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Tornado and Typhoon over Libya

Brimstone Tornado

A few interesting videos from the RAF.

You have to hand it to the crabs, they certainly know how to exploit the still and moving image.

What this shows is a relatively modest yet still effective expeditionary deployment, all whilst still maintaining operations in Afghanistan (remember Afghanistan)

Beyond the arguing about carriers and harriers, whichever way you cut it, this is impressive

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114 Responses

  1. You are comparing apples with pears.
    Tornado/Storm Shadow is good for first strike, but Harrier/Maverick would be good for taking out armoured columns if it was still available.

  2. Its is impressive and beyond what I thought we could do now. With over 1/5 of entire fast jet fleet now committed to ops and at least 3/4 of the ISTAR and Transport fleets committed I would think there’s going to be an awful lot of aircraft requiring a lot of TLC when this is all over. I hope Air Tanker can hit the ground running at the end of this year or were in real trouble.

  3. Ah…But could a harrier carry two paveways, a triple brimstone what looks like a designator pod and air to air missiles at the same time, like the tornado in the last video. Tornado is just more flexible.

  4. Mark,

    The answer to your last point is: yup.


    Tornado is indeed more flexible (like F35, it is after all really a fast light bomber with a “small” size for the role, rather than a pure fighter, just as F3 wasn’t so much a “pure” interceptor as a big AAM truck with outstanding staying power on patrol. I’d trade the underdeveloped Typhoons for some F3s in this situation. Develop the Typhoons properly, if so catstrophic amounts of dosh hadn’t been burned through earlier on, and it’d be different. While I hate Typhoon the program, Typhoon the aircraft has rael potential.)

    But in terms of persistence and sortie rate, the kind of thing needed when the Gaddafists do as they’re now doing in Misrata and Ajdabiyah (hug the walls and wait for the tank-killers to leave) Harriers with their cannon pods restored would be very useful. The trouble, again, is not with the Harrier per se — just look at what the USMC Harrier IIs have done, and Italian/Spanish ones could do if let off the leash — it’s with the over-specialisation of British aircraft until very recently. GR9 isn’t an “all-rounder” to the same degree as Harrier II+, nor does it have as many nice mud-moving devices integrated because it was (for the institution it served) an aging airframe like GR4.

    I would really like BAe to get off their duff (or a “trust-busted” aviation component of old BAe that actually gives a damn about efficient product production because that’s how they’d stay afloat) and develop Son-of-Taranis properly. It’s really the natural successor of GR4 as a bomb truck. Again sod F35, landward (and naval?) aviation can do properly-evolved Typhoon or Typhoon/Raf, with Taranis’ successor to come in for the strike role in time.

    John Hartley,

    1/5th of the fast jet fleet? That much? Well, with just-about two squadrons for Libya and an understrength one for Afghanistan, in terms of in terms of aircraft in squadron it might be even more than that, come to think of it. It’s probably just the sea-lover combined with the descendant of several wearers of the green (the service’s green, not Ireland’s) in me, but the scope of modern “back fleets” really rather disgusts me.

  5. Jackstaff

    Were now at 10 fast jet sqn heading to 8 in June. Conceivable we could still be in Libya in June. So thats Northern and Southern QRA Falklands tasking, a full squadron in Afghan and 2 full squadron in Libya. Taking into account numbers committed to the OCU,OEU of both fleets and the numbers in maintenance (tornado is now and old girl after all she entered service in 1981) I don’t think there’s much left in the tank.

  6. RE “develop Son-of-Taranis properly”
    – this seems to repeat over the thread; I have not paid much of attention by whom it has been stated
    – I know BAE is keen for that global market
    – if we talk carrier-based, and useful beyond (over & above) manned, and in quantity restricted pieces, then XB-47 or son-of-it will be “it”

    No contest?

  7. RE “and the numbers in maintenance (tornado is now and old girl after all she entered service in 1981)”
    – I am glad we don’t just throw them away, but actually use them
    – Italy and Germany had not set such arbitrary dates for fleet retirement

  8. Mark,



    X-47B (and its younger sibling X-47C that carries a more serious load of ordnance) are certainly first out the gate, and quite possibly on their way to eating Lockheed Martin’s lunch. But a lot of good effort went into Taranis, COrx, et al, and some (even though we must praise the French for a moment ;) into Neuron as well. There is a base for European UCAVs, the question is are the companies involved too busy milking revenue (both contract payments and stock valuations upped by promise of steady work) from extant contracts to put real money and effort down on getting into the UCAV game properly.

  9. Corax, not “COrx,” and here I am quite sober … (although of course it is “nEUron” — can we get all cutesy names attached to projects that say “yet another going industry and/or functioning government department have now been cannibalized for parts and value and bled dry of their capabilities” banned?)

  10. Mark and I’d like to see at least 200 Typhoon in service and getting the squadron numbers back up to at least 9 of 12 each. Seems like a functioning minimum, and if the Air Marshalls weren’t quite so concerned about which companies on whose boards they will sit in retirement would benefit from the shininess of F35, a quite reasonable service goal around which to lobby.

  11. Why is it impressive ? A handful of jets tasked to a major NATO operation. Not having an dig at the RAF, but I really don’t find it impressive at all :-(

  12. Yep,

    Keeping these letters and numerals in right order, was I going back to the late ’40s?

    Anyway, Dassault (ie. the French Gvmnt) had mustered 6 companies behind there venture… it only “flew” as for the funding when Saab – finally – signed up, now the prototype has flown for real.

    So it is this and the X-47C that are the offensive UCAVs, never mind the high -altitude Global Hawk/ BAMS etc and the COIN varieties
    – only one of those designed for carrier operation, though?

    UK (=BAE) has signed up for joint dvlmnt between the PM and the Prez… where do we go from here?

  13. ACC,

    I like to think of Northrop’s X-47 type designation as pleasingly retro :-) But they’re both fairly new, carrier-cleared (which often gives you yeoman airframes, viz. Phantom and SuperBug) and the “this actually works already” edge. But there is something to be said for trying to reverse just a bit of fifty years of steady collapse in what used to be the world’s third-biggest aerospace industry, just a touch.


    Afraid I don’t find it that impressive either, given that a fully loaded Charles de Gaulle could get that many aircraft into the neighbourhood on its lonesome, and despite the fact these are complex sums as TD says, that it would cost less than mileage from East Anglia or Italy’s “we’d like to price you out of the Gaddafi-killing market” rent….

  14. Yep,

    RE ” both fairly new, carrier-cleared (which often gives you yeoman airframes, viz. Phantom and SuperBug) and the “this actually works already” edge” but only the letter (“C”) working to the spec
    – do note: In Service date before the JSF will fly off a Brit carrier (at least operationally)
    – is this the reason for a “thin” airwing, as planned, I have asked many times ( I understand that there has been no answer; it is just my vision… and perhaps a Big Secret?)

  15. ACC,

    Using F35s as “shepherds” and missile trucks (and, supposedly, some degree of ISTAR) to cover UCAV deep strike? It’s possible. It has always looked to me like that more-LO SuperBug successor Boeing has on the drawing boad is designed for that role as well (particularly since, if memory serves, Northrop Grumman is now a Boeing subsidiary ….)

