Leakage and the F35 Saga

Is this a new low for the senior officers and civil servants at the MoD?

F35 Leaks
F35 Leaks

If the report that Thomas Harding has supposedly seen and reported on was actually marked ‘Secret’ then releasing such protectively marked information is a serious breach of the Official Secrets Act and should be investigated as such.

If we cast our minds back to the famous leaked letter from Liam Fox to David Cameron, not a single person has been bought to account for that.

Is this now normal behaviour, is this the standard of conduct that should be expected of senior officers and civil servants because that document would not have been released to Joe Bloggs in the pub, then it really is a sad day.

As soon as the potential for a change in model from F35C to F35B the well oiled campaign has been in full flow, blog posts, tweets, letters to the editor and think tank musings from all the usual suspects have been involved in a concerted and coordinated campaign to persuade those in the decision making circle to ‘do the right thing’

We all know the F35C represents in isolation a set of improved performance figures and lower initial aircraft sticker price but those in the campaign simply do not comprehend that the decision is about overall cost and impact to the rest of defence.

Regardless of the decision, which for me is exactly and precisely nothing more than balance and cost, yet again, the grown ups in the MoD have cheapened themselves by talking out of school.

In my last post on this subject I suggested that Mr Hammond should go on the warpath against the leakers and spinners but I think this latest episode has shown that certain individuals on that document distribution list need to have a little attention from the MoD Police.

The rioters have felt the full force of the law and lenience for them, no matter how trivial their actual crimes, was in short supply.

Perhaps we should take the same approach with those responsible for this.

 

EDIT

Another take on this from Sir Humphrey, click here

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Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 21, 2012 12:10 pm

Just saw the head of airpower at RUSI on BBC 24; sensibly pointing out C has more range because of more fuel, B has more landing options because its STOVL. Both excellent aircraft. You makes your choice and you pay your money. Only we don’t have a lot of money to go around.

If the MOD keeps getting bullied.. sorry, lobbied into ignoring their budget and buying “the best” then all we’re going to end up with is another black hole (assuming the original one is now filled in).

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 21, 2012 12:12 pm

Indeed it is about costs, and the reduced capability of the “b” version will apparently require £2.4b in extra jets.

That should go some way towards the cost of cats-n traps on two carriers don’t you think?

;)

Mickp
Mickp
April 21, 2012 12:20 pm

This is bad leaking and poor reporting. B might be “less capable” than C but that is not the point which is choosing an aircraft that provides the right balance between meeting our needs and our budget. C on CVF is less capable than in fact binning CVF, ordering 2 ford class carriers with squadrons of F/A Xs but we can’t afford that and don’t need it

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 21, 2012 12:32 pm

That is not what the report is saying……….

Simon
April 21, 2012 12:36 pm

If we want to save money it means CVF as an LHA… which means a couple of F35B squadrons. Not 130+, not ~90, 24-30 aircraft only.

What happens in the future is then dependent on funds and capability requirements.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 21, 2012 12:40 pm

That is kind of against the notion of an effective military planning for the kind of engagements it sees itself as partaking in……. And then seeking the capability necessary to succeed in those engagements.

Surely?

:D

SomewhatInvolved
April 21, 2012 12:49 pm

There must be some serious infighting going on to warrant this standard of leakage, media coverage and general info ops. Wonder if it involves bailing out of any aspects of the contract, impacting on BAE’s profit figures or risking losing jobs in shipyards/aircraft factories? What a circus.

Mark
Mark
April 21, 2012 12:52 pm

This leaking is beyond a joke and quite frankly those involved should be ashamed of themselves and the appropriate jail time served. A jsf document with a secret uk eyes tag should not have a huge distribution list.

Jedi you don’t know what the reports saying because we have a journos interpretation. Indeed how exactly we end worry about time over target if aar assets are present would suggest to me this may have gamed a very specific a/c only exercise. There is another telegraph artical which has more detail from the same author. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/9217344/New-warplanes-less-capable-secret-paper-shows.html

Ichabod
Ichabod
April 21, 2012 12:56 pm

@Gareth

Which RAF airbases can the F35B land at where the F35C can’t?

Wouldn’t it be cheapest of all to have F35A’s and have a Global Bombing Force at 24hrs standby that Chris B mentioned on a guest post I read in the archives.

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 21, 2012 1:04 pm

While outclassed by F35C, the capability of a navalized GripenNG would compare better against the Bees; would have the possibility of buddy refueling too.

If they want a large carrier air-fleet, then it might work out cheaper to fit cats for the cheaper aircraft.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 21, 2012 1:15 pm

@ mark – for sure.

I am being a little glib as I am thoroughly amused at how carriers seem to be at the Centre of all these capability documents. Strange when they are apparently unnecessary gin palaces strangling core funding for ‘genuinely’ useful capabilities elsewhere in the military!

A viewpoint best summed up by James with his vitriolic epithet: “those spastic carriers”

We have two carriers with sufficient jets to meet the capability requirements demanded by hmg. What flies off them in support of that requirement matters not and I care even less.

:)

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 21, 2012 1:17 pm

We [will] have two carriers – that should read.

SomewhatInvolved
April 21, 2012 1:26 pm

If that document was indeed SUKEO then heads have got to roll for that – that is an outrageous breach of security. However, as always I expect media hype to have overinflated the report – we will see.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 21, 2012 1:34 pm

Idealy we would have both types like the Yanks – C’s flying of our strike carriers for serious power projection and fleet defence/air superiority and the B’s flying of 4(?) CVS’s attack duties and sea control. But we can’t afford that… unless we REALLY cut capabilities elsewhere…

x
x
April 21, 2012 1:44 pm

Reduced capability? Don’t both c and b outperform GR9? Yes. Well the it is an increase in capability.

Does C outperform F4 and the Buccaneer? I don’t know…….

Mark
Mark
April 21, 2012 1:57 pm

Somewhatinvolved I would agree if it’s origion is indeed dstl then it’s highly likely it would be a min of secret when discussing jsf. I bet there will be a few phone calls from washington along the lines of and you want what source codes..,,(they are very paranoid about this kinda stuff) If people aren’t careful someone in the PMs office will say enough your getting neither.

Jedi I agree 2 carriers are required even if they’re rotated like the LPDs which means paying for cat and traps for both not 1.

SomewhatInvolved
April 21, 2012 2:04 pm

I agree Mark, this sort of leakage has huge potential to cause international outcry; even if the contents are relatively tame the question is ‘why can’t you control your own classified information’.

2 x cats and traps please and get the US to install then, thus seeing off BAE in the process.

El Sid
El Sid
April 21, 2012 2:05 pm

Hmm – when people were leaking in favour of the B, TD was all “this is just vindicating what I’ve been saying about B”. When people leak in favour of C, his attitude is “lock em up and throw away the key”.

The “political” leaks and counterleaks have been going on for weeks, even if some people haven’t worked out that’s what they were. Realistically, it’s hard to avoid at least some of that kind of stuff when you’re talking about a democracy spending £bn’s – and arguably this is another facet of the fact that UK procurement isn’t transparent enough.

Compare the way the US Senate/House committees oversee spending of other people’s taxes versus our system. Obviously a downside of that accountability is the amount of porkbarreling that goes on, but that never happens here. Oh no, not having a combined Scottish/Defence Secretary building carriers in Scotland and not closing down a £100m/year base with 9 aircraft for fear of what the SNP might say.

James
James
April 21, 2012 2:20 pm

Far be it for me to suggest that the UN has better security than the MoD, but even the UN knows how to deal with this.

I drafted the “note” that the UN Force Commander sent to the Security Council in May 1995 about his negotiations with NATO for the dual-key approach to no fly zones in Bosnia, following the 2-week hostage crisis. It was an incredibly contentious issue. It had to be staffed around both UN and NATO HQs, as well as cleared politically by the 5 governments that made up the P5 on the UNSC and the 4 nations who were both part of the additional 10 nations on the UNSC and also contributing troops to UNPROFOR. Leaking would have been highly problematic.

