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paul g
October 23, 2012 2:02 pm

i was reading on defense industry daily that P&W have “won” a contract to inmprove the engine by 5%, as pointed out as they are the sole engine provider not hard to win that then!!

cut and paste of article;

Oct 19/12: Engines. United Technologies’ Pratt and Whitney Military Engines in East Hartford, CT wins an $81.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for services and materials for the preliminary design, detailed design, and engine performance testing in support of the F135 Fuel Burn Reduction Program. The objective of the program is to demonstrate a 5% mission weighted fuel burn reduction in a F135 experimental engine configuration.

Competition can produce the same kinds of benefits, of course, but the Pentagon has chosen not to do that.

Phil
October 23, 2012 3:44 pm

I want to love it, but its an ugly plane.

Why isn’t it in RAF livery / colours or whatever you pale blue types call it?

Challenger
Challenger
October 23, 2012 4:20 pm

I don’t think it’s ugly at all, unconventional perhaps, but also futuristic and sleek.

Ascetics don’t stand any more still than technology does.

Mark
Mark
October 23, 2012 5:04 pm

Phil

It is in raf colours. You can paint it with different paint if you wish but it will affect the a/c signature. Paint on a number of our a/c especially the bland looking ones is there for a reason.

Phil
October 23, 2012 5:39 pm

I meant I couldn’t see a roundel.

Mark
Mark
October 23, 2012 5:43 pm

Phil

Sorry top image right wing underside and the flash on the v stab in the bottom image

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
October 24, 2012 2:55 am

The official website for the F-35 is jsf.mil which contains all the project press releases plus a good collection of pictures.
From what you can glean, the project seems to have picked up a bit of speed on clearances possibly because of the various kicks in the bumb coming out of the US DOD.
What is plainly missing is any real comment on how the software is developing and reports on specific issues like fatigue testing, the helmet mounted sight, systems reliability, the fuel dump problem and version specific issues like whether the F-35C can take a wire.
Still those nice Americans do tend to publish a lot more information than other equipment developers.

George
George
October 24, 2012 8:35 am

Two aircraft – that makes a flight! Or even a trials squadron. Should it not have a unit number now? Maybe 700A NAS…. :-)

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 24, 2012 8:40 am

700L surely??

Or if the “Dave” sobriquet sticks, 700D!!

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 24, 2012 11:35 am

Perhaps more surprising is the total number of “pilots” at 635 – 2.5% of trained RN strength. It is unclear whether this number includes Observers.

That total feeds 15 squadrons, plus exchange and staff tours. No reason why the f/w element of it couldn’t be expanded to 150 or so in due course. Question is whether RN can find another 100+ fast-jet aptitude types and afford the £50M pa additional cost – assuming a £500k pa cost per body.

George
George
October 24, 2012 12:17 pm

I believe there was a situation in the late 80s when there was a shortage of Fast Jet Pilots and a number of Helicopter pilots underwent FJ training.

I am surprised the Navy has as many as it does currently – they have done a good job retaining them.

Anyone know if Sharkey’s lad is still serving? Just curious!

x
x
October 24, 2012 12:42 pm

Really what we have today is a pool of fast jet pilots who will switch and change between sea and land through their career. The service specific parts of the organisation will be the maintainers. I still maintain nobody joins the RAF to go to sea.

Jeremy M H
October 25, 2012 2:17 am

I think the F-35 looks wonderful. I personally the the C variant is the best looking of the bunch with the big wings I just like how it looks. The F-35 is going to be fat in the body due to what it does but I think as far as attack oriented stealth fighters good it will be among the best looking. The X-32 was the ugly one. You could have all ended up flying open mouth horror show.

Phil
October 25, 2012 7:10 am

I’m not surprised. I used to think flying helicopters would be boring but you get plenty of excitement and action no matter what model you fly. Especially if you are a jungly.

Personally I think Rafale is the best looking FJ out there. Heathen I know but it’s got pleasing lines.

mmoomin
mmoomin
October 25, 2012 8:32 am

X I remember reading somewhere that RAF trainee pilots were actually quite excited about the prospect of getting on the CVF.

Correct me if I’m wrong but the F35B ship board trials on Wasp that was done last year the UK pilot involved in the launch and recovery testing was RAF.

Challenger
Challenger
October 25, 2012 11:25 am

@mmoomin

It’s a valid point and something that I have thought for quite a while, surely a fast jet pilot from the RAF is first and foremost a pilot and not just service aligned.

I am sure whatever branch you are from the prospect of working on a carrier is an exciting notion, though of course a 6 month deployment on a boat in rough seas is another thing altogether!

wf
wf
October 25, 2012 12:03 pm

@Challenger: pilots may be pilots, but an RAF pilot cannot progress to command a carrier, only a land based wing, and will have minimal naval warfare knowledge. Given pilot training is mostly single service, I really cannot see why there is an economic case for wanting anything other than the odd exchange pilot on CVF. We have plenty of time to train more naval pilots if that is what’s required.

x
x
October 25, 2012 12:23 pm

mmoomin said “I remember reading somewhere that RAF trainee pilots were actually quite excited about the prospect of getting on the CVF.”

I said “Really what we have today is a pool of fast jet pilots who will switch and change between sea and land through their career.”

Since CVA got scrapped the RN has always relied on RAF to make up the numbers of FJ pilots.

And then I went on to say,

“The service specific parts of the organisation will be the maintainers. I still maintain nobody joins the RAF to go to sea.”

Again I can only speak from experience of why 16/17/18 y-o-s choose whatever service career they choose. A one off exchange or draft may add a bit of variety but it is very different.

“So why do you want to join the RAF then?”
“Well Flight I have always wanted to see the world, not the touristy bits, and so I thought joining the RAF and the chance I might spend most of my service career in the home counties only 2 hours from home will help me achieve that ambition.”

“So why do want to join the RN then?”
“Well Chief I get terribly sea sick, hate water, and can’t stand living on top of others in an enclosed environment. I think sea sickness really helps you when are trying to perform highly technical tasks that are required by the RN’s modern equipment.”

Challenger
Challenger
October 25, 2012 12:50 pm

I wasn’t suggesting anything as extreme as RAF pilots moving on mass to the FAA, and I agree it’s sufficient to have them do a degree of training on CVF to get acquainted and factor in some contingency manpower that can bolster the RN in an emergency situation.

The point I was making was that although all service personnel are partisan I find no problem in making the assumption that if a pilot loves his or hers job and has a passion for flying then they would surely be very happy to train in a new and challenging environment.

Jeremy M H
October 25, 2012 12:52 pm

I have to be honest, I still really don’t get why the RAF is going to operate the F-35B at all. I don’t see the operational imperative to have that capability there. Sure, there are situations where you might employ them ashore but you could simply use RN assets in those few cases.

It would seem to me to make the most sense to put all the F-35B models with the FAA and then if the RAF needs the aircraft simply buy the F-35A for the RAF. If they don’t just have the RAF operate the Typhoon.

It just seems like a power play by the RAF honestly.

SteveD
SteveD
October 25, 2012 12:58 pm

I wonder if the spectre of a cancellation of the F35B by the US is still hoving in the background?

The yanks have a collosal budget deficit to balance, and a scrapping of the least important (to them) of the F35 designs might become a ‘diffuclt decision’ the next president has to make.

What then? Navalised Typhoon? :P

Jeremy M H
October 25, 2012 1:11 pm

@SteveD

Two points.

First the F-35 is not getting cancelled in any of its versions. There is just nothing coming down the pipe to replace it and everyone knows it. Plus the program is past its worst problems in almost all areas at this point.

Second it is important to remember that while the US does have a budget deficit that is large as a percentage of GDP it is not that much above what the UK has been and is running. Additionally the US does this with a 27% national tax rate while the UK is running their deficit with 39% national tax rate (tax revenues measured against GDP, US ones include state tax revenue). Were the US to raise its level of taxation to UK levels it would be running a surplus immediately.

George
George
October 25, 2012 1:13 pm

@Steve D

I personally don’t think so. The B will achieve IOC first, the Marines (with a lot of political clout) need stovl, there are export orders and potential export orders for the B.

The one that is most at risk has to be the C. Last to enter service, USN contingency buying Super Hornets etc. no export orders.

However I thought the whole programme was pretty much safe?

RW
RW
October 25, 2012 2:44 pm

@ Jeremy M H
While I agree there will be no cancellation of a model of F35, the funds and the political will are lacking for any accommodation of further cost or schedule overruns but these continue to seem inevitable.

With an unacceptable $1 trillion life time cost the number of F35 aircraft is going to be much reduced – both for the US and all the other buyers; witness the UK’s move from 130 ish to a current 48 (and then maybe more in two decades).

The result is therefore going to be an increase in the fragility of the fleet in the sense that losing aircraft will be so costly, it all points to me towards an increase in the use of UAVs which can be produced cheaply and rapidly.

