Priorities and Options for SDSR 2015 – Defence of the United Kingdom


The task of defending the UK itself falls largely to the RAF and Royal Navy.  They need to have sufficient forces to defend our airspace and territorial waters.

That means keeping hostile aircraft, ships and submarines out of range of being able to launch stand-off weapons at the UK or threatening our vital shipping and air transport routes.  This planning scenario is not based on addressing any one particular threat but an analysis of the defence needs of the UK from threats approaching from any geographical direction.

The RAF’s principal role is to provide long-range air defence (up to 1,000 miles) using advanced air superiority fighters – equipped with the latest AESA radar, up to ten of the most effective air-to-air missiles (Meteor and ASRAAM), supported by AWACS and aerial tankers.  Four Typhoon Squadrons, one Squadron of E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft and one Squadron of A330 Voyager aerial tankers should be able to fulfil this role against likely credible threats.  Dispersed between RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Coningsby and RNAS Culdrose the Typhoon is able to patrol into the Norwegian Sea and the edges of Greenland to the north, Poland to the east, Gibraltar to the south and the Mid-Atlantic to the west.

The Eurofighter Typhoon will remain the UK’s principal air defence fighter.

EF Typhoon

The Eurofighter Typhoon is most suited to this role due to its considerable combat range, top speed, agility and ability to carry up to ten air-to-air missiles.  Two Squadrons at Lossiemouth share peacetime northern QRA and two at Coningsby provide southern QRA.  This is the minimum necessary to provide continuous peacetime coverage.

UK air defence could be further supplemented by an upgraded and armed training, aggressor and exercise support aircraft.

The Hawk T1 is due to be out of service by 2020.  In its aggressor and support role it could be replaced by secondhand F-16s (of which there is a plentiful supply) or by new Hawk 200s.  In its role with the Red Arrows it should be replaced by a version of the Hawk 200 so that they can continue to promote British industry.  See for more.

Together with the Hawk T2s currently being used for advanced jet training these aircraft could be upgraded with a basic AESA radar and armed with Meteor and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles to provide an important secondary air defence.  In an emergency the F-16 would be more than capable of supplementing the Typhoon in the air defence role while the Hawks could be assigned the specific task of escorting AWACS, ISTAR and tanker aircraft.

Further support would be provided by the new Land Ceptor which replaces the Rapier for short-range air defence (up to 20 miles) around valuable potential targets such as air bases.

Upgraded F-16s or Hawk 200s with basic AESA radars and armed with Meteor BVRAAMs could provide improved aggressor training and an important secondary air defence.

Belgian Air Force F16

Hawk 200

The Royal Navy’s role is to keep our territorial waters and shipping routes open and safe.  Three battle groups with nine escort destroyers/frigates and either four or six Squadrons of F-35B Lightning IIs from the joint RAF:FAA force would fulfil the bulk of this requirement.  Positioned within reach of the RAF’s land based air defences to provide additional security, two battle groups could cover the area from Greenland to Norway while the third covers the Western Approaches.  All other available destroyers, frigates and patrol vessels would form two patrols of the areas not covered by the battle groups, with the highest priority going to the approaches to Faslane.

In times of major threat two of the battle groups would be based around a Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier each equipped with 36 F-35Bs plus maritime/AEW helicopters.  The third group would be based around amphibious ships solely equipped with helicopters.

If there were six Squadrons of F-35Bs each QE carrier would operate one Naval Air Squadron in the fleet air defence/anti-shipping role in both peacetime and conflict situations.  These would be supplemented by two RAF Squadrons in heightened situations which would specialise in operating against land targets with a secondary anti-shipping role.  An upgraded long-range Storm Shadow missile would make a capable weapon in an anti-shipping role.

An alternative would be for one of the QE carriers to operate more as a helicopter carrier in either an amphibious or ASW role.  In this case it would only operate one Naval Air Squadron of F-35Bs together with 30 helicopters.  That would result in the number of F-35B Squadrons dropping from six to four.

Even with three battle groups there would still be a lot of the North Atlantic not being patrolled.  There is a clear requirement for a dedicated specialist long-range Maritime Patrol Aircraft to cover these gaps.  This could be met by equipping one Squadron with Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon or Kawasaki’s P-1 aircraft.  These would be equipped with multiple sonobuoys and torpedoes in a specialist anti-submarine warfare role and an upgraded version of Storm Shadow for a significant secondary role against surface vessels or land targets.  They would also be capable of using their powerful radar and electronics, suitably modified, to support land ISTAR operations and this would enable them to eventually replace the Sentinel R1 with a second Squadron of aircraft.

The UK needs a new Maritime Patrol Aircraft such as the Boeing P-8 Poseidon or Kawasaki P-1.