    Well, “B” is the demonstrator for working out the issues, “C” is the estate-car version that carries a proper strike load. And would, I’m guessing, be intended for active service. (Yes, IOC is pushing ahead of F35, certainly for RN and at this rate for USN as well.)


    Any thoughts on how Dave-A as a political football will play out in the federal election?

  16. ACC,

    That would be acceptable if Dave-C was a big, fat AAM truck (big and fat, check, but not necessarily an AAM truck) that could loiter forever like the late Tornado F3, so that you actually have persistent fleet air cover rather than just a bunch of strike aircraft that skedaddle to do manly and mustachioed things ashore rather than being a tool in the fleet’s kit for sea-and-beachhead control. But it’s not clear that’s the design principle. Seems more like (since they are from rival companies) C and X-47 are collaborators at best, competition at worst, and complementary at a very long stretch.

  17. Libya will still be screwed up long after this is over. Might as well boast about using a shiny new challenger tank to crack some walnuts you left in the road. Yeah, it worked – but somehow it’s all underwhelming, cost a lot, and you’re not sure you’ve really done yourself much good. And Christ, you’ve just remembered you hate walnuts.

  18. What I’m about to say is probably akin to poking a hornets nest with a big, fiery stick, but….

    I still don’t get the Global UAV obsession. I understand the high endurance, high persistence ISTAR assets, complete with attached ASM capabilities.

    But I’m not convinced overall by the idea of the future of air power residing in the hands of people sitting in front of TV screens. I appreciate that a UCAV doesn’t have to suffer certain weight penalties and can be designed with a more stream lined shape, but I’ve always felt that the pilot in the cockpit provides a decisive and unique advantage, with all round situational awareness and that doesn’t rely on delayed satellite transmissions etc.

    Maybe I’m wrong and will be proved so in time, but I’m very apprehensive about the paradigm shift towards unmanned assets.

  19. Chris B
    I share your concern on strike UAV. I am not a Luddite. I think they will be useful, but given the cyber warfare coming out of China & Russia & that all our computers are made in China, then I think it risky to put all our future eggs in the unmanned basket.
    Back to Libya. As I said, all praise to Tornado/StormShadow for first strike, but for close air support, a carrier just offshore with Harrier/Maverick would provide instant support without having to transit to land bases hundreds of miles away.

  20. Hi jacksatff,

    RE ” “B” is the demonstrator for working out the issues, “C” is the estate-car version that carries a proper strike load”
    – that is right, but there is more to it
    – before the current version, the whole thing got killed off (one of those things that were made “joint” by decree and then met nobody’s requirements)
    – the next thing that happened were the major (computer simulation) exercises, hosted by RAND to assess a hot situation in the Taiwan Strait
    – F-35s and F-22s were factored in (yes, it was a computer simulation)
    – ooops, “we” lost => what next?
    – answer: a longer ranged, LO, unmanned strike platform to reach assets on the ground, rather than run out of missiles before running out of targets(lack of basing, need for range and massive AAR, rather than inferior aircraft/ missiles)

    Separately about the F-35: It has a very small internal weapons bay, and when more is carried the stealth is “gone”

  21. Hi jackstaff,

    If this “(since they are from rival companies) C and X-47 ” were not the case, our big friendly nation would end up with both of the top end platforms (F22 and F35) being from one and the same LM!
    – if they “owned” two generations of technology (even though both are classified 5th gen), who could the catch up for the 6th
    – Europe has only managed 4.5 (Typhoon, Rafale) with the notable exception of Gripen NG which is somewhere between 4.5 and 5

  22. Hi Chris B,

    RE “I still don’t get the Global UAV obsession. I understand the high endurance, high persistence ISTAR assets”
    – ISTAR, close to global, yes, with persistence from 36 hrs to 7 days as they hardly carry anything
    – strike/ deep penetration platforms far from global (but will add to the reach as carriers are being “pushed” further and further from where they need to have their aircraft in action). Libya is hardly a typical scenario (as for the arsenal of the adversary).

  23. Hi ACC,

    I trying to get my head around yours and Jackstaff’s discussion. Are you trying to say that the F-35C is the wrong aircraft, its neither good enough in a strike role due to its limited internal payload or in a role as a persistent A2A missile truck to provide air defence of the fleet and that this is why we are not going to buy all that many of them as we are already looking for the next thing beyond F-35C that can actually do the job we want it to do?

  24. Hi Tubby,

    In the former role it is the best aircraft you can place an order for NOW.

    In the latter role… have a look at the specs re: what it can carry. Of course, in this latter role stealth is of lesser importance (assuming the adversary does not have top-end radars in stealthy airframes, equipped with BVR A2A missiles… which I accept as a fair planning assumption)
    – the real threat is not being beaten on technology, but being beaten with swarming

  25. Ok lets not get carried away by the cheap and cheerful great white hope that is the UCAV. The x-47b(the C version only exists in spec requirements and some fancy ppt graphics) is a proof of concept plane of which on 2 are to built they are to compete over the next 3 years in a fly off with other companies products to select a winner for the US navy much like were F35 was around a decade ago. Its development has already been delayed around a year due to technical difficulties and thats without a mission system installed. Also its not dues to get anywhere near a carrier until 2013 it may not work!

    Also taranis is another proof of concept plane without a mission system that has cost $240m for a single airframe F35 gets crucified here and it costs a $90m less than that and it has a mission system. It has also been mooted that to get taranis to a working system may cost 3b more hence the joint program with france. And this is before we think about the satellite system required to support them.

    They maybe the future but there nearly 15-20 away from being ready they will be closer to typhoons replacement date than F35 entry into service.

  26. As Obama will have to pacify not just Gaddafists but also US lawmakers, this “As operations continue, the United States will fly most refueling, surveillance, information operations and jamming missions” (i.e. not strike) is likely to be part of it
    – whaddayou mean, I didn’t go to war, see for yourselves… kind of line

  27. Hi Mark,

    I share all your views re: Taranis and my bet is that it will turn out too expensive and will not get into service.

    Haven’t read much on the topic this side of the year end, but RE “Also its not dues to get anywhere near a carrier until 2013 it may not work!” I think the first carrier test was done this year (sort of caught my eye at the headlines level)?
    – emals was only tested in the last half year and will go into service on the already half-built US carrier; these things can move fast, at times, even though the main rule is decades

  28. Impressive, really?

    No, this is impressive

    Aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91)
    8 × Rafale M fighters
    6 × Super-Etendard strike aircraft
    2 × E-2C airborne early warning aircraft
    2 × Dauphin multipurpose helicopters
    2 × Alouette III utility helicopters
    French Air Force detachment of a Puma and 2 × Caracal transport helicopters

    Note for those who like to criticise the RN’s planned routine 12 aircraft that here we have the french on operations with a whole ’14’

    A 3,000 mile round trip for 3 Tornados isn’t impressive it is an indictment.

  29. A pilot in your aircraft does give the additional situational awareness, over a controller sitting a thousand miles away, and I don’t see them replacing manned aircraft any time soon; but UAVs like X47B, Taranis etc are meant to introduce the ability to carry out unmanned missions independently, without a constant link to the ground, unlike dumb drones such as predator.

