The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 1 (Background, Progress and Options)

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This is a five part series on the A400M Atlas transport aircraft

Part 1 – Background, Progress and Options

Part 2 – What is So Good about the A400M Anyway?

Part 3 – Beyond Tomorrow, a Multi Role Platform

Part 4 – Export Potential

Part 5 – Say Hello to my Little Brother

If you look at the Think Defence Archives (click here) the very first post I published on the site was called; Are We the Only People that Like the A400

It’s not a very well written post with a number of errors and a massive 12 comments, interestingly, ArmChairCivvy, Mark, X and Richard Stockley were amongst them. Those four are still regularly commenting on Think Defence, wow, have to say thanks guys! For an even bigger laugh, pop over to a 2009 post on A400 predictions or another in 2010.

Since I started writing on Think Defence I have been a consistent supporter of the aircraft despite it being subject to as much scrutiny and negativity as the F35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The history of the A400M should be required reading for those wishing to enter multilateral and ambitious development programmes. There is no doubt that the A400 was ambitious; with the benefit of hindsight, developing a new aircraft with every imaginable modern feature and a new record breaking engine at the same time was risky. Giving this mammoth development programme to a company with a modest track record in developing large military airlifters and who were also developing other innovative aircraft (the Airbus A380) added to that risk.

That basket of risks have come to be realised and combined to produce the inevitable delays and cost inflation that equally have resulted in expensive stop gap measures, reductions in numbers ordered and a softening of the original specifications.

The development and test programme continues apace and despite a blip this week when Airbus announced a couple of months delay due to engine problems, the direction of travel is plainly obvious.

Civil certification, water ingestion, soft field operations, air despatch, equipment loading, high altitude, icing, in-flight refuelling, hot and high operations and myriad of other items on the to do list are being slowly ticked and indications are that for the most part, predicted performance seems to being validated by test.

Many people either fail or refuse to realise that a test and development programme will find faults, issues and problems; that being entirely the point. It has parallels with criticism of the Typhoon or F35.

First planned deliveries will commence next year with France being the launch customer. They will receive three and Turkey two. The following year will see a total of ten aircraft delivered including the first handful to the UK (MSN16) and Germany.

For entry into RAF service, the national training centre opens in 2014 and Initial Operating Capability (IOC) is planned for 2015 and set at three aircraft. Full Operating Capability (FOC) is planned for 2018 when twelve aircraft should be in service. 2018 is also the planned Full Operating Clearance milestone with the first aircraft being delivered with partial clearance.

From AIN Online

The first three aircraft will have IOC/entry-into-service (EIS) release, which allows them to operate as logistic transports. In 2013, the Service Operating Clearance (SOC) 1 will be released, providing initial aerial delivery capability. Subsequent releases will be SOC1.5 (2014: full aerial delivery and initial tanker), SOC2 (2015: enhanced tactical mission and additional performance), SOC2.5 (2017: enhanced tanker and search and rescue) and SOC3 (2018: low-level flight). Earlier aircraft will be brought up to later standards as appropriate. The IOC/EIS standard has no defensive aids subsystem (DASS), while a partial DASS is fitted to SOC1 and a full DASS implemented at SOC1.5.

The latest National Audit Office Major Projects Report stated that all 8 of the key Performance Measures are forecast to be met although performance against some of the defence lines of development were assessed as being likely to be met, but with some risk.

There are plenty of online sources that one can look at for the back story of the A400 with its political/industrial shenanigans but whilst not being in any way immune to the cost and delay issues this is an optimistic look at the aircraft itself, export potential, why it is perfect for the UK, possible alternatives and how the UK might use it going forward.

Have a nice video before I start

A400M at the 2012 Farnborough Air Show

In no particular order

Would Additional C130 and C17 Have Made More Sense?

Many commenters and no doubt many in the services think the best outcome would have been a larger buy of C17’s beyond the eight we already have and a like for like replacement of the C130’s as they leave service, thus leaving the RAF with a three type Air Transport (AT) of the C130J, C17 and A330.

Simple maths dictates that for a given budget this would have resulted in more aircraft than the planned A400, C17 and A330 mix as planned. This is undoubtedly true if we were to use the A400M budget entirely for C130J’s and maybe a greater number of C17’s depending on how the budget cake was sliced.

As attractive as this proposition might appear on face value, more aircraft for the same money, I still don’t find the argument compelling or realistic.

That the C17 is hugely capable is not in doubt but we should not be blind to its issues either.

C17 Landing on dirt runway

Operation austere conditions like in the video above is dependent on a number of factors such as load, altitude, runway length, surface load bearing factors (California Bearing Ratio), operating restrictions and whether one wishes to use the runway surface again or repeatedly. A USAF operation into Camp Rhinowas only able to support a small number of landings before heavy engineering plant (bought in by C17) was required to repair the surface for example.

When the RAF was operating the C17 under a lease, before they were purchased outright, all operations into such locations were prohibited by the terms and conditions.

11.  However, under the terms of the lease the full capabilities of the C-17 will not be available and the aircraft can only be used as a strategic long-range transport, albeit with the ability to land on short runways. The C-17s will be restricted in operational use and their capability for para-drop, airdrop, rough field, low-level operations and air to air refuelling will not be used.

The reason for these restrictions is obvious, they add risk and cost and in the then commercial arrangements, those risks and costs would have been borne by Boeing and their finance provider. We are no longer leasing the aircraft but this simply means the MoD carries the risk and cost.

When the C17 does operate from these rough conditions it needs extensive inspection and maintenance, the USAF might be able to afford this but the RAF cannot.

Whilst more C17’s would never be a bad thing to routinely operate then in conditions that the C130 and A400 will be required to operate in is an expensive hobby and therefore, done only on an exception basis.

A turbofan aircraft like the C17 will display flight envelope issues for role, the reason most tactical transport aircraft use turboprops is because their drag allows them to decelerate rapidly at lower altitudes and thus perform a steep approach, flare and landing. Turbofan aircraft are much more limited in this respect and therefore less survivable in higher threat areas, i.e. exactly the environment the C130 or A400 will be required to operate in, if not all the time.

As we all know, pinning down the cost of individual items of military equipment if fraught with difficulties but piecing together various snippets it should be obvious that the C17 is very expensive to buy and operate, unlike the usual internet nonsense of quoting the very lowest price, usually without engines for example.

Boeing supports the RAF’s C-17s through the C-17 Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership, a performance-based logistics programme, at RAF Brize Norton, the RAF’s main operating base for strategic air transport and air-to-air refueling. This arrangement provides the RAF with the benefits of complete “virtual fleet” access and an extensive support network. The virtual fleet concept enables C-17 customers, especially those with smaller numbers of aircraft, to benefit from worldwide parts availability and economies of scale when purchasing materials, all good stuff.

In 2008 the estimated UK cost of participation in the GSP was $225 million for six aircraft and in 2010 the seven aircraft resulted in an estimated cost of $390 million. I have seen other figures which suggest a much lower prices, £44m for example, here

Purchase cost depends very much on the optional extras and how many you are buying. The ‘all option included’ price for 10 to India was reported at $.5.8 billion, Australia’s 4 at $2 billion and Kuwait’s1 at $690 million.

It should therefore be clear that the oft mooted $200m price for a C17 is way off the mark for export customers who would have other costs to consider A closer figure would be around $580 million or £360 million for an aircraft in a usable condition, fully supported or about £300m as a straightforward purchase.

Inserting C17’s into an already established user, like the UK for example, does mean the unit cost will be much lower. a recent Parliamentary Answer for example, puts the figure at around £200m but it is not clear whether this includes any government furnished equipment.

It is here that we enter the murky world of national and international defence economics, there have been one or two studies to suggest that buying from your own shop and not someone else’s can reduce the overall cost by as much as 30%. We should also note that the UK does not have a majority stake in the A400M but it is still significant nonetheless.

More C17’s would result in close to zero UK industrial participation and tax revenue, putting my Treasury hat on, that makes it more expensive to the public purse.

The National Audit Office 2011 Major Projects Report lists the A400M budgeted cost as £3.105 billion for 22 aircraft and associated items.

The programme cost is therefore, a very rough £141 million each.

But don’t forget those ‘associated items’ like training facilities and the economic benefits overall to the Treasury that will depress the unit price of the aircraft.

There is also the strategic industrial benefits of reducing dependence on the US and maintaining highly skilled jobs that can be used for other aeronautic projects.

Critics of the A400 point to the low $200m price of the C17 and compare its Wiki performance unfavourably to the A400 but there is more to it than that and in the real world, the C17 costs nowhere near $200 million either.

What about more C130’s?

The obvious trend in vehicle, equipment and engineering plant weight and size means that the C130 is becoming less able to move them and this problem will only be greater in the future.

As a means of countering this many point out that the majority of tactical transport loads are not vehicles or engineering plant but pallets of stores and personnel and for the rare occasions when the big stuff is needed the C17 can be used.

Looking at this alone puts the C130J in a much better light but as I have explained above the C17 is not as cheap or capable in the required conditions as the headlines would have us believe.

A tactical airlifter exists to move men, materials, vehicles and engineering plant, not just the first two. The Hercules has been overtaken by the reality of larger vehicles and engineering plant so no matter how cheap it is or how many you can combine for a large total payload if your single tactical airlifter type cannot lift the majority of your kit the rest doesn’t matter a jot.

Going down this road we condemn the forces to having to rely on a small number of very expensive C17’s to move outsize equipment by air and I do not think this is a desirable state for any number of reasons.

But even for this people and pallets requirement the A400 is actually very good as I will describe later in this series.

The RAF was the launch customer for the C130J and according to the National Audit Office Major Projects Report 2001, the 25 C130J’s cost the £1.049billion, or £42m each, but don’t forget, this excluded many systems that come as standard on the A400 and we would have ten years of defence inflation to tot up.

So

More C130’s, I think, is not a desirable option.

The last fundamental problem of binning the A400 and buying more C130/C17’s is a combination of political, industrial and economic reality.

The A400 programme will support 10,000 European jobs, a large, diverse and multi-national supply chain, billions in tax revenues and re-establishes European skills in large military aircraft/turboprop design, thus countering current US and Russian domination in the sector and potential challengers in China, India and Brazil.

The A400 makes perfect sense from a geo-industrial perspective.

Many people see industrial issues as either irrelevant to defence needs or if the word ‘Europe’ is involved automatically a bad thing. The former Labour Defence Minister, Lord Gilbert, was famous for calling the A400 a ‘Euro wanking make work programme’

He was of course correct in many ways and one might perhaps wonder what the in service date and final cost would have been should the original engine proposal from Pratt and Whitney been pursued but this is a spot of wishful thinking and somewhat naive.

So whilst detractors might point at the total programme cost of the A400, divide it by the production numbers and then take a sharp intake of breath the actual economic value has a bit more depth.

With the US being plain about desiring Europe to be more responsible for its own defence needs, especially in transport, air refuelling and ISR, the A400 will address a number of these concerns and if one looks at the military airlift capability available to European nations as a whole, post 2020, it will be very impressive indeed.

One does sometimes get the impression that the US wants Europe to have a greater military capability just as long as it buys the kit to do so from the US and I suspect that is the root cause of much of the criticism of the A400.

The A400M Atlas makes sense and is here to stay.

Keeping the C130 in Service

The A400M Atlas was nominally due to replace the C130K fleet but the SDSR indicated that all C130 variants will be out of service by 2022 as the Atlas comes into service.  The original Out of Service Date for the C130J’s was 2030 but this was bought forward.

