The Scene is Set – European UAV Rumble

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Interesting news recently from the MoD on the subject of future unmanned research and a contract with BAe for £40 million.

The four-year Future Combat Air System (FCAS) focused research contract aims to sustain and develop the UK’s critical technology and skills in this field. It will inform the MOD’s unmanned air system strategy over the coming decades to ensure that the best use is made of these new technologies.

So we have a new acronym, FCAS, although it has been bandied around for a while.

Not much news on what FCAS aims to achieve apart from simply informing future decisions and £10m a year does not seem like a lot in aerospace research but this is one area where against all odds, the UK actually has a decent set of technology advantages.

In summer this year, with the backdrop of increasing UK/French defence cooperation and discussions on a BAe/Dassault Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV project moving on from the BAe Mantis demonstrator called Telemos, EADS warned that without a broad European agreement i.e. everyone agreeing that the EADS Talarion is the way forward, they would look at other partnerships.

With no successor to Typhoon planned the long term viability of the European defence aerospace sector obviously depends on unmanned systems.

Despite the earlier UK/French love in it is obvious from the shenanigans over the Euro that this cooperation may not survive when national interests are at stake and one only has to look at the shareholders of EADS to see the seeds of future ‘issues’

There seems no love lost between Dassault and EADS (despite EADS owning 40% of Dassault) and approaches from the Italians have been rebuffed. With the poor export showing of the Rafale, Dassault are fighting for survival once the production run has finished.

EADS and Finmeccania’s Alenia have responded by recently signing an memorandum of understanding on unmanned systems.

To complicate matters, Finmeccanica are the MoD second largest supplier with ten thousand UK employees after their extensive investment in ex ministers and senior officers via their well oiled revolving door mechanism, Mark III for the use of.

BAe have many advantages and a decent track record on unmanned systems but their relatively small stake in F35 and nothing thereafter means that they also need some skin in the game.

It seems everyone has woken up to the fact that any development party of more than two is a disaster waiting to happen and European defence cooperation has a spectacular track record of creating living nightmares.

On the other hand where there are only two partners, the story is different with a number of examples of these partnerships churning out decent kit at reasonable prices.

Whilst Telemos might look like a bit of a Reaper clone just as Reaper evolves under the skin are some significant differences and significantly, isn’t American. It is obviously a stepping stone to the more exotic combat oriented stealth concepts designs.

Which brings us back to the contract with BAe, £10m a year seems like a very small amount given what is at stake.

Perhaps we need to think again about the quantities of F35 and see that as an interim capability, reducing them to the bare minimum and concentrating on the unmanned sector?

The scene is set for a knock down winner takes all fight in the European UAV industry and it is one the UK cannot afford to be on the losing side.

European defence collaboration, as my kids might say, ‘whatever’

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jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

“Despite the earlier UK/French love in it is obvious from the shenanigans over the Euro that this cooperation may not survive when national interests are at stake and one only has to look at the shareholders of EADS to see the seeds of future ‘issues’”

It was always a matter of conjecture whether this cooperation extended as far as Taranis, and the future UCAV platforms it would lead to, and it has yet to be demonstrated whether the minor fracas over the euro will have any real impact on the cooperation that really is planned.

solomon
solomon

the UK is too late out of the box.

the Israeli’s, the US, heck even China are pushing with UAV development and with the slow pace of the effort inside Europe as a whole, i just don’t see much coming out of this effort.

the USN is about to begin deploying UCAVs off aircraft carriers. the US already has numerous stealth UAVs either in service or development.

a better bet would be to leverage the special relationship, get strongly aboard a US system and perhaps concentrate on correcting some of the weaknesses identified in UAV operations.

its not high profile. but it will keep the UK military cutting edge. Telemos for what its worth is a poor Heron at best (at least from the outside looking in)

solomon
solomon

correction…Mantis, not Telemos.

solomon
solomon

i don’t mean to beat a dead horse but recent news out of Afghanistan highlights my point as does the operations in Libya.

the first combat mission for a helicopter UAV occurred when the US Navy launched a firescout for a mission in Libya and today we find out that the USMC just performed the first unmanned helicopter UAV mission in Afghanistan.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Hi TD,

RE “everyone has woken up to the fact that any development party of more than two is a disaster waiting to happen and European defence cooperation has a spectacular track record of creating living nightmares.
On the other hand where there are only two partners, the story is different…”
– EADS has a partnership with Turkey as well, not only Alenia
– knowing how keen Turkey is to bring key military technologies ( T129, a twin-engine combat helicopter developed from the AW129, SAR-type satellites, stealthy cruise missiles…) onshore, I would not be surprised if these are two different, bilateral partnerships (?)
– compare the above list with this one (which is actually two lists, emerging in close sequence): “Italy and Germany signed a cooperation deal Dec. 16 covering UAVs, unmanned ground vehicles, guided munitions, satellites and missiles, according to an industry source. That follows a Nov. 29 meeting between the Italian and German defense ministers in Berlin, where they signed a letter of intent on cooperation on UAVs, submarine development, long-range precision munitions and pilot training” [Defencenews 19 Dec ]
RE “Perhaps we need to think again about the quantities of F35 and see that as an interim capability, reducing them to the bare minimum and concentrating on the unmanned sector?”
– I have been speculating for a good while that the thinking has already been done and we are hedged against such futures (plural as naval and land FCASs may turn out to be different) by batching the c. 100 F-35s (what was the acronym for them in the UK again?) into two, time-wise widely separated lots of 40-50

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Have to agree with Sol on three accounts:
1.the UK is too late out of the box (the global market is being squared before any of these products hit it)
2. On the navy side of things we should hang onto the coat tails of the USN
3. Is a Heron (in capability); not a poor one. So I actually disagree, but the point is you can buy a Heron, but for Mantis you’ll have to wait quite a while (so it will ever only be a flying test bed and a demonstrator, because the market will have moved on)

Repulse

@TD, “Perhaps we need to think again about the quantities of F35 and see that as an interim capability, reducing them to the bare minimum and concentrating on the unmanned sector?”

