SDSR 2015 – The 2% Version – Part 2

A Guest Post by Martin

WARNING THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS LARGE AMOUNTS OF BACK OF THE FAG PACKET CALCULATIONS. DO NOT READ IT IF EASILY OFFENDED.

In my opinion the best area to spend any additional extra funds is on plugging capability gaps that hinder sovereign operating capability. The second area should be small increases in numbers of specific key capabilities to generate a strategic reserve and the third should be enhancement of key capabilities that can provide utility both to sovereign and allied operations.

 

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My primary change in the defence assumptions is that we can no longer assume that a major peer on peer threat is a complete impossibility. As such we need to bolster numbers and capabilities in areas that could potentially be called upon in future in such an engagement. But we must also realise our limitations and realise our budget will not support a full spectrum capability in the numbers required. Instead we must look to maintain a broad spectrum of capabilities with some strategic depth in key areas.

 

Royal Air force

Maritime Patrol Aircraft

I am not going to delve into a long debate on this. We have debated this on numerous occasions. The UK needs a Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The main emphasis of the system must be on anti-submarine warfare but we can’t afford a large fleet of one trick pony’s. An off the shelf solutions is all we have time and money for.

In my mind this all suggests a small fleet of P8 Poseidon’s. We initially purchase four aircraft with an incremental increase up to a fleet of seven. If the threat environment deteriorates further then we can consider a larger fleet.  Currently we have three crews training on P8 and we could probably scrounge up a fourth from the other seed corn members embedded with P3 Crews in other countries.

To save money and time we should rely on the US Navy for training, major maintenance and we should avoid any UK only modifications beyond the basics required for the aircraft to operate in British service. That also means relying on US weapons and sensors and not for instance trying to integrate Stingray onto it. Weapon integration on aircraft seems to run at the £150 million mark these days and that’s without having to build a wing kit as well. It’s just not money we can afford for a weapon that will likely never be deployed. So we simply buy the Mk54 Torpedo from the USA.

This way we can purchase our fleet for close to £ 1 billion and we can hope to keep the annual running costs around the £100 million mark. It’s not the fleet of 18 MRA4’s we originally envisaged but it would be a high end capability that we could afford in numbers at least able to meet our basic defence requirements.

To bolster the fleet I would also put some serious consideration into using Reaper with the Sea spray Radar and also continuing to use Sentinel R1 aircraft. This way the P8’s can concentrate on Anti-Submarine Warfare and we can gain further utility out of our reconnaissance systems when not required for overseas operations.

My selection of P8 is based on it being the quickest and least risky way to regenerate a high end fixed wing anti-submarine capability rather than it being the best aircraft or the cheapest.

Fast Jet Squadrons

Typhoon

 

The public will be highly sceptical of ever allowing large scale ground operations with British land forces. But as we have seen in the Middle East no matter how hard we try to avoid conflict sometimes as in Libya and Iraq we are left with little choice. In addition with the security threat posed by Russia we may be required to provide additional support for European sovereign air patrols. The future fast jet force of just six or seven front line squadrons is insufficient to meet possible future requirements and it has little if any strategic reserve should we ever face a pier threat.

My solution is to gradually move back up to a force of ten front line squadrons. To do this we will keep the current tranche 1 Typhoon fleet. We could do it by extending the out of service date on the Tornado fleet until the mid 2020’s but there are two issues with this. Firstly the Tornado is a two seat fighter and we would have to re-establish a training pipeline for navigators, which won’t be required after Tornado leaves service. Secondly keeping an entire additional fleet of aircraft with unique engines and systems represents a significant increase in costs that we can’t afford.

The draw back with retaining the Typhoon tranche 1 is the costs of upgrading them to tranche 3 standard. These costs have been estimated at some £24 million per aircraft. It’s also said that a great number of the tranche 1’s are in a fairly poor state, having been worked very hard over the past ten years.

My solution is to retain around 40 of the best tranche 1 airframes. Then instead of upgrading  to Tranche 3 standard, simply put them through a normal mid-life upgrade to extend their service life.

This would mean keeping the current mechanically scanned radar and computer system. It would also remove the aircraft’s ability to use Meteor missiles. To counter this issue I would simply purchase additional stocks of AMRAAM. These aircraft would then form two squadrons to provide sovereign air patrol in the UK with one in the north and one in the south.

A tranche 1 Typhoon equipped with AMRAAM is easily capable of providing a credible capability for UK Sovereign Air Patrol and QRA well into the 2030’s. In essence these aircraft would be the replacement for the F3 Tornado.

The remaining 107 Tranche 2/3 airframes could then be upgraded to Tranche 3 B standards with AESA radar. Formed into five squadrons these aircraft would become the replacement for the Tornado GR4 and would form the RAF’s main expeditionary force.

As has been pointed out in the past by commentators such as Sir Humphrey, it’s not that easy to add additional squadrons to the RAF. Training pipelines take time to produce pilots and years to modify the flow of new pilots. To counter this I would give serious consideration to copying the USA and looking at using some reserve pilots to make up the numbers on QRA squadrons as well as maintenance personnel. In addition we may follow the French and use more staff officers as pilots and accept lower readiness levels or pilot to aircraft ratios.

Given the very large concentration of airline pilots, staff officers and aircraft engineers in the south of the country it may be that we use such a system to supplement the squadron providing cover in the south and leave the squadron in the north for full time regulars. I have no doubt a lot of retiring pilots that are moving into the civil aviation industry would love to continue flying an aircraft like the Typhoon on a reduced basis.

To avoid the additional cost of operating two fleets of aircraft we would halt any further development of the tranche 1 leaving it to perform basic air to air  roles with its current weapons fit.

 

F35 Lightning II

Current defence plans are to purchase 48 F35B’s and form two front line squadrons. At any one time this force will be required to provide a squadron of 12 aircraft to the Navy’s aircraft carriers. I would like to see us add a further purchase of 18 aircraft to raise an additional front line squadron. This would allow us to maintain a squadron on a carrier while still having the flexibility to deploy a flight of four aircraft somewhere else. It could also allow us in the event of an emergency to surge up to 4 squadrons with two on each carrier. I would avoid looking at any purchase of the F35A as despite is similarity it would still be an additional aircraft in the fleet requiring its own training and development pipelines.

To counter some of the F35B’s limitations I would look at co developing external fuel tanks possibly with the Israelis and replacing the Paveway III bunker buster with the Paveway IV, although this seems to be the current plan anyway.

Adding three additional front line squadrons won’t be cheap. The annual running costs for a squadron of fast jets is put at around £200 million a year, including maintenance and upgrades. In addition we will have to buy an additional 18 or so F35B’s for around £1.5 billion.

Assuming a ten year purchase of equipment we should be able to deliver the enhancements of three additional fast jet squadrons and a Maritime Patrol Squadron for around £950 million a year.