In addition, the UK should evaluate the Triton UAV and a Sea Reaper UCAV to see whether either can add to the capabilities and reach of whichever aircraft is selected in the MPA role.

Any MPA selected could be supplemented by the Triton UAV or a Sea Reaper UCAV.

MQ-4C Triton SDD-1

There is also a requirement for an anti-shipping strike fighter to operate out of the range of the carriers.  This could be met by a small number of Typhoons (such as a Flight made up of aircraft from the Operational Conversion Unit) supported by aerial tankers.  These could be equipped with two upgraded long-range Storm Shadow missiles with an anti-shipping capability.  Even with a full strike load the Typhoon is still capable of carrying an additional six air-to-air missiles so this unit could also fulfil a secondary role of providing fighter escort for the MPA Squadron.

To provide a minimum effective defence of the UK requires:

  • 5 Typhoon units – 4 air defence Squadrons plus 1 anti-shipping Flight
  • 1 E-3 Sentry AWACS Squadron
  • 1 A330 Voyager aerial tanker Squadron
  • 2 upgraded aggressor Squadrons – either secondhand F-16s or Hawk 200s
  • 2 AESA equipped and Meteor capable Hawk Squadrons
  • Land Ceptor surface-to-air missiles to replace Rapier
  • 1 Maritime Patrol Squadron – possibly supplemented by UAVs
  • upgraded Storm Shadow missiles with a long-range anti-shipping capability
  • 2 QE class aircraft carriers
  • 4 F-35B swing-role Squadrons
  • 18 destroyers/frigates and 3 patrol vessels
  • 4 Merlin HMA Squadrons and
  • 2 Wildcat HMA Squadrons.

UK Air Defence – the white areas could be covered by Typhoons operating from RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Coningsby and RNAS Culdrose, the blue by carrier based F-35Bs and the yellow by F-16s operating from the Shetlands and RAF Leeming.  Hawks could operate from Orkney and RAF Scampton.


UK Air Defence



The rest of the series

1 – Introduction

2 – Defence of the UK

3 – Other Sovereign Territories

4 – NATO

5 – A Southern or Middle Eastern Threat

6 – An Eastern and Northern Threat

7 – Global Intervention

8 – Land Command 2025; Appendix 1 – Army 2025

9 – Naval Command 2025; Appendix 2 – Royal Navy 2025

10 – Air Command 2025; Appendix 3 – RAF 2025

11 – Conclusion – The Options for Change; Appendix 4 – An Abundance of Riches: MoD Procurement 2015-25

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October 1, 2015 5:10 pm

Where are the submarines?

No minimally effective defence of the island that is the UK can be successful without submarines of some sort, and in sufficient numbers to protect the substantial surface assets detailed. You briefly mention Faslane, but no details on whether there are boats there, whether they are nuclear powered, and whether Trident is retained or we devolve to a hunter/killer sub force, only.

This is a big omission.

October 1, 2015 5:16 pm

Or the viability of reviving one of your most persistent and potent ASW asset. SOSUS.

William Forbes
William Forbes
October 1, 2015 6:11 pm

For operational planning purposes, what is the radius of action (or combat radius) from the QE carrier of the JSF F-35b when in LO mode and observing the normal fuel reserve disciplines (with buddy refuelling unavailable, of course)? Was that figure used for the radius of the blue circle drawn over the Norwegian Sea?

October 1, 2015 6:20 pm

“A strong economy-minded government kept naval contruction to a bare minimum, and this decade is often referred to as the dark ages of the Navy. However the threat of war with Russia led the govenrment to purchase four new capital ships, none of which was a great asset, but this action served to recognise that the Navy’s strength was only adequate for peacetime. Furthermore the forrmation of a rapid response squadron revealed a lack of proper organisation to quickly mobilise the fleet”. Intoduction to Conway’s Fighting Ships, 1860-1905 volume – speaking about the 1870s. Plus ca change.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
October 1, 2015 6:21 pm

We could never fund an IADS that would render this country immune from attack from long range cruise missiles and the Russians (the only realistic enemy at this point and for the forseeable future) have plenty of options for launching them. A very small number of such missiles with non nuclear warheads could thoroughly wreck our economy.

October 1, 2015 6:43 pm

A French will tell you that the priority is SSBN. Do not attack us because otherwise you will be destroyed.

John Hartley
John Hartley
October 1, 2015 7:17 pm

Other countries make use of mobile missile batteries. If the UK had any spare money, I would want one or two batteries of a high altitude SAM in the THAAD/Arrow/MEADS/SAMP-T class. Plus truck mounted anti-ship missiles. With them Britain could control 2 choke points, the straits of Dover & Gibraltar. We used to have Exocet in Gibraltar, but I think they went early in the defence cuts.

