Typhoon Common Weapon Launcher

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Getting ready for Tornado out of service and continued evolution of the aircraft with Brimstone, Storm Shadow, Paveway IV, Meteor and E-Scan radar, the Typhoon continues to grow, at a glacial pace perhaps but slow and steady is not always a bad thing.

RS19426_Typhoon in mutil-role fit with Brimstone missile and Paveway IV

The MoD has let a £1.7m contract to BAE to research a common weapon launcher for Typhoon that can be used to carry multiple weapons on a single hardpoint, much like the existing Brimstone launcher but also to include other weapons, principally, Meteor Paveway IV and a future SPEAR Cap 3.

Typhoon Common Weapons Launcher 2

Typhoon Common Weapons Launcher

In the delicate balancing act between Typhoon and F35B (and beyond) I have started to think for a while we need to get behind Typhoon and reconsider our Tranche 3 commitment.

 

 

READ MORE ABOUT UK COMPLEX WEAPONS

UK Complex (Guided) Weapons – Reference

 

 

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Barborossa
Barborossa

This is probably a stupid question; But why are we giving little bitty contracts every so often?

Would it not be more sensible to pick a main contractor, tell them to maintain the fleet, including delivering a set of agreed capabilities, upgrades & improvements to an agreed timescale, for which they will be given a set fee yearly….

Roders
Roders

You are forgetting that defence inflation is far higher than normal inflation. Following this, the amount of suppliers willing and able to commit to such a contract will fall. Mainly, because the firms cannot be certain that they will return a profit in the longer term.

As with any market, a contraction in supply will push the price up. This results in an initially good idea becoming untenable in reality, as the cost of it starts to outweigh it’s benefit.

Hohum
Hohum

All good progress, but its taking far too long. The one thing I would like to see but suspect we never will is the conformal tanks.

Unfortunately there is no money for additional Typhoons, also the latest news on F-35 is very positive indeed.

Martin
Martin

The reason we are getting little bitty contracts every so often is because one we have no money and two our European partners have even less.

I agree with TD on the tranche 3 aircraft. I think we need to get behind Typhoon. after the production run ends in Europe we should consider buying the IP from EADS and the other European partners and putting full production in the UK. Then run a single UK assembly line at a reduced pace with a smallish buy of Tranche 3 B aircraft to replace our tranche 1 fleet. Hopefully we can use this to keep production going well in to the 2020’s. As LO technology becomes increasingly irrelevant we may again see renewed interest in aircraft like Typhoon. We may even consider replacing Tyohoon with a super typhoon in the late 2020’s.

duker
duker

Why replace the Tranche 1 fleet, they are currently at most 12 years in service for a plane that is designed for 30.
The so called austere Air to Ground capability covers practically all of the drop able bombs along with a targeting pod. – GBU-10, GBU-16 , Paveway II+)The high end self powered guided weapons arent included.
Setting up a UK only full production line is a pipe dream as the UK only produced the front cockpit, tail and part of rear fuselage, and then there is the engine production.
Better that RAF forget about operating the F35C, as its no Harrier that can trundle down forest trails, with engine changes in the field, pass them on to the RN who can handle the complexity in the new carriers hanger decks. The RAF could stick to operating all the T1, T2 and T3 Typhoons and maybe a few extra T1s from the partners to make them a 2 squadron (+ trainers) force of their own for say semi permanent ADF of UK

secundius

An Equally Stupid Question, or maybe just a Visual Illusion. But looking at the Typhoon Head-On, it looks just like a Decked-Out WW2 Typhoon and the Radome like a Spinning Propeller Hub. With the two Forward Canards as part of the Spinning Propeller…

ChrisW
ChrisW

Re. “Tranche”3B – and they’d all be 2 seaters and be nuclear-capable carrying ASMP-A or successor. I can dream, can’t I?

Aubrey
Aubrey's Shadow

I think that we should maintain production of the Typhoon, though I’m not sure how easy it would be to ‘nationalise’ much of it. Ground has been lost to Dassault now, but if we invested in the extras (conformals, AESA, weapons clearances, directed thrust, ESM/ECM, jamming etc) that the aircraft needs, and ordered another 40 or so, there is a chance for exports still. It’s not a complicated business challenge – if we develop and invest in it, and buy more, then it gives others the confidence to do the same. If we want to stay in this game, we just have to pay what it takes. The vital point is to keep the production lines – and skills base – active. The money’s there (overseas aid and welfare budgets).

Challenger
Challenger

I agree with Martin that if were thinking purely in terms of what’s required rather than what we can afford then we should be getting behind T3 Typhoon, both to show confidence in the product and push the production line out into the 2020’s, but also to provide the RAF with a more capable, robust fleet.

I have thought for years that a 107 air-frame fleet just isn’t enough to do all that’s asked of it.

If we could expect 150, or even 70-100 F35 to start flowing into RAF hangars soon then fair enough.

However if 48 F35B focused on carrier ops is all we are going to get in the near future (as in until at least 2025) and by extension expect Typhoon to do UK/Falklands QRA, provide long-enduring squadron level deployments, conduct regular training detachments, maintenance etc and still have a bit of give/flexibility left over for the unexpected, as we saw when Tornado was deployed in Afghanistan and Libya simultaneously (plus small, short-term assistance like looking for hostages in Nigeria) then 107 is a very limited number to work with.

130-140 Typhoon in 7 squadrons would be a sufficient and sensible way to operate.

wirralpete
wirralpete

Have suggested before that we order 30 tranche 3B airframes but remove the expensive engines, radar DASS, PIRATE IRST, ejector seat, and anything costly from T1 airframes and reuse them on the 3B aircraft. Surely an airframe only buy similar to the GR4 Tornado upgrade would be a cheap way of doing things maybe for 30 a/c ….would be interested in a breakdown of costs and how expensive it would be to purchase new airframes sans expensive techy bits that can be ported onto new airframes sure Saudis would buy into it for their T1 Typhoons too.

wheatleymr

Would it save net money to swap our T1’s for somebody else’s T3’s?
Or are our T1’s sufficiently different from everyone else’s T1’s as to not give them a common fleet?
Italy has both Typhoon and F35’s on order – is there anyone else planning on replacing their Typhoons soon?