Enhanced Capability

While the RAF’s aircraft are extremely advanced and many of its weapons are state of the art it does have one key capability gap. Since the retirement of ALARM, the RAF lacks a specific weapon for the suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD). The SPEAR 3 missile may go some way to offset this and the new AESA radar’s on the Typhoon and F35B will also have enhanced electronic attack capability. However if additional funding is available it is worth considering stepping up of the SPEAR 4 program to provide additional capability to the Storm Shadow/ SCALP missile. A multi mode seeker and a longer range could greatly enhance the RAF’s capability to engage advanced air defence’s in support of sovereign or allied operations.

Summary

Making these changes to the RAF would close its main capability gap of fixed wing anti submarine warfare, provide an additional strategic reserve of fixed wing aircraft and enhance the capability of the RAF to operate against advanced air defence systems.

77 Comments
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Chris Werb
Chris Werb
February 8, 2015 2:16 pm

Is a “pier on pier” threat the sort of thing that used to happen between South Coast Mods and Rockers in the 1960s? :)

WiseApe
February 8, 2015 3:03 pm

I would also like to see an increase in squadron numbers but with cuts expected it’s none too realistic. Also, just on Typhoons, I thought it was just not physically possible to upgrade the tranche 1s up to tranche 3 standard?

Also, as Gripen is already cleared for Meteor, perhaps a lease of a couple of squadrons worth until F-35 numbers are built up, would be more economically feasible. Typhoons of any tranche are eye-wateringly expensive to operate – I seem to recall the figure of £70,000 per hour quoted on here?

Not having MPA is a national disgrace.

mickp
mickp
February 8, 2015 3:12 pm

I agree with the thrust of this. Other options to cover you T1 option could be buy something else for example F35A (or C), Gripen or more T3s. I am going to immediately discount the F35 based option. We are in it with the B and I would only envisage an A, C or even mythical D or E buy as a future longer range strike platform option

How much would 2 or 3 squadron’s worth of Gripens or T3s cost, to be phased in as Tornado goes to OSD? My idea behind the Gripen is to keep a multi type fleet in case issues ground one type, refresh the fleet, one would hope a cheaper to maintain more robust platform for deployment in bushfire conflicts (or FI?) and with some 2 seaters can take over some top end training from the Hawks. Downside – it looks like and is a new type purchase so would be difficult to ‘sell’ unless it was a clearly VFM deal. T3s – obviously we run them now – can’t we get a decent deal on some extra?

Also missing a decent air launched unit ship missile, a modern Martel for MPA and Typhoon

mickp
mickp
February 8, 2015 3:16 pm

– beat me to it on Gripen. I see it as a modern day Jaguar (but with are to air), on the face of it much cheaper to operate than the Typhoon. So high end conflict – Typhoon expeditionary and Gripen to QRA. Lower end conflict swap them round. I think Gripen in the FI would be pretty decent also

Raffles, The Gentleman Thug
Raffles, The Gentleman Thug
February 8, 2015 3:49 pm

Surely a modified Meteor with a different seeker head would make for a better ARM? Integration work for the Meteor has already begun on the Typhoon and is likely to start on the Lightning before long.

Having a cross platform missile based on one so close to service makes more sense. It may also bring the cost of the A2A Meteor down in price, encouraging more exports.

Also how many P-8s do you plan to buy for £1bn, you didn’t state that. My fag packet maths says 5, but that’s a ‘just about 5’, assuming the billion didn’t pay for spares, training (even in the US), equipment and facilities.

WRT keeping 40 tranche 1 Typhoons, why not make those our mud movers for these silly bombing wars we seem to be having? The airframes are already on their way out and it’d be better to wear them down doing something more intensive than QRA and Red Flag.

Kongsberg have also announced today that integration work for its anti-ship missile is beginning with the F-35. A purchase of NSM for air and VLS launch would add that much vaunted commonality to the fleet.

Mark
Mark
February 8, 2015 4:00 pm

While more fastjets would be nice ain’t happening maybe you could make a case of an additional f35 unit but that’s about it. The tranche 1 comes up so often you of thought people would of understood the reasoning for there early demise but apparently not.

You’ve left out a qra there’s North, South and falklands qra. There will be 5 typhoon sqns,what I would look at is, will all jet get the aesa upgrade or will it be limited will a dedicated recon capability be added, could a more dedicated jamming capability be added to the aircraft. How will the aircraft communicate with f35. Can spares, engineer and pilot numbers to airframes numbers be increased to better allow sustained operations

On f35 why you’d be looking to add externals to the jet is beyond me at this time. We should be concentrating on its unique selling point and maximising that first it’s lower signature. The biggest question is how will f35 communicate with anything other than an f35 while in contested airspace while maintaining it’s low obseravbility this will require cost on a number of other platforms.

Reaper can take over a number of the cheaper constabulary tasks, can we get it integrated to fly in civil airspace can we get it more integrated with other platforms. Can we get paveway 4 and or brimstone on it.

Probably the biggest sovereign strategic capability that will need to be looked at is the possible requirement for an mpa, what we do with awacs, rc135, and sentinel, along with the people that use there info and others to allocate and ok targets for attack.

Donald of Tokyo
Donald of Tokyo
February 8, 2015 4:26 pm

Although I know you do not like this idea, but how about used-P-3C for MPA, get it from, say, Japan (or US or Australia)?

– it is fully equipped and “proven”
– it is cheap (I assume you need only 8 airframes to fly. And, in addition, you can get several for cannibalizing)
– you can get it “right now”, say within 1-2 years.
– it can fly for 15-20 years from now (actually the newest airframe is from Japan Kawasaki, made in 1997). History shows that even without re-wing, it can fly for 35 years or so. If you re-wing, it will fly for 50-60 years (e.g. NZ P-3K). Then you can think of their replacements AFTER the Trident Replacement program.

just as an idea …

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2015 4:33 pm

There is the big question:

“requirement for an mpa, what we do with awacs, rc135, and sentinel, along with the people that use there info and others to allocate and ok targets for attack.”

EP14 tells us that this spend will be higher than this year’s until we enter the 20’s. Difficult to tell exactly, though, as large a/c platforms for ISTAR have been lumped into a different category.

Observer
Observer
February 8, 2015 4:34 pm

Donald, it’s not that we don’t like it, it is that we talked about it so much that it is automatically assumed to be one of the options!

Challenger
Challenger
February 8, 2015 4:39 pm

I understand the problems with either upgrading the Typhoon T1’s or retaining some Tornado’s beyond 2019, the expense of upgrades, the training pipeline, running costs etc.

However i also can’t get away from the fact that we were still operating 9 fast-jet squadrons until this time last year, which was quite a long while after the initial 2010-2011 reductions and ripple effect on training and support contracts.