We are currently selling the C130K’s and with the C130J’s working flat out, the A400M Atlas is sorely needed.

It has been recently reported by Jane’s and others that the RAF has desires to keep some of the C130’s in service beyond their planned out of service date. The news reports indicated Special Forces concerns about size of the A400 and even the risk of tyre damage from unprepared operating runways.

That this is news should be newsworthy in itself as problems with the C130K Out of Service Date have been widely predicted for half a decade or more.

In 2008 the National Audit Office produced a very comprehensive report on the Hercules fleet including details of operating conditions and costs. It went into some detail about the process of bringing the C130J’s to a level of capability that would allow them to operate in the SF role by virtue of participating in the international C130J Block 7.0 upgrade programme and transferring selected items of equipment such as the advanced DAS from the existing C130K’s (C3) under Project Hermes, page 29if you fancy a read.

The Block 7.0 upgradeincludes a range of improvements such as instrumented flying civil certification, Link 16, improvements to short field performance and avionics and was to start in 2011 but with technical delays from Lockheed Martin this is not likely to be completed until after 2013 and is currently in flight testing. The Block 7.0 upgrade was cost shared amongst the C130J operators.

With the delays to the A400M Atlas and an uncertain funding pathway for this work the NAO recognised it as a significant risk to operations.

The issue surfaced again in April this year with a Defense Newspiece describing how some of the C130K’s would be retained in service whilst the C130J’s were being upgraded.

Britain’s Royal Air Force may delay taking its C-130K Hercules special-forces fleet out of service for at least a year while it waits for a delayed upgrade of the newer J variant.

The last of the Hercules K fleet was to exit service by the end of the year, but sources said that’s unlikely to happen. The availability of a vital upgrade to allow the J version to fully take on the special forces role will not be ready until at least 2013.

One Ministry of Defence source said the RAF could decide to retain maybe five or six of the K fleet for special-forces work while getting rid of the rest.

In the RAF’s C130K fleet were two variants, the C1 and C3. The C3 was a stretched version with the C.3P’s (a sub variant) equipped for in-flight refuelling.  Another sub variant was the C.3A that was fitted with a range of defensive aids equipment, avionics and other equipment, there were 6 of these conversions.

RAF Tactical Transport Hercules C17 A400M

There are only a handful of C130K’s left in service and they look as if they are up for sale

This is a convergent set of risks and timing issues caused by delays in both the C130 and A400 programmes.

As reported by the NAO and others, the existing C130J is sub-optimal in the Special Forces role until Block 7.0 is in service but this is not due until 2013 at the earliest and this assumes the RAF can make C130J airframes available for the upgrade work whilst still maintaining operational commitments, especially as one considers the likely uplift in demand as the Afghanistan withdrawal process begins.

The simple fact is the RAF’s C130’s are working flat out but hamstrung, as are all the services, by tight as a piano string support arrangements. The maintainers have to perform daily miracles and the problem with any of these aspirations is the back office support infrastructure.

The C130K can and does fulfil the SF role but they are due out of service this year. With plans already advanced to do this including training, aircrew and maintenance draw-downs  it might not be possible, or at least very difficult and expensive, to keep them in service until beyond 2013 when the C130J Block 7.0 and Project Hermes work might be complete.

The A400 can’t help; even the A400’s planned Initial Operating Capability (IOC) will be after the Afghanistan withdrawal, let alone Full Operating Capability (FOC)

With memories of the Chinook HC3 fresh in the MoD’s mind there seems to be little desire to go outside the international C130J block upgrade programme and contract with industry for a stop gap or hybrid C130J. Marshall Aerospace have recently been certified to replace C130 centre wing box sections, the only company other than Lockheed Martinto be accredited to do so and this might be significant in any decision making.

The MoD disposals website linked above shows both the C1 and C3 variant being for sale, how significant this is one can only wonder.

It could indicate that the decision on keeping the C130K’s (C1 and C3) has already been made, they are gone.

This would leave the sub-optimal C130J’s for the SF mission until the upgrade work potentially completes and then when A400 comes into service.

Alternatives might include borrowing or leasing from others or asking Mr UOR for a hand; then of course there is always the ‘capability holiday’ option.

If the C130J upgrade goes to plan they will be in service for less than a decade so the final block upgrade that the USAF have just contracted Lockheed Martin to develop would seem rather unlikely to find itself in service with the RAF.

It is easy to be critical of the MoD here; they have known for half a decade of the problem and on face value, have sleep walked into a crisis by failing to implement mitigation measures. The MoD makes its own decisions on funding priorities and has self-evidently decided to allocate funds to other projects.

That said it, is equally easy to sympathise, they have been faced with delays that are not of its making and the existing fleet was and is being worked to death on operations. What could they have done, withdraw aircraft from operations in order to upgrade them outside of the Block Upgrade programme?

One can just imagine the headlines.

We are where we are though and if the MoD disposals site is an indicator of no more C130K’s then the C130J’s are just going to have to make do.

Beyond 2022, by which time the C130J will be out of service, will the A400 be a worthy successor in the special-forces role?

There have been several reports indicating that the A400 Atlas is on the large side for the SF role and the users want to retain the C130J. This would leave the RAF with a C130J, A400m, C17 and A330 transport fleet instead of the A400, C17 and A330.

It is difficult to argue against the position of those with custody of the requirement but one of the reported problems with the A400 compared to the C130J for the Special Forces role is its size, presumably for getting into and out of small landing strips in exotic locations, turning for the return journey and perhaps weight or low flying issues.

Comparing dimensions of the A400 and C130J (not the stretch version) the wingspan difference is less than 5% or 2m. The height difference is under 3m or 20% but would this be significant? The big difference is length, at 45m the A400 is 15m or nearly 20% longer than the standard C130J although this falls to less than 15% for the J30 stretch. Again, would the length difference necessarily be a barrier to operating in smaller locations, not entirely sure?

Ground turning circles, silhouette, low flying ability, approach angles, conspicuousness or perhaps there are other reasons but the A400 has much to offer the Ninja in many other areas that would presumably be advantageous, ability to operate in civilian airspace (altitude and speed) for example or the obvious ones of payload and range.

Perhaps the main advantage for the C130 in the SF role is its ubiquity, this means interoperability with our principal allies, reduction in support costs and higher availability when operating away from main operating bases. This might be a large or small issue depending on one’s world view and predictions for where, and more importantly, with whom we will be doing the secret ninja stuff.

Am also pretty sure there will be a whole collection of other factors we don’t know, and those operators do.

As ever, swings and roundabouts but If the C130J is to be retained in service just for SF use the user will have to demonstrate a very robust case to overcome the cost, industrial and political barriers.

The Sea Hercules

If the Special Forces community can make a strong case for retaining a small number of C130J’s in service then that would add to the argument for the Sea Hercules.

At the 2012 Singapore Air Show Lockheed Martin unveiled the ‘Sea Herc’ concept that would use the C130J and combine it with a range of sensors and palletised mission systems taken from the P3.

Singapore Airshow 2012: C 130

In the second video above Jim Grant from Lockheed Martin mentions the UK, clearly the Sea Hercules is aimed squarely at being a Nimrod replacement, even as an interim.

The SDSR acknowledged some risk in cancelling the MRA4 and the MoD has been investing in the Seedcorn initiative to retain airborne maritime patrol and ASW skills. Jed and I have looked at maritime patrol quite a few times including this detailed recent post. I didn’t consider a conversion or new build Hercules in that particular post but it is an interesting option in and amongst a whole sea of others.

A number of factors would need to be considered;

If this would be an interim, what would ultimately be the objective and do we actually need an interim anyway?

Would sufficient airframes be available in serviceable condition for the conversion?

How much would a conversion be including work to refurbish the existing fleet, or elements of it?

Would it offer a capability that is better and/or cheaper than the many alternatives?

The palletised mission system is also attractive because it provides some measure of flexibility to re-role as needed. It would not likely be swapped out often but good nevertheless.

I do like the notion of reusing what we already have and the C130J has a mature supply chain but I also like the idea of reducing equipment types, ‘ruthless commonality’ being one of my favourite concepts.

Perhaps a small fleet that could be used for both SF and maritime patrol could be justified but the likelihood of a new buy would seem remote which means an upgrade/relief of the existing battered C130J fleet.

This would also mean absorbing the cost of future upgrades to the C130J (Block 8.0) and maintaining a completely different aircraft.

But, The Tyranny of Numbers

The only fly in the ointment of the A400M programme is that of numbers, let’s be clear, it is a whacking great big fly.

Clearly it is displacing a greater number of C130’s and given the load profiles of the C130 where many flights are for relatively small numbers of personnel or pallets than the additional capability of the A400M will count for nothing.

It is a classic swings and roundabouts argument.

In Part 5 I am going to look at operating a smaller airlifter as a compliment to the A400M, additional cost, of course.

However, a combination of A330, C17, A400M and something like a C235 would provide a supremely flexible mix of aircraft.

 

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JohnHartley
JohnHartley

Am I right in thinking Luftwaffe A400M will be built to a higher standard than those for the RAF?

Mark
Mark

Thanks to you too TD for continued construction of interesting articles. Hadn’t realized that was your first post cant believe it was that long ago. I look fwd to reading the coming chapters.

Picking up on a couple of points. Turbofan engines can have difficultly with FOD on rough strip landings. Also there was a change to the low level terrain navigation system on a400m. It now uses the Goodrich TERPROM system as seen on c130 which I believe may be of particular interest to the SF community. A400m will get in and out of c130 sized strips (but not at anywhere near its all up weight) certain german inspired spec’s make sure of that but physical size may mean visually its harder to disguise.

The risk to airbus was really 3 fold. This was the first time the company had done a turbo prop a/c, it was the first time a carbon fibre wing had been put on a large aircraft resulting in a number of firsts and technical challenges and the turbo prop itself is the largest and most powerful ever developed and all this with a pretty stretched workforce.

Challenger
Challenger

Nice article TD!

Seen as the Luftwaffe want to get rid of a few of their airframes shortly after they enter service could the RAF perhaps snap these up second hand as a way of boosting it’s dwindling numbers?

WiseApe

I’ve just clicked on the link to TD archives – OMG! :-)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

“TD

Perhaps another reason for SF preference for the C130 is they are in service all over the world. To the untrained observer or even slightly trained 1 C130 looks the same as another.
I am sure we can all work out how that may be beneficial for Sf Ops.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

Hmmm, still not convinced by the A400.

I wonder how much of an issue the rough field performance of the C-17 really is. I mean how often do we actually require it to “go austere” and put down in the dirt? For me that’s normally the sort of job you would just delegate down to the C-130.

And the simple fact is, the C-17 represents a much greater capability in terms of payload and range.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno

If SDSR is carried through the UK is going to end up with 8 C-17, 22? A400’s and then a big hole until you get down to the CH-47’s.
It won’t matter much while operations remain in the ‘stabilisation/pearce keeping’ mode but it could get interesting if you run up against anything more demanding.
The RAAF out here will soon operate C-17(6), C-130J(12) and 10 C-27’s. The figures are quite stark. the C-130 can get into around 500 airfields in our area of interest, the C-27 can get into double of that number. Your bottom is looking a bit exposed.

martin

Hi TD,
Great article and nice to see someone putting a positive spin on the A400M. I remember when they were developing the C17 and the comments were much the same. Its too expensive, too small for strategic lift too big for tactical and its generally crap. Now its the best thing since sliced bread.