But yes, I’d like to see more Typhoons in the RAF, keep a limited purchase of F35’s for the carrier & 1st day of war stealth mission, and then wait for the F35 price to come down / weapon integration to go up. Ordering more F35’s only when the Typhoons are actually worn out enough to need replacing. (Or a UCAV, if available.)

Barborossa
Barborossa

Wirralpete…
The Tornado GR4 wasn’t a new airframe buy- they were lengthened and re-lifed GR1’s, in theory, they were meant to have additional internal tankage, Sky-Shadow as an internal fit, and some other avionics/electronics. As is the way of things much of the programme got cancelled.

Mark
Mark

I have a feeling we may increase to 6 typhoon sqns in sdsr15 with tornado going rapidly there after if they are being required to save the amount the newspapers are saying especially if they get brimstone on reaper.

Need not worry about f35 until sdsr2020, it’s a decade away with more things being moved out of block3f and into block 4 and a number of structural and power plant and maintainence issues to fix. It will offer very limited capability prior to 2020 in the UK.

Hohum
Hohum

barbarossa,

I don’t think there was ever a serious plan to put a fuselage plug in the GR4 programme. It was certainly considered at the definition phase but never made it (as far as I aware) anywhere near actually happening and certainly not far enough to be cancelled. The main objective of the GR4 programme in its original form was to allow Tornado fly low without using any active emitters.

The Ginge
The Ginge

Can somebody advise me as per ducker’s question why Trance 1 aircraft at 12yrs old have to go ? Maybe as suggested buying up some peoples old T1’s to cover UK QRA requirements leaving T3’s and fingers crossed a few more to provide the multi role aircraft needed with the intergration and conformal fuel tanks etc ? Are the T1’s useless or about to fall out of the sky ?

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective

… and maybe while they are at it, BAE could develop a variant of the common weapons launcher that could fit on a Hawk (or a Tucano, or a C-130 for that matter)? That would really make it “common”. Or is that just crazy talk?

Dangerous Dave

TD – Typhoon continues to grow, at a glacial pace perhaps but slow and steady is not always a bad thing.

Actually, “slow and steady” is really not good enough for a programme that can trace it’s roots to 1970’s studies carried out by BAC!!

The F.Mk.1 Typhoons aren’t fully MR, which limits their “flexibility” and thus they have to go as they don’t fit into some RAF “whole force” concept. Also, there is sufficient component dissimilarity to make them an expensive “fleet within a fleet”.

However, I *do* believe that we should be making sure we buy further FGA.Mk.4 aircraft (or even FGA.Mk.5?) as part of our Tranche 3 commitments, and make F-35B a purely FAA affair.

S O
S O

When I see military planes carry that many external munitions and fuel, I always wonder whether a Mach 0.9 biplane would be feasible after all.

donald of Tokyo
donald of Tokyo

I have two questions.

1. modifying T.1 to some “common” standard to T.3, how much cost you need?

If it is completely replacing the FCS radar and most of the avionics, it “could” amount a lot. If it exceeds “a half of the procurement cost of new T.3s”, it is SURELY cheaper to get T.3s than modifying T.1s. This is because T.1 has gone about a half of its life, and you need 1-2 years per airframe for modification work itself, which means you will “lose” the front-line fighters for this time interval.

2. Life of an airframe is NOT defined by “year”, but defined by its “integrated stress”. What if you order 30-40 T.3s, and when waiting for them, use T.1 for “all hi-G flight training”.

Dog fight within visual range, low level flying (“Mach loop”) to T.1s, while T.2 and T.3 concentrating on FCS controlled “smart bomb attack” training, BVR air fighting. Alert/interdiction do not require hi-G (if the target is slow large bombers, patrols etc…) to my understanding, so both can be used here.

I am not familiar with RAF operation/training, so my idea could be “stupid” especially for “item-2″…

duker
duker

“The F.Mk.1 Typhoons aren’t fully MR (multi role), which limits their “flexibility”

When you did a bit deeper, the T1 are supposed to be NOT ‘Swing role’, as their MR is just fine.

What that SR, means is during a bomb run they can ‘simultaneously’ operate an air to air mission.
Is this really the reason for expensively aquired aircraft to be discarded, for an operational process of hardly any practical significance.

Even without me having any fast jet knowlege to speak off. wont a pilot let go of his heavy bombs in order to regain the maneuverability to be an equal match to his air to air opponent.
Can you imgaine a pilot saying, “Ill continue to use cannon fire against this convoy of Jihadis and take out at the same time that Syrian Mig 29 thats popped up 20km away.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim

I have been advocating putting substantially more effort into the Typhoon programme for quite a while. As a platform it has plenty of potential left to say the least. However then programme has been progressing at a snails pace and has cost the MoD far more than it should have but the blame falls on a multitude of agencies both at home and abroad.

The idea of making the Typhoon the RAF’s main platforms and assigning the F-35s to mainly a maritime role has merits but the RAF top brass will go nuts at even the hint of losing their much anticipated shiny new toy. I am not a fan of the F-35 but we had joined ourselves at the hip to the programme, especially with regards to the carriers, where it is the only option. Yes its sensors should be superb but a fully updated Typhoon Tranche 3 will not be that far behind, and more than able to do the job. The key to my misgivings are when are we going to go up against a tier 1 adversary by ourselves? If we do face such an opponent we will be operating in co-operation with the US, who should have a fairly capable day one capability. It will probably mirror GW1 where Tomahawks and F-117s went in first, replacing the latter with F-22 and F-35. Against all other feasible opposition a Tranche 3 Typhoon will certainly do the job and then some. As a result I see the need for the F-35 solely as a platform to operate from the carriers, and a requirement for no more than 60 to be purchased to allow a force of around 30 to be surged to the operational carrier if needed.

