particularly E-2D which has more JSTARS-y capability as well. For this particular mission Sea King ASaC would just about do, but you might want extra fixed-wing AEW if it was available?

    Extra tanking would be nice, even the US is a bit light on carrier tanking at the moment but they’ve obviously made a decision that buddy tanking is good enough for their purposes – presumably anything more serious and they fly over some land-based tankers. Shame they never went ahead with the KS-3A, perhaps we could rope in some Buccs or A-6’s from somewhere? :-)

    The obvious weakness in a European version of Odyssey Dawn (sic) is the inability to get large numbers of cruise missiles in the air as a “surprise” first attack. Compared to Iraq then 110 Tomahawks counts as a pretty small attack, but even that needs a lot of escorts/SSN’s if you only have 16 strike-length tubes per ship and rely on torpedo-tube delivery for the subs. I suspect that the government might be signing some cheques for T45 strike-length tubes soon, and perhaps might give new thought to Ajax getting a VLS stretch?

    A SSGN is obviously the luxury option – but it is a very nice one to have…. Conversely I do like the idea of containerised missiles – but would note that an A70 launcher is 7m long, which is a bit of an awkward fit for a 20′ container. I know that’s not exactly a fatal objection, other lengths of container are available, but I merely note it.

    The other area that is hard to assess is that there seems to be a lot of EW/ELINT activity going on – Italian Tornado ECRs, various types of EC-130 and so on. Even the Yank carriers are looking a bit light now that the ES-3A’s have retired. Hard to get much solid information on that kind of thing, and the RAF seems to be doctrinally opposed to dedicated EW aircraft, preferring a bit of EW on all their planes. I guess the F-35 continues that theme, with the attack mode of the AESA radar and so on. No doubt UAVs and other platforms can do a lot of the ELINT stuff these days, but it’d be interesting to see what happens on that front over the next decade.

  22. “You have just agreed that the military giant Libya comes under the ‘Too hard to have a go at on our own’ even if both carriers with full compliment were up and running.”

    No I haven’t. All I said was that carriers were not suitable tools for maintaining an open-ended no-fly-zone (read: potentially long-term), while acknowledging that all our expeditionary land-power is tied up in Afghanistan (read: circa two brigades).

    “What capability?”

    Presuming that is a question about the utility of raiding in the ‘real’ world, and not a rhetorical rejection of my comment……….. I will point you to the yanks who percieve the following advantages:

    “Rapid entry/punitive campaigns might be necessary to:

    • Defeat hybrid military threats or hostile irregular groups;

    • Neutralize violent threats to friendly governments or unimpeded use of the global commons;

    • Protect U.S. citizens and property abroad;

    • Establish short-term control over un-, under-, or irresponsibly-governed territory;

    • Destroy or dismantle criminal or terrorist sanctuary and support networks;

    • Reverse illegitimate seizures of political power;

    • Underwrite the extraterritorial exercise of U.S. law; or

    • Seize and exercise temporary control over WMD, critical foreign infrastructure and resources, or foreign territory that may be essential to local restoration of order, authority, and the protection of wider international security.”

  23. Can we wire Merlin to carry Storm Shadow? :)

    I don’t think really Their Lordships heart is really in deep strike. And I have thought for a while CVF should be about sea control and not about strike (or COIN.) I think if Their Lordships had been serious about deep strike the Astutes would have been fitted with a dozen or so VLS for TLAM just as the modern USN SSNs are. Smells a funny colour.

  24. RS

    You are letting tiddles out of the soft cloth recepticle.

    ‘If we want to strut on the global stage, then we need global props and the carrier is one of them’.

    Mr Stockley:-

    The chemist has your scrip of carrier ready for you to shoot up on his doorstep.

  25. Carriers/amphibs are not the answer to everything, but nor too are they being asked to be; they provide very high strategic mobility, but very low strategic endurance.

    We did not ask 3Cdo to patrol Basra by launching amphibious assaults across the al-fawr peninsula at 8:45am each morning, nor too would you ask the army to spend six months building up the logistical footprint to sustain a brigade against a Mass Atrocity Response Operation.

  26. “The obvious weakness in a European version of Odyssey Dawn (sic) is the inability to get large numbers of cruise missiles in the air as a “surprise” first attack. ”
    My usual suggestion is a T45 sized vessel, with the entire deck given over to vertical launch tubes.
    Or a Vincie sized vessel with the same…

  27. IXION: “The chemist has your scrip of carrier ready for you to shoot up on his doorstep.”

    Why thankyou sir, I’ll take it immediately! :-D

    As an aside, I long to see the term ‘willy waving’ as part of a Daily Mail headline, it would make my day.

  28. “Which could be achieved by getting the RAF to fly aeroplanes that can land on boats. ”

    Or, to turn it around, getting rid of the RAF and letting the Navy fly land based aircraft too . . . ;-)

  29. JDBT

    There are some (not all contributors to this group, indeed the RN top brass are incuded); Who when the word carrier is mentioned go all Hommer Simpson.

    Eyes glaze over and MMMM Carriers…… mumbles from their lips, and most importantly the see in the little cotton wool bubble above their heads their dream carrier: –

    A Nimitz clas with full airgroup

    Such a carrier may be able to do all the things you set out.

    BUT how much of it realy could a QE class do’ with 12 fighters on it, in the real world when the first time the shooting starts fighters number 9-12 will be canablized to keep 1-8 in the air etc etc.

    Proper Carriers yes!

    Nellie and Dumbo no!

  30. Tomahawk costs (at best) 500.000 dollars apiece. It actually costs a lot more, most likely, unless the SCALP Navale is plated in gold, since France is paying them a good million euro each.

    And then again, it is not all about cruise missiles. Tomahawks aren’t that great at busting Hardened, Deeply Buried Targets.
    They are also overkill for many kind of targets.
    You don’t use a TacTom to bust a tank. A Tomahawk is used to destroy a command center, a bridge, a radar station, (parts) of an air base (the UK has only got the Unitary warhead variant, so no “area-attack” with submunitions either), this kind of targets.

    But you can’t think to support land operations by firing a Tomahawk every time the troops on the ground are pinned by a sniper in the third floor of the bulding ahead, or because a tank is holding a crossroad.
    The arsenal ship is not cost nor time effective for this kind of use.

    If you have an aircraft carrier off the coast, instead, you can have:

    -Fighters keeping enemy planes and helicopters off your back
    -reconnaissance from above
    -fighters loitering “on station” at a minute-time call for dropping a Paveway IV or firing a Brimstone into what’s giving you hell
    -helicopters based on the ship ready to come and evacuate you or provide you mobility.

    All things an arsenal ship (and even less a SSGN costing 2 billions or more, weapons and crew excluded) cannot do.

    I keep reading about SSGNs. I guess a lot of people is fine with blasting a million dollar cruise missile with strategical capability to bust any kind of target…?
    Even if we are, can someone explain me exactly how the troops on the ground are going to call on a strike from an SSGN? A satellite request to Northwood, with attached GPS coordinates, that Northwood will have to TRY (communicate with submerged subs is not easy!) and relay to the submarine.

    And how will the GPS coordinates be kept up to date all along the flight time of the missile…?

    It just won’t work.
    An SSGN is a STRATEGIC attack asset, good to strike STRATEGIC targets, selected before a mission is started, and planned carefully.

    As to all the limits of the GR9 and of Ark Royal itself, i agree on nearly all of them.

    But i also believe that, until Great Britain wants to matter internationally and until ops abroad such as Libya are even considered, the need for CVF is absolute.

    I can accept not spending money to bring Harriers and Ark back, but the stabbing at CVF, really no.
    A proper carrier must available, with proper planes (which will have Paveway, Brimstone, Meteor, Storm Shadow and all) on board.

    And no one in the world can (currently) produce an alternative that covers all the “capability boxes” that a carrier fills up.
    Simple like that.

    Without a carrier, and with a merely defensive posture, then everything changes. Scrap F35 as whole then.
    Tomahawks not needed, better sub-harpoon.
    Army not needed, if not a much, much smaller one.
    A sole-Typhoon fleet for the RAF, for the air defence and ground attack both.
    A strong marittime patrol aircraft fleet (i repeat, STRONG).
    And lots of frigates to protect trade and sealines.

    But in this case, it is a total change of policy: a UK isolationist and merely defensive. It is a matter of choosing.

  31. “Eyes glaze over and MMMM Carriers…… mumbles from their lips, and most importantly the see in the little cotton wool bubble above their heads their dream carrier: – A Nimitz clas with full airgroup”

    Sure, it turns up in the telegraph quite regularly.

    “BUT how much of it realy could a QE class do’ with 12 fighters on it, in the real world when the first time the shooting starts fighters number 9-12 will be canablized to keep 1-8 in the air etc etc.”

    Depends on how many we buy. Obviously we won’t get 150 any more, but i seriously doubt it will be as few as forty.
    My personal guess is that twelve will be normal, twenty four achievable in within 30 days, and 36 with four months notice if we bootstrap everything a-la the island-that-shall-not-be-named. That presupposes four squadrons of twelve with 24 as the OCU/OCE. Optimistic, but it is what I reckon we will end up with in total, even if it takes some years to get there.

  32. “Without a carrier, and with a merely defensive posture, then everything changes. But in this case, it is a total change of policy: a UK isolationist and merely defensive. It is a matter of choosing.”

    Very much agreed Gabrielle

  33. Is your car presently on fire, piddling oil like an excited drunk, you can’t change the stereo from a Britney Spears tune, and to top it all the steering’s locked-up? Scrap it and buy a new one. Yes, it’ll take time to pick the one you want. Maybe time to save up for a decent one, or pay off the loans for the heap of junk you’d been saddled with. But to carry on careering down the highstreet whilst yelling ‘It’s unpatriotic to stop! We have unique capabilities!’ is just mental.

    Starve the MOD of funds until it gets its act together. Pare things to the bone. Nothing less drastic will stop the institutionalised rot. Nothing else will focus minds on what the UK really needs.

    Cut the budget by 75% and only keep core capabilities like nuke warhead maintenance or Trident reactor upkeep. Yes, lots of lay-offs. Lots of domestic defence manufacturers no longer bodging together second rate tosh at enormous taxpayer expense. Sorry, but the Exchequer isn’t a charity. Take the dole – it’ll save the country money, and you’re not more important than anyone else. Why do you get a £100k a year subsidy when a miner or a computer programmer doesn’t?

    Goodbye 95% of the deskbound admirals. Goodbye dodgy contracts and palatial headquarters and private parties and personal drivers and cushy jobs on the board of whatever metal bashers you ordered a gajillion quid’s worth of kit from just before you retired. Goodbye hideously expensive kit. Goodbye cold war equipment we’ll never use more than 10% of in any actual conflict (because that’s the only 10% we got people fully qualified on). Stick it all in a shed.

    And, maybe ten years after the bloodletting, the MOD might actually get its act together. You don’t keep giving drugs to a junkie. Don’t give money to an organisation that needs to be scrapped and rebuilt. The UK’s in the middle of one of the safest places in the world – the North Atlantic. Flat out, no ‘big bads’ are going to threaten us for the next ten years. Is China going to invade us via Russia? Is Chad looking for some aggro? Latvia thinks it’s a bit tasty and we’re looking at its bird?

    If we lose our discretionary ability to bomb foreigners for a decade until we decide what the best way to bomb foreigners really is, and when, and for what cost and with what kit – that’s hardly going to kill us.

  34. @IXION says:

    BUT how much of it realy could a QE class do’ with 12 fighters on it, in the real world when the first time the shooting starts fighters number 9-12 will be canablized to keep 1-8 in the air etc etc.

    Arguably, it could do more than the RAF did by flying 6 Tornado GR4 from Marham after pulling out of the hangars all of the air tankers left in the UK.
    And it will be able to do it again and again, while a feat like last night “Black Buck 2011” is not something the UK can sustain many times, even just making a raid for day.

    And it could do its part without having to ask anyone permission, and without having to wait days of political bickering about who gets to command the operations.
    “Or it is NATO or i take back my bases!”
    (Gods am i ashamed that my country’s government had to say something THAT stupid…)

    As to the cannibalization, it depends on the amount of spares the Navy’s given.
    You cannibalize a plane to keep another one flying only if you miss the particular spare part you need. Normally it does not happen. With Typhoon it happens because the flow of spare parts is not yet timely enough at times.

    Fact is, that the F35C will be able to take off from QE up to 3 times a day.
    Even with 12 planes, that’s 36 sorties a day. More than the RAF is managing currently.
    Give it the planes it needs, and it will do its job.

    Of course, if the RN gets the ship but the RAF steals the planes, you can’t even talk about it, but that’s another matter.

  35. Gabriele
    The BROACH warhead on Stormshadow is designed exclusivly to bust buried hardened targets.

    People often say that cruise missiles are too expensive, but when you think about it, a Main Battle Tank costs £2-3 million, a cruise missile £1mn, so they are a cost effective way of plinking them, if not the best.

    Obviously, they cant be used forever for fire support, hence my opinion that eventualy, some sort of air has to take over.

    Carriers are useful, but an Arsenal ship can shut down dozens of airfields in moments, I’d like Carriers to send fighters out to blow stuff up on the ground later.

    A 500 tube Arsenal Ship would cost £750mn. Assuming two missiles per aircraft, and 36 aircraft, and two flights per day, it takes a Carrier 4 days to to what an AS can do in minutes.

    “And no one in the world can (currently) produce an alternative that covers all the “capability boxes” that a carrier fills up.
    Simple like that.”

    But we dont need everything in one super package.
    A 500 Tube Arsenal Ship could paralyse virtualy any realistic foe. Imagine what 50 would do if lobbed at the MoD, Whitehall and Westminster. Headless chickens.
    That leaves 450 to knock out radar and runways.
    An austere carrier hosting Harrier threes then launches follow on strikes against grounded aircraft and anything that survived the Arsenal Ship.
    And then carries on providing ground support to the landing airforces.

    Imagine what 500 Tomahawks would do to the CVF, even guarded by all six T45’s?

  36. To take on tanks, i’ll forever want a plane flying overhead with a load of Brimstones, thank you.
    A far cheaper and faster way to destroy not one but even up as many as 12 (Tornado GR4) or 18 (Typhoon in the future) tanks for sortie.

    I highly doubt the cost you propose for an arsenal ship. That money would probably cover only the missiles, without launch silos and ship and all the rest.
    And it still would be a very task-specific asset capable to only fire missiles at ground targets.

    No fleet overhead protection, no recce, no CAP, no air attack, no gun-strafing run over enemies…

    The US Marines had the idea years ago. But soon dropped it, and funded more flexible assets.
    Moreover, the UK which has less of everything, should ALWAYS prioritize flexibility: what the armed forces buy must be capable to cover as many roles as possible, because there is no funding for role-specific “master” assets.

    That’s why, regardless of what service flies it, for example, i’d want all future helos to be like the Apache: capable to work ashore, and go on the ships too.
    This is a first example of flexibility.

    And instead of a 500-Tomahawk hull, i’ll always fund a carrier.
    And put far smaller number of Tomahawks on part of the Type 26 frigates, instead, to give the RN’s ships better capability to influence the events ashore, while having hulls capable to do mostly everything.

  37. Dom, I think the 500 missile swarm is why the USN is investing so heavily is lasers, because as you say, if (and it is a big if) you can locate a high value asset like an aircraft carrier and be in a position to launch such a swarming attack there is no doubt we would be in trouble, simply running out of AA missiles and CIWS rounds. Its an interesting thought exercise, how to defeat a layered defence system, not as easy as you might think but certainly enough to make you stop and think

  38. MAT

    Hear hear wish I could have put it like that love the Latvia crack.

    JDBT @ 3.45

    Your assesment is pretty much what I think! Really it is. A proper carrier force, with a proper number of aircraft is a geneuine multi function multi use capability, I have said before and will say again, if we could get 3 carriers with at least 18 fighters awacs and a handfull of copters one each as a baseline surgable to 36 then we really do have a capabillity and your asessment isn’t far short of that.

    However it is not what we are promised, or likely to be able to afford.

    If it does happen, you are talking about almost the entire future projected fighter numbers of the RAF available for flying of carriers: – 150 or so. Not in itself a bad idea but in the service centred world TD decries. I have more chance of being elected Pope.

    I know we have reached diametrically opposed results but we do so from almost the same postion.

    Its a funny old world

  39. I’d be quite content with two carriers and 72 JCA, be they F18, F35c, or Sopwith-Camels.

  40. There is no carrier/no-carrier debate. They’re being built, they’re going to be launched, they’re going to be manned, and that’s that. You can debate whether they should have been built in the first place, but that’s a far less interesting debate.

  41. TD,
    You cannot hide your natural antipathy towards CVF no matter how hard you claim to be unbiased,your so called attempt at debate on this matter is so slanted against it why don’t you just come out of the closet.
    The one voice of reason amongst all the wishfull thinking and fantasy is Gabriele whom as always shows a logical,practical and even more acceptable a sensible approach towards the issue.
    A five hundred tube ‘Arsenal ship’ ?. That when hit would make the biggest fireworks display in history.
    When one reads some of the ideas that are thrown around on here then you can come to some understanding of the confusion and uncertainty that prevails in the MOD.
    Instead of self proclaimed experts we could do with a few sharp incisive minds that can cut through and discard all the outlandish suggestions and give us a core capability of affordable reliable systems.
    Yes I know it’s easier said than done but somehow we need to bring the three services into some sort of general agreement on what is needed for the defence of our country.
    Politicians have always played them off one against the other and will continue to do so aided by career civil servants in the MOD.
    We need a grass roots rethink of our defence needs that is based on actual need rather than money,we are not a world power but we can have influence and its either that or we pull back from world affairs and accept ourselves for the very small island that we are.

  42. Mike2

    In my defence, I don’t think I have ever been in the closet but for the avoidance of doubt and if you had read the umpteen posts I have done on the subject you would see.

    I do not think CVF/JCA represents good value for money, or in the context of the strategic reality of SDSR/SDR, essential to UK defence. In an ideal world I would have 8, with laser beams and everything, but we do not exist in the fantasy land of money orchards that the service chiefs seem to think we do, therefore I contend that their price (not just in cash terms but in very real impacts on other capabilities) is one not worth paying. However, I also recognise that the die is cast and we have to make do, getting the maximum benefit from our multi billion pound purchase should be our top priority now. The admirals have won, lets just hope their victory was worth it

    I come to this conclusion based on what I think is a balanced view of things, the reality of operations in the last 30 years and what I think to be a reasonable look into the future, you might disagree but that at least is my story and I am sticking to it. :)

  43. JS

    You are of course correct. It is not to late, (but soon will be) to cancel them.

    But given we are getting them it is how best to use them.

    They have some use as LPH. But if we aint going to use them for that.

  44. TD,
    ‘The admirals have won’ absolute nonsense,nobody has won not least the navy.
    Your flippant remarks regards laser beams etc,are once again an attempt at steering the debate away from serious discussion.
    I have read the ‘upteen posts’ you have made on this subject,why on earth do you think I am replying.
    When you speak of the reality of operations in the last 30 years,have you conveniently forgotten the absolutely crucial part that carrier avaition played in the Falklands campaign,a war in all but name that we couldn’t have even contemplated without air power.
    Your idea of a ‘balanced view’ seems to be somewhat out of line with reality,your ‘reasonable’ look into the future being disproven as we speak.
    Stick to your story by all means,I have always been an avid reader of fiction.

  45. Mike2

    If TD’s bias re carriers is showing, then I am pretty sure he is not alone…..

    Like I said this carrier thing became a shouting match some time ago, (in which I have happily engaged), welcome to the party.