Solution? 16 separate copies, all on .PDF and not editable, and all with very small differences in wording, use of italics or font, or oddities like a space between the end of a word and a comma, or changing the order of addressees.

We knew instantly which nation leaked the final draft document, and adjustments were made to the final text to reflect UN displeasure with that nation.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 21, 2012 2:26 pm

i like it james. :D

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 21, 2012 2:36 pm

This is obviously trying to influence the aircraft decision, but regardless of whether this supports your own favourite flavour of jet or not, the leak is a serious issue.
And while there are undoubtfully a great deal of documents passing back and forth, reports do suggest that this one was indeed a secret report.

It is wrong that this was leaked, but was there any need for such a report to be marked ‘secret’? Would it not be better for there to be more transparency around this issue – that has been subject to so much meddling already?

Dan
Dan
April 21, 2012 3:21 pm

It’s a matter of huge national interest and public funds so perhaps the real issue is transparency rather than leaking. Moreover, if the C version won’t be ready now until 2025 rather than 2020 is it not highly likely that the Superbug production line is going to keep going for a few years longer, albeit as an interim solution for the US Navy as well as our own and other nations?

Seems to be growing pressure to do this http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-29/boeing-lobbies-for-2-dot-5-billion-in-jets .

I’ve long thought the best indirect argument for the C version or the Superbug are the other longer-range, higher altitude aircraft that become deployable like Hawkeye and Greyhound using EMALS that wouldn’t happen with Dave B. What’s the point of a short-range air group on an aircraft carrier?

Dan
Dan
April 21, 2012 4:01 pm

TD, I think you misunderstood me. The argument here is not what’s the point of having an aircraft carrier with any air group short or long range – but whether a timely interim solution with the plus of a bigger radius of operation is becoming more available with each f-35 delay in a few years time rather than wait and extend the carrier strike gap longer still for b (not convinced this is now all running to plan) or c?

SomewhatInvolved
April 21, 2012 4:02 pm

Brian, Dan, the Government has every right to protect sensitive information irrespective of what that information might be. The release of said information could prejudice numerous international relations and have potentially severe political, financial and military consequences. Just because we’d like to have something to talk about doesn’t mean that we should be able to demand whatever information we want – if fact it positively encourages further meddling.

Ichabod
Ichabod
April 21, 2012 4:14 pm

Just give the services their budgets and let them spend it as they see fit … if we need carrier airpower let the Navy decide what works for them. Why should the RAF/BAE meddle?
The Army didn’t give advice on the AirTanker selection I presume?

Ichabod
Ichabod
April 21, 2012 4:25 pm

If it’s all so contentious / fraught, why don’t they buy the F35B for the RAF and F35C for the Navy then everyone’s happy?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 21, 2012 4:29 pm

Of thr top of my head the definition of secret is info that if divulged may harm the national interestm
TS is info that if divulged will harm the national interest, whoever leaked this should have the book flung at them and more.

martin
Editor
April 21, 2012 5:11 pm

I Can’t believe a reporter from the telegraph is shown a document marked secret UK eyes only. Either they are not telling the tuth or some one at the ministry is breaking the law. Either way it warrents a police investigation and should result in a prosecution. I am sick to death of this constant press leaking from the current government. Perhaps a little jail time would finally fix the problem.

Ace Rimmer
April 21, 2012 5:24 pm

Given the knowledge and military experiance of many of the commentators on TD, if we as individuals were in a position of significant influence with regards to the F-35 acquisition, would we leak information to get the aircraft we thought was right for the job?

Damned bl@@dy right we would, or are creatures of such virtue that we only see the fault in others?

Ace Rimmer
April 21, 2012 5:34 pm

Dan, with aircraft like the MV-22 Osprey available, C-2 and E-2 are not the only game in town, so B is as viable as C (as long as range is discounted from the debate).

Observer
Observer
April 21, 2012 5:48 pm

@Ace

Hell no, I won’t. You do it, someone else does it to counter your opinion, another leaks something else to counter the other guy, and soon you’ll have 1) An organization of leaks
2) Decision making by propaganda. (Abolish RAF!! Sounds familiar?)

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 21, 2012 5:49 pm

Hi, SI. The PM and gov’t should be fully accountable to MPs, not sidelining parliament in the Blair style. These are spending decisions that stretch well beyond this government’s term in office. While the report mentions ‘sensitive planning exercises’, much of the cost and capability assessment info could be decoupled from the report and be published to the commons library for access and debate. If the report is concerned with two variants of the same aircraft, there is no competition issue; and broadly speaking, the flight performance and payload of each aircraft will be publicly available when they’re in service. What is being leaked now suggests that the gov’t likely intends to incur greater long-term costs for short-term expediency by buying a less capable aircraft – this is the ‘bow wave’, which has been widely blamed for the defence budget black hole, being continued.

Observer
Observer
April 21, 2012 5:51 pm

Oh yeah.. wikileaks anyone? How much accountability did that generate? Not much, only lots of red faces in the US.

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 21, 2012 6:11 pm

Ichabod – why don’t they buy F35B for the RAF and F35C for the Navy? STOVL may be a handy niche capability, but with a relatively small RAF/FAA fast jet fleet, any lightly armed and short-legged STOVL jets at all create further limitations for the overall jet fleet that are not outweighed by anything that STOVL brings to the table – except for the ability to operate from small cheap carriers maybe.
The RAF would probably prefer Alphas over Bravos. As for the consideration of F35B for the Navy, the leaks are now pointing towards that being the more expensive option.

Ace Rimmer
April 21, 2012 6:20 pm

Observer, “there is hope, the force is strong in this one” ;)

Observer
Observer
April 21, 2012 6:25 pm

@Ace

Nah, he had beans for lunch. That’s just gas you’re sensing.

STV
STV
April 22, 2012 1:02 am

@Ace- The Osprey is an expensive aircraft to run for the job it does, it also requires on average nearly 20 maintenance hours per flight hour and is far more complicated than the CH-46.

It makes sense simply to provide ample NH90 or Merlin helicopters but they take up deck space and I’m not sure if they could satisfactorily be stowed below.

Alternatively a rummage around the bargain bins at AMARC might be in order. Refurbished and slightly modified aircraft could massively cut down our total bill s long as money is spent wisely (e.g no frivolous glass cockpits, trained pilots can cope with real life instruments).

On the leak front, if this is all that was released then it does seem like a bit of a misuse of the top secret stamp. I have a few books that you could get the same information out of. TD you are right in that they have the right to make things secret but you are wrong in that it is fundamentally a topic of national interest.

I do have to say I understand why certain parties in the MOD feel the need to orchestrate these leaks. The government has seemingly eliminated them from the discussion all together and they will be the ones stuck with the planes and ultimately carry the can if there is a massive screw up.

If it were up to me I would get C’s for the navy and have the catapult installed abroad to attempt to save some money and have the RAF equipped with A’s and simply buy one or two Boeing KC-46/KC-767 or refurbed KC-135’s.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
April 22, 2012 4:45 am

I just have to put in:

1. I spent enough time around goverment to know that most leaks come out of minister’s offices.

2. Leaks of the scale suggested indicate a department which is utterly at war with itself. Such departments are always disfunctional and the only solution is a general house cleaning. General house cleaning’s are however rare as pollies lack the balls for the ensuing ruckus. Administrative tinkering is much more likely which simply papers over the cracks.

3. In the absence of real house cleaning, pollies treat everything coming out of the deparment with long tongs and in the absence of an immediate political impact the department stagnates.

Will that happen in the UK? With the end in sight in Stan, without an equal operation in the immediate intray, with a slow economic recovery, looks like a good prospect.