It would be interesting to see how much an additional 20 to 30 Tranche 3 Typhoons would actually cost the MoD. Could we get a deal form the partner nations for extending the production line life? Would any other nations, seeing the expanded capability of the Typhoon change their minds about their purchase of the F-35 and realise that the Typhoon is a better F16 replacement than the F-35.

I cannot help but think the whole stealth idea is something only a nation such as the US can afford. It is a niche capability despite what the F-35 fan club shout, and achieving it compromises the capability of any platform utilising it. But the f-35 programme has become a self perpetuating monster which like the banks is too big to fail.

Nick
Nick

Lord Jim

For the vast amount of time, we will use the F35B with pylons to carry additional weapons (and eventually maybe additional fuel). Long range stand-off weapons like Storm Shadow require pylons anyway. Full stealth configuration isn’t required in most circumstances. It also seems to come with lower availability and higher maintenance costs (although this might change in time).

Worse (it seems to me) that F35 stealth is designed in as is, whereas the capability of radars will only increase. If the F35 is already vulnerable at operational range to certain radar types as well as IRST systems, before it enters into basic design spec operation (in c2020), then will current model of LO attack be possible into the 2030s against any country with a reasonable defence budget ? It seems to me that this would effectively mean the end of mid to high altitude use of GPS and laser guided weapons (F117 attack model from GW1) for day 1 strike.

We are committed to buying the F35B for the Navy; there is no other choice as we designed the ships around the aircraft. The choice for the RAF, between F35 and Typhoon, ought to be closer than it might seem to be. I think this should tie into SDSR 2015 and the determination of just what the UK’s intervention posture (and capability) in the 2020s will be.

topman
topman

Re tr 1, we haven’t got the money to run,all the typhoons purchased. So we retire the older ones to use that money to operate the new ones. We haven’t got the money to operate enough sqns to operate them all at the same time.

Repulse

I agree with the approach to keep the RAF fleet predominantly Typhoon based with moving the production line to the UK and keeping a slow incremental build / upgrade strategy. The F35B will be focused on expeditionary ops, which looks to be primarily carrier based with the option to forward land base a small number for close air support in counter insurgency ops – aim for a shared F35B fleet of 60-70 and forget anything more including a F35A purchase.

There are two things in my view we can do to improve export chances – firstly provide government backed cheap credit to potential buyers and secondly look for opportunities to sell technology through the strong Grippen partnership. On the latter, I think by improving the capabilities of the Grippen is the best chance to get export traction.

Nick
Nick

Repulse

Ignoring that I agree with you here, my challenge is that the net result that we will end up supporting BAe to maintain capabilities at tax payer cost for an extended period of time doing endless design studies and little else.

I don’t know when the UK (or all) Typhoon assembly lines will cease (before 2020), Hawk won’t last that much longer and son of Taranis will be 2030’s (?) and is currently a joint venture with Dassault This is a long gap to sustain, especially if we end up being a relatively small volume buyer of F35. On current defence spending trends, we will be fortunate to buy more than 48.

Hohum
Hohum

topman nails it. Buying aircraft is one thing operating them is another, there only seems to be enough money in the system long term for 6-7 squadrons without a spending increase. The RAF understandably wants to get its hands on as many F-35s as it can, ultimately its a more capable aircraft and will only cost about as Typhoon even if we are buying the wrong version.

Repulse

Hohum, I understand the improved stealth strike capabilities of the F35B and the fact that only they can operate (currently) from our CVFs, but what about air defence? Surely the 100 odd Tiffies are needed for defending UK and BOT air space, with ground attack being a useful but secondary role. How does even the F35A compare in this requirement?

as
as

@Repulse & Hohum
Could we move over to a complete F35 fleet? using all three variants.
A:- as a air superiority fighter.
B:- as the carrier strike / land base army co-op. (like the harrier did)
C:- as land strike/bomber.

Mark
Mark

F35 is a strike aircraft very much in the tornado gr mould. It is not air superiority platform in the form of f15 or typhoon. It’s air defence capabilities will be similar to the f3 or phantom with better sensors but poorer high speed performance. There is no real need to replace typhoon this side of 2040. If there very lucky you may get a 3rd f35 sqn if the fastjet fleet expands to 8. If may well end up 6 typhoon 1 f35 u till the early 2020s. It will be interesting what the U.S. Does with f35 unless the USAF are about to go for a considerably expansion there f35 numbers look about 40% to high for there current fighter force.

Martin
Martin

I like the idea of transferring over expensive kit like PIRATE, engines and ejector seats from Tranche 1 aircraft to new build 3b airframes. It’s kind of similar to what’s being proposed with Apache.

The longer we can keep Typhoon production alive then the more chance we have of winning future orders as one LO technology is increasingly compromised and two the aircraft gradually becomes cheaper as its R&D costs are inflated away. F15 was once consider too expensive for anyone other than the USA or Israel that did not have to pay for them. Now lots of nations operate F15.

If we had the money it would be good to see us consider a standoff jamming capability for the Typhoon. Maybe to include MALD J and a jamming pod similar to the next generation jammer but possibly more off the shelf. A two seat variant of Tranche 3 b aircraft could make a very potent electronic attack aircraft armed with SPEAR 3 advanced HARM and possibly SPEAR 4.

It would be even further enhanced with the electronic attack capability of CAPTOR E and the Protoriate DASS and brite cloud.
One can dream

Hohum
Hohum

When Typhoon goes up against F-35 in international competitions it loses, keeping the line open won’t magically increase the chances of winning additional orders.

