F35 – Back to Plan B

If the Guardian is to be believed the MoD is considering switching back to the STOVL version of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/01/uk-aircraft-carrier-us-strike-fighter You can have a cheeky snigger at the Cats and Flaps mistake in the article but the story is no less interesting.

Britain’s troubled and increasingly expensive plan to equip the navy with new aircraft carriers has been plunged into fresh turmoil as ministers consider reversing their earlier decision to change the type of plane that should fly from them, it has emerged Now, in an extraordinary volte-face, the Ministry of Defence says the “cats and flaps” planes may well be cheaper but it would be too expensive to redesign a carrier – more than £1bn – to accommodate them. The ministry is thus faced with the prospect of renegotiating a deal with the US, reverting to its original plan – namely buying the short take-off and vertical landing version of the aircraft, even though it is acknowledged to be less effective and more expensive

Its probably a load of nonsense but if true, despite the comedic element of the CVF/JCA omnishambles, it would represent a thoroughly sound decision. In time honoured tradition it could be a Pre PR12 spot of damage limitation and/or shaping, a mischievous leak by someone with an agenda, a discarded option or it could be the end result of the post SDSR decision to switch. A decision that was always done based on incomplete information, recognised by the fact that the MoD then embarked on a study to determine how much it would cost. Given that we aren’t best buddies with the USMC aviation community for leaving them in the lurch I wonder how we would re-generate those STOVL deck operations? Of course the original decision of run Harrier from CVS and CVF, transitioning to JCA, made perfect sense. I wonder in retrospect, the money we have spunked up the wall on studies, contract changes and general pissing about could have kept that original, sensible, plan. File under, you couldn’t make it up!       More later but thanks for the spot James

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Peter Elliott
March 1, 2012 11:15 pm

Given the shorter range and weight on take-off issues for a STOVL aircraft the issue of carrier or buddy AAR would become all the more pressing.

My view is why double up expensive fast jets for buddy AAR when you could have a single work-horse like C2 Greyhound top up a whole strike force of pointy fighers?

Peter Elliott
March 1, 2012 11:44 pm

B*gger. Just realised the logical impossibility of this without catapults. Grr.

solomon
solomon
March 2, 2012 1:06 am

wow.

just wow.

i hope this isn’t true because i will have a field day with it if it is.

i would totally agree with the decision but still….

James
James
March 2, 2012 1:11 am

There’s a horrifying probability that the Grauniad is onto some ground truth, but it is not a done deal yet, and then there’s a whole “presentation” piece for the spin doctors that may take a couple of weeks. BAE also kicking up at a senior level.

James
James
March 2, 2012 1:13 am

TD please scratch the first sentence. TMI.

solomon
solomon
March 2, 2012 1:19 am

is it possible that we’re seeing some inter service rivalry on display here?

with the B model the joint force established for the Harrier can be revised…with the C model it would probably be too expensive to have Royal Air Force pilots trained to land on a conventional carrier. with the B model you’ll see RAF pilots flying off the flat tops to there hearts content.

are we seeing the RAF gaming the Royal Navy????

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
March 2, 2012 2:49 am

Getting back into Cats and Traps aviation from a zero base was always going to be expensive. What’s more embarrassing for a politician, saying we tried but ‘industry costs let us down’ or covering up the cost knowing the real figures will leak?
At the moment there is probably more risk of the F-35C being cancelled than the ‘B’. The Marines want the F-35B, the USN can live quite well without the ‘Ç’. It would also keep Boeing in the fighter business. Win, Win?

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 3:11 am

Win/Win other than the fact that the B variant has a shortened fuel tank for the lift fan and you have to short load it to VTOL. And the fact that other planes use the cat as well, like AWACs and some small cargo/passenger/refueling planes like Peter just figured out. And if you want interoperational capability, you need the cat, provided you’re not only into recovering F-35s, but F-18s as well, just in case some poor aviator gets his fuel tank holed and needs to land somewhere non-hostile. Preferably non-liquid as well.

solomon
solomon
March 2, 2012 3:25 am

interoperability with just the US Navy and the French or interoperability with all the users of STOVL aircraft and with all nations that have big deck amphibs?

you get a much broader use of platforms with the B model and you can slam it in comparison to the range found in the C model but its a tremendous step up from the Harrier.

additionally are you going to fund AWACs aircraft? E-2’s are quite cheap. at least the latest and greatest version isn’t.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
March 2, 2012 4:15 am

Again it all boils down to money and the lack of. For the Navy the “C” variant is the better solution but we seem to have insufficient funds to meet the aspiration. No change there then. As for interoperability, well yes only the US and French have CTOL carriers but then only France, Italy and the US have large flat top amphibs fitted out to operate fast jets so their isn’t that big a difference, when you look at the number of platforms.

As i have said before the whole CVF/JCA programme has been a complete cock up ever since it was underfunded from day one, and constantly interferred with at a political level seeming to be more about jobs in Scotland and maintaining an inefficient ship building industry on the grounds it is in out national interest. Why is this so when we no longer manufacture the majority of the ammunition we use!?

When are our Lords and Masters going to realise we can no longer afford to sit at the top table and stop aspiring to capabilites that lead to an unbalanced armed forces that do not have the capacity to actually do anythings above very limited operations.

The whole F-35 programme has been a move by the US to grab what is left of the fast jet market from 2020 onwards and stifle any competion from other western manufacturers, leaving it the only game in town, with enough toys and bling to make the top brass swoon and become blinkered into thinking it is the only option. Escalation defence costs are claimed to have forced the USSR to implode ending the cold war (according to some people). The F-35 is possibly going to be the reason the majority of the West’s armed forces implode or bcome so unbalanced that they brecome show piece rather than effective assets, and the CVF will make it doubly like for this to happen to the UK.

We should finish the CVF to the cheapest standard and put them in storage available for sale. Bit the bullet on the cost of the programme as we cannot afford to operate them effectively and eventually buy a replacement for the Tornado or keep it going for as long as possible until new technologies offer vaiable alternative.

I used to think that once we became involved in a serious long term shooting war the Politicians would wake up t the fact the defence cannot be run on a shoestring but I was wrong. Our armed forces have been treated as a PR tool since the end of the Cold War, allowing governments to imply we are still one of the big boys. Politicians should be directly and criminally liable for casualties if these are deemd to have been made more likely through insufficent kit or general lack of resources and manpower

solomon
solomon
March 2, 2012 5:18 am

i can’t reasonably comment on internal British politics, but as far as the West’s economic plight is concerned i can state that its my belief that the rise of the welfare state is the root cause of the problems. compare your defense spending (or the defense spending of any western nation) to that spent on social programs and you’ll see the real villain.

but back to the F-35 and interoperability. only the US and the French have big deck aircraft carriers. THATS IT. only those two navies.

now compare how many nations have what is properly called big deck amphibs. the very type of warship that the F-35B is designed to operate from.

the US Navy has 10 of these ships. with four of them forward deployed or at sea at any time. that equals the number of big deck carriers that the US puts to sea. additionally the Italian Cavour class will operate F-35B’s not C’s.

Spain, Italy (they’re acquiring additional LHD’s), Australia, Japan, S. Korea and probably Singapore will operate LHD’s…big deck amphibs with flight decks capable of operating F-35B’s.

so do we really want to talk interoperability? and lets be honest. this is a capability that is really all talk with little evidence of it actually working. where are you going to surge the personnel that come along with these extra aircraft? if they go out on a regular deployment then the world’s navies will in essence be giving into the bean counters and stating that the aircraft they have might be too many or that any shortfall can be made up elsewhere.

its a fantasy. its jointness without purpose. its a popular talking point and nothing else.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
March 2, 2012 6:22 am

Observor, the UK picked the F-35B in the first place, yes it has the shortest range, yes it has a smaller internal bomb bay.
It will also probable have a higher attrition rate than atleast the F-35A. Even so a damaged or fuel short F-35B could recover on most flight decks in a pinch. It could also go to sea earlier with QE rather than waiting for a modified PoW…..which I always thought would be a bag of cats. Lets face it Diesel/Turbine electric drive and power hungry electromagnetic catapults were an interesting mix.

solomon
solomon
March 2, 2012 6:38 am

why must it have a higher attrition rate? are we thinking Harrier again or are we looking into advancements made since then?

to be quite honest consider launch and recovery the C should have the higher attrition rate. the C model has bigger wings but will have the highest approach speed of any carrier airplane on US decks since the F-8 Crusader.

and as much as i hate to admit it, the work with the arrestor hook indicates that it will have an incredibly high ‘miss’ rate when making landings. those two things spell bad news for the f-35c.

diesel/turbine electric drive should be a good thing for an electromagnetic catapult. no need to transform power. it just goes straight to the cats. instead of having to be made into steam first. quite honestly it should be more efficient and cost effective…once you get past the initial costs.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 2, 2012 7:47 am

At first I thought I was looking at an LM website as there is so much depth to the specifics, but the data has actually been collated by David Hastings (apparently a UK website) http://www.targetlock.org.uk/f-35/production.html
– the point in the below is that the planned production numbers for “C” are trailing the others

LRIP Lot III

17 aircraft. Includes two F-35Bs for the UK and one F-35A for the Netherlands.
Type Designation Serial Unit Notes Image
F-35A AF-14 Due for delivery early 2012.
F-35A AN-1 For the Netherlands.
F-35B BF-12 Due for delivery early 2012.
F-35B BK-1 ZM135 For UK. Final assembly started 26 Oct 2009. Rolled out 20 Nov 2011.

