Is It Time to Bring Back the Medium Bomber?

I am going to start this post with a story about screwing!

A friend of mine is a joiner and of course takes his tools very seriously. Whereas your average DIY enthusiast might buy a cordless drill that doubles as a screwdriver a professional, whose livelihood depends on completing the job quickly and effectively, will invest in separate tools, because it is efficient to do so. It won’t simply be two cordless drills either, one will be a drill and the other an impact driver, whilst he might buy both from the same manufacturer to maximise on commonality in subsystems like batteries the fact is they will be different.

I asked my friend why he didn’t just buy one, or two drills, because to a layman, they superficially look the same.

His answer…

“One Job One Tool”

So what has this got to do with military equipment?

In our drive to relentlessly push down costs, rationalise on training, spares and maintenance etc we are moving to fewer types.

We no longer have one job one tool, but multiple jobs, one tool.

No longer do we have strike aircraft, ISTAR aircraft, air superiority aircraft and close air support aircraft. Instead of a Harrier, Buccaneer, Canberra, Jaguar, Tornado mix we are moving to a Typhoon and F35 fleet and in reality, it is possible that Typhoon might be the only fast jet aircraft in service doing the job of all these.

Ruthless commonality personified and it would ordinarily get my whole hearted support.

Whilst this might be good news on one side of the cost equation it might not be as good news on another. Tornado for example, has a shorter range than the aircraft it replaced.

The question we should ask is has this finance driven ruthless commonality gone too far, are these cost savings illusory because we are moving towards a load of cordless drills, that do the screwing thing OK but not brilliantly, instead of a drill and a screwdriver.

The Tornado is a good case in point; it was designed to be a single minded, low level, penetrating strike and interdiction aircraft and at that, it has no peers and never has. Over the years, as this mission became less and less needed we have adapted it to other roles, the F3 Air Defence variant and now, it is being used for close air support in Afghanistan. What we have done is maximised our use of a single aircraft type but you do have to wonder if it is the best tool for the job. I don’t want this to descend into a Harrier is better than the Tornado argument because that’s not what I am driving at.

In an ideal world, we would have retained both.

If you look at the most common missions that the RAF/FAA have been involved in recently it has been in an environment where the need to penetrate defended airspace is not top of the list. The pattern seems to be that air defences are degraded by submarine, ship and air launched cruise missiles of various sorts and then strike and CAS has been carried out in a semi permissive environment.

I am not saying we do not need a penetrating strike aircraft at all; we just need it less and less.

We had an interesting discussion on the Jaguar 2 post from TMM about sub standard aircraft getting pilots killed and in this context the general opinion seemed to be that when you need to have a stand up fight you don’t want it to be fair, so every last drop of performance is worth the cost, any cost.

Whilst this is very true for those instances when you need that last drop of performance the reality is these instances are becoming less and less and whilst we might reap the commonality rewards of using the high end kit for low end jobs the funding reality of a finite budget means we suffer from reduced quantities, the so called procurement death spiral where increasingly expensive kit can only be obtained in increasingly small quantities, which makes the unit cost go up and, you get the picture.

There comes a tipping point where ruthless commonality actually starts costing you real money because you are, to coin a phrase, doing your weekly shopping the Ferrari.

Which leads me to the medium bomber.

There must surely come a point where the cost of using a range of equipment, even taking into account the penalty of developing and maintaining such a capability, is cheaper than using a a single swing role type.

I don’t know where this point would be and make no mistake, bringing a new design aircraft into service is pant wettingly expensive, but is it worth taking a serious look, I think so.

Speed; is never a bad thing, it allows you to react to calls for close air support, get out of threat envelopes and generally manage more tasks over a wider area but it does have a rather large penalty and that is fuel burn. To go fast needs lots of fuel and it is not a linear relationship, to achieve range and/or persistence needs lots of fuel and this means tanker support in many scenarios, which of course also need fuel and adds cost and complexity. The lack of speed is one of the principle disadvantages to using turboprop aircraft like the Super Tucano or AT-6, you can compensate with more aircraft but this just pushes costs into aircrew, ramp space provision and many other areas. Supercruise designs like the Typhoon can go supersonic without reheat and are therefore very efficient but the fuel burn rate is still significant.

However, in many scenarios very high speed is simply not used most of the time so by having a capability and not needing it there is a penalty.

Speed also pushes up design and integration costs but there is a happy medium, faster than a turboprop but slower than supersonic, i.e. Harrier speed.

Range and Persistence; like speed, never a bad thing but adding more fuel means smaller payload and less speed. Instead of carrying out a mission with 2 or 3 refuels we need an aircraft that can complete an average strike or CAS mission without refuelling.

Payload; to make aircraft aerodynamically efficient, to achieve high speed, they have to, in general, be thin and pointy. This reduces volume for fuel, mission systems and weapons. To compensate modern strike aircraft have external hardpoints from which we hang extra fuel, weapons, ECM and sensors equipment, this of course increases drag which increases fuel burn and reduces payload and range, it’s enough to make your head spin!

We have sacrificed much on the altar of speed

The same way that the Jaguar 2 post was a thought exercise on warming over an old design, I thought it would be interesting to have a go with another oldie, the Buccaneer. Whilst the Jaguar was positively a size 0 supermodel, the Buccaneer was a fat lass.

On the old carriers, space was at a premium and the Buccaneer needed wings, airbrake and nose folded in order to fit on the lifts but CVF is much larger.

The Buccaneer saw service in a number of operations but its highly successful swan song was in the Gulf in 1991, click here for a great account.

You see clips on the internet of showboating low level flypast but for RAF and especially FAA crews this was a normal day in the office, sustained high subsonic at 20ft, no problem


Instead of thinking small, sleek and fast, I am thinking slow and hefty; a transit van instead of a Ferarri. It might not be possible to fit the requirements into a Buccaneer sized airframe but that is the benchmark we should aim for or at least mimic the basic configuration.

A Few Design Considerations

Basic design; three tubes, Buccaneer style, middle one for stuff, outer two for engines, you get the picture!

Another way of looking at it is a much smaller, two seat and twin engined MRA4, with folding wings.

This presents a large front aspect cross section so not very stealthy but in the words of Katherine Tate, ‘am a bovvered

If you look at the original Buccaneer, the bomb bay was actually quite modest in dimensions, comfortable for four thousand pounders but the basic configuration should be retained, just larger in size if needed.

This is not a version of the so called transport bomber but would be a dedicated design.

Payload; in order to reduce drag the payload, as far as possible, should be carried in an internal bay. Maximum payload should be in the region of 6 to 8 tonnes at full fuel with all the additional systems fitted. Instead of pure weight the driver now is number of weapons. As weapon precision improves, so the need for so many to achieve a given effect is reduced. The need to reduce civilian casualties has also resulted in a trend to smaller weapons but there are targets where a big bang is still needed and smaller weapons of course, means more weapons, although volume limitations might kick in before weight.

Wing tip stations should be able to carry defensive aids and self defence missiles. These are generally low drag and need to be immediately available so external mounting is the sensible option. These would be for self defence only. ASRAAM would be the obvious choice and to provide some commonality with other aircraft, the same defensive pods pods. In service in the Gulf, Buccaneers were initially armed with Sidewinders for self defence but when the threat reduced they were dispensed with.

Like the Buccaneer, an incredibly useful capability would be the ability to act as a buddy tanker although the Buccaneer used a wing mounted pod and this restricted manoeuvrability.

The Buccaneer had an innovative rotary bomb bay door which made opening at speed much easier than with conventional doors and later models had a bulge fitted that incorporated a fuel tank. This configuration might be just as useful on a modern version and would also make loading and unloading much easier.

The payload bay should be the very model of modular flexibility, with multiple clip-in locations for cargo/fuel pods or weapon carriage racks.

The clip in racks could carry combinations of weapons depending on size and release restrictions. Because weapons would be dropped from the centreline, more or less, it would make release configuration a simpler proposition than asymmetric release of heavy weapons from wing pylons.

It might even be possible to carry 3 or 4 large weapons like Storm Shadow, either by vertical stacking or some form of rotary launcher, these would be detailed design issues of course and I don’t know whether it would be possible, especially vertical stacking, but the tantalising prospect of carrying 4 Storm Shadow or a possible future buy of the NSM is very interesting is it not?

With smaller weapons like Brimstone or Paveway IV is it really too ambitious to want to carry 16 or 8 respectively?

If this were achievable then one of these could displace 2 or more Tornados and in many missions, forgo the cost of tanker support as well.

Into the future the large bay might even allow directed energy weapons to be carried, sharks optional, freed from external pod constraints these possibilities are not as outrageous as might be thought.

Although the emitters of a large ECM system would need to be outside, the processing and power management could easily be mounted internally.

There are many payload possibilities.

Sensors; to the front and rear of the payload bay would be a protected equipment bay into which could be rack mounted the various processing, power conditioning and communications equipment modules needed. I am not advocating a walk in data centre but by upsizing the airframe access becomes less constricted, heat dissipation and power management become slightly easier and some growth space for future systems is assured.

Targeting pods are the size and shape they are, not because they need to be, but because they need to be to be carried externally. The active components, the imaging sensor for example, are relatively compact and could be fitted into a fairing to the front or rear of the payload bays with the processing equipment rack mounted in the avionics bays.

A basic off the shelf radar, communications and avionics fit could be incorporated.

Range/Endurance; optimised for medium altitude, out of the AAA threat envelope, it should be capable of at least 3,000 miles range and at shorter distances, an endurance of at least 4 to 5 hours. These could be extended with airborne refuelling and drop/internal tanks but in order to avoid compromising range it would be preferable to operate the aircraft in a clean wing configuration, only the self defence pods and AA missiles being carried externally. Drop tanks would enable greater range for self deployment or circumstances where the extra range is worth compromising payload for and a payload bay option should be a long range tank.

This long range tank could be fitted in a split configuration to provide flexibility, 2 for the long range or 1 for ‘additional range’ and reduced weapons carriage.

3,000 miles is purely a nominal target figure but as an illustration of a 1,500 mile round trip the map below shows some interesting possibilities.


Its not as simple as just flying 1,500 miles out and 1,500 miles back so the map is highly simplistic but add a thin skin on those circles for Storm Shadow. They also make the assumption that there is no air threat and that defences have been degraded. Another flaw is that it also assumes that fighters could tag along if needed which means loads of tanker support anyway but try the same thing from a carrier or CAS mission from an air head in theatre for an extra twist.

Remember, these are unrefuelled distances.

Long range or higher endurance adds many deployment possibilities.

If an aircraft that first few in 1958 can fly just under 2,000 miles with a 4 to 5 tonne payload surely an aircraft design that benefits from 50 years of engine and airframe advances can push that out by a third, is that such an ambitious target?

Maintainabilty and Deployability; near the top of the list should be simplicity of maintenance, designed in from the start. Spares packs, wherever possible, should be designed to fit in standard ISO containers and major systems changes should be designed to be rapid and possible without huge infrastructure support. With its long range it would be able to self deploy to most locations but a crucial capability would be the ability to operate from CVF so this means sturdy undercarriage, folding wings and other features. These features also provide benefits in land basing and although 99% of the time it would operate from an established air head, semi austere basing might provide extra flexibility.

Spares packs, consumables, tools, manuals, diagnostics and other ancillary equipment might also be carried in the bomb bay in specially designed containers for self deployment.

Engines; having paid for marinisation development of the Rolls Royce BR710, the engine fitted to the Nimrod MRA4 and Sentinel, it would seem an ideal candidate. Because the engine has its roots in the long range business jet market the BR710 has comparatively good fuel consumption and low operating costs.

The Buccaneer had a pair of Speys that each developed 11,000 pound thrust so the BR710 at 15,000 pounds combined with the judicious use of composites and modern alloys should hopefully see the payload and range targets met. Whether that engine would be suitable is another matter but it is the obvious choice.


In the CAS role, this aircraft could carry out a single ‘on call’ mission of 3 to 4 hours without refuelling, have the speed the speed to react to troops in contact in a reasonable time and carry enough payload to provide a range of munitions to the forward air controller that suit the requirement.

In the strike role, in permissive or semi permissive air environment, operating at a medium altitude it should also be able to either operate at significant range against pre planned targets or at a shorter range/with AAR, against targets of opportunity.

The ultra demanding roles of early theatre entry, destruction of enemy air defences (without standoff cruise missiles) and air dominance would still be carried out by the racing thoroughbreds of course.

The viability of this hair brain scheme would of course, be cost driven.

The question pivots an answering this question…

Would the cost of introducing and operating such an aircraft be greater or less than chewing through precious airframe hours using Typhoon, Tornado and F35 for destroying targets that effectively have no defence i.e. the majority of missions we are/will be using them for.

Whilst we are all snorting at the cost, have a think on the number of aircraft, air crew, ground crew, support contracts, spares and tanker support (with its associated support and personnel cost) , currently supporting the pointy fast jet force that one of these would displace.

Then factor into that the likely costs of a future UCAV.