I’ve come to that very conclusion. If the FAA were the sole operator of manned carrier a/c to be used primarily for fleet air defence (say 50 air frames in total), the RAF could operate a large number of surveillance / deep strike UAVs. This would be a very positive step in my opinion and whilst UAV technology is not quite there yet, with other the tools at our disposal such as TLAM and the Typhoon, it would be a relatively low risk capability gap whilst the technology comes on line. Also UAVs could switch easily between operating from land bases and carriers without us worrying about keeping RAF crews trained for carrier flying and their dislike of being at sea… Also, if we no longer need carrier a/c for primarily strike missions, then is the F35 the right a/c anymore…

At the end of the day the UK could have a lot of skin in the UAV if the government wanted to shape the RAF (and it’s budget) accordingly. I’ve said it elsewhere, but the UK could have significant global presence if we chose to focus on the RN having the 2nd most powerful navy in the world, the RAF the 2nd most powerful UAV fleet and the Army the most agile rapid reaction force.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

“Perhaps we need to think again about the quantities of F35 and see that as an interim capability, reducing them to the bare minimum and concentrating on the unmanned sector?”

As with AAC I agree that el-governmento has hedged their bets very nicely against the potential for UCAV’s to disrupt the current dominance of the manned combat aircraft.

From my point of view all i care about is that the potential of the CVF is used, and if this is a mix of F35/son-taranis/gbu-equipped-storks i care not.

paul g

just reading repulses comment and i’m reminded of a report in on the BBC programme the one show. John Nichol (tornado pilot captured in GW1) was reporting on reaper, at the end of the report he turned to camera pointed to aircraft and made comments about it being pilotless (warning sign on the side) being the saddest part of this future aircraft. That is the attitude you’re up against RAF like playing with their expensive toys, no banging about in gro-bags (flying suits) impressing the ladies

Hannay
Hannay

Solomon’s comments really show just how powerful US advertising can be, and are massively far from reality.

The US is about to deploy UCAS off carriers? Since when did that happen? If you have any knowledge of X-47B and chose to look below the surface, the reality is far far different from what seems to be reported. This is a demonstrator to test UCAS compatability on carriers, it’s miles away from a finished product. It doesn’t have weapon bays, mission systems, and most importantly, isn’t VLO. Everyone seems to assume that the US has a monopoly on LO but this is not reality. Look at X-47B in detail and you can see that this isn’t a VLO design. It’ll be a good decade at least before you’re looking at anything production based with mission systems and then the question is really how capable that is going to be?

Comparing even, the orginal Mantis demonstrator to IAI Heron is just silly. It’s rather larger and massively more capable. The UK has a long interest in unmanned R&D with many demonstrators over the years (Raven, Corax, Herti etc.) that just get ignored but are actually world-leading. These aren’t just remote controlled aircraft like Predator or Reaper but rather more capable unmmaned systems. Mantis/Scavenger/Telemos is aimed at the high end, above Reaper in capability.

One of the main issues here is that most of the capabilty isn’t in the air vehicle but is hidden in the background. The US can tell everyone that it’s stuff is great because no one can prove otherwise, apart from operators of the system. So why is the UK pursuing an indigenous MALE? It sure as hell isn’t for sustainment issues in the current environment but is rather indicative of issues with operating Reaper. A simple point would be to ask how the UK would train with Reaper when it’s got basically zero chance of being cleared for UK airspace?

With regards to the wider question of which European countries are doing what; it’s really got down to the choice of whether countries want to retain Defence aerospace industries. Given the state of the industries in the various countries it’s likely that everyone is going to lose – but some more than others. The UK has had a fairly big step up by pursuing Taranis alone, but there’s a lot to do on mission systems. Integrating new sensors, mission systems, and VLO at acceptable cost is the key challenge.

Topman
Topman

‘just reading repulses comment and i’m reminded of a report in on the BBC programme the one show. John Nichol (tornado pilot captured in GW1) was reporting on reaper, at the end of the report he turned to camera pointed to aircraft and made comments about it being pilotless (warning sign on the side) being the saddest part of this future aircraft. That is the attitude you’re up against RAF like playing with their expensive toys, no banging about in gro-bags (flying suits) impressing the ladies’

I think there is some mileage in what you say, but it’s not quite at the level you would think. Non aircrew are being trained to fly UAVs now. It is changing, although I think it’s human being thing, not just confined to the RAF. People like certain things and don’t like change, to him it would be sad. No doubt there is something that when changed you would think would be a change for the worse, especially if your job related to it. There still is something special and individualistic about flying.

Oh and he was the nav not the pilot ;)

Topman
Topman

‘A simple point would be to ask how the UK would train with Reaper when it’s got basically zero chance of being cleared for UK airspace?’