I agree the RAF will retain some input to the F35 but their main focus will be the Typhoon of for no other reason than they are pleased with its performance in Libya, getting back to the fragile fleet the UK F35s may end up as rare in combat as the F22. So if the UK F35 doesn’t go into combat it will be slow to show it’s capabilities a viscous circle

As to what we will use, I still wonder about the Grippen the NG version will have some impressive stats and if the cost remains low then it might be a perfect partner for Typhoon as land based and a potential STOBAR partner for F35 on the carriers (if we spend the money to get arrestors- I’m not sure anyone knows what they would cost to fit)

Jeremy M H
October 25, 2012 3:02 pm

@RW

The $1 trillion lifetime cost is the biggest bunch of bs I have ever heard spouted as truth. The fact of the matter is the lifetime cost of keeping legacy fighters around would be even higher. Even if we accept a trillion or 1.5 trillion as the cost of buying and operating all those planes for 30 years it is still a pretty small chunk of the US defense budget over that period considering that the plane will comprise the huge majority of the tactical aircraft the US will possess in that period.

For the UK my prime reason to keep the RAF in the Typhoon is to get enough F-35B’s for the FAA to operate in good numbers. Once that purchase is done the UK should look to replace the Typhoon with the F-35A as it matures, its cost come down and the Typhoon reaches the end of its useful service life which will come sooner than one thinks. If you can only have one platform 10-15 years from now the F-35A will be vastly preferable to the Typhoon and makes sense for the RAF at that point.

Challenger
Challenger
October 25, 2012 3:11 pm

@Jeremy M H

‘It just seems like a power play by the RAF honestly’.

I think it seems like a power play because it is!

Way back with Typhoon slated to replace the Jaguar and Tornado F3, plus FOAS in the works the RAF only had an interest in the Lightning because of it’s own attributes and because it got one over on the RN by being a continuation of JFH.

Fast forwards a bit and suddenly the RAF had nothing to replace the Tornado GR4 with and an ever decreasing end fleet of Typhoons as comfort. Whether they can justify the need or not it’s a ‘strike’ replacement as much as a Harrier and is now the only viable option to retain some semblance of the huge offensive fleet they once wielded.

I see no coherent reason why the RAF needs Lightning beyond keeping it’s numbers up and getting the latest fast/shiny toy! Since the end of the Cold War it’s not as if they had even needed/wanted the Harrier, and as you say any RN jets can work perfectly well on a nice big airbase any-time it’s required.

I would love to see the FAA get full control, but lets face it this isn’t about logical need or operational effectiveness. The RAF controls the money, the pilots and just isn’t going to tolerate a situation where they are left with 107 Typhoon’s to build their future on.

Jeremy M H
October 25, 2012 3:21 pm

@Challenger

That is why were I the UK I procure in two blocks. I buy 48 (or whatever) F-35B’s towards the front end of production to give to the FAA so you can fully outfit a carrier or put mixed wings on both if you want to.

Then when that is done I look to replace the Typhoon wholesale with the F-35A and remove the Typhoon from service. The end result is that I end up with two planes with a lot of MX commonality, both having robust development paths and both having similar operational characteristics for planning purposes. I can then plan my supporting forces (for example make decisions on what I need to do for SEAD) on what makes sense to support F-35’s in combat rather than trying to balance a stealth plane and a non-stealth plane (and a networked and non-networked plane almost as importantly) that have pretty different profiles from a planning perspective.

Challenger
Challenger
October 25, 2012 4:14 pm

@Jeremy M H

My only issue would be with procuring a batch of F35A whilst the Typhoon still has plenty of life left, because then we would end up with a more complicated supply and operating framework and create a two tier/variant fleet of aircraft which was precisely the mistake we set out to avoid after the difficulties and rivalries over the Harrier/Sea Harrier situation.

I agree that it would be great to have enough F35B to satisfy the needs of the FAA, and I agree that ending up with a mix of A/B split between the two services is a good idea for the future. However in the shorter term I think the RAF has to be placated and cajoled into fully utilising it’s Typhoon’s first, with the F35A promised as a replacement and not an addition later on.

RW
RW
October 25, 2012 4:37 pm

@ Jeremy M H

You’re making a massive mistake if you think $1 trillion is affordable for the US

Their entire annual budget is heading towards $500 billion a year and most of that is already completely committed to staff costs, veteran support and sustaining the current base for US forces, plus some elements of reset.

The DOD and many US politicians have said flat out that they cannot commit $1 trillion to any one program, when there are such a range of capabilities that they need to fund.

Look at the struggle they are having to meet a congressionally mandated fleet of carriers, the USN will effectively be breaking the law when the” Indy” is retired, three Zumwalts only, same for Seawolf and the current Aegis destroyers won’t have the power for the next generation of naval radars.

F35 is not going to be cut but you’re wildly ill informed if you think that Lockheed is going to just keep pissing of the US military,y they are fast becoming the most untrusted of the majors and they have a strangle hold on fighter production that the DOD will not long tolerate.

When finally there is a working helmet and the F35C can stop on a carrier and etc.. There will be new bills to pay and they will come directly from the F35 core budget.

Suggest you pay attention to the US defense scene, it’s not the gravy train you seem to imagine and the consequences will impact us before long, both in good and bad ways.

Mark
Mark
October 25, 2012 5:19 pm

Rw

60% of that 1tr dollars number is inflation over the next 50 years over service so that is a given for any a/c they operate over the same period. I think fuels in there too. It’s like asking the air ministry in 1955 how much it will cost for them to service, fuel and fly a hawker hunter in 2012 prices utterly pointless number.

Is the rn going to start paying for basic and fast jet flight training for there aircrews and the maintenance personnel to operate these 50odd a/c cause I’d guarantee the rafs operational budget won’t be spent on it. Who knows we could cut have the surface to pay for it. Or perhaps well just buy the f35b in enough numbers to allow the 60:40 splits will enough jets at readiness to allow land and sea deployments simulationously which is pretty much the plan.

Jeremy M H
October 25, 2012 5:28 pm

The $1 trillion figure is a 50-year operating price.

If the budget is $500 billion per year that means the US defense budget over that period is going to be roughly $25 trillion dollars. The F-35 operating expenses are thus going to be about 4% of the US military budget over those 50 years.

The F-35 and other critical programs are going to be paid for by reducing the Army establishment (probably pretty drastically) which will cut payroll, base cost and other expenses. The Army is not critical to what the powers that be envision as the US role in the next 50 years. The Air Force and Navy will be and funding will be realigned to reflect that.

It is certainly not an inconsiderable cost. I am not suggesting that. Like any other organization the US military faces plenty of funding challenges. What I am suggesting is that the F-35 will not make or break any military or national budgets over that 50 year span. The US will spend more on a huge number of things, both within the military and in the national budget, that will cost far far more than the F-35.

Eaglemmoomin
Eaglemmoomin
October 26, 2012 9:30 pm

Jeremy I can’t agree with the reasoning why would we create multiple fast jet fleets again it’s what we are trying to get away from? After 2030ish we will have an all F35 fleet.

Also the F35B can take off conventionally and land conventionally it’ll use up less fuel doing so also so I bet that is what it will be doing most of the time apart from when deployed on the CVF. There is no point imho in buying the A to chop off the possibility of a 36 ship surge to a CVF. The FAA have way more chopper pilots than FJ they need the RAF to be able to field a 36 ship surge. I think the range thing gets over stated as most operations will use tankers anyway.

Jeremy M H
October 26, 2012 9:45 pm

The A model is about 75% the cost of a B model meaning that if you decide to go to an all F-35 fleet as you say above you would save around $2.8 billion in USD just on buying the things. The planes also have a lot of commonality so it is not like you are buying an all new plane, just a different variant.

To me the force structure that makes the most sense is 100-120 F-35A’s for the RAF and around 50 F-35B’s for the RN. That would let you surge any one carrier with a full load of F-35’s or outfit two with a pretty good compliment plus helicopters.

Yes, it might be nice to have an all F-35B force but it is a huge additional cost when played out among that many aircraft that you would need to replace the Eurofighter.

In short I would say there are $2.6 billion points for why one would buy the A model for the RAF if you decide to go to an all F-35 force.

x
x
October 26, 2012 10:01 pm

By the time Typhoon goes the UK will be down to 100 or so operational front line FJ split roughly fifty fifty QRA/home island defence (more for a reserve and rest than of any real use) and expedition (both carrier and land.) If we put all the service rivalry rhubarb to one side I think there will be a drive to use CVF as much as possible. I think CVF may be our only basing option at times. And that will mean B.

Simon
October 27, 2012 12:03 pm

Interesting reading… I like the idea of a “home island” and “expeditionary” fleet split ;-)

Not really sure I see the need to have a single jet fleet. I’d just pick the best jet for home island defence (QRA) and the best jet for expeditionary strike/support. Personally I think this is Typhoon and F35.

If you really need to start replacing older Typhoon then what’s wrong with more… Typhoon?

Challenger
Challenger
October 27, 2012 3:15 pm

@Simon

‘If you really need to start replacing older Typhoon then what’s wrong with more… Typhoon?’

The problem, as you may already be aware, is that the Typhoon production line will start winding down after the primary customer acquisitions are complete, which is in 2017-18 (and 5 years away isn’t very much at all). Keeping it going longer would require a fair bit of money and political will, far more than the minimal business put it’s way by us ordering a few more for ourselves. I really can’t see it happening!

The F35 production line will be going much, much further into the future to deliver both it’s primary orders and also the expected mass of foreign ‘off the shelf’ purchases that will follow in it’s wake. The unit cost will drop as the numbers ramp up and their will be a considerably long line of software and hardware updates provided to all of it’s operators that will keep it a cutting edge, and as far as possible standardised platform.