  46. Jedibeeftrix said “they provide very high strategic mobility, but very low strategic endurance.”

    Was this a typo because navies provide high strategic endurance? It is air power that has low endurance. And armies neither have strategic reach or endurance.

  47. OK Mike, I can see my attempt to lighten the mood hasn’t worked and as for serious discussion, we have done nothing but for the last couple of years on CVF and JCA, so can you forgive me a little sloped shoulders levity?

    30 years, yes, again you are right, I didnt include the Falklands but that was it. Give me an example since then when maritime fast jet aviation from the UK alone has been essential

  48. X

    There is no strategic problem to which a carrier junky cannot make the answer a carrier.

    In the early 1950’s the USN used maps in congressional hearings to show how much of the Soviet union was in range from and vulnerable t0o nuclear attack by Skyraiders launched from carriers.

    Some one pointed out it was interresting how carriers would not only be able to opperate unhindered in the baltic and the black sea.

    But also in the Caspian sea Lake Biakal and the Sea of Azov!

    Intraveinous carrier abuse has a long history.

  49. TD, “Give me an example since then when maritime fast jet aviation from the UK alone has been essential”

    You could say the same about Rapier, and between us we could probably name a dozen other systems that have rarely been used, would you get rid of them on the strength of that alone? In this sense Switzeland could get rid of its army through lack of use.

  50. The trouble is the wars we have fought since WW2 were the wrong sort of wars; the Army and the RAF wanted to replay WW2 but with the Soviets as OpFor. During the 20th century first the army and then the RAF have skewed British defence thinking. Not saying this is wrong. Not saying it is right. It just happened. But if anybody who is pro-navy suggests a return to a pre-1900 stance we are accused of being sentimental and a teeny-tiny bit bonkers. (Ok the latter is probably true in my case!) But isn’t the pro-army and pro-RAF who are really out of kilter? Isn’t it them being a bit of sentimental? Um. Without wishing to be unkind or superior or supercilious but the army’s support from old soldiers (and thus within the general populous) is more a question as I said of sentiment not logic. Um. Forgive me but not every body who has passed through Aldershot, Catterick, etc has a degree in security studies. The only going to remember the bully beef, blanco, leave, and their mates. Really is that we base our defence policy on nostalgia? That isn’t to say I belittle the deeds of those who have seen combat; I just want future generations to go to war for real reasons with the right equipment in the right strategic context. And I do think the RAF spin/PR machine is very real; I think the British public have bought into the Battle Of Britain myth unquestionably. The record on the whole of the RAF, the summer of 1940 excepted, isn’t sparkling.

    We are a trading nation dependent on the sea. And we need to be able to contribute in a significant manner to protecting sea lanes (an abstract concept for me.) By contributing in a significant manner we gain influence on the outcome of the events. And we should only be going ashore to protect the immediate national interests and to aid the protection of the sea lanes. Not to interfere in the internal workings of others states because as has been shown time and time again that in the long run is to our detriment.

    Flying a few Tornados for 6000 miles to launch a handful of stand off missiles doesn’t demonstrate the flexibility of air power. For me it proves the exact opposite. But the UK has to go to war with what it has. And due to poor planning and poor thinking those Tornados are all we have.

  51. JS

    Agreed! But I do fear this debate is threatening to make this site to turn into one of those sites where people just argue against and for things, from landrovers to carriers to even services… this site attracted me and others I know because its rather even, clear and rather level-headed…on both what we can have, and what we’ve got (liking it or not) lol strange as it seems, it analyises, not just rants (well, sometimes ;) ) just like this latest blog post, I agree with the author on the carrier issue…

    I personally think and agree with the argument for, but not with most of the reasons ‘carriers peeps’ put forward… because most of the time they just degenerate into spitting at the light blue (or whoever) and start flag waving… which hasn’t really happened here thankgoodness.

    “Personally I think CVS with GR9′s was a considerable paper tiger ”
    ^ Thats a pretty good quote when it comes to OUR (uk) carriers we HAD… we look at other navies and point out how marvellous it would be to have…but the aircraft used are very different, as TD pointed out, they are very different… statistics and on paper the harrier could manage, and if asked I am sure the RAF/RN pilots would do their damn best at the task…but the other navies; they have the funding, the better equipment, backup, the support. Why oh why didn’t it go as it should have? (A question we find ourselves asking all the time!) The Harrier force got it right, an excellent example of how 2 services work together, but everything else just went wrong with more and more money thrown into things, TD is right; we have a huge budget other nations could dream of… but we squander most of it (unless the R&D costs bear fruit in future force 2020).

    When the link to Sharkies Channel 4 post came on here, I commented on how I was wondering when he/others would come up, sometimes british military movements/action is never complete without the ex-servicemen/cheifs reminding us… Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but as always, we’ll keep at it with what we’ve got, like we have done since the first brit picked up a stick to wack the vikings back…lol. And rather silently work on as the media and political turd-storm goes on.

    Also, we’re part of a coalition (as shakey as it is), would a third carrier there really make a difference? Maybe, maybe not…we have HMS Ocean to do the Helicopter work, if it ever came to that.

  52. I’ve seen the argument against CVF with 24 F35 that many airforces around the world would be able to defeat it (‘easily’ I think IXION has mentioned in one of his carrier rants) which I think is blatent nonsense because CVF would not be the only asset in theatre.

    And if that were the case, tell me why exactly an army capable of sustaining 10,000 on the ground (now 6,600 post SDSR) is any better given those parameters?

    I agree with ‘x’ above. It isn’t the Navy which is out of step dreaming of Trafalgar. In a post Afghanistan world, it is the only option of showing real British power in a future British military landscape.

  53. Instead of a conventional aircraft carrier, how about adapting a Panamax-sized container ship to carry helicopters, A-10s (Sea Warthog!) and F/A-18s, Rafaeles, or Sea Typhoons. Annual operating costs of a standard container ship is about £10 million, due to efficient diesels and small crew.

  54. @ Mike re GR9s

    This is interesting because it really is at the crux of British defence problems; we skimp on prudent purchases. If the RN GR9s had radar like the AV8x’s of the USMC, Armada Española, and Marina Militare they would have been worth keeping. Look at the record of Invincible’s SHARs in the Balkans. Imagine British AV8b’s flying off Ark Royal now in the Gulf of Sidra.

    But do the FAA GR9s get radar? No. Do they get Harpoon? No; surely the ‘planes are the ship’s main battery and the basic reason why you have a navy is to inflict violence of the navies of others? So the Invincibles with GR9s were an easy asset to get rid off; a mobile airfield for a squadron of mud movers. All for what 20odd sets of RADAR, shall we say £50million-ish?

  55. I’d have two carriers with proper planes which can carry all the armaments and can do multiple roles good enough for a period. Then you can have a more sustained air operation, with the carrier either providing fast response or enforcing a no fly zone, the carrier can then go home when a land base with airfield can be used.

    Problem I have is with my slight anti american mind and F35 hating, is that it will probably cost more and our defence industry (another story) won’t fully get the benefit in knowledge, BUT it will at least provide an aircraft that can do a lot more for us and make the carrier more useful than it ever has been.

    But doesn’t this carrier question also highlight the future of the UK air power? Tornado will retire soon, The Typhoon programme seems to be going at a snail pace with talk of not upgrading older variants and the lack of speed(imo) of getting all armaments in service with Typhoon.
    No idea how many F35 we’re going to get as well.
    So we’re in a pickle.

    We’re looking at a smaller Typhoon fleet and a probably a small F35 fleet because of the money involved.

    So the question is, do you buy all F35C or a mixture of A and C. Can you/would the RAF fly F35C from land and be willing to fly from a carrier? (If I were a pilot I’d rather spend more time in action then having to refuel on a long distance)

    Also there is still the question (requiring a straight answer from the MOD) about the future of the carriers, it currently seems one will be left hanging about doing nothing while the other one is the one we use.

    So for me the future of the Carrier depends on the aircraft rather then it’s role in operations (quick reaction, establishing air superiority)

  56. If we were starting from scratch, I would prefer three 35,000 ton carriers operating Sea Gripen, rather than two 65,000 ton F-35 carriers for the RN.
    However, we are where we are.
    The 65,000 ton carriers are contractually tied in, so lets make the best of them. They were designed for angled decks with wires for the proposed French version, so that part should be easy, but perhaps we should copy the Russians/Indians & keep the ski ramp? Probably much cheaper than EMALS.
    I would want an airgroup of at least 10 F-35B for rough weather air defence plus 16 F-35C for long range strike. So a minimum of 60 UK F-35. All RN.
    Ark Royal & GR9 would have been handy now. Yes Tornado/Storm Shadow are vital for the early days taking out fixed targets, but Harrier/Maverick is more use taking out armoured columns.
    Harrier could have been given a lighter missile than Storm Shadow. SLAM perhaps, or even PGM500?
    Top cover would still come from Typhoon. Hope they now get conformal tanks.
    Is it really so shocking to ask the RN & RAF to work together. Only the top brass seems to have problems with this.
    Given the stand off nature of Storm Shadow, the cheapest way of launching them from the UK is probably a modified Global Express business jet. Much cheaper than air refuelling a Tornado three times each way.

  57. @ IXION

    I normally keep out of the pro/anti carrier debate as I try to avoid polarised arguments where you end up forced to accept one extreme position or the other. I would happily debate the best way to achieve certain effects and I would also happily debate what we should have done if we had 20:20 hind sight but I try to avoid castigating reality of CVF and F-35 to much as CVF has been wrecked by politics by both this Government and the last, and the F-35 has always been unlikely to live up to its hype. I think there is evidence that MoD had a reasonable plan on the CVF and JCA but external circumstances have wrecked this plan.

    @ TD

    Yes lets move on how to use the carriers we are going to get to best effect, but you do at times have a bit of blinkers on CVF and you do poke fun at it a little bit to much. So to kick off asking sensible questions, we have window to redesign CVF before we are committed, do we really need to turn CVF into sea control carrier, and do we really ever need to do deep strike on our own? If the answer is no to both of these questions, then apart from the natural aversion people have to the suggestion, why is it not cost effective to turn our carriers into STOBAR carrier and one of the STOBAR options (F/A-18 international, LCA (N), Sea Gripen or the infamous Sea Typhoon) to provide a carrier that can escort our amphibious group in and provide sufficient cover to make localised forced entry, without worrying about air defences hundred of miles away from our entry point?

  58. Does the current crisis prove we were wrong to scrap harrier /ark and keep tornado no it doesn’t infact it proves the other. It was a great feat to get tornados from UK to Libya and back with long range bunker busters and to have that backed up by TLAM from a UK sub offers a first night of war capability second only to the US and a precious capability I honestly thought was now beyond us it must be maintained if you disagree fine that is how we will save money but we live with the consequences. I fully agree with TD the harrier offered only limited capability we can get by without it, the real killers in SDSR in the air arena was the stupid decisions on astor/shadow and nimrod.

    The future is another matter I am very much pro carrier CVF and F35. Why for a number of reasons first what are the alternatives. Firstly Tornado will need to be replaced and Typhoon numbers need to be maintained at 160. So what replaces Tornado? We have seen in this operation that range is important in a fast jet so that narrows the field down. Second we have seen the way the media has camped outside of airbases any enemy could get a fair idea of when strike jets may appear. A point I haven’t seen mention is the yet more strain being placed on our transport and tanking fleet how many is it taking to support these ops and afghan. Some suggest in the Future UCAVs will replace tornado and with their range they will replace the cvf/f35 combo. How much will such a UCAV cost 100-200m each I would bet, also just think of the UK satellite capacity required if we’re doing this and afghan type ops with the strike recon jets in both ops are UAVs how much would that cost? Finally how much do we have to pay for basing rights in these countries? Does it cost more than 6 billion over 50 years to gain access to these countries I guess we’ll never know.

    So F35 will be purchased to replace Tornado it offers the most and will be cost similar to any similar capable aircraft currently available. The range advantage will mean it will be C variant wither its land based or not and without a carrier would require more AAR assets for similar mission capability than we currently have and they cost a fortune. Now we get to the carrier itself you start TD by suggesting CVF is only relevant if 36 F35 and 4 hawkeye are on board but why? I would suggest if we had cvf today it could have sailed 3-4weeks ago, little noticed and took up position in the med with say 16 helo and 4 AEW aircraft (much like the American ones did here). The Helos could be there for CSAR or special forces insertion asw screen ect. Then when the go order came 20 F35s could launch from UK on there initial strikes but instead of returning to the UK they land on the carrier which has full logistics and weapons load on board. These aircraft could then conduct the much shorter sorties over Libya and significantly reduce the logistic effort required. It could be sustained on station for 2-3 months. Enough time to either get arrangements in place to get typhoons in for a long term position or weve won the day and all go home (I bet if a host nation knows you need the base to start ops the price goes up much like you holiday in august instead of the price in October). In the end these ships can have 40 helos or 40 F35s and every combination in between thats a lot of capability for 6 billion quid. Replace this capability with something else and see if it will costs less than 6billion if you don’t want a similar capability however we can save a packet and stay at home.

  59. @ X – AV-8B plus with Sea Vixen Radar and FLIR? Sounds bloody good! If it was compatible with meteor… Going for a cold shower ;p

    Could the Sea Vixen radar have been fitted to the RAF GR9’s? -If so would it have cost much? Or would we had to have bought new airframes?

  60. I’m with tubby i like this site as it (normally) tends to stay away from service centric ranting, and the CVF issue is always a blue touch paper special. My own take is that it generates this emotion mainly due to cost (blame BAe or the brown or even both). I doubt if we would be so enraged if we were getting them at original quoted prices.
    One comment i would make on this about 12-18 months ago we were scoffing at a navalised typhoon, indeed BAe were saying it was a no-go. Now india show interest and we have cutaway diagrams, scale models etc etc but more importantly tucked away in the blurb all design and development including computer simulation was SELF funded by BAE. It has cost the MOD nothing for this research if this quote of £800million for emals is true (why? the design had cats factored in, just in case) Then a ski ramp and navy typhoons are the way ahead, just for commonality.
    In my eyes sharky ward is a liability and him and dannet should be quietly wheeled into the chelsea hospital and sedated. Although davids is army he is a step in the right direction far better than brown nose stirrup. Oh and although i did a loooong time in green i believe it is time to cut land forces, although i’d aim for 85,000 first, natural wastage and a cut in recruiting to ease the reduction in, I was around for options for change and that was a cluster fudge. First on my list just to have the old boys spluttering into their brandy would be an amalgamation of the coldstream and grens to bring guards down to 4 and the shitload of bandsmen they have would be chopped down. Not a personnal dig at guards like just feel it’s their turn.
    Anyhow 2016 (ish) is miles away let’s have a group hug!!!

  61. @ Gareth

    I would have been happy with APG-65. Perhaps one of our more knowledgeable friends can comment on Blue Vixen vs APG-65? And how different GR9 avionics are from APG-65?

    @ Paul G re service rivalry

    For me it is all good natured; I like Alsations! I will confess the first time I saw a Typhoon flying I wasn’t thinking about budget over runs. I was thinking “Wow look at it go!” And I am just as likely to put my hand in my pocket to support RAF charities as I am to support RN and army ones. Some people who I am very fond of have worn or indeed wear the light blue uniform.

  62. Sea Typhoon was offered in 2001 to the MOD but refused in favor of getting on with the americans on the F35.

    Bae talked about Sea Typhoon as far back as 1996.

    We can all hardly blame Bae for not pursuing the Sea Typhoon road with more conviction.
    In 2005 it still was being touted as plan B, but everyone “remained committed” to F35, and Bae had, in the meanwhile, gotten heavily involved in the F35.
    At that point, it obviously pressed to see its investment in F35 paying off.

    But BAE is not a charity. They do their work. It was the government which had to make up its mind earlier.
    The French pulled out of the Eurofighter also because they wanted a carrier-capable plane, and not just because they wanted to lead (strange…!) and have SNECMA engines on it (again, strange, huh…?).

    History could have been a lot different.

    But arguably, it is not too late for a shift from F35C to Sea Typhoon.

    At 95% commonality with the normal Typhoon and not needing catapults… well, it is very attractive, so long as the lower cost allows a greater buy.

  63. Tubby

    That is to a degree the point!

    I think i have made clear I would support effective carriers, it is the fact they have been totaly screwed up, (by whom is another matter). That makes me oppose them, as they are currrently likely to be delivered.

    I will pop open the champaign if HMG announces 80 of f35c for FAA with support choppers, 2 opperational carriers with cats and traps, and support vessels. Otherwise it remains depressing


    Every time anyone points out not just the potential vulnerability of the Carrier as envisaged; (and I accept with a couple of fully equipped t45 it would be a hard target). The cry goes up ‘who do you think could sink it’. I (and others) then list potential adversaries who could threaten it. General carrier junky derrision ensues, but no one ever adresses why such countries could not.

    So just for once I will ask the carrier junkies, what countries we are likely to ever use it against could not sink it? (You can leave out Kasakstan and Nigeria etc)

    It is not just its potential vulnerability (or otherwise) it is the ‘all RN Surface fleet in one basket’, That is a big issue.


    Can we leave out the sea typhoon talk.

    A couple of drawings and a few calculations, a brochure, and an animation do not a functioning aircraft make. It’s got money pit written all over it.

    Given the RAfs attitude that Typhhoon is history and F35 the future it’s a political non starter as well.

  64. @ X – Sorry. Must repeat 100 times – “Blue Vixen is the radar, Sea Vixen a plane…” :S

    @ Gabriele – I have often knocked the idea of collaborative projects with the French but you can’t say they don’t put their interests first…

  65. @ Gareth Jones

    Sorry I have been reading up on Victorious lately.

    @ IXION

    Where did he get the “petrol” eh? Was it from a man with bad plastic surgery and a Ukrainian nurse who likes to live in tents? Well?

  66. Ixion

    I fail to see how the RN has all it eggs in one basket. We still have 19 surface vessels 15 minesweepers and several patrol vessels 11 subs and 5-6 amphib ships and 8-10 RFAs. Do you honestly think wed get any more if the carriers went tomorrow? That’s a fair level of capability to contribute to a coalition. It was political decisions that added the extra 1b through delays no-one else. The still have a full capability from what I see. The UK armed force will end up with more than 40 F35 closer to your 80 I would think. If they dont the fast jet fleet will be below critic mass for any ops.

    Ill answer you question theoretically no ship is unsinkable so anyone can sink anything that floats. In reality a CVF in a high treat environment with her escort only really China or Russia, possible India has the actual capability to sink it.

    So what do you propose to do instead or do you wish to remove the high end capability of expeditionary strike capability any time any place?

  67. @ X – No! The mistake was mine! I was berating myself as a joke… Obviously not funny :(

    @ IXION – Typhoon? That’s so last century… Oh! New shiny pointy thing! Gimme, Gimme, Gimme! On a more serious note, the RAF will probably try and get the A; so much for the CVF being a joint asset…

  68. Mark

    We can argue this back and forth all day And would love to but have to earn a living for the next few days.

    I could argue about the ‘High end strike capability’ and that the fleet numbers game is more complicated than jsut how many ships you have left it is about trained personel, money invested etc. Like I said You can argue this all day.


    You’re absoluteley right, at that Parliamentary session the RAF made it very clear ‘Typhoon, typhoon? Oh I remember that , oh no we would much rather talk about the new super shiney whiz bang F35’….

    TYphoon Old news If you want to see the RAF Machine in action just try and get Seaphoon of the drawing board the RAF will move to crush it so fast your head will spin.

  69. I’ve been reading this generally excellent blog for a while now and have not previously commented before. I should point out before I do that I have no prior service connections, so in a way that is lucky given the nature of the debate. Now:

    – The idea that HMS Ark Royal carrying Harriers could have executed our role in this operation without any assisstance from the RAF (e.g. Storm Shadow) is patently ridiculous.