Good point hannay I know that that point is a big sticking point over 39 Sqn coming back to the UK.

Topman
Topman

Well there are plans afoot to move them to the UK UOR or not. 13 and 14 Sqns are planned to reform in the UK at Waddington.

Topman
Topman

Just to add to above, one of the plans is for the actual uavs and groundcrew to stay in the US and the aircrew and ground stations to come back and fill out the two new sqds. But it still hasn’t all been worked. But there is a desire to get them back asap, the cost of keeping 100 people out there is high, too high to a lot of people.

Topman
Topman

Are you sure that it’s a UOR TD? It may well have been at the start, but I think it has been brought into the main budget.

Chris Morris
Chris Morris

I don’t understand the need to cooperate with the French on UAV development. The benefits from co-operation are that R&D costs are shared and you have the benefit of expertise from both/all nations.

In the case of the UAVs, a lot of the hard work has been done. I simply think we should just run with Taranis and Mantis and see them through as finished products, don’t p**s about, changing requirement etc (which is a lot more likely if co-operating with other nations).

Taranis and Mantis have potential to be excellent systems. Some may consider Taranis to fill the role of replacing Tornado for deep-strike. Although this is true and it will do that very well, I believe the main benefits will come from the fact that it will provide a very survivable, long endurance capability.

As for comments on the F-35 procurement, to be honest, I imagine F-35 will be cut to a patheticly low level anyway. To be fair, with intended reduction to 12 F-35s per carrier which I assume is just a single squadron. I wonder whether a purchase of 50 or so would be enough to provide three squadrons of 12 F-35s. If I am right, the SDSR stated that an operational carrier will typically operate 12 F-35s while retaining the ability to operate the original intention of 36. I think this force would be ideal and should be entirely operated by the FAA. Reason I say this is because inter-service rivalry has always been an issue and in this way, FAA will get their F-35s and the RAF will get their Tarnis, both providing a deep-strike capability. The other reason is that before the SDSR, it would have made sense to retain RAF crews from JFH which were predominantly RAF crew. Seeing as all training is now to be done in conjunction with the US for CATOBAR training, all from scratch, then there is no need to retain RAF for naval operations and these crews would be better diverted to Tornado and Typhoon operations.

As for Taranis, it would be nice to see it developed into a carrier capable system, although I question whether its design would fundamentally allow for it and if this option were to be pursued, combined training and research would be best done with the US with their current UCAV(N) research.

Chris Morris
Chris Morris

*very survivable, long endurance ISR capability.

Topman
Topman

No probs, it might still be UOR, there just seems to be a lot of noise on 39 Sqn and around the bazaars at the moment. Specifically what the long term plan to move to the UK and getting as many people off overseas allowences as possible!

andyw
andyw

BAE last year also flew the Demon demonstrator UAV, this is the first UAV to use no flaps or ailerons. This could have significant impact on costs, maintenance and lo.

DominicJ
DominicJ

One of the biggest problems usualy mooted against UAVS is bandwidth and jamming

http://ukarmedforcescommentary.blogspot.com/2011/12/news-satellites-finally.html

Now, thats a recon rather than communications satellite, but to the outsider, that sounds a lot like we could hold a stock of satellites and rockets on Ascension, and in the event of war, lob them up to provide satellite recon and communications over the theatre in question? I struggle to see why would need 24/7 coverage of the entire planet, but £50mn for coverage of a warzone….

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

“If I am right, the SDSR stated that an operational carrier will typically operate 12 F-35s while retaining the ability to operate the original intention of 36.”

That will be the benchmark which fleet numbers must enable.

I was guessing (with no expertise) that this would require 72, but if it can be less then it probably will.

Mark
Mark

People need to look beyond BAE systems when they talk about F35 and whats involved for the UK business they are just the most visible aspect for obvious security reasons. There are nearly 100 uk companies involved with this program and the percentage share of manufacture in the UK is equivalent to the percentage share we get on airbus a/c for example. The production run maybe extended but in time this a/c will be the only manned fast jet a/c in uk service. Just to give a idea of how far engineering runs ahead the major design effort of f35 in this country peaked in 2006-7 its now very much in production and sustainment mode.

When people really see what the capabilities of the current UAV a/c are they will quickly discover how far away we really are. The only single cost saving over manned a/c will be that we buy less airframes and have a small production run they will not be cheap and will require a sovereign satellite capability with signifcant redundancy that will make the man from the treasure go weak at the knees.

The effort in this area should be solely in long range recon assets that are cheap and expendable (rq170 type) similar to the current reaper type a/c indeed the abundance of cheap long range manned a/c such as diamond ect make me even question is anything above watchkeeper even needed for the UK in the unmanned arena.

This 40m is so small in Aviation terms its almost pointless if we had put an extra nought on the end then I would start to think that perhaps we have something in the pipe line in about 10 years time. The max uk requirement here will most likely be around 24-36 a/c so to pin UK aerospace hope on it will be utter folly as the satellite requirement will mean there of limited export potential. The game is over for UK miltary aerospace we missed out where done when it comes to assembly of a/c. The french partnership will end in tears as it alway does when work share rears it head.

we should have asked for a final assemblty for an airbus a/c of some type if we were concerned about uk aerospace its all to late know mind you spain,germany and france out foxed us years ago.

El Sid
El Sid

“European defence cooperation has a spectacular track record of creating living nightmares.”