F-35C BK-2 ZM136 For UK.
LRIP Lot IV

32 aircraft – 11 F-35A (one for the Netherlands), 16 F-35B and 5 F-35C (one for the UK).
LRIP Lot V

30 aircraft – 21 F-35A, 3 F-35B and 6 F-35C.
LRIP Lot VI

38 aircraft – 19 F-35As for the USAF; 4 F-35As for Italy; 2 F-35As for Australia; 6 F-35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps; 7 F-35Cs for the U.S. Navy

Tubby
Tubby
March 2, 2012 8:46 am

Wearing my tin foil hat I cannot wonder if a switch to the F-35C was not a cunning plan to find a good reason to get rid of the Harriers, and now they are planning to switch back to the F-35B that they wanted all along. Out of interest was the cost of the design study roughly the same as the money we got for the Harriers.

Topman
Topman
March 2, 2012 8:47 am

‘are we thinking Harrier again or are we looking into advancements made since then?’

As you know single engined a/c tend to have a bigger loss rate, knowing that what advancements have been made since then to reduce that?

martin
Editor
March 2, 2012 8:56 am

To my mind the move to the C version akes sense for two reasons. Firstly we need to repalce the Tornado at some point. The F35 is the only game in tonw I can see realistically doing that and the C version would seem the best choice. Can we justify having two dedicated strike aircraft and Typhoon. Probably not. I know CVF and JCA are expensive. However much of the cost comes from JCA. If we are going to have strike aircraft and not mahy of them then surely we should make sure these aircraft are as versatile as possible. A carrier aircraft can easily operate from a land base but a land bassed aircraft cannot operate at sea. Also a conventioanl carrier design allows us to operate E2 as AWACS. Obvioulsy the budgte fro this is lost some where at present. However the RAF E3’s can’t go on forever. They will need repalcing. Surely a joint AWACS capability repalcing both Asac7 and E3 is the most sensible option on a budget. The lesson I took from Libya was that the RAF and other Western European countries are now completley incapable of mounting any seriosu operations even when they can fly from EU bases let alone any where else. Fixed Wing Aircraft able to fly off of carriers seems to me the best way to redress this problem and the F35C gives us the best capability to do that. Even just being able to deploy 12 of these aircraft properly backed up with AWACS would give us a capability far beyond what we have ever had in the past.

Ace Rimmer
March 2, 2012 8:58 am

“Given that we aren’t best buddies with the USMC aviation community for leaving them in the lurch I wonder how we would re-generate those STOVL deck operations?”

Given that we sold them our fleet of Harriers for a pittance, I guess that has helped cushion the blow.

Topman
Topman
March 2, 2012 9:20 am

‘Surely a joint AWACS capability repalcing both Asac7 and E3 is the most sensible option on a budget.’

I don’t think they will go out of service at the same time to take advantage of it. If they do the technology won’t end up in the same a/c but the technology could be shared.

wf
wf
March 2, 2012 9:32 am

@Solomon: I agree with your F35C point.

Regarding compatibility, a CATOBAR carrier is compatible with everything, including CTOL aircraft.

Just buy F18, you idiots :-)

solomon
solomon
March 2, 2012 9:45 am

As you know single engined a/c tend to have a bigger loss rate, knowing that what advancements have been made since then to reduce that?

the comparison was made between the loss rates between the F-35B and C. i was stating that due to the high landing speed of the C (projected anyway) and the problems with the tailhook, that i can reasonably see the C having a higher loss rate than the B. the advances i spoke about were with regard to the B in landing mode. from all statements made by test pilots the B is rather carefree in this environment and based on those statements i came to my conclusion.

additionally the loss rate for single engined fighter aircraft operating over water is another of those common wisdoms thats simply wrong. if multi engined aircraft were the way to go then our airliners would still be operating with four engines instead of two. its another area where advancements in reliability are being ignored and doing things as we always has is taking over. the F-18 is twin engined but i would bet (and i don’t have the numbers) that its engine failure leading to crashes is equal to the F-16’s which is a single engined fighter. oh and if you do the comparison please compare the latest model of F-16 vs. the latest model of F-18.

Topman
Topman
March 2, 2012 9:58 am

‘if multi engined aircraft were the way to go then our airliners would still be operating with four engines instead of two. ‘

Err two engined is still multi engined.

‘and if you do the comparison please compare the latest model of F-16 vs. the latest model of F-18.’

I don’t have the figures to hand, but it would be interesting. Wasn’t the F-16 nicknamed the lawn dart early on?

Peter Elliott
March 2, 2012 10:34 am

‘Surely a joint AWACS capability repalcing both Asac7 and E3 is the most sensible option on a budget.’

I don’t think they will go out of service at the same time to take advantage of it. If they do the technology won’t end up in the same a/c but the technology could be shared.

If we are back in the world of STOVL then V-22 could perhaps be the airframe to do both?

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 10:39 am

solomon, you totally missed the point I was trying to make, and you also misundestood Aussie.

A cat and traps carrier can operate auxillary planes too like refuelers and AWACs. A cat-less carrier can ONLY operate your hobby horse, the F-35B. You going to suggest using an F-35 as an AWACS? Refueler is possible, but buddy storing is much less efficient than a tanker. And if you are going to get a full capability carrier, you might as well get the F-35C for better range and loadout.

The attrition Aussie mentions is not “going into the drink”, it’s maintainance downtime. The C has a fairly conventional trust vectored engine, the B’s entire aft assembly pivots down. That is added complexity and maintainance work, and more parts that can go wrong.

Peter Elliott
March 2, 2012 10:45 am

I suppose you could have a V22 varient for STOVL AAR?

Send up half a dozen V22s full of fuel, then get your F35B strike force in the air with full weapons bays but empty tanks, then fuel up, and then set off.

Topman
Topman
March 2, 2012 10:45 am

‘If we are back in the world of STOVL then V-22 could perhaps be the airframe to do both?’

The range of tasks that is required on E-3 means it needs a large a/c to fit it in. It’s hard to marry that to sharing what could fit on a carrier.

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 10:50 am

“Send up half a dozen V22s full of fuel, then get your F35B strike force in the air with full weapons bays but empty tanks, then fuel up, and then set off.”

Very possible, other than the waste of putting another 6 planes for AAR in as opposed to 2 tankers and 2 AWACs.

And I can see the ad for Air Trafic Controller now.
– Capable of multitasking
– Works well under pressure
– Honors degree in juggling essential.

:P

Martin
Editor
March 2, 2012 10:54 am

Does anyone have any firm cost from either the USA or France for the differences I’n training and maintaing naval pilots vs land based?

Peter Elliott
March 2, 2012 10:55 am

Must also have fully integral broom for sweeping the floor :-)

And I can see the ad for Air Trafic Controller now.
– Capable of multitasking
– Works well under pressure
– Honors degree in juggling essential.

Peter Elliott
March 2, 2012 10:58 am

Palletised fuel tanks – multi role them with option to switch to palletised AWACS, MPA, EW or ISTAR systems or just use them for ferrying boot necks around.

“the waste of putting another 6 planes for AAR in as opposed to 2 tankers and 2 AWACs.”

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 10:59 am

Get him a robe.. cough..sorry, auxillary multipurpose weather protection device and intergrated floor cleaner.

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 11:04 am

Fuel, MPA, EW, SAR and ISTAR are possible, but AWACs tend to require dedicated radar systems that are fairly large and with radomes that go all over the place outside the plane, doubt you can chuck one inside without losing function.

Mike Reeve
Mike Reeve
March 2, 2012 11:09 am

Going back to the F-35B also means that P.o.W. need not go ahead because Ocean when refitted, could be kept on longer to fill the gap until Daewoo builds us a highly modified container ship that could be used as an LPH suitable for helicopters and F-35B’s. This assumes that we have virtually no ship building capacity after CVF is finished and BAE emigrates most of its assets abroad due to lack of work in this country. I can see perhaps only Barrow left after about 2020.

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 11:19 am

Mike, think Barrow would be the 1st to die off, they are pure milit shipyards and cannot take in civillian orders to get over the lean times.

This means no shipbuilding capability….

x
x
March 2, 2012 11:19 am

Explain “Given that we aren’t best buddies with the USMC aviation community for leaving them in the lurch I wonder how we would re-generate those STOVL deck operations?”

We mustn’t forget that the Italians have their Merlin AEW/ASaC flying.

Couldn’t large UAV’s be craned over the side and launched from the sea?

As always here there seems to be a little appreciation of the fact that hulls have a utility all of their own; it is a bit hackneyed but having several acres of sovereign territory that can be moved around the globe is nothing to be sniffed at. It is all a bit Freudian this obsession some here have with pointy things!!!! ;) :) Helicopters are just as important as FJ in the maritime environment; actually probably more so. CVF would make an ideal TLAM and SeaViper platform.