October 1, 2015 7:39 pm

You might want to revisit some of the facts you’ve put in your article.

October 1, 2015 8:17 pm


Can you enlighten us as to which parts you disagree with? Personally, I find the article very general in scope without much specifics, but at least it gives us a rough guideline as to where Andy is going. Which to my reading is to turtle up like someone is after your life. Not wrong, just one of the options.

One interesting thought I had for MPA is that there may be a change in roles for them. In the past, they were used to spot and attack submarines as they surface to recharge their batteries, but with the current trend of nuclear and AIP technology, trying to plot a submarine’s track has become more difficult as there is no longer any need for the sub to surface for long periods of time, which means that datums generated, like spotting a snorkel or a thermal image is going to be lesser and hence plotting a possible course for the sub is going to be much more difficult. This means that more persistent assets like ships that allows for grid searching may end up being the preferred method to hunt subs as things like MPA need to have at least a general idea of the sub’s location before they toss one of their sonobuoys out. Need to check with the boys in blue if the logic is sound, but that is my guessimate of the trend.

This might mean that MPAs might more often be employed in the future to generate a surface picture instead of sub hunting. If this is to be the trend with AIP subs, then maybe your next MPA might be better off being less designed as a sub hunter but more as a flying AWACs to generate both a surface and air picture for command and control instead of a shooter.

And a very, very tangential issue, if your radar MPA can be made small enough to be used from your carriers, that would generate some commonality and maybe utility for beyond UK usage. I sort of got the idea from our past when we used old land based E-2Cs for early warning. This one is just brainstorming, I know you already use a helo based system, just tossing out the idea.

October 1, 2015 8:39 pm

just a few small facts at the top of the article. Missiles carried type number etc. not a major drama just trying to helpful.

October 1, 2015 8:58 pm

The biggest weakness we have is lack of air launched anti-ship weapons.

Ships/subs/helicopters are great when they are in the area, but can’t react fast.

Why do we not have anti-ship weapons for the Eurofighter or at least tornados.

October 1, 2015 9:04 pm

Oh No! Not they “Lets buy Hawk 200 or second hand F-16’s to satisfy some vague aggressor role” again.

It is a non starter of an idea and anybody who suggests wasting limited RAF budget on it should be chased out of town by a pitch forking wielding mob ;-)

1) Hawk 200 is out of production, it is a sub sonic radar equipped point defence fighter that failed to find much sales success.

2) Adding a radar equipped Hawk to the inventory to satisfy the role of an aggressor fighter is a waste of resources when other in service aircraft like Typhoon can be pressed into role or aircraft leased from private contractors like “Hawker Hunter Aviation”.

3) The F-16 is not even in current UK service so the cost of adding it into the inventory is even more nonsensical. Even if maintenance was farmed out to a European F-16 operator it is still a hugely wasteful exercise to just support the aggressor role.

4) The only reason the Hawk T MK1A got Sidewinder was to support weapons training, The secondary point defence role was more theoretical than practical.

5) …”Together with the Hawk T2s currently being used for advanced jet training these aircraft could be upgraded with a basic AESA radar and armed with Meteor and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles to provide an important secondary air defence. In an emergency the F-16 would be more than capable of supplementing the Typhoon in the air defence role while the Hawks could be assigned the specific task of escorting AWACS, ISTAR and tanker aircraft.” Anybody who suggests hacking about the Hawk T2 to add an AESA radar, METEOR and then pressing it into a support role to defend the tankers and ISTAR aircraft need their head examined then chased out of town by the aforementioned pitchfork wielding mob. They are a limited resource and they are needed for training … PERIOD! Again the UK doesn’t need a sub sonic point defence fighter equipped with a long range BVR missile and I suggest you look at the performance profile of aircraft like Voyager or Sentinel before declaring the T2 as being perfect to defend them…FYI that Sentinel that was flying over Scotland yesterday was at 43,000ft which is only fractionally below the Hawks service ceiling and it can go higher.

We don’t need aircraft to supplement Typhoon in the air defence role, if we did then arguably keeping more Typhoon in service is the best solution. We don’t need a subsonic point defence fighter and we have barely enough Hawk T2 for training especially with the T MK 1/1A going soon to be wasting them in the role.

Sorry to be blunt but it is fantasy fleet silliness.

October 1, 2015 9:06 pm

p.s. and some form of land based anti-missile batteries.

If an enemy can sneak a sub in close and launch cruise missiles at our limited air bases, our air defence is taken out of the picture.