Now I know we are not comparing drills and screwdrivers, but what if all we actually need are screwdrivers?

I don’t have the answer and to be honest, wrote this with my tongue firmly in cheek, but it’s an interesting thought exercise and as for ruthless commonality, surely one is allowed to change one’s mind!



PS, did anyone notice the ISO container reference J

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
May 16, 2011 11:27 pm

When you said “joiner” and “medium bomber” I was expecting a treatise on bringing back the Mosquitoe.

May 17, 2011 12:25 am

Interesting stuff TD but I suspect far too sensible to ever see the light of day.

Putting the important stuff aside for a moment can I ask why the thumbnail for this article was a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator, perhaps I’m missing something but I don’t see the link to a medium bomber?

May 17, 2011 12:38 am

@ Foxbat

Buccaneer. Jack Sparrow. Get it now?

“The Buccaneer had an innovative rotary bomb bay door which made opening at speed much easier than with conventional doors” – This throws up the interesting question of why the new range of stealth aircraft don’t have these? Surely that provides quicker release of internally stored munitions?

May 17, 2011 1:08 am


That noise you hear? That’s the sound of my head hitting the desk in front of me. How did I not see that?

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
May 17, 2011 1:11 am

@ TD – bomb bay of the Bucc was used to carry spares and personal items (like Golf clubs etc.). One story I read in a book I own involved a pilot who was about to go on leave placing a large stuffed toy for his child in the bomb bay and preceded to forget about it. However, they then got a call to demonstrate toss bombing to some visiting VIP’s. The VIP’s were to witness a Teddy Bear going near supersonic in a ballistic arc. The VIP’s were amused, the Top Brass less so…

May 17, 2011 2:04 am

Given the cost needed to bring any modern military aircraft into production, I’d pony up the extra cash for an all-aspects stealth design.

Maybe something like Carlo Kopp’s RFX.

Having longer bays that could accommodate 5000lb bunker busters would be nice.

OTOH, if you really just want a cheap CAS bomber, why not develop an aircraft based on a long-range bizjet? Maybe use components from the Dassault Falcon 7X?

May 17, 2011 2:57 am

Wow that was an interesting read on the way home…. :-)

So firstly my Grandad who was a Gunner / Radio Op on Swordfish who had two carrier sunk from under him but survived to work for Blackburn Aircraft during the fifties would be very pleased with all this talk of Bucanneers! By the way I am old enough to have looked down on one from the signal deck of a Leander – 20ft of the waves indeed :-)

Back on track – 4 to 6 Storm Shadow? Seriously – you know how big they are right? Not to mention how much they weigh! Which leads me to the next point do I read you right in that you want this to be a carrier capable aircraft?

As you know that’s adding a lot of structural complexity and therefore cost to your requirement – would it not be cheaper in the long run to fly F18E on medium altitude subsonic mission profile with conformal tanks, 4 drop tanks and some bombs in the new streamlined under fuselage pod – just saying, you know………

If there is no carrier borne requirement, then your ideal “patrol bomber” exists in the bone yard – Lockheed has proved the S3 Viking has plenty of fatigue hours left if its not on cats and traps ops. Perhaps a post on that, although I have written about it before on another thread.

As to converting regional jets, how about the A319 MPA variant, I think it has a pretty big bomb bay??? Problem with a conversion of a long range type such as the Sentinel’s underlying Bombardier CRJ is that the wing fuselage interface gets in the way of your desired big bomb bay. Of course the Avro RJ with its high wing does possibly have the space for a big old rotary bomb bay, but it does not have the desired range – so how much extra fuel could you stuff in their while keeping your required disposable payload.

So all being said, if we are determined to resurect 70,s classics, its an upgraded super Viking for me!

May 17, 2011 3:17 am

You wouldn’t necessarily have to build a bomb bay. You could do conformal mounts along the lower fuselage like the F-15E or F-16XL. If you line them up, each has far less drag than the one in front. Or you could develop a conformal bay if you really want to limit drag.

Combined with wing hard points, such an aircraft could carry a respectable load.

A friend of Mr Gladstone
A friend of Mr Gladstone
May 17, 2011 6:40 am

Perhaps it could be optionally manned…

May 17, 2011 7:11 am

TD great idea and for lots of reasons. Not only would it increase the range of the CVF ‘punch’ itself, but could it not also be used as a buddy tanker for the F35. Also, it could give a significant anti-ship (and sub?) capability. Perhaps 6 alongside the 12 JSF standard CVF inventory…

May 17, 2011 8:07 am


Yes I go for that. Sub sonic definitely with the range suggested I’d forgo making it carrier capable and instead not use a buccaneer but build a new Canberra.

May 17, 2011 8:53 am

1995 concept vs. today’s flying prototype:

The referred RFX (by C. Kopp) would have had
a nominal combat radius of 1,200 NM with
6,000 lb of internal weapon load (and two pilots!)with an MTOW in the vicinity of 65,000lb. The aircraft has a span just over 72 ft

The corresponding characteristics of the X-47B (as per Wiki):

Wingspan: 62.1 ft (30.9 ft folded)
Max takeoff weight: 44,567 lb
Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney F100-220U turbofan
Maximum speed: “high subsonic”
Cruise speed: 0.45 mach
Range: 2,100+ NM (3,889+ km)
2 weapon bays (Provisions for 4,500 lb (2,000 kg) of ordnance)

Proposed larger version with a payload of 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) and a wingspan of 172 ft

So, if you take size (as approximated by wing span) to facilitate payload and the obvious trade-off between fuel and weapons carried (to achieve required range), all the three are on the same curve.

How many years (and bn’s) in between? I would wait for the carrier landings in 2014 and then evaluate the mix of these and F-35s in the 2015 Defence Review, before placing any orders.
– quite a nice “fake” video where the footage for carrier deck handling trials (no launch) has been mixed with computer animation

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 17, 2011 8:54 am

Easiest solution. Join USAF regional bomber program. Better aircraft. Unit price higher, but more capable & the Americans pay most of the R&D.
We should aim for a 10% stake as we have on the F-35.
If we did go it alone, the RR BR725 engine from the Gulfstream G650 would be the better engine (16150 lb to 17000 lbf).

May 17, 2011 9:01 am

I’m afraid I disagree.

Much of what we use CAS for today, doesnt need CAS. It just doesnt.
120mm mortars or 105mm light guns with terminal laser guidance, and infantry with laser designators would do much of the job.
Throw in a proliferation of UAVs with their own designators and their own ordnance and CAS needs are much reduced.

A UAV can remain on station for 24 hours and a 105 gun indefinatly.

Better and cheaper than the Buccaneer MkII

For Warm and Hot Wars, I dont think the Buccaneer is big enough.
“Medium” always worries me, because its code for “compromised”.

The A400M is para capable, so I see little reason we cant lob missiles out the back instead of paras.
To double the range of your medium bomber, it can carry 20 Cruise Missiles, not 6, or 30 to the same range. And we already own the blasted things, so theres little procurement trouble.
I know SS has a “range” of 150km, but given its size, I’m convinced thats merely its low level flight range. Even if it is so limited, theres little reason we cant buy one of the many pre existing longer ranged weapons.

Ok, its not carrier capable, not everything has to be carrier capable.

With 1500km ranged missiles, it could lob 20 at the Falklands from Ascension per flight, unrefueled.
Black Buck? Yeah Right.

And thats without me checking what the C17 would do…..

May 17, 2011 9:11 am


Would not be better as far as possible to stick to the original design?

Sure it might be hard to squeeze in the avionics and therefore you might get a slight lengthening in the plane which turn might mean an off the shelf Spey might not cut it and you need a bigger engine, but the more you change the original airframe the more expensive the development would be. The only other changes I might make is to add a spine down the back for the counter-measures (like the later F-16’s do), add a fifth hard point under the nose of the targeting pod and plumb the new design for conformal tanks, but even then the only essential one is the targeting pod and this is a really cost sensitive design – if you have to spend billions developing it them it might be better to just buy F/A-18 F’s.

This would give a plane capable of carrying around 5 tonnes of ordnance, but without drop tanks we are talking the ability to carry 4 Enhanced Paveway II’s internally plus fit either 2 ASRAAM and 2 AMRAAM or 2 ASRAAM and 2 counter-measure pods and I cannot see it needing more than that. What sort of radar where thinking of fitting, a straight port of the radar from the tornado as it retires?

My only question is do we need to lengthen the bomb bay to accommodate Enhanced Paveway II’s? I know it could carry four 1,000 lb’s but obviously Enhanced Paveway III’s are longer than the original iron bombs it would have carried, and if we have to lengthen the bomb bay it would be expensive. This is also the reason why I would avoid changes to the bomb bay beyond the development of rails to allow internal carriage of different ordnance, for example Mavericks (if intend to buy any), small clusters of Brimstone (I think you could fit 2 or 3 per section of the bay), and maybe even internally carried A2A missiles to reduce the Buccaneers RCS (though to do this properly this takes expensive changes to the intakes and add the reflective film on the cockpit).

Realise I have been sucked into making suggestions for changes that would be so expensive that the design would kill off the plan. Since my boss is looking over my shoulder I need to post this and start work :-(

Anyone would think I am paid to work or something!

May 17, 2011 9:19 am

Hi JH,

RE “Easiest solution. Join USAF regional bomber program. Better aircraft. Unit price higher, but more capable & the Americans pay most of the R&D”
– I still don’t know much about this aircraft (except that ISD has slipped by 7 yrs and numbers have been cut by a third)
– with the carrier-launched aspect, weight would be interesting as EMALS can do better than steam
– our EMALS make is still to be chosen, but the one that exists (the American alternative) can launch 35t from a Ford and 20t from the size of deck of the amphib’s (the latter is not an existing design, just an extrapolation)

So, we need to know if the QEs’ size compromises the 35t in any way, what the Regional Bomber’s MTOW is to be… before we even could put it on the list

May 17, 2011 9:19 am


Cruise speed needs to be high subsonic and bomb load higher than 2 thousand pounders x-47b is not up to it.


The new ge techx maybe the best engine or a derivative of the ej200


So every time we need to enforce a no fly like Iraq or libya we need significant people on the ground then. As for transport that’s a very expensive option a c17 costs 170m pounds each and are expensive to maintain. A400m costs 110m pounds.

May 17, 2011 9:26 am

Hi DJ,

RE “The A400M is para capable, so I see little reason we cant lob missiles out the back instead of paras”
– all serious transport bomber studies (that I know of have been re: jets). The challenge is to get the ALCM into stable flight (and away from the plane) so that its propulsion can take over
– with those huge propeller blades, I would imagine there would be more challenge in achieving this than with jets (don’t know, just speculating)

May 17, 2011 9:45 am

Not always.
Enforcing a no fly zone can be done by blowing up runways in response to violations of said no fly zone.
I dont see how a buccaneer is a better NFZ policer than an A400M

Hmmm, does it have to be horizontal level flight?
Could it be vertical? Via a parachute?

May 17, 2011 9:47 am

Hi Mark,

Agreed RE “Cruise speed needs to be high subsonic and bomb load higher than 2 thousand pounders x-47b is not up to it”

That’s why I quoted all three (the 4th was on the video, a full-scale mock-up for deck handling trials).

The “moral” of the story was 16 years from concept to first flight, and over 20 to service. Wing span from 72 to 172 to achieve realistic performance (10 of thousand pounders, instead of the two on the prototype, just as illustrative placeholders for SDBs & the like that would actually be carried).

– cfr. regional bomber, 7 years late even when its main virtue propagated is being based on proven, rather than new, technologies (its original name was 2018 bomber)

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 17, 2011 9:55 am

The problem is numbers. The development costs of a brand-new combat aircraft are colossal these days, so you really need to amortise them over – at least – several hundred planes, preferably thousands. I’ll bet we could only justify a few dozen, which would make the unit cost (including development share) completely frightening.

These considerations are of course what has driven international cooperation over aircraft projects, which even the USA has had to look to for the F-35.

May 17, 2011 11:42 am


I accept that was a bit abrupt. But it’s 16 years from concept to proof of concept demonstrator first flight this isn’t even a test vehicle.

Tony your absolutley right it’s why f35 was first considered it’s now the only game in town like it or not

paul g
May 17, 2011 11:52 am

stuff the americans fly in the face of tradition and buy russian, get the su-34, already flying and pilots sit side by side 1 flying set of instruments,(even has a loo) carries a shedload and has a tasty cannon at the front. I’m sure you could do a deal which “westernizies” the avionics,work to be carried out in the UK (woodford now has the space and workforce skills required) and then if required (if not too expensive) look at banging in RR engines.
I know understand this is pure fantasy but maybe the actual concept of the plane could be looked at, to be honest anything the septics build will be gold plated and v.expensive plus no doubt they will have software/servicing rights etc etc.
link here for the fine details,

May 17, 2011 11:55 am

If there can be 2 or 3 X47b/UCAV/whatevers to every F35/whatevers does the bomb load matter then?