How important is range? Won’t most air-to-air engagements be over in minutes? Even at the prestigious rates of fuel used in combat does it make that much difference? Especially in the age of BVR combat? What of the opposition? Perhaps we should go out to buy some nice SU30 or Mig29…..?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 2, 2012 11:28 am

Hi Mike R,

pp.59-61 has your conversion plan in rough outline
http://www.nrac.navy.mil/docs/2005_rpt_sea_basing.pdf

As it is a marriage of two best practices (Maersk at sea and Walmart for storing and handling stuff), the SVTOL jets aspect would need further nuancing

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 11:31 am

@x

Re: Fuel, yes in makes a difference. Pilots with a bigger fuel reserve tend to manuver more aggresively, while those with lower fuel levels tend to move more conservatively. Similarly, pilots who know that they have AAR available tend to hit the burners more, knowing that they won’t run out of fuel. And this does play a part in missile ranges. A plane that accelerates hard just before missile release transfers the additional energy to the missile, increasing speed and range, which affects even BVR missiles.

“CVF would make an ideal TLAM and SeaViper platform.”

So another “through deck carrier”? Or if you’re feeling rather Russian “aircraft launching missile cruiser” :P

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
March 2, 2012 11:38 am

re costs saved by switching back to “b”

has anyone considered that we would have to reinvent the £1b FOAS budget line that the extended range of the “c” version justified absorbing?

martin
Editor
March 2, 2012 11:47 am

regarding E3 Awacs replacement – Ordered these aircraft in 1987 and took deliver in 1990. Bearing in mind the 707 is a 1950’s airframe design are we going to see these things flying into the 2030’s. We are not planning to have a carrier capability until 2020. I don’t see it as too much of a stretch to invisage a Joint force Lighting and Joint Force Hawkeye as well replacing both E3 and Asac 7 (16 units) with Perhaps 8 – 10 E2’s. Does anyone know which is now the better paltform the E3 or the new E2D? Would we loose any capability with E2?

x
x
March 2, 2012 11:49 am

@ Obs

I know the arguments. But do they actually stand testing?

@ Jedi

FOAS = TLAM :)

martin
Editor
March 2, 2012 11:49 am

@ Jedi – Don’t think allot of people have taken that into account. I can’t see any point in FOAS or Tornado if we have 100+ Daves. Better to wait until the UCAS work can deliver us something rather than looking at a new manned system.

martin
Editor
March 2, 2012 11:56 am

Does anyone Know if the F35 C will have any automatic landing systems that might make pilot traing easier. I know the US is not a fan of naything that saves money. What would be the potential for us to upgrade ours with this capability. The aircraft is surley smart enough.

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 11:57 am

@x

More than testing, it’s an observed phenomenom in war. If a pilot is told not to worry about fuel, he tends to go a bit nuts.

x
x
March 2, 2012 11:59 am

@ Obs

I am going to leave it. I am going to end up going down a rabbit hole over this.

Mike Reeve
Mike Reeve
March 2, 2012 12:00 pm

Hi ArmchairCivvy,
This is where I got the idea from, think it could very versatile, practical and cost effective especially if it employed the “mother ship ” idea as well. Far cheaper than CVF especially if the basic ship was built abroad and fitted out in the UK like MARS for instance. Maybe even crewed by RFA/RN together, who knows.
Hi Observer,
Since the Type 26 GCS might have it’s hull built in Turkey, India or Brazil it does not bode well for the future of the British ship building industry. As you rightly mention our yards tend to be geared for military ships only, but I still think that Barrow would survive because of it’s submarine orders present and future. Once Astute is out of the way then probably Vanguard’s and Trafalgar’s successors will follow on. As a European study commented in 2010, the EU has too many shipyards for the amount of work it is doing therefore the weakest ones will eventually close. Because UK’s yards are not competitive for large civilian ships then ours are the most likely one’s to suffer.

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 12:05 pm

Automated landing systems work on solid ground with fixed GPS locations, on a ship which can be who knows where, on a deck pitching in weather and with the need to catch a 3-wire? Not a chance in hell. Computers run by rote, they are not “smart” in the sense of “damn, screwed up plan, adjust to fit”.

A high risk situation is NOT something you want a rote computer to take control of.

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 12:12 pm

Mike, UK yards need to restructure. There is nothing wrong with taking in civilian building and maintanance work as well as military, not to mention there is a lot of crossover in design, eg oil tanker vs fleet tanker or LHD vs container ships. Barrow did themselves no favours shrinking their market, and I believe that if they had expanded to the civilian sector as well, they would have found enough “savings in bulk” to have retained their competitive edge.

Pity.

Peter Elliott
March 2, 2012 12:25 pm

Future carrier based UCAVs will of course need an automated landing system.

I did see somewhere that the F35 does have more automation of its landing systems than an F18, although in practice this will be used for giving addtional guidance for the pilot rather than to take control of the plane.

The same article (or TVprog?) seemed to imply that current naval UCAV research builds on the same landing algorithms developed for the F35.

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 12:35 pm

Carrier landings will still need human input, computers do not yet have the right degree of fuzzy logic to adapt to changing circumstances, like that of a pitching deck, or estimating the need for another go-around. Even current UAVs launch and land from carriers under remote human control, not automated. In terms of calculations per min, computers have us beat. In terms of situational judgement and adaptation, the human brain still has no equal

Mark
Mark
March 2, 2012 12:39 pm
Martin
Editor
March 2, 2012 12:43 pm

@ observer I thought x47 already had landing capability developed. The ship will no far better than a pilot if it’s pitching or rolling and can tell the computer. I would not fancy a humans chances of landing a ucas on a ship via nintendo

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 12:48 pm

Mark, that’s still human piloted.

Martin, the X-47 series are still human controlled. If you don’t fancy a human’s chances, a computer’s is much worse. You massively overestimate a computer’s decision making capabilities.

Mark
Mark
March 2, 2012 12:56 pm

Observer didn’t say it wasn’t Martin asked if f35 will have automation to make landing easier this is what the above is intending to do. F18 flys itself off the deck at he minute this is what’s next. And if it can’t be done uavs won’t be landing on carriers because the delay between what a pilot sees on his video screen making an input and then that being transmitted to a Uav and the flight controls moving will be to long for carrier landings.

Mike Reeve
Mike Reeve
March 2, 2012 1:23 pm

Obs
I totally agree with you, but BAE seem to have the God given idea that they must have all the military work from government and nobody else should get anything, unless they are a junior partner(in UK). Of course they don’t have this, but their attitude is eventually going to drive them out of this country as regards big projects other than RN maintenance and upgrades. I leave everybody to their own thoughts on this one. Ultimately I feel this will close most of our yards unless they go partly over to merchant navy work.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 2, 2012 1:29 pm

Hi Jedi,

RE “has anyone considered that we would have to reinvent the £1b FOAS budget line”
– isn’t that the Scavenger
– if it morphs into nEURON (Dassault is the lead for it), the good news is that half of that has already been spent (by others!) and the £10m allocation just announced is for the lawyers fees, for drawing up the co-operation agreement (anew, giving UK some say)

solomon
solomon
March 2, 2012 1:44 pm

hey gents … the X-47 is going to have automated landing. its already being tested on a F-18.

my comment on two engine airliners instead of four was in reference to increased reliability of engines.

the F-16 was known as a lawn dart early on. but i asked for a comparison in loss rates from the most modern models because it was to test the theory that two engined fighters are necessarily safer than single engined ones.

the E-2D is a costly bit of kit. besides isn’t EADS roping Europe into using the A330 as the next AWACS?

here in the US boeing is trying to sell the P-8(737) as the next common airframe for special mission aircraft…AWACS, JSTAR and certain recce models.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 2, 2012 1:49 pm

Hi Mike R,

RE “Once Astute is out of the way then probably …Trafalgar’s successors will follow on”
– Astutes are their successors
– maybe a month back we had a lively discussion on whether it had been better to have been a bit more modest with the size increase when designing Astutes
=> would have delivered 10+ units, no need to slow down the construction cycle (due to that factor alone we will now get 7 boats for the price of 8!), no need to lengthen the tours at sea to make up for the numbers gap (are we going to start to lose submariners? – very specialist skills, hard and/or expensive to replace)

James
James
March 2, 2012 1:58 pm

Observer,

Firescout can land itself on ships in anything up to sea state 5 (me not being a sailor I had to look up what that means – quite lumpy is the answer). It has a landing system based on lasers projected across the HLS at various angles. It approaches on I think a radio homing signal and then hovers and looks down at the laser patterns for a while to work out how the ship is moving. I remember the system being explained in Powerpoint charts when we were looking at Firescout as a possible for Watchkeeper, but at that stage it had not been fully developed. It has now, appears to work quite well. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wxl-ko7Vd64 but that does not show any particularly rough sea.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
March 2, 2012 2:00 pm

@ X – “FOAS = TLAM :)”

The acornyms have evolved over time, so perhaps FOAS is not quite the right one now, but the SDSR did explicitly absorb a £1b budget line for manned long range strike when it swapped the “b” for the “c”.