    – The idea that flying Tornados 3000 miles on an 8 hour mission is something to be proud of, is patently ridiculous.

    The trouble with the carrier debate is that the pro-carrier “mafia” are trying to compare Harriers to Hornets.

    I accept that a proper Carrier, very much along the Nimitz lineage, would probably have been able to conduct the No-fly zone largely unaided. But having land based assets carrying storm shadow nearby would still be rather handy.

    This really needs a proper debate. With the pro-carrier side spelling out what their ideal make up would be for one carrier (i.e. it’s air wing) and what capabilities that would bring to the table, plus how the RAF would supplement those efforts.

    Then the RAF side needs to counter, explaining why they feel land based aircraft could match those capabilities.

    Personally I think the carrier has it’s place, as long as we’re talking about a proper carrier with a proper air wing, not the usual British approach of a half-arsed effort.

  70. I know people get terribly excited about the supposed flexibility of the carrier, but have they considered how vulnerable its supply chain is?
    we have one AOR for carriers now, and to run a CVBG of decent size (eg 10 GR9s) would quickly run down her stores. As such the Ark Royal would be hugely dependent on getting stores to a friendly host nation airport, transiting them to a local friendly port, getting an RFA alongside and then getting it loaded and out again without major problems.

    Ark is not an invincible super base able of doing ops for weeks at a time – to do high intensity ops would take a lot out of her, and place a massive logistics dependency on a couple of high value units which if they break down, totally mess up our campaign.

    For enduring ops like this, we really need land bases and not carrier aviation – and I say that as a serving matelot!

  71. @ X – “Was this a typo because navies provide high strategic endurance? It is air power that has low endurance. And armies neither have strategic reach or endurance.”

    Nope, no typo.

    Navies can provide strategic endurance, in the broad sense because they allow a great deal of far flung presence on an enduring basis, but so do army brigades.

    What carriers and (brigade-level) ARG’s provide is rapid intervention in high threat environments.

    But carriers when fully stocked can conduct war operations at high intensity for about a week without replenishment, and about three weeks at low intensity combat operations.

    If operations are intended to last longer than 60 days there is a strong argument for shifting to land based operations, and if you can’t get those then why are we involved………. unless there is an existential threat.

    With a grand total of three CVS’s we were never going to maintain the no-fly-zone against iraq with sea-borne harriers for five-ten years, the idea would be ridiculous.

    If the operation is enduring then tactical mobility is the key, because you want to be in-theatre, strategic mobility comes at a high price if it is expected to last more than a short period.

    The problem with not having carriers and a ready to deploy ARG is that that you get bogged down in six months of diplomacy while you convince the other side that you really are serious, and the time you want to leverage opinion is at the start before the other side becomes either committed to conflict, or capable of conflict. With carriers you can have a [possible] response on someone’s doorstep within a week, before they have either committed or reinforced.

    The situation can de-escalated at little cost, or intervened with a lesser commitment.

    Carriers and ARG’s are a coercive tool best applied as a threat.

    The island-that-cannot-be-named is very well defended by an in-site infantry group and RAF flight, and at very modest cost, but it is backed up by the threat of carriers and ARG’s. We have many far flung dependencies, and in theory we could create a Mt Pleasant base on every one, but it isn’t necessary in most cases because regardless of whether it can be taken they know we can take it back.

    Intervention forces are for exactly that; short term intervention, which is a different skill-set to that required for persistent presence.

    Navy frigates provide presence.
    BFG provides presence.
    1435 Flight provides presence.

    Carriers/ARG provide rapid intervention.
    16AAB/3Cdo provide rapid intervention.
    Tanker’ed FRA4 flights provide intervention.

    In none of the latter cases would you want to use them on an operation that lasted more than six months.

  72. Jim30

    The huge logistical burden of carriers is a big black mark againt them, and it is frankly overlooked, they need constant refueling, re supplying at sea if they are do do more that 48 hours worth of opperations. So you looking at 3 large supply vessels (well at least 2 in the med). the aircraft don’t fix themselves and only get more difficult to fix. etc etc.

    I doubt we could maintain a meaningful strike capability East of say Pakistan for that reason alone, without being wholey dependant on locals upply/ bases. Which rather negates the whole point.

  73. @ Jedibeeftrix

    Yes I see now what you are driving at now.

    Obviously moving to a land base at some point in a campaign makes sense. But technically that isn’t reach or endurance.

    And I thought the cost of defending the Falklands was on the high side of £50million? Remind me again how much a T23 costs to run per year?

  74. “Obviously moving to a land base at some point in a campaign makes sense. But technically that isn’t reach or endurance.”

    It is because you use the most appropriate tool for the job. If we want day-one strikes on libya (today) then we must at hideous expense tanker tornados’s from marham, but we wouldn’t do that for more than thirty days.

    “And I thought the cost of defending the Falklands was on the high side of £50million? Remind me again how much a T23 costs to run per year?”

    £50m/y is peanuts compared to maintaining a carrier battle-group plus arg to retake it. A T23 does not defend the falklands, it merely demonstrates a willingness to do so.

  75. Too much to pick up on, but just quickly –

    They did look at moving the Blue Vixen across to GR7 when the Sea Harrier was retired, but it would have cost too much. I think people are making a bit too much of a GR9 + radar – it’s still limited by the Sidewinder. Which is great against bombers (as in those islands-that-cannot-be-named) but is less good against even obsolescent fighters. Mind you, if you want a Harrier with radar and a BVR AAM, you might as well just bring back the dark blue ones. They also had Sea Eagle, don’t think any Harrier has Harpoon?

    I hadn’t read other posts when posting thoughts about the carriers doing this mission alone, but to my mind this mission isn’t about doing a 5-10 year NFZ. It is all about an in and out, doing a month with one replenishment before heading back to Gib. We’ve already achieved one major chunk of the mission at the weekend, stopping that armoured column going into Benghazi. It sounds like the few Tomahawks today have polished off the last of the major fixed SEAD missions. It seems we’ve pretty much trashed all the airbases so you end up asking the question, if he’s not got any planes left, or airbases to fly them from, that sounds like a de facto NFZ regardless of whether there’s any Typhoon/F-15/F-35 circling overhead at £30+k/hour. After that you’re just acting as the insurgents’ CAS – and it seems the USAF have already made a decision that they don’t want to go there.

    The kind of RN arsenal ship is sounding just like the sort of expensive one-trick pony with limited survivability that even the USN decided they couldn’t afford before reinventing it in submersible form. The Libyan geography would be perfect for my suggestion of a cut-down Scalp Naval for Sylver A50 tubes, Europe has a lot more A50 tubes than A70 and a range of 200-300km would be quite good enough for this mission.

    I don’t see anyone suggesting Storm Shadow for routine CAS – just ways to deliver that day one capability. And of course you’re not comparing the Tornado/SS with Harrier/Maverick for CAS, but Tornado with a full load of Brimstone.

    I will pop open the champaign if HMG announces 80 of f35c for FAA with support choppers, 2 opperational carriers with cats and traps, and support vessels. Otherwise it remains depressing

    You underestimate the fact that having done the awkward difficult thing of building a carrier, we now have the option of ordering “80 of f35c for FAA with support choppers” at any point in the next 50 years as and when we can afford it and the strategic picture justifies it. OK, it takes 2-3 years, (although eg French Rafales/E-2 could be surged onto CVF if need be immediately) so we’re out of any short-term wars, but it still puts us in a lot better position than having a response time of a decade or more to build a carrier from scratch. I know, other options are available, but a decade seems pretty standard across all the other navies that have big carriers. If the Pax Sinica breaks out for the next 50 years, then we’ve saved ourselves lots of £bns whilst keeping the peace. That optionality is worth something – no doubt ACC has done all the proper exams to be able to expound on option value. ;-/

    As for “East of say Pakistan” – no wonder you’re fretting, it’s pretty clear that the future of the RN is not about independent operations east of Suez, and probably only coalition ops as far as Pakistan, so you’re trying to shoot down a gold-plated straw man again.

    People are getting far too excited about Seaphoon – the basic Block 5 aircraft as per the Saudi deal cost £60m, which is roughly where F-35 seems to be heading at the moment. So Seaphoon will probably cost more than F-35 even excluding development costs, which the customers will end up paying for whether upfront or down the line. OK, we could save on maintenance – but the UK has such a great deal on F-35 via our 10% of the industry that flying Swordfish off the CVF would probably cost the Treasury more than sticking with F-35, in effect we get our first 40 or so F-35’s for free.

    If TD wants to do a post, I’d be interested for an update on what’s happening with our tankers – I’m much more worried about our VC-10’s than our AORs.

  76. El Sid,

    Good start to addressing some of the points Chris B. suggested — rightly, I think — should be the hub of this whole discussion. One of the best features of this place is the general trend — when not caught in best of British pessimism, of course ;) — towards practicality. Like your suggestion for a cut-down Scalp, although the French don’t like it so much because then you can’t make people buy the Sylver A70s. As for early strike, really the class beyond 6-8 Astute (as per the short and long ends of the possible) needs to be a set of six SSGNs, with the ballistic tubes capable of flex-tube insertion for cruise. With six you could have one on deterrent duty, one as SSGN on APT-S (covering the whole southern swathe of the Atlantic), and the ability to surge a second SSGN when necessary (the early stages of either a serious sovereign conflict or a major allied one) while still having four in the deterrent cycle. Enough for the plausible jobs while the Astutes handle a separate set of responsibilities. And really the combatant branches of the RN should focus around those elements: a robust sub fleet (preferably 14 boats instead of 11), making two carrier groups and their escorts work (I’m figuring 2 x properly armed T45 and 3 x T23/2087 followed by an ASW successor eventually, and 1 x Astute as a standard package), and patrol vessels. If Britain would actually cultivate some bilateral allied relationships carefully (the Dutch, Norwegians, and Portuguese come right to mind, not to mention Canada) instead of swinging between acting like it’s still 1900 and acting like the UK is a small band of wet Belgians who need to get in a nice warm bath and open a vein, there are plenty of collateral frigate navies from whom to gain support in return for being the C2 and heavy displacement of joint ops.

    Absolutely on about the RN’s scope. The RN, HMG, and the usual think tank suspects need to understand that the White Ensign needs to concentrate its presence on the Altantic from pole to pole, and on the fringes of the Indian Ocean (basically the East African coast, the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and nearby waters.) Nothing goes east of Masirah, much less Pakistan, unless it’s a sub or a real mercy mission like Japan at the moment. It’s strategic foolishness, instead of being a strong, smart power (rather than a “great” one) where it matters. Elminates a lot of straw men along the way. And in terms of the “who can sink a carrier” debate, it means you’re concentrating the RN’s resources around a few key allies (mostly those coastal northern Europeans plus US subs) to face a resurgent Russia on the Arctic perimeter, or help forestall trouble with Brazil and its potential regional allies by being a strong enough actor to be a better ally than an enemy (or worse, just a financial bagman — not every political culture makes such a gentlemanly fetish of banking as London’s.)

    My only quarrel (question?) would be about F35. And it’s a strategic one. (BTW: can you or others qualify whether or not the industry deal depends on British purchase of a production run or not? Since this is basically a Dagenham deal — oh, we need you to make critical specialised parts, until we don’t and chuck you aside — it would seem like a good idea to have a sidestep clause of some kind.) As you especially have pointed out, the various Red Cell contenders in future scenarios have started to equalise either firepower or resource deployment against us Blue Cell types. And as I’ve said elsewhere, the exquisite-design cul de sac in aircraft means recreating the liabilities, as well as the culture, of a knightly class — combatant elements too precious to use because you might lose them. Since it still seems to me that F35s with their tank-like approach to LO (a glacis against hardened integrated air defences) are open to ambush from the rear or against their dodgy maneuverability (being rather more small bombers than large fighters) are vulnerable to those kinds of equations, maybe better to do two things: get cheaper and nimble CAP with great missiles and great pilots, and move ahead into things like X-47C and post-Taranis for armed UCAV strike. Also, like ACC, I tend to think F35 will keep spiraling towards 100m quid a pop, which becomes more questionable in the long term (sapping the will of HMT to replace as they’re made obsolete.) What you’re absolutely right about is that getting aircraft aboard carriers, especially when you stop chasing gold-plated elephants (they make a diversion from the white ones ;) is a hell of a lot easier than getting the carriers to put them on.

    Chris B.,

    What could the RAF bring to the party? Not killing its ISTAR/EW, arguably the best in Europe, to get the next shiny pointy thing. If this doesn’t save Sentinel, heads at High Wycombe ought to roll. And one point on which I absolutely agree with IXION is that suggesting good-quality (not necessarily Dave-C, just good quality) fast air for FAA will be an acid test of what really motivates RAF leadership. If they say “good for you in small batches — the fleet needs air cover as well as strike,” that’s one thing. A move to kill again, that’s another.
    Also, a real commitment to transport. At least a dozen C-17, the full 25 A400M, and a move towards buying back IP rights to Rotodyne from that American company to develop a modern version for tactical transpo.
    Beyond that, despite the galloping fiscal fustercluck of Typhoon, the light blue need at least 180-200 for a single-type service, with a commitment to get at least half up to what’s currently labeled FGR4. And, if they get the full two hundred, to have at least 9×12 in squadron. Surely that’s enough back fleet. This gives you a proper ability to secure UK airspace, surge aircraft forward to protect the northern and southern flanks of NATO airspace, and cover the SLOCs of home waters from the air. These are all good jobs, the RAF should do them. And anyone who thinks “the North Atlantic is the safest place in the world” should also remember that the bomber will end World War II in months, the Berlin Wall will never fall, we will be greeted as liberators, and Hosni Mubarak will die in office.

    With El Sid on Seaphoon. Huge costs, and there’s a Seaphoon already: Rafale-M. Tubby has a good plan for LCA(N), which could make a fine STOBAR/CATOBAR Harrier replacement, plus one could add some kind of UCAV strike in light blue as time passes. For versatility (and commonality, a two-class fleet that would ease TD’s ulcer) I’m also tempted towards the higher end of Rafale. Get two real UK carriers (w/ air group), plus a French carrier, and a Dutch ARG with strong bilateral Anglo-Dutch relations (they do more to look after the Caribbean with British backup, and agree to help spell the RN for enough taskings to concentrate in the South Atlantic when needed) and you have real multilateral projection. So along with the two tons (cricket, not metric :) of Typhoon for RAF, a buy of eighty Rafale-M for FAA. This is roughly the fighter ratio of USAF:USN, and I’d break it down as 4×15 squadrons, six as part of a joint Anglo-French OCU (the French supplied the aircraft type and would be getting an order that saves the production line, they can front more of the OCU) and the other fourteen as spares. So since you’re only trying to make two rotations instead of stretching over three (more time inbetween to get properly worked up), you’d have
    2×15 Rafale-M
    4xHawkeye or ASaC
    4x rotary ASW
    On board at all times, leaving room for additional strike if the RAF replaces Tornado in the longer term with a UCAV, so it can use flat-tops as a jumping-off point. With good pilots and missiles, they can handle most of the forseeable jobs other than certain parts of SEAD that are probably better handled by innovative tactics (like filling those extra slots on the carrier with drones that mimic fighters’ radar signatures) and stand-off missiles than “stealthy” low-and-fast.


    What about trying to create some “unsinkable MARS,” based on a more limited operational range for the fleet (Atlantic plus a little slice of Indian)? Build up prepo on scale of MARS resources at Gib, Acension, and either Masirah or (if the US get their hands on it) Socotra?

    El Sid,
    Definitely a need to get the tanker mess to come right.

  77. “So F35 will be purchased to replace Tornado it offers the most and will be cost similar to any similar capable aircraft currently available.”

    I don’t think so.

    Last time I saw any numbers the escalating cost of an F35 of any variety was looking like twice the price of an F18. Even if the F18 is old and the F35 is supposed better, I can’t see that twice the price is justified, particularly if twice the price means half as many. For my money and for value for money (your point TD), I’d buy F18s for the navy and stick with Typhoons for the RAF.

    That said, I don’t see the justification for having more than one fully fledged carrier with air group on operations at any one time. We are not that rich and other requirements merit funding before we start operating a second carrier/air group. That said only having one of something has the risk of it not being available when you want it, so there has to be a back-up. I hope the second carrier gets fitted with cat and trap, even if it’s nominal role is to be Ocean’s replacement.

  78. @IXION

    “I think i have made clear I would support effective carriers, it is the fact they have been totally screwed up, (by whom is another matter). That makes me oppose them, as they are currently likely to be delivered.”

    As TD points out we are getting the carriers, and there is nothing we or the MoD can do about it. Politics from both parties has lead us from a reasonably priced STOL strike carrier where it made sense to only 12 fighters embarked most of the time, as it was easy to surge to 36 to a overpriced CATOBAR carrier which we are not really sure we can afford to run. Of course the real kicker is the air wing, as F-35 of any flavour is simply too rich for our blood, and the RAF and even the FAA want the best toy’s to play with. Its why I keep suggesting LCA (N), it may be a overweight underpowered wannabe Mirage 2000, but like any second rate Elvis impersonator it would be cheaper than buying F-35 and I suggest it would be cheaper to run and upgrade (I bet India would fall over themselves to give the source code for the FBW if we ordered 80 odd LCA (N)’s) and it would be more than capable of covering the Sea Harrier role, as that is its entire purpose for the Indian Navy.

    Sod wog bashing our priority should be twofold: firstly to provide CAP over our amphibs and escort in our helo’s as the bridgehead a landing zone, while carrying sufficient MASC and ASW platforms. Realistically for next 15 years our interests (beyond Pakistan melting down or Russia retaking the odd Baltic state) is’s going to be in Africa against forces equipped with 30 year old MANPADS, the odd longer range SAM site that can be handled by jamming pods and stand off attacks with Storm Shadow as the sites are typically all dug in, AAA, and the odd Mig-23 flown by a pilot who is lucky to get 60 flying hours a year. The second threat which will emerge late 2020, and is going to be a single Chinese carrier group hanging around Africa and the Med (the other 2 – 3 they will have up and running will be spending their time harassing India, Vietnam, and Japan), it will be mainly a show of force but I foresee a cold war scenario of both RN and Chinese carrier groups shadowing each other, and brinksmanship with close fly by’s as I suspect China is every bit as interested as we are in persuading tin pot dictators to sell their land and resources cheap to our companies.

    Hi Chris B.,

    Always good to so someone new on the site, re your point: “Personally I think the carrier has it’s place, as long as we’re talking about a proper carrier with a proper air wing, not the usual British approach of a half-arsed effort.”

    Can you tell me why you want a Sea Control carrier? There are other types of carrier, the definition of if the carrier is a good idea would surely to be for the RN to come up with its future threat analysis and doctrine to counter this threat and then propose the right carrier for the threat. Previously we decided we wanted a strike carrier, which is designed to move fast, launch a very high tempo of strikes for a few days using STOL aircraft. It made perfect sense if you viewed our expeditionary capabilities as being complementary to the USMC. The question should be how to we keep the QE and PoW as strike carriers not how do we afford to turn them into sea control carriers.

  79. Welcome to TD ChrisB

    The scenario most people describe, where a small permanent presence of JCA on board CVF can be increased for theatre entry and intial operations, followed by the air group moving onto land bases for the sustained phase is exactly the kind of scenario that was envisaged in the original CVF/JCA project.

    It is in this scenario that the STVOL model comes into its own in terms of ‘OVERALL COST’ because it keeps your carrier qualifficatin training to a minimum. STVOL pilots could operate from CVF with a few days extra training.