    If you want to take out a target at a fixed location -a structure perhaps- or want to loiter over an area waiting for an air-defence radar to light up, then these kind of UAVs are ideal. That initial strike capability, in high threat environments, without putting a pilot at risk.

    Much of the technology for this type of UAV is already there too. Tomahawks already fly their own missions without a pilot, they just go kamikazi rather than launch a weapon.

    Future TLAM will have the ability to loiter waiting for targets, and will be capable of redirection by a ground controller to another target, whilst already in flight – a successful test has already been carried out.

    The work to get a X47B to land on a carrier deck also doesn’t seem to be regarded as excessively difficult by either the military or by industry.

    And let’s face it, there’ll be loads of room for UAVs on our enormous, half empty carriers.

  30. One thing I think has been forgotten in the Libya debate is austerity, or lack of it. Typhoon and Tornado may win hands down over Harrier in terms of capability and technology but given a hypothetical, short term deployment to Libya, it’s the Harriers and its also retired stable mate, the Jaguar, which would’ve been deployed at very short notice. Their record of deploying to austere environments at short notice outstrips both Typhoon and Tornado.

    Also, we shouldn’t forget that once this conflict has been resolved Libya is a nation without an effective air force that one day needs to police its own skies. Or are we suggesting that NATO can do it permanently from Italy? Therefore, we should be asking at this point, what will the new Libyan air force look like? Given the volume of French aircraft it possessed, France should be looking at donating Mirage F.1’s and any spare Mirage 2000’s it has, as for the UK, we could give a few Jaguars and Hawk trainers if need be.

    Stripping Libya of its air force will leave it vulnerable to the machinations of its neighbours, if we have taken responsibility for helping to smash its armed forces up, then we should take some responsibility for putting them back together again. Lets not make the same mistake we made with Iraq and dismiss the armed forces en masse, take them back into the fold and help rebuild them, the sooner Libya gets back on its feet, the less chance there is of it becoming a breeding ground for terrorists and the sooner we can get out.

  31. @george, read it and now i want to gouge my eyes out to try and forget it, sometimes, just sometimes he’ll make a valid point in one sentence but he’ll cloak it in 4 paragraphs of pure shit!! overall that was a dire piece of journalism

  32. Lewis Page can’t write for toffee. He’s right though, more or less, even if he does have a hard-on for aircraft carriers.

    The big kid in me loves fancy bits of kit that make explosions. They’re brilliant. But I like accurate maths more. And the sums behind our military expenditure don’t add up. We’ve spent hundreds of billions since 1990 for kinetic effects we could have got for a few billion, and for capabilities we could have got for tens of billions. It makes my stomach churn at the retardation of it all because it’s 90-99% waste.

    We shouldn’t call it a defence policy or a defence strategy. It’s an expensive jobs subsidy scheme. I rate our defence contractors and senior military leaders as pretty much the least patriotic people in the country. Or the thickest.

    Whatever the rights or wrongs of the involvement in Libya, we could have crippled the regime’s military ourselves for the sticker price of two Typhoons. Several hundred tomahawks, and most of his fuel depots, airfields and 4CI go bang.

    Want to help the rebels? Give them several thousand RPGs and simpler anti-tank missiles. It takes a week at most to learn how to use them, no matter how complex they are. Half an hour, for the simpler RPGs. They still kill BMPs and T-72s. (Don’t worry about terrorists getting them – you can them buy anywhere for pocket money anyway.)

    The cost to us would be several million, and we could have flown them in weeks ago even on our limited airlift fleet. Keeping a supply on-hand in a bunker would have cost us next to nothing.

    If the UK can’t handle an impoverished country of 2.5 million people on its own, right on its doorstep, then – objectively – our military is atrocious. Stunningly, abysmally bad. Craptastic.

    Future commentators will read about this in the history books and think we were as dumb as people who burned witches. They’d be right.

  33. “hope Air Tanker can hit the ground running at the end of this year or were in real trouble”

    Amen, remember that FSTA alsobecame a handy annotation ;)

    It is impressive in a sense we can stilldo that whilst balancing everything else…
    The C de Gaulle is ‘impressive’ because they used their funds wisely.

  34. @Mat

    I have been watching the news recently and drawing a slightly different conclusion to you. I see what we have on paper, and have decided we are basically do this on the cheap. Now it may be that I am feeling overly patriotic and slightly deluded but as far as I can tell if we really pushed our capabilities to the limits and went with an all out attack we could have done most of what has occurred in the last week on our own. Hell, if this was a do or die, backs to the wall moment and we had two weeks to oust Gaddaffi or else, I am pretty certain we could do it – blown his air defences to hell, kick seven shades of sh!te out of his forces, get land forces in country and role back his “elite” units to Tripoli. Its just that currently it ain’t worth the cost in blood or treasure to take those extreme measures.

  35. I actually think we have done a good job and probably contributed more than most. We have 20+ fast jets, 3 AEW, Sentinel, A few helicopters, Nimrod, Tristar, VC10, hercs c17 weve probably got close to 40 a/c deployed to this. What concerns me is how many we would have had if this had happened 12 months from now. Not a bad force considering what else were doing. Also remember a lot of our other allies may have difficult doing AAR or night ops. Mat the pentagon has estimated they need 350-400 aircraft to provide 24/7 air policing over Libya it which has been beyond us alone probably since 1965.

  36. This has been s very interesting topic. I have resisted the urge to put my 5 pennyworth as my views had been covered by many contributors.

    Shat has got to me is Lewis Page! If his costs are are anywhere near accurate then I dedpair.
    I have been a Typhoon supporter for years. It has suffered by the normal side effects of collaborative projects, plus the collapse of the soviet union and the bloody Germans. However
    If it is developed fully it would be a very fine aircraft. What I see now, makes my blood boil. All the earlier tranches were supposed to be upgraded to a common standard. We now appear to be trashing 55 T1 and only getting a fraction of the remaining 160!!! There is no commitment to all the upgrades we should be getting… AESA, conformal fuel tanks, full integration of stormshadow,brimstone,raptor,meteor etc. Yet we seem to ditching our current fighters prematurely.

  37. I would read to much into anything Lewis Page says if he even did a quick google before writing that article he would have at least got some facts right. The only thing he got right about Typhoon and Tornado was that there planes. Every thing else was nonsense.

  38. LP quoted 10 bn earmarked for armour renewal; I have not seen this anywhere else? One can read any kind of FRES total figures, but they are history (without new procurement decisions).

  39. The Typhoons T1 are 53, actually. 2 were turned to Austria and recovered later in the T2 total, that however saw 24 planes turned to Saudi Arabia.

    The UK, once retired the T1, will have exactly 107 Typhoons in T2/3 status. Not bad, actually. Probably more than anyone else in the programme (save for (maybe) Germany (which will have ONLY Typhoon however and (possibly) India)
    I’ve written an article over Typhoon numbers, Sea Typhoon and F35. I’ll be sending it to Think Defence later, and one day in the future it should pop up over here. I think i put together some interesting informations.