Peter Elliott
March 2, 2012 2:05 pm

The crunch will come soon enough at Barrow. Either orders for a Vanguard replacement, or more Astutes, or pack up the tools lay off the workers and never build another sub in the UK again.

That’s a DIS decision writ very large. Its one of the few areas where our armed forces have a real edge and it could easily go. Its easy to say we’ll stop at 7 Astutes, but if the choice is order 3 more boats or no more _ever_ then we might just get boats 8-10.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 2, 2012 2:06 pm

Hi Sol,

On these sorts of lines of development, people have been wondering how could the new bomber be had for three and half bn’s development pot
“the next common airframe for special mission aircraft”

The theory goes that
– the unmanned operation part of the systems will be shared with x-47
– that the Air Force’s black budget has already spent 2 bn on it with Northrop Grumman (explains why the official x-47 programme is going without a hitch… Navy, Air Force = two different budgets, easier to put a third one in-between)
– and the whole exercise is now mainly about reverse engineering the bigger design into using more mature components (pushing the unit cost down, with the bigger size the technology challenge is less than with the carrier-sized long-range penetrator… even though EMALS could throw even the A-12 up, had it been built, as they can handle 25% heavier aircraft for the same size of flight deck)

Landing back of course becomes a challenge if weight goes up (didn’t know about that high approach speed with F-35 – thanks!)

True, or a fairy tale (about the bomber development)?

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 2:08 pm

Thanks James, but there is a massive difference between a UAV helo VTOL landing and a F-35 carrier traps landing, though it might be possible to guide the plane down with a modification of the current “calling the ball” visual system. Still not something I’d trust to a computer. If solomon thinks it can be done by computer, more power to him, don’t blame others if you lose planes over it. Still sees it as part of the “Shiny new toy” syndrome.

SomewhatInvolved
March 2, 2012 2:12 pm

Hasn’t enough money been wasted already changing to cat and traps? Why waste more going back on a decision? This it typical political meddling that does nothing except incur delay and additional cost.

Anyway, would’t trust the Guardian (or Jim Murphy for that matter) as far as I could throw it…

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 2:20 pm

@James again

Sorry, noticed something late. Where in the video did it state that was auto-landing and not human operator?

@Mark

Video lag isn’t the problem, Spd of Light is 7 times round the world per second, a paltry 200km back and forth isn’t going to hinder it much. What slows the process down is the bandwidth and encryption. On AJ mode, our radios lag by 1-2 seconds on side by side sets. And yes, this lag is not a good thing for situational awareness and reaction. However if you can increase bandwidth and cut corners on encryption, it is possible for near realtime display. It won’t give the “on the spot” feel, but much higher chance of sucess than a computer programed by rote.

James
James
March 2, 2012 2:43 pm

Observer,

it was designed for autonomous landings from the beginning (why that’s better than a pilot using his xbox controller is not something I ever really thought about). From the Nortrop fact sheet on Firescout:

“The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman wrote a new chapter in naval aviation history Jan. 16-17, 2006, when two RQ-8A Fire Scout VUASs completed nine autonomous shipboard landings on board USS Nashville (LPD 13) off the coast of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. This test marked the first time a Navy UAS performed vertical landings on a moving ship without a pilot controlling the aircraft. After it was launched from the naval air station, the Fire Scout flew to the designated test area, where the USS Nashville was waiting for the air vehicle to land and take off under its own control. The flight was monitored from a ship-based control station called a tactical control system, and the air vehicle was guided onto the ship using an unmanned air vehicle common automatic recovery system.”

http://www.as.northropgrumman.com/products/mq8bfirescout_navy/assets/fs-fact-sheet.pdf

martin
Editor
March 2, 2012 2:48 pm

I have a link here showing the first automatic carrier landing by an F18 on 2nd of July 2011. Seems to work although it looks like a sunny day. Going back to my original point if we can take out the need for intensive carrier landing training then surley the F35C, cheaper, bigger with more range and weapons becomes the no brainer choice for our Dave version.

@ Observer

“Video lag isn’t the problem, Spd of Light is 7 times round the world per second, a paltry 200km back and forth isn’t going to hinder it much”.

Comms sattelites don’t travel at 200KM but rather 36,000 KM. Not sure if you have ever spoken on an old style sat phone but data lag is a big issue. Not to mention loosing comms signal even for a second would cause major problems for a deck landing. I would feel allot safer having a UCAS land itself with pilot over sight than having some guy in a bunker some where bringing a large piece of fast moving metal near my ship using a 2d camera and a joystick over a sattelite link.

http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2011/07/look-no-hands.html

Adun
Adun
March 2, 2012 2:50 pm

Switching back to the B seems like a poor choice, given Britain’s current plans. The B variant in STOBAR or V/STOVL mode has several shortcomings compared to the C variant – shorter range, yes (which is not unimportant in an era of proliferating long-range anti-ship weapons), but also a lower payload, which limits the sorts of missions you can accomplish (especially if you want to carry a strike package with some self-defense missiles/decoys/jammers/etc). Setting aside the advantages of being able to operate a variety of different CATOBAR aircraft (AWACS, COD, MPA, etc.), a CATOBAR fighter gives you a lot more versatility in terms of mission profile, especially if you’re playing the away game (I’m convinced this is why STOBAR concepts like the “Sea Control Ship” have never really caught on with the US Navy, which is almost always playing on someone else’s turf). If you want to have a credible, independent naval expeditionary war-fighting capability in the 21st century, I think CATOBAR is the only way to go.

The B variant’s primary strengths are its ability to operate from areas where an A or C variant wouldn’t be able to operate. That’s a great capability, especially if you only have smaller aircraft carriers or want to be able to operate from a lot of smaller airfields in your immediate vicinity. However, if Britain is already committed to fielding a large through-deck aircraft carrier as part of a full-spectrum naval expeditionary fighting capability, I can’t see the appeal of operating the B rather than the C.

martin
Editor
March 2, 2012 2:55 pm

While on the subject of aircraft numbers. Can any one here expalin airforce economics to me. For a squadron of 12 planes how many aircraft do I need to have? How many pilots? what exactly are all the planes not in the 12 doing? If I have two carriers and I want one to be avilable at all times with a squadron of 12 planes onboard how many planes do I need in total.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
March 2, 2012 2:59 pm

Just as I’m getting used to the CATOBAR opportunities they flip back (possibly) to my favoured STOVL option. As much as a hate to say it, a swing role V-22 (with dedicated ASaC variant) would help maximise the STOVL CVF’s capabilities.

@ TD – with the Daewoo tankers and the possible return of the F-35B, is it a good time for my guest piece? (If its too rubbish, I will understand)

James
James
March 2, 2012 3:12 pm

Perhaps the “cats and flaps” remark in the Grauniad article is in fact an extraordinarily wise design change? Some catapults up front on an extremely large flat top to launch UAVs / UCAVs, and a large flap at the rear of the ship so that you can launch landing craft. Have a dedicated recovery area at the back of the large flat top for the UAVs, and a through deck lift in the middle for helicopters. Then you’ve got a useful military capability without breaking the bank on some fast jets of dubious development.

I really should have been a ship designer…. ;)

x
x
March 2, 2012 3:18 pm

@ Somewhat re Murphy being thrown

Perhaps when the cat’s are installed Mr Murphy could be used as a test load.

Mark
Mark
March 2, 2012 3:25 pm

Observer I wasn’t taking about video lag. I was taking about the lag between when a pilot sees something corrects it with an input and the a/c actually responding to that input. That will be much longer than if its done in cockpit by an auto pilot.

Squadron numbers are more notional. Force elements at readiness are what counts nowadays. The plan says black adder (and this is taking on those proportion) is was 1/3 of both typhoon and f35 at fe@r according to sdsr. Sustaining is counting at 1:5 in the airforce I think as in the army 5 sqns manpower wise to sustain a Sqn deployment. The a/c not at fear will be ocu/oeu maintenance at depth attrition replacement and spreading flight hours out. I think the typhoon force during Libya rotated about 2 a/c per month thru italy.

The Mintcake Maker
The Mintcake Maker
March 2, 2012 3:35 pm

Okay ignoring the fact that we have ordered EMALS long lead items, here is my humble suggestion to get around said budgetary problems.

1) Buy a further 20 Typhoon Tranche 3b’s for £73m per a/c (price from wiki) = £1.46bn, as these come online reduce Tornado fleet to 53 aircraft. This allows for 6 operation squadrons of Typhoon, 2 operational Tornado squadrons and 1 large OCU/OEU for each type (16 aircraft)

Therefore there would be 2 “combat” wings for RAF fast jets, No.1 Wing (AD) would have 4 Typhoon squadrons attached and No.2 Wing (strike) would be comprised of 2 Typhoon and 2 Tornado squadrons – enabling 6 of each aircraft to be continuously deployed. If the F-35c does get scrapped then the RAF can buy 53 F-35a’s instead.