For the most part I can only see this going one way, 48 F35B in the near future and around 100+ F35A in the far distance to replace Typhoon once it’s had a good run.

The only unknown here is whether additional F35 A or B will be procured in the interim period between the 2 core purchases described above. Essentially the question is whether the RAF will try and succeed in keeping it’s numbers close to current levels or whether 48 F35B will be the sole replacements for the Tranche 1 Typhoon’s plus the Tornado fleet going out of service at a simultaneous point.

Is it going to be a case of spend more money to keep you’re fleet at 200, or make do with the 150 you have left?

x
x
October 27, 2012 6:23 pm

There are two questions. What do the RAF need a FJ for? And how can we best make use of CVF?

I wouldn’t be without QRA but this isn’t 1940. How many countries does the US have TLAM before the MoD realises that air defence priority is the missile not the bomber?

The majority of the world’s nations aren’t land locked like Afghanistan or have small coastlines like Iraq. Even in those wars naval has played a part. So in futures wars where there is a sea flank or just islands the carrier will be even more vital. Even if CVF just plays the part of ferry having B gives us options. Further you only have to look to advances in NGS/artillery PGM coming down line and greater use of AH to provide CAS to see that F35A may be a dead end purely because it can not land on to our carriers. It can do the job but it has no flexibility; look at US experiences in Vietnam and picture the UK doing similar. Our F35s need to be able to be used everywhere. We don’t need a split fleet just because the RAF fly off runways. Better 100 F35b than to hobble CVF with 100 F35a and just 50 or F35b. That would perversely make the F35a fleet, the bigger fleet, the boutique fleet. You cannot argue that deep strike, fighter, CAS, etc. are important and essential then argue that F35b flying off a platform that will allows to undertake those missions anywhere in the world is expensive and secondary. And the argument that F35a and F35b have large areas of commonality so we don’t need many B is the wrong way round. We don’t need A because it can’t land on CVF; it is the difference between A and B that is important. We need to maximise both CVF and F35b, buying A is just wasting money.

Dan
Dan
October 27, 2012 6:30 pm

I agree x but we are dealing with politics and as such we will not get 100/140 f35b we may just get 48 f35b and 100 f35a or we will just get what has been ordered till 2035 2040 and then get what is the next big thing

x
x
October 27, 2012 6:39 pm

@ Dan

If you look above I wasn’t too happy with the idea of 100 F35a and 50 or so F35b. In the end, barring a sudden and unexpected need, we will probably end up with about 100 FJ. By the time Typhoon reaches its OSD it will be down to about 100 airframes and the F35x buy becomes then a one for one replacement. The choice then really is half the fleet that can fly off the carrier and half the fleet that can’t. And that makes no sense. Politics runs both ways.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 27, 2012 6:47 pm

If we take the argument X is using to its logical conclusion then the US should not have F15 or F16 or F22.
The logic of this argument will be dictated by aircraft numbers. The 2 CVF can only ever carry 72 F35 between them. This is IF we can man them both and without an LPH replacement at the expense of rotary wing spots.
If we are going to have a FJ fleet of 150 plus then the cheaper F35a with a longer range and bigger weapon bays which will have complete commonality with many allies is the obvious choice for a fleet of that size and a UK that operates a 1.5 type FJ fleet.

Dan
Dan
October 27, 2012 7:03 pm

@ x
Yes x it does run both ways and i am with you 100/140 f35b and typhoon is the right mix and i am not to happy that the raf will be losing the 50 odd first batch of typhoon i really do think that we as a nation should have at least 250 or more front line fighter jets 50/60 faa the rest raf but i just think that there is no public support in the armed services and that is the crux of the problem 100 f35b or keeping 2 to 3 hospitals open which way will it go we have more chance of 100 preadtor drones than 100 f35b

x
x
October 27, 2012 7:29 pm

@ APATS

But to use two often proffered points here, we aren’t the US and we can’t do everything. Comparing our position now to the situation the US was in when F15 and F16 were purchased is a bit of stretch. To be honest my position on F35a’s worth probably came about through my readings on Boyd and his work. And yes the F35a has a bigger bomb bay but in these days where collateral damage is the ultimate taboo and the increasing capabilities of surfaces launched missiles and artillery rounds, well does that few feet make any difference in the grand scheme of things? Probably not. As for range well seeing as Tornado can’t go anywhere without tankers, so again does the 100nm difference in combat range make all that difference? Um. And if that 100nm is such a handicap where does that leave strike when flown off CVF? Or are you suggesting if there is a need for strike when CVF goes to war they fly in F35a and tankers onto a convenient field and then use them for the strike mission while CVF paddles up and down? Really? You are aren’t you? All because of a 100nm difference in range. PGM artillery, missiles, UAV, and AH are all eating in the FJ’s work load. For strike missions the cruise missile is eating in to the FJ’s work load. QRA is no use if somebody launches 200 cruise missiles at the UK and the chances of a bomber raid on the UK are well remote. So the question is do we really need 150 FJ? Probably not. So as I said FJ numbers will probably brought down to mirror Typhoon numbers which will be about 100. Now as I said we are then down 100 jets with a smaller work load only half of which can be flown off CVF. The latter, naval air, probably being the one growth area in manned aviation at the moment. 100 F35b is cheap than 100 F35a and 50 or F35b.

x
x
October 27, 2012 7:31 pm

@ Dan

I am a bit passed seeing this purely in terms of the RAF or FAA. I am more interested in value for money and realistic expectations of what FJ will be doing in the next 30 years.

Dan
Dan
October 27, 2012 7:54 pm

@ x

Ok can you really see the raf spending most of there time on a carrier ? What makes commen sense is often the first thing to go when it comes to our armed services just look at the joint harrier force and do you think that for one min that raf are going to acept that they are going to have just 20 to 30 aircraft at home when we go in to another american sponsed war just imgine the headline in the papers then what follows will be some cleaver dick mp will say what do we need the raf for the navy does most of what the raf do and the army can do the rest and then the call will be disband the raf no x no 100 to 140 f35b because the politics will get in the way the best we can hope for is what is on order with what is in service and hopfully public support turns so we can turely hsve the armed services we need and funded for

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 27, 2012 7:54 pm

X,

So instead of QRA we should have? Multiple SAM sites covering every important target in the country?

And yes the F35a has a bigger bomb bay but in these days where collateral damage is the ultimate taboo and the increasing capabilities of surfaces launched missiles and artillery rounds, well does that few feet make any difference in the grand scheme of things?

Yes, the weapon either fits in the bay or it does not, it can either be carried or it cannot. Most weapon systems do not come in a “slightly smaller 2 door range”. The F35B will have weapons developed for it and the F35A will be able to carry them, then there will be weapons the F35A can carry the B cannot.

As for range well seeing as Tornado can’t go anywhere without tankers, so again does the 100nm difference in combat range make all that difference?

Yes it allows an extra 100Nm to be flown without tanking, it offer the ability to keep your tanker further from hostile air space and offers more mission flexibility to operational planners.

Or are you suggesting if there is a need for strike when CVF goes to war they fly in F35a and tankers onto a convenient field and then use them for the strike mission while CVF paddles up and down? Really? You are aren’t you?

NO, I am suggesting that having both options increases tactical and strategic flexibility. We could use F35A for strike from say “Qatar” in a certain scenario whilst using F35b as a decoy to tie up enemy air defences or vice versa.

QRA is no use if somebody launches 200 cruise missiles at the UK and the chances of a bomber raid on the UK are well remote. So the question is do we really need 150 FJ? Probably not. So as I said FJ numbers will probably brought down to mirror Typhoon numbers which will be about 100.

That is the premise of your argument, that you belive that we will reduce the FJ fleet from 200 plus down to 100 and that is an entirely flawed premise for a variety of reasons, internal politics, military opinion and the fact that we would almost reach a stage where it was too small to be substainable.

Bear in mind that we coped in Libya and in Afghanistan without Carrier air. Carrier air will be a very useful arrow in our quiver but it is complimentary to land based air in the overall strategy not mutually exclusive and certainly not some sort of “silver bullet”.

Challenger
Challenger
October 27, 2012 7:54 pm

I try to be realistic when looking to the future and the bottom line is the F35B is far too expensive and complex to be the RAF’s sole fighter jet, and more than that id say their just isn’t a justifiable need.

It’s important to seek flexibility and cooperation within the services, but their is still a limit to how standardised and interoperable units and they’re equipment can be.

I agree with APATS that you can’t justify 150+ jets on the basis of being carrier capable when the reality is that even in the most extreme and highly unlikely scenario only 72 could be embarked. Far more realistically we would have 1 carrier fully loaded with 36 of them or 2 carriers fielding around 50 but with additional helicopters alongside.

I believe it’s highly likely that we will see a sizeable number of F35A replacing Typhoon in the distant future once Typhoon has put in some decent service.

As I posted earlier I think the only other question is whether 48 F35B will be it for that side of things? Are the RAF going to get the money and political backing to keep the numbers up, or are we going to see a slip below a total of 160 airframes?

A 1.5 fleet, as APATS suggesting is good enough for me!