Or you go it alone and end up with Rafale, where the manufacturer holds a gun to your head to maintain production at a higher level than you can really afford, in order to keep the lines going for export orders that don’t come, because there’s no economies of scale. Or qv Nimrod.

Or you piggyback on a US programme and end up with a gold-plated boondoggle that is late and costs twice as much as first promised – qv F-111, F-35.

In comparison the likes of Jaguar and Tornado look positively cushty.

DominicJ
DominicJ

El Sid
Saab seem to manage, its not clear from a quick search what the development costs of the Gripen were, but they cant have been that much.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

There was a report recently that stated that Saab was the fighter manufacturer that was going to be under most strain in the years ahead as it looks at what happens after the last of the Gripen exports.

Mark
Mark

Gripen’s first test flight was in 1988 they took a while to save cash.

solomon
solomon

a nation that produced the Spitfire and Harrier can maintain a military aviation industry. i just don’t think its to be found in the UAV market.

what should drive development is the low cost fighter/trainer type based on the BAE Hawk. it just needs to be made more capable and slightly larger. i am amazed that no one is discussing it for use on your upcoming carrier as a close support/helicopter escort platform.

there is a way forward but it will take dedication and courage to see it through…and effort by the government to make it work.

mikezeroone

Hang on Solomon,

I remember in a previous post you slammed the suggestion of using a Hawk varient off carriers…even the single seat ‘light fighter-attack’ Mk200.
Unless you mean a far more radicle development? Like the Japs did with F-16 for F-2?

solomon
solomon

thats exactly what i mean. much more radical. bigger engine, state of the art AESA, all the electronic bells and whistles and longer range through a stretched fuselage and enlarged wings.

that should feed the industry, plus size the jets for the FAA and open up the possibility of competing against the Gripen for new orders in the low cost market.

the UK, BAE and the Royal Navy can get this done…if they find the will.

Dominic Johnson

so this is a no on the disposable sats then?

Phil

The Americans had the same idea of having satellites ready to go. I can’t remember if they ever did it though.

Topman
Topman

@ soloman with all that extra kit you would virtually be designing a new a/c.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Mike & Sol,

Agree with Topman, and Mike’s example proves it:
– F2 ended up costing the same as F-15 but is nowhere near as good

Mr.fred
Mr.fred

I was looking at the Airbus concepts recently and it struck me that getting in at the start would make for a fairly tidy transport/refuelling/medium bomber/MPA/sigint/AWAC platform.

One of the concepts was for modular payloads, which could allow civilian airframes to carry military modules and protection systems rather than the additional cost of a fully militarised airframe.

solomon
solomon

why would it be designing a new airplane? unless you call the Harrier AV-8B a new airplane…they added a radar, bigger wings, improved avionics and a bigger engine…they called it an upgrade and it was rather straight forward without complication..

the Japanese embarked on basically a new build airplane based on a previous one. you already have the line running for the Hawk, i’m just suggesting you improve it, call it a complimentary capability, you infuse new energy into your home defense industry, you have an entry into the light wt and affordable fighter market and you have birds to fill up your carrier…

i mean seriously? 12 airplanes off a carrier the size of the Queen Elizabeth? say it out loud…SERIOUSLY!

Topman
Topman

@ soloman yes some people would call the later mark gr5/av8 onward a new a/c. It was compared to the gr3. But no matter the main problem that i was suggesting is that i don’t think it would be worth it. I don’t believe that there is the market to make it pay. 12 has worked out to be fine for peacetime ops. Outside of this there is no requirement for any more.

Brian Black
Brian Black

I don’t see how it could be financially worthwhile to produce a whole new aircraft for the sake of filling 24 carrier slots. We would also be entering late into a competition with a cheap and capable SeaGripen for a slice of a particularly small niche market.

I expect that like Harrier before it, SeaGripen will be the only kid on the block for navies wishing to operate a budget CV.

Brian Black
Brian Black

The piddly little sums that we allocate to the development of new unmanned acronyms might suggest that we have no confidence in the capability of a future European, or solely UK, system.

Perhaps our government wants to do just enough R&D to enable congress to approve sales of American acronyms at some point in the future.

Repulse

Solomon, I like the idea for a beefed up hawk which could double up as a trainer / carrier aircraft. The reason being that we are looking at 2030 before we have the carrier strike capability we are concerned with. In 20 years with enough investment we could have strike capable UAVs and sons of TLAM.

To buy 50 F35 would have a significantly high operating / support costs not mentioning the cost to buy them. Also, the danger is by the time we are able to operate them properly they are likely to be outdated and we will be wanting unmanned a/c anyway.

A pimped up hawk may not be glamourous and definately will not be the best plane on the planet, but neither was the Harrier and that served it’s purpose. We have approx 160 hawks in service today, if we replaced them with a carrier capable (primarily air defence) version we would get the economies of scale and export opportunities to the likes of India and Brazil.