The RAF has some very real capability problems, SEAD/DEAD being one of them- Typhoon is not the solution to that. Certainly the airframes there are should be maximized in terms of capability but the F-35 is the future.

Martin
Martin

@ Hohum

I think a major issue for Typhoon in international competition is the lack of stealth. However this may not be an issue for much longer as LO is increasingly compromised. I like F35 also but it’s the radar and computing capability I think will be far more useful than stealth. With Captor M the Typhoon has the capability to match much of the systems on F35. I can also think there will still be a need for stand off jamming and I think there is little point on sticking that on a stealth aircraft.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

“as one LO technology is increasingly compromised ”

You do realise that “compromise” of LO technology does not magically result in non-LO aircraft suddenly becoming “better” than LO, don’t you?

All the nominal “compromises” do is reduce the time/distance advantage vs defences that you tend to get from an LO jet compared to a fourth gen like Typhoon/Rafale. The defences will still give the fourth gen jet a good kicking every day of the week.

The Other Chris

Three realistic choices with the Tranche 1’s:

1) Retire them;
2) Keep them as-is;
3) Keep them and go through a MLU to the Tranche 3 (ish) spec.

Reasoning being:

1) Money;

2) T1’s are perfectly capable of tracking and intercepting Blackjacks (production line reopening) and their current escorts with the range to reach us. Meteor is still an integration option. There are question marks over PAK-FA’s range, PAK-DA is still on-paper, if either of them begin demonstrating reach we have an upgrade path.

3) The prices quoted publicly to prepare the T1’s to accept the T2/T3 updated equipment and fit the likes of CAPTOR-E is less than a factory fresh T3.

A single model fleet (i.e. all T3) is usually desirable, rather than fleets-within-fleet that we have of T1/T3.

Learning from our past:

What we’re seeing with the T1 early retirement is an echo of our Harrier fleet and is a stark warning for both our Typhoon and upcoming F-35 fleets.

When you have small fleet numbers, or a small fleet-within-fleet, they are easy pickings for deletion on the MOD/Treasury spreadsheet for short-term gain but have long-term implications.

For example (with hindsight filters engaged):

Had SHAR not been split from the AV-8B upgrade program, we would not have had smaller fleets-within-fleet (roughly 50/70 SHAR/GR split) which ultimately resulted in a premature block retirement of the SHAR itself, which ultimately lead to a premature block retirement of the GR fleet.

Both the RAF and the RN lost out. More importantly, the UK lost Harrier. Refer also to NaB’s recent comments regarding ease of manning squadrons with a future.

Whereas we would not have necessarily ended up with approximately 130 x Harrier II / AV-8B (alternate noses accepted) during the late-80’s/90’s programs, there is an extremely strong argument that a combined fleet with more cabs compared to the smaller fleets-within-fleet could have survived deletion to serve both the RN and RAF for longer.

As much love as I have for Tornado (a lot of family involvement towards RB199), there is again an extremely strong argument that fully data-linked Typhoon and Harrier II fleets (q.v. Capability E, Harrier receiving TIEC earlier than Tornado) were a superior combination to the Typhoon/Tornado fleet we have now, had sufficient numbers been in place to support deployment.

GR9’s were to carry more Brimstone (x12) operationally than Tornado (x9)…

http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/harriergr9/images/10-harrier-gr9-aircraft.jpg

http://www.aereo.jor.br/wp-content/uploads//2011/03/Brimstone-2.jpg

Funds and motivation for Typhoon to have received Uk specific Tornado-related task upgrades (e.g. RAPTOR, Storm Shadow) are likely to have been put in place sooner if Harrier was in a stronger position to challenge Tornado for survival.

Much is made of Tornado being needed to help Typhoon out during ELLAMY, but is was a mutual relationship in reality with Typhoon pilots, having fully data-linked systems via MIDS, providing vital situational awareness to their Tornado colleagues allowing smoother integration into the Allied organisation.

You can see where I’m going:

Unless you want to have to carve large chunks out of your fleet, permanently, ultimately resulting in the early retirement of the whole fleet through lack of numbers, a Service must:

a) First campaign and plan to minimise fleets-within-fleet by keeping aircraft variation to a minimum if possible or maximise the commonality in the variants (i.e. upgrade Typhoon T1’s to T2/T3 level); and secondly

b) Where a joint fleet is to be shared between Services do not seek to create fleets-within-fleet from the outset, as above (i.e. do not engage in a split purchase of 48/72 F-35B/A’s as is currently circulating – workshare purchase of 138 withstanding – if numbers must be reduced instead consider a combined fleet of, say, 108).

In the case of Harrier, splitting the fleet and ultimately deleting the smaller block only bought the larger block of Gr7/9’s 4 more years and the UK lost it’s second-most modern fast jet fleet.

We want/need to preserve F-35 for as long as possible and keep it cutting edge for its whole life.

Hohum
Hohum

Martin,

Detecting low RCS aircraft just makes detecting larger RCS aircraft even easier. It does not change the competitive fundamentals.

The other advantage the F-35 has is that its at the beginning of its life cycle with the worlds biggest user- you are guaranteed upgrades and support through to 2060 at least. You can’t say that about Typhoon when the RAF is currently saying it wants to dump it in 2035.

Nick
Nick

NaB

Doesn’t it depend on your tactics ?

If you’re depending on ECM/ESM/Jamming and [next gen] stand-off weapons to strike your day one targets then LO Radar Stealth would be less important. However, if you’re using JDAM/Paveway and generally need to get pretty close to your target, then LO Radar Stealth is obligatory.

However, if your Peer opponent is using mobile multiple frequency networked radar and layered air defence combined with IRST from its own LO air force (but less stealthy) then is your F35 strike package going to get through anyway ? If you end up needing EW support or using less stealthy pylons to deliver standoff weapons as well, does F35 LO (as opposed to the 1 magnitude (?) worse LO that Typhoon/Rafale gives you) buy you enough to be worth the additional cost ?