Challenger
Challenger
October 27, 2012 8:09 pm

P.S

I’ll be diplomatically frugal and scale back my ambitions by saying that I would accept 80 F35A and 50 F35B as an absolute minimal force.

TD keeps saying he is working on a new F35 post, can’t wait to read what he makes of it all!

Dan
Dan
October 27, 2012 8:34 pm

Personally i would like the uk to team up with the sweedes and produce next gen fighter at least we will not be so reliant on the us i also think that steath has run its course i don’t think ucav has much of a futrue just my personal veiw could be completey wrong

mmoomin
mmoomin
October 27, 2012 10:22 pm

Guys the smaller the F35B buy the harder it is to support and justify carrier air or updates to a small fleet.

So if we have do a split buy lets buy all F35A and forget about F35B and sell the carriers because I can see a Sea Harrier style binning MK2 in a few years and a moth balling/’extended’ readiness for CVF if we go the way some are suggesting.

The F35B is a supersonic FJ jet it’s not the same proposition as Harrier it can carry as much as an F18E/F and go further it’s more than good enough. Look at the typhoon there are different tranches and different capability levels within the fleet thats going to be the reality. I’d much rather we go with one multi role fixed wing type that gives us the maximum flexibility for our needs. Has no one learnt from the last 35 odd years with our aircraft/fleet disposals the smaller the fleet and the less multi-role the greater the chance of salami slicing and the end result of NO capability.

Correct me if I’m wrong but we don’t really use 2000lb class weapons and if we did it’s perfectly reasonable to hang the thing off the external stations. Most major operations will use air refueling as well as AWACS correct.

There’s going to have to be a training establishment and maintenance, reserve etc etc that 48 is probably going to allow us the normal 12 jets and possibly the occasional 24 jet deployment if we’re lucky.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 27, 2012 10:48 pm

mmoomin,

Has no one learnt from the last 35 odd years with our aircraft/fleet disposals the smaller the fleet and the less multi-role the greater the chance of salami slicing and the end result of NO capability.

The F35A and F35B will use so many of the same spare parts that it will be far closer to a 1.5 aircraft fleet than a 2 aircraft fleet. The initial buy will be of 48 F35b which will allow us to operate 1 Carrier, we will very very very very rarely if ever operate both at the same time. Only if we face a major threat to UK national security. Also the FA2 airframe was not even compatible with many of the systems on the GR7/9 and needed to be rebuilt. The GR9 went to keep Tornado. Comparing that to what we would have with a mixed fleet of A and B VARIANTS of the same aircraft is like comparing apples and pears.
Both aircraft have their pros and cons but the best MILITARY option assuming we maintain FJ number above 160 will be an almost equal buy of A and B.

As for the buy A instead of B and bin the Carriers, genius idea and a complete contradiction to Defence Planning Assumptions and FF2020.

Correct me if I’m wrong but we don’t really use 2000lb class weapons and if we did it’s perfectly reasonable to hang the thing off the external stations. Most major operations will use air refueling as well as AWACS correct.

The weapons will either fit or they will not fit in internal bays so you will either be able to fly with them internally or not. The A model will be in service with Nations that will use them in a strike role so weapons will be designed to fit their bays as will the C models.
The users of the B model variants are more likely to use them for DCA or CAS. The USMC knows that strike for their ARGs will be provided by C models from USN carriers.
This puts the B model at a disadvantage in terms of using some systems but to have only B models moves this disadvantage from an aircraft specific problem to a UK Strategic issue.

x
x
October 27, 2012 10:53 pm

APATS said “That is the premise of your argument, that you belive that we will reduce the FJ fleet from 200 plus down to 100 and that is an entirely flawed premise for a variety of reasons, internal politics, military opinion and the fact that we would almost reach a stage where it was too small to be substainable.”

Remind me again how many escorts the RN had in 1990? Remind me how many tanks the Army had in 1990 too? The Typhoon fleet will be down to 100 or airframes by its OSD. The FJ’s role is diminishing because of more cost effective platforms. The defence vote will remain stagnant unless a real threat presents itself. 36 airframes for QRA, 36 airframes for operations outside the UK, and that leaves 28 or so for attrition and other purposes such as systems testing. If 100 F35 aren’t a sustainable fleet then how can any other fleet be sustainable?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 27, 2012 11:00 pm

X,

If 100 F35 aren’t a sustainable fleet then how can any other fleet be sustainable?
I was talking about the whole programme of FJ training etc and yes it will be sustaianable but the cuts will ripple down through establishments, trainers, the Hawk fleet would be cut. Air stations closed etc.

Well we will not only be operating Typhoon though will we. Are you not going to replace Tornado at all? So we are just going to let the 120 odd Tornados go with no replacement?

mmoomin
mmoomin
October 27, 2012 11:20 pm

APATS the original buy of F35 was 153ish then 148 then 132 and now it stands at 48. Based on that trend and the last 40 odd years of government military procurement there’s a cat in hells chance that we’ll end up with 150+ of them.

Why is this range situation such a hot topic? I don’t really think it effects us as much as people say, given the US’s succesful ability to perform operations with the F18 with it’s reduced range compared to any of the F35 variants.

The USMC are buying 435odd F35B then add in Italy, Spain, us and potentially one or two other nations if they decided to agument their amphibious support capabilities. If anything from a naval air perspective there will be more B’s than C’s. That’s a sizeable market to sell weapons into and offer support and maintenance contracts to. MBDA are not stupid they and others will make munitions designed to fit in the B

Also the F35B can carry external stores and most of the time it’s going to be a bomb truck and I’ll bet it’s standard profile after a day one situation will be loaded up to the gills, or there will be a few aircraft carrying the ALARM replacement and what ever additional EW suite additions the Israeli’s make with the bomb trucks following behind.

Any F35A buy will happen post 2030 at the earliest anyway as thats the current proposed Typhoon OSD, so this is a fantasy fleets academic discussion anyway. IMHO we don’t need F35A now we need F35B. Either Typhoon T1 will be retained purely for QRA and the frames flying hours extended or we’ll just have less Typhoons.

mmoomin
mmoomin
October 27, 2012 11:23 pm

Deep strike isn’t in the core plan currently it was cut in 2010 as far I know so yup no Tornado replacement currently at least not for the forseable.

x
x
October 27, 2012 11:25 pm

@ APATS

The day of the deep strike FJ bomber is gone for 2nd tier nations like us. We are not the US we can’t afford B2-like airframes. Technology moves on. What can I say?

When the RN undergoes cuts doesn’t it ripple down through establishments, hulls disposed off etc. etc.?

If we want to pick up some of Uncle Sam’s slack perhaps we should buy lots of TLAM or other similar missiles. We would actually expend some ordnance and make a difference. Instead of waiting for the US to clear the way for us then to take pot shots with hundred million pound platforms. Instead we spend some of those millions on things that will actually go bang.

x
x
October 27, 2012 11:29 pm

@ mmoomin re range

This will probably end up with somebody saying we need wetware in loop just in case the mission has to be scrubbed.

As for deep strike being cut, well I was saving that up……

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 27, 2012 11:35 pm

APATS the original buy of F35 was 153ish then 148 then 132 and now it stands at 48. Based on that trend and the last 40 odd years of government military procurement there’s a cat in hells chance that we’ll end up with 150+ of them.

It is an initial buy, we will continue to operate Typhoon and will have to replace Tornado as well.

Why is this range situation such a hot topic? I don’t really think it effects us as much as people say, given the US’s successful ability to perform operations with the F18 with it’s reduced range compared to any of the F35 variants.

Why should we buy a more expensive and shorter range version that will never operate from a carrier anyway. We should get the best aircraft for the job not simply say “well the US managed with F18”.

The USMC are buying 435odd F35B then add in Italy, Spain, us and potentially one or two other nations if they decided to augment their amphibious support capabilities. If anything from a naval air perspective there will be more B’s than C’s. That’s a sizeable market to sell weapons into and offer support and maintenance contracts to. MBDA are not stupid they and others will make munitions designed to fit in the B

The USMC are buying 340 B variants and 80C variants as they have USMC squadrons on CVN. Italy is looking at only 90 aircraft with in all probability a 60/40 percent A b split. Spain cannot afford any at the moment. You must also remember that any weapons that can fit in an A can also fit in a C.

Also the F35B can carry external stores and most of the time it’s going to be a bomb truck and I’ll bet it’s standard profile after a day one situation will be loaded up to the gills, or there will be a few aircraft carrying the ALARM replacement and what ever additional EW suite additions the Israeli’s make with the bomb trucks following behind.

Indeed but what do you use on day 1 if you only have B in the entire Uk inventory? Also remember that a complete B purchase is more expensive and less capable over the whole strategic spectrum than a split buy.

Any F35A buy will happen post 2030 at the earliest anyway as thats the current proposed Typhoon OSD, so this is a fantasy fleets academic discussion anyway. IMHO we don’t need F35A now we need F35B. Either Typhoon T1 will be retained purely for QRA and the frames flying hours extended or we’ll just have less Typhoons.

What about Tornado replacement. Everyone seems to have forgotten about that requirement.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 27, 2012 11:42 pm

X

The day of the deep strike FJ bomber is gone for 2nd tier nations like us. We are not the US we can’t afford B2-like airframes. Technology moves on. What can I say?