Total RAF fast jet fleet = 180 aircraft

2) Go to Boeing and ask for 20 F/A-18 Super Hornets on a 10 year lease with options to then buy the aircraft or Boeing could sell them onto the USN to replace their oldest SH or sell them to somebody like Brazil. If the SH costs £81m (aussie deal), then Boeing may want to charge £810m for 10 years. This would allow for 1x 14 plane squadron to be formed (809 NAS? – return of the phoenix) and several planes for attrition reserves. This would also keep the Boeing line open for another year maybe 2 at the most, by which time we should know if the F-35c is goer or not and we can then buy some more Super Hornets or Rafales (TD you may get that Fiver yet!)

This option costs £2.27bn for the aircraft if we then add on another £1bn for the EMALS equipment for the carrier the total cost is £3.27bn. In comparison the order for the first 40 F-35c by HMG should cost around £3.6bn, saving us £330m. Is my solution 100% ideal? No. Will it suffice for the time being and for the vast majority of situations? Yes.

We could use the money saved on another: 1-2 A400m, one more Type 26 or 200ish Foxhhound vehicles. Hell we could even invest in some stealthy carrier based UCAVs for 1st day strike.

Jim
Jim
March 2, 2012 3:38 pm

It could be that they know the problems with the F-35C, catching the arrestor wire etc can not be fixed. If thats the case buy 50 F/A18 for the navy. F35A for the RAF.

Don’t forget the B was having problems bringing back a respectable payload, and trials with shipboard rolling landings did not seem to solve them

wf
wf
March 2, 2012 3:40 pm

@The Mintcake Maker: a good compromise. Since as I understand it we are only saving operational costs for Tranche 3B due to cancellation penalties, I would aver there is more scope for a larger 3B order, replacement of Tornado before the support runs out in 2015, and a larger lease of F18

Jim
Jim
March 2, 2012 3:45 pm

@ The Mintcake Maker
Another forum, by an ex naval harrier pilot, yes him. Claims we can save £10 Billion by buying 80 F/A18 instead of F35. Now the prices may be off but there would be a considerable saving. So we give up stealth or as much stealth as F35 has. I could never see the F35 doing the CAS role like Harrier and Tornado in Afghanistan anyway.

Jed
Jed
March 2, 2012 4:00 pm

Observer – ref: “A high risk situation is NOT something you want a rote computer to take control of.”

LOL – seriously ? So you don’t fly in modern Airbus, or Boeing “fly by wire” airliners then ? Where 3 discrete computer systems are “voting” on the action to take with respect to keeping it in the air ?

Mike
Mike
March 2, 2012 4:17 pm

lol here we go again…

A lot of thought went into the B, we decided – after a long process – that it suited what we can realistically do, and do well; with experienced pilots in both services of operations from sea and land. Hell, part of JFH was an attempt to continue that expertise… Its what both RAF and RN have had experience of, in small scale and the larger.

I’d love a carrier with hornets/rafale/F35’s along with fixed wing AWAC and dedicated buddy tanker ops… but we never really had that, even in the 70’s, our ad-hoc naval fixed wing aviation wasn’t excatly comparable to the US.

I cant see why we cannot have what we originally planned for, the B – that can, arguably, operate off anywhere – along with AWAC Merlins. Even if you sacrificed Trident, there wouldn’t be enough cash for these dreams, without suffocating the other services of funds or stopping Foreign Aid.
The RN has already sacrificed too much of its other assets…

This whole thing is one big pile of brown… alas, I hear that broken record again, another round of debate!

But I do like MintCake Makers Idea.

Gabriele
Gabriele
March 2, 2012 4:35 pm

I know i’ll get hated for saying it, but someone has to say it.

“with the C model it would probably be too expensive to have Royal Air Force pilots trained to land on a conventional carrier. with the B model you’ll see RAF pilots flying off the flat tops to there hearts content.

are we seeing the RAF gaming the Royal Navy????”

Likely, yes.

Another factor at play is that the Navy would be perfectly happy with the F/A-18, and some in government might be tempted to bin the F35 and buy the Hornet for real instead if a good deal is offered by Boeing.

The RAF does not want this to happen. They want the F35, and nothing else.
But they also do specifically want the F35C, if possible. They apparently were the ones pushing for the switch the most, and have been pushing at least since 2005 when FOAS was cancelled.

This “revert to B” suggestion is not very plausible.

x
x
March 2, 2012 4:52 pm

What happens post 2030 without F35?

Topman
Topman
March 2, 2012 4:57 pm

out of service so soon?

x
x
March 2, 2012 5:22 pm

Typhoon will be.

Bob
Bob
March 2, 2012 5:27 pm

Gabriele is right,

F-35 is now the Tornado replacement as well as the future carrier strike aircraft, this whole thing will just be someone venting to the press when they should not be.

Topman
Topman
March 2, 2012 5:40 pm

maybe, you think the f35 will be?

Mark
Mark
March 2, 2012 5:47 pm

This is fun and all but its incredible hard to take this piece seriously when it has so many basic facts wrong. This will be the a/c for the navy and air force that buccaneer should have been in 1960 before infighting put paid to that.

We will know all in a few weeks as march will have some important things happening. Maturity flights start at eglin next week and partners meeting in canada and then a formal partners meeting in Australia mid/end of month for deliver slot and production decisions.

solomon
solomon
March 2, 2012 5:54 pm

gentlemen.

the increased range found in the C model is for want of a better term…paltry. the B has a combat radius of 450nm while the C has a range of 640. both outrange the F/A-18. so don’t think that the larger wings of the C were specifically designed so that it could fly further and carry more fuel. that’s an old wives tale. the US Navy would prefer a fighter that had 9g capability.

the C has larger wings in order to operate off a carrier. additionally the B model and the US Navy and the sea control concept is alive and well. it is commonly touted here in the US that in case of war the US has not 11 carriers but potential 22.

with the F-35B and with the reduced squadrons being carried by big deck carriers the difference between the enlarged USS America LHA and a super carrier are shrinking not growing.

as a matter of fact in the sea control role the USS America LHA comes close to matching the HMS Queen Elizabeth (not if you guys surge airplanes but in normal configuration while the America would be operating in surge mode)

Hannay
Hannay
March 2, 2012 6:00 pm

Lots of interesting points raised.

With regards to aircraft carrier landing. The US has already tested JPALS which is the fully automatic fly home and land system. This was also demonstrated by the UK as the Autoland function on the VAAC programme. However, this depends on GPS which is not infallible.

The UK and US did a lot of work in the VAAC programme to develop a Flight Control System that was extremely simple to fly in STOVL mode. It is significantly different to Harrier and much much easier to use. The US released some information last year on transferring a lot of this work over onto the C variant. This will remove the need for expensive carrier training for the pilots as it will be a lot easier to operate. With a minimal conversion time either FAA or RAF pilots can operate from QEC which gives a much more flexible asset (and saves massive cost).

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/awst/2011/11/07/AW_11_07_2011_p76-386903.xml

Now of course, this is being presented by the pro-Navy lot as an evil RAF plan which is complete bollocks.

Since when would the RN be happy with F-18E? You seem to be mistaking the RN with Sharkey Ward’s ravings. The RN isn’t even in this decision making process. This falls under the remit of CAP DTA (Deep Target Attack) and a bit of CAP TA (Theatre Air). It is their job to provide the most cost-effective option for fulfilling UK requirements.

What is important to the UK? Having a long range and endurance strike aircraft. F-35C is much superior at this than F-35B.

This means you can buy less F-35C and get the same capability as F-35B (as well as always having longer range).

F-35C is the clear choice for cost/effectiveness in the long term but requires the cost of QEC conversion up front. We would be stupid not to do this.

Hannay
Hannay
March 2, 2012 6:08 pm

@solomon

The extra 200nm range of F-35C over F-35B means you can cover operate over a much larger area of land inside a country. Especially when you stand QEC a way offshore to protect it from threats.

A good way to look at the effect of this is with Google Earth. See how much of Iran you can fly over with 450nm radius and 640nm radius. Then stand offshore some distance and repeat. The effect is very significant.

x
x
March 2, 2012 6:11 pm

@ Topman

No. I am all for two fleets that compliment each other. Just in case one develops “faults” that ground the fleet. These things are way too complex to have all our eggs in one basket.

Topman
Topman
March 2, 2012 6:27 pm

ah right i see where you’re coming from now. I’ve really no idea, give bae a blank cheque and see what they come up with? ;)

Phil
March 2, 2012 6:41 pm

SOMEBODY JUST BUY SOMETHING!!!

Has any other plane invoked so much bile from so many quarters for so many reasons?!

*sigh*

John Hartley
John Hartley
March 2, 2012 6:53 pm

In an ideal world, we would not start from here, but this is how I would get out of it.
In 2016, buy a dozen F-35B to operate off Illustrious/Queen Elizabeth. QE also loads up with helicopters to become a sea control/assault carrier.
Then Prince of Wales is fitted with cats & traps, plus at least 20 F-35C to become our sole strike carrier.
QE can always be refitted at a later date if we can afford a new Ocean replacement & the F-35B would transfer to the new assault carrier.
RAF needs global reach. A smaller number of regional bombers (21c Vulcans) might be more use than larger numbers of F-35C for the RAF.
Pity we could not save Brough by ordering a few British built Hawk128/Goshawk hybrids For the FAA.

x
x
March 2, 2012 7:05 pm

“RAF needs global reach.” ?

