Fixed and Rotary Aircraft in Service Numbers and their Pilots

Typhoon and Storm Shadow

Between Parliamentary Questions and Answers and the always interesting Freedom of Information response it is possible to determine just how few aircraft the UK has in service. Although this answer given in response to a question from the MP Angus Robertson is comprehensive it does not reveal the full picture. The Typhoon, for example, is treated as a single homogeneous fleet, not the fleets within fleets we all know the reality to be.

That said, it is still interesting.

Figures taken between 31 Jan 2015 – 24 March 2015

The three columns show forward, depth and storage and it is important to understand the difference.

Forward Fleet; This is not the number of aircraft that are operational at short notice but also includes aircraft that are undergoing short term maintenance, awaiting spares etc.

The official definition is;

The Forward Fleet comprises aircraft which are serviceable and those which are short-term unserviceable. Short-term unserviceable aircraft are undergoing minor works, forward maintenance or any other unforeseen rectification or technical inspection work that can arise on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is the number of aircraft that pilots can jump in and go, right now. It isn’t.

Sustainment (Depth Fleet); The official designation for depth fleet is;

The Depth Fleet comprises aircraft which are undergoing planned depth maintenance, upgrade programmes and fleet management temporary storage, but excludes those which are redundant, declared as surplus or awaiting disposal.

Depth maintenance facilities could be MoD owned or provided by manufacturers/contractors, the Merlin facility at Culdrose for example

Storage; The definition is;

The numbers recorded as being in “Storage” are airworthy aircraft that are currently in temporary storage

It does not state whether airworthy means ready to fly right now, expect it is a mix as some aircraft will be in storage pending delivery to units such as the Wildcat helicopters.

Fixed Wing Platforms

Platform Forward Fleet Sustainment (Depth Fleet) Storage Note Ref
A330 FSTA (Voyager) 8 0 0
A400M 2 0 0
BAE 146 CCMk2 4 0 0
BAE HS125 CCMK3 4 1 0
C-17 Globemaster 7 1 0
Defender 4K AL2 1
Defender T3 1
E-3D Sentry AEW1 3 3 0
F-35B 0 0 2
Hawk T1/T1A 66 7 52 3
Hawk T2 24 4 0
Hercules C-130J 20 4 0
Islander AL1 1
Islander CC2/CC2A 1
King Air B200/200 GT 5 2 0
RC-135W Rivet Joint 1 0 0
Reaper 1
Sentinel R1 3 2 0
Shadow R.1 1
T67M-2 Firefly 0 0 0 4
Tornado GR4/4A 59 28 11
Tucano T1 28 11 43
Typhoon 89 38 0
Vigilant T1 5
Viking T1 5
Watchkeeper 450 8 0 21

Notes

  1. Information on the number of aircraft in the Islander AL1, Islander CC2/CC2B, Defender 4K AL2, Defender T3, Shadow R.1 and Reaper Forward and Sustainment Fleets and those in Storage, has been withheld as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces. In Service aircraft numbers are as follows:
    • Islander AL1 – 4
    • Islander CC2/CC2B – 3
    • Defender 4S AL2 – 8
    • Defender T3 – 1
    • Shadow R.1 – 5
    • Reaper – 10 (Note – The MOD does not use the designation MQ-9 Predator B)
  2. F-35B – Three test and evaluation aircraft have been delivered.
  3. Hawk T1 – Total Forward Fleet includes the Royal Naval fleet and RAF Centre for Aviation Medicine aircraft. This does not include the 3 Qinetiq aircraft as these are contractor owned.
  4. The T67M-2 Firefly is Out of Service.
  5. The RAF does not differentiate between the Forward and Sustainment fleets of the Viking and Vigilant aircraft fleets. There are 81 aircraft in the Viking fleet and 65 aircraft in the Vigilant T1 fleet.

 Takeouts from this include;

  • Only 3 E3’s now in the forward fleet
  • The largest fleet is the Hawk
  • 8 Watchkeeper Air Vehicles in service, the rest are storage. This is much fewer than the order quantity so we should assume the balance is still being delivered.
  • How fast the Tornado fleet has diminished with only 59 now in the forward fleet
  • Still only 1 Rivet Joint in the fleet
  • For everyevery two Typhoon or Tornado in the Forward Fleet there is nearly one in Depth, is this low availability standard for fast jets or a product of resource scarcity?
  • The Typhoon fleet will include the two seat training variant. Typhoon has cost the UK about £17 billion.
  • The MoD gives the ‘national security’ defence as a reason for withholding information on forward fleet for Reaper and other aircraft covered by Note 1. Perhaps they should refrain from publishing them as part of their statistical outputs then!. Click here  for the 2014 Formations Vessels and Aircraft Statistics Report.
  • When did the training fleet start outnumbering the combat aircraft fleet?