  40. So can how many Storm Shadow can the Tornado carry? Is it just one?

    How far out will Storm Shadow be “fired”? Surely not at maximum range?

    How much of a turning circle does a Tornado have 500mph?

  41. @Gareth Jones

    Thanks! I kind of liked it and thought it was appropriate given the conversations we are having currently

  42. @Gabriele

    But why get rid of the Tranche 1s at all? Just use them for QRA home defence? Or OCU? Let’s sweat those assets…

  43. X

    Standard war load is 2 on under fuse pylons. Not sure if they tested it but an additional 2 could be fitted in place of the 2 Fuel Tanks on the wing but this will impact range.

    Second is classified and the third depends on what its carrying and at what flight level it flying at and were its operating.

    He also hasnt got a clue about numbers deployed either in Libya or Afghan by the looks of it.

  44. @ Mark

    Thanks. Much as I thought then. Tornado isn’t short of lifting capacity. It is hard for a simple bear like me to reconcile AAR vs additional underwing tanks vs ordnance conundrum.

  45. George and others. You are right T1 should not be ditched. If we REALLY can’t afford to upgrade them to T2/3 then at least keep them for the a2a role. 107 is no where near enough. We need the RAF to get the F35C as Tornado replacement. If we had a total buy of 80 to 100 I would be relatively happy. The RAF should have at least 160 Typhoons.

  46. X

    Yep I have to say Tornado is one my favourite aircraft. At it role of all weather interdictor strike it is still the best aircraft in the whole.


    I would agree I think the long term fast jet should number 12 squadrons of at least 12 a/c each split 8 to 4 Typhoon to F35. The numbers to get us there is up to the people in charge but below that level of force we are no long serious about deploying combat aircraft.

  47. As has been well reported the RAF is expecting to operate a fleet of 6 Fast Jet Squadrons after 2017 with the eventual make up being 5 Typhoon and 1 F-35. Given that there is no garantee that defence spending will actually increase 2015 and that alot will be spent on the Army, bring troops back from Germany and reorganising it into FF2020 it will be quite a long time till Squadron numbers increase. I cannot see further F-35 buys being on the cards as the money will be needed elsewhere.

    Whilst the Air Marshalls state that a force level of 6 squadron is a risk, they believe they can meet their obligations with this number. So it seem that future RAF capabilites will be North and South QRA, Falklands and 1 squadron for deployment with the F-35 force available either via carrier or short term rewinforcement for land based ops.
    Is this enough. I personaaly do not think so but the powers that be do.

    On Libya, the Tornado/DM Brimstone/Paveway IV combination is ideally suited to the job and highly effective. THe Typhoon is there for PR purposes but can do the job but many other nations in the area have just as effective A2A platforms when considering the oposition. My main hopes from all this are that either the Tornado force is given a stay of execution or that funding is released to accelerate the Typhoon programme to increase delivery rate and/or speed up the enhancement programme. If neither takes place this couild be the last hurrah for the RAF as an effective force

  48. One thing I just notinced on the last video. When was the GR4 cleared to carry ASRAAM? I thought just the F3 and Typhoon were operational with it.

  49. Just a few things

    1: Tranche 1 typhoons will be retired (well some of them anyway, a question remains over the 2 seaters) because they CANNOT be upgraded to tranche 3 standard, not to mention airframe hours have been burned through at one hell of a pace.

    2: 6 Squadrons isn’t enough, and bears no relation to any idea of a sensible deployable force. the minimum number is actually 11 sqdns (3QRA + 4 deployable typhoon, 4 deployable 2nd type) plus 2 OEUs 2 OCUs and the falklands flight, this is effectively what we were due under the terms of the 1997 SDR and is designed to maintain the operational drumbeat. This does not include FAA.

    3: The French did not spend their money wisely on CdG, it in a nightmare of a ship, badly designed, overpriced, the wrong reactors, contantly breaks down, was 5 years late into service and cost nearly the same as a nimitz for a lot less ship.

    4: The RAF will not see a single F-35 enter service, of this I am certain, they will get UAVs instead, this is the direction the world is going, and more importantly the direction BAe is pushing in. Not to mention it will mean that a squadron can be run with about 1/4 the people using aircraft which cost a fraction of the cash (General atomics avenger seems to have a unit cost under $20 million).

  50. Hi Grey,

    I agree on your last point, this is from last year’s Farnborough (Flightblobal, quoting Flight Daily News):
    “Stealthy, jet-powered and able to carry an internal payload of up to 1,360kg (3,000lb) plus another 1,360kg on the wing, the Predator C Avenger is expected to have a price tag of between $12 million and $15 million per system, says director of business development Chris Ames. Flying at 50,000ft (15,250m) and 400kt (740km/h) for 20h at a time and avionics commonality with the MQ-9 Reaper-designated Predator B, ”
    – no wonder the previous generation have only been leased
    – I was appalled at the statement that after A-stan that force will be dropped, but actually it seems it will be significantly upgraded (with a real “plane”)
    – I note the half-empty carriers though; watch that space

  51. Around 15 years ago in a row over workshare, the Germans thought RAF demands for 232 Typhoons were hogwash. The Germans calculated the RAF needed 180 Typhoons. I still think the Germans got that right.
    My fantasy 2025 UK fast jet assets would be;
    180 Typhoon
    50 Strike UAV
    25 Regional bomber

    80 F-35 B/C and/or Seaphoon.

  52. Grey

    Your right on the money points 1,2,3
    But on point 4 avenger can only be considered a fraction of the cost if we don’t include the cost of the satellites required to operate it. Do we know how many uav are current satellite system can support I ask this as well soon also have 50 odd watchkeeper also. Avenger nice a/c but would be totally useless in libya today because it can’t fly in controlled airspace and as such we would have no were to operate it from. Until this problem is solved were looking at global hawk level capability and they sure don’t cost a fraction of a fast jet.

  53. TD

    I’m assuming it can though it can us a buddy system were by one acts a rely if they act in pairs. But if it can’t then weve just spent a hell of lot on a very very limited system.

  54. Mark absolutely, plus 4 squadrons of F35 for the FAA. I think we should make better use of the RAAF (Royal Auxillary Air Force) by giving them the ex RAF Tornados when they have been replaced by typhoon and F35.

  55. Yes impressive because that is the nature of air power; no other tool gives governments the capability of dropping ordinance on the heads of people they consider deserving of such, over great distances, in quick order, and at little risk of casualties to one’s own side. If you have that capability you can be a first ranking military power. Without it you can’t be.

    However, before we get puffed up about it, it should be noted that the US is still providing over half the sorties, with France the second most active. The UK comes at a distant third. Dave may have talked the no-fly zone into being, but for some, Washington in particular, it is another case of the UK talking big but then only fronting up only a fraction of the necessary resources. If Dave wants to be at the top table on merit he should consider bringing back the Tornados recently retired.