    By going CATOBAR, every pilot needs to be at the higher level of carrier qualification or pool from which to resource the surge is limited, you need a larger OCU, more time spent etc

    This is what pushes through life costs through the roof which unfortunately means fewer total aircraft and a reduced effect, regardless of the individual performance and cost improvements of the CATOBAR model

    Having read various parliamentary answers and listed to various rumours, the cost implications of going to CATOBAR has not been nailed down so the decision to switch was based on best guess estimates which in the usual MoD fashion will turn out to be optimisitic

    All things being equal, I still think the best way to maximise on the CVF investment is

    1. Switch back to F35B
    2. Disband FAA FJ operations
    3. Redesign CVF to enlarge the hangar and improve facilities for embarked forces

  80. Gabriele
    Actualy, I’d happily justify cruise missiles on tanks forever.
    Anything smaller (cheaper), and it gets difficult, for “insurgents”, its a massive waste, but so’s javelin long term.

    It does depend, if the enemy has lots of tanks moving around, harriers with Brimstones come into their own.
    But neither is “wrong”

    The Americans costed it as $500mn for 500 missiles and launchers and $500mn for the ship.
    A million pounds is a lot for a missile, and we really dont need a “good” ship, it just needs to float.

    I disagree, the UK cant afford to be flexible, we need to pick what we do, and do it extremely well.
    If we want to do day one forced entry, we need something that guarentees day one forced entry, not something that might do it in a week.
    And you cant have a carrier for the cost of an arsenal ship. You can have two light carriers and two arsenal ships for the the cost of a CVF though.

    Lasers might work. I’d thought “semi” submersable or mounting a couple of 16″ cannons with buckshot.

    Mike 2
    “When you speak of the reality of operations in the last 30 years,have you conveniently forgotten the absolutely crucial part that carrier avaition played in the Falklands campaign,a war in all but name that we couldn’t have even contemplated without air power.”
    Of course we could have! No sane individual planning a force to take the Falklands would come up with SeaHarrier!!!
    In a roundabout way, thats where TD and I agree.
    Everyone wins their own little pies and defence overall gets ****ed.

    I suggested a 1000m long Carrier once, operating conventional jets. It wasnt well recieved for some reason.

  81. The argument against CVF that on its own it would not intimidate or influence someone like Gaddafi is irrelevant.

    A carrier is just one tool to be used in conjunction with other UK assets – no other weapon we have would survive the same test of isolated usefulness; and our military future in general is dependant on multi-national cooperation – a Royal navy carrier would in many circumstances be part of a future coalition operation.

    Arguing for CVF is also not necessarily a call to resurrect the Ark Royal and a bunch of Harriers. The retired admirals and commentators in the press pining for these things need to get over themselves.

    CVF is not the be all and end all for all future tasks that are likely to crop up, but they will be a very useful thing to have. Libya happens to be handily close to land bases, and there aren’t the same air-space issues today as with the US 1986 operation, but it still serves as an example to the usefullness of carriers – it is quite possible that similar circumstances may be played out in a less convienient corner of the globe.

    I’m all for retaining both carriers and fitting cats and traps on both too. It’ll give us a three ship Anglo-French carrier force which is the minimum that we should expect Europe to be able to muster, and gives us a reasonable level of availability and persistence for future carrier operations.

  82. Firstly, thanks all for the warm welcome!

    RE: my reasons for admiring carriers of the Nimitz-class.

    Essentially it comes down to the intractable fact that basing rights are not always forthcoming, and when they are it’s not always as soon as we’d like. While we ended up flying Tornados 3000 miles to find their targets, a Carrier could have been sent into the Med for a “training exercise” at a much earlier date, intervening early on in the campaign with regular sorties to provide air cover.

    To those who dimiss the value of the Nimitz-class and her ilk so off hand, purely as a thought exercise and from a “what does it do, will it work?” stand point, I would direct you to USA and her use of said carriers. Presumably they have served the worlds last Superpower so admirably that they now feel compelled to replace this capability when the current generation goes out of service. They haven’t had one sunk yet and they’ve made much excellent use of them.

    RE: Hornets vs F-35.

    As I understand it, the F-35 is expected to cost just a little more than the latest version of the Hornet (F/A-18 E/F). Given the combinations of stealth characteristics, latest AESA combat radar, and Sythentic Aperture Radar for ground mapping, the F-35 comes off quite well.

    The problem, as is often the case with modern defence projects, is that F-35 was originally supposed to deliver all this for less than $50 million per unit. It’s actually tough to lay the blame for this on Lockheed Martin really. Someone in government, ideally both over here and in the US, should have seen the specs on paper, then seen the budget estimate and asked the simple question;

    “So who wrote this estimate, Charlie F&*%ing Chaplin?”

  83. Dominic J,

    “No sane individual planning a force to take the Falklands would come up with SeaHarrier”

    We did try and sell the Harrier to the Argentinian Navy when they bought the ex HMS Venerable. We apparently even arranged a Harrier fly-past as the Argentinians sailed their new ship through the English channel.

    Had Argentina had Harriers rather than SkyHawks on their carrier during the Falklands War, they might have been a bit more dangerous with them. Perhaps not such a crazy idea afterall.
    On this arsenal ship idea, I think it’d be handier for us to spread that capability about. Fewer launchers but on more platforms – subs, destroyers, ISTAR aircraft etc, even in containers on trucks.

    All these TLAMs into Libya make me wonder even more about the need to buy into F35.

    Between TLAM, StormShadow and future carrier capable and stealthy UAVs, such as the X47B, isn’t the first day of war capability going to be covered? Plenty of cheaper aircraft out there for everything else – as regularly pointed out.
    (TD loves carriers relly, it’s the AQ drugs getting to him)

  84. BB
    I guessed that a big Ocean sized vessel would be more cost effective than two or three Daring sized vessels, but yes, they would be handier, one could shoot its load and bugger off home to be reloaded

    “All these TLAMs into Libya make me wonder even more about the need to buy into F35.”
    Thats kinda my thinking, first day stealth is great, but if you can just blow up every radar site in the country, stealth isnt really needed, and a cheap flat top with harrier threes is good enough for CAS and strike on a blind, deaf and decapitated opponant.

  85. Lots of comment here, mostly stated better than I could.

    I just want to second Jackstaff’s idea (and Tubby’s) to ditch F35, buy Rafale M (or F18s – I keep flipflopping between the two) for high end A2A and Deep Strike, supported by a number of LCA(N)s for CAS and low end A2A. If the costs for operating two types are too much, then stick with the Rafales. RAF becomes a single type user, with a full delivery of Typhoons including Tranche 3bs with conformal tanks and thrust vectoring to replace Tornados in the Strike role whilst waiting for decent UCAVs to become available.

    Still think there is a market for a Harrier III though…. rather have them than LCA(N) and both services can use them for CAS, and get some decent export sales.

    Just a thought – could you have a cat and put the ski jump on the angled deck?

  86. Time to remind everyone, why the current carrier aviation got axed and why the future carrier aviation is delayed multiple times and designated unaffordable by the pro-air power bunch.

    It’s because we are desperately incapable of procuring NEW kit. Typhoon has in fact sucked the whole procurement budget dry, for very little actual capability and high operating cost. That way, existing assets will not get the care and the upgrades they need to be relevant. And now we are complaining about little relevancy.

    The RN had a capable CAP-bird. It’s radar was better, than anything the RAF fielded. The latest iteration of Sea Vixen is an AESA-array, which fits into a Gripen NG. It should also fit into a Harrier.

    Would a Harrier FGR11 with Vixen 1000ES, PIRATE, modernized avionics and powerplant (like in the GR9A) such a bad asset to have off Libya? No it could not be used for first-day SEAD. And those who are propagrating this are always false.

    In absence of truck-mounted cruise missiles, the next cheapest way of delivery is using a warship. Next to this and more flexible, throwing them out of an transport. And a distant last is fast jet aviation.

    You might argue, that a transport aircraft will never reach 150mi in front of the Libyan coast. That is right. But isn’t this due to disgraceful range of the Storm Shadow? How many Storm Shadows were fired in Op Ellamy? 20? 40? There were over 160 Tomahawks fired. Wasn’t the RAF well aware of the RN operating Tomahawks?

    We now put as much money into the CVF-program to go CATOBAR, that – if no delays have accumulated – we could have built four carriers. And – to crown it – 3 months after this change, BAE comes out and proposes a STOBAR-capable Typhoon. are these guys not talking to each other? Was this information been withhold deliberately by BAE until the SDSR has passed and F-35 was safe?

  87. @jackstaff
    “With El Sid on Seaphoon. Huge costs, and there’s a Seaphoon already: Rafale-M.”

    If we are required to buy T3 by contract, what is cheaper?

    a) T3 + F35C + CATOBAR
    b) T3 + Rafale M + CATOBAR + qualification for any weapon in UK inventory
    c) T3 + Hornet + CATOBAR + qualification for Storm Shadow
    d) T3N (with the only difference to T3 being some strakes to lower landing speed) + staying STOBAR

    Not to mention ISD.

  88. @ JediBeefTrix

    Um. Well I had to say the cost of T23 because unless TD can produce some figures we don’t have as yet figures for T45.

    Again there is a difference between a platform having reach and endurance and a land base.

  89. Just thinking over lunch. The GR9s were not decommissioned that long ago – where are they now? Are they scrapped? In storage at Shawbury? In the boneyard at RNAS Predannack? Likewise – where is the Ark and in what condition? Has the same unseemly haste in which the Nimrod MRA4s been dismantled overtaken this ship and these aircraft?

  90. Thanks X, I should have checked t’interweb before asking that question! Still don’t know about the GR9s though.

  91. @George

    GR9 at Wittering – some ground running last week apparently. Also a few SHAR left at Culdrose ground running for deck-ops training, though how long for is obviously moot.

  92. Ark is probably being stripped as we speak.
    Harriers are useful if you really really need some extra aircraft in some big war, but they too will soon die.

    No idea if Illustrious still has any facilities for harriers or any other equipment needed to run harriers off a carrier.
    No idea if Illustrious is fully in service and can take part in operation.

  93. I always thought it would be sensible to store the best retired aircraft for half a decade or so in case some unforeseen emergency came up. Just my opinion!

  94. @Gareth – you are so not wrong. I remember YEARS and YEARS ago when Tornados were replacing them a Bucc pilot saying that the only replacement for a Buccaneer was another Buccaneer with modern avionics. I think they used one as a mule during Tornado development for the TF radar etc. Wonder where the drawings and tools for they are now…. ;-)

  95. By the way – they do have TWO at Elvington Air Museum and a Gannet as well…

    PS – just trialling out gravatar, so don’t read anything into the photo!

  96. EL SID

    ‘You underestimate the fact that having done the awkward difficult thing of building a carrier, we now have the option of ordering “80 of f35c for FAA with support choppers” at any point in the next 50 years as and when we can afford it and the strategic picture justifies it’.

    That sounds very much like wishfull thinking of the ‘we must have, therfore we are going to have’ variety.

    ‘As for “East of say Pakistan” – no wonder you’re fretting, it’s pretty clear that the future of the RN is not about independent operations east of Suez, and probably only coalition ops as far as Pakistan, so you’re trying to shoot down a gold-plated straw man again’.

    Good. I have finaly got a carrier junky to accept the geographical limitations of it’s deployability.

    So it’s a ‘high end strke intervention capabilty’ or ‘Strategic raiding capability’, for those nations which border the Atlantic and the Med.

    BTW I would not like to get to close the shore of the eastern med in case the Isreali’s had a go, they have form on this front, for both UN observers, in lebanon and US navel vessels in the 60’s if they feel they are threatened, trigger happy does not cover it.

    Where do you get your £60mil for F35 figure from? That seems very low compared to some reported in specialist press.

  97. “The cost of fuel and manning for say, HMS Ark Royal to steam from the UK to the Mediterranean and stay moving whilst on station would knock the cost of aviation fuel for the Tornado strike into a cocked hat”

    TD, that’s only true if you don’t think there aren’t any – admittedly sunk but nonetheless expensive over a lifetime – costs to be included when launching planes from static land airbases.

    An aircraft carrier is a movable airbase. When talking about the merits/demerits of aircraft carriers, your analysis always seems to exclude the acquisition, building, manning and running costs of a static land-based airbase – not to mention the political capital that is usually expended in getting them and using them at a time of our own choosing.

    But you always include these costs for aircraft carriers – isn’t that a bit biased?

    What is the real cost of a land-based airbase to an aircraft carrier?

    Depends on a range of circumstances I know but can we not have a more balanced set of metrics that include all the lifetime costs for airbases at sea versus those on land?

  98. GJ

    Great; so we do not only have to subsidise a British defence industry.

    We are expected to subsidise every one who wants to buy and F35B including the USMC as well.

    My heart bleads (Not) for the Japanese, Itallians, USMC etc.

  99. RichardW etc

    Im going to try and see if you accept the costs of the F35 against the other planes from the best sources we have. The NAO report puts the cradle to grave costs of the Typhoon at 37b pounds. The canadian government recently published a report on F35 which they say is worst case and they believe it will be less than what they published but we’ll use the number anyway thats 29b dollars US cradle to grave costs. Then we have the Australian purchase of F18E of 4.6b US (2.4b for the aircraft and 2.2b for 10 years supt). So assuming we use the 2.2b supt costs for each of the 2 decades of further service (a lower number than likely as maintenance costs tend to go up the longer an a/c is in service but its the best we have) for the Aus hornets. We can get a bag of the fag packet comparsion between the a/c. Assume $ to £ convertion of 1.6.

    So Typhoon 37b/160a/c = 232m per a/c over its life
    F35 18b/65a/c = 278m per a/c
    F18E 5.6b/24a/c = 234m per a/c

    So as you see yes F35 is more expense but the gap would most likely narrow as a result of more definition around F35 costs emerge. So what does that mean F35 has more than 1/3rd extra range over the F18 and the industrial offsets in F35 make it over all much more attractive also its sensor fusion will be an order of magnitude better than F18. Not to bad a return for about 10-15% cost incurred over F18E.

    But thats not import what im trying to highlight is if you want this level of capability it will cost almost as much regardless what option you choice. We can remove this capability save a lot and accept the consequences.

    TD you say the carrier qualification will require more training and a larger OCU. Well you maybe right but I would expect it to be much less than for the current generation of carrier aircraft. Why? F35 is almost the first a/c not to have a 2 seat trainer version. This would suggest most training will be done on the sim or on a hawk prior to arrival at OCU and that it will be very easy to fly. And if we can as many here suggest now auto land UAVs on a carrier then we sure as hell can do it will a slightly trained pilot in an F35.

  100. I am in favour of RN aircraft carriers, but do not see why that should make me anti RAF. Both services need each other. See Falklands 1982. Carrier launched SHAR escorted in long range RAF Vulcan bomber. Vulcan could have been a sitting duck without fighter cover, but Vulcan carried huge bombload way beyond a squadron of SHARs. Would like to see that relationship in the future. RN F-35 escorting in RAF Regional Bomber.
    With a huge trade deficit the UK needs to boost its industry, or other countries may not want to sell us weapons in return for QE devalued pounds.

  101. Dan,

    The cost of airfields versus the cost of aircraft carriers comes up regularly as an argument, usually in favour of carriers by the usual suspects but it makes the assumption that a land base does nothing but operate aircraft that a carrier is completely self contained which as we all know is not the case

    Its far too complex an equation to distill into the simplicity of a one to one comparison

  102. Tuby @ 23/3 9:13am,

    Largely an “amen” to your first two paragraphs. And I love your description of the LCA(N), which we both like for a variety of cost-and-simplicity reasons, though less underpowered if it had the proposed new engine in it. And I’ll stand by any decisions in that direction although ultimately I’d prefer to upscale towards Rafale-M. Europe is not “Europe” except for bureaucrats and modern-day feudalists (as the downright nasty row between France and Italy over, basically, whether to kill or save Gaddafi, should remind everyone.) But it is a collection of fairly wealthy, long-developed, and currently allied states. They can benefit directly from greater interoperability, although we should take some real care with incestuous near-monopolies like the Eurofighter consortium and what MBDA has turned into, because they’re political and cost-accounting nightmares. So having two British and one French carriers which can readily cross-deck and cooperate, while you also have one Spanish and in time two Italian ARGs operating two of the world’s best LHAs (Juan Carlos and Cavour) that can double (especially Cavour, what an excercise in “Pimp My LHA”) as Harrier III carriers when the American Congress axes Dave-B and Boeing breaks out the brochures. That’s quite a bit of useful security and projection capability, especially if you use French, British, and Iberian facilities for forward basing of stores and, on routine cruises, offer cooperation to one another with AORs. That by itself offers the ability to handle the various nasty but strategically less sharp-edged threats (exactly the kinds of situations you laid out, Tubby) and deter the few serious ones like Russia muscling in on the Arctic, a Greco-Turkish meltdown, or some kind of scary, seismic, and broadly anti-European shift in South American politics. And, as time moves on, the possible “new game” between European interests and China wrt Africa.


    These are indeed complex equations, but I’d still make a case that airbases’ utility depends entirely on both the cost-effectiveness and strategic effectiveness of what you fly out of them (talk about a “nation of shopkeepers” — why do we always play the the Treasury’s game and count beans? And that’s me who suspects the complex equations will still tend to come out in carriers’ favour. It’s a symptom of a larger problem I’ll come back to.) And they’re stubborn about not picking themselves up and moving to more geographically convenient locations where you’re not subject to shifting political winds. Setting up new ones is really quite difficult and, with the exception of Kosovo where that difficulty became apparent with forward basing in Macedonia and Albania, we in the West have been very lucky. The Balkans was essentially a Cold War theatre of operations. The Sandbox Wars since 1990 have benefited from an infrastructure the Saudis built out of fear of Iran (both under the Shah and the ayatollahs) and from Soviet cold war-era building in the Stans (Uzbekh and Afghan.) Also from, *cough*, multiple American carriers on rotation during periods of more intense action because of their high sortie rate and low political threshold for launching missions battlefield commanders requested. If one looks at the logistical difficulties of Africa, especially for former colonial powers, at the potential disruptions of the usual bases if the Arabian Peninsula went boom or South America got unfriendly, and the need for multiple axes of operation against any possible Russian brinksmanship in the Arctic down the line, getting a combined task force (planes, ships, a bit of AEW, some cruise missiles, helos, commando-trained raiders, and the ability to affect or control SLOCs and open up operations landward) into the mix is an invaluable capability. And it happens to be a chance to square a circle; to mix Dominic’s suggestion that “we have to pick what we do and do it very well” with the possibility for flexibility — for opening up a variety of land and air operations in theatre when necessary.


    Could we so readily see T3 turned into “SeaPhoon” with STOBAR? I’m a novice on the details, so I’d like to hear your argument. I seem to remember there are issues with weight in the wrong places and visibility. If not, then God yes, get a single type in service and push towards 275-300 Typhoon with that same 2.5:1 ratio on getting them to the carriers. But if that’s not doable, I still think that Dave of all flavours will be lapped by other tactics and technologies (within a decade or so of IOC, possibly, certainly within 15 yrs) so having a solid “SeaPhoon substitute” like Rafale-M would handle most operations well until we’re into next-generation stuff, while also offering seamless cooperation with Europe’s other big-deck carrier navy. (Again, I doubt the survival of the EU in its present form, much less the EU as envisioned by its dominant figuers. But Britain and France are neighbours and allies regardless.) Or you can go cheap and cheerful with LCA(N). But again to McZ, can SeaPhoon happen that easily via STOBAR? Like several others, one of the few places I part company with El Sid’s bright and well-informed advice is that F35 costs will keep spiraling and, in time, a variety of nations will have to opt out on prohibitive costs, rather than them coming back under control.