The key question is though, what is it we are trying to get out of our carriers? Are they strike carriers, or multirole floating airfields? Also, what is it we are lacking today whch means a job like retaking the falklands is out of our reach, is it the provision of air cover or ground strike or both?

wf
wf

@Repulse: air defence should be the primary role of the carriers: without it we cannot deploy a frigate in a heavily contested area. Strike is nice, but having MK41 launch cells sitting on surface ships would do us even more good

Tubby
Tubby

Might be being thick here, but isn’t Solomon’s proposal a bit more than the difference between different marque’s of the Harrier and a lot more like the difference between the Hornet and Super Hornet? You got to take the Goshawk and the Hawk 200, which already have relatively low level of commonality, create a hybrid design then add a FBW system (must for export), a larger wing likely with a different wing geometry if you want to go supersonic, then add a new FADEC engine possibly with re-heat with the required lift, which will require further structural changes (especially as he mentioned lengthening the fuselage) and larger air intakes, then given that the USMC thinks that it needs a LO aircraft to defeat next generation MANPADS/SHORADS you got to add decent ESM with good counter measures, RAM to the canopy and leading edges and intake blockers to reduce the RCS. On top of this to be able to export it you need to get a decent AESA radar installed (along with RWR and LWS), you will also need to be able to offer as options of a helmet mounted sight and a IRST, and as base line you will need to integrate more than just core UK weapons if you want overseas sales (I would argue you need to clear SPICE guided bombs, AIM-9M, IRIS-T, A-Darter and R-Dater along with Paveway, ASRAAM, AMRAAM and Meteor as your core weapons if you want export sales). At this point I doubt that you would have an aircraft which cost less than Super Hornet with less performance and it truly make sense for us to pay SAAB to develop the Sea Gripen with UK assembly and significant UK production (say the wings and tail, plus some avionics). Alternatively, I wonder how open Boeing would be to selling their production line if they fail to secure export orders by 2015 for the Super Hornet and the USN does not buy a further batch of F/A-18’s?

Tubby
Tubby

Damn it, were’s the edit function, my last post is in serious need of being turned into paragraphs!

Phil

I fail to see how this would be cost effective. The airframe is the cheap part. Integrating all those gadgets and a better engine and testing it all is going to cost a bomb. All for a plane that could essentially be purchased off the shelf. Makes no sense whatsoever.

James
James

@ Rupert Fiennes,

let me get this straight. The purpose of a carrier is to be an airport. The purpose of the planes flying off the airport is to protect the airport.

Seems like we could save a bundle of cash by not buying either, and not actually lose any capability.

I know that is a bit of an absolutist argument, and I’m not trying to be deliberately obtuse. There’s some shades of grey, of course.

But if we optimise the carrier and the planes coming off it for air defence as opposed to something useful like a strike capability, we are indeed heading down a route of expensive waste of money. Particularly as those other expensive little T45 boats are also optimised for air defence, and someone soon is going to make a case for a new frigate class to protect the carrier from submarines, and they all float around together holding hands. At what point does spending a vast proportion of the defence budget on self-protection of a little surface Navy become stupid? I’d rather cut the surface fleet to ribbons if all it can do is protect itself, and put the money into more submarines which at least have the merit of not needing 6 other submarines to protect them.

Repulse

@James, air defence is not just for the carrier but for the whole fleet and any amphibious landing forces. Also, as I said the carrier strike element could be UAV based or even from Apache helicopters (which would definately need air cover!).

Phil

Methinks we should have strike aircraft operating from our carrier. Which personally I think should be renamed to something approaching its likely use, ie Avation Projection Ship. It’s quite obvious we’re going to be using them as everything from CVs to CVLs to ASW carriers to LPHs and all shades inbetween.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Phil said “Avation Projection Ship”

Are you that medic who wanted his trade name changed to Bandage Application Technician so he could be known as BATman? ;)

Seriously before the MoD(N) adopted American nomenclature Ocean was to be classed as an Aviation Support Ship which is a think where you are aiming.

James
James

@ Repulse,

yes, I can see that. But it seems to me that all of the main assets we are talking about (CV, T45, carrier FJ) seem to me to be being optimised for AD. We need at least one of them (FJ) to be optimised for doing something nasty to the enemy on the ground or in the water. Otherwise it is all a self-licking lollipop, which I do feel is the main issue with the RN surface fleet now and for some years past. Not subs, but surface fleet.

The purpose of the RN should be to kill the enemy sailing in SLOC that we values, to carry the Army and Marines to hostile or friendly shores, and to launch either tactical or strategic strikes. Self-protection is a small and enabling part of that, but in planning and equipment decisions seems to be accorded a vastly bigger role than it merits. The service appears to have lost its’ way in the last couple of decades.

James
James

…that should be SLOCs that we value, not as written.

What happened to the edit function? Do I need to upgrade to fully paid membership to get it back?

SomewhatInvolved

First up – modifying a Hawk for carrier ops? Never in a million years…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_T-45_Goshawk. 3 hardpoints, including one for baggage, apparently.

I think many of you are missing the difficulties of producing a new aircraft from an old airframe. I think you have glossed over the practical difficulties of installing new avionics in such platforms, and the complexity of the integration process. If it was such a risk-free and simplistic process, we would have seen more examples of aircraft developed privately by manufacturers – as we used to in times before the eighties. As it is we are saddled with a handful of gen4.5 carrier fighters that are struggling to gain export credibility outside of their original sponsoring customer. The Russians and the Indians seem to be doing rather better.

Back to the original post, the US are forging ahead with carrier UAV’s – the Avenger flew in 2009, the Sea Avenger is in development, and is somewhat more advanced than the X47B. I’d put money down that we will see the first operational deployment of an armed, fixed wing UAV from a US carrier later next year because their grip on UAV utility and employment is so much better than ours.