Gabriele
Gabriele
April 22, 2012 10:11 am

“As soon as the potential for a change in model from F35C to F35B the well oiled campaign has been in full flow, blog posts, tweets, letters to the editor and think tank musings from all the usual suspects have been involved in a concerted and coordinated campaign to persuade those in the decision making circle to ‘do the right thing’”

Because the pure and awesome lovers of the greater good did not have their own campaign in support of the B when the decision to change to C was put forward, right?

A very big case of “i’m right, you are wrong”.

“We all know the F35C represents in isolation a set of improved performance figures and lower initial aircraft sticker price but those in the campaign simply do not comprehend that the decision is about overall cost and impact to the rest of defence.”

Absolutely true.
You believe that the F35B has the lower impact and overall cost, others believe, not without reason, that it is the C that delivers the best deal.

You are no different in your arguing for B than who argues for the C, you know.
You BELIEVE that the B is the best choice. There is still no way to prove it for sure.

Especially until the 1.8 / 2 billion conversion cost figure isn’t explained, because there is really no way to justify such a cost unless it is related to the conversion of both hulls.

x
x
April 22, 2012 10:30 am

Ace said “The Army didn’t give advice on the AirTanker selection I presume?”

Actually I bet they did. James the Red Trouser is the man who will know……

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 22, 2012 10:37 am

I have one probably stupid question.

Is the airframe of the B strong enough to take a catapult launch?

And if so what would be the cost of modifying our B’s so as to be fully interoperable.

wf
wf
April 22, 2012 10:44 am

@DavidNiven: no, it won’t be strong enough. But it’s not necessary, a B could operate from a CATOBAR carrier just fine. The ski jump allows it to take off with more weight.

Simon
April 22, 2012 10:46 am

DavidNiven,

You’d then have the worst of both worlds. A heavy jet that doesn’t have the range AND all the expense of the conversion.

STOVL already are completely interoperable – Harriers have landed on the back of Intrepid/Fearless for example, and they’re not even carriers.

Trouble is STOVL jets are heavier (carry less fuel) than their conventional counterparts.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 22, 2012 10:46 am

Almost certainly not. Given that the B is utterly dependent on having a low empty weight, all structural members will have been designed against the lowest required load. In the B, that will be compressive as the gear reaches a ski-jump (UK requirement), whereas a nose-tow cat launch would have a completely different (and higher) set of loads.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 22, 2012 10:53 am

Thanks for the reply’s.

I thought there was an obvious reason.

x
x
April 22, 2012 11:14 am

I said “Ace said “The Army didn’t give advice on the AirTanker selection I presume?””

It was Ichabod.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 22, 2012 3:35 pm

Hi Jedi,

More interesting than what the numbers uplift might have to be, to compensate for capability “the reduced capability of the “b” version will apparently require £2.4b in extra jets”
is the very exact 97 of “C”s
– tallies with the speculation of 48 to fill the need for carrier aviation (of course, a lot of it land based)
– and the two-humped procurement profile(which opens up the avenue for a different variant for the RAF dep strike, should the one chosen for carriers struggle)

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
April 22, 2012 4:36 pm

Basic question on this discussion – apologies if I am the 5th guy to ask it.

Sea Harrier / GR 9 – Off a CVS using a ski jump.
AV8B – Off a rolling take off from Wasp @ normal distance.
Harrier – Off a 260m FOB runway.

How do the weights compare in these 3 scenarios?
What can take off with the highest weights?

Simon
April 22, 2012 5:19 pm

FBOT,

GR9/AV8B will take off fully laden in about 310m with 25 knots WOD (wind over deck). No ski-jump.

The ski-jump reduces this to 2/3 (ish), so ~200m… the entire length of Vince.

Without the WOD you’re talking 450m+ for fully laden. This would be the case for a FOB. In addition, you’d normally have to clear the trees ahead and double this!

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
April 22, 2012 5:27 pm

Simon @ 5.19

What did we normally get off the ground with the Harrier / Ski jump / CVS?
What do the USMC normally get off the ground with the AV8B / Rolling T/O / Wasp?

Simon
April 22, 2012 5:48 pm

FBOT,

Depends on what you’re carrying and the ambient temperature.

You’ll have to wait for others to reply for standard sortie ordnance and takeoff distances. Sorry.

Mark
Mark
April 22, 2012 6:24 pm

Does anyone think we would have had all this nonsense if in the sdsr the government had said “we are reviewing the a/c type due to fly off the cvf to ensure the B varient represents best value for money and operational capability” in stead of what it did say. not forgetting that srvl contract with LM was still signed after sdsr was announced.

This should help with the harrier questions and dont expect a f35 one anytime soon.
http://www.history.navy.mil/planes/av-8b.pdf

Simon
April 22, 2012 6:48 pm

Hey Mark,

Stop giving away my secrets ;-)

I’d love a version for the GR7/9 from Vince though?

Simon
April 22, 2012 6:58 pm

Mark,

Why are we always going for “best value”, surely sometimes we need the “best we can afford”.

If we always went for best value we’d all be driving Fiat Pandas.

The point I’m making is that you should be getting the best possible solution for a set price – trouble is the price isn’t set – a fundamental flaw in any procurement process.

Ichabod
Ichabod
April 22, 2012 7:14 pm

If the Navy wants F35C and scrapped the Ark Royal to pay for it, and will scrap further vessels to pay for any additional unplanned costs for catapult, why is this a topic for discussion?
If they are to fight the maritime war shouldn’t they be allowed to get on with deciding how to do this, or do other services know better?

The RAF got into a £10bn air tanker program, which sounds like a lot of money, but that was their choice surely?

Mark
Mark
April 22, 2012 7:50 pm

Simon

Its and interesting question and dont necessarily think that the 2 statement are saying different things. I think there are areas were we need the absolute best on the market and others were we dont if you search around TD did a piece on this very thing.

Ichabod

The F35 is not solely for a maritime war and im not really sure why we consider f35b to be the wrong a/c for the UK. Considering statements that have been made that the running cost of the entire fleet is less than 1B pounds per years if we scrapped a 1/4 of the surface fleet for the next 4 years we could afford to convert a single carrier for the F35C.

I do wonder how much of this b v c debate revolves round making sure the carriers always have jets onboard and what happened with the JFH doesnt happen in the future. And despite popular belief I believe if we go for the C version they will be as common a sight on the deck of a ship as the dodo.

Jed
Jed
April 22, 2012 8:15 pm

So perhaps we are looking at this the wrong way – for sure if someone really leaked a classified document prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

However, what if some journo just threw that in there to “spice up” the headline ? Seriously, a bit of internet based research throws up the basic figures for the C versus B, be it internal fuel volume, external weapons carriage options, bring back weight etc etc…

So maybe the hack just made it all up, and there is no secret report at all… ???

Simon
April 22, 2012 8:52 pm

Jed,

I’m with you. The report is a sham.

Either that or the nations secrets are about as well protected as 3Cdo.

Waddi
Waddi
April 22, 2012 9:05 pm

136 F35Bs or 97 F35Cs suggests that it is a sham.

Chris.B.
April 22, 2012 9:06 pm

@ TD

“OK, SI has a fiver on the F35B being cancelled, I have a fiver on Rafales for the FAA, who wants to put a fiver on a buy back of GR9′s whilst we make our minds up”

— Go on then, I’ll have a punt. A fiver on Sea Gripen for the FAA, with Gripen NG for the RAF.

re; Ski jumps

I remember reading somewhere that on average the ski jump on Russian Carriers cuts the required take off speed for a Mig-29 almost in half, though that might just be without any weapons.

For a fully loaded Harrier with a decent head wind you’re looking at damn near a halving in the required take off distance.

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
April 22, 2012 9:19 pm

Waddi @ 9.05

The magic number in the whole paper was the £2.4bill extra cost that picking B would generate.