    In general,

    Two things dovetailed into this discussion: the crisis in Libya that’s a subset of the whole “Arab Spring” business, and the swingeing cuts in UK state expenditure. The second of those two is here at the short end of a long cycle, that really dates in earnest to the post-Suez sterling troubles and Sandys’ cuts in the services. It’s a fifty-year arc of managed decline, which results in the usual human perception fallacy that “it was ever thus” because it’s all we remember, and all we can predict of the future are outcomes that are familiar to us. But clearly changes can happen. How about finding ways to generate more and broader sources of GDP beyond the financial sector and a few “artisan” skill sets like pharmeceuticals and specialized telecommunications design (from internet provision to device parts)? How about working in concerted ways, from a broad political base left to right, to break the ridiculous and paralysing power of the Treasury? (Money is their power; giving it to other people in useful amounts literally transfers that power away from them to others, it’s a turkeys/Christmas thing.) How about shifting some spending priorities, working with concerted recommendations and ginger groups to break bad practices in procurement? Or doing some radical things like trying to “trust-bust” BAe or break the MoD back into its constituent parts (War Office with a PC name, Admiralty, Air Ministry) to end the decades of “divide and rule” and force the services to live as neighbours rather than fighting over scraps? How about push for a better GDP share for defence as a source of security, economic development, and national coherence in a blatantly unstable world? How about getting out of this cussed British hobbitry (sit in our Shires and grumble about the political weather) and move some bits around? This site and the folks here actually do that quite well when we have a mind to. And maybe, like Jed and possibly others, it’s my life experience of living in other political cultures as well as Britain’s that sometimes make me want to get right back to the old country and shake some lapels. But it’s not just, as IXION points out with real world experience of the last two generations, just a matter of succumbing to wishful thinking. It’s a matter of getting past learned helplessness and doing summat about it. This goes on a number of fronts, but it certainly goes with taking several clear and massive procurement disasters (in terms of cost) — CVF, Typhoon, FRES, every service do ‘ave ’em — and making some sodding lemonade.

    /rant over

    At a practical level, if we discount the assumptions that F35 costs will actually come under control, does a STOBAR “SeaPhoon” or some Rafale-M/LCA alternative offer a better outcome for getting fixed wings on deck? (I like each of the first two ref: TD’s concern about OCUs. One would be a truly purple OCU for a single-type fleet, the other should be a joint Anglo-French operation which, in return for keeping the production line open, the French could show willing on more than half of.)

  103. The trouble now with F-35 is that we’re still funnelling money and time into the research stage, which is essentially being spent largely on the “B” version which we wont be buying anyway. All F-35 customers are going to be made to pay higher prices essentially to fund the additional development of that one type. And when the “B” get’s altered, so the A and C must be adjusted to achieve commonality.

    Really we should be asking the Americans for:
    i) Full technology transfer, including all the software codes,
    ii) A fixed contract price now for the “C” version that we’re actually going to purchase,
    iii) An option to buy the “A” version for the RAF (better performance).

    But then of course that would be asking the MoD to try something new and untried by making actually sound decisions.

    In general, cost of the F-35 doesn’t concern me as much as performance. It does have a very good Radar, but that is essentially a removable object that can be placed in other aircraft. The whole “Stealth” aspect is concerning as well, as there are increasing reports of Radars designed to pick up such aircraft. And that’s before we get into the whole “mainly stealthy through the frontal aspect” argument.

  104. The F35A is totally useless for the Uk and totally not needed. I’d never give the RAF the money to buy the F35A: or an expeditionary asset is bought, capable to operate from land and carriers both, in the form of the F35C, or funding should be directed elsewhere and more Typhoon Tranche 3 should be (eventually) ordered instead.

    As to the F35C training, i think the most sensible option is have no real OCU, and send the pilots training in the US. It is going to cost a lot less, and allow even less airframes to be “wasted”.
    There is a marginal “loss of sovereignity”, but seriously: if we can imagine a crisis in the future in which the US refuse to train british pilots… well. Then the whole foreign and military policy of the UK is wrong. It is even less likely than a russian amphibious assault on Dover’s port is.

    The Sea Typhoon (data from Eurofighter) needs:
    -340 kg of airframe strenghtening in several places (wing root, main bulkheads, engine mount points)
    -strenghtened undercarriage
    -Thrust Vectoring Nozzles
    -Desirable is the AESA radar, which saves 70 kg compared to the current one, balancing the roughly 70 kg additional weight of the Vectoring nozzles, making things easier.

    Tranche 3A Typhoons will come by default “ready for fitting” of AESA and TVN.
    You’d still need the strenghtening, undercarriage and hook, but it could likely be done.

    Eurofighter’s simulations have proved that, from a CVF-sized carrier, a Sea Typhoon can take off from Sky Jump at full load, 23+ tons weight, with Conformal Fuel Tanks, 4 + 2 AA missiles standard configuration and 2 Stom Shadow/Penguin missiles as heavy loads.
    Expected commonality between Sea Typhoon and Typhoon is 95%.

    Not “BAE” data, but Eurofighter data displayed in Bangalore to India.

    I kind of share the fear of most on here that say that actual conversion is unlikely to be this easy…
    But i disagree on the “pit for money” scenario all the same: the Sea Gripen wasn’t such a pit for money.

    The Typhoon is easily converted because it has:
    -85% fuselage in composites. Composites do not fear corrosion.
    -A fuselage already very, very strong.
    -Abundant power from the engines, with growth available, and with Thrust Vectoring tech pretty much already available for fitting as soon as required.

    QE and PoW at that point would not need cats, but Sky Jump, Jet Blast Deflectors and arresting gear only.
    More expensive than full STOVL, but less than coing Cats.

    Admittedly, i’ve been very interesting in the latest developments about Sea Typhoon.

  105. Mark

    All variants of the F35 are still under development, which is running late and therefore incurring more cost. The B variant reportedly has cracks in its structure which is going to cost more money to sort out. Congress has identified the program as already exceeding its budget by more than 25%. Against this mounting cost, the number of units likely to be built is trending downwards with both the US and UK almost certainly going to buy fewer than their original plan. Therefore, the per unit cost is rising.

    A further factor in the price of the F35 is that the actual placing of orders is still some way off – leaving the price open to the effects of inflation.

    F18’s by way of alternative could be purchased now and at a price that only has cover the cost of their manufacture.

    What the eventual price of the F35 will be remains unknown, but beyond any doubt it will be significantly more than today’s price of the F18.

  106. “”The F35A is totally useless for the Uk and totally not needed. I’d never give the RAF the money to buy the F35A: “”

    I was rather under the impression that the A version will be the lightest, fastest and most agile version of the F-35. The only problem is it would lack the Carrier capability, but for the RAF that’s less of a problem.

  107. Missiles out fly ‘planes so I think the difference between A and C isn’t that important.

    I think the Canadians and Australians have done well out of buying carrier ‘planes for their land based air services.

    And the RAF has done well with carrier ‘planes too.

    (PS I am not going to F18 straight out just in case somebody reads it as me advocating that particular ‘plane. I am only on about buying carrier ‘planes.)

  108. @ Gabby re Thrust Vectoring

    With cats I don’t think SeePhoon would need vectoring.

    The Indians are building STOBAR carriers.

  109. @x
    “With cats I don’t think SeePhoon would need vectoring.”

    Vectoring is not needed for STOBAR.
    And with cats, it needs a whole new undercarriage.

    “Not “BAE” data, but Eurofighter data displayed in Bangalore to India. ”

    BAE is the lead marketer in India.

    @jackstaff re. Rafale-M / SeaPhoon / LCA(N).
    The Rafale is not integrated with any weapon in british service. The risk behind this problem is just as great as developing F-35 or navalizing Typhoon.

    LCA(N)? From what I understand, it has the same landing-speed-problem as Typhoon. It has the same problem as Rafale regarding weapons-integration, with zero chance to get the software code, which is strategically vital (it’s also the main counter-argument against the F-35). It’s weapons load is just a few pounds above that of a Harrier GR9, but it has only 6 wing pylons.

    The technical data for SeaPhoon was pretty much summed up by Gabriele. If it’s feasible, we should go down that route. The only problems I have are:
    – I accuse BAE of withholding this concept until SDSR committed to F-35
    – Nimrod MRA4 shows how much “belief” is in the industries marketing speech

    @Chris B.
    I think, “Stealth” is the most misleading term ever used. We should avoid it. View it as a package made of “Low Observability” (of the vehicle) and “Low Probability of Intercept” (of the vehicles electronic signature). The latter of which is basically a software-driven management task, at which the Typhoon performs pretty well.

  110. I too would like Sea Typhoon, providing the UK can do what the hell it likes and when it wants to, which is very likely.
    But I’d rather see a demo aircraft first before committing.

    We really need an F35 vs Typhoon thread, to discuss the roles and costs of using it in a carrier environment and discuss the problems with the typhoon.

  111. @McZ

    “I think, “Stealth” is the most misleading term ever used. We should avoid it. View it as a package made of “Low Observability” (of the vehicle) and “Low Probability of Intercept” (of the vehicles electronic signature). The latter of which is basically a software-driven management task, at which the Typhoon performs pretty well.

    I agree that ‘Stealth’ doesn’t adequately sum up what is taking place. On that note, not only is work underway to defeat low observable aircraft, but in addition one of the great promises of AESA radars has been the suggestion that they have a low probability of intercept and are very difficult to jam. And yet data is starting to emerge suggesting that in testing the F-35’s radar it has been possible to not only detect, but also effectively jam the radar as used on the F-22. This concerns me.

    And maybe a more happy note for now, for those that would like to see Rafale in action, the BBC is reporting that a French Air Force plane, possibly a Rafale, has shot down a Libyan jet that was in breach of the no-fly zone. Possibly the popping of the Rafale’s cherry?

  112. Unfortunate if it’s true. On that note, Invinicble departed today for the breakers in Turkey.

    And as far as I can tell, the French “shoot down” was of a trainer aircraft that had just landed, using an air-to-surface missile.

  113. @ McZ

    Thank you I know Typhoon would need a whole new under carriage. A heavy duty undercarriage and a strengthen airframe means a longer life; probably one of the reasons why the Canadians and Australians (and Singapore) went for the a carrier type aircraft. (And why we should have scrapped Eurofighter when the Wall came down and bought FA18s too.)

    And further I know thrust vectoring isn’t needed for STOBAR. I though BAE were marketing thrust vector to the Indians as a what we used to term in IT as a feature; “Why look how thrust vectoring helps you get the Typhoon off the ski-jump quicker…”

  114. @ George

    Francis Tusa depends on his reputation for his work. And he depends on his contacts too. So I can’t see him saying something like this and upsetting the most of influential of the armed forces. No not the Navy, the other bunch in blue!

  115. @ X

    Thanks for that – I was not aware of him, but I agree that he does seem to have an excellent reputation.

  116. I’m afraid you are wrong:

    Point 1: “With cats I don’t think SeePhoon would need vectoring.”

    With catapults, no. But Sea Typhoon is a STOBAR, which means Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery. Sky jump + arrestor wires, in other words.
    Thrust vectoring is needed to ensure proper landing approach, and to help the take off. I’m not the one who says it, Eurofighter does. Seaphoon as presented in Bangalore HAS thrust vectoring.

    “Vectoring is not needed for STOBAR.
    And with cats, it needs a whole new undercarriage.”

    The Catapult launched variant of Sea Typhoon has apparently been abandoned. It would have required 460 kg of structural strenghtening against 360 for STOBAR. Not advantageous, not necessary. Why using cats if it can take off without them and need also significantly less redesign? It would be an unjustified, deliberate waste of money.

    I fear many of you are messing up CATOBAR and STOBAR:

    Catapult Assisted Take Off, Barrier Arrested Recovery —> US style cats and traps

    Short Take Off, But (Barrier) Arrested Recovery —> Sky jump and arrestor wires, russia and india style. Main examples of STOBAR aircrafts are MIG29K and SU33.

    “BAE is the lead marketer in India.”

    Wrong too. Surprising perhaps, but actually it is EADS that is lead marketer in India, even if Bae does lots of work because of greater experience in the area.

    “I accuse BAE of withholding this concept until SDSR committed to F-35”

    Again, an error. It is a myth: Sea Typhoon was offered to the MOD as far back as 1996, again in 2001 and again in 2005.
    Might not have been as publicized as it now is, but Seaphoon has been existing as a concept for a loooong time.
    Bae has sorta of lost interest in marketing Seaphoon to the UK after in 2001 the choice was made to join the US F35 programme: BAE subsequently got so heavily committed in the F35 that, paradossally, it could possibly be damaged by a switch to Seaphoon.

  117. RichardW

    I see I failed to convincing you indeed the Canadian report assumes a 66% price increase. A crack in a single bulkhead in the B version not the end of the world. The area of interest will either be stiffened up or material changed to be similar to the a,c variant lucky were not buying it. This is what a test program is for indeed the a380 failed its ultimate load test during it development these things are not uncommon. Every aircraft has these types of problems in its test phase.

    If you want hornet then ok were do we get the 4.5b pounds to buy 70-80 of these aircraft in the next 2 years. Because the production lines closes 4 years from now. Also in 2030 the hornet will be as much use as a naval fighter as the GR9 is today. The additional tanker support required for hornet will cost a far bit also. For me its keep F35 and carrier or can the lot and accept we can no longer conduct expeditionary missions.

    F35c is the version with the longest range and has a probe and drogue refuel system the A version does not so if we go for the A we need new tankers bet air tanker will charge a bit for that. The B version has 70% commonality of parts and 100% same avionics and radar as the other 2 so its hardly a total waste to spend money on the B version.
    As for seaphyoon its would cost a fortune and not met its requirements there’s to much wishful thinking in its proposal typhoon has to many bit in the wrong place to operate from a carrier.

  118. Calm down young Gabriele! ;-)

    The last time I looked the SU-25 didn’t have thrust vectoring and it seems to cope rather well jumping off carriers and landing back on STOBAR carrier. And compared to a 4.5(!) generation fighter like Typhoon my beloved Frogfoot handles like a bus. Well not quite like a bus, but like an attack plane two (?) generations behind Typhoon. And I know later SU-27s had thrust vectoring but are you sure SU-33s are fitted with it?

    The trouble with STOBAR carriers is they are inefficient in their use of deck space. May I point you to Hull Univeristy’s book called Maritime Airpower which ways the pro’s and con’s of VSTOL, STOBAR, and CATOBAR designs?

    But in the mean time calm down Gabby!!

    Only jokin’ matey!

  119. Hi all,

    I go away for a couple of days, and you guys write a book! Lots of good stuff, incl.
    – jedi had read the source about what next for the USMC, when not storming a beach with minimum a division, in a state-on-state conflict; very good starting point for out own scenarios (to verify that we have the capability, plus what possibly is missing)
    – just before that someone else welcomed a debate where we would start with the defined/ desired effect(s) and then debate how best to achieve it (would go well with the above type of discussion)

    RE “indeed the Canadian report assumes a 66% price increase.”
    – that report is good in that it is totally independent, but
    – exactly for that reason the figures have been derived (from where we are now) by projecting based on other, similar aircraft programmes…Now how did someone figure out bold on contributions: here bold font for “similar” because it is easy to argue that there hasn’t been one

    Finally, it has not been mentioned on the thread that USMC has taken out a hedge against the “B” getting cancelled, and split their order. Operationally they will not lose much, as they would never forward-base all their aircraft
    – call it a free option as the complications in support are countered with “averaging-down” the unit cost from the purely “B” fleet

  120. Hi X,

    It is the SU MKI that has thrust vectoring (does not take off from carriers, has them for other reasons).

    Those engines are made in India. Someone mentioned that the LCA won’t be underpowered for much longer; correct, it will get a much lighter thrust-vectoring engine from the same factory,

    Indian Navy has already got some of their MIGs (for training from shore); anyone know about them?

    BTW; the head of the Russian navy stated just a couple months ago that he is happy not to upgrade in the next ten years, as long as he is given planes in sufficient numbers – stating that they are perfectly good for all missions. The difference to the declared US Fighter Crisis is that the Russians are talking in hundreds whereas the Americans in thousands (as for the perceived shortfall)

  121. X

    The reason the Typhoon needs thrust vectoring is it needs to get its speed down for landing on a carrier other carrier aircraft usually have a bigger wing area and control surface area to help here though delta profiles are generally not bad. Also the canards are in the wrong place vision fwd and down would be a problem in carrier landing note the difference with rafale also its engine intakes are in the wrong place for a carrier aircraft again compare with rafale or hornet or f35. It would be a real bodge to get to an effective carrier aircraft out of typhoon IMHO.


    I agree with you assertions. Though F35 is very different particularly from the software side production prices are lower that LRIP the question is by how much and the likely upgrades thru its life is the real unknown which they’ve probably tried to quantify by comparing several programs. I tried to use the 3 most reliable reports just to show what the real cost difference looks like and not some of the exaggerated cost implication of choosing one or the other. High end aircraft cost wither we like it or not.

  122. X,

    I am more than calm. But i fail to see your point. Because the Su25 can fly from carriers without thrust vectoring then we have to automatically assume that Eurofighter is purposefully lying only to try and sell TVN to India…?

    Looks like a very dangerous game. If they get caught, no one would want to do business with them again.

    Mark is spot-on in explaining why Seaphoon needs TVN:
    “The reason the Typhoon needs thrust vectoring is it needs to get its speed down for landing on a carrier other carrier aircraft usually have a bigger wing area and control surface area to help here though delta profiles are generally not bad. Also the canards are in the wrong place vision fwd and down would be a problem in carrier landing note the difference with rafale also its engine intakes are in the wrong place for a carrier aircraft again compare with rafale or hornet or f35.”

    He’s right on the visibility problem given by Canards, too. It was pointed out already in 2001 during studies, and possible solutions suggested included even a sort of “periscope” (!) to grant better visibility to the pilot.
    A camera projecting imagery on the cockpit’s screen or even on the Head Mounted Visor might be another (and possibly better) solution.

    As to a STOBAR configured Queen Elizabeth, pardon me, but i don’t see why the deck would be “inefficient”.
    It would be configured pretty much as CATOBAR, with angled deck and arrestor wires, but with a skyjump and one/two jet blast deflectors placed side to side in place of the catapults.
    No loss of parking/deck space compared to CATOBAR at all.

    And anyway, considering that the RN carriers are not expected to be as crowded as USN ones, it would arguably be a “marginal” problem anyway.

  123. @ Mark

    Thank you. Apologies to young Gaby; but only just! ;-)

    This is all very interesting…….

    @ ACC

    Thank you too. I get confused with all these aircraft types.

    I like the LCA. Not so much for what it does. More for the courage the Indians have for getting behind their own programme. It would be nice to think our government and defence industry could have done similar in times past. May be after the Falklands somebody could have dusted off the planes for Hawker Siddeley P.1154 because of the Harrier’s performance. Imagine if BAE had built the Gripen. Oh well.

  124. @Gabriele
    I was actually answereing a question. I know the different carrier-techniques. And nowhere I wrote, I want to go CATOBAR, especially not in Typhoons case. Many people here are thinking of going CATOBAR as a the only sensible decision in the SDSR. I think, it’s a measure to put the big spending tickets to the next administration.

    Regarding Seaphoon, I know the proposals of at least 2001 and 2005.

    The offerings in the past were for a version with modified undercarriage and, as I understand it, a more or less complete redesign of the wing. It was resented by the MoD due to development cost first, to the beginning Nimrod nightmare second and then because F-35 was in the neighbourhood.

    The current minor variation of the Typhoon is a whole other story. It’s basically a T3+ with some strenghtening and strakes for lower landing speed. It is very much an economically sensible story, no 40%-redesign as previous. Especially, if the contract-constraints are taken into the equation. And THIS was withhold until the SDSR was safe, and it is very efficient in it’s quest to assure F-35 by poisoning any move back to STOBAR (the gov would look like complete idiots; it’s in the nature of politics, but still).