I like the idea of a combined use Sea Herc with SF C130J but I agree with your assessment given the draw down from the stan there just are not going to be enough spare airframes. Op’s in the stan rightly take precedence over everything else. If we are talking new build C130J’s for the MPA role then we may as well go with a P8 as I can’t see there being much in the price.

Could the C27J Spartan not be a better option for SF. I know some where they are being sold off for cheap.

I think one capability that is over looked with the A400M by the RAF is AAR. I think it would have been much better to just simply buy 6 or 7 A330 Voyagers then increase the buy for the A400M buy 8 or 10 of the AAR kits as a reserve AAR capability.

martin

@ Aussie – I would agree with you. However I am not sure why but the US has now gone cold on C27J. Does anyone know why?

Kazuaki Shimazaki

Oh, I have no doubt that the A400 could finish in some form. It is really little different in concept to the An-70 and if the Ukrainians can bring that to accomplishment with skeleton funding, it seems clear using the combined powers of Europe the A400 can be finished.

And I do agree there is a niche for a medium transport aircraft in this class.

But the An-70/A400M tragicomedy is one of the reasons I really don’t like the A400M. At the moment, it seems that between A400M fighting through waves of minor and major technical problems and An-70 fighting through waves of financial problems, they’ll both struggle bloody to the finish line at more or less the same time (2013).

Unless you want to nitpick something like the sophistication of the flight software, it is difficult to see what the A-400 does that the An-70 doesn’t or couldn’t. The An-70 can certainly lift ~10 more tons (or is it 15?), which is actually a major threshold breaker because it means Russian style tanks can load. It isn’t quite so bad for the Brits but the AS90 SPH is one piece of equipment that can go on a Antonov and not on a A400. For the Germans, there’s oh, their Puma IFV – it squeezes on the A400 if you take the additonal armor off first (unless of course the news that it can now lift only 29t is true) but you can leave it on for a An-70.

If only Europe actually was willing to make peace with the Eastern bloc with real gestures, all of Europe (remember, Russia and the Ukraine are actually part of Europe) could have had these capabilities, for a much lower price (which equates to beneficial shockwaves throughout the entire very tight defence budget, I must add!), something like 10 years ago! There will still be plenty of jobs for both West and East Europe, making it correct from the “geo-industrial” perspective.

For the point of political vulnerability, I’ll only say this. The West places great emphasis to arrange things (sometimes at huge cost) so it won’t have to care what the Russians think. There is minimal emphasis on arranging things so the Russians care what the West thinks. Then we wonder why the Russians don’t cooperate on Syria, Libya, Iran … etc.

Mark
Mark

US went cold on c-27 was due to a poor op valuation which suggested additional spend to put things right and it’s high cost of ownership for a limited capability that may of course be political but it’s the reasons that appeared.

If you want a small transport cn-295 in the Istar or sf role perhaps. Cheaper than refurbing herc or buying and owning c27.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno

Martin, the US offered up the C-27 as the USAF squeesed the US Army out of the C-27 program, and ended up with a ‘little’ aircraft they didn’t want. The air national guard ended up with it.
When the pre-sequestion cuts ($450B) came along the USAF had to had to cut somewhere and the aircraft wasn’t defended by either Lockheed or Boeing.
However Congress is still playing around with the cuts the DOD put forward (C-27, Block 30 Global Hawks, early CG47’s)so I am not sure what the final answer was.

paul g

@arkhangelsk, you won’t get many arguements on here about eastern equipment. To date i can recall praise for An-124,MI-26,SU-34 as well as the An-70, which has an engine that puts out 3000 more horsepower without the problems the A400 has had with it’s 10,000 engine.

However if i remember rightly (must check wiki), didn’t the germans make a serious bid for the 70, only getting knocked back as antonov wanted to build solely in the ukraine and the germans wanted to assemble in germany. I feel a cut and paste coming on!

In October 1997, the German defence minister Volker Rühe announced the intention to study whether the An-70 could be the basis for the FLA/Airbus A400M. Evaluation was in competition with the newly-designed, paper-only A400M proposed by Airbus Military Company. The An-70 participation in the 1998-2000 tender process for the FLA was very successful and was the best bid from a financial, technical and operational point of view.[citation needed] The plane was checked thoroughly by MBB Munich, and presented to Air Transport Command in Cologne after Le Bourget airshow in 1999.[citation needed] However, for political reasons and under pressure both from the newly founded EADS company and the French government, the A400M was selected for the FLA.[citation needed] The French claimed that their projected Airbus A400M, although more expensive, would have lower life cycle costs (LCCs) than the An-70. Antonov lost this opportunity to sell its An-70 to Western European nations.

No mention of the location of the build there but i’m sure i read it. Reading the above comments on future/replacement aircraft perhaps we could look at sub 20tonnes being split into stratregic and tactical, heavy and light. The point i’m (badly) trying to make is 2 sets of prop aircraft heavy being the A400 and light, for the insertion of SF or just for carrying light loads a 2 prop aircraft, to avoid as TD has pointed out in the past having very expensive troop carriers a lá C17.

Seeing as we want the brazillians to get on board with T26 why can’t we copy the swedes,french with a trade deal, they are offering to purchase the KC-390 if brazil buy rafalé or gripen. It looks a good aircraft (on paper i know!) and it would be ideal for long range SF insertion being able to use civvy airspace, could double/triple hat as MERT, more ecconomial than C17 and AAR (if the shitty PFI can be altered). We wouldn’t be trying to get in on the aircraft deals so would stand a better chance and obviously we stay pally with a south american country, seems it’s going to be bought by quite a few countries, handy for spares.

wikki page here for readers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KC-390

edited to add i meant the kc-390 as the strategic light aircraft, so c-17/kc390 is strategic heavy and light and then A400m/and c27 or 295 or anything else is tactical heavy and light.

edited again to add a smaller aircraft will also lower bills in peacetime when training airborne troops as i can’t see the A400m being cheap to fly!

The Other Chris
The Other Chris

Whether rightly or wrongly, the problem that Eastern European airframe companies face is the perception of how they assemble their offerings contrasted with the perception of a Western factory with well publicised clean-rooms and precision robotics.

The recent spate of passenger jet crashes in the last two years hasn’t helped that perception in the commercial domain.

Would a majority rather fly regionally in an Antonov 148 or a BAe 146?

Those perceptions often cross the divide from civilian to military mindsets.

steve taylor
steve taylor

It is poor maintenance more than poor design. And I also wonder whether some of the health and safety stuff in Europe is more to do with protectionism than the aforementioned reasons. When Eastern aircraft get mentioned I normally get all excited and start buying dozens of helicopters for the price of one Western airframe. Usually then Mark comes and rains on my parade. :(

For sub-20t loads we do have an answer. It isn’t Chinook. And certainly isn’t tilt wing. It is the humble Fairey Rotordyne. A similar aircraft built with modern technology would be simpler and quicker than a Chinook. And certainly have better STOL capabilities than Spartan. We are only talking lifting what 12 or so tonnes.

Mark
Mark

x

Not me surely. Its interesting the Internet love in with eastern block aircraft if you’d seen some the sh1t they pass a manufactured parts your opinions may change.

It’s also worth noting that as soon as any country that’s operated those eastern aircraft are allowed to operate western equivalent aircraft they jump at chance quicker than a rat up a drain pipe.
The Germans kept there migs a gd while after all.

As for an-70 I believe the first 2 prototypes have crashed in testing over the years but hey least it cheap

Peter Elliott

@X

Any idea what altitude the Fairey Rotodyne could achieve? And its nominal lifting capacity?

Kazuaki Shimazaki

@Paul G: Well, the Germans were the most enthusiastic for the Western powers. As for your memory, Yefim Gordon does mention:

“… At the same time, it was noted neither Russia nor the Ukraine had any intentions to promote the launching of the An-70 into production in Western Europe.”

So at one time this probably was the Russo-Ukrainian intention. Though later, the plan was to make a limited liability company between the Russo-Ukrainian and Western companies so this would likely be one of those things that was soon rolled over in negotiating.

But let’s stop imagining a “might-have-been” where Russia and Ukraine has a happier relationship w/ the rest of Europe and comment on some aspects of the article:
=
For the C-17, I was a regular reader of boeingc17.blogspot.com until it disappeared in 2010, about 2-3 months before a C-17 finally crashed, so I agree with the performance stuff, but

The Cost section: First, allow me to note that the quote from Peter Luff has since been corrected to TWO hundred million pounds
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120223/corrtext/120223c0001.htm (at the bottom)

2nd, with the exception of the F-35, the flyaway price DOES AFAIK include engines. Besides, an interpretation that the ~US$220 million flyaway price excludes engines, and the true cost with engines being ~300 million pounds will entail the engines being more expensive than the rest of aircraft, which seems a little unlikely.

3rd, it can be inferred from the renewal intervals that the GSP Sustainment Partnership programme only lasts for about 2 years per payment (assuming there isn’t a renewal for 2009!), so, as of 2010, the C-17’s annual maintenance cost per plane is somewhat under $30 million.

Meanwhile, the sales agreements do not seem to specify any duration for the support programs. It would seem a better estimate is to presume that the Indian, Aussie and Kuwaiti deals included support for a long (say a decade) period of time, which would apparently better account for the cost difference.

So Flyaway = $220 millionish, Procurement Unit Cost = $300 millionish, PUC+Multi-year support contract =>$500 million would be my guess
=
>Many people see industrial issues as either irrelevant to defence needs or if the word ‘Europe’ is involved automatically a bad thing.

I think a fairer representation of this is not to the extent that it is “irrevelant”. However, IMO the People know that:

1) The British arms industry has long passed the stage when it can be fully (or nearly so) independent like the US, Russian, Chinese and French industries. There will always be things it must rely on the United States for. The US can veto operations of a country with a partially independent arms industry almost as well as it can veto operations of a country with none – all it needs is to crimp supplies of the parts it does control. So there is no strategic reason to support the British arms industry regardless of cost efficiency.

2) Even so, where the cost-efficiency is close I’m sure most Brits will support British arms. But where cost-efficiency disparity is great, things are different. The Defense Ministry does not get a bigger budget when it chooses to buy local. So when it buys less capable local items the army simply gets less capable. And how can any good Brit supporting his troops tolerate this?

3) The decision to have a arms industry does have an opportunity cost to society as a whole by sucking up some of the talent and capital. So in keeping the arms industry alive, in a sense society as a whole gets a bit poorer.

So they don’t count “industrial issues” very heavily.

steve taylor
steve taylor
RW
RW

I’ve been under the impression that the people at the top of the RAF really want to limit the numbers of aircraft for reasons of costs; logistics and training which, while it makes sense from their position leaves out the possibility of delivering niche capabilities that the SF need.

This is why I’m so sceptical of the ruthless commonality line, sensible commonality works much better for me, there’s also a large part of budgetary bias in the decision of the RAF. If they have only two fighters and two transports and in-flight refuelling is “OFF BOOK” then one presumes they feel they can support aircraft numbers and still afford the hotel bills.

So I advocate moving the budgets to increasingly lower levels of command, take some from the RAF and give it to a separate budgetary line for SFs providing them with limited, but actual choice in what aircraft of what ages they feel suit their needs….. if they want C130J or K or C295 or whatever, let them pay for it as they see fit.