Well perhaps you should take charge of operational planning and defence planning assumptions because until you do then the people who are in charge will have to keep on planning and acquiring platforms to fulfill the mission set dictated by HMG.

When the RN undergoes cuts doesn’t it ripple down through establishments, hulls disposed off etc. etc.?

Yes it does, I did my warfare training at Dryad. However you are proposing a further 60percent cut to FJ numbers based on an idea you have that the day of the FJ is over and simply expecting us all to agree with your great wisdom.

If we want to pick up some of Uncle Sam’s slack perhaps we should buy lots of TLAM or other similar missiles. We would actually expend some ordnance and make a difference. Instead of waiting for the US to clear the way for us then to take pot shots with hundred million pound platforms. Instead we spend some of those millions on things that will actually go bang.

Like buy some SEAD platforms, maybe some stealthy jets to go in on day one?

This will probably end up with somebody saying we need wetware in loop just in case the mission has to be scrubbed.

What somebody making a valid operational planning point, how dare they?

EDIT

THe wiki page on the future of the RAF says that HMG decided to procure the F35C for the RAF to replace Tornado in the “deep strike” role due to its greater range and payload over the B. I think some Group captain has been editing it.

Challenger
Challenger
October 28, 2012 12:39 am

I agree with APATS that I am not comfortable in seeing 48 F35B as the only Tornado replacement, they are already technically a successor to the Harrier after it’s long ‘capability holiday’ and will be brought into service at a time when we will more than likely be losing the Typhoon tranche 1’s.

I am equally convinced that an all F35B fleet of 100+ airframes isn’t the way to go. A split variant fleet of F35, whatever the numbers of both eventually are, offers a lot of compatibility with training, maintenance and upgrades whilst preserving the individual aspects that make you want to buy the different variants in the first place.

If we look to the current state of affairs it’s easy to see that the current 2 types of fighter jet, numbering roughly 200 aircraft are only just about meeting current commitments with not much slack to spare. Things may get a little easier in the future thus enabling us to operate with 160-180 of them but I really can’t see how we could get by with only 100, not without seriously scaling back on the sort of deployable elements we currently factor into our planning assumptions.

If it were up-to me id build up a fleet of 60-80 F35B (you really aren’t going to need more for carrier ops) to work alongside as many Typhoon’s as we can keep running until 2030, hopefully more than 107, and then replace them with roughly 80-100 F35A which should by then be cheaper and have significant amounts of service already under it’s belt.

tsz52
tsz52
October 28, 2012 3:12 am

I’m all Daved out, but as to the aesthetics, I’m very sloooowly warming to it. I think that that’s one of the main things about the F-35: Do you remember its first days? Cheap, stealthy F-16 hotrod (that would augment your proper fighter, rather than end up becoming the *only* ‘fighter’ for all but the top-tier nations) that looked like a smaller, slicker F-22 – brilliant!

Oh well….

I prefer the X-32 look: sleek and futuristic A-7, brutal little bastard, rather than pudgy version of generic stealth fighter, with a hunchback.

http://www.zap16.com/2008/10/boeing-x-32-jsf/boeing-x32-jsf-mockup/

Hell yeah!

http://foundwalls.com/aircraft-plane-boeing-x-32/

[Compressor face? What compressor face? – you’ll be fine!]

Not sure how much aesthetics do evolve* – there are certain pretty hardwired preferences in the human brain, especially where proportion’s concerned. I’m with Jeremy M H in thinking that the C model is the best looking of the bunch – for me it’s coz the wings make it looker better proportioned, and less porky. More blended wing-body than fat body with some little wings stuck on near the back.

*Pretty sure that if you were to randomly test folks, past, present and future (who don’t know beans about planes) with “Which looks nicer?”: F-14 pic or F-35B pic, the Tomcat would consistently win hands down. Likewise for YF-23 vs F-35B, if you wanted to eliminate possible anti-stealth-styling bias.

This is just me but Dave reminds me of a plane put together by a boy who’s just dived into his bargain bucket o’ jet models from different eras. Its bits don’t cohere well or smoothly… but all of those bits really remind me of particular and obscure planes from history – but I just can’t quite put my finger on ’em. I’ve had that just on the tip of my tongue feeling for feckin years now – argh!

LordJim
LordJim
October 28, 2012 9:52 am

Current planning has the UK’s FJ fleet at six frontline squadrons post Tornado of which 5 are Typhoon and the sixth is an enlarged F-35 unit similar to how the Harrier wing was organised. Whether the latter is split into 2-3 smaller squadrons to facilitate rotational deployments aboard the Queen Elizabth is a possibility.

Any increase in the number of squadrons will, in my opinion, be through the aquisition of an unmanned platform post 2030 which will suppliment rather than replace an exisiting platform.

As for the Typhoon going in 2030, I would add another 10 years at least onto that unless we get into another long term shooting war and use up the airframe hours far faster than we can afford to put them through deep maintenance.

WiseApe
October 28, 2012 10:24 am

– “we as a nation should have at least 250 or more front line fighter jets” – Why? Is it because France would have 249?

@tsz52 – Just out of interest, where were they thinking of putting the radar in X32?

“What about Tornado replacement.” – What about F35B flown off carriers. By the RAF. So get rid of fixed wing FAA. All RAF fixed wing force. Or absorbed into RAF. Just putting it out there.

Or of course the reverse. FAA to provide QRA home and abroad. Carriers could act as shuttles, taking F35Bs to forward bases while providing mobile option themselves. A bit like the Marine carriers I mean assault ships.

Of course, if we’d stuck with F35C…

If we scrap/sell carriers and buy all F35A fleet won’t our expeditionary capabilities be restricted to only going where other countries invites us – or where the US has already cleared the way for us. Like Germany. (I know, cheap shot).

Mark
Mark
October 28, 2012 10:24 am

X missiles uavs and helicopters haven’t eaten into fast jet number nearly as much as people think. Afghanistan may show more use of uavs and helicopter in cas ect but that’s only one type of conflict. Think Bosnia or 10 years of no fly zones in Iraq or even Libya. Helicopters and Uavs find there limit quickly as the threat increases. Tlam missiles have a specific set of targets they are not a silver bullet.

Qra will remain not necessarily for bombers or cruise missiles but hijacked or rogue civil a/c and that mission cannot be preformed by surface to air missiles.

Foas was roled in f35 not the cancelled as such. Do we still have alarm I thought its already gone. We’re moving to soft kill systems of the a/c and more traditional weapons for that role paveway 4 with a glide kit/ spear 3 ect

I expect f35 to be using a clean wing or with just wing tip missiles most of the time Bosnia proved how hard it is to remove a air defense network. We are I believe setting up a software (source code) centre with Canada and Australia at Elgin which isnt cheap for f35 we will be buying more than 48 a/c be sure of that.

As for the split well I’m with apas on this 70 to 80 of both types would be we’re I’d be looking at. Typhoon with conformal tanks and storm shadow take over long range land based strike followed by a buy of f35a most likely with the new advent engine core. Pilots could be type rated on both variants (a and b) and maintence is moving to a more global based service centre approach. How long typhoon stays after 2030 will depend very much on how much it cost operate then and many people still have it.

Dan
Dan
October 28, 2012 10:47 am

@x
No because histroy tells me that all in the world isn’t rosie and that at some time in the future we will be fighting somebody somewhere and that we will need all aspects of the armed services so at the very least 250 fighter jets awacs mpa istar drones attack heilicopters transport heilicopters transport planes frigates desteoyers aircraft carriers attack subs trident mine countermeasures patrol boats fully funded rfa main battle tanks armored personal carriers sas mi5 mi6 i think you get my point deterrent isn’t just about trident its about making sure the other guy thinks twice three times before he even contaplates doing anythink and at the moment we are pretty much exposed in a few of these areas yes the idea of 140 f35b is appling but not at the expense of other systems

x
x
October 28, 2012 10:48 am

@ Mark

You speak as if I am talking about axing F35 altogether. All I am saying is we buy 50 less of one version and buy more that allows us to do more. As for other systems competing with FJ probably as not much as I think, but probably more than you would like to admit, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas do they now? ;) And we are talking 30 years of service life for F35 and even longer for the carrier, who knows what will come about?

As for QRA I have never said to get rid of it have I now? All I have said militarily is of diminishing importance. Surely F35 is up to the task of dealing with the A30x, Dreamliners, etc. of coming decades? We are now more than 10 years on from 9/11 and we have yet to see a repeat. Even conventional hi-jackings, a seemingly weekly occurrence back in the early 1970s, seem to have disappeared off the terrorist’s repetoire.

x
x
October 28, 2012 10:59 am

@ Dan

No you are very wedded to the traditional three service model that is the underlying credo here. I am concerned with buying things that go bang in large amounts and flexibility. Many here are still from flying RAF Laarbruch or sitting in their Chieftans waiting for Ivan. I am wondering about how to interdict China in the Indian Ocean, how to help Canada in the Arctic, protecting Australia and New Zealand, delivering ordnance on to naughty Arabs, wars in the African littoral, rescuing British citizens from Third World sh*t holes, and so on. So please don’t talk guff to me about me not being concerned about defence or bang for buck.