    Regarding lead marketer, you are right. I think I very much confused it with Japan. In India, it seems EADS is lead marketer, but all three partners are strongly involved.

    BAE is a partner in the F-35 as in many other DoD-projects, but it’s not easily replaceable at this point. BAE also has a large presence in North America, and in the meantime learned how to play on the congress-piano.

    Singapore is not a Hornet-customer.

    The Canadians and Australians had to choose between F-18 and F-16. They deemed a single-engined aircraft to be too unreliable due to the long distances. Wonder why they buyed into the F-35.

    We should have scrapped Eurofighter and develop EAP. With a common aft section identical to the Tornado.

  125. Hi Chris B,

    Thanks for the RUSI link. I was relieved to see that it was to a brand new edition, as Kirkpatrick concludes pretty much in the way I have been a proponent of on this forum:
    ” From the 1970s
    onwards, the MoD was exhorted to use through-life costs (= development
    + production + operation + maintenance + repair) when selecting equipment for procurement.
    Forecasting the in-service costs of increasingly complex equipment is
    much more dubious. They depend on its reliability and maintainability,
    which become apparent only in field trials, and on logistic support, which
    was often not seriously considered until after Main Gate. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the MoD has continued to base its investment decisions
    on procurement cost forecasts because through-life costs are ‘too difficult’.
    More recently, the Smart Acquisition reforms
    recommended a
    ‘capability-based approach’ whereby new requirements would be
    expressed in terms of the military capability required, without any preconception regarding the most appropriate class of equipment. This
    demands, in principle, that a decision on the best class of
    equipment should be made after the Concept phase, at Initial Gate, using
    cost and timescale forecasts based on even less data about alternative
    designs from alternative classes of equipment”
    – US studies have shown that procurement costs, in cases, only account for 8-11% of the total cost over a 25-30 yr life

  126. @McZ

    Not sure about that. The old Sea Typhoon was offered in both Catapult and STOBAR variants. The catapult variant for sure required serious redesign, but i believe that, already back in 2001, the STOBAR variant was offered as a relatively simple, low-cost conversion. Probably the study was not as detailed as it has been now for India, but we were also at an earlier stage of the Typhoon’s life, so that’s kind of justified… and the government was already all hot and ripe on joining the US on the F35, besides, which cooled down a lot the chances of Seaphoon to go anywhere.
    I don’t think i can really blame BAE on that, honestly.

  127. Hi x,

    RE ” Imagine if BAE had built the Gripen.”
    – Well, they sort of do, because BAE corporate graph shows a 20% holding in (the aircraft part of) SAAB
    – I doubt they build anything (integrating new weapons is a big part of the overall job, though), and the 20% represents their international sales commission (with a lot of cost to take off the top of that first)

  128. Gabriele et all

    Can we just take a breath here.

    The Typhoon programme was completely stymied by taking out the cannon, in the end the problems of taking in out to save money, were such that even using a concrete weight to mimimc it was not enough we had to leave the cannon in.

    So please; take with a big pan full of salt Eurofighters assertions that it can put a TV engine at the back and counterbalance it with different radar at the front, and strenghten the frame/ landing gear. etc etc.

    And do so with relative ease.

    This is a major re design of a very complex system, it will not be quick or cheap.

    I suggest we let the Indians pay for it and is it works buy it off the shelf.

    About the last thing we need now is another big multi national programme.

    BAE or non BAE don’t trust Aerospace companies when they start talking about of simple it would be to do X Y Z to their designs, there job is to sell aircraft.

    They had to do a lot of work on the C130J because of unforseen aerodynamic problems for a simple re-engine job.

    I am impressed by flying aircraft not by powerpoints.

  129. Gabriele & Co

    Just entering to clear up on the Su-25 carrier ops – sadly its no ‘naval attacker’, with info from a russian aviation-nut freind.
    You mean the Su-25UTG, they do take of with no alteration like TVR, but they cant with weapons…too heavy, they are pure trainers to aid new pilots qualifying for carrier landings. They have fewer weapon stations than the normal ’25; 4…for use with fuel tanks only. They have no wing fold; meaning they are exposed to the deck conditions.

    They very seldom fly with anything under the wings, and were only introduced for carrier training… they are lightened also.

    There was an idea to have an armed carrier varient, but no money and then the emergance of the re-vitalised true multi-role MiG-29K, along with multi-role upgrades to the Su-33, there’s no need.

    From what I got from several meetings with BAe peeps and looking at Eurofighter info, they rather hate the F-35 in general, a sea-typhoon is cool on paper, but like another commenter on here…a model, some studies and some pictures doesnt equal the real thing…same goes for sea-Griphen.

    Very interesting reading the comments :)

  130. @Mark
    “It would be a real bodge to get to an effective carrier aircraft out of typhoon IMHO.”

    The same was said about the SeaFire, but they did it and it was – despite far from perfect – an effective solution.

    We must do with the situation we have. No funds for adequate numbers of F-35, but a contract which requires us to buy Typhoons.

    And there is TD’s mantra of ruthless commonality and cross-service assets…

    Regarding the F-35: our top brass has buyed into this program hoping to get a new capability: first-day-combat-LO. Operations against Libya show, that this will neither be the case (because Storm Shadow will be carried externally) nor is this required.

    Send 10 A400M, each loaded with 12 Storm Shadow, let them pop it out of the rear. And then you have your saturation attack… every 6 hours. Until stocks are empty.

  131. @IXION
    “I suggest we let the Indians pay for it and is it works buy it off the shelf. ”

    This is the plan … to let the Indian gov fund the development of a UK defence asset by using UK DfID money LOL

  132. MCZ

    It you cut the number of engines in half you signification reduce the purchase and thru life costs of an aircraft there probably the most expensive single purchase. Engine technology has moved on significantly in the last 20 years with very reliable engines hence the civil market moving from 3-4 engine planes to 2 on most ETOPS routes.


    The cannon was all about MOD being penny wise pound foolish. The concrete thing was never a serious choice it would have done horrible things to the airframe even if it was a good ballast which it wasn’t. But I agree with your general gist SALES MEN are not to be trusted would be a better quote though.

  133. McZ & IXION

    lol thats EXACTLY what the Russian did with the MiG-29K! lol seriously, and probbaly th T50…

  134. MCZ

    Yep seafire worked but it wasnt a flyby wire aircraft and would almost guarantee it was a pretty rugged beast to start with also that was a war when development funding was almost unlimited. I think all the partners are cancelling the Tranche 3B aircraft. I don’t think well have to buy any more we’ve reached the contract value now.

    Storm shadows good what F35 will do is allow a fighter/recon sweep to go in first or get further inland to launch storm shadow at further in land target (not really necessary in Libyas case though as most target are on the coast). F35 could also take out targets with laser guided bombs different alternatives thats what F35 gives.

  135. Re Seafire

    The landing loss rate was horrendous the wing just couldn’t take it.

    It was also 60 years ago.

    Can we avoid the LOL type comments!not realy logical argument is it

    SU series of aircraft not digital fly by wire, and I would like to see the take off/landing cycle numbers, loss rates etc, the su29 has hardly had a long and succesful career as a carrier aircraft.

  136. @ ACC

    I know about the BAE 20% holding and BAE also have some sort of sales deal too. But you know what I mean, why can’t “we” get off arses and build stuff?

    @ Mike

    The point was the SU25 is a truck that coped well with the difficult conditions of carrier ops. I was comparing it to the sportscar Typhoon for “handling.” The SU25 is still a thing of wonder to me. All these aircraft types and numbers are making my head spin.

  137. @ McZ

    On a tangent. From what I have read the single engine vs double engine for reliability on numbers is hard to prove one way or the other. I remember this because it is a bit counter intuitive. For me I would prefer two engines.

    I confess I rather like the F16.

  138. BBC news says that CAP patrols to enforce NFZ are now under NATO command – not the rest of the operation
    – is this as far as unanimity goes (Turkey, Italy)? Coalition of the willing for the rest?
    – lots of ships headed that way, surely the embargo will come under a similar arrangement? Time will tell

  139. Just noticed, somethings gone tits up in the budget. The June budget projected Defence spending at £40 billion for 2010/2011.

    This Budget projects the same for 2011/2012.

    Surely Inflation is not that severe?

  140. ACC just above,

    Since “Libya” is in the thread title it gives us a chance to talk that kind of shop for a moment … :)

    – It’s as far as unanimity ever went, which really makes this another of the unaccustomed strategic victories in this little mess. As the estimable Yank Galrahn put it over at Information Dissemination, the Italians would like Gaddafi to survive b/c otherwise very valuable contracts and deposits are in jeopardy. The French actively want to kill him (and lots of majority-Muslim states — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Chad, just for starters — want him dead if the French will hold the knife.)
    – NATO command for CAP and in time the blockade lets the Italians and potentially the Turks look like they’re doing something (Italy is offering bases and charging a mint, plus putting a fully turned-out ARG in the Med), lets NATO do the PR-friendly stuff, and means that when the Italians or Turks do anything to sabotage removing Gaddafi dead or alive, it’s duly noted by their alliance partners.
    – Leaving room for the “all necessary measures” out there on the fringe also leaves room to rope in neighbours if this gets desperate (Egypt can offload decaying Soviet weapon stocks, Chad can get some payback) and encourages the French to get on with it wrt killing Gaddafi so there’s still positive media momentum. Because as several of us have said before, he and a senior son or three need to die soon so that there aren’t too many entrenched blood feuds before all the surviving political factions start hashing out who’s in charge next.

    It seems to me, since ThinkDefence is quietly becoming a presence in the defence blogosphere, we should talk to somebody (RUSI, Carswell’s parliamentary office, really don’t bother aiming low) about getting some impartial costings of the following:

    – Modified Typhoon (on the lines discussed above, rather than the deep-remodel for cat and trap) including its tests plus STOBAR
    – Rafale-M at the Brazilian price plus an actual commercial price (not just “what can MBDA charge a captive customer to juice their stock valuation”) for weapons integration plus the likely road of EMALS

    Prices based on a minimum of 80 units and a preferred number of 90.

    I still like the integrated-partnership idea from an earlier ramble of mine, i.e. two proper British carriers, one French one, and a Dutch ARG. Have the French and Dutch on duty inbetween the RN carriers and you have a gentler up-down cycle, and more opportunity to surge amphibs in particular together with whatever carrier is available (and the good chance that, while the other partners are “on duty” a British carrier group could be worked up to cover a national crisis with relative speed, since you’d have one ramping up for its next cruise in any case.) But it needs to be tripartite, so the three nations with four groups can all benefit from the pace of the cycle.

  141. x,

    Tusa needs to get someone who’s career has more or less topped out to display stones and confirm the report publicly. Yes that’s often considered bad form. No, GR9s are not as versatile as the USMC’s Harriers. No they are not the past masquerading as a future. But the problem highlights two glaring disasters in SDSR that are ***not mutually contradictory*** and are about the laser focus on slashing money and Our Gallant Sand-Kicking War in the Stan. One is that the RAF isn’t getting enough Typhoons — not enough upgraded, and not enough overall — to offset the slow death of Tornado. The other is that even the light blue (who would be flying off the decks as it stands — ah, irony) see that the flexibility and early sortie rate off flat-top decks is handy when your tanker fleet is knackered and allied bases closer to the scene are unreliable.

  142. @Chris.B.

    Is that based on CPI or RPI ?

    After using the nuclear option of last resort (QE), they now have to find some way to make the debt easier to pay. Printing hundreds of billions of pounds may not have been the smartest thing we could have done.

    Or does the budget inc. an additional amount due to the goings on in Libya.

    From where i’m sitting, inflation isn’t just something you read about anymore.


    I really, really hope, that Francis Tusa’s assertion about the RAF’s making that particular request proves to be totally incorrect.

    If it is not, if it is for real, then the RAF have done the whole country and the rest of the serving military a massive disservice.

  143. @Michael (Civ.)

    I believe RPI. As for Libya, the Treasury reserve is *supposed* to cover all operational expenses.

    The Budget as a whole makes miserable reading. I like all the changes to help business, but a £6 billion forecast increase in debt interest and another £6 billion forecast increase in Social Protection is not good, especially as revenues will take a hit in the coming year.

    The national finances are an utter mess. And don’t believe the Labour hype about the banks. I checked the April ’08 budget (pre-Northen Rock). The predicted budget deficit was something like £46 billion, the highest of any nation in the world heaiding into the financial crisis.

    At this rate we’ll barely be able to afford paint for a barracks.

  144. And while we’re talking money and fantasy fleets (of aircraft), please remember that “Buying British” results in a recoup of a certain amount of money through taxes on the business and then the money paid to staff being funnelled back into the system through various taxes.

    I’ve heard 40% quoted before, but that sounds maybe a touch to much for me. In the interest of fairness and to be perhaps too cautious, I would suggest somewhere in the 30% region. So a £100 million plane becomes £70 million in real terms for example.

  145. Chris B., just above,

    A good argument in favour of the STOBAR SeaPhoon, then, and yes that is exactly what happens. One could try to say the same for F35, but I’m still suspicious of how the “10% of industry” will play out over the life of production. I tend to file it under “Dagenham, The Fate Of.”

    And as an incidental, spiraling Dave-related costs are the third leg of the stool (to go with budget priorities and ethics charges) on which the various opposition parties in Canada are standing to shove the Harper government off into an election. And in the States (since various commercial and political interests plus the senior services plus poor design performance have already killed the EFV and endangered Osprey) it’s quite possible that legislators of both parties will axe Dave-B by next year’s election cycle to look tough on deficits and try to save the export market.

  146. I would guess a STOBAR carrier and aircraft is a non-starter. A degree of inter-operability with other forces would be wanted and only a CATOBAR or a proper jump jet carrier would achieve that. Our Seaphoon would be able to land on a French or US carrier but how would it take off? Their aircraft could land on our carriers but how would they take off? USMC and other jump jet operators could use our carrier but we couldn’t use theirs.

    If you go for STOBAR it limits the aircraft you can operate from the carrier in the same way a jump jet carrier does, so you might as well go the whole hog and save on the complexity and manpower needed for landing.

    Even the Indian Navy is looking at following up the STOBAR INS Vikramaditya with larger, conventional carriers with either steam or electric catapults.

  147. ? If it can STOBAR off a deck shorter than that, it can do it off a longer deck…

    Actually, I’m beginning to warm to Seaphoon. As I understand it now, there is a lot of planned incremental improvement in the Typhoon programme overall. That’s good – Kaizen and all that – and it would be really daft to drop out of it to save tuppence and end up with yet another special-needs fleet, this time of Typhoons that didn’t get upgraded and are therefore nonstandard or that got forked (see FGR4).

    And if they’re actually expecting to upgrade future Typhoons, there’s significantly less reason to object to including the hook, heftier undercart, “carrier mode” in the software, etc in later ones. Also, nothing’s quite as ruthlessly common as going from FA2/GR7/GR9A/GR4/GR3/F3 a couple of years ago to Typhoon and nothing else across the fighter and strike roles on land and sea. (Typhoon: Hawker Hart for the 21st century)

    Looking back, some really bad decisions got made around 1995-96, didn’t they? Ocean built “down to a price, not up to a standard!”, Airbus’s offer of 24x A310MRTT turned down, no-decision on Seaphoon, to say nothing of Front Line First.

  148. ADG
    Interoperability is a bit naff really.

    At the end of the day, everyone will have more aircraft thaan they could actualy operate off their own carriers.
    Its just willy waving “we were here too” that wants UK jets on French Carriers and French Jets on UK Carriers.

  149. And while we’re talking money and fantasy fleets (of aircraft), please remember that “Buying British” results in a recoup of a certain amount of money through taxes on the business and then the money paid to staff being funnelled back into the system through various taxes

    Tempting, but this argument doesn’t necessarily work. The alternative is for us to buy £1 billion of aircraft overseas, which frees up BAE to use the same manufacturing capacity to build £1 billion of aircraft for export. In very basic terms that has the same outcome. We still spend £1 billion and we still get the same amount back in taxes.
    In fact it could be better to do that than to buy British, because BAE might be able to use the same manufacturing capacity to build £1.1 billion of something else for export. I can go into details if you like but this is basically a toy example of the principle of comparative advantage.

  150. @a

    Of course, that argument is valid, but only when BAE has firm contracts for other business that they can use their facilities for. If we don’t buy this “SeaTyphoon” (shall we just call it “Tempest” and be done with it?) and neither do the Indians, that’s not a lot of use to us.

  151. Libya & carriers?

    I can see a Falcon 2000 escorted by (US) carrier-borne fighters, not Tomcats anymore though, across the Gulf of Sirte, towards an eastern destination in Jordan (and onwards?) with these folks onboard (from Telegraph’s late last night blog):
    “A U.S. national security official, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, told the Reuters news agency said that U.S. government agencies were aware that Saif al-Islam and Senoussi had been involved in making peace overtures.
    The U.S. official, and a European government official who is also following Libyan events closely, said that U.S. and European governments were treating the purported outreach with caution, but not dismissing it out of hand.”
    – could be propaganda; to make the resolute loyalists think twice
    – or could be an object lesson in history (don’t ignore a navy, with planes, that is sitting off your coast, whenever there is a need for them to do so)

  152. Well, sticking with the toy example, if no one wants to buy Sea Typhoon then BAE shouldn’t make it and should instead make more of the things that it can sell. (Caveats: yes, friction and transition costs ignored here.) And if BAE can’t make anything at all that it can sell, then it shouldn’t exist, because it’s using up highly-trained engineers and designers who could be working for other British companies that do make things that can sell.

  153. RIA Novosti of today:
    “The Navy will also retain control over Su-33 Flanker D and Su-25UTG Frogfoot carrier-based aircraft, Il-38 May and Be-12 anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The transfer of the naval transport aircraft fleet to the Air Force is still under discussion.
    According to the source, the Russian navy will soon start receiving MiG-29K Fulcrum fighter jets.
    Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is capable of carrying 26 Su-33 and MiG-29K aircraft.”
    – the rule of thumb in this was that all shore-based assets are air force, if not dedicated to ASW
    – permanent postings to foreign naval bases + any dedicated transport might also be
    currently there is only the leased base in Crimea; the plans include one in Syria (for the Med) and one in the Indian Ocean area

    Following this rule, just as a thinking exercise
    – no carriers, no aircraft (yet; the Ruskies are also talking about new carriers by…)
    – no permanent naval bases, other than GIB (the Phantoms long gone, even though the hardened shelters are still there)
    – no fixed wing ASW
    – and save for COD, there have never been any dedicated transports in naval air/ FAA

    China has nothing (yet); India has been struggling to mix old kit and borrowed operating models; Brazil bought the carrier, & how to use it all in one package… all the other navies that have entered the game on the back of VTOL and small carriers are struggling to see the next step

    How many carrier nations? The current ones and one to join… that’s it. for a long time

    PS. As Mike said, India got their carrier MIGs before Russia (by virtue of stumping up the cash)

  154. Many thanks for your feedback TD.

    I would suggest the question to ask here is;

    Would the Ark Royal with a full of compliment of Harriers have flown more sorties and hit more targets in Libya than the RAF with all its planes at long range has done to date?

  155. Jedi, the first sea lord thought he was going to be getting 2 CVF with 150 JCA between them, the Air Chief Marshal thoughts he was getting 232 Typhoon and the Chief of the General Staff thought we was getting a couple of thousand FRES. Thinking does not make it so!