We have ship mounted anti-missile batteries, it can’t be that difficult to create fixed point land ones to defend the air bases.

October 1, 2015 9:30 pm

Or you could simply sign up some of your pilot for Fighter Training School or Red Flag or Pitch Black or any of the multi-national air exercises for training. In fact, some of these multi-national exercises even use actual “enemy” hardware instead of pseudo-planes. Why train with a plane pretending to be an SU-27 when you can practice against an actual SU-27?


I don’t see the possible gain in closing the UK’s airbases for only a few hours. Only worth it if the fighting was so close that the fighters launched from there go directly into combat operations and return to the same base. Which unfortunately would mean the enemy has already rolled through most of Europe.

Peter Elliott
October 1, 2015 9:33 pm

Better to keep the subs at arms length by knowing who’s put what into the Atlantic and having the means to let them know that you know where they are and can drop on them heavy if required…

October 1, 2015 9:37 pm

If we are talking defence of the UK, we have to assume that either the rest of Europe has fallen or has been side stepped, other wise we are talking defence of Europe which is a different puzzle.

A couple of hours is all they would need, to achieve air dominance. If our jets can’t take off or the ones already in the air can’t land, the enemy can just start bombing the air bases to keep us out of the game. Slow long range bombers could be used at this point, since we would have nothing to stop them.

Just like in the Falklands, our defence is built around keeping the airbases open, if we can’t do that we have lost.

Peter Elliott
October 1, 2015 9:55 pm

What you uncover Steve is the need for a threat analysis. If we’re defending the UK home islands from the Russians plus the odd rogue sub from a different ocean then the proposed force levels are overkill. If we’re fighting the Spanish, French and Germans then we better nuke them cos they’ll overwhelm our conventional defences. But that scenario doesn’t pass as credible in the next decade or two…

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
October 1, 2015 11:40 pm

Looking at air defence, I would say that if we raised a sixth Typhoon (T3) squadron, creating two wings each of three squadrons based as Lossiemouth and Conningsby, we would have sufficient FJs to police UK airspace. Whether this would involve the purchase of 12 to 16 new airframes or the conversion of the same number of existing T1 airframes would mainly be a matter of cost.

A key component of our air defence is the E-3D Sentry. This has been neglected for decades, and our airframes are probably the least capable of the global fleet. As a matter of priority in the coming SDSR, funding must be made available to correct this. The other key component is of course air to air refuelling and in this area we are going to be pretty well equipped with the new Voyagers.

As for SAMs, current planes have the UK reducing its assets to a single Royal Artillery Regiment with 24 Land Ceptor launchers and 84 HVM launchers. Although these are available for UK defence, they are really intended to support force deployment overseas. Given that any attack on the UK by air has to cross the airspace of other NATO members and management of NATO airspace is still joined up, more so if countries like Finland and Sweden share their information, the level of advance warning should mean FJs are sufficient against any conventional threat. If the situation arises where we are not able to get advanced warning then running up the white flag maybe the only viable option, as the Opposition is in control of mainland Europe and Scandinavia and we are all alone barring a handful of NATO squadrons relocated here.

Turning to the Hawk (and F16s), both of these are a non starter. However, re-equipping the Red Arrows with the Hawk T2 will eventually happen. I would suggest that the two other Hawk units, 100 Sqn and 736 NAS could also eventually be re-equipped to reduce operating costs, Both these squadrons could be utilised more, providing some of the aggressor training mentioned.

With the Navy, whilst the Queen Elizabeth class will in theory have a role in defending the UK this is not their true role. That is to project UK military force out of area. Together with the ARG (If it still exists post SDSR) they are going to absorb the majority of the RNs surface and submerged assets. Again if their becomes a substantial and real naval threat to the UK it is too late. We will have realistically two to three T-26/T45 available to operate in UK waters if the CVBG and ARG are deployed elsewhere.

The UK’s lack of an ASM is a problem but not mainly for UK defence. With the withdrawal of most of out Harpoon stocks, we need to look as a new weapon to equip our aircraft, submarines and warships. The US/Norwegian JSM would fit the bill, to equip the F-35, FMPA, T-45/T26 and if the Norwegian private initiative comes to fruition, our SSNs.

stephen duckworth
October 2, 2015 12:33 am

The UK as you imagine is massivley dependant on imports to maintain our present standard of living. We import approx 300m tonnes per year of stuff, be it coal to lettuce. The ever growing size of bulk carriers, petroleum product carriers and container ships pushing 150k tonnes means we rely on about 2000 big ship movements per year. A few conventional or nuclear submarines carrying a couple of dozen torpedoes each could put a serious dent in this flow. For me the ASW aspect of defence is critical , be it by Merlin’s from flat tops or frigates to Astute’s to some form of MMA . Yes overseas land force projection supported by jets is a nice feature but is it correct to what the UK populace need. imports by sea&ved=0CC8QFjAEahUKEwifno7_waLIAhWDOBoKHcUxAPg&usg=AFQjCNE9u8L0eymn63yvn7ityIEtVxHRMg&sig2=Vgouj0v3W01uLgnT64ahEA

October 2, 2015 12:48 am

” A few conventional or nuclear submarines carrying a couple of dozen torpedoes each could put a serious dent in this flow.”