Should we develop our own or hang onto the coat tails of the Americans? Despite the disastrous state of Euro finances I still believe we are better off working on this side of the Atlantic – the US is in decline and will become increasingly isolationist as Americans tire of their image as global do-gooding busybodies who crash into cultures with no regard for what was there before. They are only interested in Europe as a buffer against a resurgent Russia – their focus is on the Pacific. BAE for all its faults still kicks out world beating kit, backed by one of the best research communities in the world and we need to maximise that. It makes us equals to the US; in Europe, it gives us a real advantage.

The carrier is not just a platform for slinging heavily armed warplanes at the foe. For us, it is a combination of all the best aspects of the USN and USMC flat tops, but on an appreciably smaller scale. We do joint ops better than anyone else, and we will, and should, be sending our carriers off to the next brush fire with Army attack helicopters, RAF Pumas and Chinooks, and FAA CHF and strike aircraft. That is the model for future ops. We will never deploy a US-style strike carrier for one simple reason – we cannot afford it.

Phil

“Seriously before the MoD(N) adopted American nomenclature Ocean was to be classed as an Aviation Support Ship which is a think where you are aiming.”

Aviation Support Ship doesn’t sound cool enough. It would get cancelled immediately. And I’m too ill to think of anything cooler than Aviation Projection Ship! I was thinking Aviation Effects Vessel ;-)

CVF needs another name though, its not going to be an aircraft carrier in the traditional sense, perhaps “British Aircraft Carrier” would be better.

It would hint at the Heath Robinson, and slightly alarming and eccentric manner in which it will inevitably be employed.

James
James

@ Phil,

CVF(GP), as in Gin Palace is the phrase.

Topman
Topman

ah i see the cvf battle is in full swing again

SomewhatInvolved

It’s all getting a bit closer too…

http://youtu.be/CSZr58hH_cI

Brian Black
Brian Black

Hi, Hannay.

The X47b certainly isn’t up to production standard; however, by the time that the Royal Navy finally puts a squadron of F35 on to the QE, the US plan to be flying a version of the x47b that is capable of real strike sorties.

And…

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Phil

I have said a couple of times here that if I were the MoD(N) I would have fitted CVF with SeaViper plus extra VLS capacity for cruise (either or both TLAM and naval Scalp-N.) CVF then could be classed a battle cruiser guided missile aviation ship…….

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Topman

Shall I start a “should we replace the .223 round?” discussion somewhere for light relief?

Topman
Topman

@x No but a ‘should we bring back the slr?’ would go down a treat.

Phil

I’m gutted I never got to wear puttee’s or wear my doss bag atop my large pack stuffed in a bin liner…

When men were men, with SLRs.

Phil

As a cadet I remember the attachments that meant you could zip up your Pro Boots! Ally.

James
James

My first issued rifle on a course in Catterick pre Sandhurst was an SLR with – wooden furniture! Must have been one of the last. 1983. I never got to convert to SA80 as when it was issued to the RAC I was in a post which had SMG as the PW, after that I never bothered with the SA80 training.

I once shot a 10 litre water can with my SMG from about 30 yards. It did not penetrate, which did not fill me with confidence. However, I did manage to take out a cock pheasant on Bulford ranges with an SMG during my APWT (probably from about 20 yards – no more I think). Good eating, albeit with a slightly smashed up breastbone.

paul g

phil i still have my puttees in the loft, if you really want to spend 5 mins of your life every day putting them on!!
Large pack; there’s a description trading standards could have a field day with.
I like tech i work in tech, but i can’t help feeling that when comes to bombing the shit out of someone far far away you can’t beat the non hackable Mk1 grey matter CPU, recent events in Iran only harden my view, imagine sending 3-4 UAV’s on a mission at £120+million each only to see them taken over and landed/crashed or the sat smashed out of orbit which means the above happens and the rest become hanger queens on your expensive aircraft carrier, which ironically would be an apt description, as it would carrying the aircraft!

Ps buying DPM waterproofs from the army navy store, that weren’t waterproof and sounded like crisp bags and bungees from halfords which you then had to blacken with shoe polish, so you could attach sleeping bag to “large” pack. NBC suit in 58 bum roll anyone? drinking tea from a rolled up newspaper an’ all

James
James

NBC suit in ’58 pattern bum roll did not fit. At all. It was a torture designed for recruits and cadets, no fingernails left etc.

That a the total inability to adopt a prone fire position when your ’58 pattern had a shovel or pick helve attached: helmet would get pushed forward resulting in the ineffective “face in mud” fire position and vaguely pointing the rifle enemywards.

Phil

“Pull up a sandbag and dim the lights”

And I’ll tell you about my Herrick kit issue where I had to make several trips from stores and back to get it all into my room. Ah issued head torch, choice of boots, wristlets incase my wrists got a bit chilly…those were the days ;-)

Tubby
Tubby

@ SomewhatRemoved

“I think many of you are missing the difficulties of producing a new aircraft from an old airframe. I think you have glossed over the practical difficulties of installing new avionics in such platforms, and the complexity of the integration process.”

Just in case this was in part aimed at me, I was actually pointing out how hard the idea of creating a light fighter from Hawk would be and how expensive it would be – IMO it would end up costing as much if not more than a Super Hornet with less performance than the Super Hornet – not a good plan.

Tubby
Tubby

@ SomewhatRemoved

“I think many of you are missing the difficulties of producing a new aircraft from an old airframe. I think you have glossed over the practical difficulties of installing new avionics in such platforms, and the complexity of the integration process.”