This argument need not be 100 % true today, but by 2030 or 2040 ? The F35 will be the back bone of all western aircraft fleets after 2040 in not earlier (especially USAF).

Hohum
Hohum

Nick,

ECM/ESM/Jamming etc are complimentary to signature reduction. It depends on mission phase, threat profile etc. Penetration by low-RCS aircraft is usually accompanied by substantial EW activity. Remember, both are trying to do the same thing, reduce the detection range.

Nick
Nick

Hohum

and if the next gen air defence infrastructure ends up being as effective against F35 LO as the Soviet air defences were thought to be back in the 1980s then you would go in at low altitude as fast as can (ie RAF Tornado tactics) and/or move to longer ranger, supersonic stand-off PGMs.

I’m questioning whether the current paradigm of the F35 as designed – essentially precision guided bombs dropped by aircraft close to the target (GW1 F117 scenario) – is by necessity giving way to a new one, where a different set of design characteristics might prove a better long term bet.

Hohum
Hohum

Nick,

The answer to your question is no.

Nick
Nick

then scrap Typhoon between 2020 and 2025 and replace with 120 F35A. At $100 million a pop they’re suppose to cost, it will be cheaper in the long run and apparently more capable.

The Other Chris

Tornado GR4 fuselage plug:

A 4′ (ish) plug was inserted behind the cockpit to create the ADV version of Tornado, amongst other significant (fleet-within-fleet) changes. Very reasonable to assume it was considered for IDS MLU’s as well.

Hohum
Hohum

ToC,

Considered yes, but it never made it as far as the staff requirement, thus it was never cancelled. ADV wasn’t really a fleet within a fleet, more a completely separate fleet. The Tornado IDS fleet within fleet issues arose from three basic standards, GR.1, GR.1A and (later) GR.1B compounded by multiple engineering changes during production and post delivery modifications. It actually caused something of a headache when it came to contracting the GR.4 conversions.

Nick,

Thats not how budgets work.

mickp
mickp

I feel that SDSR 2015 will reaffirm / accelerate the move to around 107 Typhoons with however many squadrons that means (5?) and binning the tranche 1 Typhoons for cost saving reasons / fleet within a fleet issue and seeing off the last of the Tornados. We are then left with a nice gap as the F35Bs come on stream and also a question mark as to how many we get and are they carrier or land based. My own thought is that the total buy is unlikely to exceed 70 or so airframes giving at most 3 or at a pinch 4 squadrons. As to whether they are RAF or FAA is irrelevant as long as at one squadron is always ring fenced with each (usually one) active carrier. Is a long term goal of 155 – 180 FJ in total enough? Just in my view, and based on the assumption that drones / UAVs / Taranis will be maturing over that timeframe. Our biggest issue will be if the Typhoons are worked to death in the ‘capability gap’ period and airframes and pilots are stretched such that QRA is left wanting. Not that our skies are under direct threat,but the risk of embarrassment from lone incidents would be high. If we had to commit a squadron or two of Typhoons somewhere, the Russians could really play games with us. So my issues are how to we manage the gap period to F35 build up and how many F35s do we ultimately get.

Nick
Nick

Hohum

No, but if you’re cash starved, then you need to cut your annual operating costs as quickly as you can by reducing the types of aircraft you had, it might be more persuasive than it seems.

a) If the F35 is much better than Typhoon, then if it was contractually possible you wouldn’t buy Tranche 3 today, but buy F35A from the first high volume production batch instead. On paper, the F35 is cheaper to buy, will have a longer life and a similar number could be delivered perhaps as little as 2 years later ? This is contractually impossible (I expect).

b) As you’re committed to move to F35 only eventually, then you ought to seek to remove Tranche 1 from service as soon as you had sufficient F35 numbers to replace T2/T3 from the overseas deployable strength and exit T1 QRA role). We ought to have about 20 F35B by 2020. That suggests out of service date in the early 2020s ?

c) Would you choose to upgrade Tranche 2 to Tranche 3 standard (not that we have that many T2) ? Probably not. Then to create as much operational commonality as you can in the mid 2020’s you should look to decommission these airframes as soon as you can. In any case, you only need T2 numbers while F35 hasn’t integrated UK weapons suite.

d) Would you then choose to invest in AESA (or LEX, Thrust vectoring, conformal tanks) for Tranche 3, given that after 202x you’ll only be using them in the QRA role given that F35 is a better long term solution for everything else ?

e) Even if you have invested in AESA and other updates to make T3 more effective against LO opposition, the commonality argument on the logistics/training footprint will drive you to bring forward the out of service date, especially if you’re starting to think about F35 upgrades. This is essentially the financial argument for cutting T1 Typhoons today isn’t it ?

Hohum
Hohum

Nick,

Your basic premise fails, commonality (ie efficiency) is only one part of a the support calculation and support only one part of the life-cycle cost calculation. Operating cost must be balanced against capital expenditure.

The Other Chris

@Nick

Horses for courses. In this case a Typhoon racehorse instead of an F-35 Shire horse.

Typhoon hits altitude faster and supercruises. Not enough public information (though plenty of opinion…) on F-35’s odd transonics to say whether it’ll supercruise on an F135. Maybe when an AETD is fitted it’ll be a consideration.

Even then Typhoon is a natural knife-fighter and given she’s the original sensor-fused platform she has a number of tricks that F-35 inherited, evolved and subsequently gave back in the form of further improved HMDS and ancillaries.

EDIT: F-35 heritage is important to remember!

If we’re gazing into the future whether our T1’s are retired or not I think we’ll see a strong Typhoon MLU option as we approach the 2030’s OSD which will be intended to take us into an F-35 AETD era ultimately escorting / controlling Son of Taranis/Neuron.