I wonder who is the country that is so daring as to do this. :)
Piracy in the Gulf of Aden was enough to get a coalition+ (+ as even non-coalition members like China got involved) to intervene. Start randomly sinking cargo ships and watch the whole planet get frowny faced at you.

stephen duckworth
October 2, 2015 1:02 am

I agree it would only happen in a Total war situation but like CASD it is a function of the RN/RAF that needs maintaining at a high readiness and capability level.

October 2, 2015 1:14 am

As much as I like the idea of throwing out “We need x amount of tanks, planes, ships etc”, I can’t help but feel that this is short term thinking or “immediate needs” thinking. If something happens on a large scale, the UK, like us, will be forced to utilize conscription to fill the ranks. Beyond the question of training, there is also the question on if you have the stockpiles needed to arm and feed the surge in manpower. There is no point conscripting 100,000 men if you only have enough guns for 1,000. So beyond the “immediate needs” of UK defence (which is very modest TBH), consideration must also be given to the warstock. Here lies a very delicate balancing act. You want a large stockpile to draw from in case of emergency. Yet large stockpiles are very problematic to upgrade and left alone long enough, will face the problem of becoming obsolete. Guns are not too vulnerable to this, but things like IFVs, APCs and MBTs? Or even FJ? These need constant upgrading. How is the UK doing on things like modernization of warstock? What level of warstock is deemed “sufficient”?

October 2, 2015 3:53 am

A good equipment based post but how far how do you want to patrol and secure? Up to the Middle East and the South Atlantic? Or patrols in the Southeast Asian region? Patrols across E Europe–BAP and even border of Russia and pro-Russia states? There needs to be a setting of “where”–to what extent do you want your force projection to be.

October 2, 2015 4:27 am

integrating a anti ship missile on typhoon is going to costs in excess of £500 million. Putting anti ship capability in to storm shadow probably north of £1 billion.

If you are going for 4 F35 squadrons why not use them in the anti ship role as they will come with missiles like the JSM already qualified.

October 2, 2015 4:30 am

@ observer and SD

It worth noting that the bulk of our container traffic goes into Rotterdam before being distributed to smaller ports in the UK and Europe.

So anyone trying to starve out the UK will have to do so against all of Europe and probably Russia as well. The modern world is very different to the battle of the Atlantic.

October 2, 2015 7:02 am


Whilst I agree with your point, if we really look at a realistic senenaio we can simple remove all miltiary force from the UK, we don’t really need it. If we didn’t have a military we still wouldn’t be attacked by anyone. There is no realistic threat currently.

Our military is about power projection and not really about UK defence.

Could that change in the next 20 years, possibly but unlikely. If the financial crisis had worsened in the euro zone and really snow balled, there would have been a remote chance of wars breaking out, but in the end unlikely. Mass media etc focus on the impact, has made wars very difficult to justify and undertaken.

October 2, 2015 7:05 am

Martin, a good point. Money is dug out of the ground in the East and South of Russia, but consumed (or converted into arms production, at least for the design bureaus stage of that process) in the West of the country.
Like a great Russian writer said of the country (a century ago, and it still applies): Nothing has changed about the country as it can produce great fools, but can’t produce good roads. Battle of Atlantic may have slipped into history, but the transportation nodes in Russia are still the same railway hubs as they were then, which again would not be of much use for imports without the ports facing West.

October 2, 2015 7:13 am

Obs – ref warstock – there is, as they say, another way. An alternative to hangars and sheds and docks full of unused ageing materiel is to have a proper (as in Gov’t mandated, Gov’t supported) industry mobilisation strategy. When the muck hits the fan HM Gov’t should be in a position to call industry players to switch to (can’t think of a better term) war-work, and those industry organisations should know what they are expected to make and how to make them. That means not only the likes of Clydeside dockyards and BAE aircraft facilities, but the likes of JCB, Nissan, Bombardier Derby, Tata Steel etc should have an agreed mobilisation plan locked away in their safe. Smaller defence component businesses should have bigger companies capable of build-to-print lined up and prepared should they be needed. In this properly managed defence industrial strategy (unlike the thing introduced with a fanfare which New Labour called a Defence Industrial Strategy) the Gov’t would have knowledge of the achievable war-work production capacity, the key industrial players, the risk areas to address. They would find out there are far more strategically critical industrial sectors than shipyards and windfarm installation contractors.