They know best what works for them and part of the deal should be allowing them to “buy” the surplus stock of the RAF at knock down prices which is what they will go for in the end if they are given to the disposals people. They need to get a better deal than the nonsense about moving cost into the core budget…if the treasury ask for full wack or even partial vale for assets taken into the core all they hurt is themselves! the stuffs been paid for!! If it’s then paid for again at a silly theoretical price who wins? More to point if for accounting reasons it’s not taken up then everyone loses

Much of the MOD accounting for asset values is sheer nonsense; that has travelled from the treasury and has not really been understood. The future costs of maintenance and many other factors should be considered but sunk costs of Treasury support really shouldn’t be any part of the equation.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
Jeremy M H

I am curious about your cost comparisons. You go to great lengths to show the true ownership cost of a C-17, and they are not cheap to own and operate certainly. But the cost you are quoting for the A400M is “Unit production cost includes the main production contract only” according to the report you cite. The C-17 has a large and installed user base. The engines on the C-17 have a user base spread across the 757 and C-17 so there are lots of parts and a great deal of knowledge on just how the things work. More than that you could fairly easily put new engines on the thing off the latest commercial jetliners if you felt the need later in life if you run out of parts sources from 757’s over the life of the frame.

The A400M does not have the same. No other aircraft uses that engine or is likely to use that engine and it has had a lot of teething problems already. I don’t think anyone can really estimate the operating cost of a platform that is not in service but I think it is fair to say the A400M would have something to prove if you want to call operating cost lower.

The best way to measure them would be in cost per ton or cubic volume of cargo moved a given distance(kind of like a cost per seat mile for an airline). Not getting into details it seems fair to state that the A400M would have to have an per flight hour operating cost of half the C-17 to be comparably efficient in the strategic airlift role. The C-17 lifts basically twice as much a little further and a fair bit faster than the A400M so just call all that a wash. I just don’t see it. You have twice as much everything (engines, pilots, maint. people, fixed facilities ect)to have the same capacity. You swap out jets for turbofans but I would imagine you would have a hard time convincing someone that those engines are more reliable than some that are in commercial airline service. I just don’t see one making back the cost they expend doubling up on all those things to gain equal strategic lift capability.

The A400M has to make its case in my view being able to do both the mission of the C-17 and the mission of a C-130. But the UK has decided it needs both. For the UK the important discussion is if the A400M is overkill as a C-130 replacement or not. It has to make its case to exist there.

For other powers that only have the A400M the discussion is if it can really replace a proper strategic lifter (or if they need that sort of thing to begin with)at a slightly lower cost.

kernowboy
kernowboy

The thing that some don’t mention is the A400M can lift an IFV without removing most of its armour. For me that is an all important issue.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

Ark
Given the huge trade gap then any UK production helps close that. Abandoning UK industry & relying on imports just speeds up our national bankrupcy.
A partial industry can reverse engineer the parts it imports. If you have no industry, you will find it hard to do that.

Mark
Mark

Jeremy

TD posted these a while ago but this one in particular should answer some of your points http://www.slideshare.net/robbinlaird/airbus-military-product-update-2012
The constant issue time and again is c130 max’s out in volume before weight and thats what a400m solves. It also gives a very capable tanker capacity which the UK is ignoring.

C17 had significant problems in development include a complete wing redesign due to failure at 126% limit load. Also the c17 is not identical to the civil engine on the 757 it is a derivative it also has an extremely complicated thrust reverser which integrates with the engine.

The cost figure TD quotes is I believe total UK program cost for a400m not unit price.

Jeremy M H

@Mark

The cost quoted is not program cost. It is the cost for the main production contract only and does not include operational or maint. expenses. It says so right in the report linked by TD.

I get the AAR capability but as you said, the UK is not using it so its irrelevant. Any transport aircraft could be modified to do it if one wished to spend the money. To me it is just not that big of a deal.

Yes the C-17 parts are not identical to the commercial engine, but at its heart it shares a core and many parts. At its heart, it is a commercial engine built to be reliable and has been so in both military and commercial service.

I also find the discussion of a transport gap to be somewhat amusing. No one has really every fully explained what this gap is and if it needs to be filled. I find the marketing material for the A400M unconvincing at best. It can carry more than a C-130 which may be useful at times, it might not. Depends on if I need a full load all going to the same place. Strategically it can’t do what a C-17 can do. It can’t carry in a tank. It can’t carry many self-propelled guns.

I get that one can create a marketing gap this is suppose to fill. I am just not sure it is really a gap operationally. What I think the A400M really is, and can excel at, is being a poor mans C-17/C-130/Tanker replacement all rolled into one. The UK is not buying it for that though.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

RE: Rotodyne. The US Army in the 60’s, while developing its air mobile forces, envisigioned a V/STOL replacement for the CH-47 and the fixed wing Buffalo, called the medium tactical tranport (MTT). They also suggested a light tactical transport (LTT) using the same tech to replace the Huey.

The 50’s tech Rotodyne appears a good fit for the MTT role; a modern version could replace our Chinooks and boost our lower end tranports. The Groen brothers claim the rotodyne tech can be used to convert any high wing transport (probably have to change the tail):

http://www.groenbros.com/images/gyrodyne_tech_clip_image006.jpg

For the LTT (and going back to the East European aircraft topic)?

http://www.aviastar.org/helicopters_eng/groen_gyroliner.php

S O
S O

We (Luftwaffe) should have gone with the An-70T/An-77.
That aircraft promised better performance and a tri-national project to fund its development fully and to produce it would have been good for political relations with East Europe as well.

My related blog post: http://preview.tinyurl.com/cl7qpwu

Jeremy M H

@ SO

I am not so sure getting involved with the AN-70 would have worked out for the better. That thing is a political football in the ongoing love/hate relationship the Ukraine and Russia have going on.

Kazuaki Shimazaki

IMO, a lot of the Russo-Ukrainian “love-hate” relationship is caused by the Ukraine veering towards a NATO Russia perceives as hostile and if Ukraine goes NATO Russia feels as if the stretch of border (already too long for its economic and human resources) it has to defend gets longer and the correlation of forces (unfavorable since the end of the USSR) get worse.

In a world where NATO buys An-70s, the overall NATO-Russia relationship will probably be better.

Further, as regards the An-70, IMO the dominant factor is not so much political as financial. There is no money and for some reason in democracies the world over the Defence Ministry finds it hard to say

“Yes it is a perfectly good piece of kit. Problem-solving is well under way. We actually need this kit too, and it represents a significant advance in capability. We are also aware the program if allowed to continue will lead to jobs and improved relationships with our neighbor (which we need if we want to stop them from going to NATO I might add).

But you didn’t give us enough money, and after assessing all our needs, we decided to settle for 2nd best in this area (in this case, an upgraded IL-76).”

So, when they are forced to throw something out the window they find something, anything, to diss it.

It is not a very different process from the British MoD claiming Sea Harrier can’t shoot down antiship missiles when they decided to scrape it.

If NATO buys the thing, it suddenly becomes very supportable. The An-70 could start exploding in the air and the Russians will still be defending it.

Brian Black
Brian Black

“In a world where NATO buys AN-70s, the overall NATO-Russia relationship will probably be better.”

It’s not a Russian aircraft. It wouldn’t do anything positive for NATO-Russia relations; if anything it would steer Ukraine towards the West.
Russia’s cooling of interest in the AN-70 clearly shows their wish to support their own aircraft industry. Russian development money was turned off some time ago, sunk costs, they have no stake in the success of a foreign competitor.

Mark
Mark

Jeremy

If you include maintenance ect then that would be considered total life cycle costs. The a400m figure above includes development costs and that is a choice for the uk.

If you think it’s not needed why is lockheed looking at a new transport with a larger cross section than the c130?
Again full load is not so much a issue as volume.
The turbo prop cost in sfc is considerably below turbo fan equivalents And maintenance personnel have been involved from very early on in this program unless of course you think airbus don’t make efficient aircraft.

Why are you looking to transport large self propelled guns by air? This a/c will move all equipment to support the rapid deployment forces and medium weight coin vehicles as well as helicopters.

Kazuaki Shimazaki

@Brian
Antonov fell on the Ukrainian side of the border and thus became an Ukrainian company, but the An-70 is very much a Russo-Ukrainian aircraft. The forecast was IIRC originally that the production would create as many as 50,000 jobs in Russia and 27,000 in the Ukraine (note where the “50” is). There’s more than enough Russian content in the aircraft for the Russians to care and for a NATO deal to push both Russia AND the Ukraine closer to Western Europe.

Russian government money was indeed turned off for a few years while they played around with upgraded IL-76s and a Tu-204 variant called the Tu-330. The tense Russo-Ukrainian relations had something to do with it, but so did pure financial hopes of cheaper aircraft. Recently, however, they’ve turned around again, started placing orders and you don’t even hear much of the Tu-330 anymore.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris

Did the Groen Brothers heliplane ever make it to later phases with the DARPA funding?

Last I can find was a Lewis Page article a few years back.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ TOC – all I can find is this “GBA completed Phase I of the Heliplane contract and also participated as a subcontractor to Georgia Institute of Technology for tip-jet noise reduction work for Phase IB, which was also successful.  To date DARPA has not announced funding for Phase II and the future involvement of the Company in the DARPA contract is unknown.  The Heliplane could be the next generation rotor wing aircraft, meeting economy and performance goals not considered achievable by any other type of VTOL aircraft.”

http://www.psfmagazine.com/2011/02/groen-brothers-to-produce-gyroplane-in-china/

It appears they had trouble getting the 400mph target and the old problem of noise from the rotor tip jets – I thought this was solved in the original project?

paul g

just thought i’d add this vid, bit of slick production from airbus of course but 5 a400m taxi-ing and then formation flying it is a bit good!!

The Other Chris
The Other Chris

@ST

Thanks. Looks like they haven’t really gone anywhere and that we’re unlikely to see a GBA Gyroplane in a Western military.

Movement in the future segment described (Cargo, VTOL, Fast, Range) seems to be back with Eurocopter, Sikorsky, Kamov and Boeing.

Does an estimated $30m unit price for the AW609 prevent AgustaWestland from playing?

Simon257
Simon257

If Airbus don’t sort out the Engine issues, which will cause even further delays, in getting it into service. I can see the RAF, having to order more C-17’s. Boeing have allocated a further 4 serial numbers for potential future UK orders. They wouldn’t have done that if they knew their wasn’t any chance of further orders. What chance that Boeing and MOD/RAF, have come to a gentlemans agreement on further single yearly purchases on the quiet?

As Britain and the EU, are at loggerheads with Ukraine on the treatment of the former Ukrainian PM, and the Political opposition. I cannot see any EU country purchasing an AN-70.

Brian Black
Brian Black

Hi, Arkhangelsk. As you suggest, Russian/Ukrainian political relations didn’t help the AN-70 project.
Tensions may be magnified in this kind of project as they’re dealing with largely nationalised industries on both sides of the border. Further rationalising the Russian aircraft industry -something we did extensively from the ’50s to ’70s- to leave fewer companies producing fewer models would leave a tighter, more efficient industrial base, more able to compete internationally; and then privatising both countries’ defence groups would make cooperative projects easier, as well as making them both more competative in the wider global defence market.

Jeremy M H

@ Mark

The report linked here (as I have said now three times) very clearly states that the unit cost of 141 million only includes the main production contract for the A400M. That means that cost does not include maintenance or operational expense. This is very clearly stated by the government in the linked report in the main article.

And I want to state clearly that I don’t think the A400M is a bad aircraft. For nations not operating a C-17 it is a great compromise. Given unlimited funds I would certainly rather have A400M’s than C-130’s even if I were operating C-17’s. But for nations that have a reasonable number of C-17’s I see the A400M as a bit of a luxury.