    Dan. sorties are irrelevant, ask yourself what the desired effects are and which would have been best placed to deliver on them

  156. I’ve just been doing some research and I have to say – the Rafale still looks the best option for the CVFs. We have commonality with out nearest (geographical) neighbour, we can hammer our a proper commercial deal, as jackstaff said we would have the best option with rotating with our European allies for a carrier on duty, we use the French OCU thus giving us more usable airframes, we don’t rely on the US, and, best of all, the aircraft is in service, is roughly comparable to the Typhoon in capability and is currently (to borrow a phrase from above) getting its cherry popped in Libya. Whilst clearing UK armaments is not to be sniffed at, we could borrow a french Rafale or two for testing whilst “our” aircraft are being built. We could have a squadron ready for the launch of the CVF if we get our fingers out.

    In the end, if we really feel the capability(?) provided by the F35 later, there is nothing to stop us doing that post 2020, but realistically, we may be looking at Sea Taranis or similar by then.

    To do this, the RAF has to get the full compliment Typhoons with the most capable spec we can afford (Conformal tanks and TV if possible)

    Sorry – I just had to get that off my chest. Wish we would just stop faffing around

  157. @ Mike (Civ) re Francis Tusa

    Yes I quite agree. I have been thinking about it some more. As I said Tusa doesn’t appear to be the type of bloke to make stuff up. And though I joke about the RAF I will admit they are professionals. But they do all tend to sing from hymn sheet. I just can’t see what somebody deep within High Wycombe would have to gain from making it up. So the more I think about it the more likely it seems. And you are right then the RAF (or whoever sold the don’t we need Harriers line to HMG) have done the country a disservice to put it mildly. Um. Perhaps it was a disgruntled Harrier pilot? Or even sillier some odd ploy to help RAF gain navy fast air? I know a few weeks on that losing the Ark Royal hit the RN hard. Harder than losing Nimrod hit the RAF. If I were to a be a bit naughty myself it isn’t hard to imagine in an alternate reality FAA SHARs (or AV8b’s!) flying from a carrier off the coast Libya to protect Tornado’s carrying Storm Shadow flying in from Norfolk a la Black Buck.

  158. @ Jackstaff re Tusa

    Yes I agree with you too. But sadly I think we are no longer in the era where senior military figures tend their resignations on points of principle.

  159. a
    see you are still bashing British industry.
    We may buy foreign, but the USAF tanker contest shows the Yanks are only interested in buy American protectionism.
    If we do not buy from BAE, then BAE shuts UK factoties. Our skilled staff are unlikely to get jobs in a UK that hates industry. The budget raised carbon taxes above our competitors, so UK industry is not on a level playing field. Thanks George, nearly as wrong headed as Gordon.

  160. Hi jedi @ 5:46,

    RE “My bet is that the NAO recommends fitting cats-n-traps to both carriers, what’s yours?

    Well, who cares what they recommend, ref: driving a car by looking in the reversing mirror?
    – Anyway, they are very good with numbers, and BTW how is it possible that the Parliament lets the Gvmnt get away with figures (as in proposals) that only by Legions of Gvmnt paid-for accountants (NAO) working on them are then turned, a year or two later, into something that we (I bet a lot on this: They, too!) can understand
    – that delay is almost half of a full Parliament (under the present rules; less before), so no one accountable, which explains why (mainly) the individual procurement items/ programmes are in the eye of the media – they have nothing to get their hands on, as for the bigger picture !
    – add to this that anyone who knows anything about what is being procured (ie. for what effect) are rotated every two years on the Services side, so that still counts towards the promotion – but if you stay longer… and see it through – then you are seen as a civil servant, suddenly!)

  161. I have to agree with John H, if BAE shut down then those skilled workers would have nowhere else to go over here. How many aerospace companies not called BAE are there in the UK, currently with ambitions to fill air force orders and a dire need for skilled staff?

    Not that it’s the sole reason I would like to see a Navalised Typhoon. Personally I think a one type fast jet fleet across the entire board would go down nicely. I’ve always been rather perplexed that modern aircraft are supposed to be Multi-role, and yet the only countries that seem to trust in this capacity are the ones who can only afford 20 planes.

    Typhoon should, in theory, be able to fill all our fast jet needs.

    Not that it really matters. Hands up here who genuinely believes the government will back track on F-35 now, short of the project suffering a (nother?) massive hit in terms of in-service date slip, or budget over run?

  162. Chris B

    I doubt the govt will drop F35 now (neither will RAF) It will have to be prized from it’s cold dead hands.

    There is much to recomend Typhoon commonality accross the fleet (you point about countries that can only afford 20 being well made). IF Seaphoon can be made to work. About which on previous form any sane individual should have the gravest doubts.

    However the BAE argument could be reduced to the point that who cares if they are

    1)Making Assault rifles that don’t work:
    2)Rebuilt Nimrod based planes completly shot through with bugs:
    3)Fighter aircraft in conjunction with others, that come in 15 years late and way over budget.

    And yet because they are made in UK we would still have to buy them and waste billions, and endanger our troops and opperational capabilities…

    Oh wait a minute we tried that….

  163. In the open thread I’ve made a comment about Canada’s government and the F35.

    We really should stop looking at the F35, I don’t really believe we’re getting much from it. BAE might be a top level partner but how much is the work being done in the UK or Europe? If I remember correctly BAE has more employees in America than the UK.

    As much as it would give any future carrier a fantastic aircraft to do modern jobs, the costs I hear is getting higher and I’m not so sure if we are really benefiting from it technically.

    Might as well go sea typhoon or Rafale, isn’t there meant to be a Gripen as well for carriers or was that some Indian procurement proposals.

    We’ve screwed up elsewhere in procurement what’s going to stop us any more?

    Oh BTW the second engine for the F35 has now been told to stop. So despite rolls having %40 of the work on the F136, it would have meant orders and work in europe. The dutch in a wikileak cable were worried about the second engine being stopped because it could have meant less work for them in the future in servicing etc etc.

  164. Jedi, I dont think the NAO ever make military recommendations, that is not their role. They will rip the MoD and services to pieces on project management, political and fiscal short termism but will not question the MoD’s military decision making therefore unlikely to recommend anything along those lines

  165. IXION
    BAE has to build what the customer (MoD) wants.
    BAE wanted an M16 safety on the SA80, but the MoD wanted crossbolt (that kept falling off).
    Nimrod would not have been a fiasco if BAE was allowed to buil all new, but the MoD thought it could save money.
    BAE cannot be blamed for German/British political dithering that added to the delay/cost of Eurofighter Typhoon.

  166. John

    I echo your comments in the end at least 60% of procurement delays and cost growth can be laid at the door of MOD and the services themselves from subs to carriers ,fighter to tankers, rifles to FRES. As for typhoon may have cost more than originally hoped but its costs are still in line with any comparable fast jet price. I think a lot of this comes down to the hope of retaining a high end capability with cutting edge technology on the cheap by not being realistic about what your trying to achieve or can afford.

  167. @ John Hartley

    “We may buy foreign, but the USAF tanker contest shows the Yanks are only interested in buy American protectionism.
    If we do not buy from BAE, then BAE shuts UK factoties. Our skilled staff are unlikely to get jobs in a UK that hates industry.”

    There are plenty of ways to buy British, it does not have to be BAE, we could simply buy foreign with 50% off sets (like India does) or insist that a percentage of whatever we buy is built or assembled in the UK. As long as we do not specific something that it is to unique then we should get it for a similar price as buying the comparable product overseas. Plus always buying from BAE results in over priced under specced products.

    However some things have to be brought abroad. The next assault rifle for example will be brought from abroad. FRES UV will be as well, though likely on the model I suggest above where some parts are made in the UK, with possible final assembly, but a lot of it will be sourced abroad.

  168. Why do we think buying from a foreign company will be cheaper. I mean really can we name one high capability program bought buy MOD form anyone that has not been way over budget or way late or both. I mean is every company they deal with incompetent or just the customer. Best example I can think of is the 8 Boeing Chinook helicopters we ordered in 2000. Dont think BAE had any involvement with that yet still a disaster the list is endless.

  169. @John Hartley

    Thanks for the wrong headed comment! ;-) I was largely just agreeing with Jackstaff!

    My point is simply, we seem to have a jam tomorrow attitude, that we never sweat our assets and we seem to be in constant anticipation of the next big thing. F35 may not be in service before 2020 with the RN and we may not have enough. I’d love to be all Typhoon/Sea Phoon Tranche 3b/c whatever but the Seaphoon does not yet exist, nor does Sea Gripen. That leaves Super Hornet or Rafale. I lean towards the Rafale for the reasons stated above. As the events of the last few weeks have shown, waiting the best part of a decade for a specific capability may not be a luxury that the UK has. I also think that “deleting” Harrier and Ark Royal was a mistake but given that it has happened, we need to get the most benefit for our limited pounds as we can, and as quickly as possible.

  170. @ Mark,

    Because at times it is cheaper, especially if it is built in Singapore or South Korea (lower staff costs(, or built in very high quantities. Usually what happens is that the UK orders a version of the existing product that is so unique to the UK (beyond just adding Bowman radio’s) that it has a substantial development cost and costs more to build due to the low volumes compared to the normal production run.

    Personally I think I entire FRES programme could be built using the Bionix II AFV and Terrex ICV. We could also fill our short-fall in medium lift helicopters by buying Kazan Mi-171 with Turbomeca (or RR if you prefer, but they lack the lift in hot and high environments) engines, and BAE digital cockpits, allowing us to shift the Merlin’s to the RN, and ditch the Puma’s & Sea King’s.

  171. George

    It wouldnt matter if we ordered Rafale or indeed Super hornet tomorrow we wouldn’t get them for another 5-6 years anyway the french have almost full production lines just to satisfy there own demand at most we’d get 2-3 a/c a year. Unless they divert aircraft from themselves which is doubt full as their super entandards are in need of replacing same goes for F18. F35 will be in the OCU by 2016 anyway.

    The best thing UK mod can do for the next 5 years is make sure they keep all 160 Typhoon currently on order and get them up to full spec as soon as possible.

  172. Tubby

    You make my point with the second half of you first paragraph. Some people tend to think UK MOD procurement people all listen intently to the pros and cons of what industry is telling them and that industry has sold them a pup. Where as more times than not industry is telling them well if you want that its going to cost and be a bad idea are you sure. To be meet with well we in mod know what we want so you will do it this way were the customer after all only to be meet by industry official 2 years later going we told you so.

    They may have lower staff costs but a number of manufacturing components outsourced to low cost alternative are quietly being returned to UK due to poor and potentially dangerous results that were achieved by said low cost producers.

  173. Hi Mark @ 10:40 (yesterday),
    RE “a lot of this comes down to the hope of retaining a high end capability with cutting edge technology on the cheap by not being realistic about what your trying to achieve or can afford.”
    – I fully agree and one US (2008) assessment of defence postures of main countries in Europe put it something like this: “the UK has chosen to preserve domestic defence production capability in many areas which has resulted in complex pieces being produced in specimen-like quantities”
    – as that is true, how could it not end up being expensive

  174. Why should our next new assault rifle be built abroad?
    We have Accuracy International, the UK arm of HK, Manroy, etc.
    Get one of them to licence build the best foreign design going.

  175. Acc

    Yep take a look at typhoon produced in large numbers around 500-600 in Europe similar in numbers to the super hornet in the states yet we in Europe have 3-4 final assembly lines with all the cost that entails yet in the states there is just one

  176. John Hartley, “Why should our next new assault rifle be built abroad?”

    Because if not the MOD will mess with it, don’t forget that two of the best weapons (IMHO) used by the UK, the L1A1 SLR and the GPMG, were both originally metric, the UK, in their infinite wisdom, decided they should be manufactured in Imperial, and hey presto! they’re not compatable with their metric bretheren.

    Old habits die hard.

  177. We should clean up certain points to smooth the discussion a little:

    – Whatever we buy, the MoD will toy with it. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t believe that.
    – Numerous studies by a number of very intelligent people have shown that the MoD is largely responsible for most cost and time over runs, usually caused by extremely optimistic predictions of budget and in service date, used to justify said programs to the treasury.
    – “Coalition” deals with Foreign partners have an notorious history of failing to deliver on time and on budget. Any sane government should avoid such deals like the plague.

  178. There are 3 things in any project Quality, Cost, Time you can almost never have all 3 so at best you get 2.

    I would be almost certain the yanks only use imperial which might be why we went that way. Its the europeans who like to be different.

  179. I actually do not care whether it is MOD or BAE who messed up. There is plenty of evidence of outright conspiracy between them to hoodwink other elements of the govt/public. You can add the Upper reaches of all the services as well.

    The £30 billion wishlists of kit that we were left with is a direct of this and very little else.

    I do not recall who posted it but the best thing that can happen is a 75% cut in procurement budget now. Stop Pi**ing about with kit , buy the guns off the shelf at £150 a pop.
    Armoured vehicles from Singapore etc. We should becoem a buyer of developed kit in most circumstances, not a developer.*

    The ‘Specimin quantities’ observation is spot on.

    Those supporting the status quo are doing just that, I wonder if they realise that? Do those who are of the build British (in practice BAE), above any concept of VFM accept they are saying everything is fine, were no worse than anyone else, carry on as before.

    Statements by govt MOD BAE etc about ‘lessons learned etc and it won’t happen again’ are just ‘Mum and apple pie’ bull**it.

    I think it was Edward Teller who said the definition of stupidity was repeating the same actions time after time each time expecting a different outcome.

    * I have used the term ‘Henry Kit’ to describe this.
    You can have 6 different sizes of ultra lightweight, multi vortex be-balled vacumm cleaners each developed at vast expence to do the specific jobs so we order 6 each.

    OR we could go and buy 36 Henrys for a 10th the price.

    Throughout the world when anyone is actually being paid to clean a carpet they use a Henry. They are simple they work nearly as well as the best,and they are virtually indistructable. There are 5 tenticled Jelly creatures on Alpha Centuri cleaning offices for their Varg overlords with Henry’s. Han Solo probably used one to clean the Millenium Falcon.

    There are lots of examples of ‘Henry Kit’ arround Much of it used by the Secret squirrels when there is nobody watching. Quantity has a quality all of its own.

  180. IXION

    Im not saying keep the status quo. Im saying we need to completely overhaul MOD so they lay done realistic specs and realistic budgets then tender to get it made and dont flip flop half way down the program requiring people to almost start again. British Industry can deliver Ocelot is one project that shows that, even BAE can deliver look at Hawk. And how much of the cost increase and delay of the carriers can be laid at the door of BAE not much. So going completely the other way and buying everything from abroad is not the way ahead. We cant keep everything home grown but we do have to keep some things home grown we are the 5th largest economy in the world after all and far to reliant on the service sector already.

  181. To all those that propose buying off the shelf from abroad – essentially, you propose UK becoming like the Saudis.

    Just a thought, but does anyone think they got value from their AY or FMS deals? Think long and hard before abandoning the European arms industry.

    Defend the deals – if you think they have achieved value – but would anyone involved tell you the Saudis pay the same price as UKMOD? NFC.

  182. @ Ixion

    You’re right about the Hoovers. I did a quick check and the 2011 Henry type often used by cleaners can be purchased for about £95 compared to the Dyson DC 15 (the first one with the ball… I think, I’m not a Hoover expert) which costs about £250.

    But that still doesn’t detract from certain facts about British defence procurement.

    For example, we identified the need for a Typhoon type aircraft in the late 70’s. Had we done it alone, agreed a spec between the manufacturer and the air force, and then just built the damn thing, we probably would have seen Typhoons over Iraq…. back in ’91.

    In the case of the Astute Submarines, the original contractors, GEC-Marconi, weren’t up to par. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into and this caused huge problems. This was compounded by the novel use of 3D CAD at Barrow. When BAE got their defacto hands on the project in 1999, things barely improved. But eventually they did, thanks to a management shake up and enlisting the help of US maufacturer, General Dynamics (through their “Electric Boat” submarine operation). Now the latest Astutes will be delievered much quicker after being laid down and importantly, without any further cost increases.

    I’m not saying BAE are perfect, but what I am saying is that often these things are more complicated than is generally appreciated, and in the case of BAE specifically they have had their reputation tarnished by an accumalation of a number of incidents that were mostly beyond their control.

    We have to understand that the true criminals in most of these deals are:

    a) The MoD & ministers,
    b) The service chiefs

  183. Buying off the shelf doesn’t have to mean buying from abroad. Just buy the Bog Standard BAe models instead of letting the MoD gold plating every knob and button to end up with a particular and peculiar variant that no other nation operates.

  184. So when the former head of (I believe GEC Marconi), said it was standard practice to put in an unrealisticly low bid to develop kit, knowing full well that once the govt was on the hook they could up the price almost ad infinitum, and that upper reaches of service and MOD collaborate in this. I doubt that will stop.

  185. That was in the period when Levene had introduced NAPNOC for sole sourced kit and internationalised competition for warlike equipments, I believe – he knew how to protect the public purse, didn’t he.

    Whats he doing these days, by the way?

  186. So depressed with this thread I could not even be arsed to comment, until now:

    For F35 fan boys – Canadian governments report on costs is now so discredited, being based on old data and LockMart marketing bumpf that it has effectively sunk the Conservative Gov and we now have to yet another bloody election !

  187. Hi Jennings,

    You asked about Lord Levene. He is heading the DRU, tasked with oversight of the below described review and also its implementation
    ” full review of how the Ministry of Defence is run and how we can reform the Armed Forces to produce more efficient provision of Defence capability, and generation and sustainment of operations.

    There are two broad principles to be followed in the MOD review.

    The first is a structural reform which will see the Department reorganised into three pillars of Policy and Strategy, the Armed Forces, and Procurement and Estates.

    A logical management structure would be Foreign Policy leading to a Defence strategy, then portfolio management which identified capability gaps followed by specific program identification and finally physical procurement.”
    – extracted from Dr. Fox’s speech right after the announcement of the SDSR
    – we have had very few mentions of either DRU or the procurement organisation -rather than procurement issues – lately (calm before the storm?)

  188. Got an itch to look up the figures, somehow corresponding to the future structure (even though these are the outturn & a year old):
    Policy and Strategy,
    – make that “Centre” and devolved admin
    – 4.4 bn
    the Armed Forces,
    -other than equipment costs
    – 11.6 bn
    Procurement and Estates
    – make that equipment costs and Estate
    – includes also maintenance and upgrading
    – 20.4 bn

  189. Sorry – it was rhetorical……. I know he is the chief of the DRUids, who worship the magic Fox…… who taught them that to become stronger, you must first cut off your limbs.

    My point was, given that so much of what we moan about has its roots in his last stint in charge of what and how we procure – what faith can anyone have in whatever he comes up with this time?

  190. In the light of the figures, we should debate that.

    Even the original versions of Eisenhower’s departing comments have now been found – not just the toned down, final version.

    Internationalisation? How would the latest technology otherwise be part of the solutions offered, in response to requirements?

    Domestic partnering (only) to ensure volume is maintained? I wonder if the UK defence industry would be bigger or smaller with such an approach? etc… lots to talk about

  191. Those who hate UK industry & want to buy everything from abroad.
    Would we have stopped the Luftwaffe in 1940, if we did not build Spitfires & Hurricanes, but relied on imported Curtiss Hawks?
    American domestic politics delayed the RUC getting Ruger revolvers despite the closeness of Thatcher/Reagan.
    What if the foreign supplier dislikes the war we getted dragged into & cuts off supplies?
    With a trade deficit of nearly £100 billion a year, how do we pay for all this foreign kit?

  192. @John Hartley
    It’s vastly off topic.
    But to enlighten the debate, according to the CIA factbook:

    manufactured goods, machinery, fuels, foodstuffs

    manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals, food, beverages, tobacco

    (“Financial products” do not count as products, but are known as drivers of the exorbitant External Debt number)

    We are producing high-valued aero-engines and defence equipment and importing chineses made TV-sets. So far so good. The really deficit-driving number is energy.