That is the counterpoint to the cost of the CATOBAR option.
It is a case of yes CATOBAR will cost a lot of money but buying B will be even more expensive.

You might have to question what number came first.

SomewhatInvolved
April 22, 2012 9:25 pm

Sweepstakes eh? Marvellous. Anyone want to lay odds on when a decision will be published (vice actually taken)? Another fiver of my hard earned sea pay for next Thursday.

jim30
jim30
April 22, 2012 9:45 pm

I am beyond angry over this. The idea that someone wanted to leak SUKEO to fuel their own service view is an utter disgrace of the highest order. I dont care how senior, I dont care how important, I just want them found, courts martialled/tried in court, and then sent to prison for a very long time indeed. This is nothing short of scandalous.

My own take is here – http://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/oh-for-sound-of-silence.html

Simon
April 22, 2012 9:46 pm

Chris B,

It depends very much on the power of the aircraft.

A fully loaded GR9 will leave the end of Vince (~200m) at about 100 knots, and be given an extra 2 seconds of “throw” by the ski-jump. In this 2 seconds the jet will have moved about another 100m, the same distance it would have needed if the jump wasn’t there. It’s now airbourne.

The numbers are rough I admit.

Simon
April 22, 2012 10:01 pm

Maybe I’m missing something about this article, but the difference between 136 and 97 is 39.

39 x F35 are going to cost a LOT more than the £2.4b the article eludes to. £61m a unit? – let’s ‘av ’em.

jim30
jim30
April 22, 2012 10:03 pm

TD – link to this thread added in to my own.

Mark
Mark
April 22, 2012 10:30 pm

Simon actual that would be in the ball park for a f35b unit recurring flyaway( eg no support costs)at full production quoted in the latest SAR at 106m dollars. But this is not the thread for that debate.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 22, 2012 10:43 pm

Hi Simon, that point “the difference between 136 and 97 is 39”
– was not about equating cost but capability
– capability cannot be universally defined, so it must be the average calculated through the four played-out scenarios (this calculation does not assume that 100% of the planes are deployed, just produces the ratio for the relative quantities needed)
…now one of the two figures must be factual (ie. planned) and the other calculated; I would vote for the 97 being the plan (as I have speculated earlier, in two batches, widely separated time wise)

Simon
April 23, 2012 8:24 am

Mark,

Okay, let’s not discuss that here. Suffice to say, even the unit cost looks 50% higher than that using some of the numbers that are flung around at the mo (probably totally inaccurate).

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 23, 2012 8:27 am

@ Waddi – “136 F35Bs or 97 F35Cs suggests that it is a sham.”

Why?

As the report alludes to these calculations start from what is the necessary effect on target, which is a product of sortie-rates, payload and range among other factors.

It has always been understood that their different roles will lead to different characteristics, and that of course will result in different per-plane effect on target.

Thus do we arrive at different fleet numbers.

I am not sure that this is contentious…………..?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 23, 2012 8:48 am

Hi Jedi,

Exactly. I further suggested that one of the two figures came, not from the scenarios, but the scenarios were used to calculate the difference (the ratio would probably come out slightly differently under different scenarios, so if there is any truth in the report/ leak, then we are probably looking at the average)

Simon
April 23, 2012 9:00 am

I think this report is a reporters maths based on the relative range of the two aircraft and an expected procurement quantity.

I must admit, I’d believe this even more if the wiki entry for F35 hadn’t had it’s range for B reduced to 383nm (used to be 450nm).

Mark
Mark
April 23, 2012 9:22 am

Range of the b version is still 450nm and has NOT been reduced. From reports in the telegraph it appears range is the only issue and numbers probably relate to persistence at range though it would be interest if this had any acces to aar assets or was just a/c only comparisons.

Waddi
Waddi
April 23, 2012 9:25 am

@jedi

Not the difference in the numbers but the sheer scale. We would end up with more F35Bs than Typhoons. Ok may argue that this is a modelled number based on the various scenarios and not what we are likely to buy. My guess would be half these numbers of either model if the order actually ever goes ahead.

Peter Elliott
April 23, 2012 9:30 am

@Mark

Surely any available AAR would be equally effective in extending the persistance of both “B” and “C”? So the ratio between the numbers requried would remain fairly contstant regardless of whether AAR was available or not?

I agree however that it would be interesting to know that planning assumptions are currently being made about this critical capability: land based? buddy pods? carrier mini tanker? or none at all?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 23, 2012 9:49 am

@ Waddi – well, there is editorial sensationalism. i have no doubt they chose the scenario with the largest discrepency, but how much divergence there is in the scenarios is a matter of speculation.

Mark
Mark
April 23, 2012 10:09 am

Peter what would be the consideration with aar is the frequency of utilising that assets both would be in the air for the same time. But again the c spends more time on the tanker than the b. I believe it dancing on the head of a pin at the edges of capability. Again it really depends on what’s been simulated and in what context that’s been done. I would ask people look at b fuel load and weapons load against current a/c and what we’ve actually been carrying weapons wise and you’ll soon find the capablility it offers is actually quite gd and more than adequate for the uk.

Desk Jockey
Desk Jockey
April 23, 2012 10:16 am

All leakers should have the book thrown at them, it is just getting silly now. Sadly no one has faith in the leadership anymore so there are any number of p****d off people in the MOD who just want to throw a spanner in the works.

Journos are being extra careful with how they use leaked info these days as they don’t want to end up in the dock, especially with Levenson on the go. I reckon the journo herry picked the interesting bits that they could understand, used the executive summaries to present the conclusions and then phoned MOD police to ‘hand back’ the document. It is an offence for them to hold onto it after all… I have no knowledge of this document, but I would speculate it was S UK EO because it had loads of data in it, that is what DSTL are meant to produce. The journo did not go into those parts because a) they could not understand it b) they have to tread a fine line of what is in the public interest and actually breaking the law.

Gabriele
Gabriele
April 23, 2012 10:29 am

When the plan was to buy 150 F35B, a ridiculously high number of airframes was to be used for attrition pooling.
Mainteinance worries and unavailability seem to be an issue with the F35B, pushing up the numbers of airplanes required.

It is far from being simply a matter of range and payload.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 23, 2012 10:36 am

Hi Waddi,
” We would end up with more F35Bs than Typhoons.”
– funny that; after the “final” refurb we’ll have 96 Tornados (a figure fairly close to 97, and only C will work as Tornado replacement in the long run, B not so well)

” … not what we are likely to buy. My guess would be half these numbers of either model”
– agree on both parts
– buy the first half for a carrier wing
– fly the Tornado to mid-20s and bring in the other half then. Or, improve Typhoons (conformals etc) and perhaps never execute the second order – who knows where the economy is ten years from now, and the threat picture may also have changed

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 23, 2012 10:42 am

Hi Gabby,

Absolutely right; the truth is somewhere between the original “easier to maintain than F-16” and Osprey’s 20 maintenance hours for one up in the air, RE
“Mainteinance worries and unavailability seem to be an issue with the F35B, pushing up the numbers of airplanes required.

It is far from being simply a matter of range and payload.”

Mark
Mark
April 23, 2012 11:05 am

Except the us marines expect a higher sortie generation rate than the us navy do with the c. And as we will have to follow the us navy procedures if we go with the c there will be a requirement for buddy buddy refuel a/c to be kept on deck to recover a/c with would compensate for any difference in maintainance/availability. Not to mention a number of other issues that could affect deployed numbers on a carrier.

I will add I did read your piece gabby on the c v b debate and found it not only quite bias and in some cases inaccurate.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 23, 2012 11:11 am

Hi Mark,
I agree (more CAS-like missions) but is this because of what they “do” or because of what the plane (combined with the facilities that the ship offers)can do
– I’m not sure I understand

Simon
April 23, 2012 11:16 am

Mark,

You seem pretty confident that the range of B has not reduced. Can you support this? Are you in the business?