    Tornado sits at the nub of the doubtful future of the RAF and for once the government is not to blame. The RAF’s reaction to the SRSR – the requirement to cut budgets in other words – could have been to accept the sacrifice the Harrier, as being one type of aircraft too many, and to consolidate some bases to save operational funds, and then just promise not to buy anything else (including MRA4) for quite a long time. With Tornado and Typhoon (existing and being delivered) they had ample aircraft to operate a 200+ fast jet fleet until the middle of the next decade well beyond the life of this government and the deficit problem.

    But no, instead of keeping their head down the RAF belligerently went into what was intended as a cost cutting exercise demanding that the government simply must buy them the F35. Of course the government wasn’t going to turn their cost cutting exercise into a splurge on new equipment so the result is a pact to manage both the Tornado and Typhoon fleets down in numbers by the end of the decade, when the RAF’s big hope is that the government is going to buy a fleet of F35 to build back the numbers. With the plan being that Tornado go completely out of service and Tranche 1 Typhoons likely to be retired also, the RAF has signed up to a plan that will see their fast jet fleet reduce by 2020 to a mere 107 Tranche 2 and 3 Typhoons, likely pinning their hope on the government buying them circa lots of F35’s to build the RAF back to a respectable force.

    This is extraordinarily reckless. While the RAF may imagine their sacrifice now is putting money in the bank for the F35 there are all manner of reasons why they might not get it:

    – The ordering of the F35 is years away and by the time it comes the government may simply choose to forget their ever was a promise given for their purchase.
    – The ordering of them is sufficiently far away for there to be another deficit crisis or two in the meantime, which could pull the rug whatever plans may exist now.
    – If for the next few years they manage to do a half decent job with fewer aircraft, they are open to the charge that they don’t actually need the F35 or anything else.
    – The big argument for buying the F35 at all is that we need it to operate on our carrier(s). For the RAF to be certain of being the operator of the F35 it has to win a turf war with the navy as to who operates the jets on the carrier(s). The RAF may assume it’s in the bag for them but I wouldn’t write off the navy just yet.
    – It’s still not clear whether Britain will get software rights to the F35. It is not impossible that if the US is unwilling to grant that, that fact alone may scupper a UK purchase.
    – The cost of the F35 may turn out to so high that it be deemed simply too expensive
    – The purchase may go ahead but for any of the reasons above it be limited to a small number for carrier operations, in which case the RAF will be left with a lot of empty hangers.

    The RAF seems have to let its lust for shiny toys cloud rational judement of its own survival.

  56. From what I have read, watchkeeper is LOS radio only, though as mentioned it has got buddy capacity to increase range dramatically.

  57. RichardW,

    This. We may hear complaints round here about RN sacrificing itself on the altar of carriers, but when you look into the fine details the RAF has created much more disastrous dangers for itself with F35. And for all the reasons you say (I would add that it’s a clunky almost-bomber to fly without the thrust oomph of Tornado; when you carry its full bomb/fuel load it gets a lot less stealthy; the computer/comms systems that are the jewel in its crown could also be in a different, more agile aircraft, as Boeing seems to plan for competition and as one could do through mid-life upgrades with, say, a Eurocanard or two.) So, losing the RAF’s Europe-leading ISTAR/EW over time, paring back transport to the low edge of usefulness, crippling numbers on Typhoon and failing to upgrade a versatile airframe, all sounds like two things:

    – A “next shiny thing” fighter mafia in charge, as many have said here
    – Another classic case of “ooh, look we can make loadsamoney on doing…” with a posh accent (MacMillan was right all those years ago, when it’s all about managing the wealth of your estate or equivalent, selling off the silver or a Caravaggio or two makes a nice quick kill, and here it’s having stock in fancy American and Anglo-American multinationals.)

    John Hartley,

    Sounds right to me. Although I’m unconvinced about the regional bomber the rest is more or less correct. And would make clear, simple goals for which to lobby. But there’s less “next shiny please” to it.


    Yes, just to breach propriety as it’s necessary here, that whole “six squadrons” thing is absolutely, completely, galloping technicolour bugfuck insane. It’s madness that makes any concerns about CVF, or an army of Landrovers and underwater knife-fighters, seem almost tame for the level of lasting damage it does to one of the three services.

  58. @RichardW: Good post. If correct “their Airships” need to be hanged for treason!
    re: UCAVS, surely the global ones would be toast against any enemy with orbital capabilities?

  59. Someone mentioned three squadrons for QRA. Why? I wasn’t aware that we were beating back hordes of Russian Bombers on a weekly basis.

    Now I’ll grant you two QRA squadrons, but from there on out if I was a Minister, sitting behind my ample taxpayer funded desk (gold trimmed, naturally) in my soft, leather chair (the most expensive one that the taxpayers could afford), my question regarding Tornados and any other fast jet squadrons would be: why?

    Treat this as a chance to rant or play fanatasy (air) fleets. Tell me why we need more than six squadrons? What will they do? What purpose would each serve.


  60. You have to admire the RAF’s sheer low cunning. They have sank the Navy by ordering them two gigantic aircraft carriers! Without aircraft………

  61. You are probably right, as in
    “two gigantic aircraft carriers! Without aircraft…”

    But it is a boomerang:
    – the aircraft will (have to) come, not mentioning any numbers
    – RAF will get the Scavengers (which, in most scenarios will be the second, or even third wave, still useful)

    I am intrigued about so many commentators calling for the regional bomber? So,
    – it will be based on proven technologies
    – be optionally manned
    What else do we know… (i.e why would we want it, and what for)?

  62. An old military saying(Clausewitz?) “the enemy always has three courses of action open to him & of these, he will always deploy the fourth”.
    Grandly saying, we will never need these or never fight there, usually falls apart by “events, dear boy,events”.
    We may be fighting in blighty or on the other side of the world. Who predicted we would be bombing Libya six months ago?
    Hence the need for the most capable, balanced forces we can afford.
    Russia started sending a bomber to test our defences one every half hour. After many hours the QRA was on the point of collapse. Luckily Russia ran out of interest/bombers just before we ran out of fighters. So yes numbers still count, if you are up against an enemy with numbers.
    The regional bomber is handy for its extra reach over the Tornado. Even with an enemy within reach of a Tornado (Libya) you would still save air refuelling costs with a regional bomber.

  63. chris

    Talking squadrons in realisation to QDR they are meaning manpower not planes. Say you need 4 crews at each QRA and the Falklands 24/7 365 days a year requires a lot of people especially as they have to do training in other things. We are currently at the min level required. I would suggest the RAF should set up 2 aux air force squadron specifically to do the QRA’s with the single seat Tranche 1 typhoon and leave the regulars to use Tranche 2&3 in 5 or 6 multi role squadrons.


    F35 is what’s killed the ISTAR fleet there is very little JSF spending in the current budget period. The current rule is simple we’ll scrap everything that isn’t in afghan as we don’t need anything else. Most JSF spending will be in the next parliament. We should never have gone into Helmand in 2006 we’d done are bit in Afghanistan if we wanted a balanced review we should have pulled out of Afghanistan.

    A regional bomber would allow the RAF a long range strike capability with possible storm shadow or allow more persistence with smart munitions than current fast jet allow. All while requiring less tanker support. It could fly direct from the UK if it could turn out something like the Canberra then good idea. I would reduce slightly Johns numbers for typhoon JSF and UAV but keep his bomber numbers.