Topman
Topman

@TOC

As we are sticklers for detail on here. Minor bit of detail Chris, Tonkas can carry 12 Brimstone.

The Ginge
The Ginge

So the outcome of my question is
1. Tranche 1 Typhoons are quite capable of flying for next 15yrs in the Anti- Air role.
2. We haven’t got the money to run the extra Squadrons of Tranche 3’s that we are commited to buy so we chuck perfectly good aircraft out.
3. We worry about a 2 level fleet like the Harrier even though thats what we’ve got with Typhoon at the moment. So again throw away perfectly good planes on the off chance 15yrs down the line they may get picked off by budget cuts.
4. The RAF want to try and hope and say please please sir can I have some more and hope they get some F35A’s to bring the numbers of FJ up to an acceptable limit when the next Prime Minister goes I want to send some planes to bomb Isis.
5. We don’t see BAe fighter plane construction as a key national element, although we do see Warship Design and Building as such, so we are happy to see UK Aircraft Building Die and when Taranus is being built it will be at Dasualt Factories in France because the French see this as a national security issue to keep a factory open.
In my view a sorry state of affairs, the politiking by the RAF never works and all politicians do is keep blaming the MOD when something can’t be done. The fact that it looks possible we are going to throw away 53 ish perfectly good aircraft. 53 T1 Should provide 3 Squadrons for UK Airdefence leaving 6 Sq from 107 GR4/T3 planes.

In my view as we are apparently looking at a 5% cut in MOD spending being demanded by George Osbourne that we have to look at serious cuts to the Army and amalgamation of the Marines and the airforce getting out of the cost of providing ground troops in the RAF Regiment, otherwise we are going to have to pray the Americans or somebody is going to provide our troops with aircover. I would have thought with only 6 GR4/T3 squadrons would not be enough to support UK Airdefence and having any planes to deploy overseas on any mission. Heck (and I don’t know even if this is possible) try and encourage BA etc to allow ex Typhoon pilots to form Reserve Squadrons using the T1 which could replace active Squadrons in UK Defence specialising in Air to Air engagement, with say a 3month trianing period before use in the UK, ie using reserves to do the non fighting UK Cover.
But the thought of burning money and throwing away 53 good aircraft on the hope that something might turn up in a few years time really sounds like desperation on the part of the RAF.

The Other Chris

@Topman

Acknowledged, though I was under the impression (and would be grateful for correction) that they carry their Litening III on one of the centre pylons operationally that is otherwise used for the fourth Brimstone triple-rail, whereas when the GR.9’s nose sensor/designator were to be supplemented by TIALD (later the Sniper UOR) they didn’t consume a Brimstone pylon?

EDIT: Corrections for accuracy.

Topman
Topman

@TOC

Yes the Litening pod is carried on the LH shoulder pylon, so you can’t carry 12 Brimstone and LDP. As to Harrier DMB would have needed an LDP same as Tonka does. I believe that was the plan, on the centre pylon for the targeting pod.

Topman
Topman

The Ginge

‘So again throw away perfectly good planes on the off chance 15yrs down the line they may get picked off by budget cuts.’

Within the current budget and probably cuts, what do you think we should do then?

‘But the thought of burning money and throwing away 53 good aircraft on the hope that something might turn up in a few years time really sounds like desperation on the part of the RAF.’

No idea where you’ve got that from. Like I said we can’t afford to run them all. It’s that simple, no cloak and dagger or smoke and mirrors.

Mark
Mark

It should be remembered were not actually talking about 53 tranche 1 aircraft. Yes that was the RAFs purchase but they include a few specific test aircraft and a sizeable number of two seat trainer aircraft that are no longer deemed necessary due to advances in flight simulators and the capability offered by the hawk t2.

F35 was designed against predominantly a ground threat. Low observable aircraft covers a multitude of requirements in the radar domain let alone the other visual, ir, em and noise regimes. In the radar domain f35 has a baked in design again a specific freq range and from certain directions at the cost of performance. Should an enemy move out of that area for the primary means of detection f35 will be as vulnerable as “non” LO aircraft in that regime and more vulnerable as the performance advantage is not there. Being operationally effect above 40k ft offers significant advantages too the only USAF fighter aircraft that compares to the capabilities of typhoon is really f22. we are starting to get into serious high end warfighting if your looking at those possibilities. Only the b2 has low observability against a large spectrum of threats until next generation bomber arrives.

Hannay
Hannay

Operating 53 Tranche 1 Typhoons past 2020 is not going to be free. Operational costs are very high (as for any combat air squadron) and so it becomes a case of what do you trade instead.

Converting Tranche 1 to Tranche 3 standard is very expensive and isn’t realistically an option.

More to the point is that the UK Tranche 1 airframes will be life-exed by 2020 because we’ve being using the Typhoon force so much. Life extension is very expensive and isn’t a preferable option given lack of capability to upgrade to Tranche 3 standard.

Even beyond the Tranche 1 fleet, it looks unlikely that we’ll manage to get to the current 2030 out of service date before most of the fleet is life-exed. We need investment to make synthetic training work otherwise we’re buggered.

As things stand we’re on a trajectory to have ~50 F-35B by 2030 and thats it. Anything else requires more money from the MoD budget. Fantasy fleets is all well and good but the situation is pretty desperate.

Rocket Banana

How many air hours do each of our Typhoons actually have on them? I’d imagine we try and distribute the flying over each tranch smoothly, but I can’t imagine we distribute over all tranches. Any ideas?

Lastly, if the RAF were told that they can have 160 aircraft in total would they take 160 Typhoon or would they trade the T1 Typhoon for 48 x F35B?

Topman
Topman

@ Hannay

‘More to the point is that the UK Tranche 1 airframes will be life-exed by 2020 because we’ve being using the Typhoon force so much.’

No they won’t.