Brian Black
Brian Black
May 17, 2011 12:29 pm

I think the medium bomber role would be better filled by a UAV, and as much as I like the Buccaneer I think any large subsonic bomber really needs to have stealthy characteristics.

‘Bomber’ is a little narrow minded too. Such a type of high endurance aircraft should be considered for forward a2a refueling and as an ISTAR platform, as well as strike.

I also think that not a single one of the suggested new Buccaneers would find a foreign buyer when competing in a market place against similar sized magic stealth bombers, and that has to be a consideration too.

I rather like the X47B, it would be a good complement to other carrier aircraft. It can also be used as a carrier borne tanker, stealthy, has a reasonable range too, and one engine is cheaper than two. And if it shared a high level of commonality with the X47C, that could perhaps be an affordable pairing for the FAA and RAF.

The thing I don’t like is the limited payload. A single Stormshadow wouldn’t squeeze in a X47B by a long way. But then, if we want something that fits our desires perfectly we should perhaps have seen a British, or Anglo-French prototype by now.

Both the UK and France want to operate aircraft carriers. So basically, my thoughts are that if the we and the Frenchies could poop out essentially an X47B that could carry Stormshadow, then I’d be sold.

And so for those reasons, TD, I will not be investing in your new build Buccaneer – I’m out!

(I do like the picture of you in your pirate garb though, TD)

May 17, 2011 12:34 pm

Carrier-capable, long-range, big payload, subsonic: sounds like another role for the Hercules. Sacrifice a bit of that 33 tonne payload to bump the range up and there you go – you’ll still have north of 20 tonnes to carry hardware. Slower than you’d like, but you can’t have everything, and it would at least mean you wouldn’t have to develop a new airframe from scratch.
You could call it the Lancastules…

May 17, 2011 12:54 pm

Hi BB,

Yep “rather like the X47B, it would be a good complement to other carrier aircraft”
– the “C” is the (intended)production “strength” model; compare to the cancelled A-12 and it is the same medicine, but without pilots and with much better range/ endurance

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
May 17, 2011 1:10 pm

How many X-47B’s are we likely to buy?

Probably less than a squadrons worth?

I’m only going by how many Reapers we have bought, so far No.39 Squadron have 5 aircraft of their own, with other personnel attached to 2 USAF Units.

Considering the cost of a new aircraft, also the fact that the RAF have basing rights all over the place, i’d say we don’t really need an aircraft with huge range.

To operate from land bases and the carriers i think i’d be inclined to go for Jed’s idea of the HAL Tejas or just go and buy 24/30 F-18E’s, use them for bombing and for CAS and use the F-35’s for ISTAR, SEAD, High Value/Heavily Defended targets and A/D.

I wonder how many Storm Shadows a Tejas or an F-18E could carry depending on the distance to the target, maybe one or two? I think that’s enough and i know it seems as though i’m just arguing for a replacement for the Tornado but i am arguing for a carrier capable replacement wich would cost less than to design and manufacture an updated version of an older aircraft.

May 17, 2011 1:26 pm

And here’s me talking about eh Buccanneer in the Jaguar 2 thread…. Did you know about the P150 Supersonic Buccanneer that was planned once upon a time?

To keep it simple though, might be better just taking the original blueprints and put new avionics in it – Buccs were used as test beds for the Tornado’s radar in the past. Maybe see if the EJ engines will fit.

I previously posted that the RAF should be an all Typhoon force – T1s for AD and T3bs for Swing role, but buy the full amount . The FAA can have Rafales.

But if we could get a good CHEAPish CAS (half the price of a Typhoon?) or bomber it might be worth having. I’d love to see what the cost of a HAL built Jaguar compared to the cost of a Gripen is.

I just don’t think a brandnew Bucc type aircraft is going to happen. There would be more logic in a Harrier III as there will be an export market for that.

May 17, 2011 1:30 pm

Paul G – I too have a soft spot for the Su34. It would certainly do the job for the RAF of a canberra/Bucc/Tornado replacement. Shame about the politics.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 17, 2011 1:49 pm

How about doing a rebuild/life-extension job on those surplus Aussie F-111?

May 17, 2011 1:50 pm


I am not sure how cheap your cheap bomber would be if it is a completely new design. I was with you for bringing back the Buccaneer as is with minimal design changes for all those bombing missions where you need persistent bomb truck with limited self-defence capabilities, and not for the first time I wished I was a multi-billionaire so I could invest in one of the ideas posted here and build a demonstrator.

May 17, 2011 1:59 pm


I agree that if you want a large, internal bay, you would have to significantly redesign a bizjet. I think you could add conformal hardpoints for a lot less though.

Maybe start with the Bombardier Global Express and use a canoe-shaped conformal bay of similar size and shape to the one used on Sentinel/ASTOR. It looks to be about 12m long. If you stretched it a bit, it might be able to carry 3 Paveway IIIs, or more numerous, smaller munitions. Add four underwing hardpoints for additional munitions or Storm Shadows.

Another option is to build palletized, side-firing gun mounts for the A400M, allowing them to be quickly converted from cargo carrier to gunship. Four or six underwing hardpoints could carry larger munitions.

May 17, 2011 2:38 pm

Can Brimstone and Paveway be launched from an internal bay, or do they need to see the target first to be reliable?
How often do you have to trap to keep qualified, and how many traps do you have to do to requalify? I was just thinking that if we only have one carrier and it is out of range of the UK would we be able to keep enough pilots qualified to justify having carrier qualified planes/crew that spent most of the time at home?
Re internal targetting pods. Wouldnt it be better to have conformal hardpoints for them? Draggy I know but much easier to pick and choose as better ones become available/funded.

May 17, 2011 2:47 pm

I sit just me, or does anyone else see “regional bomber”, plus our impending need for Maritime Patrol aircraft and our growing need for more/better ISTAR and say to themselves “PC-3 Orion?”

It can carry/launch torpedoes, sea mines, anti-shipping missiles such as harpoon, anti-tank weapons and bombs. One of them wasn’t even involved in the recent Libya clashes, firing a maverick at a Libyan coast guard vessel and forcing it to beach. Can use land attack version of harpoon, so probably could be rigged to use Storm Shadow.

Useful Pyaload; nearly 58,000lbs
Top Speed; 411 Knots
Cruise Speed; 328 knots
Ceiling; 28,000 feet
Range (ferry); 4,830 nautical miles

May 17, 2011 2:51 pm

Although part of me has always wanted to see the RAF regenerate a medium bomber platform especially when given the missions that sometimes need done Libya being an example I don’t think it’s worth it. Sure if the RAF was still the size it was a few decades ago then it would fit nicely but the fact that we will be dropping down to maybe 120 fast jet fighter attack platforms then I don’t think there is much point. I do however think we need to get a few dozen X-47B after the Americans have got the UCAV doing carrier trials and generally up to a much higher level of maturity where it should also be lower risk. As nobody really knows the performance of the X-47B since it is a prototype we should wait and see as it may turn out to be an ideal medium platform for the UK we could even try and get more involved. Sure the payload might not be as high as some would like but as part of wider picture I don’t see that as a problem at all especially when there are basically no other or limited alternatives.

I would still like to see the UK and France develop a similar platform maybe a bit bigger for the additional desired payload and the option to export or use the technology without US interference. Ideally taking the sensible route of maximum use of existing technologies in European aerospace companies rather than trying to match US systems with all singing all dancing warfighting capability or new technology. However I really do wonder like Lewis Page etc if the effort would be worth it to develop something we could buy from the American military hardware shelf for lower cost, more capability and the operational through life benefits of using what the US also use.

P.S. The BANAna jet truly was a great aircraft, I remember stories of maintenance guys pulling barbed wire from the aircraft after exercises in Nevada where the RAF just had to show the Yanks how to play their own games.

May 17, 2011 3:33 pm


Being the sole operators of a bunch of old airframes is an expensive proposition (that goes for the S-3 as well). Especially those that you’ve never operated before.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 17, 2011 3:45 pm

B.Smitty – yes, I know. But probably more practical than reviving the Bucc!

May 17, 2011 3:55 pm

Seeing as there are no Buc’s to bring back from the dead, developing a new aircraft will cost a fortune and radically modernizing a Biz jet will also cost a fortune, then while Smitty is right about the S3 Viking, it may still be the only cheap AND cost effective option for this type of requirement.

With an assessed 11,000 hours of fatigue life left if flown from land, all you have to do is decided how much you want to spend on upgrading it (because to Smitty’s point you WILL have to spend on introducing it into service):

Options are:
1. Pretty much as is – which means using weapons already integrated, e.g. Maverick and SLAM/ER, with maybe some money spent on integrating SDB and Viper Strike into the bomb bay. Could fly with rear seats empty, and if you just want to flog them to death, can fly from the carriers.

2. Relatively Simple Upgrade. Take out rear seats, use COTS/MOTS to upgrade cockpit. Retain radar, ESM etc but replace MAD boom with ALE50 towed decoy. Integrate triple Brimstone launcher with the underwing pylons. Upgrade the internal (retractable) EO ball. Upgrade the engines using latest civvy variants of CFM34

3. Relatively Complex Upgrade. Replace rear seats with modular avionics bay. Replace ASW sono-bouy launchers with fuel tanks. Build new outer wing (from the wing fold out) to include more internal fuel plus mid wing hard point (rated for say 500lb guided bomb) and outer wing hard point (rated for ASRAAM / AMRAAM). Integrate Storm Shadow on the existing inner wing pylon. Upgrade or replace all avionics and major systems. No wing fold anymore, so it ain’t fitting your carriers lifts…

4. Seriously Complex Upgrade – completely destroying TD’s initial “one tool, one job” mantra ! New wing and engines as above, plus fit the avionics and EW (DASS)systems of the Typhoon, including due to the shape of the nose / radome a bigger AESA antenna (more radiated power) giving the “patrol bomber” an electonic attack and SEAD role in less permissive environments. Obviously this will not qualify as cheap anymore – but cheap does not mean the same thing as “cost effective”.

My main point being, these airframes actually exist, have years of life left in them, and depending on the options you choose could actually replace the Tornado as cheaper to operate capability running alongside the Typhoon within 5 years or so, unlike the fantasy of bringing back Super Buc, Super Jag or building a “Euro Regional Bomber” :-)

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
May 17, 2011 5:02 pm

If we had the money i’d go for your Option 2 and add integrate Storm Shadow from your Option 3 to that.

They wouldn’t need to carry Brimstone and Storm Shadow type weapons at the same time would they?

I can’t find out how big the internal bomb bay is, i wonder is it’s big enough for the Paveway III & IV?

If it is then that would give you a very useful mix of weapons types or extra fuel for longer ranged precision strikes.

I don’t think i’d really want to do anything more complex than that (Option 2), as it would just escalate the costs.

I also think the S-3 would be cheaper than going for a small number of aircraft that are already in production such as the Tejas or F-18E, which is what i’d favoured.

May 17, 2011 5:24 pm

Hi Jed,

Stumbled on a photo of EW-3 on the net today, totally by chance.

As Wiki does not know of such version, it may have been this one “Outlaw Viking
One S-3B fitted with Over-the-horizon Airborne Sensor Information System (OASIS III), returned to regular S-3B in 1998” – but unlikely as in the photo is dated April 2006 and relating to HAF Procurement Program.

You can stuff them full of anything (starting from the normal max takeoff weight: 52,539 lb (23,831 kg)) and EMALS can still handle them at take-off

May 17, 2011 6:25 pm

ACC – I know an AEW version of the S3 was researched, but I think the photo is a mock up ? Not sure it actually flew (but maybe it did).

Michael – Wiki says bomb bay had four hard points (two each side) – this picture shows a single torpedo in the port side bay:

So I think at least 4 x 250Lb Small Diameter bomb internally, or maybe two Paveway. I understand TD’s point about clean wings and things, but it’s way easier to integrate fuel tanks into an aircraft fuselage than it is to build in a bomb bay. As for the weapons pylons, no I was not suggesting a mission where Storm Shadow and Brimstone would be carried at the same time. To return to TD’s points about aero-dynamics, 3 x Brimstone on a multi-adapter-carrier produces more drag than a single Storm Shadow, but Vikings have the wing hard points already, so I don’t see it as a problem. Also unlike a modified civvy Bizjet the S3 already has a working in-flight refueling probe too, should you need to carry a heavy and draggy load….. :-)

May 17, 2011 6:30 pm

Hi Jed,

As we need this function off the carriers anyway ” an AEW version of the S3 was researched”, then if the research showed it viable, using the same airframe for other things supports “your cause”

A different Gareth
A different Gareth
May 17, 2011 6:38 pm

How about taking the Eurofighter Typhoon and making something akin to a mini-Vulcan out of it.(Or more accurately, a modern Avro 707)

Something that can carry more and stay in the air for longer with a lower top speed and less agile but retaining a high commonality with the Typhoon to get better economies of scale.