What remains as ongoing defence work is the continued design and development of up to date equipment, with proving runs (small numbers) of production kit for testing the design can be manufactured; these test equipments then used for training of the core armed forces. If at any point the decision is made to retire mainstream equipment then the replacement is designed and qualified, ready for manufacture.

Or HM Gov’t can continue its head-in-sand policy of believing ‘someone else will do it for us’. That I suggest is risky at best, more likely a naive policy. If our backs have been slammed against the wall and we need conscription, then our allies will be in a similar position, and their efforts will be focused on their own needs not ours.

There’s always ebay…

It is unaffordable to hold vast shedfuls of military kit, regularly updated to war-winning standard, in numbers that would be needed in all out war. The two World Wars put our small country deep in hock; and this was a century ago one of the very wealthiest of nations.

So there are two ways to know the nation is well prepared against the possibility of war; one is to keep vast reserves of materiel just in case, the other is to know unequivocally that the means to produce all necessary equipment is available, aware and prepared to be mobilised. The latter is the smart move. But it needs a strategy and management.

October 2, 2015 7:48 am

Why go to the trouble of buying clapped out F16s as aggressors? Surely keep the retiring T1 Typhoons for the role. If ever the cash was available then 2nd hand Gripens would be a better option given the ETPS operates a couple.

But in all seriousness any aggressor service like that is maybe something for a third party such as BAE to offer as it does elsewhere.

October 2, 2015 8:02 am

it is a good and interesting article, but I am puzzled by a few omissions:

1. where are the submarines?
2. if they are omitted because they are deemed offensive weapons, why the carriers included?
3. does the focus on ‘defence’ mask the fact power projection is not a Foreign Policy priority?

I know we changed the name of the old War Office to the friendlier sounding Ministry of Defence, but let’s not pussy-foot around here: the British Armed Forces are almost uniquely configured for power-projection first, second, and third, with defence something that is met more by diplomatic weapons (trident and NATO) than typhoon’s and destroyers.

Britain is an unsinkable aircraft carrier, inventing sinkable metal additions is poor way of providing national air defence. We maintain the carrier/amphibious task-group and SSN’s because our desire if to proactively go and cause trouble everywhere else, not because we want to protect against trouble arriving at our shores.

That is our Foreign Policy, and so that is the end that our Ministry of Offence must meet!

October 2, 2015 9:31 am

“There simply isn’t the capacity to add an eighth boat even if we wanted.” Is that so? That presumably assumes Successor starts on time though, otherwise we may need to look at gap filling to avoid skills fade etc. I’d rather have Barrow consistently busy as a national asset. Does anyone know if there will be a significant gap between estimated completion of the last successor boat and OSD of Astute? Do we therefore operate with 7 SSNs now, but that may have to rise to 8 or 9 anyway if Astute II needs to be built before Astute I OSD?

October 2, 2015 9:49 am

, didn’t appreciate aggressor was such a big issue nor the OSD of Hawk. Anyone mentioned Textron Scorpion recently?!

October 2, 2015 9:50 am

. But Hawk is finished. There is a new generation of fast jet lead in trainers from Italy, Russia and South Korea, and there will clean sheet designs for the USAF competition. Hawk will not be bid for the USAF competition either. So what exactly are we promoting? (although I agree -we may need a few more T2s if we expand the fast jet fleet – but they could be upgraded T1A airframes – or the last off the line. Keeping some Tranche 1 Typhoon would be OTT for the Arrows, but if you want British export tech then really the only option. Not sure about why we need an aggressor, surely we need more deployable combat air? – or if we did surely the only option is once again to keep Tranche 1 Typhoon in service?

October 2, 2015 9:56 am


You missed my option: Collaborate with other nations in multi-national air defence exercises and train with the actual enemy hardware instead of “similar” pseudo-copies, like you did in the recent spat with India (Exercise Indradhanush 2015) or Red Flag or send some of your pilots for training with the US. Why buy a totally new aircraft unsupported by your current infrastructure when your allies already have and are maintaining it? Indonesia’s participation in Pitch Black was much valued because they brought SU-27s.

I totally agree, the 2 wars grabbed your economy and savings, smacked it on the head and broke both shins to boot. As for industrial participation, it worked in the past, but I’m not sure if it is viable these days. It takes about a year to build a new MBT and 5 years for a FJ these days. That is like starting aircraft construction at the start of WWII only to be in service near the end. Equipment was simpler then.