No they don’t.

Steve
Steve
March 2, 2012 7:23 pm

John Hartley has this one correct. I believe (if this story is true!) that the gov is worried about the potential of another falklands or similar intervention. If this is true and this is a big if, I bet they will order 10-15 F35B’s and 60 or so F35C’s. The B’s will operate off of HMS Ocean and the other invincible class enabling carrier strike incase the C variant or the carrier manufacture is delayed.

John Hartley
John Hartley
March 2, 2012 7:34 pm

X
There is no point the RAF having lots of shiny new jets if they cannot reach the enemy. That was the situation with the shiny new Tornado in 1982.

Phil
March 2, 2012 7:42 pm

“In 2016, buy a dozen F-35B to operate off Illustrious/Queen Elizabeth. QE also loads up with helicopters to become a sea control/assault carrier.”

The production line isn’t a supermarket you can’t just announce you want 12 airframes whenever you please. As I understand it.

Mick
Mick
March 2, 2012 7:51 pm

@ John Hartley with you up to the RAF point as it being one option. The other option is as mooted and just do both carriers as original intended as sea control / assault carriers – F35b. I think for 99.9% of cases, the difference between B and C will not be noticed. What we should look at is the difference between QE with say 30+ F35Bs and Illustrious with c20 Harriers – a quantum leap in capability and it seems to me we could get far sooner than by going cats and traps. Stick with Typhoon for RAF (keep tranche 1 and upgrade, retire tornado) and make a separate decision on F35B or F35A perhaps – still fundamentally same aircraft

Steve
Steve
March 2, 2012 7:55 pm

Actually it is like a supermarket, and generally lots of customers can accomodate other forces orders accordingly in amongst their own. The RAF have done this, when the USAF allowed them to take their positions in the C-17 production line.

Phil
March 2, 2012 8:03 pm

“when the USAF allowed them to take their positions in the C-17 production line.”

Yes exactly. Allowed us to. I don’t pop into Tesco’s in the hope they’ll let me buy 10 tins of beans, I know I can buy 10 tins of beans. It might be all a moot point I don’t know how much slack or good will there is in the production line but looking at the production figures over the next four years there aren’t an awful lot of slots to swap.

Steve
Steve
March 2, 2012 8:06 pm

Phil, I am guessing that lots of countries including the US are hurting when it comes to F35 procurement and budgets. I agree it might not be best practice, but I think countries ordering a batch, then later ordering another batch when funds allow might become the norm.

Phil
March 2, 2012 8:15 pm

“That was the situation with the shiny new Tornado in 1982.”

To be fair development had the more pressing need to consider how to help tackle a super-power sat straddling central Europe rather than bombing a peat bog 8,000 miles away.

Adun
Adun
March 2, 2012 8:17 pm

I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of the extra range on the F-35C over the B variant. Greater operational range for a sea-based aircraft *is* important, and the C’s extra 200 nm is a potentially huge advantage for a big-deck carrier, for several reasons:

1) First, as Hannay noted, the extra range gives you much greater power projection capability inland, broadening your target set ashore.

2) Extra range improves the survivability of your carrier by allowing it to conduct stand-off operations against shore-based anti-access capabilities. Although stand-off range has not played a very important role in recent conflicts in relatively permissive environments (i.e., Libya), in future access-denied environments the ability to stand off beyond the range of shore-based anti-ship missiles is not an insignificant advantage. Similarly, the proliferation of naval anti-ship capabilities (STOBAR aircraft carriers, more sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles, etc.) makes extra range important in future naval contingencies. Any capability that hopes to be relevant for the next 30 years needs to take these sorts of anti-access threats seriously.

3) The converse of #1, extra range makes you harder to find, which is hands down the best defense for a ship at sea. If your aircraft can only operate 400 nm from their carrier to strike certain targets on land, then there is a limited amount of sea in which your carrier can steam while still fulfilling its mission. Enemies could work backwards from the targets you strike to figure out where to concentrate their search, making it easier for them to locate your carrier (even if they have relatively limited ISR capabilities). The more you extend the range of your aircraft, the harder it becomes for enemies to even find you aircraft carrier, much less try to shoot at it.

In addition to the advantage of range, a CATOBAR aircraft has the further advantage of a heavier payload, something that is not conveyed in the 400 vs. 600 nm figures. A C can carry a much heavier payload to the 600 nm limit than an B can carry to the 400 nm limit, if the B is conducting short take-off from a carrier deck.

None of that necessarily means that the RN needs an aircraft carrier with F-35Cs on it – that’s a bigger strategic question of where the RN and Britain want to fit into the world order in the 21st century. However, if the RN is serious about pursuing a big-deck carrier capability, CATOBAR is definitely the way to go.

Mark
Mark
March 2, 2012 8:27 pm

It takes on average about 24-36 months to build a jet dependant of rate. So unless you can wait that long you have to ask permission. There is around 40 slots annually avaiable at present apparently of which the us will take 30 the 8 overseas partners and 2 non partner customers can buy the other slots. Its all about rate tooling to really get an idea of what’s planned for this a/c you have to look at large scale civil a/c such as 737/a320. modern European military jet have never seen such rates indeed the current jsf rate is about equivalent to typhoon and rafale combined and their from 5 production lines. Support/spares weapons holding thru life cost and total allied interoperability with a common platform is the goal this a/c will achieve. We often fail to see the total life cost of things the cheapest unit price doesn’t mean cheapest program life cost ect. This jet is often derided for that too yet those that too fail to mention it calculated over 50 years life and no current fighter has ever had such a measure used for it. I really do despair with the nonsence written about this program but I guess that what happens when you develop a program in the Internet world that people love to hate and not matter what said no on ever believes it.

Steve
Steve
March 2, 2012 8:30 pm

Mark, thats true, but there is also a production line almost finished in Italy and potentially another in Japan. I am guessing that will speed things up a lot on the allocation front.

Mark
Mark
March 2, 2012 8:41 pm

Steve that is true the line in Italy does offer additional capacity in the rate build up plan for 3 years time delivery but there’s no point paying for very expensive assembly tools when you don’t need them it drives up non recurring costs when don’t need them the whole rate build up is very complicated when it comes to timing and costings. Italy will only produce the majority of jets for Italy and the Netherlands not sure if norways included. It more a Mro site for the future. Japan’s a difficult one due to its export restrictions and I think the initial jets will come from Texas.

x
x
March 2, 2012 8:43 pm

@ Mark

Is the UK getting a F35 production line?

Hannay
Hannay
March 2, 2012 9:03 pm

@ x

No, the UK won’t have a F-35 production line. However, instead of putting some F-35s together, BAeS are making the aft fuselage, vertical and horizontal tails for all F-35s at Salmesbury.

Mark
Mark
March 2, 2012 9:22 pm

What Hannay said. The uk was offered refused and Italy volunteered.

This may have changed but while the uk was responsible for the tail design I not sure but I think the vertical tails were going to bae austrailia for manufacture.

x
x
March 2, 2012 9:33 pm

@ Mark & Hannay

Dare one ask why our beloved BAE didn’t want to build the blessed kite here?

I thought UK Plc was 1st junior partner on the project? Surely we should be building big chunks AND screwing it together?

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 9:53 pm

I already said that from a fixed airfield, autolanding systems are common, it’s from an airfield that has a tendency to move (and move away) that problems can arise.

@Mark

Think a lot of the hate came from words like “cost overrun” and “delays”. Frankly, if they had delivered on time and on budget, even if the plane had a bit of undercapability, I won’t mind, but stretching development time and cost and people start wondering if the project is going to survive. Too many cancelled projects happened this way.

As it is, with all the excuses of development problems, we currently have a plane overbudget, overtime and possibly less capable than expected. Triple whammy. And it isn’t even in deployment yet. (Deployment, not test flights)

You know what they say about 1 in hand better than 2 in the bush.

Wonder if they were overambitious in the B variant, without it, the design might have been much easier to come together.

Mark
Mark
March 2, 2012 10:10 pm

x

In my view bae wanted out of a/c final assembly saw no future in it. Rather build lots of sub systems. We are a first tier partner we contributed about 2b dollars to a 50b dollar development program and we get 17% build of all jets bae is one company of numerous uk company’s but granted a major part.

Observer it’s more fundamental than that. There’s plenty in the us that can’t stand the fact Boeing are being left out of the future fighter market. Coupled with them losing significant grip in civil and miltary transport just look at the us tanker deal. Shedule cost of these programs is always hopelessly optimistic and we really need to just wait on cost till we get a purchase order signed by someone outside the us. Austrailia bought 24 hornets and to operate then for 10 years will cost them 6b dollars total and recent media reports they spend a further 300m to upgrade 6 pre wired a/c to growler status yet this a/c is often quoted as being the cheap alternative.

solomon
solomon
March 2, 2012 10:17 pm

Gents!