So do the difficulties in retaining a larger force all boil down to a lack of money? Or are there additional hidden problems that would make a 9-10 squadron force a lot trickier to regenerate even if the money was stumped up tomorrow?

Hannay
Hannay
February 8, 2015 4:39 pm

Gripen doesn’t have Meteor fully integrated. Its just been used as a trial launch aircraft so far. Much in a similar way as Typhoon IPA1 test aircraft.

The £70000 per hour cost of Typhoon is the whole life cost of the programme divided by the number of aircraft and expected number of flight hours. It is not a sensible figure to use to compare to the running costs given for other aircraft as it includes development costs, infrastructure costs, costs for the DE&S PT etc.

MOD has also given the incremental cost per flight hour for Typhoon (i.e. the additional cost of flying for an extra hour – fuel plus marginal support cost). This figure is £8000 per hour which compares to that given for Gripen of c. £3500 per hour. There is obviously a cost saving there but this is tiny compared to the cost of having to set up a completely support arrangement for a different aircraft type.

I’m guessinv you’re not doing a post for Joint Forces Command – in which case what about ISTAR aircraft? The current plan is that all air ISTAR platforms will be retired by 2025. No MPA, no Sentry, no Sentinel, no Airseeker, no Shadow. This should be priority number 1 to fix as its a massive force enabler and will be key to operating in the future congested and cluttered environment. Its also a key capability for the UK to bring to the EU or NATO.

Single most cost effective thing we can do in the short term to improve the UK’s air combat power is buying lots more Reaper. Not great for fighting Russia in an open war but most cost effective for other expeditionary operations.

Rocket Banana
February 8, 2015 4:56 pm

Couldn’t agree with Hannay more regarding Reaper…

All expeditionary COIN and associated surveillance can be done with MQ9 and Brimstone.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2015 5:28 pm

I was quoting from Mark, but Hannay must have been writing simultaneously with me, so just to attest to the same thing/ worry/ priority:

“all air ISTAR platforms will be retired by 2025. No MPA, no Sentry, no Sentinel, no Airseeker, no Shadow. This should be priority number 1 to fix as its a massive force enabler ” … Still (?) No MPA?

Andrew
Andrew
February 8, 2015 5:35 pm

“… major pier on pier threat …” Sorry Martin, but the moment a simple error like this appears, I’m out.

monkey
monkey
February 8, 2015 5:44 pm


“So we simply buy the Mk54 Torpedo from the USA.”
Indeed , I am pretty sure we will not be flying P8 from CVF/T45/T26 etc so initially not an short or medium term issue. Come a war needing actual use of anti-submarine torpedoes we will operate from the same bases or the US will supplies planeloads to help stop their carriers joining Davy Jones Locker. As Hannay pointed out our ISTAR fleet will be retired by 2025 and as Boeing are well on the way to adapting the P8 airframe for this role it would seem a logical step. The US even train their flight crews to complete their own ground engineer pre flight maintainance as well as refuelling their own aircraft using equipment on the many many 737 capable airfields available in the world.

WiseApe
February 8, 2015 5:53 pm

@Hannay – Thanks for clearing up the operating cost of Typhoon. Still, £4,500 per hour per plane per year certainly adds up.

The Other Chris
February 8, 2015 6:29 pm

@Mark

Talk of RAPTOR pods being moved to Typhoon, are the Sentinel R1 upgrades new DB-110’s? Or are Typhoon pods new build?

Still looking forward to a Reaper/RAPTOR combination (Reaper/Sea Spray ofc).

Mark
Mark
February 8, 2015 6:44 pm

Toc

It’s unlikely the raptor (recon airborne pod for tornado) will move as is across to typhoon. It would need to be compatible with typhoon centre fuselague store position and there may not be room as its a big pod. The sensor could be put in a smaller pod or there is potiential for reccelite as this is essentially a variation of the litening targeting pod already carried however it would not provide the same level of capability as raptor.

ChrisW
ChrisW
February 8, 2015 7:16 pm

No ISTAR after 2025 or needs replacement in 2025? I don’t call the former a plan, I call it sitting under the table with your fingers in your ears going “la, la,la”! Are there 2 serious threats to the UK at the moment or not? Answered by a deafening “Are we penniless or what?” I get that, but Putin and the mad decapitators are not scared of our 0.7% overseas aid promise or our multi-billion investment in future power cuts, aka “renewables”.

Should have had Gripen over 10 years ago – might be a better bet than these used F-16 ideas, though.

Thankfully, no barmy armed Hawks in this post! I see Northrop have seen sense and ditched it for T-X.

A Harpoon replacement is urgently required, even more so by the US. What happens when the US stops Tomahawk production?

Don’t NATO aircraft have standard suspension and carriage yet? I believe the P-8s pylons are made in Dorset so just pop along and have a word, someone.

shark bait
shark bait
February 8, 2015 7:21 pm

No way should gripen be considered. Why sink billions of pounds on developing our own aircraft and then purchase its main competition. That would be horrendous and total political suicide so thankfully that won’t happen!
Also the operational savings would be minimal once set up costs, training costs, maintenance costs and other admin costs are considered.

Totally agree with keeping the tranch 1 on board.
An alternative could be selling them It could be attractive to a military looking for a quick procurement of an aircraft with great air policing and some ground attack capability.
Then use the funds from the sale to purchase more tranch 3. That way we get swing role as well as keeping production lines going longer.

Also that £70,000 per flying hour for the typhoon includes capitol costs, so not a great indicator

shark bait
shark bait
February 8, 2015 8:03 pm

Did a little digging on the standard marginal flying hour cost:

Typhoon – £3,875 [1]
Gripen – £3,087 [2]
Tornado – £4,900 [3]

[1]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121106/text/121106w0001.htm#121106117000040
[2]http://www.stratpost.com/gripen-operational-cost-lowest-of-all-western-fighters-janes
[3]https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/11/parliamentary-answers-to-8th-november-2012/

mickp
mickp
February 8, 2015 8:03 pm

@sharkbait, I hear what you say but it wouldn’t be the first time we have wasted billions on our own aircraft and then bought competition, TSR2, Nimrod. The issue is the waste of billions in the first place and how a programme for what is a very decent 4th gen aircraft has cost so much and been on a snails pace for capability enhancement. . Other than CVF use, I would refrain from any further F35s unless the price comes down and the range goes up in future variants. By my reckoning it does leave us 50-55 fast jets short from 8ish pure land based RAF squadrons that many feel is a minimum. Assuming Tornado will be phased out as a two seater we are left with either T1s, more T3s or something else (or of course just gap it). I would strongly prefer more T3s while the line is still going as I fear the T1s will become a drain on resources if used for other than a short term fix. However it comes down to cost. Pride and the billions of waste aside, I think Gripen would do a job at decent value. Having said all that I think it will all be just gapped – leaving us with 107 Typhoons and c50 F35Bs, at what total cost?

monkey
monkey
February 8, 2015 8:29 pm

@Sharkbait
The costs of Typhoon v Gripen are very close despite the 2 engines v 1 engine variance . Given possible combat losses due to engine damage Typhoon seems the overall better bet being more able to get the airframe and all that ultra expensive electronics home rather than looking for a place to eject in the Gripen.