The Other Chris

@Topman

Thank you kindly, Sir. Much appreciated :)

Rocket Banana

Perhaps it’s just the way I look at things as a discrete split of platform and systems, but I can see F35 being obsolete (from an LO and airframe persective) by 2030. So the only thing that is of value on F35 is the “B”‘s STOVL and the systems and sensors, the latter of which can be integrated into just about any platform.

So given the Typhoon airframe/aerodynamics is still applicable when it comes to pure A2A combat (and is likely to stay that way) it makes sense to continue the Typhoon production line but with a totally different systems fit.

Mark
Mark

Simon

Fleet leaders must be close to the 2000hrs mark. Doubt f35 would be obsolete that quick.

Topman
Topman

@ Simon
‘How many air hours do each of our Typhoons actually have on them? I’d imagine we try and distribute the flying over each tranch smoothly, but I can’t imagine we distribute over all tranches. Any ideas?’

Since they aren’t available online, try a FoI see what comes back? In the meantime there are clues online to get a (very) rough idea.

Opinion3
Opinion3

It is very disappointing that we haven’t invested in the Typhoon in a sensible progressive way. It has been too little too late and I genuinely believe massive orders could have been won. Yes the politics plays a crucial part in winning overseas contracts but we went in hampered.

Doesn’t the F35 use a very different strategy to the Typhoon. We have three fighters in the long term air fleet, the F35B, Typhoon and the Hawk. I mention the Hawk because it boosts the numbers but just how effective it could be if push came to a shove is an interesting thought. The F35 is ‘see and not be seen’, using technology above all else to achieve its kill. The Typhoon is more raw in its approach, I think we are utterly mad to let the numbers drop. 250 frontline high spec jets between the Air Fleet and the RAF doesn’t sound many, not when you strip out training and conversion fleets.

All this cutting back at a time when the US is lacking a strong Leader, can I say leaderless? ISIS is now bigger than Al Qaeda has ever been, Russia is the biggest menace for Europe for decades and the US has been shutting down and withdrawing from everywhere, not just Europe. If ISIS is not tackled more countries will fall. At risk are Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and quite possibly other countries such as Kenya. From Russia there are risks too. How is the Greek tragedy going to pan out? Because I can see Russia taking advantage and Greece heading that way. Then there are the Baltic states, plus the Russian leaning countries within the EU/ascending such as Austria and Serbia.

Think Defence is an apt name.

Mark
Mark

Opinion3

Massive orders from whom no ones been buying massive numbers of jets. It may have won some additional orders but we’re not talking about triple digits.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim

Airframe hours for the Typhoon are going to be a problem. The reduced number being purchased means there is a much smaller pool of airframes to spread the hour around. Also given that we are going to have fleets within fleets even if the T1 airframes are withdrawn is only going to make things worse. The MoD/RAF will only want to deploy the most capable plane when needed and this will be the T3 airframes. The T2s will not be modified into full T3 configuration, in my opinion as a means of saving money, but they may be 80% so. We will probably be in the situation we are in with the Tornado fleet, in only being able to deploy and sustain around a dozen airframes from the Typhoon fleet at any one time.

The obvious solution is to bring the T2s up to full T3 specs and purchase the full planned number of T3s but that is not going to happen. Retaining the T1s at Lossiemouth is feasible but we increase the fleet within fleet issues. Could we use a combination of T1s and simulator time for training and store the bulk of the T3s for emergency use only? and use the T2s for existing operations like patrolling the skies of the Baltic states and QRA in the Falklands?. Whatever plan evolves we are going to have to face the strong possibility that the Typhoon fleet is not going to last as long as say the Tornado fleet through its in built lack of capacity.

But that is going to be nothing compared to the problems that are going to appear in the life of the F-35 fleet. Give the very limited numbers we are probably going to end up with and the hard life they are going to have even in training, as operating at sea takes it toll on airframes, we could end up buying additional F-35s around 2030 just to retain the 50 or so we currently plan to buy.

Politicians, Civil Servants and Senior Officers have been fixated about new capabilities since the mid 1990s even changing they way programmes are begun and managed. Unfortunately, capacity has not really been apart of the equation as none of them see it a value for money. Buy the minimum number of a platform and you gain a capability you can let the spin doctors loose on. Spend more money to make that capability sustainable and they see it as a waste.

One example I have always found hard to understand is why the Astute SSNs did not have launch tubes for Tomahawks like the USNs Los Angeles and Virginia class SSNs. I can understand the cost of retrofitting the Trafalgars was prohibitive but the Astute was a blank canvas and the builders of the US submarines were taken on as consultants when the programme ran into serious trouble.

I have a bad feeling in my bones that SDSR 2015 again is not going even to look at capacity within our Armed Forces, and that though one or two capability gaps may be filled, more will appear as the Government tries to conduct a smoke and mirror exercise to hide the further reductions in defence.

Topman
Topman

@Lord Jim

‘Airframe hours for the Typhoon are going to be a problem.’

In cost terms possible that’s why we will look to sims more. In terms of airframe hours, no.

‘Could we use a combination of T1s and simulator time for training and store the bulk of the T3s for emergency use only? ‘

We could but there wouldn’t be much point. We can only run so many airframes at the same time. Best we use those with the most potential.

mickp
mickp

Just a thought – given the downsizing of the FJ fleet, there is presumably an argument to downsize the Hawk fleet? Could we replace some of the Hawk fleet with 2-seater Grippens in a stealthy sort of way for certain aspects of training – link with ETPS, lots of British bits in it, and a more effective ‘spare resource’ to supplant Typhoons in QRA?