Italy does NOT have a production line. they have a maintenance facility. BIG difference. all jets will be assembled in the US with parts manufactured in different parts of the world.

that’s what i mean guys! basic facts are getting flubbed.

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 10:24 pm

I always wondered why private companies are getting governments to pay for their research, then keep all the profits for themselves. Shouldn’t the investor get a cut of the profits back in proportion to the investment? And having non-company sources of funding for research is like handing wackos a blank cheque. There is no firm need to keep cost down and come up with something that has to work, after all, it’s not their money!

If companies had to pay for their own research, maybe we might start seeing cheaper and more timely products come to the market.

On a more out of this world muse, wonder if the EMALs system can be run in reverse and used to “catch” fighters coming in for carrier landings. Not saying take out arrestor wires, but as a supplement.

If I sound grumpy these few days, ignore me, I’m stuck in bed with a flu bug and fever, so not really coherent.

Observer
Observer
March 2, 2012 10:28 pm

solomon you ultranationalistic goof, Italy is one of the final assembly F-35 plants since years back. Go wiki F-35 assembly Italy and see aviationweek’s report.

John Hartley
John Hartley
March 2, 2012 11:22 pm

Phil
F-35 orders keep chopping & changing, but if we say in 2012 that the UK wants 12 F-35B in 2016, I doubt we would be turned down.

Phil
March 2, 2012 11:35 pm

I’m not so sure. Disrupting US F35B production at such an early stage would have to severely disrupt their training and evaluation and weapons development programme. Later in the production maybe but it would seem very disruptive considering the small numbers of F35Bs being built up to 2016.

x
x
March 2, 2012 11:59 pm

@ Observer re backwards EMALS

I see a bright for you in the concepts division of CBX Defence Corporation…….

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 3, 2012 12:04 am

21 B’s vs 12 C’s (if you look at my LRIP post) funded, and funded means by the US within each LRIP tranche
– all the overseas contracts have no visibility about what the firmness and timing of them actually are; even though they are reflected in the above numbers (and are by gvmnts that normally stick to what was said)

Andy
Andy
March 3, 2012 12:33 am

‘I believe (if this story is true!) that the gov is worried about the potential of another falklands or similar intervention.’

I don’t believe that for a minute, I think its more likely that the government actually do now want both carriers in service. That they think spending £7bn on 1 carrier is expensive, but they’re worried about the costs of converting the second carrier eventually.

F35B would mean it would be a LOT easier to bring QE into service should they so wish.

solomon
solomon
March 3, 2012 12:37 am

ultranationalistic??? i like that? goof? not so much but you’re right….Italy gets a FINAL ASSEMBLY plant! big whoop. that was the same deal Airbus was offering the US with the A330! i laughed at the deal as crumbs from the plate.

the UK gets a maintenance and upgrade facility! that’s where the real money will be. WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A STEALTH AIRPLANE! MAINTENANCE IS THE KEY TO IT MAINTAINING ITS STEALTH.

you guys got hooked up but are too daft to know it.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 3, 2012 1:06 am

ehhmm…
Howabout that stealthy and only optionally manned bomber (budget)?

Sol, am I high on tea leaves, or reading them right?

solomon
solomon
March 3, 2012 2:19 am

never underestimate the right wing of the United States to force defense spending when the left wing is pushing hard to support social programs.

add to all this the gifts that keep giving to our defense budget…there always seems to be a rogue nation that the UN is incapable of dealing effectively with and we always find a peer competitor thats seeking to destroy our way of life…thank you China for unveiling the J-20 while our dignitaries were in your country meeting with your president…

long story short that stealthy optionally manned (probably fully manned now—they want to keep costs down) is going full speed ahead.

the problem for our good allies is the fact that it’ll get the F-22 treatment and won’t be available for export.

Observer
Observer
March 3, 2012 3:19 am

@solomon

It would have gotten the F-22 treatment. The Global Strike exo-atmosphere module, the one you were mentioning as the next gen bomber broke up during tests. The US gets 1st dibs on the remains! :)

“the gift that keeps giving”? You make US defence companies sound like herpies. :)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 3, 2012 8:03 am

Hi Observer,

That hypersonic programme is different from the bomber that finally got a go-ahead in the budget (it used to be called the 2018 bomber, but got cancelled because costs went sky-high)

Observer
Observer
March 3, 2012 8:37 am

Hush you, I was trying to do solomon a favour by taking some starch out of his pants so it doesn’t act like a rod up his arse.

Dave
Dave
March 3, 2012 9:16 am

The J35 project has been a dog from start to finish. It will be ridiculously expensive per aircraft and technical problems seemingly arive every day. What concerns me is this focus on stealth where to the non-technical eye surely most of this will go when a useful bomb load is added externally? And can the J35 be considered an air superiority fighter?

If we stay with CATOBAR, why not look to work with the French on a Rafale enhancement – maybe with AESA radar, EJ200 engines with thrust vectoring and stealth enhancements deriving from UCAV work – Boeing are able to make the 70s era Eagle and Hornet stealthier.

Or speak to BAe again about how realistic the SeaTyphoon is – I cannot believe BAe would have pitched this to the Indians without considerable work done. If as previously stated the RAF were pushing for comformal fuel tanks and thrust vectoring, which could make a STOBAR variant more realistic, additional costs would be slightly offset by having a pilot pool familiar with the aircraft, a better air superiority aircraft better than the F18, weapon systems already integrated. It seems that LM are having as many problems developing an aircraft designed to be used from carriers as it would be to convert an aircraft to use from carriers. The Russians dont seem to be having so much difficulty with the SU33, and Mig29/35

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 3, 2012 10:00 am

Hi Dave,

The India bid already included AESA for Rafale. When that was still on the drawing board, the re-engine-ing and AESA together were offered to the UAE against a $2bn contribution from the buyer.

Some contributers have categorically stated that one cannot build stealth into a non-stealthy airfame. This piece is almost two years old, but would run counter to that view:
“Aviation Week’s Air and Cosmos reports that France is developing active stealth for the Rafale F5 (2 versions hence). Bill Sweetman explains:

“Active cancellation means preventing a radar from detecting a target by firing back a deception signal with the same frequency as the reflection, but precisely one-half wavelength out of phase with it. Result: the returned energy reaching the radar has no frequency and can’t be detected. It’s quite as difficult as it sounds…. This may not be the first French attempt to implement AC on the Rafale. At the Paris air show in 1997, I interviewed a senior engineer at what was then Dassault Electronique…. [DID: which became Thales, then Dassault became Thales’ largest private shareholder]”
Sweetman goes on to explain that Moore’s Law of improved processing power may make the project more achievable now. MBDA and Thales have since confirmed that they are working on active cancellation for missiles as part of the Rafale’s SPECTRA defensive suite, and research in this area is underway in several other countries.”

x
x
March 3, 2012 10:13 am

Dave said “I cannot believe BAe would have pitched this to the Indians without considerable work done.”

Bless your little cotton socks. :) ;)

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
March 3, 2012 10:21 am

@ Dave – STOVL is a personal favourite of mine due to its flexibility in basing but if we do continue with the CATOBAR route I believe the aircraft chosen has to be a fighter first and foremost. The carrier will be responsible for fleet air defence, gaining air superiority over any amphibious landing, or enforcing no-fly zones like Libya. Although not ideal for the strike mission, they can perform it better than strike aircraft can perform the fighter role. They also can perform attack/CAS reasonably well (I am a fan of dedicated attack aircraft but having a carrier-capable version, let alone a RAF one appears extremely slim).

Rafale is a 4th (?) gen carrier capable fighter.
Super hornet is upgraded 3rd (?) gen attack aircraft which allegedly was beaten badly by Rafale in dog fighting exercises.
However, medium range simulated missile range engagements where roughly equal.
So it comes down to two questions; can the F-35C dogfight (better than a Rafale)?
Or, does its stealth give it a significant advantage in BVR engagements meaning it doesn’t need to dog fight?

martin
Editor
March 3, 2012 11:28 am

One issue with trying to purchase extra early F35 B’s (although I believe we already own 3) is the higher cost caused by the Low rate Inital production of the early aircraft. Not to mention the higher cost of fixing any associated flaws.As the USA has opted to slow purchase and as far as I know LM has not closed any facilities I believe we could get the extra slots if needed. However If we really desperatley want carrier capability now then why not simply bring the FA2’s back out of stoarge. The fact they have been tucked away means that the corrosion worry that put them into retierment is no longer an issue. They will easily lst until 2020. We have the aircraft and pilots all ready to fly them. We still have Illustrious and we can finish QE in the ski jump configuration (which I think they are planning to anyway) until POW (which will probably be renamed Ark Royal) is finhished in its CATOBAR configuration. Cheap and easy solution that could get us back in the game tomorrow with an excellent aircraft all for less than £ 1 billion.

x
x
March 3, 2012 11:44 am

Another thing. The US FJ inventory is already under some strain due to Afghanistan and Iraq. What would a campaign in Iran do to their fleet hours? Surely they don’t think UAVs can carry more load? I wonder if this has been factored into F35 production timetables?