Topman
Topman
February 8, 2015 8:39 pm

Re Raptor

It won’t fit on the CL it’s far too big unless a redesign takes place. Have a look how close the drop tank is to the inner u/c doors now. Raptor is bigger than that.
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/418131146626215688/

If it goes anywhere it’ll be where the wing drop tanks go now.

Mark
Mark
February 8, 2015 8:52 pm

Topman

Yep the landing gear doors was my concern with the centre line carriage and possibly ground clearance with deflated tires at landing or takeoff rotation. I would have thought there maybe some significant envelope restrictions as a result of the assymetric loading from a wing station carriage which would probably lead to a centre line carriage.

Think Defence
Admin
February 8, 2015 9:00 pm
Reply to  Mark

If RAPTOR goes anywhere it will look like this image

!!

Topman
Topman
February 8, 2015 9:07 pm

@Mark

Yes the doors are quite close together and there’s no space to go forward or backwards. It would yes, but it’ll fly with a single SS so it would be something possible from that perspective. Of course though there are other issues to overcome.

@ TD

Forgotten a link?

shark bait
shark bait
February 8, 2015 9:20 pm

@mickp, the Gripen is a capable aircraft, Sweden and Saab have done a remarkably well jobbing on by themselves. From a purely technical standpoint they could be a suitable fit, however the future of the RAF lies solely in the F35 and typhoon (+ some drones) and that’s a very potent force, its just the numbers are a little small.

We could do with more of both if some more pounds can be found, but not the F35A variant, the focus should solely be on the STOVL variant.

Speaking of the future, I like martins suggestion of a mix of Sentinels and P8. Thats a nice creative option that could work well and be relatively cheap. Use the saving for some more fast jets.

Allan
Allan
February 8, 2015 9:40 pm

“how hard we try to avoid conflict sometimes as in Libya and Iraq we are left with little choice.”

Which Iraq – GWI or GWII. Arguably from a UK point of view GWII was totally avoidable and from a long term strategic perspective a total disaster given the current situation.

In terms of Libya – what were we doing there again? How has that turned out for UK / Western interests.

Mark
Mark
February 8, 2015 9:45 pm

Topman

Gd point on the ss.

Shark bait

If there going to go down the p8 (I don’t believe they should) route then there’s little point hanging onto sentinel, the mix should be the p8 and the challenger msa variant boeing are doing with the same mission systems in it. With uav integration were appropriate, but it will be a pretty big bill.

Allan
Allan
February 8, 2015 9:46 pm

” 18 or so F35B’s for around £1.5 billion.”

How many drones could we get for £1.5bn? They seem to be doing the job in parts hot and sandy at the moment and are apparently much cheaper to run.

Is it really necessary for the RN / RAF to have such ‘top of the line’ jets when other options (if slightly less good) appear to be available for a much cheaper cost. Can anyone seriously – I’d be really interested – point out a situation where 18 aircraft (at hundreds of millions of pounds each) would make that much difference in comparison to less capable aircraft in higher numbers?

Hannay
Hannay
February 8, 2015 9:52 pm

@sharkbait

It does have to be remembered that the Gripen is not as capable as Typhoon in any role so its not a like with like comparison. Good enough? Only if you’re willing to take risk on what threats you go up against – in which case you could probably go for something even simpler (like the ALR Piranha)

What is interesting is the very different approach to development taken by Sweden. It has to be remembered that Gripen has not been created by Sweden themselves. The Swedish bits are the airframe (although 25-50% of the design and manufacture is UK) and the original radar (again largely UK). What they’ve done well is integrate different bits into a whole system that works.

Its a similar story with the new Gripen NG. The bit that Saab are doing is a structural redesign. Pretty much all the new gucci kit is from elsewhere in Europe (and mostly from the UK, radar, ESM, IRST, DAS, cockpit).

Completely disagree on a UK fleet of only F-35B. We won’t be able to do effective QRA after Typhoon leaves service in 2030.

mickp
mickp
February 8, 2015 9:56 pm

@shark bait – I reluctantly agree that we are where we are but the question is why did we end up with a small silver bullet airforce comprised of two pretty awfully managed programmes (even if the aircraft are proven to be decent). I feel we dithered on Typhoon when really should have gone for them in bulk and ditched Tornado earlier. We do need F35B, there is no disputing that but I’ll eat my hat if we ever get more than say 60. I think ‘too small’ is an understatement

If there is some capacity for more jets I would still go for Gripen as a risk and cost reducer. At least it can keep QRA covered in UK and FI if the small force of big boys have to be somewhere else on land and sea. It would also be much more cost effective in low intensity stuff than the other two. If two seater took out the top tier of Hawks it becomes an even better fit

Anyway pure fantasy land – 5 squadrons Typhoon and most likely 2 of F35 (FAA and RAF) is where we will end up. Notwithstanding the quality of these planes, bar MPA I feel FJ shortfall is the largest hole in the current UK force structure.

mickp
mickp
February 8, 2015 10:01 pm

@Hannay – never realised it had that much UK input. Almost home grown

The Other Chris
February 8, 2015 10:19 pm

Are any of the F-35’s suitable for replacing Typhoon in QRA?

Even if AETD achieves its goals and it achieves full supercruise as well as 25% efficiency, the figures still don’t compare.

Or are we looking at a future with QRA being performed by Son of Taranis controlled from the ground with an F-35 joining it for man-in-the-loop?

Mark
Mark
February 8, 2015 10:22 pm

the gripen is capable of doing qra however when you look at UK qra and in particular the northern qra it requires very long transits over water, this lead to a requirement for a twin engine jet with decent fuel fraction, now there is an argument that single engined jet are as reliable as twins but thats a huge debate.

Second typhoon was designed to fight and win against the su-27 and later variants. Why the su-27 well like during ww2 and the intro of the mustang the su-27 and later variants became the russian fighters that could escort their bombers all the way to firing range on the UK and they are very capable foes. These types of formations have been seen recently over the Balkans. This calls for an aircraft that can get a warload very high and retain the power requirement to go fast and manoeuvre aggressively to conduct high altitude bvr combat. Typhoon is it, the only comparable western aircraft in service or in design is f22 and f15. You can decide to reduce that requirement and go for something else but you accept that capability downgrade.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 8, 2015 10:31 pm

Peter Luff and Bob Ainsworth have written a joint article for the Telegraph arguing to protect the armed forces from further cuts :-) they are obviously softening us up for cross-party agreement to adopt the Green Party proposals in respect of Defence. :-(

GNB

shark bait
shark bait
February 8, 2015 10:39 pm

@mark, Absolutely correct, the typhoon is the best QRA aircraft available to us. F22 is nice but the Russians will just come when its raining!