Mark
Mark
October 28, 2012 11:26 am

X

F35 will be with us to 2065 or that’s the plan the carriers I doubt will be with us beyond that. Your right they don’t vote for Christmas but the physics havent changed helicopters are still low and slow and uavs well great for coin but cheap and expendable able to operated in contested airspace they are not. Once you’ve reached the theoretical max of putting 72 a/c on 2 cvf which will never happen do you need any more to go to sea?

F35 of any variety could do qra but its still a major concern and is at minimum level we have to ready all the time terriorists only need to get lucky once, the possibility of shooting down a civil air liner is as politically charged as launching trident only very more real.

Dan
Dan
October 28, 2012 12:16 pm

@x
I am not wed to the three service model what i am wed to is having the equipment to do the job what ever that job is so if you want to fold all three services in to one fine but lets make sure they have all the equipment they need for what ever they face and have the right amounts

Jeremy M H
October 28, 2012 7:27 pm

re: Building a new fighter with Sweeden…

You have to be joking on this right? One can argue that in the new world even the Typhoon is a bit long in the tooth. I don’t see why teaming up with a nation that is behind that standard (and fairly comfortably so) with their state of the art would accomplish anything other than spending a lot of money to no good end really.

One might as well just improve the Eurofighter if you are going to do that. Of course the problem there is that no one really wants to dump more money than they have to into it with F-35 on the horizon. And to be fair…they are probably right to not do it.

Dan
Dan
October 28, 2012 8:10 pm

@ Jeremy M H
That may be so but that means we are locked in to us aircraft or french if they go for there own aircraft more likely the us which means no over all control on the source codes which means the us gets to veto any action we want to take ourselves with out us there

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 28, 2012 8:20 pm

Jeremy M H
That may be so but that means we are locked in to us aircraft or french if they go for there own aircraft more likely the us which means no over all control on the source codes which means the us gets to veto any action we want to take ourselves with out us there

Dan are you inferring that the US could simply “switch our aircraft off”? Very X files and I am sure that LM and Boeing would be delighted with the billions of pounds worth of foreign sales the Govt has just cost them, not to mention the job losses that would follow etc.

Brian Black
Brian Black
October 28, 2012 10:54 pm

As already mentioned, there are only so many F35B that will squeeze onto those ships. Once you have sufficient numbers to deliver a couple of useful carrier air-wings, stop buying F35B.
The beauty of the F35 system is that we can operate both A and B due to the training, piloting, servicing and logistic commonality. The additional costs and complexity are solely attached to the B’s STOVL gubbins, so there is no cost incentive to keep buying F35B beyond what is needed for the ships. Once you’ve run out of carriers to put your Lightnings on, more B models unnecessarily increases the sticker price, lumps you with a dead weight fan to cart around for evermore, and shrinks your internal loads – no sense in that at all.

Phil
October 28, 2012 11:11 pm

Why get so exercised over numbers that go well into the future? Whatever is announced in 2015 re: F35 won’t happen. We are in an unstable world and the order, whether up or down will change. We’re talking about a plane that still hopes to be in production for several decades hence.

x
x
October 28, 2012 11:23 pm

Phil said “Why get so exercised over numbers that go well into the future?”

Um. Because it is fun to wind them up and make think beyond their tri-service comfort zone?

tsz52
tsz52
October 28, 2012 11:50 pm

WiseApe wrote: “Just out of interest, where were they thinking of putting the radar in X32?”

I’ve got a big, daft soft spot for the X-32, for many reasons; but from chatting with folks who were actually involved in the programme, over the years, it was a complete non-starter sack of shite, the poor thing. Micro to macro it was a complete mess, with no chance of ever working out.

Little details like the radar, masking the compressor face, hot gas ingestion, heating from the nozzles and whether it could ever actually have sufficient thrust to weight to bring anything at all back were all ‘Yeah, we’ll figure something out later…’. You think the F-35’s had problems.

For the radar specifically, you could have just about squeezed a half-decent radar in there (as opposed to F-35’s *very* decent one) through some combination of these: the usual adjustment of the stealth prototype’s/demonstrator’s sexy angular needle nose into something a bit rounder and fuller; combining that with a large diverterless supersonic inlet bump at the top, front, underside of the intake (which would also help mask the compressor face – though still not enough); the extra leeway you get in antenna shape with an AESA; and the sloping antenna that you tend to get these days (to reduce RCS a bit).

Jeremy M H
October 29, 2012 1:31 am

Even if I were to accept your premise regarding the source code being an issue(I don’t) then my response to your plan would be that you need to either double the defense budget or get all of Europe to cooperate to make it practical, particularly if you want to build anything even remotely comparable to the F-35. You would need a solid order base of at least 500 aircraft to even begin to think about it.

Jeremy M H
October 29, 2012 1:36 am

@Brian Black

Agree 100%. Also the biggest issue with the B is that it is not only going to be more to buy but it will also probably have significantly higher maint. cost than the A. That is why if you are buying in numbers to replace Typhoon (and I would argue that sooner rather than later you should be doing this) then you would buy A models for all the units in excess of what you need to fit out your carriers.

LordJim
LordJim
October 29, 2012 2:20 am

There is a hell of alot of wishful thinking and fantasy airforde going on here. Fact the RAF is basing its long term planning around a FJ strength of SIX squadrons. I repeat SIX. The Typhoon in all prbability will have its service life stretched as far as possible, so being in service past 2030 is a strong possibilty. The RAF and MoD top dogs have accepted that they can make do with this size so If we by additioanl platforms it will be post 2030 and who knows what will be around then besides the F-35.

Ok IF the FAA get a squadron in addition to the RAFs F-35 unit then it would be 7 but current plans are for a joint force probably meaning a single unit acting as a large pool to facilitate deploying a flexibly sized unit aboard the QE.

IF we are playing fantasy air forces then the RAF should buy its full quota of Typhhoons bringing them all up to T3 standard, but at least 100 F-35s to have 2 full carrier wings with one deployed at sea and one ashore for training and land based operations. And while we are at it why not increase the C17 fleet to 12 and increase the A400 buy to 50, retain the Sentinel and replace the Pumas and Sec King HCs with new build Merlins. I could go on and on but realism has a hard time here. Many seem to think we are going to fight a major war on our own agains tier one or even 2 opposition. Well we cannot or will not be able to de so in the future. We will be with the USA and if they are not comming to the party then for all but the smallest ops we will not be also.

So if we are going to have serious deiscussions great but please differentiate between this and our tendancy to have fun and discuss living in La La land.

Rant needed as DWP have F@+?£ed up my sickness benefit payments and left me with zero income until sorted out.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 29, 2012 2:50 am

LJ

“Fact the RAF is basing its long term planning around a FJ strength of SIX squadrons. I repeat SIX”

It is out until 2020, any further orders will have to be looked at long before 2030.

Many seem to think we are going to fight a major war on our own agains tier one or even 2 opposition. Well we cannot or will not be able to de so in the future. We will be with the USA and if they are not coming to the party then for all but the smallest ops we will not be also.

Maybe you should send a memo to HMG about their “Defence Planning Assumptions” instead of coming on here and attempting to fling your weight around like you are some Whitehall mandarin!
The 2015 SDSR will be crucial and that the present Government may well not be in power when it is due to be published. This and the ongoing finacial situation as well as any “strategic’ shock is the reason that nobody will commit to anything post 2020.

Challenger
Challenger
October 29, 2012 9:17 am

@LJ

‘Fact the RAF is basing its long term planning around a FJ strength of SIX squadrons. I repeat SIX’

Is that not a worse case scenario which surfaced just after the SDSR?

Their are current rumours about keeping some of the older Typhoon’s in service longer, plus their is a chance of a follow up F35 order in 2015. I’m not going to assess the validity of these options, I’m merely stating the fact that the existence of these possibilities does mean 6 squadrons is far from a done deal.

As APATS said we really aren’t going to get any solid answers until 2015, though I wouldn’t that surprised if the RAF manages to keep it’s squadron strength above you’re predicted level.

Phil
October 29, 2012 9:36 am

The duty rumours are 6-7 Typhoon and 2 F35 around the 2020 mark. So I think there’s a vague assumption regarding a 8-9 Sqn FJ structure. But the lines are increasingly being blurred I think between UAV and FJ. It’s easy to see a UCAV doing Apache or Tornao type CAS in an Afghan scenario.

Mark
Mark
October 29, 2012 10:56 am

Does it matter a great deal if its 6 Sqn of 18 a/c or 9 Sqn of 12a/c. Plus 1 in the FAA of similar size.

It will be interesting to see if the yanks transition lakenheath to f35 from a logistic point of view.

Challenger
Challenger
October 29, 2012 11:01 am

My thoughts exactly. The only way we go down to 6 squadrons (which I admit is a possibility) is if only the 107 tranche 2 and 3 Typhoon’s remain in service and the F35 order is limited to a mere 48 airframes, all of which are grouped into 1 large unit.

I can easily imagine several UCAV squadrons complimenting the future FJ force in the CAS role.