Harrier II was great for CAS… and that’s about it. It’s a sad loss, but why replace it with another aircraft with specs designed to be great for CAS. The UK are missing a whole lump of capability.

I don’t want the B/C debate again, I just want to get a handle on why you think that “what we had” is “all we need”.

wf
wf
April 23, 2012 11:18 am

B is going to have shorter range, less capability to carry stores steathily, and higher maintenance requirements than the C: that much is true. All manageable issues, at a cost.

What worries me is that the B also has a small thrust and weight margin. Hot conditions plus needed airframe upgrades could rapidly make the B effectively useless in operations. The risks are very high, and after the V22 program, I have no faith in the USMC’s former ability to avoid gold plating in favour of practical solutions

Mark
Mark
April 23, 2012 11:41 am

Simon

My confidence is based on the very latest f35 SAR document released to congress by the pentagon jroc stating just that. Indeed they tweaked those kpps of which this is one by increase the stovl take off run by adding 24ft said the a was missing its range target by 5 nm and increased the c approach speed to 144 knts. If the b had fell over in its range I guarentee you it would be plastered all over the aviation press.

I’m not just talking about Harrier look at the f18c/d f16 even the load typhoon and tornado carried in Libya Iraq or afghan and the b version pretty much meets or exceeds that with the exception of tornados range with external tanks on a stormshadow mission or typhoon dynamic manoeuvre capability. For which on a land base typhoon with conformal tanks mitigates that area.

Simon257
Simon257
April 23, 2012 12:16 pm

Stupid Question Time!
Is it at all possible to fit either conformal fuel tanks to the B either on the side or on the belly. Or fit internal fuel tanks in the weapon bays?

RichardW
RichardW
April 23, 2012 12:16 pm

I have to disagree here.

Okay, letting out that a government official somewhere in Whitehall is plotting hypothetical wars involving other countries who would otherwise have had a higher opinion of the UK had they not known, is not on. But for the rest of it the Telegraph articles were not really secret; anyone who wanted to know would be able to work it out for themselves.

We are never told the real reasons for any government decision; decisions are proclaimed as government knows best and don’t worry about the detail. I’d suggest save for genuine secret issues it should be compulsory for the pro’s and con’s of any major decision should be laid out for the public to see and judge.

Of course, a lot is in the eye of the beholder – its obvious that there is no perfect answer between B or C and it is inevitable that the decision will be a subjective weighing of the alternatives according to whoever makes the decision. Some people will like the outcome some will not, there will not be 100 percent agreement. At least this time with the public primed by the Telegraph articles Dave will not be able to just say ‘they made the wrong choice’ and then avoid saying what the merit of the choice really was.

Simon
April 23, 2012 12:32 pm

I’m of the opinion that the B/C saga goes much deeper than the selection of the F35.

Without ruffling to many feathers I think there’s two mindsets: 1) RAF as bomber command, and 2) FAA as expeditionary strike.

Those who seem to support B (with perfectly decent reasons) also seem to assume that the tankered/modified RAF Typhoons will pick up the other strike needs.

Those who seem to support C (with perfectly decent reasons) see long-range/heavy-weapons delivered from a carrier.

I have a few problems with the first option:

1. The Typhoon was designed for air-superiority, not strike. If we needed strike we should have joined the French with Rafale a long time ago. If this WAS the way we should have gone then heads should roll.

2. The USA still advocate carrier strike, even when they have Strike Eagle, B52, B2s, etc, because it’s more efficient for long-ranged projection of power.

3. We had “proper” carriers until someone persuaded a particular government that we didn’t need them or couldn’t afford them.

4. The Black Buck raids were a failure, or at the very least, very inefficient (sorry to any who were involved, but it’s the way I see it).

5. The Tornado strikes in Libya were expensive and inefficient.

6. The Indians purchased Rafale after the nice Typhoon/Rafale demonstration in Libya.

I guess this makes me FAA!

Grab your guns and start shooting :-)

JWD
JWD
April 23, 2012 12:58 pm

Maybe a stupid question but if we had a carrier with 25 F35B’s, 4 of these aircraft are assigned as tankers with external fuel tanks that would solely be responsible for topping up the other F35B’s shortly after takeoff, isn’t that extending the range a little?

Simon
April 23, 2012 1:15 pm

TD,

Thanks, but:

1. You know full well that we should have gone Francais at the time if we wanted a well rounded jet, but we wanted air-defence optimised – short sighted in my mind. Typhoon is not a great strike platform, certainly not as good as F35C.

2. Because the US manage to provide more expeditionary capability with less money.

3. I agree, we lost “proper” carriers not because they weren’t needed, but because we couldn’t afford them. The converse to this is that if we can afford them we should have them. It’s not sentimentalism – I couldn’t personally give a feted dingo’s kidney what we had yesteryear. It’s the fact that things haven’t really changed that much, save the reduced need for jet air-defence.

4. Hmmm.

5. Because the sortie rate is useless in large scale conflicts. Meaning you need LOADS of airframes, which is expensive and inefficient.

6. Yes. But to be honest, I really don’t have a clue. It was just another nail in the coffin.

Again, it’s entirely possible you or someone else can persuade me otherwise. All you need to do it explain how 120 jets at 4000nm range can deliver more that 12 jets at 400nm. Especially when they’re not stealth capable.

BertramPantyshield
BertramPantyshield
April 23, 2012 1:29 pm

Rather late to the party…

If the report refers to planes on an individual basis then, by god, the MoD have discovered Wikipedia. Onwards into sunlit uplands of knowledge!

If we’re on about capability as a whole then I’d take two bastardised LHAs with an airgroup of 12 Bs and a smattering of helos over one CVF and 6 Cs.

As a quick question to anyone who knows, would a switch back to B allow the government to return to previous build times? I.e. 2014 QE 2016 PoW? Even the 2016/18 Delayed Labour times would be better than 2019/21. Save a fair bit of wedge as well; those currency bailouts aren’t free you know…

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
April 23, 2012 1:38 pm

TD @ 12.47

You mention the fact that the RN could not afford carriers or more specifically they could not afford to renew / replace their carriers in the mid 60s.

This is down to the technological limits and design abilities available at the time.

The RN wanted ships that were Audacious Class hulls burned with some white hot heat. It was part of the prevailing mind-set that was into salami slicing rather that root cause analysis.

Consequently the crews were too large, the running costs too high and the build costs / standards too rooted in the past.

So what did we do?

Sort out the issues or did we just jump ship literally and run up some nice aviation cruisers that we could handle without thinking.

Looking at the Invincibles – how much better would they have been if they had been made that much bigger?

How about an extra 50ft dumb section of hull?
We eventually gave away a whole generation of carrier capable aircraft.
And still we spent huge amounts of money trying to work a numbers game rather that biting the bullet and trying to do some real thinking.

x
x
April 23, 2012 1:53 pm

I don’t think there will be a return to the original timetable. A hull in the water needs a crew,bunkers, etc. and any expensive faults remaining unknown. No I think the date will be somewhere post 2015 post the next election because I think the current government barring some miracle are already lame ducks. The public are very good at forgetting who put us in this mess. And are ignorant of the true extent of that mess and confuse attempts to tidy up especially if they fail as incompetence. Better to ooh and aah over a wasted £400million now than think back to the waste in the programme that has caused costs greater than that. Or better still moan about anything now and forget the years of spend, spend, and spend that got us here.

x
x
April 23, 2012 2:00 pm

TD said “What has what the US do got to do with how we spend our defence budget, capabilities have to be optimised for the UK, not just because someone else does it one way or another.”

Aren’t you the bod who keeps on going about working in coalition and sharing assets and bringing unique capabilities to the table? So surely that means how the Americans spend their money does affect us? Or how the French spend their Euromark?