  64. Hi Mark,

    RE “would suggest the RAF should set up 2 aux air force squadron specifically to do the QRA’s with the single seat Tranche 1 typhoon”
    – a fantastic idea

    F35 is what’s killed the ISTAR fleet there is very little JSF spending in the current budget period. The current rule is simple we’ll scrap everything that isn’t in afghan as we don’t need anything else. Most JSF spending will be in the next parliament.
    – I can believe that; the USMC claim that all their ISTAR needs will be fulfilled by the F-35 (I just wonder about the motivation in such a broad claim)

    Now; This regional bomber
    – why is it so fantastic?

  65. ACC

    Regarding JSF the def sec did say it would be difficult to get people to accept certain capabilities they cannot see. JSF is more than just a fighter but most of its capabilities will never be known to those in the outside world. Its a difficult position to hold and by all accounts had the full spectrum of operation undertaken by Nimrod been made public then it may not have been so easy to discard.

    Regional bombers and carriers go hand in hand. It allows operation in areas were host nation basing options maybe sensitive or difficult to obtain. B52 ops from Diego Garcia over Afghanistan would be a good example. Fast Jet forces are great if you in Germany wanting to hit Moscow. Not as practical if your in Norfolk and want to hit Tripoli. It all depends on the blend you want and what you can afford.

  66. By regional do you (us, we?) mean European? With TLAM we can hit the outskirts of Moscow from East Anglia, bombard Madrid from Cornwall, give Marseilles a pasting from Hyde Park. If we need that extra bit of range we can drop the TLAM from something over the sea. For the cost of design, building, buying a new bomber we could buy 6 more Darings but stretched for an extra VLS silo back aft, and fill it with TLAM. It isn’t the need for a deep strike weapon, just the platform.

  67. Hi Mark,

    I accept the mystique around F-35,as I’ve read up on the sensors.
    – have some decoys go in first
    – then send some UCAVs that you can afford to lose, but will now see the defences (who were stupid enough to engage the decoys)
    – then let rip (even though currently there is a position that you will actually need some Raptors for this part of it, and only in the more benign environment the partial stealth will come to play)… not many countries have B-2s, but some have asked for the Raptors, like Japan for instance

    RE “Regional bombers and carriers go hand in hand. It allows operation in areas were host nation basing options maybe sensitive or difficult to obtain. B52 ops from Diego Garcia over Afghanistan would be a good example.”
    – so just keep the B52s and bomb from Guam?

    Fast Jet forces are great if you in Germany wanting to hit Moscow. Not as practical if your in Norfolk and want to hit Tripoli.
    – so another FB-111 (that’s what they did)?

    What is it actually (going to be)?

  68. X

    Regional to me would suggest range of around 2000nm.
    I certainly wouldnt suggest we do this as a uk only project just buy say 24 off the US funded by cutting our JSF buy from 140 to around 60(for navy only). With an aircraft you can put different weapons or possibly sensors on it depending on the mission. For example a TLAM firing Type 45 could do what the B52s did over afghan for example.

  69. ACC

    Yep not far off what would i think sound practical. UAVs have a place in complementing manned jet I fully accept that its the sense from SDSR than its one or other is the alarming bit.

    But say an RAF with 140 Typhoon and 24 B52 type a/c(maybe a bit smaller of an a/c a Canberra size plane) and 24 UCAVS and FAA with 60 F35s is a credible force I would be happy with but cant see it.

  70. X
    TLAM is good, but it is a one trick pony. A regional bomber can carry a variety of weapons. You load what you need.

  71. @ John H

    Deep strike implies an important target. A target that would probably be than worth 1000lb of HE if not more. Don’t forget that TLAM can carry sub-munitions too. Or can even be simply crashed into its target. If a smaller bang is needed a bet TLAM could be modified to carry something like SDB.

    If Typhoon and F35 are costing somewhere in the region of £50million a copy and a B2 cost about $1billion how much would a regional bomber cost? How many TLAM or other flavour of long range cruise missile be bought for that amount? We can’t even afford to fire more than a dozen or so long range missiles we have at our disposal. Of course it is all moot. For us super bombers died with the cancellation of the Avro 730.

    (As a compromise when I am PM I will let the RAAF have some TLAM launchers to play with….. ;-) )

  72. @ All

    After reading the interesting discussion on fast jet fleet sizes and squadron numbers and ive had a little think. I think given the current situation and budget the best outcome is 12 fast jet squadrons split between RAF/FAA (6 each), call it re-balancing.

    First of all the RAF transitions to an all Typhoon force split into 3 wings of 3 squadrons each. 1 Wing RAF will be for AD (the main role of the RAF FJ fleet) and will be made up of the 53 Tranche 1 jets + 4 for the FI. Nos. 2 & 3 Wings will be for operational deployment meaning we can deploy 1 squadron permanently overseas made up of the remaining 107 Eurofighters (Total 160 planes).

    At the same the FAA starts to stand-up the First 3 FJ squadrons. This leaves us with 3 FAA and 9 RAF squadrons. Now apparently the Tranche 1 aircraft are getting pretty well-worn so eventually in the not too distant future (but further away then the RAF seems to think). As the Tranche 1 squadrons start to get stood down (we could possibly use them as trainers, give them to the red arrows or something) the FAA starts to stand up another 3 squadrons and the RAF transfer Aircraft from Nos. 2 & 3 Wings to form just No.1 Wing (AD) and No.2 Wing (Strike). No.3 Wing would be stood up with 2 squadrons of the 2018 (regional) Bomber form the US and an enlarged squadron of Taranis UCAV.

    This force allows us to have 2 squadrons fully onboard the active carrier permanently which allows us to do door kicking, rapid deployment, short term interventions, i.e. opening days of Libya, which is the sort of we will be doing more of. After the AD has been surpressed, like in Libya, the RAF can permanently deploy a flight (6 planes) from No.2 Wing for CAP and use several 2018 bomber to carry out addition strikes. 6 planes is only 2 short of what we have deployed in a’stan.

    However the flexibility of having 2 FAA squadrons deployed at any 1 time gives us the extra ability to allow ourselves to increase the number of aircraft deployed permanently to a full squadron we can deploy 1 RAF followed by 1 FAA squadron and keep this rotation going for as long as needed whilst keeping the minimum number of aircraft required for fleet AD on the carriers, i.e. 12 planes as per the current SDSR.

  73. All this talk of bombers. What exactly do you gentle people want in a bomber? How fast? How big? What load? Will it have a galley and toilet?

    I am sincerely interested. The B2 is a technical marvel, but do we need one?

  74. @ x

    Have a look at 2018 bomber over on wikipedia. Thats is what I was sort of thinking of.