@TOC I think the F35-A would be a step down in QRA capability, less speed, range, climb rate and manoeuvrability. The B variant would be even worse. I think we are looking at a future of son of taranis for QRA (which is fantastic IMO). Also I don’t think the decision has been made on whether it will be totally unmanned yet.

@mickp totally agree with your comment on dithering on the typhoon. The program wasnt well managed, but what can you expect with all those companies and countries involved. Should have got ground attack done ages ago and replaced tornado.

@Hannay I never suggested buying the grippen. Also my discussion is about 2015 sdr. Come 2035 your correct, we will need something to compliment the F35

cky7
cky7
February 8, 2015 10:42 pm

More interesting ideas, thanks martin.

I’m not sure i’d go for retaining T1 tiffies, off what i’ve read it will cause a lot of problems and create another fleet within a fleet issue.
I’d like a few more Reapers but i’ve read a few times stories of JTACs not rating them at all in the close support role. Pretty sure the author of Fire Strike 7/9 – very good and well worth a read – was one of those to claim he’d rather not have them covering him – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fire-Strike-7-Paul-Grahame/dp/0091938082
Also I really don’t see why on earth we’d want to buy Gripens. Couldn’t one of the top end Hawk models cover all roles we’d want it to, especially in lower end situations, leaving Typhoon/F35 with less miles on the clock for more difficult opponents? I’d imagine it could cover a lot of fast jet CAS roles pretty well, particularly against ISIS/whatever bearded idiots in flip flops we need to kill next?!! :)
With Hawks you also get the advantage of it being British and something we already operate so offers much better value for money and plenty of capability IMO.
It also fits in with the general theme I’d personally be looking to stick to in any recommendations I’d make for spending any extra money. I remember starting new roles in the past and being full of ideas but realising after being in the role for sometime why they were no good. Similarly, I always see people turning up wanting to change things with no idea of how to do the role and its very frustrating when they argue with you when you try to explain why their concept won’t work. ‘ve repeatedly read comments by guys like APATS and others here getting frustrated with suggestions on how to improve things by people who haven’t actually got experience in the job. As they’ve said many times a lot of very experienced people spend a lot of time thinking about and planning this sort of thing so with that in mind I’d tend to bow to their experience and go with what we have but just modest increases in numbers in key areas.
For instance a few more Typhoons and F35s would be excellent. As would some more A400s or even one or two C-17s if theres time left? I’d definitely want to see us stock up on Tomahawks too whenever any spare cash becomes available. I’d also look at maximising the capabilities of everything we’ve already got in service across the forces. Are there upgrades/improvements we didn’t make cos we hadn’t the budget that would be really helpful in any key programs? Could we squeeze out another Astute or two? Would it be worth exploring additional roles for the A400 (see TD’s articles!)?
The very first thing i’d spend money on though isn’t kit but people. From everything i’ve read moral in the forces seems to be really low. Addressing this would surely improve our capabilities more than any bit of kit? Whether its pay rises, boosting numbers (particularly int he RN/RAF) or anything I think we need to address the number of people we seem to be losing in all three services and making them happier. I do tend to think a more positive govt attitude and increase in spending would help with this though and would also make recruitment easier.
If i was to indulge in a bit of fantasy fleet (just to contradict what i’ve written above!), Martin’s point about getting a ARM i think is something we urgently need since we lost ALARM. EW capability isn’t great in the RAF and all of Europe and the whole lot needs looking at. We’d be screwed if ever we had to go at it against a peer without the yanks (who haven’t got as much as they’d like too). I’d like to see us getting some next gen jamming pods on the F35s. For a missile, there was talk a while back of a meteor ARM. This i’d love to see and would probably be a BIG export winner IMO. If memory serves it could become really versatile and also perform like the Russian AWACS killer missile. As some one mentioned in the open thread the other day what about those USAF Compass calls heading for the bone yard? Could they not be taken up on a deal similar to the Rivet Joints? Imagine if we had those three capabilities, we’d have a massive uplift in capability and make ourselves very valuable to ANY future coalition ops.

shark bait
shark bait
February 8, 2015 10:54 pm

yey, some one else who would like to see us getting some more use out of the hawks. The old hawks have been used for the short range interceptor roll before, and the RAF still list them as active with sidewinder missiles. They are also proven to be robust in arid environments so could be used for close support if that had a few brimstones under the wing. I find it an interesting proposition. It may get some export potential from poorer air forces.

thing is would the money be better spend building a next gen reapers, perhaps a scaled up watch keeper with brimstone. Could that fit a close support roll?
(or taranis)

Challenger
Challenger
February 8, 2015 11:12 pm

I agree with the idea that Typhoon should have been capitalized on many years ago, looking back it seems under withering fire about it’s increasing costs and delays the decision makers of the day bottled it. Hacking the total number back to 160 but with 53 prematurely scrapped and a major slowdown on it’s ground-attack capabilities provided some short-term rest-bite from the criticism but i don’t think was the best decision in the long-run.

Of course our European partners also dragged their heels and mounting global economic woes didn’t exactly help the situation.

Bit late now but 10 years ago the better alternative would have been to have held our nerve and aimed for a larger, more useful fleet and at a faster pace to ensure that we maximized the result on our hefty investment rather than ending up many years down the line with a partially capable, partially useful and rather small force.

I still don’t really understand why Typhoon with Storm-Shadow, Brimstone, Paveway and Conformal fuel tanks and a decent targeting pod wasn’t and to a large extent still isn’t considered a worthy Tornado replacement.

Observer
Observer
February 8, 2015 11:26 pm

Er… guys, we seem to be missing a key topic here. How are you going to pay for all the new toys? So before we start spending, can we find areas where we can make a quick buck before we spend the money? I know a lot of people say “Cut the foreign aid”, but is there any other way to increase revenue?

adam
adam
February 8, 2015 11:43 pm

the post suggests their may be some spare cash to play with in the SDSR. I don’t think anyone was suggesting a new 6th gen fighter but I believe a few less ambitious additions are feasible.

More revenue? merge national insurance and income tax with a slight increase, cut pensions & welfare, then give a bit more to health, science and defense.

curious onlooker
curious onlooker
February 9, 2015 7:16 am

One of the things that has puzzled me for a long time is the focus on fast jets. Most of the conflicts the UK has been involved with have not really needed a fast jet to drop bombs on Johnny foreigners. In fact fast jets are thirsty and lack loiter times as compared to some off the shelf coin aircraft. These airframes surely would worthwhile a thought. Brazil uses them in patroling the amazon. Air tractors have produced an ugly looking attack aircraft yet its small and surely wouldn’t cost the thousands of pounds an hour.