    So any strategy to diminish the deficit will have to address the national energy strategy. How this can be effectively handled I leave open to debate. I even don’t want to get into the nuclear debate.

    @TD: makes me wonder if the Japanese nuclear desaster has any strategic and security implications to the UK. Two of our nuke subs have nearly sunk in 2010, so it’s a valid point, I think.

  193. JH

    As pointed out ad infinitum, the chips in virtuallly everything that drives, floats, sinks (when it is supposed to as in ss(B)n), or flies, are all made in far east. What happens to typhoon when they say embargo chip exports?

    In reality one of the few good points that Lewis Page makes is this idea of soverign capability is something of a modern myth.

    Even if it is not, I repeat; you are rather saying “carry on regardless as we are. It does not matter how crap the system as delivered is, how late it is, how hugely over buget it is, so long as it is British made it’s all good”.

    Those who struggled with crap assault rifles in Gulf 1 might take a different view…

  194. @ IXION

    I can’t speak for anyone else’s opinion, but personally I’m satisifed that the UK MoD is the problem here, not British industry. I used to despise BAE, until I really sat down and worked through all the numbers and all the details, until it became apparent that UK industrys share of the blame in most of these matters is actually much smaller than I’d previously imagined.

    The MoD often simply have no clue what they’re getting into, time and time again. You don’t walk into a busy michelin star restaurant, order the Beef Wellington, and then expect it to be on your table in the time it takes McDonalds to produce a Cheese Burger (or what passes for a Cheese Burger at McDonalds).

    If you set unrealistic expectations for time and budget, then don’t be surprised when those items run over. The blame for substandard equipment is often the same. It is the responibility of the customer to make sure that what they’re ordering matches what they need. My mother will insist on buying crappy, £5 DVD players and then complaining when they don’t do all the fancy things that the latest Sony Blu-Ray jobbies do.

    It’s not even so much a case of getting what you pay for, it’s a case of getting what you ordered. If you order a Destroyer “fitted for, but not with” Harpoon and Phalanx, that is nobodies fault but the customer. To treat it any other way would be like blaming your local Ford dealer for not installing a stereo and sunroof on your car, despite you specifically asking them not to fit these features so you could save money.

    Buying British is not the problem. It’s the British buyers who are largely at fault.

  195. Chris B

    I am happy to lay the blame on the british buyers.

    See my earlier posts about the RAF in front of the select committee.

    One way of doing that is telling the MOD that we are no longer a developer of Kit. We can build it, but lets stop trying to create world leading kit. We can afford to buy, but not to develop.

    Would you rather have 4 carriers or 2? If we asked the dutch and tho poles to build them we could have 4 for the same price and have them by now. (Ok I Know about crewing and running costs and god knows how we could afford the planes), but the point about aquisition costs remain. AND yes I realise much of the cost of the carriers is due to MOD and above govt Bu**ering about. But without a metaphorical gun (or a real one please) to their heads how can we change how the MOD works. The 75 % cut sounds like the right shock therapy.

    When SAS are running arround with M4’s, in ACAMAT’#s. Using Augusta 109 helicopters. UK troops seen lugging RPG 7’s arround. There is plenty of good kit out there.

  196. IXION said: “So when the former head of (I believe GEC Marconi), said it was standard practice to put in an unrealisticly low bid to develop kit, knowing full well that once the govt was on the hook they could up the price almost ad infinitum, and that upper reaches of service and MOD collaborate in this. I doubt that will stop.”

    Sounds a bit like the cartel the construction industry works when it comes to public sector projects. They take it in turns to put in intentionally low bids.

    If you buy off the shelf there is no opportunity to low ball the development costs – some other mug has paid them, either another bunch of taxpayers or the manufacturer themselves taking a risk to chase sales. If the latter it has to be recouped through sales so the incentive is there to keep development costs low which ought to be achievable if there is no poisonous interference from the likes of the MoD.

    This reminded me of something Roy Jenkins (I think) said in a documentary about the TSR-2 saying it was canned because the Government couldn’t see any export potential in it. Why has the Hawk succeeded but the TSR-2 didn’t? It can’t all be about bribes.

    Have the MoD turned the British defence industry into craftsmen, capable of turning out exquisite products to suit the most fussy of customers but too few other people want, or can afford, to buy them?

  197. Is that a 75% cut in the procurement budget? Can’t see that going well with the voters. Just look at everyone kicking up a fuss because of some of the governments current cuts, which in the grand scheme of things aren’t all that bad.

    I think we can still get away with developing kit, but we need to set clear parameters of what that kit is required to do, then stop messing about with the specs once they’re agreed.

    If we weren’t so obsessed with some of the random requirements that we impose on our kit, there wouldn’t be such a problem. Take FRES for example. Why must FRES be transportable by C-130? If it was indeed built with this capacity, how often would we use a C-130 to fly FRES around?

    The F-35 is another good example, that we’ve invested I think £2 billion pound into the development of. For what? Because it’s stealthy? Who cares. A radar with a range in excess of the enemies, coupled to missiles with range in excess of our enemies makes “stealth” (low observability) almost pointless. We’d be anticipating AWACS to provide fighter direction anyway, so the planes wouldn’t need their radars to go live until they were ready to fire at which point it’s effectively too late for the enmy.

    So maybe we use them for SEAD? But why bother? We have cruise missiles which can be expected to hobble the air defences in the first hours or days anyway. We have ALARM. Switch your radar on an we kill you. Leave it off and… we’ll there’s no point.

    F-35 is shiny toy that we don’t really need. It’s decisions like this that get us into trouble.

  198. Three ways to build European jet fighters.
    1. The Rafale. Develop & build every last nut & bolt in France. Very expensive, no export sales yet.
    2. Eurofighter Typhoon. Four nations co operate to develop & build a jet. Fine in theory, but dithering in any one nation can lead to delay & cost overruns. Some exports, mainly political.
    3. SAAB Gripen. Sweden keeps control of the project, but buys in off the shelf technology. American engine, British radar, etc. Cuts costs, reduces risks. Many exports in genuine contests.
    Britain could develop its own aircraft if we copy Sweden. So design what we want, but buy in off the shelf technology & licence build it here.
    Nimrod MRA4, T45, SA80 are all the reasons I do not want to carry on procurement as now.
    We need a project manager empowered by parliament, to bring in a major piece of kit on time & budget. Must have authority to stand up to industry,MoD, Treasury, military,etc. If he succeeds, give him a knighthood & a bonus. If he fails, sack & shame publicly. This no one named or blamed, short term post mentality is making it impossible for the public sector to manage any large project.

  199. Hi JH,

    RE ” SAAB Gripen. Sweden keeps control of the project, but buys in off the shelf technology. American engine, British radar, etc. Cuts costs, reduces risks. Many exports in genuine contests.
    Britain could develop its own aircraft if we copy Sweden. ”
    – I agree, but now it is too late
    – no more planes
    – missiles gone multi-national (as opposed to all from America)
    – at least, on the engines side of things UK is still one of the Big Three

  200. ACC
    never too late, just takes more effort & cost to get that capability back, the longer you leave it. With national will, anything is possible.

  201. Sorry for the lack of posting recently fellas, working on war and peace on CVF/JCA

  202. Can I take it no one thinks the Saudi idea of off the shelf purchasing has secured them a wonderful capability at a keen price? I quite like the idea that the Saudis pay over the odds for Brit kit, but do we want to be in that boat?

    Of course, in a few years when everybody else has taken our example and stopped developing their own kit, do you think the price will be right?

    Are our problems any worse than anybody else’s?

  203. @ Jennings re Saudi

    No because they are dependent on Western corporations to service all their equipment and even do other menial work. In many ways the Saudi armed forces are the reverse of ours. We still maintain, even after years of draw down after the Cold War, a significant support structure within our armed forces, especially the capital intensive RN and RAF. The Saudis have all the toys, look formidable, and yet have very little support. Please don’t read that as me saying the Saudis are stupid or idle because they are not. It is just that well they don’t get their hands dirty. Ask anybody who has been to the Kingdom.

  204. Welcome to Think Defence Think Defence! :-)

    Thank God you have something more in the pipe line before I presume the Army is tackled because I don’t know what to say about that topic.

    Thank heavens they cry……!

  205. @ John Hartley re Sweden and Gripen

    That is how Canada used to build her frigates. Compare the Canuck Tribals to our Type 12.

  206. X
    Saudi is spending a lot of money on state of the art technical colleges to produce more engineers/technicians than we will have. All our kids are doing media/peace/golf studies.

  207. Jennings

    To a degree we are worse than others, we spend a lot more than most countries, and get a lot less actually deployed usaable kit for it. (Rather than hanger queen unicorns of glourious specification of which we have 6 like t45 for example).

    Have a look at the Isrieli’s recent purchase of F16s.
    Looked at requirement wanted F15; decided F16 would do bought latest modifications. Minimum outlay for maximum effectivness.

    Raf would just scream and scream and scream until it was sick, for f15, and get 6 f15 with engines to be phased in over the next 5 years etc.

  208. @ John H

    Until recently I was a mature student and some of my fellow students were Saudis. Nice kids, bright kids. And I share your concern over what are kids are doing in tertiary education. But I am not that worried that mid-21st century we will be a technical back water because of hordes of Arab engineers. I think as the West shifts from oil to renewables or even alternative fossil fuels the Middle East will loose its importance. And I think it will regress politically too. Lets see how this Arab Spring pans out. Lets see how Arab vs Iran pans out as well. As I said above I am not saying they are stupid or idle. Um. I am more concerned about Brazil’s rise than the possible rise of an Arab technological giant. T

  209. @McZ

    I bite on the nuclear debate – we need the Government to invest in all the large high risk projects that are simply to large and to uncertain in their returns to attract industry – so we are talking about the Severn tidal energy project, nuclear power based on a)pebble bed reactors (they are designed not to meltdown if they loose their coolant) and b) thorium fuel cycle, large scale combined off shore wind and tidal power and finally, a massive investment in putting in the infrastructure for hydrogen powered cars. I would also likely insist on all new build housing estates either having CHP systems or installing localised fuel cell to power the estate. The key of course is doing all of it, as you need a base load of at least 30% to be able to manage the variable output of your renewable (university courses are wonderful things, shame I cannot remember if you need to include some sort of pumped storage system if you are only going with 30% of your energy produced by nuclear/clean coal).

  210. IXION

    The Israelis have both F15 and F16. They use the F15 for long range strike. if your suggesting we go to F16 then fine but be prepared to have many more tanker aircraft as a result. We unlike Israel are not surrounded by our perceived enemies (ino we dont like the french but i wouldnt advocate bombing them) and therefore require longer ranged aircraft. You have to stop looking at individual a/c, ship costs and what is required to deliver the overall capability and what that costs.

  211. Mark

    I was talking about their latest acquisition programme. I am aware they have F15’s as well. Israelis have their f16 fitted with conformable fuel tanks etc precisiely because of range issues.

    I am asking that we look at capability not Look at the shiney shiney ‘Chance for britains forces to ahve this world leading capability etc etc..’

    As for range The uk has no potential enemy withing practical armed strike radius of any fighter aircraft. So F16 as opposed to what?

  212. @ John Hartley,

    I somewhat agree with your statement, HOWEVER (and it’s a big however) not everybody does golf, photography or media studies degrees. I am currently an undergraduate chemistry student and I have several other friends doing degrees such as mechanical engineering so not all of the “young generation” are a lost cause just yet.

    The problem is (in my opinion) two-fold:

    1) Is that last government tried to drive as many people into doing degrees which are worthless, thus bringing down across the board what a degree is actually worth, I am now probably going to have to do at least a masters to significantly improve my employment prospects (thanks labour).

    2) It costs more money for universities to run science degrees than the money they get in tuition fees, some of this is mitigated by research work however the rest of it subsidised by the “soft” degrees that actually generate more money than they cost to run and therefore universities prefer them over science based degrees and until this also changes we are going to have problems increasing the numbers of university students coming out with science/tech based degrees.

  213. To also bite on the nuclear debate….. there is nothing wrong with our reactors. Modern reactors (unlike Fukishima) are a lot safer. Complemented by Travelling Wave Reactors, which burn waste fuel from standard reactors of this era, that should do us nicely.

    Finish that off with Tidal and Wave power, and stop wasting time on offshore wind farms, and we’ll be well away. I can’t see Hydrogen cell cars really taking off either. There are better methods.

    As for the F-16’s, it’s estimated that the latest version of F-16 with all the modern bells and whistles costs just as much as a new Typhoon.

    I fear there is a lot of “the grass is greener on the other side” going on here. But when you look at it, it’s really not. Rafale took ages to get into service, so did Typhoon, Gripen will only match Typhoon/Rafale when it achieves “NG” production, by which time I imagine the costs will have run up as well.

    Maybe this discussion would be helped if we could settle on a definition of what is needed for the RAF fast jet fleet.

    Could people live with a pure fighter/interceptor and a pure attack aircraft? Or do we all want a Multi-role aircraft that will serve both roles? If so, what requirements does said plane(s) need?

  214. Well F16 with conformal fuel tanks compared to Typhoon with conformal fuel tanks gives the same advantage to Typhoon. An F16 with conformal tanks still doesnt give it the range of a typhoon without

    If we look at Libya the F16s are positioned much closer to Libya than the Typhoons are. You need say twice as many air refuellings to get F16 over Libya than a Typhoon. So you may save 10b on the fighter acquisitions but spend an extra 13b on air tanker to achieve the same thing. Typhoon will also carry a larger more powerful radar allowing it to have control over a larger area. These things all add up Typhoon in not the latest shinny shinny. Its a practical option that allows us to replace aircraft that needed replacing and at the same time reduce our training, logistics support aircraft and reduce the number of personnel to deliver the same capability. F16 while like gripen is useful does not deliver close to the same capability. Typhoon is closer to F15 capability than F16. It is a choice you can choice either way but the two roads lead to different ends which are quite a way apart.

  215. TMM

    Im afraid its like hens teeth to get graduate engineers to go into engineering the financial sectors and IT recruit a large number as they can offer far more money than any engineering company ever will.

  216. @ Mark,

    I know it’s a shame, I was told by a lecturer a few weeks ago that a 1/3 of all chemistry undergraduates will get employed by the finance sector, because of our problem solving and thinking skills. BTW I have no intentions of going into finance, I’m doing a chemistry degree not a bleeding accountancy degree. :-p

  217. Hi Minty,

    Have a look which nation has most patents in chemistry and materials technology, on a year by year basis
    – they do not employ their graduates in FS

  218. @ Mintcake Maker

    Where I was imprisoned it was the medical school that brought in the money. The chemists were doing well though as they have just had a new lab’ built; super facility. It was the history and politics departments (the useless degrees) were the real back waters. Even though the former had a research rating equal to Oxbridge.

  219. Hi MM,

    I have a science background and I work in a University, and outside the Russell group, it is very much the teaching which subsidies the research, this is especially true in Humanities and Science faculties for different reasons, for Humanities it is the fact they generally want to just write books and work as single scholars and it is difficult to get funding for this and in sciences the usual source of research funding (BBSRC, MRC, EPSRC, Wellcome Trust) only pay part of the costs of the research, leaving the university to make up the rest – particularly on the capital investment side of things like new labs and instruments (given that for example a 800 MHZ NMR costs a small fortune and requires a specialist building, but is absolutely vital to say materials chemistry). BTW I am a former material scientist who discovered he was better at administration than research and now I pilot a desk, costing research and negotiating research contracts.

  220. Global defence is quoting $45 million a pop and an unrefueld radisu of action of upto
    2100km (although they are clear that it is difficult to get accurate figures).

    What does this peice of Hnery Kit lack we cannot do without.

  221. Sorry about above post cat assisted (sat on send button)!

    I was talking about F16I soufa lates Isreali Aircraft purchase. (I know thats mates rates, But aint we mates too)?

  222. Any Brit doing a technical course, gets a cheer in my book (even I passed a basic OU engineering course last year).
    However, we are complacent & need to concentrate educational resources on STEM subjects (Science Technical Engineering Maths).

  223. The USA has a habit of putting in spoiler bids.

    Do you think this is an altruistic exercise to improve allies’ capabilities at a keen price, or in order to try and kill off European Defence Aerospace?

    Do you think, having closed our design offices and factory doors, we would get mates rates and top notch gear in the times ahead when their strategic eye is in the East?

    Oh don’t worry, we’ll have IP… how has that worked out on F35 thus far?

  224. Anon

    Just so long as your clear; it’s not about getting VFM or even good kit, it’s about subsidising an industrial capability for ‘strategic’ reasons.

    So it’s carry on as usual: – craftsman built penny packets of ‘world beating kit’ which looks fantastic on paper.

    AND for which we pay for the nose.

    AND BTW we cant actualy afford to use without those same Americans providing a lot of Logisitic support.

  225. When comparing prices for things, you’ve got to be careful about when you’re talking. That $45m number for F-16I’s was the one bandied about when the deal was signed ten years ago or so, but by 2006 the Israelis were quoting a price of $70m. You think we’re the only ones who see costs ballooning? Throw in a bit more inflation and integration of British weapons and you’re not that far off the US$100m we sold Typhoons to Saudi for in 2008. The net cost to HMG is further complicated by the tax take of domestic industrial activity.

    Which the Israelis don’t care about, as they’re getting them for free anyway – there’s no better price than US$0!!!

    Getting sort of back on topic, Liam Fox recently revealed that RAF had dropped 170 bombs/missiles on Libya to 24 April (and not fired any air-to-air weapons).

  226. @ Wibble

    I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but I remember reading an article (and bugger me if I can’t find the bloody thing now) that basically picked apart the arguments made on ausairpower, piece by piece.

    That place is a minefield of disinformation and poor analysis.

  227. I read it! RE “minefield of disinformation and poor analysis”
    – there is a lot of good information that you cannot find in one place anywhere else
    – the messages (they put together) you know before reading it, so over to DIY! combined with other sources, like US Air Force magazine, that they seem to quote a lot (good thing, as the conclusions may come up completely different)

  228. Apparently the authors were invited once to make their claims in front of some defence committee/hearing/meeting thing with independent people in the public gallery listening and watching.

    They were – by all accounts – torn to shreds under close scrutiny.

  229. What would it take to modify the F-35A for CTOL carrier operations?
    F-35C will be a good strike aircraft, but the F-35A has the higher G rated airframe & internal gun to make it a better interceptor.
    I like the idea of 8 F-35A fighters plus 12 F-35C bombers as the peacetime airgroup on the QEs.

  230. The article doesn’t consider the extra military effect the carrier, it’s escorts and support ships bring to a campaign.

    Of course the GR9A is not a CAP aircraft, the best fighter in Europe at it’s time of retirement was the FA2 Sea Harrier, which ran rings around all other aircraft it flew against ACM’s

  231. The Mintcake Maker says:

    “The problem is (in my opinion) two-fold:

    1) Is that last government tried to drive as many people into doing degrees which are worthless, thus bringing down across the board what a degree is actually worth, I am now probably going to have to do at least a masters to significantly improve my employment prospects (thanks labour).

    2) It costs more money for universities to run science degrees than the money they get in tuition fees, some of this is mitigated by research work however the rest of it subsidised by the “soft” degrees that actually generate more money than they cost to run and therefore universities prefer them over science based degrees and until this also changes we are going to have problems increasing the numbers of university students coming out with science/tech based degrees.


  232. Aircraft carriers are obsolete the next war with a 1st world country will prove this.
    Multiple modern anti ship missiles will wipe them out forget anti missile systems they can only do so much.
    Expensive follies of the computer age.

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