  75. 2035? Are we still discussing realities (as in something that, even if not ready for order, at least we could opt in, with confidence)?
    – why 2035? First, Does 2018 exist? Second, because within a decade from 2035 there will not be one serviceable bomber of current makes left

  76. Various folks sparked off by x ref: TLAMs,

    Boeing and other outfits, sponsored by DARPA (the Americans’ DERA that the U.S. government still, sensibly, owns) are using what was oirignally 1950s British concept work — the “waverider” idea — on their X-51 next gen cruise demonstrator and other slike it. These, unlike the flies-brilliant-in-a-straight-line Russian derived supersonic ship-killers that get people so worked up in the carrier threads, could be a truly formidable advance in offensive munitions, over Mach 6 and in the operation versions able to juke on terminal approach rather like the subsonic (but arguably more dangerous) missiles of the present. And it’s utlimately a real problem for air forces that want to be knights of the air: a goodly bit of their “strategic” justification is long-distance bombing. But it’s considerably more expensive to design effective, stealthy, intercontinental bomb trucks (see the B-2) than to turn the X-51 into an in-service model that goes most of the same distance at over Mach 6 launched from some modified cargo/refueler beyond the range of the AWACs-killer style AAMs El Side has pointed to in the other Libya threads. Ironically, the Americans’ wargames wrt China seem to say that they need longer-range strike and more actual fighters (which would perforce need to be cheaper in order to have enough) and heavily packed vls for naval vessels or ground installations to defeat “swarming” by the other side. Yet again F35 looks like it’s fighting yesterday’s war, and having jets like the Eurocanards in service is less a disadvantage than it seems, when you realise some of the highest-risk missions that might’ve been assigned to manned aircraft (the whole “first-day strike” business) are likely better done by different tactics and with other technologies like hypersonic cruise. The cost of those TLAMs over Libya may seem like a lot, but it’s a couple of Walls’ for you and your date at the seaside compared to developing a regional bomber, especially a multiple-partnership regional bomber design.

    Also it’s a matter of “who will this be used against where there isn’t a bigger partner on-side” ? The ability to do as the US did in Libya, fire off 120 or so TLAMs as a first deep strike (I’m erring over the actual numbers for safe margin) would cover more or less anything the UK needed to do on its own, in a world where fighting China or really anywhere east of Oman is a strange Boys’ Own fantasy, and inclusive of nasty notional wars against Argentina, Venezuela, and even Brazil. The only place it might fall short would be vs. Russia, and there we might have some reasonable assumption that it’s either a nightmare that would bring the US in or a short, focused piece of brinksmanship to make the Yanks think it’s not worth risking Armageddon over. There again, a matter of proportion. Particularly since “cruise” does not simply mean yesterday’s TLAMs. As for X-51 as I said at the top the waverider approach was a British concept to begin with. The job’s there to do.

    On a separate issue, with Other CallMeDave’s COIN fixation (this would be the over-promoted Col Richards RA) something like the Global Atomics Avenger would really be the future bird of choice. And for a variety of other ops; do nicely in the Libyas of the future I should think (ie close-in “offshore balancing”).


    I’ll leave aside TD reaching for antacids, but we’re not likely to see a world where High Wycombe is so poor at working the lobby. It’s been their most accomplished skill (and they do have others) since the days when it was actually possible to say that Britain’s major aerospace industry might offer a chance to help reinvent the nation as a major world player. (It’s certainly been good for Brazil and helped Canada’s economy do that whole let’s-not-use-boxing-metaphors thing.)

    I’d go for 8 or ideally 9 Typhoon squadrons, for which you’d need at least 180 airframes based on a reined-in version of RAF practice. Then you have three or four squadrons each north and south, plus possibly a “loose” one (if a total of eight done 3-3-1-1) and one rotating flights through the Falklands station. Why that many? Because properly upgraded Typhoons, to latest fighter standard or FGR4, are a significant conventional hedge against “big wars” and could provide, along with RN subs (and yes, properly kitted carrier groups) significant reinforcement on whatever vulnerable NATO flank such a conflict occurred. Assuming cosy circumstances for Europe into the forseeable future ignores, well, everything, including the debt minefields across the continent and things like the quite bitter argument between France and Italy over the future of Moammar Gadaffi. At this point, whether it’s spouted from right or left (and we hear it from both) it’s willful ignorance.
    For the carriers, at least four somewhat larger squadrons (15 or preferrably 16, rather than 12 aircraft) which could either be all-FAA or split between “strike” in light blue and “fleet air” in dark blue. Either way it’s twelve to thirteen “line” squadrons of fast air. Which, for the joint-second largest nation in Europe is probably about right. Thanks for the link on the next-gen bomber :)

  77. “El Side,” feh … sorry ES.


    The USAF are hoping to nurse their B-52 nearly that long, which would be truly impressive.

  78. Hi jackstaff,

    RE ” seem to say that they need longer-range strike and more actual fighters (which would perforce need to be cheaper in order to have enough) and heavily packed vls for naval vessels or ground installations to defeat “swarming” by the other side.”
    – indeed, there is the problem
    – then you combine numbers vs. range, however extended
    – and, the fact that defensive technologies (whatever they are), tend to be cheaper than offensive ones

    Yes, the B-52s will stay longer than B-1 & 2s
    – no supersonic flight, less fatigue
    – bigger numbers to come down from, selective fleet
    BUT, still really remarkable

  79. @ Jackstaff re TLAMs

    Perhaps the reason we can’t launch 100+ TLAM salvos is we would rather buy jets that can only carry 4 cruise missiles?

    Let say we were to fight one of those notional wars. For the cost of 4 F35s we could knock out the opposition’s air force before they came into play.

    Many arguments here talk about buying 80 of this plane, 160 of that plane, etc. etc. Then when somebody mentions firing cruise missiles in big numbers things are suddenly expensive. If there is no need to launch a cruise salvo of 100 missiles perhaps we don’t need 100s of jet fighters either? Did I read here that it costs £10million now to train a pilot too?

  80. x,

    As Libya’s reminding us, when you actually have these inconvenient “other services” (ground and sea) along for the ride, it does help to be able to put your jets in the air once the other side’s are gone. But what *sort* of jets do you need for that, and how many? And what do you need for strike? I’ll offer you a “tsk, tsk” for your inconvenient questions … :)


    Fair points about the 52s. And yes, quite something. Once again sturdy and sustainable beats gucci kit?

  81. I fully agree that 6 FJ Squadrons is too few for the RAF to operate as an effective Airforce in my opinion but the Air Staff have decided that they can meet their obligations laid out in the current assumptions with this amount.

    The F-35 maybe the savior though as its delivery is a decade away and its production run will continue past this, so if the Security Situation does change we will have a fall back of sorts. In the meantime we will see the Marham GR4 wing supporting two deployments so I expect and hope that many of the aircrew from the disbanded sqaudrons to be retained to support this, with the Harrier crews being moved to Typhoon

    Regarding the GR4 and ASRAAM, it is amazing how fast things can be done if the effort is put in. My Uncle was responsible for the fitting of AIM-9 to the Nimrod during the Falklands, he described it as the worlds largest fighter! I suppose it does make sense as now the RAF will have only a single type if Short Range AAM made easier with the retirement of the Harriers.

    In reality the RAF is finally falling nto line with most NATO Airforces in its reduction in size. The Elephant in the room from my stand point is that replacements are going to be needed much sooner than previously as there will be far fewer reserve airframes to balance out the usage of hours and cover attrition if we keep operating our FJs at the current tempo with Typhoon possibly start needing a replacement as soon as 2025. So theoretically, besides the F-35 what could be available at that time to replace it?