Just in case this was in part aimed at me, I was actually pointing out how hard the idea of creating a light fighter from Hawk would be and how expensive it would be – IMO it would end up costing as much if not more than a Super Hornet with less performance than the Super Hornet – not a good plan.

steve taylor
steve taylor

This thread is beginning to sound like a night at the Legion with my dad.

Brian Black
Brian Black

I was going to say earlier that the X47b is a weapons capable design. The initial prototype X47b don’t have functioning weapons bays because they haven’t been built for weapons release testing; they do still have spaces for weapons though, and can carry the weight.

Similarly, only one X47b has all the air-to-air refueling gubbins fitted. The fit out of the initial test vehicles does not represent the intended production design.

Brian Black
Brian Black

Ah, reminiscing… back in my day everything was heavier. And everywhere was further away back then, and uphill.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Brian B

So its true then that the Roman legionnaire did carry as much as kit as a modern infantry man? :)

Mark
Mark

x47b is much like the JSF fly off variants or the BAE EAP a/c. Its interesting how there getting it from west coast of american to Patuxent for testing oh yes by road not allowed to fly in civil airspace!

Hannay
Hannay

@Brian Black

We’ll have to see what happens in 10 years with X-47B. No mission systems is a bit of a killer and I’ve got to feel that you’re being optimistic there. Unless it completely bucks the trend from F-22 and F-35, or is really simplistic, it’s fairly easy to see 2025-2030 dates for IOC – and it’ll quite likely be a rather different platform than the demonstrator flying today. Most interesting thing for me is what happens with the US’s Next Generation Bomber programme.

With regards to FCAS programme in TD’s initial post. It might be good to see this as keeping options open until the next SDSR in 2015 when a more informed decision can be made.

Repulse

Dreaming of the good old days, perhaps we’ve still got some some Seafire thingys we can fly from the CVF. In fact if we raid the RAF museum at Hendon might be able to scrape together a rag tail squadron covering the last 100 years…

RW
RW

getting back to UAVs… interesting that the USMC are using KMAX UAV for resupply in afghanistan

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/unmanned-k-max-operational-in-afghanistan-366340/

given its lifting power this might be a good base for MASC ? as part of the CVF UAV mix

Jed

Don’t need no stinkin X47b, no Kmax, no Naval Taranis – just get in with General Atomics now and help them build and test the Sea Avenger !

40,000ft with that podded F35 AESA – AEW – Check
Long range stealthy strike – interanl bay for 3000lbs of weapons – check
Ability to be inflight refueled – check
Maritime and overland persistent (and more survivable) ISR – check

OK, I know it doesn’t exit yet, but the Avenger (Predator C) has been flying for over a year, so by the time or EMALS equipped carrier is ready, Sea Avenger could be ready for it :-)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Atomics_Avenger

http://www.ga-asi.com/news_events/index.php?read=1&id=285

“I want that one….”

Hannay
Hannay

@Jed

Sea Avenger – So the UK is paying a non-UK company with no work in the UK to develop a UK-specific aircraft? I’m not sure that’s logical.

From what information is available, the only thing maritime about Sea Avenger is the word “Sea” stuck in front.

Again, US advertising works well. Avenger actually seems to be Reaper with a new airframe, trading off endurance for a more speed. It definitely isn’t LO let alone VLO – rather more “signature reduced” in the same manner as F/A-18E / Typhoon / Rafale.

General Atomics approach with incremental development is an interesting one. It’s led to a fairly low risk range of airframes from Predator to Reaper and now to Avenger, and reasonably low costs along the way. The problem is that the system is limited by the choices made 15-20 years ago and you simply can’t uplift to an up-to-date system without designing it again from scratch.

andyw
andyw

Hannay

“From what information is available, the only thing maritime about Sea Avenger is the word “Sea” stuck in front.”

It has folding wings, carrier landing gear and tailhook.

Ant
Ant

Whilst on the subject of aspirational designs not completely worked through, I came across the Fanwing concept a few years ago, and thought I would share it with you now.
http://www.fanwing.com/index.htm

If you haven’t seen this before, it is a fascinating novel design with considerable potential (he said as if he knew), which seems to be maturing rather slowly. Perhaps too slowly. The MOD were interested at one stage but if they are now they have been edited off the page and its gone all sneaky dark.
The concept has good potential for short field STOL as a heavy lifter or as a MALE UAV surveillance platform. It would lend itself to expeditionary military and carrier/LPH based roles as a Chinook replacement, or maybe EMCAT launched from a T26 as a UAV.
See this recent presentation by George Seyfang (Formerly Principal Concepts Engineer at BAE Systems, UK) who is on the board.

http://www.fanwing.com/CEAS.pdf

Who concludes:
“A comparison of four different aircraft and
rotorcraft configurations has shown that the
FanWing concept now offers an interesting
and unique capability, with short-field
performance close to that of helicopters and
tilt-rotor aircraft, but with operating
economies close to that of conventional
aircraft.”

Anyway: the best of British. It will probably be taken up by someone else and made a world-beater in 20 yrs.
Cheers

Repulse

Going back to an earlier thread, the USN T45C is still in production at a cost of $22m. Can’t see why we are not be ordering some of these already for training up FAA pilots. We just sold the Harriers for $180m, surely we could have got some of these instead…

Also, with more nations are looking at carrier capability – surely marketing a carrier trainer would be a good idea. Still not convinced that a single seater version with some of the bells and whistles is not possible for the provision of air defence at a low cost.