As you say, the lines on several issues are blurred. I enjoy speculating and vocalising my opinion, but that’s all it is, we aren’t going to see any concrete decisions before 2015 at the earliest.

x
x
October 29, 2012 11:55 am

We may not go to war by ourselves, but depending on a weakening or disinterested US may mean we have to shoulder more of the effort across the board. I know many here jump up and down over Libya but all it did for me was show we are weak. The Yanks flattened the opposition first, provided the majority of the heavy lift, and then left us to do the most difficult task of trumpeting how well we did. The next war with the Americans or without them won’t be on our doorstep.

I have been busy thinking about how to spend the £2.5billion cancelling those F35a will save us. I am buying more RFA for CVF sport, 5 extra A400m, and 1000 TLAM. The sort of stuff that wins wars…….

Mark
Mark
October 29, 2012 11:58 am

It’s not all doom and gloom (bare in mind the economy is back on track),

There’s no plans to cap the number of Typhoons at 107, source: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111018/text/111018w0003.htm Column 876W, Military aircraft.

The tranche 1’s might be kept because of the retiring Tornadoes.

Hammond only said 48 F35B’s was the initial purchase and the final numbers would be decided in the 2015 SDSR.

When the Eurofighter’s retire around 2030 they will be replaced with a mix of F35A’s and UCAV’s

Here’s how I think it’ll pan out

2020 fleet:
~150 Typhoons
~120 F35B’s (FAA and RAF)
~20 BAE Mantis
10 Reaper (if they don’t crash)
total: ~300

2030 fleet:
~120 F35B’s (FAA and RAF)
~100 F35A’s
~20 BAE Mantis
~50 BAE Taranis
A few retiring Typhoon’s
total: ~300 (again)

Mark2
Mark2
October 29, 2012 12:17 pm

Yeah sure I don’t mind

x
x
October 29, 2012 12:55 pm

Does that mean Mark 1 will be going out of service sooner? Or will he be SLEPed? The people demand to know!!

Jeremy M H
October 29, 2012 1:23 pm

@Mark2

I think that you are wildly optimistic about Taranis being in service in 2030. I for one don’t think it ever gets built, at least in that form. Again the problem is market size measured against development cost. They will get the prototype built and it will fly around in a controlled environment and do well enough. But when it comes time to build an actual UCAV there are problems galore that have to be solved and that takes money, lots and lots of money. If you are spreading that across just a few dozen airframes it just won’t work. Sticker shock will kill the program.

Mark2
Mark2
October 29, 2012 1:42 pm

@Jeremy M H

I don’t know if the Taranis will ever come into service you’re right. But Hammond said the Typhoons will be replaced with a mix of F-35A’s and UCAV’s, perhaps we will participate with the X-47B program? I just mentioned the Taranis because it’s possible they will come into service in the future, the government has recently invested another 2bil into unmanned aircraft projects and I think the Taranis first flight is the beginning of next year. We should see a lot of information crop up about it when that happens, we’ll have to wait and see.

Challenger
Challenger
October 29, 2012 3:59 pm

@Mark2

Welcome to the site!

To be honest I think we will be lucky to keep 200 in service, let alone you’re wildly optimistic 300 FJ and UCAV’s.

Best case scenario the way I see it is to hang onto some or all of the older Typhoon’s whilst purchasing the 48 F35B. Then we can replace the tranche 1 Typhoon’s with either more F35B or possibly A’s in the late 2020’s, followed by the younger airframes at a later date.

I can’t really see any better outcome, though unfortunately I can see much worse. It’s very easy to slash numbers, it’s very difficult to get them back.

Mark2
Mark2
October 29, 2012 5:29 pm

@Challenger

Thank you,

I highly doubt we’ll only purchase 48 F35’s as a level 1 partner for the F35 program. We will have to purchase more. Hammond said the 48 F35B’s was to equip the carrier fleet and that they will decide the final numbers in the 2015 SDSR, he said nothing about the RAF except F35A’s possibly replacing Typhoons in the 2030’s. At this point in time 300 FJ and UCAV’s is wildly optimistic I admit but remember our economy is already back on track and the black hole in the defence budget has been dealt with. I think and hope the 2015 SDSR will bring about some good news, they might even change there minds on personnel numbers but I doubt that.

mmoomin
mmoomin
October 29, 2012 5:32 pm

Hammond has never said anything about F35A. That’s something a journalist at Janes wrote in an article, that seems to have become fact.

x
x
October 29, 2012 5:46 pm

Scrapping 50 F35a could buy 2 x Juan Carlos and 500 TLAM or 12 Merlin-esque troopers or 4 dry stores ships or 2 A400m……

Phil
October 29, 2012 5:54 pm

Or loads of fags.

x
x
October 29, 2012 6:00 pm

@ Phil

I condone neither smoking or drinking.

They could spend £2.5billion (50 x £50million F35a) on refitting all the NAAFI Spar shops…

Phil
October 29, 2012 6:09 pm

I don’t smoke but I do enjoy a tipple.

For that money I would want naked super models serving me my Ginsters.

x
x
October 29, 2012 6:19 pm

You are a man of modest wants aren’t you?

Here is a picture of a naked super model for you.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_TGS61dlat8U/SwUSNjSGMqI/AAAAAAAAB4s/A9YY4QLKG-I/s1600/01+Airfix+Mos+bits.jpg

WiseApe
October 29, 2012 6:53 pm

“Once you’ve run out of carriers to put your Lightnings on” – I’m going to start copying and pasting the words: build more carriers.

“our economy is already back on track” – Another foreigner on the site! Welcome Mark2.

x
x
October 29, 2012 7:01 pm

Instead of buying 50 F35a we could have another carrier. Imagine having a CVF always available with 24 F35b, some Merlin ASW, ASaC, a clutch of Wildcat, and UAVs coming down the line.

WiseApe
October 29, 2012 7:46 pm

To be fair, you also have to budget for the escorts. Happily, these are very useful even when not escorting.

People keep talking about a fast jet fleet of 250-300, but so far no one has come up with a reason why we need that number. What will we be doing with them all?

Some time ago, APATS and Swimming Trunks listed the standing commitments for the RN, in a post about OPVs vs frigates. What are the commitments for RAF which require 250-300 FJ?

x
x
October 29, 2012 8:16 pm

@ Wise Ape

We have 6 Darings which would mean 1 Daring per carrier group and 1 for other work. Frigates? As I keep saying scrap 1 T26 so all are fitted out with TAS and other toys. 12 would allow us 1 for the Atlantic, 1 for the carrier group, 1 for NATO(?) or Gulf, and 1 for other work. It is do-able just about. (But you are conversing with someone who can’t make the RN work without 60 escorts…… :) )

As for what does the RAF do? Well there is nothing wrong with them having more jets than commitments (even taking training etc. into account.) You never know war may break out and I am not being silly. Now there are only what 9 to 12 Tornados in Afghanistan and that is down to hanger apron space. Of course it would be nice for a smaller army to have that amount of airpower on call, but I bet the airpower will be reduced too. But I don’t believe if there was more space that would mean more aircraft. If we have 36 for QRA, 36 for playing away, and 36 as spares and testing platforms given, despite Mark’s protestations to the contrary, the rise of PGM and better long range missiles I can’t see the need for more than those 108. And that figure is about the number of Typhoons there will be when they go out of service.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 29, 2012 8:23 pm

I am waiting to see the Screen that X comes up with to protect a CBG with 1 T26 and 1 T45 :)

x
x
October 29, 2012 8:36 pm

@ APATS

I did say I couldn’t make the RN without 60 escorts, did I not? :)

For £2.5billion we could buy some more escorts to keep our 2 CVF safer. 6 for £400million a copy.

Mark
Mark
October 29, 2012 10:39 pm

Ah X What are you putting on those boats if you only have 108 typhoon are you suggesting we don’t need the boats?

Cheap as chips these recon uavs you know http://www.dsca.osd.mil/PressReleases/36-b/2007/UK_08-27.pdf just think we could sell half the frigates and use these as mpa in there place.

Challenger
Challenger
October 30, 2012 6:07 pm

@Mark2

‘remember our economy is already back on track’

Really, nobody told me!

I agree that an additional buy of F35 is likely, and I am sure that we will see a burgeoning UCAV fleet through the 2020’s. But having said all that I still think 300 aircraft is over optimistic.

It’s a good point worth making as well that it’s hard to justify the need for that many aircraft in the first place. We may all like to see more of the good stuff in our inventory, but I do strongly believe that these days you need a pretty good reason to legitimise a things existence before you go off spending billions because it looks nice.

I think we are at about the right force levels now. With a contracting army and less ambitious foreign policy we really only need 40 or so aircraft for QRA and another 30-40 available for oversea’s deployments of either the lengthy but medium sized Herrick style mission or the larger ‘surge’ deployments seen with Telic and Ellamy.

Of course that only totals 70-80 aircraft that you actually need available for active tasking, but add in training, maintenance and attrition spares and I reckon you can roughly double that number.

For my money anything below 140 airframes is going to start cutting into our ability to deal with the tasks in hand, whereas anything above 200 is tantamount to a splurge of over indulgence.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
October 30, 2012 6:40 pm

Challenger,

Concur, a realistic aim would be to have 4 Operational F35B squadrons and 5 Operational F35A squadrons post Typhoon OSD. So perhaps a buy of between 60 and 70B variants and 75-85 A variants. Total FJ numbers between 135-155.
Not sure if total numbers allow the number of operational squadrons or if the fact that the aircraft have many similarities would cut down the number of OCS air frames required.
Perhaps Topman or Mark could elaborate.