I am not an expert just interested. Quite like the Gripen. Deeply skeptical about F35 as it looks as aerodynamic as a brick.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 9, 2015 7:54 am

A short Gripen histoty, compliments of Wikipedia:

“Saab Military Aircraft and British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) formed in 1995 the joint venture company Saab-BAe Gripen AB, to manufacture, market and support Gripen internationally. This co-operation was extended in 2001 with the formation of Gripen International for the same purpose.[13]

From 1998 until 2005 the largest shareholder in Saab was the British aerospace company BAE Systems, following its acquisition of a 35% stake from Investor AB by its predecessor, British Aerospace. In January 2005, BAE Systems reduced its shareholding to 20%. Investor AB maintained a 20% share.

In December 2005 Saab joined the Dassault nEUROn project as a major partner”
– so the UK connection had been a little but less close since 2005, but had not affected the components in any way (not 100% sure of that for NG, for which there had been a lot of dithering between remanufacture and New build)

PJS
PJS
February 9, 2015 9:46 am

My tuppence worth…

I agree almost completely with the conclusion of the author though prefer some other options in the detail…

Ten RAF fast jet squadrons is the minimum required [I stress RAF as I firmly believe the FAA should have four F35B for carrier operations].

Tranche 1 should be retained for the two QRA requirements, as the author says, but I would go further and use additional aircraft to operate an OCU squadron [in addition to the ten] that also covers the flight necessary for the FI tasking. Further, I would forward base a flight from this OCU in the USA for occasions like Red Flag [how much did it cost to get the aircraft over for this year’s event?] No upgrading radar etc, just get the maximum use from them until, lets plan, 2025.

I do rather question those who draw attention to the 1] costs of Typhoon, 2] the restricted budgets that we have, and 3] the ‘fleet within fleet issues’, then suggest we bring an additional type, most often Gripen, into the picture.

While, no doubt, there are some marginal issues in operating Tranche 1, in parallel to the rest of the fleet upgrading to Tranche 3b, they are already purchased, are more than adequate for the role envisaged, and how it would not compare favourably to the purchasing of new aircraft [including all set-up costs, training et al] I would be keen to know.

Yes, 5 squadrons of upgraded Tranche 2/3. I am not a pilot or a defence professional so would welcome a reason why these aircraft don’t give the RAF a decent platform for the plethora of ordnance currently at its disposal.

Which leads me to the venerable Tornado. I understand that a lot of the stuff that is useful in dealing with Her Majesties foes isn’t yet compatible with Typhoon – for whatever reason [many detailed on this site]. So if I can understand it then hopefully the much smarter politicians are being well briefed as to why cutting them all in the next SDSR would seriously curtail options when dealing with said foe. A hint of this realism may be seen in the decision to extend the OSD for the third squadron.

In terms of the navigator issue, I like the authors thinking. How many former Tonka navigators [WSO] are now staff officers? Can they not all do a shift. What if these 3 squadrons drew on a similar pool that are interested in returning as reserves, in their ‘spare time’ as the TV campaign for the RAF puts it. More seriously, how much of the role’s core training is similar to roles that might be needed at the back of an MPA? Is there some synergy?

oh… I have gone on a bit… I will return with MPA …

monkey
monkey
February 9, 2015 10:53 am

@Observer
“but is there any other way to increase revenue?”
As soon as the elections over start issuing licences from shale oil and gas exploration and production from UK Government land , preferably MoD , on a use it or lose it basis to prevent speculators with no intent on drilling sitting on options waiting for a buyer for their license. With prices at an all time low there is plenty of equipment and the trained men to use it willing to work.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
February 9, 2015 11:31 am

Re: Typhoon in RAF service.

Am I the only one here who remembers the EAP project from 1986? This was a tech demonstrator by BAe to get HMG and the EFA consortium to pull their fingers out in getting what became Typhoon put into the final design phase. It was an 80% aircraft, with full airframe and power integration and nav systems including HUD and CRT’s for the attack systems. The reason? Most of the British companies involved gave examples of their kit for integration in the hopes they’d be selected as suppliers into the EFA consortium. 80% of the way to a fully operational a/c, all British and in 1986, fer Christ’s sake! And instead of ordering final integration and production, it was only used as a stick to beat the Germans with to get them to commit to EFA2000!

And on that subject. The two main delays on EFA2000/Typhoon were the French leaving the program in the early 1980’s and the constant (and I mean *constant*) prevarication by Helmut Kohl’s West German government on commiting funds to the project that they’d actually signed up for! The original goal (an achievable one) was for initial service deliveries in the late 1990’s, but the constant penny-pinching and dithering from the EU’s “economic powerhouse” is the main cause of the delay. Disgraceful, and I thought the French were bad multi-national partners!

Which brings me to my final point. Can everybody *please* stop referring to Tranche1 / Tranche2 / Tranche3 Typhoons? The tranches were only a cost accountants artifice to show at what time specific blocks of a/c were bought! Like all other Western aircraft programmes, Typhoon uses a block system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurofighter_Typhoon_variants).

So, the a/c/ we bought in Tranche 1 are actually Block 1 (T.1) and Block 2 (T.1A & F.2), which should have been upgraded to Block 5 by now. IIRC none of these aircraft can be economically upgraded further as the whole data bus and cabling needs to be ripped out and replaced with bulkier types for the enhanced radar and nav/attack systems. This requires “bigger holes” to be drilled in the bulkheads which might compromise structural integrity. In other words, it’s much more efficient to buy later block a/c.

Out FGR.4 a/c are block 15, and wil doubtless be upgraded to later block equivalents.

There. Rant over. Time to breathe.

PJS
PJS
February 9, 2015 11:34 am

@ Observer
“but is there any other way to increase revenue?”

may I speculate …

An infrastructure levy on bank’s profits to raise four billion per year over 5 years [ie period of next government]

An infrastructure levy on energy companies’ profits to raise two billion per year over 5 years

An additional one per cent tax on all financial transactions through London stock exchange – The daily turnover traded in July 2011 was £4.4 billion (€5.0 billion) and the daily number of trades 611,941

A one per cent tax on all credit card transactions – In February 2014, there were 175 million credit card transactions, worth a total of £10.4 billion.

An infrastructure levy on all non-EU mobile phone calls – slightly punitive. but I am tired of listening to inane conversations in the street, at full volume, on a ”cell phone’ on a less than urgent matter.

All non -EU visitors to have medical insurance when visiting UK – organisations that offer this insurance have to be licensed, by UK authorities, and these funds go to the NHS.

AndyC
February 9, 2015 1:01 pm

Really can’t see the point of adding a totally different combat aircraft such as Gripen. Extra cost and maintenance for no real extra capability.