May 17, 2011 6:53 pm

Why do people think a UCAV like x47 will be cheap. They arent expected to be cheap indeed from everything ive seen suggests theyll cost as much if not more than any current manned fighter bar F22. Theyre fielding is over a decade away in US service and many tech challenges need overcome before then. The advantage they have is that less off them will be bought but well be back to the 2 places at once problem.


We have a CAS tornado in afghan. If we secure a single airbase it can be anywhere within 140 miles of that base within 20mins that a hell of a big area of coverage. How many artillery batteries need deployed and secured or UAVs in the air to offer the same coverage. Neither of the latter options can show non kinetic shows of force. That will also be done at half the price of using a a400m.


I take your P3C and raise you a P8.

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
May 17, 2011 7:24 pm

Hi Jed.

Thanks for that pic.

What i was really thinking was that instead of your more complex redesign in Option 3 with a new wing, just modify it enough to carry Storm Shadow/Harpoon/Paveway III/IV /Brimstone etc on the wing pylon and use the internal bay for whatever we can. I was wrong to think of Paveway as it has to “see” to be able to hit.

That way we could keep the costs down.

Could you live with your Option 2 and Storm Shadow?

May 17, 2011 7:34 pm

Can I ask a question – how much does it cost to develop new civilian aircraft, so a new regional biz jet? The reason I ask is that new Buccaneer would be based on an aerodynamically stable design, which could be manufactured without composites using off the shelf FBW system rather the going with a design like the Typhoon which is dynamically unstable and you very much need a bespoke FBW system to fly the plane. Is seems to me that we look at the costs for new planes based on designing cutting edge aircraft where nearly every system is new, needs developing, testing, certifying and thousand of lines of code written, something which I would imagine is the complete opposite of how new bizjets are developed for the most part. Maybe we need to apply commercial building practices to the Buccaneer 2?

Am I right you are suggesting dropping carrier interoperability and just trading on the long legs of the S-3 to land base it? Rather get a carrier jet, but sounds fine by me, I would take every single S-3 (and likely every A-6 Intruder in the bone yard) refurbish them in the states, stick in off the shelf avionics fit so they are all of the same standard, and if possible share as many systems between the two platforms as possible and off the shelf engine which require minimal changes, and operate both forces from land bases using what weapons in our inventory that they can work with and not worry about Brimstone (or possibly even Stormshadow) as we can always UOR them if needed. If we need more bang for our buck we can always buy new air launched Harpoon’s and new Maverick’s from the states. I reckon if we did all the refurbishment work in the states using 90% US companies we would get the planes for free.


Finally I feel that as someone who is always advocating using old designs I should justify my stance. I first got interested in aviation in 1985 and for me the 80’s are the period where I really enjoyed aviation. I pretty much ignored aviation and defence matters until about 2 years ago and was horrified at what I saw.

One of the worst offenders was the F-35 programme (and the bloated nature of the Typhoon programme is not far behind) – surely anyone with a brain could see that the words cutting edge, stealth and cheap does not belong in the same sentence unless it is cutting edge stealth aircraft will not be cheap.

Then on top of this the military seems to have a weird obsession with stealth which I cannot see warranted. Before I am flamed I would respectfully point out that one of the truths of the 21st century is that every-time you turn around the processing power of a computer seems to have doubled, are we seriously believing that in five years time all the major countries will not have developed processors for their radars which will be able to see VLO aircraft in the noise, and that another 5 years after that we will have missiles that can do the same, so the question becomes why we spending some much money on a stealthy F-35, would it not have been better to spend it a non-stealthy aircraft with lots of growth capacity and developing next-generation ECM systems instead?

Which brings me back to cheap aircraft, surely the best policy is maximise the potential of the Typhoon, integrate the best ECM system money can buy and improved missiles and skip the whole stealth debate, and concentrate on a second aircraft type to operate along side the Typhoon which is a hell of a lot cheaper the Typhoon but is just a cheap dedicated striker that turns up to do the job after Typhoon has kicked the door down

May 17, 2011 7:34 pm


I see your P8 and raise you the prospect that the PC-3 is cheaper and can do the job satisfactorly that’s being asked. The P-8 is an unknown right now.

But I could be persuaded.

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 17, 2011 7:47 pm

One Sqn (617?) of USAF regional bombers for the RAF, is probably cheaper , more capable & more realistic than most of the other options.

May 17, 2011 7:58 pm

@ Dom,

A key advantage with manned aircraft over artillery and UAVs is the pilot in the cockpit. The camera and sensors on a UAV can only tell part of the story of what is going on on the ground. By the time a shell is on the way to the target the target could have moved a some children could now be playing on that spot etc.

The last thing we want to do is turn the A400 into something it is not. we have tried that all before and it always goes wrong.

May 17, 2011 8:01 pm

We’ll see very soon, and how many of the mission systems are actually the same (spec? or even physically?)as contracted for Nimrod, with Boeing as the lead integrator?

After the “sour grapes”, if the stand-off range is not neutered by the reach of the IADS, then strike by P-8s or by more pointy things is equally effective , as in “A Defense News report quotes Boeing’s P-8i program manager Leland Wright, who confirmed that Boeing has a license to export the AGM-84K Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) to India, but said that P-8is will initially carry 4 of the less capable Harpoon anti-ship missiles instead. On the other hand, the Harpoon is the standard anti-ship missile of the US Navy, and India’s Block II missiles will be more advanced than USN versions”

John Woodward
John Woodward
May 17, 2011 8:09 pm

Whatever conclusions you come to for any future military fast jet aircraft, its range is increased greatly by ensuring it can be launched and recovered from a ship – usually called an aircraft carrier.

May 17, 2011 8:36 pm


Regarding biz jets ect. A small biz jet maybe developed for about a billion dollars and a small regional jet 3-5b dollars would be a realistic number.
For every new a/c a full material test phase will be undertaking costing tens if not hundreds of millions of pounds even if results are available from other programs. Also major supplier of parts will also have to do a test phase to prove there manufacturing capabilities This gives the design allowable’s for the design guidelines as it work thru the design loops. New flight software will be written and indeed full static and dynamic test rigs built and a full a/c test program undertaken. Some of these tests will not happen however if the plane is stretched or only a “mod” it gets to very black art here. Its why when modern planes are designed its always with a stretch in mind or the ability to generate a family of aircraft so as to avoid all the cost of up front R&D. Even a small simple learjet will cost about 17m dollars to buy.

As for LO it allows you to reduce the engagement envelop before using your ECM toys jamming enemy radar will give the game away. You will still add all the ECM to a LO a/c, you just build an added advantage into airframe so it retains it advantage for longer.

May 17, 2011 8:57 pm

Well, yes “ensuring it can be launched and recovered from a ship – usually called an aircraft carrier” otherwise we would not be talking about substituting Vikings (with something else lined up, next to them on the deck) for Tornados

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
May 17, 2011 9:22 pm

Hi Tubby.

I wish i knew enough to be able to answer the points you bring up.

I think Moore’s Law will hold firm for some time to come.

As to the rest, i think we’d need a real radar expert to comment.

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
May 17, 2011 9:27 pm

I just had a horrible thought.

If it does not have to be carrier capable, has to act in a semi-permissive or permissive anti-air enviroment (not much opposition then), then are we really talking about a new TSR.2?

I think we are.

May 17, 2011 9:33 pm


Thanks, I always thought that the testing phase for commercial aircraft design would be a lot simpler than you described, however is all this testing less intensive than say Typhoon’s or is the higher costs about the Typhoon simply down to it being a more complicated than a new bizjet?

Still not convinced on LO, sure you run in on passive sensors but if your AWACS or ground based radar station has been upgraded with fast processors able to pick up the LO aircraft at long ranges by detecting a fast moving weak return in the background noise (I would imagine this is possible with next five years or so) and this would greatly negate the advantages of stealth. I suspect it will be lot harder to squeeze the technology into fighter aircraft and even harder to get into a missile, but in the end I think stealth is mostly designed to counter countries like Libya whose air force is mostly obsolete and who might have a lot of SAMS but they will be at least a decade behind state of the art and therefore vulnerable to stealth.

May 17, 2011 9:37 pm


Funny you mention Memristor’s, one of the professors where I work (Prof Frank Wang, University of Kent, formerly a professor at Cranfield) has submitted two highly rated grant applications on memristor’s, sadly not funded though as they were for millions I am not entirely surprised. Memristor’s are likely only a few years away.

May 17, 2011 10:01 pm


Yes. Typhoon see normal flight manoeuvring at 9g and supersonic flight and with battle damage tolerance build in is over engineered so the basic structure is more expensive it has to be. But the real cost is the more powerful engines and indeed the very advanced mission system and radar. It also has a longer test phase due to weapons release ect.

As for LO im not an expert here but from people ive talked to its a bit like the nuclear deterrent cruise ballistic missile argument unless you see the restricted evidence its difficult to convince people. I understand your point and I believe it is a valid one. Its the sensor on F35 were the main cost increase and getting such long range out of single engine jet.

May 17, 2011 11:15 pm

Tubby, it’s not just the processor on radars, you also need much more powerful transmitters and much more sensitive receivers. Really the entire radar needs to be upgraded. This requires a lot of R&D and results in far more expensive systems.

However as with everything, for every measure there are counter-measures.

LO just forces the enemy to find counter-measures which may not be easy, cheap or particularly effective. It also enhances counter-counter-measures like jamming, chaff, and decoys. The noisier the environment, the harder it is to find the needle in the haystack.

May 17, 2011 11:43 pm

B Smitty

The real problem is not LO, it’s a bit like Mum and apple Pie. No one wants to be obvious. But it is not free, Beyond a certain level it hugely increases the cost of the aircraft, the difficulties of repair and even the airodynamic efficiencey of the craft.

And over the life of the craft it will be overtaken by qualitive improvements in detection.

It is claimed that using Bistatic systems a lot of the faceted stealth advantages can be overcome, in effect using existing radars and waivelengths.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 18, 2011 2:29 am


“A key advantage with manned aircraft over artillery and UAVs is the pilot in the cockpit. The camera and sensors on a UAV can only tell part of the story of what is going on on the ground. By the time a shell is on the way to the target the target could have moved a some children could now be playing on that spot etc.”

These days, the pilot in the cockpit is very likely looking at exactly the same sort of video image that the UAV operator is seeing, since that can zoom in to show far more detail. Using the unaided Mk 1 Eyeball in the cockpit is so 20th century…

May 18, 2011 4:29 am


Is that really the case? How many radar systems exist around the world that can effectively detect or track an ’80s era F-117 at useful ranges, let alone a 90’s era B-2? How many are in in the hands of our potential enemies?

On the other hand, even an ancient SA-2 or SA-3 is still a significant threat to a non-VLO aircraft. There are many of these around the world.

Even if multistatics prove useful, are they a complete counter to VLO? I doubt it. If all else fails, you can use the same or similar SEAD/DEAD techniques we use today against traditional radars.

May 18, 2011 7:16 am


The pilot may well be aided by sensors but they still use their eyes and brains. The pilots general situational awareness of what is going on around him is better than that of some guys sat in Nevada.

May 18, 2011 8:42 am

Sorry if it read like I was saying we no longer need CAS, we of course do.
But currently, we call in an Apache or a Typhoon to have a look round a corner, its a very expensive way of doing it.
Not every call for CAS really needs a £50mn fast response.

For those that dont need it, I dont think theres anything wrong with seeing if a cheaper platform is good enough, like a UAV sparkling targets for a 120mm mortar or a 105 gun. Or a 155 SPG.

It costs £50mn (give or take) to buy a fast jet.
It costs an additional £200mn to operate a fast for 20 years.
Even if an unmanned UCAV costs £125mn to buy, it simply doesnt have the same operating costs, simulators are good enough for 90% of flight time.

You are right about the weakness of artilery/UAV, partialy, but I simply wasnt suggesting we try and cover the entire nation with them.
A 120mm mortar has a range of about 8000m. Placed in a permantly occupied patrol base, it can provide firesupport to some, but not all, of patrols that come under fire. Combined with a UAV and laser designation, it can do so with ferocious effect. The 105 can do so out to 17,000m, and again, with laser designation, can do so with brutal effect.
Perhaps not as good as a fast jet, but perhaps good enough. That then frees up the fast jets for where they are really needed.

But can the Tornado pilot looking at his raptor pod display really get a better picture than the UAV pilot looking at his raptor pod display?

What if the UAV operator is in the patrolbase the patrol left from that morning?

We already fire artilery rounds, mortar rounds and rifle fire without handing out questionaires to make sure everyone is a Taliban that day.

Everyone Regarding “Stealth”
Stealth is very very good.
It is not an I win button, but it is very very good.
Personaly, I think ALARM is a far better way to deal with enemy radars than stealth. But all this talk of upgraded radars, multiple transmitting and receiving stations tends to ignore the fact that all these radar stations will be being mapped long before the US goes to war, and annihilated by cruise missiles shortly before the stealth aircraft enter sdetection range.