Mark
Mark
October 30, 2012 7:08 pm

APAS

I would have thought those numbers are in the ball park. You will have 50% of f35 training done in a sim which is identical which ever version we buy it may also depend if training stays at eglin. We are hoping to set up the software centre there so it may do.

You will have an operational evaluation unit and a conversion unit, obviously with typhoon/f35 you have similar sized units for each fleet in an all f35 fleet you’ll have 1 such fleet. But it’s not necessarily total aircraft numbers per say but the number of pilots that is required to meet planning assumptions that will drive fleet numbers as they need trained. Sdsr I think indicated 1/3 of all a/c at readiness.

I think the US like to insist on 2 pilots for every 1 a/c deployed for US high end operations. We deployed 60+ fast jets to Iraq in 2003 and during Libya last year had around 50 fast jet deployed on various operations.
Challenger qra does not require 40 a/c. Public statements indicate 4 a/c at each location it’s more again about crew numbers to sustain 24/7 capability. Raf operate on a 5:1 sustainment ratio for aircrew so that drives what you can do.

Topman
Topman
October 30, 2012 7:56 pm

It’s not always about raw numbers bought on there own, but how many are prepared to pay for to go overseas on various ops at once? (ie FE@R) What sort of training package do you want to pay for? Without stating the obvious to my mind that’s something that’s not really looked on here by and large. Fleets within fleets will no doubt be something to avoid but I’d bet my pension they will happen. Unless you’re prepared to get enough money it’s going to happen, it’s things like this that lead to on the face of it low numbers of aircraft deployed out of a large number.
I’m sure the F35 will be better no twin stickers for a start, although that’s less of a concern say on Typhoon the twin stickers are just was capable.

@ APATS
It’s hard to pin down a number without seeing what sort of tasks are expected the training requirements. As mark said so much now will be done on sims and the hawk upgrade will reduce it further. Other things such as expected servicability, planned maintance would all effect the number. I don’t work on it so I’m guess here really. But having said those numbers look low to me, but it could work it depends what you expect each Sqn to do. You would buy the jets then get the Sqns to fit around it rather than the other way. If you mean a ‘normal FJ Sqn’ of 10-12? Again looks a bit low to me if you want 9 front line Sqns, even with cut down training you’re still going to have a big training Sqn plus an OEU. Numbers wise the upper plus a few more 180 would be better, but it’s very earlier days and it’s all a bit pokeing about in the dark with regard to numbers. Anyway APATS I hope this is of some use.

Mark
Mark
October 30, 2012 8:12 pm

Topman there has been a lot made in the civil world about sims and the pilot skill issues surrounding the air France crash. Is this being seen as an issue from the miltary side or is the selection process still robust enough?

LordJim
LordJim
October 30, 2012 8:16 pm

Well we appear to have moved into the realm of reality. I do agree that post 2030 we are looking at around 150 for the UKs FJ strength, but I do not think they will be split into 9 squadrons. I can see us operating a wing structure with 3 bases each operating a wing of between 30 and 40 jets under two squadron badges, but with a single HQ, support structure. We may go down the French route of allocating squadron names to flights but I can see the powers that be being tempted by the smaller admin footprint, however small. Jets and pilots would be pooled and allocated as required., possible bases could be Lossiemouth (pending the Scot’s doing their own thing), Conningsby and Marham. Lossiemouth would house the RAF/RN wing with the F-35Bs, with the other two opperating the ‘A’ variant

Whether the Uk need an F-35 OEU is a matter for debate. As all upgrades etc will require manufacture input. Therefore this sort of work will probably be done stateside with nations sending pilots, engineers etc to participate, like what is happening in the developement programme.

I also doubt there will be an OCU in the traditional sence, but more a base with additional simulators to take up this role as a secondry duty.

LordJim
LordJim
October 30, 2012 8:18 pm

Initial F-35 training should either be in the states of at a joint european establishment similar to what was operated at Cottesmore for the Tornado but not neccessarily in the UK

Topman
Topman
October 30, 2012 8:32 pm

@ Mark

That’s not my area if I’m honest. I wasn’t aware that it was skill issue to do with a failure in the selection process? Wasn’t it more than they were unable to ‘fly’ the a/c, unable to see beyond the computers? I’m not sure it will with FJ different enough I would have thought, but who knows?
I expect Airbus will input those lessons into the A400M training course?

Mark
Mark
October 30, 2012 8:36 pm

LJ

Indeed a possibility with the wings or dare I say expeditionary air wings. There is a Aus Canada uk joint effort at some considerable expense being talked thru for Elgin I suspect we’ll not see the ocu/oeu back to the uk but maybe wrong. should the US base there own f35s in the uk I could see a us/uk service centre at lakenheath or marham.

Topman yeah perhaps selection process was the wrong way to phrase it. Yes when presented with the auto pilot disengaging due to a pitot tube issue the crew were heavy handed in the control response which disengaged the envelope protection. This inturn lead them to a stall condition which the crew failed to recognise and lead to continued nose up pilot inputs untill it hit the water. This has lead to concerns that pilots don’t do enough a/c handling.

Topman
Topman
October 30, 2012 8:44 pm

@ Lord Jim

I agree with your thoughts on the OEU, that’s pretty much, as I understand it, will happen. A small Sqn as part of the bigger US upgrades although we will still want the ability to do some on our own. So I wouldn’t discount something more seperate at some point.
Initial training will be done out in the US, but I think we will end up with enough to have our own OCU here. Even with simulators front line Sqn need pilots trained to a certain level pooling that need into a Sqn makes sense.

@ Mark
A couple of Sqns out in Florida? (and the postings that go with it) Yes please :)

McZ
McZ
October 30, 2012 9:07 pm

@LJ
“The Typhoon in all prbability will have its service life stretched as far as possible, so being in service past 2030 is a strong possibilty.”

Possible, but how?

Wetdreams of super-duper AESA-equipped Typhoons with the Eurofighter-nations still hesitating to fund development, while the first Rafale with RBE-2 AESA was delivered October 2nd. Thus crippling the lead of the UKs radar industry within Europe in this sector.

At least, the EF-nations seem to have just managed to ‘converge requirements’. Which means, Italy has no money to spare, Spain has no money to spare, UK gets F-35 soon and Germany is only interested in exports, which will not materialize, because the German parliament is the No. 1 export hinderance.

I think, we should take the Typhoon upgrade-money and let RR develop a more efficient engine for the F-35, to be available in the early 2020s. This would make sense from both an strategic as well as an economic standpoint.

@Jeremy M
“I think that you are wildly optimistic about Taranis being in service in 2030. I for one don’t think it ever gets built, at least in that form. Again the problem is market size measured against development cost.”

The problem is company size vs. market size.

BAE is a pension fund. Pension funds hate risk. Conclusion: for BAE, this market is not worth the risk.

For a smaller company specialized on UAVs – something along the lines of a british General Atomics – this would be the only means of surivival. As is developing state-of-the-art munitions to MBDA.

When will we ever learn?

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
October 30, 2012 9:13 pm

Topman,
Plenty of RAF compliant hotels in Florida! :)

x
x
October 30, 2012 9:16 pm

“A couple of Sqns out in Florida? (and the postings that go with it) Yes please :)”

Fish. In. Barrel. :)

Topman
Topman
October 30, 2012 9:16 pm

@ APATS

Phew, good job otherwise my MP wouldn’t hear the end of it! :)

Topman
Topman
October 30, 2012 9:18 pm

@ X

Well you know what they say, any idiot can be uncomfortable ;)

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
October 30, 2012 9:29 pm

Topman,

I cannot really criticise from my rather plush villa provided by the MOD.

Topman
Topman
October 30, 2012 9:36 pm

@ APATS

Sounds nice, Naples?

OT, not many overseas postings for your mob these days, Naples and Virgina and a few FAA on the F35 any others ?

x
x
October 30, 2012 9:37 pm

@ Topman

Florida would be hell for me as I hate warm weather.

@ APATS

Plush villa? Is that Jackspeak for a room with twice the square footage of your typical officer’s cabin and in a colour that isn’t Pusser’s Grey?

Mark
Mark
October 30, 2012 9:44 pm

Topman

I’d avoid hurricane season!!

Phil
October 30, 2012 9:47 pm

The whole hurricane thing is being over blown…

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
October 30, 2012 9:47 pm

Topman,

You forget the DA/NA jobs!

X, No it is jack speak for 3 floors 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a dining room, office, sun terrace and garden:)

Topman
Topman
October 30, 2012 9:48 pm

@ Mark
Yeah but most hotels have hurricane shelters I’m sure I’d be fine. Someone’s going to tell me it’s in a mossie infested swampland now!

Topman
Topman
October 30, 2012 9:51 pm

@ APATS

‘You forget the DA/NA jobs!’

Lost me on that one.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
October 30, 2012 9:55 pm

Topman,

Attache jobs.

Topman
Topman
October 30, 2012 10:04 pm

@ APATS

Opps…

I was thinking more than one per location though.

x
x
October 30, 2012 10:09 pm

@ APATS

Gosh! Would you prefer that I call you Sir? And in future before responding to you comments should I go through Flags first instead of responding directly? :)