According to one of the NAO reports it would cost £1.35 billion to upgrade all 49 tranche 1 Typhoons to tranche 3 level which is just too much (£27 million each).

However, the cheapest deal might well be to just add Meteor integration at about £100 million or so and a simpler AESA radar such as Northrop’s SABR or Raytheon’s RACR. Their designed to operate with legacy aircraft that are older and more basic than the Typhoon and aren’t supposedly all that expensive. I’ve seen some estimates of U$5 million per unit, so about £160 million for the fleet.

I’m sorry but I think Martin is way underestimating the P-8 cost – I doubt we’d get more than 5 for £1 billion. I believe we could afford 7-8 for the MPA role and 4-5 to replace Sentinel and maybe Shadow. Put Sting Ray and Joint Strike Missiles on it (to ensure commonality with helicopters and F-35 respectively and to share stocks) and spend up to £3 billion. I’m pretty sure it’s affordable and would plug both the maritime and ISTAR gap.

Observer
Observer
February 9, 2015 1:12 pm

PJS, some of it sounds a bit dodgy, but a large chunk of it does sound good!

The Other Chris
February 9, 2015 1:14 pm

Re: Nuclear Deterrent

Trident et al may not have prevented these*:

http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour4/manchesterira1.jpg

But there is an argument we’ve not seen this in Europe for 75 years**:

http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/wp-content/uploads/cologne1.jpg

* Arndale Shopping Centre, 1996
** “Thousand Bomber” attack on Cologne, circa 1942

Re: ASW assets

Huge amount of information available to show their employment over the years from informing the White House to the full situation in Cuba to snipping towed arrayed sonar off Russian patrol ships.

Jeremy M H
February 9, 2015 1:54 pm

The Gripen operating cost numbers that the manufacture floats around is pretty much garbage in my view and it massively distorts the debate about the aircraft. There is a reason the thing has seen massively limited success when they have tried to export it. I forget who actually did their own study of the numbers (on the old model…I think it was the Swiss) and came up with a much higher and more reasonable operating cost figure but the popular one you most often see quoted is likely way too low.

Other than introducing another aircraft type for no real capability gain there are lots of unknowns with the Gripen, particularly if you are buying the new model. The price for Brazil jumped from $4.5 billion to $5.8 billion in between announcing the winner of the competition and putting pen to paper. Now there are a ton of variable in that stuff (Brazil is doing a lot of this for tech imports to support their industry) and you can’t know how much that adds to the base cost of the aircraft but that comes out to $161 million per aircraft. And they have not really started building it yet. When they do they will hit problems just like every other aircraft builder does and price will creep up again.

Also regarding drones I will continue to beat the drum that people really need to dial back their expectations here. For permissive environments they are great. Put a good area SAM system in play and they are likely not all that useful (at least the cheap ones people like to tout). Try using them against a country that can play electronic warfare games and I think they become fairly useless.

And I say that as a person who likes drones and sees a huge future for them. Its just not here yet to replace what fast jets do. For platforms like the A-10, the AC-130 and even the Apache it can replace some of the things they do. It really is just another tool though. It something else to spend money on, not something cheaper that can replace something else entirely.

cky7
cky7
February 9, 2015 3:42 pm

Martin,

Ok, see your point re ALARM meteor and agree we’d be best with upgraded Storm shadow and and spear 3. I’m still not sure about the T1 Typhoons but do see the logic in your argument. I’d quite like to see some analysis of what would offer better capability retaining them vs a very small increase in purchases of the later models and making sure we get absolute maximum capability out of those. Could we then fund things like the strakes aerodynamic package (not happening at present?) and possible conformal tanks – last i read these were looking uncertain too? Also with all the weight being added to the later blocks i do wonder if it would be worth exploring an engine upgrade, wasn’t the EJ220 designed to have 30% thrust improvement margin? I’d imagine this might work out too ambitious but would be worth at least asking the question.
I’d also still like to see us commit to the next generation jammer for our F35Bs. We’re spending a lot on them and this would give a big capability lift and make us popular in any coalition ops.

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
February 9, 2015 5:07 pm

Is any other airforce (Spain, Italy, Germany,) looking at reducing their numbers of block 8+ Typhoons? Could we buy any from them? Or could we pay a bit to swap our block 5’s for their block 15/20’s, so we’d have a fleet entirely of the highest capability block 20+’s planes?

cky7
cky7
February 10, 2015 1:10 am

Martin, sorry not sure how i’d missed that one, I had it in my head that the USMC planned to operate it with the F35B, but having just checked i can’t find where the hell i got that one from!

The Ginge
The Ginge
February 10, 2015 4:02 pm

Having Now read both articles and the comments I would like to just add my 2p’s worth from an informed Civilian perspective and add a few questions to try and pierce the bubble of Group think.
1. Why do we need to “upgrade” the T1 or Blockxxx of the Typhoon aircraft? As I understand it they are quite happy operating in the Air Defence Role now, they are not structurally knackered; they can do the job, apart from integrating new missiles. As a layman why do we need to change them at all, are they going to be obsolete and unable to defend UK airspace in the next 10yrs if not then leave well enough alone. Out of 49 Planes I would expect two active QRA Squadrons and 4 planes in FI to be provided. Why spend the money when you don’t have too ?
2. If we then have 5 T3 or block xxxx Typhoons spend the money on them integrating all of the missiles, reconnaissance pods etc until it fully replaces the Tornedo and base them at Marham as you main overseas deployment base. It is cheaper to have 1 airframe than 2 (ie buy Grippen) and they are not as expensive as the F35B’s are. Give Typhoon Conformal Fuel Tanks and anti-radar missiles etc. Make it the plane it should be.
3. Keep buying Typhoon to keep Wharton open, and then look at developing Taranus to replace Typhoon production. Buy enough planes to stand up 2 more Squadrons.
4. Stop the F35B buy at 48 and make then dedicated to Aircraft Carriers to pay for more Typhoons, with 2 standard Squadrons and 1 OCU/Reserve Squadron for a Surge to 36. Use the money saved in the talk of buying 100 odd and develops Taranus and Typhoon. Develop the F35’s a SEAD/First Strike Aircraft but apart from Sovereign events we will be operating with F18’s/F22/US F35’s that can do that task whilst Typhoon brings some significant numbers.
5. That gives you 2 pure QRA Typhoon Squadrons (Plus a small OCU/Reserve Squadron), 5 Multi Role Typhoon Squadrons and 3 Tornado Sq now for a total of 10Sq by 2018/20. In the long term you replace the 3 Tornado Squadrons between 2018 to 2025 with 2 more Typhoon Multi Role Sq and then from 2022 the 2 F35 Sq come on line providing cover for the Aircraft Carrier Deployments.
6. As to MPA. My view is the RAF talked up the failure of C130’s to make sure no bright spark at the MOD cancelled the A400. Send them through a Life Extension Programme if you have to, but it’s a darn sight cheaper than buying new aircraft, Lockhead Martin already have the design and equipment ready to go, you can still use stingray, you can replace the C130’s as needed by which time say 2025 most of Europe will be looking to replace P3’s so a European option might be possible, plus it uses equipment being used by Seedcorn initiative now. If it’s good enough for SF then it should be good enough for MPA. Am I saying absolutely the best nope, but it is the best for the money we have. In the long term you move all ISAR equipment on to C130’s picking up cheap examples if you can from the US inventory due to their Cuts, all already planned and developed by Lockhead Martin. No new aircraft types, no new maintenance contracts, a known entity that will fly another 30yrs if looked after well, just upgraded the equipment inside them as you go.
Because ultimately this is about money, money, money and I think the MOD needs to save every little bit we can. If that means going second hand or not optimal on gold platting everything then I think that is where we are. If you ain’t got to spend it don’t spend it.