Somewhat Removed
Somewhat Removed

Repulse, care to lay a bet over whether the production of a Hawk-based carrier trainer is figuring in the talks over the future of Warton, Salmesbury and Brough?

Repulse

You are probably right… Wish the plan was more public, would give us more confidence that the government / MOD knew what they were doing…

Topman
Topman

@ repulse. There is no real need to buy them. We are using the americans training places it’s much cheaper than bringing our own into service. It’s what the french do just buy the training slots. as to the cheap hawk for air defence it has been around for years. If you mean a version for the carrier no real market very few countries have them and those that do would want something high end to protect their carrier, it’s too important to go cheap on.

Repulse

@Topman, understand your point but the fact any F35 buy would most likely be just for a small number of a/c would be useful to have something else to fly from them. Plus the RN (FRADU) already use the Hawk T1 for for FOST etc – could easily swap these for a few more Goshawks and get a better capability all round (training etc) for relatively little expenditure.

Even with T45s in escort there is still a need for air defence for a task group, but the question is that if Sampson has a range of 200 miles – what capability from an a/c are we looking for / need?

Topman
Topman

‘would be useful to have something else to fly from them.’

I don’t deny that but I think it’s high risk having your biggest single asset protected a/c wise by a modified trainer.

‘could easily swap these for a few more Goshawks’

I’m not sure they can IIRC they don’t own the airframes the RAF do. How much would the the USN give them up? What would they use the T1s for?

‘what capability from an a/c are we looking for / need?’

Something that gives high end protection to the carrier. You can’t afford to lose it. F35 with A-A fit would be better.

Mark
Mark

As far as I was aware T45 Goshawk production stopped in 2008 but maybe wrong. Also it has a tiny payload capacity I think its around 4000lbs for fuel and any weapons total.

Repulse

They are upgrading the T-45A’s to T-45C’s at the moment so I think you may be right. But, the modifications have been proved and we’re still building Hawks. I know it would take effort / money, but if you could merge the Hawk 200 and Goshawk it would be an interesting proposition.

Mark
Mark

Hawk 200 is single seat and therefore no use as a trainer. by the time you add a radar ect to a goshawk its payload allowance drops further until the point it can take off do a circuit and land again and not much else. You would need significant redesign of both. Hawk is not the answer for any future uk strike requirement imo and the other tactical task are better preformed by other assets.

If its for recon a Da42 cost about £500 per hour to operate cheap as chips and it can stay airborne for longer cant go on a carrier but not either thing has too. If it requires v limited strike we could look at attaching 2 hellfire missiles. For anything more complicated we need full fast jet capacity and than heads to f35 ect.

Below is a outline of UAVs not sure if it been on here before.
http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/RUSI_ethics.pdf

SomewhatInvolved

I suggest it would be highly illogical for the UK to accept the F35 into service without an indigenous carrier flying training programme. Considering we conduct training for all types up to and including Typhoon, the acquisition of a Hawk-based carrier trainer (or any other, though the Hawk is logical) is only sensible; moreover, it would only have become apparent since the decision to adopt CATOBAR aircraft. We already operate the Hawk as a flying trainer, and having read through a number of online sources it is apparent that a carrier capable airframe would require very little work – undercarriage and tailhook alone would be enough. The Americans derated the engine for fuel efficiency, which led to many of the problems with the initial Goshawks, and many of the other changes were either inspired by, or adopted into later Hawk variants anyway.

That said, I don’t understand why Repulse and others want another aircraft to operate from CVF. We will have enough F35’s – the headline figure of 12 aircraft is the standard, potter about and conduct training complement; for operations the numbers increase. Any operation is also likely to have a significant rotary wing presence as our carriers are intended as joint platforms for multi role capability, so come the day you will likely see at least 24 F35’s plus rotary. A Goshawk is, as Topman and others mentioned, a trainer with a minimal weapons capability. Carriers will be defended by F35’s vectored by MASC (Merlin probably) and T45 controllers; in fact, since the carrier’s radars are significantly higher the controllers may be there instead.

That’s all you’re gonna get from a 65,000 ton carrier. It’s not big enough for anything else!

Chris.B

@ Ant

That FanWing is remarkable! Innovation never ceases to amaze me.

Brian Black
Brian Black

A little bit of scepticism is healthy, Hannay, but you shouldn’t be so pessimistic. The x47b programme has shown positive results so far. And while it’s not reached anything like the finished article yet, various elements of the mission systems have been successfully tested using the prototype vehicles, simulated x47b, and surrogate aircraft.
This programme will likely lead to a useful and capable UCAV, and its capabilities like automated landings or refueling may also quickly come to be used in manned aircraft.

Repulse

@SomewhatRemoved, I’m not anti F35, but just challenging that it is the only solution for the RN. You’ve mentioned that the increase in radar and the additional capabilities brought by the T45 changes things – could we get away with a lower capable air defence fighter and spend the money on UAV technology.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

Agreed with ChrisB, that Fanwing is quite remarkable.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Following from the “established” tradition, here comes this year’s e-book present to all contributors:
[PDF]
UAVs: The Wider Context – CENTRE FOR AIR POWER STUDIES
http://www.airpowerstudies.co.uk/UAV-Book.pdf

Merry Christmas!

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