Sometimes you play arguments both ways.

x
x
April 23, 2012 2:05 pm

@ TD re Tornado

Considering the numbers of them bought and the small size of Harrier and Jaguar fleets economies of scale would have come into play? It isn’t like we are the US who in the same time frame could have compared F14 v F15 or F16 v F18 is it?

x
x
April 23, 2012 2:07 pm

@ TD

Well you never catch me doing that now would you?

I have sent you some of my spare common sense and unbiasing kit in the post. I have too much of the former and no need of the latter….. :)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 23, 2012 4:41 pm

Good list there, x:
“It isn’t like we are the US who in the same time frame could have compared F14 v F15 or F16 v F18 is it?”
– F14 was superb for its time (an F22?), but all those other three have managed the Typhoon trick (evolving into other roles; I would keep Tornado out of this – a v good aircraft – as the “F” was a very specific spec, for very specific circumstances)

And before you get back to “it was a navy vs. AF comparison”, this one from Simon ” two mindsets: 1) RAF as bomber command, and 2) FAA as expeditionary strike.” is the same kind of comparison
– we can only afford one, not have two separately

But I think that is what you were saying anyway!

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
April 23, 2012 6:41 pm

We are going to look like a total bunch of D@$k Heads with the CVF. The hypothetical comparison wouldd be for the USN to commission the Gerald Ford with an airwing comprised of a single squadron of F-35Cs, one of Ospreys and a few each of the SH-60 and AH-1Z. A carrier’s reason for being is the area effect of its Airwing. If you want ship to shore troop movements buy an LHA. The whole flexibility arguement is to use spin to cover a bad situation.

With the way things are we would be bettter to forget any ideas of ordering any version of the F-35 for the CVFs and use the money saved to pay any contractual dues from cancelling the white elephants. We won’t be able to afford the operating costs anyhow. Its like but a fleets of MBTs but not buying the guns to go with them. Sure we can find other uses for the chassis but that is not what they were bought for. IF the budget is continually put under pressure the whole FF2020 needs to be renamed FF2030?

It seems UK Politicians seem to think Defence can be done on the cheep and have know idea of its true costs, the time and planning projects require, and wish to micromanage everything with more attention paid to the resulting media articles than the actual effect on our Armed Forces.

Like the Banks there needs to be a split between policy and funding. The Government should retain the decision making on what our Armed Forces are for and when, where and how they are used. A separate independant should be responsible for procureing the tools to meet the Government’s requirements. IF the latter is too expensive, the former needs to downsize its aspirations or find extra funds. No more smoke and mirrors. More importantly the Armed Forces need to be put on a all for one and one for all footing, presenting a united front to both the Government and the new independant body. Defence funding needs greater priority. If Billy’s school isn’t funded to expected levels he might not get the best job. If the MoD isn’t properly funded Cpl Smith gets shot in the head!

Monty
April 23, 2012 8:29 pm

Guys, guys, guys! Relax will you.

No one in the MoD has let slip a secret FUKEO document. What has happened is that the Government has given the Telegraph an ‘exclusive’ based on a putative secret memo from one high ranking politician to another. All the Government is doing with this story is trying to spin their U-turn.

Here’s Cameron’s expected storyline when he announces it: ‘We chose the F-35C because we believe that it represents the best possible solution for the UK. Unfortunately, however, there have been unforeseeable and unexpected additional costs for converting the new carriers to CATOBAR which have made the total price tag much greater than we anticipated. We expect that extra cost to be in the region of 1.8 billion. In order to pay that price, we would need to forego other equally important new equipment procurement projects, e.g. FRES UV. These other projects have assumed a heightened level of importance due to the following reasons (insert blather about new and emerging threats).These are also tough times. The reality of our situation is that we cannot afford the ‘gold plated’ F-35C. What we can afford is the ‘silver plated’ F-35B. At the time we came to power, there were serious doubts about the F-35B’s viability. It had been ‘put on probation’. We needed to consider an alternative. Now that the F-35B is more-or-less back on track and the F-35C is going to cost more than anticipated, we can get 80-90% of the capability of the F-35C at a cost of $2 billion less. We have to accept that.’

Within that framework, you can bet that a lot of blame will be attached to the previous Government.

The truth is that the F-35C is ultimately a more capable aircraft in terms of payload and range on internal fuel tanks. While the F-35B carries less weapons and fuel, it is a more flexible platform because of the interoperability it provides for both the RN and RAF. The F-35B is also SIGNIFICANTLY more capable than the Harrier, as you would expect it to be. In that sense it is a step forward.

The bottom line is that the original carrier decision, i.e. opting for 60,000 tonne vessels, when we should have stuck with something under 40,000 tonnes was misguided. You’d think that if we were going for such a large carrier the ability to fly aircraft like the F-35C would have been built into them. Instead we’ve got the worst of both worlds. The F-35B is best suited to smaller carriers.

I wonder if the choice of the F-35B will be further justified by the need to buy the V-22 too? Expect a surprise to fall into the mix.

Simon
April 23, 2012 8:43 pm

Monty,

“the original carrier decision, i.e. opting for 60,000 tonne vessels, when we should have stuck with something under 40,000 tonnes was misguided”.

That’s all very well with the benefit of hindsight, but without knowing that the STOVL version was going to be a “goer” you’d have to design the smallest sensible CATOBAR, and this is CVF.

x
x
April 23, 2012 9:26 pm

@ ACC

It wasn’t an AF vs navy thing more comparison of type. F14 vs F15 both high end air superiority fighters. F16 vs F18 low(er) end fighter. The USN unlike the rest of the West had two fleets to compare.

What annoys me about all of this is that HMG have buggered both long range air capabilities by underfunding or slicing capability or poor decisions or a combination of all three.

If we aren’t going to sail about the world and just join in Europe’s collective defence we need tankers. What do we get? Voyager. Outstandingly poor value for money. How much is it? 9billion over 20years. I think I said that is like buying a every year for 20 years a fleet tanker plus covering its operating costs for its lifetime. What are the Yanks getting 179 aeroplanes for £23billion? Imagine if that £9billion had that level of buying power. We could have funded both tankers, a third carrier, and extra oilers to support CVF.

And then we have CVF…………. :(

clinch
clinch
April 24, 2012 10:09 am

Anyone think Cameron may switch back to the C again to avoid the growing shit storm?

“The Public Administration Committee said an absence of national strategy was leading to ‘mistakes’ such as those following the recent Budget.”

“In a critical report, the committee said ‘the government’s inability to express coherent and relevant strategic aims’ was leading to mistakes in a number of areas.

“These included the rethink on Royal Navy aircraft carriers, the lower-than-anticipated economic growth and the likelihood that child poverty reduction targets will be missed.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17817741

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 24, 2012 10:21 am

“Anyone think Cameron may switch back to the C again to avoid the growing shit storm?”

There has been no switch away from the “c” yet.

clinch
clinch
April 24, 2012 10:28 am


Not officially, although the mood music coming out of Government have suggested so. When the Defence Secretary openly says we can’t afford the cats and traps it’s pretty clear which way the wind is blowing.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 24, 2012 11:51 am

Question from Jim Murphy to the Cameron:

“* Can you guarantee Britain will have year-round, continuous carrier strike capability?”

This above all else must be answered!

Monty
April 25, 2012 1:53 pm

I’ve been looking at this for all it’s worth and I can’t figure out the hidden agenda behind saying the F-35C is better but still reverting to the F-35B.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 25, 2012 1:59 pm

political imperative for the coalition to say they have forced the MoD to balance its books (f35b) versus the desires to see carrier strike with lower operational costs long into the future (f35c)…..?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2012 8:33 pm

Monty – try this. Post 572 says it all and yet the general public are not privy to this part of the debate.

http://www.pprune.org/military-aircrew/478767-no-cats-flaps-back-f35b-29.html

Chris.B.
April 25, 2012 11:47 pm

@ NAB

To stir the pot a little, I thought comment #583 was quite interesting, that being the quandry that the RN might find itself in having sung the praises of jointness in Libya with Army Apaches flying off the carriers, while claiming fast jets should be a Navy only enterprise.