  82. The trouble with a cruise missile is it does one thing, hitting high value targets.

    It doesn’t shoot down aircraft that are already airborne.
    It doesn’t “do” interception.
    It doesn’t provide close air support for troops.
    It doesn’t have ISTAR potential.
    It can’t (at the minute) hunt down and discriminate field based targets such as tanks and artillery.

    So you’ll end up buying a bunch of planes anyway. In an “either/or” scenario, the cruise missile will lose miserably every time.

    But ideally you’d want the two to go together. Fighters provide air cover, cruise missiles hit fixed targets, light bomber comes in and smashes up everything else.

    As they say in Merkovo, Simples!

  83. Call me a cynic… but why do I have a feeling France is leading the enforcement of No-Fly Zone as advertisement of Rafale?

  84. Hello,

    Lord Jim said:

    “6 FJ Squadrons is too few for the RAF to operate as an effective Airforce”

    That is correct if we are talking about a land based air force,a large number of combat aircraft are required to overcome the tyranny of distance.
    But Britain will have a carrier based air force in future and far fewer aircraft are required for that.

    Land based aircraft are essential for air defence if Britain remains as an independent sovereign nation.
    I am in favour of that independence and of retaining a substantial air defence wing to back it up.

    However,the government is in favour of the Lisbon treaty and European integration which eliminates the need for us to defend our air space and leaves the air power requirement solely to support expeditionary operations.

    British combat aircraft have never generated an average of more than 5O sorties per day (Iraq 2003) in any conflict over the last 20 years.
    The Prime Minister has said we will not be require so many sorties in future.

    The new aircraft carriers are designed to generate an average of 50 sorties per day for a month,with a peak of 108 (that peak figure is probably more than we have generated in any conflict since 1956) sorties on the first day.
    They are designed to do that with just 3 squadrons totalling 36 aircraft.
    It took 66 land based aircraft to generate the same number of sorties in 2003.

    If we go back further,an average of 72 sorties per day were generated during the liberation of Kuwait in 1990/1991.
    You would have to go all the way back to Suez in 1956 to find a conflict where we needed more than that.
    Those sorties could be generated by just 6 carrier based squadrons.
    We had 99 land based aircraft to generate them back in 1991.

    Our requirements can be summed up as follows;

    As an independent country we need a 3 squadron air defence wing and 3-6 carrier capable squadrons to support expeditionary warfare – or a much larger number of land based squadrons.

    As an integrated part of the European Union which only contributes to coalition operations we require just 3-6 carrier capable squadrons – or a much larger number of land based squadrons.

    There is a political problem in that European integration and contributary operations undermine the argumants for maintaining substantial military capability.


  85. Ref B52s

    We could have done the same thing with the old Vulcans… Used them as cruise missile carriers with the flexibility to drop other munitions etc

  86. RE “done the same thing with the old Vulcans”
    – Victors had a much bigger bomb bay? No need to fly low

  87. @ Jackstaff

    We go with what we have. I think I would be happier if Libya weren’t dressed up as the RAF riding to save the day again with another below par showing.

    As always in modern times the first unit into action and the most active is the RAF’s PR department.

  88. RE “the most active is the RAF’s PR department”
    – just look at their website; it actually has some information
    – the same can’t be said about the army and navy (with the exception of RM, I hasten to add!)
    – what are we going to do when Richard Beedal stops running his navy website?

  89. Now your talking George 20 odd vulcans.


    You maybe right about victor but the Vulcan was a thing of beauty and boy could see fly. The return of the v force gets my vote:)

  90. Looks like my other idea got seconded as well:

    “- the RAF can concentrate to press capability ”

    Sorry, sorry McZ, I could not resist!

  91. TLAM is a good general purpose attack weapon but, it is too small for some targets , while too large for others. A regional bomber can load up with 250, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, 6000, 12000 lb bombs according to the target.
    TLAM cannot turn round & come home if civilians are spotted in front of the target.
    The USAF was stung by the B2. They do not want a super expensive regional bomber that even they cannot field in numbers. If & its a big if, they can keep regional bomber affordable, then it would be an ideal aircraft to replace Tornado GR4 for the RAF.

  92. @ACC I did remember after I posted that the Victor may be better as a British B52 but I have to agree with Mark, a Vulcan is something else. I once saw a 4 Vulcan scramble at RAF Finningley…

  93. Snippets from Congress (by Washington Post/ AP):
    “As of Sunday, France, Britain and other NATO countries will handle the task of conducting airstrikes on Libyan military targets, Mullen said. The remaining U.S. role will be support missions such as aerial refueling, search and rescue, and aerial reconnaissance. ”
    – clearly sensible to top up AAR and specialised recce gear that costs a zillion, but is it not shameful that if a Tornado/ Typhoon/ Rafale/ Mirage gets downed, the reliance is on CSAR from another nation?

    “The idea that the AC-130s and the A-10s and American air power is grounded unless the place goes to hell is just so unnerving that I can’t express it adequately,” Graham [R] said. “The only thing I would ask is, please reconsider that.”

    Asked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, [D], whether he was confident that NATO could sustain airstrikes alone, Gates replied, “They certainly have made that commitment, and we will see.”
    – this all goes back to the rowdy A-stan meeting of Defence Ministers in Brussels, not the 28 of NATO but all 40 from the countries that have contributed to A-stan
    – Gates departed pretty much saying ” looks like we have been left alone, but we will still do it”

  94. ALARM:
    – would make perfect sense because of its light weight, i.e carried as a secondary insurance, should an AA radar still light up
    – loiter mode would still take it out, even if they only thought of bringing on a scare and quickly switched off
    – as someone more informed mentioned, the range is not sufficient against a “peer foe” with IAD, supported with fighters with BVR A2A

    If we have them, let’s use them (I think this was one of those gaps… the replacement still in the works?)

  95. RE: Vulcan. Once saw one fly at a air show years ago. Went vertical above me. I sear the ground shock and I couldn’t shout and be heard to the person next to me. Awesome site.

  96. This regional bomber, e.g. as in ” Not a perfect solution or a regional bomber but “do-able”.”
    – is going to be in service, the earliest, 7 years after the original 2018 target
    – in numbers that are max. half of the original 175 target
    … and no one (?) still knows what it actually is/ will be?

  97. It was suggested a tailless FB-22 “Strike Raptor” but that appears to have fallen by the wayside…

    More info on Regional Bomber:

    “The Obama administration in its 2012 budget request asked for $197 million and a total of $3.7 billion over five years to develop the bomber which would include modular payload options for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), Electronic Attack (EA), and communications.[39][40]”

  98. there you gareth you’ve found the answer to the “what to do with” tranche 1 eurofighter problem, a bit of cut and shut stretch and widen and make 1 bomber out of 2 fighters!

  99. Project Red Barrel – VC-10 based AEW/interceptor with up to 18 CF.299 missiles – That’s Sea Dart!

  100. @ Gareth Jones

    Re: Vulcan. I was at RIAT ’09 at Fairford. Fantastic sight. Just fantastic.

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