The UK has a lot of underfunded defense needs. Is the extra capability of the A400M (particularly when the UK is not using the tanker capacity of the thing) worth the massively increased acquisition cost of the A400M over the C-130J? When the military is busy scrapping its MPA fleet and penny pinching on escorts does it really make a ton of sense to spend your extra money here when you already have C-17’s?

There has to be a reason that none of the other 6 Air Forces that operate C-17 have bought the A400M and that both Australia and Canada opted for the C-130J with their limited funds.

For a C-17 operator the A400M is a very nice luxury to have. It has extra capabilities that will be useful. But is it really a luxury the UK needs or can afford? This speaks to your point about Lockheed looking to make a wider bodied turboprop transport. They could do so in short order if a big buyer really wanted such a product. The fact that they are not speaks fairly loudly in my view.

A good way to put it in context is if you would rather have the $100 million or so per unit purchased to do something else with. In a military that is being cut and hacked at I am guessing you could find something more useful to do with that money.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris

Apologies if discussed before:

I’m aware of manufacture of wings in the UK (still at Filton?) for the A400M. Beyond the potential in maintenance, are there other significant industrial incentives for the C-17 or C-130 in the UK?

Personally I would appreciate that any cost discussions here also take the sovereign economic multipliers into account. I think we were talking in the region of 20-30% direct tax claw-back, and a potential 1.8 overall economic Keynesian multiplier was mooted while discussing foreign designs/shipbuilders for CVF/Bay/MARS/MHPC/Whatever a few months back.

In a nutshell, take into account the effects of “three or four” supply chain jobs created or sustained for every manufacturing job that is oft-quoted. We’ll always need the likes of stationary, lunches and clean work spaces.

It may sound protectionist, but provided capability isn’t compromised I’m happier for my taxes to be spent on more expensive contracts if that converts to a decent order book for national workers.

@TD

Given the above, looking forward to Parts 2 and 4 in particular. You know I always love the “Beyond Tomorrow” aspects anyway!

Jeremy M H

@TD

I am aware of what people (marketing people in particular) say is in the transport gap. It certainly exist. I just am not convinced it is operationally relevant for the most part. As I said, the A400M gives you nice capability over the C-130 but I am not sure it is worth a billion or two pounds in the end.

It is kind of like saying there is a “booze gap” between beer and scotch. I suppose I could fill it with something if I wanted. I am just not sure it is really necessary. And if that something cost me somewhere in the ballpark of what my scotch does I start to wonder if it is worth the trouble.

Mark
Mark

Jeremy
. If we were to buy aircraft 23 it would not cost 141m is the point I’m making badly it appears.

I’ll wait to next section off this post but as an aside a400m is not a luxury and c130 can not do the job in the future.
We do not have a reasonable number of c17s more a small number. So the answer to you question is yes absolute sense.
Canada and australia needed transports now there were operating c130k aged fleets so could not wait for a400m.

TOC

A400m finally assembly is in filton. Sub assembly design and build takes place at various locations across the uk. The uk will have national thru life facilities at Brize norton but airbus will have a multinational facility in Spain it remains to be seen if a European maintenance and training option will develop. As far as I’m aware c17 returns to the us for major maintenance.

Jeremy M H

@ Mark

What are you suggesting it cost then? That is from the report linked in this very article from the UK government. Are you suggesting they are wrong?

And I fully realize the A400M can do missions the C-130 can’t. The question is if that additional capability is worth the added expense of the platform, particularly given how tight the defense budget in the UK appears to be.

Everyone here for the most part agreed the P-8 was way too expensive. If you one for one bought C-130’s instead of A400M’s that would buy 8-10 P-8’s in terms of pure unit purchase cost. You would lose transport capability to gain something else somewhere else in the spectrum.

Jeremy M H

If you are looking for it the unit cost is given on page 11 of the PDF.

RW
RW

@Mark

final assembly of A400M is NOT at Filton its in Spain; the wings for A400M are built in Filton. they are the only Airbus wings built in Bristol all the rest are made in Broughton

with the sale by BAE of the Filton Airport if it goes to housing Airbus may have to move the 400M wing as well…geting the wing out is fine going straight to a Belluga but is a headache to move by rail etc…

wf
wf

@Mark: *we* were a user of aged C130K 17 years ago, who *had* to order C130J. Since the government of the day, doubtless to favour the euro constituency, decided to order 25 and then participate in a boondoggle for 20 years which will hopefully produce the A400, rather than order just C130J/C17. In the meantime, the end user has been screwed over through two wars and two decades.

We do way too much split decision making, and it does us no favours in the long or short term.

Mark
Mark

Jeremy

That number includes development costs eg program procurement cost which is what ive been saying but you started of on maintenance costs ect.
Its like saying type 45 number 7 will cost 1b pounds

RW

Yes I meant the wing assembly been a long day. Been at both sites a number of times the move to broughton has been talked about for years and years ill believe it when i see it.

No split decision wf its a400m to replace c130.

Jeremy M H

@Mark

And development cost is part of the unit cost and quite relevant. We are comparing buying one type of equipment for X and another type for Y. Where the money is spent is not really relevant. What matters is what I get for my expenditure. It takes 141 million pounds per to buy 22 A400M’s. It would take far less to buy an equal quantity of C-130’s.

And I just want to state again, I have no problem with the A400M technically. For Germany it is not a bad deal to get a tanker, light strategic lifter and heavy tactical lifter all in one platform. If the UK were doing that it would make a lot of sense. But they bought a heavy strategic lifter in the C-17. And then they paid for dedicated tanker aircraft.

I just question if all that extra expense was wise. The UK now operates the premier strategic lifter in service (C-17), the most capable tactical lifter/hybrid (A400M)and big, brand new tankers. Some of that money just might have been useful elsewhere.

Opinion3
Opinion3

Another great article by TD.

I can see the sense in not having too small a fleet to get economies of scale, but I too agree that sometimes the commonality arguement seems to be taken a bit too far. It really is horses for courses. Personally I struggle to see any sense in retiring or disposing of the C130s early. I’d keep them in the inventory, and I’d also make sure that the A400Ms do get tanker kitouts and make sure that refueling helicopters etc. is a skill we do indeed possess.

Marshall should be tasked with renewing the wings etc and giving them the appropriate refurbishment. The costs of continued ownership must be very minimal if the support and training infrastructure are already in place.

Mark
Mark

Jeremy

Yes but its a government decision to develop and maintain such capability within the UK so developed budgets should be seen in that light with all uk equipment be they ships aircraft or tanks.

Well as tankers transports and the such is always considered pinch points which europe as a whole is short of it would seem to be a gd area to increase investment in.

The pilots view

paul g

i have friends who work at broughton, i will ask if they know anything, just this week they loaded the beluga with the first of the A350XWB composite wings from the new composite building.
If you time a journey right you can see them taking the A380 wings on a barge down the river dee, to the docks at mostyn (north wales)to load on the specially built ship

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

Wiseape posted this in one of the open threads:

http://theaviationist.com/2012/09/05/shaheen-star/

” The deployment will be supported by a huge (leased) Antonov An-124 arrived at RAF Marham, which was loaded with all of the support equipment and left on Sept. 2.”

wf
wf

@Mark: yes, it was a split decision back in 95, that’s why we are still operating the C130K today. Once the K fleet was so badly in need of replacement, with the newest having been delivered in 1970, it made no sense to wait. The previous decade was full of “pre-feasibility studies” for various C130 replacement projects, nothing else was available but the J. Waiting denuded us of airlift while we spent the money for more J or C17 on developing something that has yet to enter service. Worse, the Treasury has clawed back the money and the new normal is 30 transports rather than 60. The A400 program has been a disaster for the RAF.

Mark
Mark

Wf

Yes I can see how a400m has been a disaster for a service that required replacements in 1994 when it was only contracted for in 2003!

I thought the c130j was only introduced in 1999 (as lead customer) with more than a few problems which meant it took a number of years to sort and some issues possibly still remain. At a similar time frame early 90s c17 was not in much better shape in US with USAF running into the unmovable roadblock that is the pacific north west lobby group or the program would have been halted at 32a/c.

The raf now has neither the manpower or resources to operate 60 Hercules and the fleet it will be left with in 8 c17 and 22 a400m will have more total lift capacity than the 60 hercs it replaces and will be able to move the vast majority of army kit unlike the hercs which unfortunately can’t.

Challenger
Challenger

@wf

‘the new normal is 30 transports rather than 60. The A400 program has been a disaster for the RAF’

Could not agree more, as capable as the C17 and A400 are the numbers just aren’t there to provide the sort of heavy lift required. We may not be planning another Herrick any-time soon, but SDSR calls for a 6000 man reinforced brigade to able to deploy indefinitely. If the current transport fleet is struggling to support just over 9000 men I can see an increasingly dwindling future fleet encountering the same, if not worse problem.

My solution…

Lease 2-4 more C17 just as we have done previously, then purchase them outright as quietly as possible a few years down the line (seems to be a good way of getting equipment acquisitions under the radar).

Do our darnedest to pick up a few of the second-hand Luftwaffe A400 down the line, should be a good price for what we’re getting, I’m thinking up-to 8 airframes.

Get the SF to use their seemingly considerable clout and have a number of C-130J refitted and retained for ostensibly SF purposes. As many as possible would be great, realistically I’m thinking probably 6-8.

Keep hold of those 2 additional BAE 146’s as a subtle but still useful way of taking the strain off of the other aircraft types.

Any further purchases are going cost money, but I think it’s worth it. Doing the sort of things I mentioned above could get us 50ish airframes without having to further break the bank.

Anyone agree?

Fedaykin

Now the issue of tanking with the A400M brings up one of the more insidious aspects of the PFI contract for the A330 MRTT!

All A400M will come plumbed for tanking, all the UK has to do is purchase the refuelling pods and add the training stream. As it happens the A400M has a very similar fuel offload to the VC-10. Currently the UK operates a VC-10 and a C130 from the Falklands, A400M could replace both aircraft types on the Islands offering a significant cost saving and freeing up a far larger A330!

Just one catch with this idea…the PFI contract prevents the RAF operating any other AAR capability! So we will end up tying up one of our small fleet of A330 and operate it alongside an aircraft better suited to offer tanking from MPA but prohibited from having the pods!

A curse on the person who came up with the idea of PFI!

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Chally

Nah! The future for UK armed forces is rapid reaction heavy armour. You can’t fly much armour by air. We could buy lots of tanks and IFVs with that C17 money. :)

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

What actual loads are we talking about that can’t fit in the C-130 that the RAF/Army would actually want to put in them?

Brian Black
Brian Black

“You can’t fly much armour by air.” ~ x, recently.

“The flying tank is a machine to end war. Knowledge of its existence and possession will be a greater guarantee of peace than all the treaties that human ingenuity can concoct. A flock of flying tanks set loose on an enemy and any war is brought to an abrupt finish.” ~ J Walter Christie, less recently, but in anticipation of x’s comment.

S O
S O

Brian, quotes like that – and air mechanization proponent stuff in general – are children of the age of continuous front-lines.

We will likely see no such thing as a continuous front line in future warfare (maybe in South Asia, though). Nowadays it’s not that difficult to manoeuvre behind OPFOR any more, since no front-line inhibits such a manoeuvre. We don’t need the vertical envelopment; it’s an answer for a long gone problem.