Rotary Wing Platforms

Platform Forward Fleet Sustainment (Depth Fleet) Storage Note Ref
Apache AH1 32 18 0
Chinook HC4 23 14 0 1
Chinook HC5 0 0 0 1
Chinook HC6 5 1 0 1
Dauphin N3 6 0 0
Gazelle AH1 19 7 8
Lynx AH7 11 0 0 2
Lynx AH9A 12 9 0
Lynx HAS3 0 0 0
Lynx HMA8 19 6 0
Merlin HC3 15 6 0
Merlin HC3A 5 1 0
Merlin HM1 0 0 0
Merlin HM2 18 12 0
Puma HC2 10 13 0 3
Sea King ASaC7 8 1 0
Sea King HAR3/A 20 0 0
Sea King HAS6 0 0 0
Sea King HC4 9 1 0 4
Sea King HC6CR 0 0 0
Sea King HU5 10 1 0 5
Wildcat AH 16 1 10 6
Wildcat HMA 11 2 0

Notes

  1. Chinook
    • Chinook HC4 were previously the Chinook HC2/2a, prior to modification of the aircraft with new cockpit avionics under project JULIUS. One remaining Chinook HC2/2a aircraft will be inducted into the project in April 2015 to become Chinook HC4; it is currently in the Forward Fleet.
    • Chinook HC5 will be the name given to the current Chinook HC3 aircraft once they have been modified with new cockpit avionics (Project JULIUS) and a new digital automatic flight control system. No aircraft have yet been modified. The figures for the existing Chinook HC3 fleet are – Forward Fleet: 6, Sustainment: 2 and Storage:
    • Chinook HC6 have 5 aircraft with the front line, with an additional aircraft in country in an embodiment programme.
  2. Lynx Mk7 – Fleet currently stands at 11. Five aircraft will be retired at March 15 leaving 6 to fly until 31 Jul when the remaining Mk7 will be retired from service.
  3. Puma HC2 – Sustainment Figures include 3 aircraft undertaking trials. The last aircraft will be delivered in April 15 to take the fleet size to 24.
  4. Sea King HC4 – One aircraft, not included in table, is on loan to the Empire Test Pilot School, QinetiQ, Boscombe Down.
  5. Sea King HU5 – One aircraft, not included in table, is on loan to the Empire Test Pilot School, QinetiQ, Boscombe Down.
  6. Wildcat AH – 10 Wildcat AH are classified as being in storage following their early delivery and prior delivery to the user.

Takeouts from this include;

  • Apache AH1 total fleet down to 50 aircraft, widely reported recently
  • Still quite a few Gazelle’s in service
  • 27 Merlin HC3/3a’s in service
  • No Merlin HM1’s in storage, that ship has sailed!

Pilots

A couple of FOI requests have revealed pilot numbers.

Request 1 was about the total number of pilots;

Using information from the Joint Personnel Administration system, Defence Statistics can identify that as at 1 December 2014 there were 1,790 trained regular pilots in the RAF and as at 1 December 2013 there were 1,830 pilots in the RAF.

Using information supplied by the Army Air Corps, there was estimated to be approximately 540 trained pilots on strength in the Army at September 2014, and 550 trained pilots on strength in the Army at February 2015.

Using information from the Joint Personnel Administration system, Defence Statistics can identify that as at 1 December 2014 there were 530 pilots in the Royal Navy I Royal Marines and as at 1 December 2013 there were 550 pilots in the Royal Navy / Royal Marines.

Please note that figures have been rounded to the nearest 10, numbers ending in “5” have been rounded to the nearest multiple of 20 to prevent systematic bias.

The number of pilots and number of aircrew will travel on loosely synchronised conveyor belts moving at different speeds whilst trying match fleet movement and maintaining the optimum numbers is a task of fiendish complexity.

Request 2 was about flying pay;

For the purposes of this request we have assumed you are seeking information about Recruitment and Retention Payment (Flying) (RRP(F)), formerly Specialist Pay(Flying), which is colloquially known as Flying Pay.

Flying Pay

Request 3 was also about flying pay, focussing on the split between commissioned and non commissioned personnel;

For the purposes of this request we have assumed you are seeking information about Recruitment and Retention Payment (Flying) (RRP(F)), formerly Specialist Pay(Flying), which is colloquially known as Flying Pay.

Flying Pay 2

If one was cynical fleet size v pilot ratios might be interesting, although for a million reasons, the results would be almost impossible to take any meaningful value from.

180 personnel in non flying posts receiving flying pay, wonder what that number is for the Army and Naval Service and whether that is a long term or transitional situation?

Request 4, was about the ladies

We are able to identify the total number of female personnel who are designated to be a pilot in each of the Services but unable to make any additional distinction between those who are currently acting as a pilot and those who are designated but not currently acting as a pilot.

Using information from the Joint Personnel Administration system, Defence Statistics can identify that as at 1 December 2014 there were 60 female pilots in the RAF and as at 1 December 2013 there were 50 female pilots in the RAF.

Using information supplied by the Army Air Corps, there were 20 female pilots in the Army as at 1 February 2015 and 20 female pilots as at the 1 May 2014.

Using information from the Joint Personnel Administration system, Defence Statistics can identify that as at 1 December 2014 there were 10 female pilots in the Royal Navy / Royal Marines and as at 1 December 2013 there were 10 female pilots in the Royal Navy / Royal Marines.

All interesting stuff, if rather depressing.

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