Even if a fast jet reflects 100% of the signal back at the radar station, sheer distance dictates that the jet can see the radar station at twice the range the radar station can see the jet.
Stealth simply increases that distance.
If you want to see an F35 head on at 600 miles, it can probably see you from the moon, as can everything else.

May 18, 2011 8:55 am

Hi DJ,

Jed has agreed to split the commission on mortar sales through this site, so I say RE “A 120mm mortar has a range of about 8000m” buy a good one, and you get 12 km.

Your points re: range of detection and the role of stealth in it are good, but the example “Personaly, I think ALARM is a far better way to deal with enemy radars than stealth” has been poorly chosen
– pls check out the ranges of SAM 6 upwards (no need to go up to the “restricted distribution” mid-teens models), vs. the range of ALARM
– we are canning the previous generation anti-radiation missile, without having the nxt-gen at hand (read: will always need the USA on our side; Germany has bought them, but has shown to be reluctant)

May 18, 2011 9:30 am

‘For those that dont need it, I dont think theres anything wrong with seeing if a cheaper platform is good enough, like a UAV sparkling targets for a 120mm mortar or a 105 gun. Or a 155 SPG.’

That already happens, the most suitable weapons system is called for when required. UCAVs also have a few issues with weather and speed. If required to be taken off a task, it had better be pretty close otherwise a FJ is called in.

‘But can the Tornado pilot looking at his raptor pod display really get a better picture than the UAV pilot looking at his raptor pod display?’

No but in terms of actually flying it it does the cameras still aren’t as good as the MK1. Even with targeting pods, still the best things is to look with your eyes.

I’ve not got a downer on them, they just have some bad points and good like everything else. They aren’t quite the piece of kit some people think they are.

May 18, 2011 9:41 am

Indeed, we need a longer ranged, faster ALARM, but I meant the concept, Area Loiter Anti Radiation Missile rather than the specific current iteration.

Its great having a missile that can hit out to 600miles, but assuming Storm Shadow can reach out and touch to that distance when fired with a high level flight, you’ve got 45 minutes to disassemble your big radar, pack up your missiles and drive away, assuming SS cant follow along roads looking for you….

We dont have hyper velocity missiles, but the US is likely to, that cuts the engagement time rather a lot.

And of course, pre mapped radar sites are going to be the first target we hit.

May 18, 2011 9:45 am

Hi Topman,

I agree (while not having a downer, either):”They aren’t quite the piece of kit some people think they are.”

Tactically they are about as good as they will get, and the next step is to see that the densities (“better be close enough” comment)are seen to.

I see the development going mainly into two areas:
– LO penetrator jet UCAVs (in the US long-term development programme this went on slow boil, because arming the tactical UAVs and then getting the below category going were the top priorities)
– high-altitude, high-endurance strategic surveillance, like BAMS. USN has already selected 5 global locations and are evaluating/ negotiating two more. I sent to TD a picture re: the projected coverage; hope we get it into the RAF thread’s summary (as I cant put it here via a link). Australia is still game for these (whether buying, or just allowing basing, we’ll see). I think the UK has dropped off for now (budgetary?).

May 18, 2011 11:09 am

@Michael (Civ) – re TSR2 – started coming to that conclusion too!

Someone mentioned Australia’s F111s – are they still flyable and what flying hours do they have left? Does the US have any in AMARC?

May 18, 2011 11:43 am

“Medium is of course a compromise, isn’t everything, but it is for a good reason”

I dont consider Medium “a compromise” I consider it compromised.

Best example would be FRES.
It was supposed to be a light, mobile, modern fighting vehicle.
But it ended up medium.
In that, it is no longer light, mordern.
However, because its medium, it doesnt reach the point of being heavy, where, once deployed, it smacks the shit out of everything else.
Its Medium, so it cant really fight.

Medium, from my pov, usualy means all the bad of heavy, all the bad of light, all the benefits of neither.

The medium bomber is much too big to defend itself, or “hide”, but its size isnt enough to give it real long high volume range strike capability either.

Happy to support a big beast that can carry 20 or 30 stand off munitions half way round the world, less sure about one that can carry half a dozen to the other side of Europe.

But as always, I could be wrong.

May 18, 2011 12:23 pm


ALARM is not a better way to deal with enemy radars. The problem with ALARM is the radar either has to go active or have gone active recently. Cagey enemies with mobile SAMS in favorable terrain can stay alive a long time even in the face of a major SEAD/DEAD effort (e.g. Serb IADS during the Balkan conflict). They can pop up when conditions are favorable, shoot, and then scoot to another location quickly.

May 18, 2011 12:42 pm

Hi B.Smitty

Exactly that, and that is with “legacy” technology.

The modern systems are mobile, networked, layered, frequency hopping, passing the tracking by various means (for resilience), e.g. the
“NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System) is a distributed and networked medium to long range air-defence system. NASAMS was the first surface-based application for the AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) and the first surface-to-air missile system in the western world with active radar guidance.”
– that’s what wiki says (it is now called National, for the N, rather than Norwegian, for better hygiene. Why could the White House not have a Varangian Guard when Eastern Rome had it for centuries?)

May 18, 2011 1:36 pm


Yep, I’m aware of ALARM’s nifty trick. It certainly forces a change in tactics by the enemy, but doesn’t solve the fundamental problem.

Also, high-end SAM systems like the S-400 significantly outrange ALARM and HARM, making it difficult for a non-stealthy launch platform to even get close enough for a shot.

Air defense sites may also just be so numerous that it would take too long and too many sorties to roll enough back for strike packages to enter the area.

Dr. Rebecca Grant wrote a great stealth primer that outlines the rationale for stealth.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 18, 2011 3:36 pm


“Air defense sites may also just be so numerous that it would take too long and too many sorties to roll enough back for strike packages to enter the area.”

And that’s without considering the possible employment of decoy emitters to attract all of the anti-radar missiles before the real radars are switched on…

May 18, 2011 3:55 pm

Getting back to the topic. IMHO, a “new” medium bomber, even if it’s based on an old design, will still cost billions to bring into service. The Buccaneer was designed and built long before CAD/CAM and virtually all of the systems will have to be either re-built from scratch, or redesigned to use modern components.

Given this, IMHO, the incremental cost of designing a new airframe would be worth it. And if you’re going to do that, you might as well take the extra incremental cost and make it VLO.

Otherwise, just adapt an existing or in-service aircraft to the task. A400, P-3/P-8/Nimrod, Global Express/Sentinel, or a UAV are all potential candidates.

An air-refuelable, carrier-capable, General Atomics Avenger has a lot of potential too.

Just MHO.

May 18, 2011 4:07 pm

RE “An air-refuelable, carrier-capable, General Atomics Avenger has a lot of potential too”
– guess the Scavenger purchase is not within the budget envelope this or next year, but good boxes to tick. before spending the money (Avenger/ SeaAvenger/ Scavenger… did someone push the chaff button by accident? My radar screen is getting blurred)

May 18, 2011 4:13 pm

With all the talk of air defences etc one thing I think we should be trying to get our paws on again is the Miniature Air Launched Decoy to enhance our ability to penetrate air defences. The USAF is supposed to be working on a multiple launch system to use from transport aircraft so they can drop dozens of the things. There is also MALD-J which would also be a good idea especially as when we last looked at it they allowed us to come up with our own payloads which would keep some electrickery expertise in the UK. To that end a random question to the folk on here do we or have we recently had any air launched decoys? To my knowledge the Answer to that is No.

Brian Black
Brian Black
May 18, 2011 4:17 pm

ArmChairCivvy May17, 2011 at 12:54pm

[Yep “rather like the X47B, it would be a good complement to other carrier aircraft”
– the “C” is the (intended)production “strength” model; compare to the cancelled A-12 and it is the same medicine, but without pilots and with much better range/ endurance]

It’s not a linear A to B to C progression in the X47 programme; but rather A to B&C. The X47B was originally intended as a joint UCAV, to fill a requirement from both the USN and USAF; however, the USAF lost interest years ago. The ‘B’ is the single engine carrier type – which as you mention has some similarities with LM’s twin engine, manned A12; the ‘C’ is a different aircraft type altogether, being developed for a USAF requirement. It shares the X47 tag as it shares a common technology development within the same overall programme.

It is indeed the B’s production model which will be coming into service with the USN.

Earlier, a alluded to the Hercules having been landed on and flown from USS Forrestal – a wingspan of 132ft 7in, landed with less than 15ft clearance from the ship’s island; the X47C has a wingspan of 172ft, the same as the B2 Spirit. The X47B is a much more manageable 62.1ft when unfolded.

Incidentally, the X47C, B2, YB49 and X/YB35 all share the same 172ft wingspan (also the length of the RN’s Sandown class mine hunters) because -as anyone with an engineering degree knows- 172ft is the length of the longest commercially available tape measure. With a wingspan of 344ft, two Justus Roe & Sons tape measures were used in the construction of the HK-1 ‘Spruce Goose’ flying boat.

May 18, 2011 4:48 pm

Hi BB,

I thought it was quite a hop, adding 1 in front of the existing wing span in feet (to 172)
– now I am starting to think again about the efficacy (Range, payload, SeaAir Battle doctrine…)

However, the engineers at Boeing Skunk Works obviously made their own tape measure, for the wingspan of 430 ft Pelican outsize cargo ground effect freight aircraft?

El Sid
El Sid
May 18, 2011 5:02 pm

AIUI the Aussie F-111’s are on their last legs – it was always going to be tight keeping them going until replacing them with F-35’s, and it seems the Aussies would rather buy new F/A-18E/F’s than stretch the Aardvark lives any further. Incidentally, I think Jed mentioned somewhere that all the Aussie Super Bugs are wired for Prowlerdom – it’s only half of them.

I’m a big fan of the S-3 (not least for its day job) but again I think the USN fleet is on its last legs.

Suggestion of a Typhoon Vulcan is similar to one idea for the USAF bomber, a delta-winged FB-22 (Google it). Incidentally, I see this week they set up the office for the new bomber, they’re talking of buying 80-100 of them, and the model seems to be something subsonic and persistent rather than a F-111/FB-22 type thing.

I wouldn’t get too distracted by the X-47. It seems the MoD’s thoughts in that direction centre on the Novel Air Capability Vision – at least they did in November 2009. Instead of a 2000nm-range bomber, the thoughts seemed to be more of a 600nm-range F-35-ish VTOL UAV that could be deployed from any forward-presence frigate. The pic in that article appears to show it transitioning to forward flight, there’s other pics around that appear to show it with a pair of Harpoons, so a non-negligible payload. Or indeed exotica like high-power microwave and laser weapons.

Dunno if it survived the SDSR, but it gives you an idea of where they’re going. MBDA were one of the contenders with the Black Shadow, a returnable derivative of Storm Shadow/Scalp Naval.

If they thought an “experimental operational capability” was possible by “2015” then they must have done the technology demonstrator stuff already. One immediately thinks of the Cranfield/BAE DEMON, a UAV capable of CAA-approved “flapless” flight using jets of air for control. Fewer mechanical bits means easier maintenance on board a frigate, and reduces the radar signature.

May 18, 2011 5:38 pm


I think you dont understand the current ROE and the lengths we go to in order to not kill civilians or even damage their property these days.

UAV have their uses but are a long way off replacing manned aircraft.

May 18, 2011 5:51 pm

Um. It could be argued that somebody sitting in a comfy chair doing 0 miles an hour with access to a few good cameras is in just a good a position as somebody strapped in Martin-Bakers best doing a good few hundred knots being subjected to g, having to fly, keeps themselves orientated, looking at the world through a visor and then the canopy bubble……

May 18, 2011 6:00 pm


It can also be argued otherwise. Can you/would you do a show of force with a predator?

May 18, 2011 6:17 pm

To be honest I am always sceptical about this low flying show of force business. I think it is a dangerous fallacy born out of a complacency for the enemy. The latter is never good. We all know fast air at low levels is that noisy it can be for an instant debilitating. And I have read on forums where that alone is given as a reason for the retention of CAS. One would humbly suggest that if the ground force had organic “systems” to the cost of fast air per hour the need for a low flying show of force (show of impotence more like) wouldn’t be needed.

At the moment what is forcing the Taliban to keep their heads is them not knowing when some UAV launched ordnance is going to come crashing through the ceiling. Precision strikes are delivering the checking blow. Now burning a few thousand pounds of AVCAT to make a loud noise.

May 18, 2011 6:19 pm

contempt not complacency ; I was going to say something else and didn’t change the word……..

(I am typing this in a desk chair doing 0 miles per hour. :) )

May 18, 2011 6:21 pm

Its difficult to be scared of something if you dont know its there.

They would not do show of force if they could easily be shot down.

El Sid
El Sid
May 18, 2011 6:33 pm

Can you/would you do a show of force with a predator?

Would you do a show of force in a manned jet if the locals had cheap-as-chips MANPADS?

No? So should we be spending multi-£bns just for this one capability? Even in Afghanistan, we’re typically only doing 1-2 SOF’s per week.