Deployment by air on the other hand is a highly dubious concept. It’s not only difficult to transport MBTs by air, but the sheer quantity of vehicles in a brigade (UK armoured brigade: 547 AFVs alone, more than 1,000 overall vehicles) means that the necessary airport capacity would rarely be available.
The air forces want to deploy their wings and operate them as well, after all (and can prioritize their own demand for air lift capacity)!

So in the end, it’s enough to know that small quantities of armour can be deployed with An-124 and the Russians can use deployment by air for their national/CIS quick reaction brigades. Most other noteworthy movements of AFVs by air can be done with civilian aircraft.

There’s simply no good reason to take AFVs into account when it comes to discussion of transport aircraft. Pallet/container carrying capacity (volume, not weight!) is more interesting.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Note to self:

Stop making silly throw away remarks. You know you humour is too left field for les autres.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris

Echoing Chris.B.’s sentiment:

All very well talking numbers of planes, 60 vs 30 or whatnot, wrecking the RAF.

Given what we have now and what the needs of those assets are, can anyone state how many aircraft are needed to move and supply our current forces and our post 2020 forces from an aerial perspective please?

How many sorties are needed? Are round trips one-way empty? How much transit time? How much range is required? How many maintenance to flight hours? Cargo weights, sizes? Special needs such as refrigeration?

Can the Voyager reach places the A400M can’t and/or loiter for longer with regards AAR?

Would the Prime minister look flashier arriving in an Atlas for a state visit?

Why are these numbers and capabilities being discussed insufficient?

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ TOC

As I have said about a zillion times now a light infantry formation such as 3Cdo/UKNL needs about 17,000t for 30 days. Source Brassey’s Amphibious Warfare. Consider the next time you see an articulated lorry going by with an ISO container on the back that is about as much as one of these medium lifters can move. Really they aren’t for bulk, just specialised stuff that needs delivering in timely fashion, and if they are being used to supplement lorries to move bulk something is out of balance. Consider Afghanistan’s land locked position and what factors go into the war costing £12m per day. Of course the Army has to fight where it has to fight. Just unfortunate on a world two thirds covered in water the war is where it is.

Alex
Alex

…or 425 40ft containers.

Brian Black
Brian Black

That quote is from the inter-war period, SO (and does actually refer to a literal flying tank). But still, “a machine to end war” – surely you can’t sniff at that , x (I have high hopes for dynamite and nuclear bombs too).
———
From the US Army’s experience, the C130 is both too small for large scale tactical manouevre -shifting Stryker brigades around in theatre and the like- and too big for most of the other routine logistical tasks – hence the Spartan.

From our perspective, looking at the Americans experience, we could have skipped the A400 and just gone for a larger C17 buy, and something smaller like the C27. I’m not sure that middle ground capability has been worth the cost.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris

Appreciate that angle x, with respect it’s not quite what I’m after: How much do we need from our aerial transports? Why is a mix of 30 airframes (C-17/A400M) insufficient for that requirement?

Apologies for not being clearer in that regard, and appreciate you reiterating the details to remind us of the scales together with putting the aerial supply into perspective.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

“As I have said about a zillion times now a light infantry formation such as 3Cdo/UKNL needs about 17,000t for 30 days”

That’s about 566 tons per day, or about 1 ton per section for a 5000 strong formation. That seems quite a lot.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Chris B

It does. It is a bit like “10 gallons to deliver a gallon”.

When I get back I will tap out the paragraph from the book. Somewhere I have the figures for a US armoured division for a week and those numbers are just plain silly.

Mark
Mark

May provide some info for the discussion

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ada500622

S O
S O

“That’s about 566 tons per day, or about 1 ton per section for a 5000 strong formation. That seems quite a lot.”

Some figures from the beginner’s book “How to make War” (2003), meant for conventional warfare:

U.S. infantry division daily supply needs
offense: 3,816 tons (fuel ~ 1/2 of ammo)
defense 4,270 tons (fuel ~ 1/5th of ammo) – 587 lbs/man
pursuit 2,000 tons (fuel 3/4 of total)
reserve 946 tons – 130 lbs/man
Armored division figures very similar.

The biggest supply demand stems from artillery. A single battery fire mission can eat a ton of ammo in a minute.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ TD

I assume the figure is for bashing Soviets in Northern Norway not a Terry Taliban in Afghanistan-esque campaign.

Obviously we are back to the length of a piece string. But as that figure is a given for a reinforced brigade in high end warfare that is we what we should be scaling our logistical needs. Or should we be looking to scale logistics lift against the needs of say the Met Police policing the Notting Hill Carnival? Or are we going to rely on Uncle Sam again who not only as the lift but vast quantities of stores prepositioned in most (potential) theatres?

Mark
Mark

The report below lays out the thru life conditions maintenace and avialabity criteria with a400m

http://ftp.rta.nato.int/public//PubFullText/RTO%5CMP%5CRTO-MP-AVT-144///MP-AVT-144-10.pdf

Challenger
Challenger

My point yesterday was that IF it was decided that 8 C17 and 22 A400 weren’t enough to provide a credible lift capability then their are some good and affordable ways of enhancing the fleet.

Leasing more C17, buying second-hand A400, keeping some C130J in service…their are options to look at.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Do you mean tactical lift? Or do you mean scheduled runs? If you mean the latter some of the airfreight for British forces is already delivered by non-RAF aircraft.

What is needed is somebody to make a decision about how much we want to shift. Um. If such a decision hasn’t been made in a less defined way. Um. Air lift say one light infantry battalion, so many vehicles, so far, with so many days stores onto a certain type of airfield (dirt to Space Shuttle capable lengths of tarmac.) That is what is needed. I suppose the air staff know exactly what they can lift. A while back I tested the idea here of using low hours 747s and RAuxAF. Those in the know reasoned it out that it wasn’t worth doing.

Topman
Topman

@ Mark

That link makes it sounds quite similiar to Typhoon. ‘Hole in the wall’ supply, lower costs, computer based monitering high availability with lots of KPI to measure it. As these are the things monitered everything tends to be done to get a ‘tick in that box’ usually by pushing as much as possible onto the user. Meaning it tends not to work as well as advertised. The amount of work on such a/c tends to be the same, it just ‘moves’ it into different areas. It moves to lots of preventative maintenance and lots time spent analysing monitered systems. Airbus might do it differently but I suppose we’ll see how it works out.

In the report it talks of URR, what does it mean?

The Other Chris
The Other Chris

Unscheduled Removal Rates.

Mark
Mark

Topman

Well it pretty standard found on all airbus jets a330 will be similar.

Unsheduled removals rate.

TrT
TrT

“The A400 programme will support 10,000 European jobs, a large, diverse and multi-national supply chain, billions in tax revenues and re-establishes European skills in large military aircraft/turboprop design, thus countering current US and Russian domination in the sector and potential challengers in China, India and Brazil.”

But will these jobs survive the end of the A400 program?
And if they dont, what exactly was the point?

The Other Chris
The Other Chris

Engineering jobs are always ultimately contract based, even if you’re on a “permanent salary”. Nature of the game.

You move onto the next project or programme, hopefully seamlessly.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

RE: Air Mech concept. This is an early post war report on what would be required to convert the US amy into an airborne force; not advocating, just an interesting read if you have time…

http://www.governmentattic.org/vonK/FutureAirborneArmies_VKarman_V5.pdf

Topman
Topman

@ TOC/Mark Thanks

@ Mark

‘Well it pretty standard found on all airbus jets a330 will be similar.’

Well hopefully it will be, but things tend to be different when it comes to the military in terms of the contract/KPIs and fiddleing figures. Or maybe it’s me, maybe I’ve worked with BWoS too much ;)

paul g

S O said “The biggest supply demand stems from artillery. A single battery fire mission can eat a ton of ammo in a minute”

I put a link on one of the threads with ref to the ATK el cheapo GPS screw module for all NATO 155 & 105mm ammo, in the vid they said ue to the increased accuracy you could complete a fire mission with 70 rounds instead of 400 non GPS shells. isn’t that statement by SO above even more reason to look into the GPS round, as that’s almost an 80% reduction in shells required?

steve taylor
steve taylor

As promised above…..

The fundamental task of the logistical operation is to ensure that the rations, the many natures of ammunition, including the heavy artillery shells, the bulk fuel, stores, clothing, and replacement equipment can be delivered to the troops in time and in the right sequence, so that the operation can continue unabated…..Its efficiency affects not only the physical capability to fight, but also, essentially, the morale of everyone in the force. The scale of the challenge is daunting: the relatively small UK/NL Landing Force has a war maintenance reserve totaling some 17,000 tons for 30 days sustainability.

Chapter 11, Logistics in Amphibious Operations (Brassey’s Sea Power) by Colonel Michael Evans, RM.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

Should artillery units have their own dedicated helicopters for resupply (and repositioning if light enough?) ?

Or should we delete artillery all together from expeditionary operations? Can we rely on air support, mortars (which have their own logistic concerns) and precision fires like the Israeli Jumper?

Topman
Topman

@ ST

‘Should artillery units have their own dedicated helicopters for resupply (and repositioning if light enough?) ?’

No, locking things like helicopters into only doing flights for certain units would be a waste. There is always plenty of demand far too much for each unit to have their own.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@Topman – yeah, I can see that. They are valuable resources.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Swimming Trunks

A better question to ask perhaps, is the concept of the modern in theatre transport aeroplane oversold when compared to large transport helicopters? Would “we” be better off scrapping A400m, buying more Chinook (or better a navalised lifter), more C17, and a UAV cargo lifter/general utility small helicopter? I think we need to get some perspective and forget Arnhem.

Topman
Topman

@ x

I think it’s more getting the right balance rather than one or the other. There is still a need for some small intra theatre stuff, see the UOR of Bae 146 this year. Quite a bit of rotary lift was bought in. When I was at KAF I was surprised how many private companies were involved in the rotary business moving all sorts for various miltaries and companies.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

Well I stuck a video up on my blog a while back from British Forces News. It was about the Forward Feeding Team. They estimated the weekly inflow of rations for OpHerrick from the UK as;

– 500kg of potatoes,
– 120kg of Sausages,
– 90kg of Bacon,
– 500kg of Chicken,
– 400kg of Beef,
– 420kg of Chips
– 2,500kg of fresh vegetables,

That’s only about 4 and half tons for the whole lot for a week, which seems to have swung the other way and be too late. The woman mentions “one of the many deliveries”, so maybe that’s a daily ration?

Trouble is stuff like Fuel. Fuel I imagine you would source locally, the same with water if possible. And in all probability you’re going to spend time building up stores before conducting a campaign. So how much of the stores are you actually bringing in? And how long do you have to build up the stocks is an interesting question.

My point more with Hercules was what are these oversized loads that C-130 can’t carry? Are there other ways to deploy them than putting them in a Herc?.

I’m just trying to build a picture in my head of what these oversized loads are and where are they headed?

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Topman

I am not saying scrap it. I just wonder whether say 12 “second hand” C130J would be better than 20 odd brand new A400m. And I think 146 is a good idea. But it isn’t quite the same thing is it? I was tempted to say buy some new 747-400BCF instead of C17. Put money into the air bridge and distribution, less on a boutique capability. If the air bridge can be handled by civilians put the money into distribution which means helicopters of various sizes.

If ain’t a secret how many C130 does the RAF have in Afghanistan?

Opinion3
Opinion3

It would interesting to know just how much of our own airlift we have used for our Iraq and Afganistan campaigns. Likewise non RAF capacity.

We can always sequest, rent extra capacity goes the thought. With agreements for milit equipment going to milit customers for milit purposes having stupid restrictions is the assumption utterly wrong.