SomewhatInvolved
March 3, 2012 11:49 am

For everyone who has talked up the much vaunted F35B’s ability to fly from amphibious big decks, really? If we needed a ski jump on the CVS to loft Harrier with a reasonable weapons load (and a similar jump on the STOVL CVF), how are the USMC going to launch the B variant with even a half way useful weapons/fuel payload (same question re OCEAN; at least CAVOUR has the jump already). F35 is much bigger than Harrier, and I have yet to see a convincing argument that says that it will be a useful force multiplier for the cost per airframe. At least the C variant can catapult with a heavy external weapons and fuel load.

The European alternative, should such a possibility become inevitable (i.e. if we continue dicking around with F35 choices and the USN gets fed up and tosses us out) would surely be an enhanced Rafale, with BAE’s advanced EW and EO subsystems and new engines. The stealth argument has surely gone out of the window anyway with the apparently poor stealth performance of F35, and it would not be beyond the wit of Dassault and BAE to develop the Super Rafale. That at least would be in the best interests of both the UK and France, once again public best buddies.

paul g
March 3, 2012 11:57 am

or a sea griffin, rather see that than a rafale, i just don’t trust the frogs, call me shallow if you like. Anyhoo griffen is already cleared to fire a lot more of our stuff off it’s wings and the 2 seater has been designed to carry out AAR, would make a decent CAS aircraft so could be transfered over to RAF if and when the 35C’s arrived, smack in the thrust vectored EJ200 and there’s a 2 plane fleet with a common engine. BAe used to have an agreement with SAAB, get round the table again and if anything go for final assembly in the UK, better than a smack inthe face with a wet kipper.

McZ
McZ
March 3, 2012 12:02 pm

@Dave
“The J35 project has been a dog from start to finish. It will be ridiculously expensive per aircraft and technical problems seemingly arive every day. What concerns me is this focus on stealth where to the non-technical eye surely most of this will go when a useful bomb load is added externally? And can the J35 be considered an air superiority fighter?”

“If we stay with CATOBAR, why not look to work with the French on a Rafale enhancement – maybe with AESA radar, EJ200 engines with thrust vectoring and stealth enhancements deriving from UCAV work – Boeing are able to make the 70s era Eagle and Hornet stealthier.”

First, you are contradicting yourself. Rafale is no air-superiority fighter either. What is required is an multirole attack-fighter having a carrier capable variant.

For the record: we have air-superiority fighters in abundance, we have actually more than we require to ditch sub-peer adversaries.

If we compare the A2-A-capabilities, the question is not, if the F-35B or C is more maneuverable than a Rafale or Typhoon. The question is, who kills it’s adversary first in an all-out A2A-engagement.

Low Observability, not ‘stealth’ is the game in town. Stealth is just a reduction of radar signature, but any other emission of an aircraft needs to be reduced, too. Rafale is one and a half decade backwards in terms of sensor-fusion, which is the main part of LO.

@all
In general I tend to think, that it really doens’t matter what version. We will once end with an F-35A+B + UCAV fleet or a F-35C + UCAV fleet.

I like the Bravo a lot, as it would not only provide a carrier capability more or less regardless the platform. It would also improve our capability to operate in adverse expeditionary environments using make-shift runways.

When we finally need to look for a Typhoon-replacement, I’m quite sure the whole air-superiority-game has changed.

Mark
Mark
March 3, 2012 12:04 pm

Landing an f35 at sea
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17238393

x there doing a life extension on about 300 f16s. But the us is still buying several hundred f35s by 2017 not the 400 odd initial planned mind.

F35 has been to 43 000 ft 9g and 20 deg aoa. It has experienced higher than planned buffet in there and some work will be needed prior to further stressing high g aoa conditions are flown probably with a slower build up but it’s about the same as experienced on the early hornet.

x
x
March 3, 2012 12:06 pm

@ Somewhat

I have been thinking similar. But wouldn’t the USN have added a jump to Wasp when she was refitted to trial F35b if they thought one was needed?

x
x
March 3, 2012 12:07 pm

@ Mark

Thanks. Just asking. US defence bloggers bang on like it is raining F15s!!

Phil
March 3, 2012 12:07 pm

“We have the aircraft and pilots all ready to fly them.”

Nobody has flown a Harrier for what 2 years now, and nobody has flown a Sea Harrier for going on 6. And are there even any spares?

I can easily, in fact no, I’d bet the farm that re-generating FA2 would cost a bomb, would take years and years and is already obsolete and pointless and will only be more so once we get a few airframes back into service at considerable cost and expense, not only to the wallet, but the other RAF operations that would suffer to bring on line a dozen, obsolescent little fighters.

It’s drivel to talk of bringing them back. They’re gone folks. They weren’t enormous cop when they were around and they’d be less cop in 10 years time.

LIVE IN THE NOW!!

Phil
March 3, 2012 12:09 pm

“US defence bloggers bang on like it is raining F15s!”

The US desperately needs new air frames. The F15s are creaking and have big fatigue problems, as do huge numbers of F16s.

Whatever they end up being, the USAF needs new planes. Badly.

Observer
Observer
March 3, 2012 12:12 pm

Like the early hornet? Now that worries me.

My guess would be most countries would wait a while more to see if there is any development on the F-35, while doing upgrades on the side, like the Viper mod to the F-16 and the SE mod for the F-15 as backup just in case LM drops the timetable ball again. And again. And again.

Mark
Mark
March 3, 2012 12:36 pm

They will bang on about f15 and f18 because Boeing make it. F35 was never meant to replace f15 the f22 was. The us are looking at a next generation air dominiance a/c around 2025 time line as both Boeing and the us services expect the teen series to become obsolete from that time frame. They need to close the 2015 expect end of legacy production to 2025 that’s what Boeings attempting nothing more.

Why would that worry you? This is a very common problem on fighters particularly twin tails it mainly effects the vertical stabilisers and is usually linked into some tail strengthening or some simple methods to help flow separation on the main wing and flight software tweaks as this can excite the problem depending of structural resonance freq.

John Hartley
John Hartley
March 3, 2012 12:46 pm

Phil
If the UK got 8 F-35B in 2016 + another 4 early 2017, it would not be the end of the world.
I doubt the SHAR F/A2 would make a comeback now, but iy is a shame the 16 new build from 1996 were not kept in service, using the 1980s grounded planes for spares. Copy the Indians & use water injection rather than a new engine, then swap the heavy Amraam for the lighter Derby.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 3, 2012 1:00 pm

Hi McZ,

RE: sensor fusion on Rafale. the Swiss seem to differ with you, after their evaluation (being the Swiss, we can trust they were thorough?)
– it is on the first text page of this leaked report http://files.newsnetz.ch/upload//1/2/12332.pdf

Phil
March 3, 2012 1:03 pm

You’re talking about taking around 33% of the F35B production up to 2017 and giving the slots to us. Having 33% of your aircraft diverted somewhere else must have a dramatic effect on your training and development programme which is a critical phase, the effects of which would cascade right down through the programme.

I can’t see the US being very receptive to such a relatively dramatic diversion of production slots at such cost to their training and evaluation effort.

Mark
Mark
March 3, 2012 1:10 pm

Phil

There is enough production slots available over and above what the US has ordered we could buy those slots and get f35b in those numbers I wouldn’t do it but it is possible.

John Hartley
John Hartley
March 3, 2012 1:10 pm

Phil
As they are scared we will not buy any F-35, I think production slots would be found if we wanted them. Remember production rates were planned to be much higher by then anyway.
The Yanks are pushing hard for F-35 exports or they would not have sold them to Australia & Japan.

martin
Editor
March 3, 2012 1:10 pm

@ Phil – Not that i am a fan of the idea but the UK was slated in to get more production slots for F35 B up until just over a year ago. What happened to these slots bearing in mind the US has already announced slower purchase levels.

Dave
Dave
March 3, 2012 1:40 pm

If we look at both the F15 Silent Eagle and F18 Super Hornet, both have low observability enhancements over their original 1970s designs. Is it too much to think BAe/Dassault couldn’t make similar enhancements to a generation on aircraft where so low observation characteristics were included? Whilst clearly not officially created there are images around of designs were the Rafale has received some ‘stealthy’ angling of its airframe for example the air intakes etc.

As an air to air fighter I think it either evenly matches the F35C at least if they got into a dogfight whilst a number of munitions are already incorporated.

martin
Editor
March 3, 2012 2:00 pm

Going back to the point about F35C being more costly in terms of training. Does anyone have any hard facts on the cost of maintaing a naval aviator verses an airforce pilot? The only information I can find from the US says its more expensive to train naval aviators but the more intensive training and strickter selection process leads to pilots spending longer with the service. The net effect canceling out the higher traing cost. With a smaller budget like that of the UK’s it would be great if all our pilots and aircraft could operate both from the Sea and land bases. I would really love to know what the extra cost is. I know naval pilots will need traing in carrier landings however its not like airforce pilots don’t do a lot of traing themselves.