Just thinking a bit outside the box, a UAV might be able to have the same effect as a SOF. How about the UAV firing a lightweight missile (ASRAAM/Brimstone type thing) with the warhead replaced with some kind of noisemaker and flying at low level? Would still be cheaper than 1-2 hours of FJ time.

May 18, 2011 6:43 pm

X – despite my years in Psyops I agree ref the bizarre “show of force” missions – if you need force, bloody employ it, not show it…. :-(

El Sid – S3 not on its “last legs” – LockMart full fatigue survey / testing showed at least 11,000 hours left on the average airframe. However what is limited is the number of cat and trap cycles, and the USN did not want to pay to study never mind upgrade to rectify that, but rather to retire the fleet in favour of spending its money on new types. I am googling to figure out the standard S3 flight hours per year, to figure out how many years of service 11,000 hours equates to, but cant find anything. I do remember reading something in a dead tree publication that suggested 11,000 hours equated to twice the originally spec’d operational life.

May 18, 2011 6:48 pm

@ Wibble

My Security Studies lecturer would often “imply” that the West (and other major powers) were being somewhat underhand in the way they policed the sale and distribution of MANPADS.

The Mintcake Maker
The Mintcake Maker
May 18, 2011 6:56 pm

@ TD

Great post and great idea, I like it more than the Jaguar 2 concept and I think it has a lot of merit.

@ All

Some interesting points covered. However I believe we are now in the age of the “stealth race”, if a F-117 could be shot down by a 1960’s SAM battery (an SA-3 I believe) then it won’t be long before somebody will find I way of shooting down an F-22 and an F-35 isn’t even a true stealth a/c it’s just very low observable.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have the F-35c, I think we should have it, just in smaller numbers. I believe that it will turn out to be a good plane eventually however in the next 10 to 15 years are we going to ever need more than 40? How many massive first day of war strikes are we going to be carrying out with our shiny brand new a/c? Not many, if any is my answer.

I don’t mind the concept of using UAV’s/UCAV’s however I a few problems with them at the moment:
– I don’t think that some of the new UCAV systems that have been mentioned so far are going to be as cheap as some of you may suggest (that’s my own gut feeling). After crunching the numbers from the Italian buy of the Reaper UAV each one cost £53m with 5 years maintenance.

– There will be people working on ways of jamming or breaking the secure data-link to UAV’s and once they’ve managed that, its game over as your not so cheap UAV crashes into the ground. A manned a/c doesn’t have that problem. It wasn’t jammed but the RAF has already managed to crash one of the few Reapers we have.

– We don’t seem to be buying enough of them or ever will buy enough. Are you really telling me that a handful of Reapers/Predator could, for example, replace a couple of squadrons of Canberra’s and Astor?

The armed forces are reaching critical mass. The RN has reached that point and the RAF is that far off it. What I see is the need (and this can be applied to both services) for a small high-end core backed-up with greater numbers of General Purpose, i.e. C3 and TD Buccaneer Mk3. As for needing numbers, I recon we could have need for about 120 airframes.

After studying the buccaneer design on wiki, I extrapolated the bomb-bay dimensions to be about 1.4m by 5.6m. If the Buccaneer Mk3 had a bomb-bay 1.6m by 6.5m and a rating for 4000kg/8800lbs then it could carry internally:

– 3x Stormshadow or 2000lb LGB
– 4x 1000lb LGB or Harpoon
– 8x 500lb LGB or Maverick AGM
– 12x Brimstone or if we chose to buy it SDB (realistically you could get 18/21x in the bomb-bay however RAF rules state that only 12 brimstone may be carried by 1 aircraft)

This is even before we get to what we can hang off the 4x hardpoints on the wing. If we are using hardpoints as well, the Bucc could carry 5x Stormshadow and 2x ASRAAM.

Now as I’ve done on several others post before a little plan:

Instead of buying 40/45 F-35c straight away, just buy 20 as this would allow for 1x 12 plane squadron, 6 plane OCU and 2 spares. All F-35c would be under the RAF control (bare with me there is some method in my madness). If we say that the F-35c will cost £75m per a/c (and I think it will), this would release about £1.85bn of capital

We go to the Indian and say we are interested in their HAL Tejas/Tejas 2, you buy or Typhoons we’ll be your Tejas. To keep cost low I would buy all our Naval Tejas frames from India and have them flat-packed to ship over here. Then integrate with off the shelf radar and computer equipment that the Hawk has, fit it with a Mauser BK-27, new front undercarriage for CATOBAR and most importantly (TD will like this) the EJ200 engine. I would buy these in 3 batches of 20 for the FAA. The first batch should cost £600m for the first 20 aircraft.

This still leaves with £1.25bn to burn and on an interesting note, the F-117 used off-the-shelf parts from the F/A-18, F-16 and F-15 (such as its FBW control, etc) to reduce development costs. No reason we couldn’t do the same for the Buccaneer Mk3.

Well for arguments sake and from what you guys have said over on my post about the Jaguar 2, we are looking at about £4bn to develop the modified Buccaneer Mk3. My Buccaneer design would have EJ200 turbofan engines (more powerful and smaller than the Spey’s and also introduces more commonality with parts [should get the Boss’s seal of approval] ), we could possibly rob some of the avionics out of the tornados if it’s still any good and as for the wings, well we have the new Nimrod mk4 wings in CAD form, just scale them down to take one engine in each nacelle and to have a fold in the middle. I know it’s not that simple but I’m just saying if we used off-the-shelf designs and ideas we save time and money. Essentially all we would have todo, if what I said above is possible, is design the tube in the middle and give it some RCS reducing features such as using composites in certain parts to absorb RADAR .

If we use £1bn of the £1.25 left on paying towards some of the development costs, it means that the remaining development costs are £3bn meaning that if we did order 120 Buccaneers we could expect to pay around £50m per plane that can do CAS, Strike and we could also fit the bomb-bay with ECM or reccon equipment. And then of course there is the advantage that HMT well get back about 1/3 of the entire program costs in various taxes. So everyone’s a winner.

The RAF get the super fast, super sexy F-35c for first day of war (2 squadrons worth) and also 4 squadrons worth of Buccaneers todo the general day to day stuff. The FAA gets a strike aircraft and a small cheep basic interceptor. HMT gets some money in the coffers and the RAF and FAA are both re-capitalised with aircraft. If in the future the F-35c does prove its huge weight in gold we can buy some more and re-role the Buccaneer squadrons.

However I am also quiet interested in Jed’s suggestion about using the S-3 Viking’s and possibly some new build for the FAA for long range strike to accompany the Tejas onboard the carrier

And as a final thought. Just look at what we had and could do in the early 90’s

May 18, 2011 6:57 pm

@ Jed

Isn’t the history of industrial scale warfare littered with examples of people becoming inured to supplementary effects of heavy ordnance?

If just flying overhead scared the Taliban wouldn’t “we” have won years ago? Do they think the Taliban are stupid?

May 18, 2011 7:06 pm

X, I can see why because the nations with the level of technology needed to readily produce decent effective MANPADS tend to also rely upon air power for projecting and utilising military power or even just running a country. They also tend to have a larger Civilian aviation presence so you don’t want the problem of rebels or ‘terrorists’ shooting down airliners full of foreigners with your weapons. However if some crackpot African dictator like Mugabe could readily manufacture decent MANPADS I’m sure he might be quite happy to sell them to anyone that could pay but who knows even he might not be that crazy. Although thanks to ‘international law’ we or anyone else could probably step in and ‘confiscate’ those weapons as exporting them freely contravenes said international law.

El Sid
El Sid
May 18, 2011 7:14 pm

– fair enough, it’s coming back to me now. I just knew that they were off the carriers because they were knackered from the USN’s POV. Still, if we had some, I’d like to see them _on_ CVF!

As you say, 11,000 hours is plenty – the Nimrod MR2s did 290 hours per year, GR4 crews 210 hours/year.

Only comment I’d make is that they are slow – not much faster than a late-mark Spitfire – and they’re not the cheapest to run. The old US ones would do as land-based short-term Nimrod replacements but really I’d like to see S-3’s/CSA’s flying from CVF.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
May 18, 2011 7:30 pm
May 18, 2011 7:45 pm

Being reading the above comments about MANPADs and it made me think of this article:

While I am still a doubter on stealth, this comment about the F-35B made me reconsider some of doubts about it and fits the discussion here “The Marines intend to operate the F-35 for 30 to 40 years, when stealth may be required even for close-air support.” Might be crazy, but I assume that this comment is saying that in 20 – 30 years time MANPADS will have some sort of radar guidance system which will be sophisticated enough that without VLO you would be in trouble (does not bode well for future helicopters).

May 18, 2011 7:49 pm

Hi TD,

The music and the clips cut together so well! in
– And as a final thought.

Surely “touching the sides of the canyon” in the friendly Jordan – no SAMs!
– handle bar moustache also blended in – Go, Biggles, go!

May 18, 2011 7:55 pm

When Fire shadow comes into service there will be a different dynamic, first you get to see it over head which is harder than it sounds, ( having seen a fluorescent pink UAV at RIAT, it still drifts in and out of visual range),then you get to worry when it drops.

SOF becomes SO IT – show of imminent threat
Also I reckon that long range versions of Fire shadow will deliver the capability that you want from the bomber and will also avoid the current need for Global Hawk GPS targeting information by having “man in the loop” management. A dozen loitering munitions wandering around looking for targets (but having costed in the region of a Brimstone not a tomahawk) would add up to a very disturbing situation for the recipient and could be sustained for long periods given the relative low cost.

May 18, 2011 8:17 pm

Hi Tubby,

without VLO you would be in trouble (does not bode well for future helicopters)
– at MANPADS range, radar is only giving you a”get ready” warning; this layer is about optical/ beam riding/ IR, or a mix, bad news

May 18, 2011 8:38 pm

TD said, ” I suppose as with many things they start out being useful and then as opponents get used to and learn about them their utility lessens.”

They always make good YouTube videos. :)

Maybe morale boosters for the troops, if nothing else… “Big brother’s here, and he has your back.”

May 18, 2011 8:41 pm


I think we are talking cross purposes, or maybe I simply not getting the valid point you are making. I was extrapolating that the USMC must be worried about MANPADS fitted with miniaturised radar – if I had to guess they are talking optical targeting and then once launched the missile locking on with a small radar and homing in on its own without any beam riding. I read your post to mean that the fighters radar would only give the pilot a “get ready” warning and the pilot has to pray his automated self-defences can disrupt the optical/beam riding/IR guidance system.

May 18, 2011 8:41 pm

El Sid,

Please explain how a manpad would shoot down the GR4 doing a show of force?

May 18, 2011 8:48 pm

Trying to hit a number of disparate things that came up:

— Show of force is, from what I’ve heard, a tactic used in limited circumstances. Examples include; 1) when a pilot providing CAS is not sure of the target and the ground controller is not happy for him to release. Thus a low fly past on the pilots planned line of attack helps them to figure out if indeed the pilot and ground controller are looking at the same thing. It also serves as a “we’re about to drop a bomb on you” warning to the Taliban, which has in many cases prompted them to flee a position rather than hang around and get blown up. 2) When troops move into a new Forward Operating Base, or when there has been an uptick in enemy activity, a low pass by a CAS aircraft can serve as a warning “we have planes on call and we will use them, so kindly fcuk off”.

— In the plane versus in a ground station. The difference is situational awareness. The camera can only poitn in one direction at a time. Thus the UAV pilot must focus on the target, while the pilot is free to lock his camera in, and then use his eyes to observe other targets. So the camera can be pointed at a house, while the pilot watches and approaching coloumn of vehicles. It’s comparable to the “Tunnel Vision” that a shooter can develop when they’re only looking down the scope.

— Stealth is about reducing vulnerability, not eliminating it. It’s about reducing targetting ranges etc. Anyone who thinks their Type 45 destroyer is invisible to radar is in for a big shock. But… it is harder to detect and classify at long ranges. The goal is to force attacking aircraft to come closer before they can get a proper lock to fire anti-shipping weapons, at which point the Type 45 will hopefully get a shot off in return. Then it deploys chaff .

As for Stealth aircraft, again, they are harder to spot at long ranges. Can they still be seen, yes. But at much shorter ranges than an F-16. This is before we hit on the issue of blowing paths through the radar coverage, jamming, SEAD etc. It’s a cat and mouse game, but just understand that having “stealth” on your side means your cat is more crafty.

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 18, 2011 9:01 pm

BAE refurbished USAF Europe F-111s at Filton back in the eighties.

May 18, 2011 10:03 pm

The UK has no plans to field a taranis/x47 UCAV before 2030 even scavenger wont arrive until 2018. Scavenger is expected to have a 50% attrition rate over a 15yr period. Please also remember what x47B is. Its involved in a fly off with the boeing phantom ray the loser will most likely never be built and id bet on the pacific north west winning especially if pres obama gets a second term. Im also told 3 crew must be present in the crew flight module for every minute of each reaper flight. They are not capable of replacing manned fast jet a/c in the short to medium term.