We should be prepared for the worst, not the needs of a small ‘assigned to home barracks’ force.

Jeremy M H

@ Chris B

That is really what I was getting at as well. If you want to sell me on the A400M for the UK it has to be based on it doing things that the C-130 can’t do and that have to be done too often that you can’t just use the C-17’s you already have to do an odd job.

I am sure there are the odd missions of hauling a piece of equipment to some hellhole for a humanitarian mission where a civilian charter can’t land on their dirt strip and a C-17 can’t do it because the strip is to short. But you are passing up on a lot of other potential things to buy that capability.

And for whomever said you can’t plan your air cargo fleet based on moving heavy vehicles I tend to agree. It was airbus who advertised the A400M by saying it can move some self-propelled artillery and certain armored vehicles. Unless you are buying cargo aircraft on the scale of 100’s moving armored vehicles in that way is not going to happen much either way. For what it is worth the US has used C-17’s to do that from time to time for certain critical missions. But the US has 200 plus C-17’s so it is a different ballgame there.

Topman
Topman

@ x

I wasn’t knocking your post, just trying to add a bit info that’s all. If I’m honest I’m not won over either by A400M, Not that it’s not a good aircraft but I’m not sure on the VFM side. I can see what you are saying, the problem is there are few second hand J models knocking about. All the second hand Herc end up in places like N. Africa, they’ve seen better days.
Civvy companies are part of the airbridge, but they only do certain routes. Some trips they simply won’t do.

I think there is usually 3 or 4. But AT isn’t really my area, more a FJ bod at the moment, so others will no doubt know more.

Mark
Mark

Chris

Im sure TD will cover in the next piece on loads carried but any army equipment that doesn’t fit in a 10ft by 9ft square or weights more than 16-18tns. Its the ability to deploy the helicopters and logistics equipment ect. I believe I read somewhere that the herc can carry less than 50% of the armies equipment and reducing all the time and then the ranges the herc can operate over are reduced as well. See the US and stryker. Its about flying 1 a/c in instead of two ect ect

Some may say yep well use C17 BUT look at the current support cost and then think that those cost do not include any tactical short strip flying (which is the most expensive area) and 400m will do that at significantly reduced cost. Its brize to bastion without the need to extend the runway, less hub spoke more direct.

x

You have a point on inter theater supply. I dont think fixed wing are best suited here things like the eurocpter x3 demonstrator will be very important for moving personnel quickly around theater. BUT the sea change and were UAV focus should be instead of UCAVs is things like kmax. Moving material around without using heavily tasked manned assets assigning one to swimming trunks artillery battery ect thats were uavs will make the difference

Topman
Topman

@ Mark

‘I believe I read somewhere that the herc can carry less than 50% of the armies equipment and reducing all the time’

There was a US Army report saying pretty much the opposite, the C-130 would still move most of their equipment for many years to come.

Mark
Mark

This is what India recently paid for its purchase of c130j a/c http://www.dsca.osd.mil/PressReleases/36-b/2011/India_11-44.pdf.

Jeremy M H

@Mark

I just don’t believe the A400M is really carrying that much more useful equipment than the C-130. I frankly think the whole light vehicle concept and cheap air deployed force concept is bunk. There is a reason you are seeing upgraded versions of tanks rather than the new, lighter air deployed versions. They just can’t make the concept work out and won’t.

The way I see it you either have a lifter that can move some proper armored vehicles if you have to or you have a tactical air lifter that can’t. I don’t really care if something can lift a slightly bigger vehicle than something else. If you can’t carry the equipment for a mechanized force we are talking about a difference of a few degrees rather than any substantial uptick in capability.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

Mark, how often do we ever fly something like a Stryker (or British equivalent) somewhere, and are the demands on C-17 so high that we would not use that aircraft for the job?

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Mark re rotor UAV

I watched the latest episode of Our War the other day. A platoon cut off in a patrol base only 4km from the main base. Reliant it seemed on US Blackhawk for CASEVAC. They had comms problems. You know me and my liking for cheap helicopters. All I could think when watching was, where is the small utility helicopter (Gazelle-like or smaller) that can scoot out from the main base to see what is happening? How many helicopters/rotor-UAV could we buy for the cost of one A400m? C17s and 747s are bigger beast and different, I am not too concerned about them here. Where are the runways for these A400m to operate off? Is parachuting stuff out the rear really the best solution? Even with GPS guided foils? Do we really need to think in terms of 20t loads? Why not buy 3 or 4 helicopters and move that 20t load in halves? What is this odd obsession with fitting vehicles into the back of these things? How often does it happen? Considering the average infantry mechanised battalion (using Saxon figures) had 55 or so large vehicles and a few dozen more lighter vehicles we couldn’t lift a whole battalion.

I see some need for somebody to have a 30t lifter. But I am beginning to wonder why we need them if we can’t do everything? If airfreight can be handled by C17 into dangerous places and civilian aircraft into the less dangerous places surely Chinook can handle distribution?

Brian Black
Brian Black

As the Stryker evolutions have gotten heavier, the requirement for it to be taxied around by C130 seems to have been quietly dropped. So do we really need that kind of capability with the A400? If not, a smaller and cheaper truck like a C27 or C295 could do the in-theatre movements.
Then, for the strategic stuff, perhaps stick at the numbers of C17 for the out-size loads, but *buy* a batch of A330 -with cargo door- for efficient long-range transport, while keeping commonality with the PFI fleet. If C130 fills a niche for the odd small military or diplomatic deployment, then keep a small contractor-owned flight of discreetly liveried aircraft.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

X said ” A better question to ask perhaps, is the concept of the modern in theatre transport aeroplane oversold when compared to large transport helicopters?”

Again we’re back to the MTT/Rotodyne/other composite aircraft idea – best elements from both fixed wing and helicopter.

S O
S O

@ paul g:
“I put a link on one of the threads with ref to the ATK el cheapo GPS screw module for all NATO 155 & 105mm ammo, in the vid they said ue to the increased accuracy you could complete a fire mission with 70 rounds instead of 400 non GPS shells. isn’t that statement by SO above even more reason to look into the GPS round, as that’s almost an 80% reduction in shells required?”

80% only for destructive fires on observed and stationary targets.

Some if not many artillery fire missions are about deploying smoke (few savings possible), suppressing (dito), fires on non-observed targets (such as counter-arty and counter-mortar fire missions), on moving targets, for harassment (for example to make use of a certain road less attractive) and some fire missions are exotic, such as igniting a wood or hurling up dust for concealment, firing a radio jammer shell, firing a self-destructing munition to measure the wind drift (mostly for MRL) etc.

The overall volume and weight savings when PGM are available are likely less than 50%, certainly less than 75%.

Mark
Mark

Jeremy

37tns isn’t light not a main battle tank but not light.

Chris

Stryker was an example. If you believe what you read in the press moving protected patrol vehicles to afghan.
We have a whole 8 c17s. Helicopters logistics vehicles all issues for c130 even heavier Iso containers. I linked a report earlier by a us army colonel critic of the eu battle group concept which highlights airlift load requirements.
And sdsr details the uk required to conduct 3 battlegroup deployments at the same time.

x

Range limits helicopter moves. Closer you fly the stuff to the front the more chance you have to use helicopters.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Mark

With an army of 80,000 I don’t think they will be too far from the main airhead. (Is that the right term? Or have just made it up? )

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

Mark,

But how often in reality do we actually need to move a helicopter by something like a C-130? Or a PPV? Unless it’s something we do on a regular basis then it’s a pretty scarce argument for the A400.

Jeremy M H

@Mark

Any force without MBT’s and Self-propelled artillery is basically a light force. The weight itself is irrelevant. The question that has been asked repeatedly is what useful piece of equipment can an A400M carry that a cheaper C-130 can’t and most importantly is being able to air transport that piece of equipment important enough to justify the significantly more expensive A400M.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ x – ” All I could think when watching was, where is the small utility helicopter (Gazelle-like or smaller) that can scoot out from the main base to see what is happening? ”

Would an autogyro be suitable?

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=xBHP_8mycgc&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DxBHP_8mycgc&gl=GB

http://www.c-lvl.com/toad.html

http://www.groenbros.com/hawk4.php

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/21/gyrojet_farnborough/

S O
S O

No, an autogyro would not be suitable because the UK would need to pay the R&D all by itself. The project would start, swallow billions and be cancelled.
Highly unsuitable for the needs of active or reserve forces.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Swimming Trunks

Yes. I think there will be questions as to its survivability. But I suppose they could be addressed; even if kevlar shields, crash seats, and ceramic plates would add to the cost and the weight.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ SO – I was thinking an off the shelf purchase, perhaps small upgrades; perhaps I’m being optimistic but it could be introduced quite quickly and cheaply if we resist gold plating it.

Brian Black
Brian Black

x, “They had comms problems … All I could think when watching was, where is the small utility helicopter”

What would a Gazelle without comms achieve that a Blackhawk or Apache without comms couldn’t already achieve? Presumably the Gazelle would be sat on the dispersal next to the other useless helicopters.
If a Gazelle happened by chance to pass by, what would it do without ground communication? There’s just been an inquest into a death from an incident of an Apache with its hi-tech optics failing to identify friendly forces.

TrT
TrT

I still dont get why we wouldnt be better off with A380s, C5’s or something like, coupled with a decent engineering capability to throw up runways.

Super Heavy Helicopter Lift and shipping is a none starter I’m afraid, sounds awesome, but helicopters are very expensive to run.

A good question would be why are flying vegetables and chicken to Afghanistan.
We struggle to stop Afghan farmers growing opium, and fly in cabbage.
Heres a novel idea, BUY IT FROM them!!!!!!!

Phil

“Reliant it seemed on US Blackhawk for CASEVAC.”

Negative. PEDRO is usually tasked with CAT B and C casualty evacuation, MERT gets CAT A. And they are all coordinated by a multi-national cell in BSN. If a US bird rocks up its not because we ran out of Chinooks.

Just goes to show doesn’t it how not knowing the details can skew the whole argument.

Simon257
Simon257

@ TrT Buying Afghan Opium.

One of the Non-Gov Agencies wanted to do just that. They wanted to buy the entire Afghan Opium Crop and pay Top Dollar for it to. They, inturn could use it for producing really cheap medicines throughout the Third World. I think the US Government knocked that idea on the head. Not that I’m suggested for one moment that any pressure was put on the US Gov, by US pharmaceutical companies!!

IXION

Simon257

In the same way the US gun lobby is in effect forcing the destruction of the Mexican state, and causing a mojor threat to uS security, by forcing the Fed govt to do nothing about the huge quantities of assault firearms being trafficked south accros sthe border from US gun shops.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ Simon – I’ve wondered before if it was possible to undercut the whole drug market by buying the crop directly from the farmers- they would get more money (count as aid?) and it would be cheaper for us than the war on drugs…
I doubt it would be as simple as that.

Mark
Mark

Chris

Youll have to ask the army or indeed any of the other two services that. But they repeatedly ask for something bigger than a c130 it why when c130s have crashed and the treasury reimbursed the cost we dont buy another c130.

C130 limits http://www.combatreform.org/c130studynolav3syesm113a3s.htm

x

Having the main airhead closer to the troops was the point I was making not having another airhead.

Simon257
Simon257

Hi Swimming Trunks.