It ends up looking like a RN vs RAF issue.

Dunservin
Dunservin
April 26, 2012 2:25 am

B

I don’t think the RN is in any quandary about a few AAC Apaches flying from its platforms. Having taken several years of preparation, achieving the necessary clearances and much practice, the system now seems to work, at least with few numbers for relatively short periods and this is mainly down to airframe marinisation issues. From what I have heard, the Army personnel have integrated very well, perhaps because they share the same ‘all of one company’ ethos as the RN.

However, there is a world of difference between operating three or four visiting helos for the occasional sortie and operating an air group of more complex FJ (VSTOL or Cat & Trap) with a demanding flypro where heavy airframes are landing on, taking off and being moved around a busy rolling deck and in confined spaces day or night, all with frightening speed. Constant training is not a luxury; it is a necessity if people are to avoid becoming stale and unsafe. I used to get exasperated when members of my ship’s company forgot the most basic drills and procedures after being on leave for a couple of weeks. Every on board emergency is different but this is why exercises covering damage control, firefighting, machinery breakdowns and man overboard are conducted daily at sea and in harbour.

I trust that most readers are able to appreciate the complexity of ‘proper’ carrier operations which require lengthy work-ups and continuous training to establish, build and maintain currency among everyone on board, not just aircrews. Even the chefs and stewards have secondary roles as medics in the event of injuries. If you have any doubts about the scale of the problem, take a look at the demanding American standards for keeping qualified for carrier ops. The choreography, skill and commitment of the many different specialists involved in executing carrier flying, let alone moving, bombing up, fuelling and maintaining the a/c, is amazing. It’s not nearly such a case of ‘fire & forget’ as you have with land bases. The ship’s position, heading, speed, C4I, ATC, FC, SAR, etc., are all integral parts of launch, execution of the mission and recovery. A carrier doesn’t get called ‘Mamma’ for nothing and its air group is its primary weapons system.

For what it’s worth, I think a leavening of RAF aircrew on board the carriers would be a good thing. It certainly seemed to work in the old days of CTOL carriers and I’m sure they would have much to contribute, just as they would have much to learn from their FAA counterparts. I just wonder how many would be prepared to spend up to 10 months on board at a time, including shake down, work-up and a normal 6-8 month deployment.

Chris.B.
April 26, 2012 2:46 am

@ Dunservin

I appreciate the complexities. The problem you have is that all those complexities were imposed on the AAC pilots and they came through with flying colours and much praise.

When push comes to shove a defence select committee is going to ask the Admirals why they are so insistent that it is impossible for the same to happen by replacing the words “AAC crew” with “RAF crew” and there’s going to be no satisfactory answer.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 26, 2012 7:34 am

Hi Dunservin,

Totally aside the main points that you make RE” mainly down to airframe marinisation issues.”
– lots of good work has been done on the Apache
– its stability on the deck will not be easily changed (at one point the plan was for the USMC to be flying them, too)

Topman
Topman
April 26, 2012 7:36 am

Chris B makes a good point. For example on JFH there were quite a few RAF personnal that had more sea time than some of the navy. I think the boat trips came around, for some, 2 or 3 times a year when their sqn would deploy for an exercise. And although there were undoubtable new skill sets to learn I don’t know many that didn’t pick it up. As far as I know they still had the same tests and checks that the navy had before going away.

Like Dunservin said a blend of skills and learning from both would be a good thing and the RAF have been onboard since at least the 70s no reason for it not to continue and all the benefits it would bring to both.

Simon
April 26, 2012 10:04 am

Dunservin et al,

Assuming we get two carriers of the same type, why couldn’t the RAF operate from the in-active carrier? I know you really need wind-over-deck, but surely not for light training loads?

This means that the chaps that don’t really like being at sea and/or away from their families, etc, can still hone their skills for emergency deployment.

Alternatively just use a dummy-deck (with real edges that you can fall off).

Those deployed on the active carrier are true/old FAA (expeditionary), those based on the inactive carrier or dummy deck would be “homeland” F35 strike pilots (sort of blend between RAF and FAA on a squadron by squadron basis).

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 26, 2012 10:37 am

Topman & Chris B

There is a later post in the Pprune thread that actually details what happened with the AAC/Apache det and how much work was required to get two (yes two) cabs on task.

The answer to the question why RN rather than RAF is highlighted by assertion that some RAF spent more time at sea than RN – “embarking for exercises”. That’s not delivering what is required – they may have flown some missions, but were they bought into the everything required? Air defence? No – GR( couldn’t do that. Lrage packages (as opposed to 4-6 cabs embarking for a week or two)?

JFH getting a slack handful RAF Harriers aboard a CVS for a couple of weeks at a time is not and never was Carrier Strike.

Dunservin
Dunservin
April 26, 2012 11:16 am

@Simon

With the occasional exception of launching and recovering a helo, no ship alongside for any worthwhile period is conducive to flying operations or even having aircraft embarked. As I explained in my previous post, smaller scale helo ops, as performed by OCEAN during ELLAMY, are relatively simple (unlike the old Commando carrier operations during the Suez crisis for example). Destroyers and frigates conduct them day and night as a matter of routine and they compare to high-intensity FW ops like your local go-cart circuit compares to Le Mans.

Apart from the absence of adequate wind over the deck, ships alongside have too many conflicting activities such as planned and unplanned maintenance, storing, fuelling and ammunitioning or even changing fittings and disembarking materiel if re-roling for a specific operation or exercise. I well remember the disruptive work required to equip a CVS as a functional floating JFHQ (Joint Force Headquarters). Also, vital systems and services will be offline for routine work and critical personnel will be otherwise occupied with on board tasks, undertaking shoreside courses and meetings, filling otherwise gapped billets elsewhere or getting some rare leave. Today’s warships spend much more time at sea than their forebears (even during WW II) and they need their time alongside for various good reasons. You don’t just turn everything off and lock the doors.

Finally, the QEs will be based at Portsmouth in the middle of a built-up area so you can imagine the safety issues coming into play if they started messing around with aircraft and ordnance. Far better to use a dummy deck in the countryside with dedicated training staff. Failing that, they will just have to perform all their carrier ops training and assessment at sea before deploying, like they used to.

Simon
April 26, 2012 12:41 pm

Dunservin,

I understand. The trouble is with QE at sea there’s no opportunity to properly train the other would-be naval aviators (other than a dummy deck). I guess, as you say, they’ll just have to wait for an opportunity to try their hand on the real (active) carrier.

I think this is, however, a classic example of how we’ll never manage to maintain anyone other than FAA as carrier capable. There’s too much of a gap between, for exmaple, RAF opportunities to land to maintain “the edge”.

Harrier was a little different; yes it’s different on a carrier, but not as different as CATOBAR ops slamming into a pitching, rolling and heaving deck, putting the throttle to full and having your head ripped off when the arrestor cables catch.

Regardless of what they’re called (RAF, FAA or expeditionary strike wing) there will only be a handful of carrier capable pilots.

It’s interesting to suddenly realise why there was, is and probably always will be a difference between RAF and FAA. They are simply a product of their situation and availability of training resources.

Dunservin
Dunservin
April 26, 2012 1:06 pm

@TD

“Then they will just have to do better in future…

C- Must Try Harder, See Me After School :)”

-You remind me of the FAA CO of a warship who shouted at his XO during a particularly complex and hazardous seamanship evolution, “Why are things taking so long?”

– His XO replied, “Because I’m not in a hurry to get anyone killed, Sir.”