Why would we want to fly a fast jet produced in India it maybe cheap but I would worry about build quality. Aircraft produced in India and indeed china mainly are destined for there domestic markets only.


You effectively doing a designing a new plane for most of what you suggested. Stealth is a term very much reserved for the media and sales people most technical documents will only refer to Low observable technology. Thats the issue today LO is used for first day strike but in 15-20 years time it maybe required to do the same tasks that non-LO aircraft do today with the same freedom.


The US F-111s were re winged at filton due to fatigue issues. They flew in fully armed and fueled ready for war and were sent out the same way. The bunkers and hangers are still there used for painting and MRO now though.

May 18, 2011 10:52 pm


Cor — talk about “one job, one tool” …. Wonder what those design engineers talked about with their shrinks :) Nice they named it for one of Wales’ best castles, though.

May 18, 2011 11:14 pm

On the proper business of the thread, I do however worry that like F35 and exquisite frigates, the goal plays into the hands of the strategic half-arsery that has made Dave and the Type 26, both of them clear and present strategic bodges (one not quite a real bomber but too heavy/boxy for a fighter, one to big for a simple patrol frigate/sloop but too lightly equipped for a ship of the battle line), such priorities in the MoD.

I’d rather see Typhoon with the RAF, fully developed and regularly evolved with new tech over its service life, as the fighter backbone (with a touch of as-needed strike) and a proper Sea Gripen (it should’ve had two engines from go but that’s water and bridges and such, Gripen NG is as true a son-of-Jaguar as there is) afloat with FAA, and then also a proposal derived from the Yanks’ “regional bomber” model.

This could be a large-arsed descendant of Taranis, or manned. It should combine with TLAMs/Storm Shadow as the basis for a long-distance strike “dyad” (two bits — it’s not three, but better than one so it keeps your enemy off balance.) Low and fast has always been asking for losses — it’s a strategy that would make a horse cavalryman blanch and, leaving Cdr. Ward’s waspishness aside, really did produce disproportionate losses among the Tornadoes in GW1. (The Jaguars and Buccs, of course, flew a different mission profile and got lots of good work done without so many coffins.)

Using that notional plane together with ISTAR/UAV spotting, decoys to spoof enemy air defences, and missile barrages from seaward would do a nice job of door-kicking. It would also, much more than yet another exquisite steed for the knightly class at High Wycombe, help justify the RAF long-term in strategic terms. So far as I can reckon it there are three justifying pillars to a separate aerial force in any military establishment:

1) strategic-level ISTAR from above,

2) air transport that’s strategic in its lift, speed, and distance reached, and

3) a bombing effect, achieved again across distance at speed when needed, that has truly strategic results (ie cracking an enemy’s “schwerpunkt” at a go, or contributing in unique ways to kicking the door in and striding through it like Vinnie Jones at the end of a very trying day.)

Otherwise you may be just as well off, a la USMC, achieving a “purple” effect with a combined-arms structure that includes fixed-wing aircraft for your ground and/or naval services. It’s also possible that with good design (actually building on what you described — the Buccs were to my mind a good way down the road towards what might have replaced the V-bombers, cedeing low-and-fast to the Tornadoes) this aircraft could grow out of the suggestions laid down here.

Not sure it needs so much CAS anyway, except in concentrated form (find a crucial enemy strongpoint and absolutely fecking level it at one go, like the American B-52s but with fewer munitions thanks to the modernisation of strike ordnance), that’s work that could be done by a variety of current or future platforms (from Apache and Reaper to later UCAVs or even — personal fantasy — an AC-130-like 21st century Rotodyne.)

I appreciate the instinct for a mid-grade sedan, as it were, instead of Ferraris, but I’d see something like the Gripen NG (or Hornet, or possible competitors) as a high-end sedan, and otherwise we’re probably best of with something that delivers *rapid* wallop, taking advantage of strategic momentum as in, well, any significant war Britain’s been part of since 1982 at least, to roll things up sharpish for the initial military goals before the complications of politics or insurgency set in.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 19, 2011 4:36 am

A few comments on the subject of CAS:

It seems that these days fast jets target and launch their CAS weapons from altitudes of several thousand feet. Too high to gain much of an understanding of what’s happening on the ground using the unaided eye.

It would be interesting to hear from the FJ pilots who have been in action in Libya as to the way in which they are directed to their targets (and the extent to which UAVs are involved in that) and how they identify them. No doubt there will be some memoirs in due course!

Situational awareness isn’t just the result of having a good view: in assessing a complex situation on the ground, it’s important to have a sustained view over a long period – far longer than you can expect an FJ to hang around. And if you’ve got a medium+ sized UAV doing that, they might as well carry some guided weapons as well and save the bother of an FJ.

When it comes to going low for a show of force (or cannon strafing) the it isn’t just MANPADS pilots need to worry about: they are vulnerable to small arms fire as well (especially those 12.7mm and 14.5mm HMGs which seem to be everywhere in Libya). Sure, it would take on average tens of thousands of rounds to be fired to bring down a plane, but the prospect of a £100 million fighter being downed by small-arms fire doesn’t bear thinking about. No doubt the KETF-type guided 70mm rockets I mentioned in another thread will replacing cannon strafing in the foreseeable future.

Brian Black
Brian Black
May 19, 2011 11:00 am

It’s been pointed out that UAVs are not the solution to all our current needs; and are not going to replace manned aircraft in all circumstances for a very long time indeed.

UAVs are not going to take over military aviation at any time in the near future; however, UAVs are part of that future, and UAVs with LO characteristics and the capability of high levels of mission automation are very much today’s technology.

The US is in the process of fielding UAVs such as RQ170 and X47B. While these are not the be-all and end-all for UAV technology, they are a very important point on the UAV learning curve.

The UK has tinkered with Taranis, and the French and others have also done their own thing. But the UK and Europe as a whole have put a relatively piddly amount of money into R&D, and have got correspondingly little in return. I’m sure we learned from Taranis, but I’m also sure there were a whole lot of things that we didn’t.

We (UK/UK&France/Europe) really should be much further down this road, and really should have something much more substantial than the latest artists illustrations.

IMO the sort of high-endurance medium bomber suggested here should -were it to be built- be a stealthy design and be unmanned/optionally manned too.

For the low, slow CAS discussed above, my thoughts would be towards an A10 principled aircraft. Armored, manned -though with two seats- and a turreted cannon rather than forward mounted.

ArmChrCiv, regarding the Pelican.

If only it was a 430ft wingspan. That would need three 172ft tape measures; however, it’s actually a 500ft wingspan. And for the sake of the last 16ft, that needs a forth tape measure.

It may not sound like a big deal, but four tape measures need eight technicians to hold the ends; and over the many years that it would take to develop such an aircraft, those costs would mount up.

That’s why Boeing have never built it.

Gonna need a bigger tape measure.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 19, 2011 11:25 am


“IMO the sort of high-endurance medium bomber suggested here should -were it to be built- be a stealthy design and be unmanned/optionally manned too.”

Yes, that would make a lot of sense in terms of providing options. Also, the bigger the plane, the less the percentage weight and space penalty of providing for a crew.

“For the low, slow CAS discussed above, my thoughts would be towards an A10 principled aircraft. Armored, manned -though with two seats- and a turreted cannon rather than forward mounted.”

In other words, an Apache with wings replacing the rotor? It should certainly be cheaper to buy and run than a helo as well as having a better performance. However, there’s a limit to what kind of armour protection can be provided, especially against 14.5mm AP ammo, which can penetrate up to 40mm steel armour.

Remember that Apache formation in the Iraq invasion which was turned back badly mauled – with one shot down – as a result of running into small-arms fire? See:

“Of the 29 returning Apaches, all but one suffered serious damage. On average each helicopter had 15-20 bullet holes. One helicopter took 29 hits. Sixteen main rotor blades, six tail blades, six engines and five drive shafts were damaged beyond repair. In one squadron only a single helicopter was deemed fit to fly. It took a month for the 11th Regiment was ready to fight again. The casualties sustained by the Apaches induced a change of tactics. Attack helicopters would now be used to reveal the location of enemy troops, allowing them to be destroyed by artillery and air strikes.”

That’s the potential fate of any aircraft which flies low and slow. Even the A-10’s now often stay higher and fire guided missiles rather than going low to use their guns.

A different Gareth
A different Gareth
May 19, 2011 1:14 pm

El Sid,

Interesting project the FB-22. Thanks for the pointer. The wikipedia page about it lists in the references section a report leaked by Wikileaks. From reading the report it appears that the utility of a medium range bomber isn’t all that great *for the wars that are currently being fought*. Can’t carry anything like a long range bomber can and can’t hang around anything like a long range bomber can either. But that is not the whole story and we could be fighting a very different war in the future.(leaving aside that the UK doesn’t have a long range bomber either…)

Would there be mileage in something like a Tyhpoon Vulcan / Avro 707 sized thing but with one higher bypass jet instead of two low bypass jets. It wouldn’t need to be a thorougbred in terms of top speed and agility – high subsonic similar to a Harrier for example – and a more efficient engine could allow it to be in the air for longer. Could even use it for training if it was made simple and cheap enough.

May 19, 2011 1:35 pm

I agree Tony. These days, diving down into the “trashfire” envelope should be a rare occurrence.

How about an attack aircraft that was designed to stay above this level but carried a turreted gun in addition to other ordinance? A sort of mini-Specter gunship/bomber.

Having a turret would remove the need to dive to strafe and allow the aircraft to either make level gun passes, or perform the traditional gunship pylon turn. It provides a near precision, focused lethality weapon using very low cost ordinance. Gun candidates could include anything from a 25mm auto cannon or GAU-12/22 on up. 20mm and 25mm turrets were built and flown on the small OV-10 Bronco NOGS.

If a larger aircraft made sense, perhaps one could build a turret that housed a 120mm mortar AND autocannon, similar to the BMP-3’s 100mm/30mm turret.

Given a fully-automated feed system, you could even make it unmanned.

Clearly this would entail significant design work and probably wouldn’t be cheap, but it does fill an unmet need IMHO.

May 19, 2011 1:41 pm

A different Gareth,

The relative utility of a medium-range bomber depends completely on what you compare it to. It certainly would have more utility than shorter ranged fighters like the Typhoon and F-35. And it would be less expensive than a long-ranged bomber.

Adding carrier capability can improve DMPI throughput significantly compared long-ranged bombers, depending on the relative ranges to target.

May 19, 2011 1:52 pm

Having an aircraft provide cannon fire means it needs to be low down, and fly fairly slowly opening it up to groundfire. Using cannons at altitude doesn’t really work, using a mortar on an aircraft would give some real headaches given the amount of vibration you’d get.

May 19, 2011 2:01 pm

Going back to TD’s original spec, long range, cheap to operate and not LO, lets just look at some possibly realistic options (as opposed to building new from scratch versions of Buccaneer or Vulcan).

1. Join US Regional Bomber program. It’s in its very early, secret phase, with user requirements still being gathered.

2. Pay Lockmart to do FB22 – faster and more LO than spec’d – too expensive.

3. Stretched, subsonic derivative of F35. Probably too expensive.

4. Some form of mutation of the Typhoon airframe. Non afterburning high bypass turbo fan ? Or just non-after burning EJ200 tweaked for greater fuel efficiency – allowing the structure of the rear airframe to be retained. Stretched fuselage, big compound delta wing, lots of internal fuel. Perhaps semi-recessed carriage of 2 x Storm Shadow. Now the question is, if your going to go the expense of doing all this, do you go further and change forward fuselage, go to side mounted air intakes, twin canted tails, and a big F22 shaped wing for LO ???


You could just buy second hand S3 Viking on the cheap, fit the mission computer and weapons interfacing electronics from a decommissioned Tornado GR4 and have a cheap sub sonic non LO workhorse that could carry two Storm Shadow with a combat radius of a 1000 miles ? Does that not fit the original requirement as stated by TD ?

May 19, 2011 2:08 pm


IIRC, AC-130s can stay up fairly high when using their 40mms. They are still vulnerable because of their size, lack of maneuverability, slow speed, and requirement to fly in a predictable pattern.

In theory, a much smaller aircraft carrying, say, a 40mm CTA could stay at similar altitudes, but vary its flight pattern, fly at higher speeds, and use its maneuverability to avoid ground fire.

If mounted on a UCAV, a loss to ground fire, while regrettable, at least isn’t tragic. If the UCAV looked like a fat flying wing or X-47, it would present a very small target when performing a pylon turn. I wonder if stealth shaping works with RF proximity fuzes as well?

A 120mm mortar may be impractical on anything smaller than a C-130, I don’t know. Just thinking out loud.

May 19, 2011 2:19 pm

using a mortar on an aircraft would give some real headaches given the amount of vibration you’d get.

Recoilless rifle, then? Obviously turret mounted rather than hull mounted…

May 19, 2011 2:23 pm

Recoilless rifles would be far worse. Where does the back blast go?