Mark
Mark

Etps gripen lives in Sweden I think it’s only visited the UK a few times.

mickp
mickp

@Mark – ok thanks

Nick
Nick

Hohum

you are probably right, but if we do invest in appreciable F35 (beyond the 36 ? + 4 test required for the Carriers) then the multi-fleet operating cost, training, etc factors come into play. Worse still, if the LO/Sensor integration combination does turn out to be anything like true, we are likely to see increasing questions regarding why is the RAF still operating to previous generation relic (Typhoon). Once Russia and China (India) start to deploy significant numbers of their LO fighters, after 2025, then this is likely to become more important still. The one thing I would say about the RAF is that it has generally junked early designs quicker than needed to stay up to date.

The truth is (if you believe the F35 story) that Tranche 3 Typhoon are being bought much to late, without (today) the latest Radar and full software upgrades to be true swing-role, and only 2 to 3 years before its replacement will enter USAF service in its initial production form.

Nick
Nick

Simon

They will always go for the F35 (although I expect they would argue A rather than B if they were for sole RAF use). More commonality between an A and B F35 than with the Typhoon.

I would expect any RAF air marshal to argue they need to be in the day 1 strike game and without radar LO capability the RAF couldn’t guarantee delivering this by the end of the 2020’s.

wheatleymr

Re: “One example I have always found hard to understand is why the Astute SSNs did not have launch tubes for Tomahawks like the USNs Los Angeles and Virginia class SSNs.”
This never confused me.
Launch tubes take up space. Space that could otherwise be used for… the magazine.
Launch tubes do not give you magic free extra missiles, without contributing to the weight of the vessel.
For the space of the VLS, you could carry an equal or slightly larger number of horizontally launched weapons in the magazine.
E.g. the Virginia class is slightly larger than the Astute class; and carries 27 torpedo-room weapons + 12 VLS as compared to 38 torpedo-room weapon and no VLS on the Astute.
The advantage of the VLS is rate of fire, vs. the greater flexibility of a larger torpedo room.

Mickp
Mickp

@MW good points and makes sense for the smaller Astute provided we can keep the contents of the weapons room relevant eg if/when sub launched TLAM is phased out. I think for the RN volley fire should be the preserve of T26s and any Astutes on station should generally be preserving their stealth bar use in selective strikes

Lord Jim
Lord Jim

There is no certainty that the T-26 will be equipped to launch TLAM. I strongly suspect that seeing that the Astute class can already deliver this capability, its deletion form the T-26 on cost grounds if it saves a couple of hulls from cancellation is a possibility. In addition we do not own enough TLAMS to equip the T-26s nor are we likely to. Rate of fire is important if you want to make an impression on a target or targets. It looks good on the news firing one or two TLAMS at an opponent but its impact is marginal. Firing off twelve in rapid succession enables to have a chance to hit well defended targets that a single missile cannot. To this add how many TLAMS have been fired in anger by RN SSNs since 1970 compared to the number a torpedoes? Finally the USNs planned successor to TLAM will be designed to fit in existing Launch tubes. Whether they will produce a version able to be fired form torpedo tubes is another matter. WE could lose the capability all together and instead rely on Storm Shadow fired by F-35s operating off a carrier.

The Other Chris

Our current TLAM inventory represents two key capabilities: Intermediate range cruise missile strike and large penetrating warheads.

Fortunately the TLAM production line has been given an extension and MdCN is an option. Both drop into the Mk.41 VLS planned for T26 (which in itself saves on the cost of fitting and operating torpedo tubes via use of RUM), MdCN has a tube-launched option and Storm Shadow commonality (just).

The other options are largely sub 300nm class ASuM based missiles with land attack functions. Great as options, but primarily there for ASuW. They have smaller warheads, lack Penetrator/BROACH natures, which reduces the land targets they can affect.

Short vs Intermediate range is the difference between entering an EEZ to engage a land target or remaining somewhere within an oceanic (or inter-oceanic in some cases) region and maintaining a threat to land targets.

The UK TLAM orders are in the region of 20 at a time (60 odd authorised in the last US FMS, 20 purchased last September). Given Raytheon is operating on ~200 orders from the USN at the moment as a minimum just to keep the production line running, 40 in the pipeline for the UK can make a difference at those volumes, including preserving the tube-launch options.

ChrisM
ChrisM

The mention of two seat Typhoons reminded me of a question I have for the better informed.
Has better technology really meant that a single pilot is effective at close air support of the anti-ISIS kind? I notice that the Yanks seem to use the two seat Super Hornets quite a bit. When you are looking at long transits, multiple refuellings, and long loiter, are the pilots being overworked by then being expected to manage the communications and accurate targeting needed for low collateral damage close support? I assume using the two seat Typhoons, with air to ground updates only, would founder on the expense and lack of training stream for a second crew member?

Mark
Mark

Chrism

The a10 is often referred to as the best cas aircraft in the world it is single seat.

Bud2402
Bud2402

Hi guys, first post. Am i asking a stupid question? Why cant typhoon be upgraded for carrier ops? I know it would be costly but i really would not think F35 type costly.

DesDizzy
DesDizzy

I find it bemusing and a bit sad that the level of commentary and insight is so confused. This applies not just to this particular blog but to these defence blogs and government issue/analysis in general. In this day and age when we have an abundance of tools for cheap statistical/quantitative analysis, it seems these decisions are often made on “gut” feelings and political agendas, rather than thorough evidential rational analysis.

The repeated canard that we “cannot afford” this and that we are poor, is just as much non-sense. We are one of the richest countries in the world and we have, arguably, the most effective 2nd tier military capability on the planet. As there is a population of 1 in the first tier and only 3/4 in the 2nd tier, it would help if we gave these discussions some context. Because, the present government, based on ideology not rational economics or good governance, has decided on a crash course of debt reduction, to the detriment of long term investing, does not mean we are “poor”. This does not mean that putting the defence budget on a sound/professional footing is a bad thing. The armed services procurement regime has been run in an amateurish way for too long. However, one has to look no further than the aircraft carrier F35B debacle to wonder at the degree of incompetence in the government and senior civil service.

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