monkey
monkey
February 10, 2015 4:58 pm

@The Ginge
Well said.

The Other Chris
February 10, 2015 5:38 pm

1. You’ll find quite a lot of support for operating T1’s in the QRA role with an eye to upgrading them over the coming years depending on remaining life.

2. Committee on Public Accounts peg the RAF’s Typhoon cost at £126m-£133m each. Will that be cheaper than F-35B at full production run?

4. 48 aircraft are not enough to sustain two Carriers at full operation. Whereas the initial operation when the two carriers come into service may not be to carry full fast jet loads, why limit your capacity over the 50 years lifespan of the vessels?

6. There is no evidence a C-130 based MPA would be cheaper than any other option. With regards to funds, please review the equipment budget comments and articles on the site to indicate the Equipment Plan pot not only more than enough for the equipment but is unlikely to receive clawbacks.

Peter Elliott
February 10, 2015 6:15 pm

Ginge

I agree that in the next 5 years Typhoon is the only game in town and we need to maximise the utility of what we have. Even in 2020-5 F35B will still be ramping up. Where it gets interesting is after 2025 when F35B will be both technically mature and with manufacture optimised. At that point it might just be time to bulk buy in order to maximise the utility of the Carriers.

Whether we have to buy anything extra in 2020 to bridge ‘the gap’ depends on both the fiscal and the threat situation at that time. But technically Typhoon is more likely to be mature and equipped at that date.

Challenger
Challenger
February 10, 2015 6:53 pm

What’s the unit price of a Tranche 3 Typhoon rolling off the production line now?

All a bit fantasy fleet but if we can’t keep at least some Tranche 1’s for QRA then i’d really like to see a top-up order of 30ish air-frames to sustain a 7 squadron force.

Won’t happen of course (far too logical!) but it’s clear that the threat for the near future (until the early 2020’s when hopefully the F35B will be properly ramping up) justifies at least 8 squadrons, preferably 1 or 2 more to factor in maintenance, upgrades, attrition etc.

In a parallel UK where defence issues are actually taken seriously and part of the mainstream political debate i’d love to see an argument for additional Typhoons to plug the gap until the F35B has matured and is around in significant numbers, basically when it can actually be tasked with real-life ops and not just be the property of 17 squadron and maybe do a couple of very safe, proof of concept deck landings on QE!

Perhaps spending significant amounts of cash on more could be spun positively beyond just being a purely national security issue by being seen as an investment in a great European product that could achieve more export orders if given more time to mature. And of course the old chestnut of ‘sustaining British jobs and industry’ could also be wheeled out yet again!

wirralpete
wirralpete
February 10, 2015 7:36 pm

@challenger….
How about just a new T3 airframe, new avionics, cooling systems – and use the engines, radar, DASS, Pirate, ejection seats etc from T1 airframes ?
Just thinking out of the box gotta be lower cost than just ordering brand new examples?

George
George
February 11, 2015 1:20 pm

– I hope so.

I’m getting really concerned about the coming election. Not one party takes Defence seriously and as it could well be a hung parliament, the already ambivalent main parties will probably pander to the likes of the Greens and the SNP for support.

Chris
Chris
February 11, 2015 1:53 pm

Martin, George – using a crystal ball (as none of the parties will state their policies) I suggest these would be the positions:

Tories – Painful cuts but CASD retained. Its all the economy’s fault (and the last Labour gov’t obviously)
Labour – Cuts, and CASD under review (to appease SNP). Its all the Tories’ fault.
LibDems – Cuts, and CASD terminated (like they always wanted). Its all the fault of everybody else.
Greens – Disband everything. National defence based on hugged trees and deep meaningful ties to other nations’ left wing eco-warriors.
SNP – bannish CASD from Scottish sites but increase defence of Scotland (at expense of the rest of us)
UKIP – not fussed about cuts as yet – doesn’t want interventionist operations any more, just defence of UK territory.
FUKP – beer at 1p/pint – if that doesn’t increase the nation’s willingness to fight nothing will.

I have no idea what the various parties in Northern Ireland would want, nor any of the many other minority parties. It is however fair to believe not one of the parties seeking our votes cares if UK defence is credible or not, which is a very sad state of affairs.

George
George
February 11, 2015 2:46 pm

and

This has to be the most lacklustre choice for an election on record and I’m reluctant to give my vote to any of the self serving poltroons

cky7
cky7
February 11, 2015 6:00 pm

Martin/all,

You know the more i think about the more I think if we do have this sort of spare cash the first thing it ought to get put into is people not kit. From what i’ve read the RN and RAF in particular are in desperate need of greater manpower and an increase in numbers would really help. Moral across all three services seems to be very low at the moment too and i’m constantly reading about how they’re constantly losing good, world class people at an astonishing rate. If we could put these extra funds into stopping this by increasing pay, conditions or whatever it is that needs improving to ensure greater retention i think it would add more capability than any new piece of kit.
I’m only an amateur but my take is that UK’s most valuable resource has always been the quality of service men and women rather than any piece of equipment in every conflict we’ve been in. I think that if a govt was shown to be increasing defence spending and capability that alone would help to improve moral and retention. At the moment all you hear is cutbacks and how we’re not what we were and this has got to be really bad for moral.
Unfortunately, i’d imagine increasing people is the last thing the govt would want to spend any spare cash we might have on :(

Challenger
Challenger
February 11, 2015 8:38 pm

@wirralpete

‘How about just a new T3 airframe, new avionics, cooling systems – and use the engines, radar, DASS, Pirate, ejection seats etc from T1 airframes ?
Just thinking out of the box gotta be lower cost than just ordering brand new examples?’

I like your thinking! If such an approach was demonstrably cheaper and not too technically difficult then i definitely think it would be an approach worth exploring.

The UK doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to botched cut and shut jobs like the Nimrod though which is something that makes me wary.