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 19, 2011 2:42 pm

As I spelled out on another thread, I think that the advent of the laser-guided 70mm rocket will sound the death knell for aircraft cannon. It’s far more accurate, consistently getting within one metre of the target at a range of several kilometres. No gun can come close to such precision, even at a small fraction of the range.

The addition to this of a new 70mm AHEAD/KETF type warhead containing (at least) several hundred heavy metal pellets dispersed by a prox fuze would make a devastating anti-personnel round – shredding a significant area of ground and worth a whole magazine-full of cannon or MG fire.

And of course there’s no recoil…the kind of UAVs which now carry a pair of Hellfires could carry eight of these.

El Sid
El Sid
May 19, 2011 2:55 pm

Don’t forget what the 2018 bomber is intended for – a Pacific war. It’s Plan B for bombing Beijing when a DF-21 or SSK has taken out the Washington (or at least kept it out past the first island chain), hitting the Chinese from Guam or Hawaii or Alaska.

It’s hard to see how a 5000nm-range aircraft really fits any of our strategic objectives, at least not any that are priorities for a country that’s skint. If we did feel that need, then I’d guess we’re back to the FOAS idea of a bizjet or airliner carrying Storm Shadows.

May 19, 2011 2:58 pm


I think guided, 70mm rockets have many interesting possibilities, but how much will each cost? $10-20k per shot?

Can a single fixed-wing pilot manage flying, self-designation and firing?

El Sid
El Sid
May 19, 2011 3:02 pm

Oh, meant to say, there’s some pointers on their thinking on the B-3 at :

The stealth sceptics may be interested in some of the comments on anti-LO radars vs jamming etc, the B-3 promises “extreme LO” (ELO).

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 19, 2011 3:32 pm


Yes, about $10,000 per shot was the target price for the guided 70mm once production ramps up; about one tenth the cost of a Hellfire (obviously, with at least four competing versions the price will vary). Compared with the many and various costs of buying, accommodating and maintaining an aircraft cannon, probably good value. After all, the Army guys have been firing off Javelin missiles by the dozen in small-unit excahnges, and they cost several times as much.

I don’t see that designating a target with a laser (which can probably be done semi-automatically – i.e. once aimed at the target, it stays pointing at it) is any more difficult than accurately firing a gun.

Besides, rockets like these can easily be fired from UAVs, as I’ve mentioned. They use the same designators in the same way as Hellfire.

May 19, 2011 3:36 pm


Also, I’ve wondered how much off-boresight capability these guided rockets have. Are they even viable if fired from a Predator or Reaper, which can’t really put their nose on the target?

May 19, 2011 4:08 pm

+1 on the S-3. Can I join your fan club :-) best idea on the thread (I know you mentioned it before, but still your point hits the nail on the head). Just one question, would you go with a two-seater or three-seater version of the S-3?

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 19, 2011 4:24 pm


“Also, I’ve wondered how much off-boresight capability these guided rockets have. Are they even viable if fired from a Predator or Reaper, which can’t really put their nose on the target?”

I don’t know. But if the Hellfire can do it and at least one (probably more) of the 70mm uses the same guidance system, I don’t see why not.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 19, 2011 4:35 pm

In today’s news here:


Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter traveled to California last week to meet with Northrop Grumman Corp Chief Executive Wes Bush and other industry executives about a new long-range bomber, according to three sources familiar with the meetings.

The Defense Department is working on a new long-range “penetrating” bomber, which will be designed to fly with or without a pilot on board, carry nuclear weapons, and cost about $550 million per plane on average, according to a new 30-year Pentagon plan for aviation procurement.

The plan calls for the Air Force to field 80 to 100 of the new bombers to replace the current fleet of bombers, which include 66 B-1 bombers, 20 B-2 bombers and 85 B-52 bombers.

That means the overall program will cost $40 billion to $50 billion over the next decades — a huge opportunity for big weapons makers like Northrop, Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, which are bracing for declining defense spending in other areas.

The Pentagon’s plan calls for upgrades to the B-2 bomber built by Northrop in the 1990s, to enhance its effectiveness and survivability, and divestment of 6 Boeing Co B-1 bombers built in the 1980s to pay for upgrades to the remaining fleet.

Senior defense officials have said that the fiscal 2012 budget includes $3.7 billion for the new bomber over the next five years, but industry executives are waiting for details on how the department plans to structure an acquisition plan. (end of excerpt)

May 19, 2011 4:37 pm

Tubby – your S3 fan club forms are in the mail…

2 , 3 or 4 seats ? Good question.

A) 2 seats, cheapest and probably good enough.

B) 3 seats; what is #3 doing ? Extra set of eyes (out of the window and via the EO turret). EW operator perhaps.

C) 4 seats; IF you want the greatest flexibility then keep 4 and upgrade the rear cockpit. However this is based on upgrading S3 to an “electronic attack” role for high end ops, and a long endurance COIN aircraft for low end ops, where the two back seaters actually have an airborne battle management role.

So for TD’s cheap as chips Patrol Bomber, I say rip out the rear cockpits, you can use the weight margin for additional fuel tanks. Give the two front seaters the MFD’s from the GR4’s cockpit upgrade and they should be able to manage quite nicely.

We have a long weekend coming up here in Canada, so I think I will actually try to put together a full article on the possibilities of upgrading the S3. On a final note, I believe my new home of Canada would be better served by buying some S3 Patrol Bombers for the arctic sovereignty mission than by F35’s which can’t even reach the Canadian arctic without refuelling from their southern Ontario bases…. !!

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
May 19, 2011 5:59 pm

Article about “orbiting fire” –

Article about Broncos with recoilless rifiles –

May 19, 2011 6:00 pm

Tony said, “I don’t know. But if the Hellfire can do it and at least one (probably more) of the 70mm uses the same guidance system, I don’t see why not.”

IIRC, none actually use the same guidance as Hellfire. DAGR comes closest, but all use different seeker designs. APKWS uses that odd distributed aperture design with small optics on each canard. Who knows how sensitive any of these are in comparison to Hellfire.

DAGR says it can do 10 degree off-boresight shots. That doesn’t seem like enough for a straight flying UAV. For comparison, AGM-114P can do 90 degrees.

May 19, 2011 7:33 pm

I look forward to your article.

I mentioned three seats as I understood in terms of avionics the most modern version had only three seats after the USN removed the MAD

Looking at the size of the Type 46 Torpedo that could be carried in the bomb bay on Wikipedia and it has dimensions of 2.59 meters long and 0.324 meters wide, a Mark 82 (basis of Paveway IV) has a dimension of 2.2 meters long and 0.273 meters wide, presumably we could carry Paveway IV in the bomb bay?

May 19, 2011 7:45 pm

Garth Jones

Re Recoiless Rifle in Bronco..

Did it, In army slang – ‘bang like a belt fed wombat’?

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 19, 2011 7:48 pm

Assuming the quote TW mentions is right, it means the USAF is back to gold plating their new bomber. Sadly not the cheap aircraft first planned, though they would say $500m per plane is a lot cheaper than the $2 billion per B2.
However, 10 new, son of 2018 bombers for one sqnRAF(617?) would cost around £3.5 billion. Not much more than the extra wasted on the Voyager/A330 PFI instead of buying them outright, probably.

May 19, 2011 7:53 pm

I’m also a fan of an upgraded reconditioned S-3 Viking force however I don’t see it in reality when the RAF and armed forces in general are shrinking so much that it would be superfluous to what we really need. Although in Euan’s world I would really love a fleet of them for ASW and Sea Control from the carriers or various island airfields around the world or even at home with a secondary bomb truck role. However perhaps their primary role should end up being tactical electronic warfare and jamming which is an area I think the UK and many other developed nations are well behind in compared to the USA.

I would however give my left leg for the UK to have the guts to come up with a low observable medium optionally manned ‘Platform’ and by that I mean something that would be an ideal EW, ISTAR and bomb truck aircraft. Maybe take the Avionics and engines from a Gulfstream G650 and other cutting edge COTS equipment and stick them in a composite airframe made by our world leading aero-structures industry GKN I’m looking at you.

I do have a Question however would we still be talking as much about this if we had the MRA 4 available? Remember the MRA stands for Maritime Reconnaissance Attack and anyone who has crawled under one could tell you the bomb bay was nice and big.

May 19, 2011 8:22 pm


The S3 did fly with 3 occupied seats (the fourth being ballasted and not removed, because the ejection system fires seats in pairs) most of the time since the end of the cold war and the re-rolling from ASW to ASuW and surveillance. When operating as a tanker only the front seaters were carried.

I am not sure the MAD was ever removed, but the ASW processor (a big 1970’s computer) and the sono-buoy launching gear was.

On the last deployment over Iraq, I believe the lone back seater used the built in retractable EO ball, while the front seat “observer” was responsible for the LANTIRN targeting pod (taken from F14 “Bomb Cats”).

Euan – Reconditioned S3 is absolutely affordable if it was the small number of “Ford pick ups” being used alongside 160 Typhoons as the “Ferraris” instead of the current mix of two different types of fast jet.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
May 19, 2011 8:53 pm

@ IXION – I believe they had some problems with back blast doing some minor damage to the tail and this was the reason given for not precding but it would appear to be a simple fix. A recoilless rifle is much more arrucrate than an unguided rocket and I believe has a larger explosive round than 70mm hydra variants. It would also be cheaper than a guided 70mm. Now if we used the British 120mm Wombat RR it would have the firepower of a main battile tank…

RE: S-3 – Crazy idea time (and I know its probably unafordable) but could we get around the Cat and Trap issue by makin it Stovl? Two possible routes would be tandam fan;

or recycle some pegasus’s;

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
May 19, 2011 8:56 pm

My apologies for the spelling mistakes – forgot to spell check… :(

May 19, 2011 9:02 pm

Thanks Jed for the info, I just read that the crew was three and there was one less station and put 2 + 2 together and got five.

May 19, 2011 9:17 pm

Jed I agree reconditioned S-3’s would be affordable especially as I think the US would give us a cracking deal if we sent a decent chunk of the work for reactivation their way. However with such a small air force and armed forces would it really be worth it having the S-3 fleet alongside Eurofighters and armed UAV’s. The fast pointy work would still be done by fast pointy things and the longer range bomb trucking could be done by UAV’s or fast pointy things supported by the largish looking tanker fleet. I also don’t think we will get away from two fast jet types because we will have Eurofighter for quite some time and there is no escaping the F-35C which will probably end up becoming our main fast pointy thing. I just don’t think there is enough of a niche for the S-3 to fill although there is definitely one for a medium manned platform with much better endurance than a fast jet.

I know I’m still mainly arguing against it but I can’t help myself :(

May 19, 2011 9:39 pm

Euan – I here you, I do !

Tubby – see this cracking set of photos on Flikr:

Shows an S3B as far as I can tell, shows that the front office and right hand rear seat have been updated, but shows the original ‘green screen’ for the 1970’s acoustic processing system in the left hand rear seat. Also shows the cavernous avionics / electronics bay in the fuselage above the bomb bays. Note that you enter the aircraft by a door / hatch low on the starboard side and there is access between front, and rear cockpits and this equipment space.

May 19, 2011 10:17 pm

Thanks Jed,

Shows plenty of space for future proofing of avionics. More I look at the S-3 more of a winner it looks like. Given that Libya is looking more and more like an enduring operation of several years in length we should be ordering some refurbished S-3’s ASAP before we burn so many hours on Tornado’s we have to retire them earlier than planned. Do you feel how long it would take to get one squadron in service if we ordered tomorrow for example?

Could we re-engine with a commercial jet engine if need be? RR does not have anything comparable (the only engine I could find in the weight class was long and had less power), but presumably the General Electric CF34 would fit as it is evolved from the TF-34 fitted to the S-3?

May 19, 2011 10:49 pm

TD I would imagine you could get the processing equipment etc into the aircraft and there should be little problem regarding weight if you take out all the equipment not needed for AEW. Although I’m not immediately sure where you could put the radar antenna itself, perhaps doing something with the 2 weapons bays?

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
May 20, 2011 12:27 am


Hi, i’ve been thinking about your reasons for writing this post. I have not exactly read every single post yet but i think this may be relevant.

Did you write this because you see a serious need right now (e.g. Libya, and what will probably happen in Syria), or do you really see a need for something like this in the future, say a decade from now.

Which is probably the amount of time it will take for the MoD to make their collective minds up?

Personally, right now, i see a need for many more Tornadoes & Typhoons over Libya (especially as we have cut the Harrier II’s), and probably double those numbers over Syria when the time comes to really get involved. Think about Obama’s speech tonight and what it implies for the next few years.

All i can say is, we need such an aircraft right now. Why haven’t we already got one, apart from budget constraints and a lack of sense or understanding from the RAF or the Defence Committee.

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
May 20, 2011 1:01 am


Dammit, i should have said, i’m not trying to be critical of you.

It’s just that i see a real need for something like this right now, not in 5 or 10 years time.