That was their exact plan, they would go to the farmers themselves and pay them directly, no middlemen would have involved. Whatever the Taliban were offering for the harvest, they would double it! And they wanted to buy as much as they could produce. As their is a shortage of legally produced Heroin in the world. (Believe it or not, UK Farmer’s are one of the biggest legal producers of the Opium Poppy). However, this is going back 3 or 4 years ago.

If you could have cut the link between Poppy production and the local Taliban, it would have killed them (the local Taliban) stone dead. As long as the locals could have outbid/out bribe the Taliban clientele, so to speak. Most of the insurgency in the country could have been prevented from spreading, out of the Afghan/Pakistan border area. However doubt it would work now, as the Afgan Taliban are fully funded by the Pakistan Government themselves!

Phil

No it wouldn’t have killed them stone dead at all.

The Taliban don’t grow the Poppy as much as tax the money made on it by the farmers. Doubling the amount of money in the pockets of farmers is not going to make it less lucrative to tax them is it?

Stuffing money in the farmers pockets would only make the Taliban more active and make them richer wherever ISAF were not. It would also massively increase inflation causing further social instability which is kind of the thing that generates thugs like the Taliban anyway.

They’d want and they’d try and take all that extra money through illegal taxation and extortion.

That is why we are not buying up the crops and throwing money at the problem.

Brian Black
Brian Black

Hi, TrT. Cabbage is a cold weather crop that requires a lot of water; probably less of a profit margin too.

Simon & ST, on buying up the opium crop; medical grade stuff has to be grown to specific standards, it’s essentially an organic product that goes into pharmaceutical processing. The Afghan drug farms have decades of polution from fertilizers, pesticides, industry and other chemicals or bio waste; could take decades more of very close control to to clean up the soils to the required standards, then constant monitoring thereafter. And many farms would probably never measure up.

You can’t really undercut in order to buy-to-destroy either, as you would only be supporting and encouraging growers with your higher prices – which would be a never ending and increasingly expensive policy.

In just four years, the Taliban slashed poppy production by turning a blind-eye to the growers who provided themselves with necessary income whilst cracking down heavily on everyone else. That kind of protection racket process might be the best bet for the future after the pullout – the Afghan government lining their own pockets while bringing the ban hammer down on the warlords.
Maybe we should have just spent the last decade dropping napalm on every poppy farm we found.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Mark

No I was saying that an even smaller army would mean even smaller areas to police. Areas easily covered by Chinook. If the maintenance overheads on Chinook limit it too perhaps that indicates more smaller simpler helicopters. Or the use of smaller planes such as C27. Or perhaps the form of the technology is just wrong? Maybe conventional helicopters are just too complicated.

steve taylor
steve taylor

“Maybe we should have just spent the last decade dropping napalm on every poppy farm we found.”

I take we are in the midst of poppy field destruction conversation?

All I will say heroin is the real threat to UK security. Forget your suicide bombers, your ill defined Islamic fundamentalism rhubarb, and safe havens for terrorism. Look at all the money, suffering, and just waste caused by drugs. I bet somebody has already argued against burning fields too. Not going to look. Slowly getting the thread turned towards a CVF discussion. But don’t tell………

Phil

Saying heroin is the real threat is like saying Carling is the real threat to alcoholics. Drugs are a threat to UK security, not heroin, heroin is just one drug. And the root cause of drug misuse and crime is not the chap growing the Poppy or making the drug, he is merely responding to demand, there are other root causes that probably can’t be solved by any one agency and certainly none that have a security role.

Jeremy M H

@Mark

I think everyone is well aware of those C-130 limitations. The travails of the US military trying to come up with some sort of air transportable force are pretty well documented. Eventually they just quit trying to do it and scrapped the FCS program. They were going to build some silly light tank with active protection systems so they could shove a bunch onto air transports as part of Rummy’s revolution in the military.

Eventually they realized that was stupid and they are working on the M1A3 version of the Abrams that will extend the life of that tank through 2050. The new combat vehicle program will produce an infantry carrier that is probably as big as a Bradley.

You will never be able to move large heavy forces by air. It is just too expensive. Attempts to make the vehicles smaller have flopped. Despite what everyone wants tanks just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. There are times that deploying a small number of them by air makes sense (a fair number of tanks have been flown into Afghanistan and have given good service there) but moving a big force that way isn’t going to work.

The thing is the US Army has been trying to make a case to do the air mobility thing and get a bigger tactical transport than the C-130 forever. And they never have been able to get the technology or economics to work to make their case. They run into the same two problems every time and I see no way the A400M changes these two things.

1. In a high intensity situation any force you can move with the A400M is likely not sufficient to look after itself with tanks and heavy guns.

2. In most low intensity conflicts you can probably make due with what you can bring in on C-130’s and your smaller number of C-17’s.

There is likely a small subset of missions for which the A400M will do some things you can’t otherwise do. But again the real hard question here is if that capability is worth not having other ones in the national defense picture. I don’t think anyone can honestly say that if the A400M were not a European industrial project that you would really put its increased capabilities above many of the other things that have been cut.

Simon257
Simon257

The sad truth is, until people stop injecting themselves or sticking the stuff up there noses. There will always trouble for the innocent people who live in the drug growing areas of the world. Sadly, I really cannot see the Western demand for drugs falling. Not in my lifetime anyway. Sad but true.

Phil

I think arguing the technical merits and demerits of the A400M over the c130J misses a big point and that is that the whole issue is more political than anything. The purchase was completely inevitable due to political considerations – let us be grateful that we are actually getting an effective and marginally more capable aircraft out of it rather than having to buy lemons.

And we can fulminate until the end of days about how politics has no role in defence planning and equipment purchases but as I have said before, you can separate politics and defence anymore than you can separate politics from other issues like immigration, education, welfare, financial regulation etc.

Phil

@Simon257

Using substances and drugs is a universal human trait that is timeless.

Societies which do not use any sort of natural or synthetic stimulant, drug or whatever are notable for their rarity.

In the west we happily use alcohol and tobacco and like it or not largely tolerate cannabis.

This is not going to change as you point out.

What interests me is whether drugs promote criminal behaviour or if the unlawful nature of drugs promotes criminal behaviour. Alcohol promotes an awful lot of criminal behaviour but it is far more limited in scope. If a pub opens up on the street we are likely to welcome it or tolerate it, if a crack house opens up, well that’s a different story.

Ideally you’d gather enough medical evidence to show which drugs were physically harmful and which were not. And then you’d take a place, or several and pilot the complete legalisation of the un-harmful drugs for 10-15 years and conduct numerous longitudinal studies to see what happens. You’d then base wide drugs policy on that evidence.

That’s never going to happen – so we muddle on and fight what is probably a never ending battle which I suspect we make worse by our laws.

Jeremy M H

@Phil

That is all well and good and I agree it was a political decision to do what was done. But it does have real consequences for the overall defense establishment. You are spending enough extra cash that you could have likely retained MPA’s or bought another attack submarine. Those are real world impacts of political decisions.

Phil

I am not saying they are not. But as we agree, it’s political. And one should really look at the purchase in the context in which it is made which goes well beyond just immediate RAF or even UK forces needs.

And I’m very suspicious of arguments that state if only we hadn’t spend on X we’d have had more money for Y. Especially when it is capital spending we are talking about.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris

“…the real threat to UK security…”

For me it’s this “sense of entitlement” culture.

Happy to help those out in society who need it, but I expect everyone to put in a shift whenever they’re able.

Simon257
Simon257

Phil

You don’t have to tell me the rights and wrongs of the Wests drug problems. My Sister and a cousin are serving Police Officers in South Wales Police and the London Met respectively. Most of the crime they deal with is Drug-Related. The stories they have told me are mind boggling to say the least. And in my Sisters case, it’s usually the same drug dependant people who time and time again are causing the trouble.

TrT
TrT

My point was that we could pay afghan farmers who currently grow opium to grow food.
Those farmers could employ some unemployed young lads ect

Phil

TrT

They grow food too. They tend to have two harvest cycles in Helmand. One for Poppy and one for food. They’ll just grow food once food becomes more expensive than raw Poppy.

And paying people (ie subsidising) them to do something is not always a very considered or viable long term approach to anything. Not least since it won’t stop the Taliban trying to tax them.

Phil

@Simon257

I never meant to lecture. And believe me, I’ve had plenty of exposure to the same problems in exactly the same area as your sister.

But the irresistible question in my mind is, what happens to the price of drugs, the criminal underworld which imports and trades them and the social consequences of criminal drug use if we legalise them? I don’t think anyone actually knows.

I’ve had in my hand in Helmand great big blocks of heroin because over there, it is utterly cheap. They don’t drink over there, but they take snuff all day long which is bought at market. If you legalised it, it would be far cheaper, the drug dealers would be out of pocket and it could be regulated and taxed.

I am not advocating this, I’m just wondering what might happen. Why do we tolerate alcohol which can cause every bit of as much misery as drugs but not drugs themselves?

steve taylor
steve taylor

I always support spending on X.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Phil re real threat

I meant from Afghanistan not drugs in general. Unless the valleys are full of labs making meth and a variety of other drugs.

It is a rabbit hole I refuse to go down.

Especially as I am trying to turn the conversation around to CVF.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Phil re real threat

I meant from Afghanistan not drugs in general. Unless the valleys are full of labs making meth and a variety of other drugs.

It is a rabbit hole I refuse to go down.

Especially as I am trying to turn the conversation around to CVF.

Phil

You and your rabbit holes.

Simon257
Simon257

Phil

Sadly no one in Politics, or the Media for that matter, wants to have a proper debate for fear of being accused of being either a Lefty Liberal or a Nasty right-winger by either side. Its just career suicide for that person. They put Party Politics above anything else!

Anyway to get back on topic, in today’s edition of the Times. On the Military matters page. Their is a small piece regarding the upcoming Exercise Shaheen Star in the UAE. Tornadoes from 31 Sqd are due to take part in the exercise. However, the photograph that is featured, is of an AN-124, being loaded at RAF Marham with equipment for the exercise. I wonder how much it costs to hire a AN124?

Phil

Around £20,000 an hour.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

Well, I think any RAF tactical transport should be able to land on and take off from the CVF’s; would enable the CVF to become a logistics hub, and a sea based transport could perform a multitude of missions, like spraying poppy fields…

(@ x – lets see if that works… :) )

WiseApe

Could the A400 perform COD? (Happy to help :-) )

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Swimming Trunks

Good point. Scrapping A400m and buying more Chinook would allow us to have two new squadrons (Navy Co-operation Squadrons (Heavy)) of that helicopter for CVF. Plus a bit of money to help with navalising them; not totally just some judicious work as CVF would be more of a ferry for Chinook.

Outside it being a cheap C17 substitute the A400m doesn’t make much sense. That isn’t to say it is a bad aeroplane. I just wonder how many simple aeroplanes able to lift say 8 tons we could get for one A400m. Even if it meant a drop took more than 2 airframes or trips. Better STOL and simpler landing gear if a landing is needed.

Simon257
Simon257

If I remember rightly. their was a proposal by Kvaerner to build a floating Mega base for the Pentagon. If you can imagine 6 to 8 blocks, each the size of a Nimitiz Class Carrier all joined together, capable of landing the largest of Airlifters, housing thousands of personel, you get the picture.

I cant remember when though, I think it was in the early 1990’s. The article, was definitely in the BBC’s Focus magazine. The end of the Cold War probably put an end to it.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Wise Ape

On YouTube there is footage of a C130 landing on Forrestal which is approximately the same size as CVF.

I want BAE to build a bi-plane COD a la AN2 with a subtle hint of Twin Pionneer. Possible ASaC platform.

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