UK power is about power projection, that I agree. But how does that statement mesh with your proposal of a ground based point defence umbrella over the UK? That is hardly a tool to project power, more like one used to defend against (conventional) attacks on the UK itself. Which isn’t likely to happen. Not impossible, but highly unlikely and of little value to an aggressor unless it already has you so deep in a barrel that it is almost a moot point.

October 2, 2015 10:08 am

RE ” That presumably assumes Successor starts on time though, otherwise we may need to look at gap filling to avoid skills fade etc. I’d rather have Barrow consistently busy as a national asset.”

Has anyone noticed the Navy contingency plan to refuel boats, should Successor not start on time? I seem to recall an estimate of £375m, but whether that was for 3 or 4 (or if it was even specified)… can’t remember.

October 2, 2015 10:18 am

With a Defence Review we always look at external threats. Whether Military or Terrorism. But what if we look closer at home whilst taking both of these Topics out of the equation for a moment.

Our society lives in a sort of dreamworld. Bad things only ever happen to other Foreign Countries or in a Hollywood Film. However good the latest technology is or how easy our lives are. We as a country are only ever weeks, even days from chaos. If this country was to find it self forced to its knees. It won’t be by a Foreign Power. But by misguided Policy’s by Politicians who only think of themselves. Pressurised by NGO’s by this weeks, The Sky is Falling drama. Last week it was Volkswagon and the nasty Diesel’s. We live in a benign enviroment. The UK doesn’t do major Earthquakes. We have no Volcanoes to worry about. We can and do suffer from Major Weather events. But they are quickly forgotten. Today’s news is Tomorrow’s Chip Paper.

So I think we should be also be thinking of our Food and Energy Security.

The Food Supply Chain works on a Just in Time Principle. Have you ever walked round your local supermarket and looked at how much bare essential supplies is actually on the Shelves. It’s not alot really. Don’t think that their is a huge Store Room outback. Most space is taken by Chiller’s/Freezers and Security Storage for High Valued Goods. Each store has essentially 24 to 36 hrs of reserve stock, depending on the size of the store. Supermarket Distribution Depots are in the same boat. They are constantly being delivered to. I have never seen a Distribution Depot with full storage shelves. Stock comes into a DC and within 24hrs it’s on the shelves of the Store.

In the Horrific Winter of 47, we as a country came closer to Starvation than we did during the War.
The Supply Chain broke down completely. Because of the weather, neither Food or Fuel could be moved. Farmers had to resort to using Pneumatic Jack Hammers to get Turnips out of the Fields. We couldn’t get
Coal out of the Coalfields.
In 2010, the Haulage Industry, really struggled to keep the Supply Chain going. In the 16 years of Driving an LGV, that is the only time our driving hours were increased by the Secretary of State for Transport. Because the Food Supply Chain was struggling to cope.

We don’t grow enough Food neither do we store enough Food, by that I mean Grain, Beef etc. The NFU will tell you that if we were to solely rely on homegrown foods. With a Starting Date of the 1st of January. We would run out of Food by the 14th of August. We should be storing at least 3-5 years worth of Grain. Not just for Human Consumption but also for Animal Consumption as well. Other Essentials Foods Stuffs should also be stored. If the UK had, had a large reserve of essential foods stored in 1939, how better off would we have been.

Now our Energy and Food Problems problems converge.This year along the M5 and the M4 a number of New Solar Farms have been built on Good Arable Land. We’re not talking about a field here or there. I’m talking about Four to Five fields at each individual farm being converted. Now in the Grand schemes of thing a few acres of Farm land lost may not matter. But as Solar Farms don’t work in the Dark. This is a waste of precious resources and is simply Subsidy Farming and nothing else.

As we are closing Coal Fired Power Stations down at an alarming rate. And are now reliant on Gas Fired Power Stations. Which in turn rely on a supply chain of giant LPG Tankers stretching from the UK to the Gulf. And on Wind Farms which require the right sort of Wind and again is another example of Subsidy Farming. Am I the only person who thinks this is madness of the highest order.

In today’s Times, there is an article on the possible conversion of Eggbrough power Station to Bio-Mass. Cutting down tree’s in North America, then shipping it over to the UK. All because of Co2. (I take it that the Enviromental Lobby don’t know the principle of Photosynthesis. That we need trees and Co2 mixed with Sunlight to make Oxygen!)

All the time we are sitting on Billions of Tons of Coal Reserves. Coal as an Energy Source has never let us down. It is what took this country from being a Pauper to being the Giant it is today. Germany is building new Coal fired Power stations so to are other European Nations. So why don’t we.

Sorry to have a rant and my apologies if I’m rambling! But this is a serious problem.