:-)

wf
wf
April 26, 2012 1:22 pm

@TD: JFH merely demonstrated why the RAF is the ultimate “closed shop”. It wants to destroy competition, and given the opportunity, promptly did, demonstrating that it is not in the business of delivering capabilities, but protecting it’s own rice bowl. Case closed methinks :-)

Topman
Topman
April 26, 2012 1:37 pm

I see the conspiracy theories are as strong as ever…

wf
wf
April 26, 2012 2:03 pm

Well, if in a civilian environment two departments were merged, with one of the managers appointed leader, who then shut down the majority of the other dept ASAP, we would be calling it a takeover, right?

JSF was a fail because the core competency of carrier air, air defence, was disposed of. We can use TLAM, NGS whatever to do land attack, but air defence over the horizon needs planes. Now, if the RAF had disposed of F/A 2 but upgraded the GR7 with radar, I would have been the first to applaud. But they didn’t, and were never going to do so: the Harrier was to wither on the vine until it could be cut.

@Topman: conspiracies exist everywhere. The difference between reality and fantasy is that they are usually about the most mundane items.

For example, I have seen a data centre built in Ireland after connectivity costs were ordered removed from the cost matrix. The two regional managers were Irish :-) It’s a bit of a white elephant, but I did get a lot of time in Dublin drinking out of it, so…

wf
wf
April 26, 2012 2:09 pm

Ultimate conspiracy theories :-)

http://youtu.be/P6MOnehCOUw

Topman
Topman
April 26, 2012 2:09 pm

@ wf ‘The difference between reality and fantasy is that they are usually about the most mundane items.’

You would think so, yet they still come out about this particular issue. Again and again.

wf
wf
April 26, 2012 2:38 pm

@Topman: because we would have been utterly humiliated if Hermes and Invincible had been sold in 1981? That sort of lesson sticks

Simon
April 26, 2012 2:49 pm

wf,

I was under the impression that FA2 was retired so that Daring could take over the role of air-defence. It’s only because Daring was pushed back three years that there was a gap in capability.

If you accept that Daring replaced FA2 and GR7 was for strike then there’s no reason to put radar in them.

Topman
Topman
April 26, 2012 2:53 pm


I’m not sure how that’s related to my point.

wf
wf
April 26, 2012 3:00 pm

@Simon: no, the FA2 was retired because the costs for upgrading it’s engines for hot and high conditions was considered to be prohibitive. The same upgrade along with others was then applied to three times as many RAF Harriers shortly afterwards. Any excuse will do….

Simon
April 26, 2012 3:07 pm

wf,

Okay, that’s just the other way round. Whichever way you look at it Daring was supposed to be there to provide air-defence for the fleet meaning there was no need for FA2.

There’s no point in upgrading engines on an obsolete asset. Better to upgrade them on the GR7/9 so that they can work in Iraq/Afganistan/etc.

I love FA2 (look at my icon/avatar) but we migrated to Aster because it’s more effective… and, this is debatable, more cost effective.

wf
wf
April 26, 2012 3:18 pm

@Topman: could we have retaken the Falklands without carrier air? Given that every SAM system we possessed with the exception of Stinger were failures to a lesser or greater degree, that would be very, err, brave. Seems a very relevant point to me, and no need to dismiss it just because it’s effective.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 26, 2012 3:28 pm

Simon

Your impression is incorrect. When the SHAR was withdrawn it was accepted reluctantly by 1SL as a temporary measure, the actual phrase was “taking risk” against the air defence capability – a risk mitigated only to some degree by the planned service entry of T45. It was also referred to as a “capability holiday” which illustrates the level of logical thinking involved. That T45 was late only compounded that risk.

T45 was never an attempt to replace the SHAR or manned fixed wing air defence. There are those who conveniently forgot the argument and attempted to pretend T45 replaced SHAR, but that was never the case. The analogy is to suggest that we can bin Typhoon because we have Rapier/Starstreak or bin the SAMs because we have Typhoon.

@TD – JFH did not fail in Afghanistan – of course not. One would have been very surprised to see it do so, given that HERRICK was a land-based CAS mission, which the RAF had trained to do using the Harrier GR series for about thirty years (albeit in a different climate). However you will hopefully notice that 800NAS / NSW did at least their fair share of the op and in a role that formed only a part of their previous skillset which included AD and maritime ASuW among others. No single role f/w squadrons in the FAA.

However, as JFH was also supposed to simultaneously deliver the carrier-capable embarked role, perhaps you can explain why the “capability owner” (in this case CAP-Theatre Airspace) reduced the required FE@R in the Harrier force to a level that could really only sustain the Herrick dets (6 or 8 cabs), while retaining a much larger Tornado FE@R that was required only to sustain an equivalent det on TELIC. Had Tornado FE@R been reduced back then and GR7/9 FE@R maintained or increased to allow both carrier-embarkation and HERRICK dets to be maintained, the SDSR result would have looked very different. Not a plea for the return of GR7/9 or SHAR, it’s done, we must get over it.

The whole point of JFH should have been to demonstrate that sea-based airpower can operate from land seamlessly and vice versa. In fact what it has done is to demonstrate that those who operate from land (and particularly their head-shed) don’t understand sea-based ops and don’t want to do them for any sustained length of time.

You can sarcastically suggest that “it’s always those big boys” causing trouble, but when the evidence is put forward, I’m afraid it usually is.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 26, 2012 3:29 pm

Hi wf,

I think your statement is too broad, a pity that Seawolf was on only two ships.

Wiki says “Sea Wolf accounted for two confirmed “kills” and three further possible successes from eight launches.”

wf
wf
April 26, 2012 3:31 pm

@Simon: we have had this discussion before. The last FA2 was delivered in 1998, 4 years before the retirement decision, and was the only UK aircraft which could operate AMRAAM at the time, which hardly makes it obsolete. A T45 cannot engage low flying aircraft or missiles beyond 50Km: the earth is in the way. An aircraft can.

The most cost efficient way of defending a fleet is not to wait until the missiles are within seconds of impact, it is to shoot down the aircraft that is firing said missiles, which is both easier and prevents said aircraft from returning with more missiles a few hours later.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 26, 2012 3:32 pm

@ Simon – re cost effectiveness. No, really, it’s not. A SAM is not and can never be a substitute for a manned intercept and/or visual ID. Nor can it be retasked once launched, return refuel and do something else. If you want to shoot down a demanding target that has got through your outer defences, that’s when you use a SAM.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 26, 2012 3:39 pm

It is a valid point that 16 of the airframes were practically new “The last FA2 was delivered in 1998, 4 years before the retirement decision, and was the only UK aircraft which could operate AMRAAM at the time”
– these numbers alone, as part of a larger GR force, would have enabled maintaining CAP
– cueing the BVR missile with radar info from dispersed ships, to make the best of it; anyone know what level of linking there was at the time (I mean in 1998…voice, directing the pilots?)

wf
wf
April 26, 2012 3:40 pm

: that’s why I said to a lesser or greater degree. Sea Wolf was unable to fire on multiple occasions because of either software problems or crossing targets, which is one reason why it looks so much better than Sea Cat. But the fact that Sea Harrier shot down the majority of the aircraft says a lot about relative effectiveness: and this is a aircraft with a non-coherent radar with no look-down capabilities and with a pair of short range heat seekers onboard. By world standards, FRS1 was grossly obsolete, but it was a lot more effective than SAM’s

Simon
April 26, 2012 3:40 pm

wf,

Sorry, you’re right, we’ve been here before.

I didn’t want to imply the FA2 WAS obsolete – it was MADE obsolete by T45… which you don’t agree with either. And neither does NaB.

Fair enough.

Have you not noticed that nearly all “interceptors” are becoming “strike” aircraft? F15, F16, F18, Typhoon, Rafale. The only one that isn’t is F22 because it has an edge that missiles don’t.

I hope you’re right, but will be surprised if we ever operate CAP over the carrier with F35 – they’ll be used to project CAP/CAS over the assault leaving T45 to do fleet air defence.