October 2, 2015 10:22 am

Obs – ref industrial strategy – Nail, Head, Hit. The lead time issue for the modern (excessively?) complex military kit would be a killer – literally. Fortunately most of the lead time is design, test, trials & qualification – that needs to happen even if there is no planned big production order intended. There are other long-lead issues with complex devices or difficult manufacturing processes or difficult to assemble materials; these would need assessing for their impact upon speed of production so that a decision could be made for minimum stock holding.

One of the potential gotchas is that the modern manufacturer relies heavily on automation, and in the case of really long production runs (like three years solid of the same car type) the machinery is custom made and not necessarily flexible enough to be turned to military products. What we have lost over the past 40 years or so is the skilled worker who could make stuff to drawings, and the ‘old fashioned’ machine tools they would have used. It would be an interesting exercise, were HMG bothered, to hand (for example) Nissan the standard UK Army LR chassis and body drawings and ask them to make them. Or to ask Westlands to make a Typhoon cockpit structure. Just to see how long it might take and what production line machinery the new manufacturer feels they would have to install for the job.

Part of the task of the military equipment designer (as I see it) is making the designs simple enough that they can be distributed to a large number of manufacturers. But I might be a bit unusual in that respect.

October 2, 2015 10:30 am

” For instance I can’t think of any reason to have fewer Astutes nor can we have more because the construction yards will need to start work on the first Successor boat as soon as they’ve finished the seventh Astute. There simply isn’t the capacity to add an eighth boat even if we wanted.”

Well, capacity can be added. If you went to BAE Systems (and Cammell Laird and Babcock and the rest) and said “Here is a truckload of money, ten more Astute please, delivery over a ten-year period starting in 2025” I bet they’d find a way to make it happen. Either modular building as with the Queen Elizabeths, or adding more capacity to Barrow. It’s just a question of will (i.e. money).

October 2, 2015 10:38 am

The 5 year construction time I quoted was for the pre-designed Rafale, add in the design phase and it goes into decades as demonstrated by a lot of aircraft design programs. Of course they could be taking it easy and if some sadistic government was to go to a 24 hour work schedule, maybe they can get it down to ~2 years?

October 2, 2015 10:42 am

“”Here is a truckload of money, ten more Astute please, delivery over a ten-year period starting in 2025”

The Daily Mail, 30th Feb 2035
“Submarines in the UK only going to sea with 2 torpedoes on board!”

stephen duckworth
October 2, 2015 10:50 am

BAE at Barrow are completing a £300m new construction shed for the Successor class.

October 2, 2015 10:54 am

Simon257 – “Am I the only person who thinks this is madness?” – no. I have a very low opinion of Eco-bling. As in glory projects that are all about being seen to be doing something. For example, for all those on the Eco bandwagon going to very important Eco summits to discuss how nasty climate change is? Have they ever considered how many air-miles their cadre consumes each and every year? Or as another example have the people who each year rush to buy the latest most Eco-friendly family car considered the ecological impact of making that vehicle? And the scrapping of whichever vehicle falls off the end of the used-car chain their new car starts? “Look at Meee! See how Green I am!”

I would be entirely in favour of a mandate to fit all new homes with solar heating. As in the liquid system for warming the house. Cheap, no exotic materials, cuts fossil fuel usage. I don’t rate PV cells because they use rare materials and I suspect their operating life is limited (as is the case with all semiconductors). If people want to put windmills in their garden to generate some power, that’s fine. But be aware the battery technology is also eating world resources. But big windfarms? Without subsidy I doubt any would be viable, particularly those at sea. PV solar farms I imagine will prove to be uneconomic short-life things, made viable by yet more subsidies from us the taxpayer – I hope you’re all happy making the Eco power companies rich.

As with the massed protests over VW’s eco-fibs, the real answer (again as I see it) is not to pile in ever more complex expensive technology to convert one sort of pollution to another, but to make less pollution in the first place. Buy less new stuff. Use less fuel by driving fewer miles. Reduce household heating bills by rediscovering woolly jumpers. Buy less food and make an effort not to throw any away. Simple things that over the millions of households in the country would make a big difference.

October 2, 2015 10:58 am

A small point of disagreement.

If we look at trade as compiled by ENSTO-E (the network operators which gives statistics for the Europe of the Central West), we find that France is exporting to Germany of 10 TWh annual.

In fact, we see that French imports are often in transit to Switzerland or Italy, and that France exports to Germany through Switzerland and Belgium. The trade balance is very different from the balance sheet at the border.

The main reason for this situation is to look on the side of the intermittent renewable production: when the sun shines, Germany sees its photovoltaic production ride of over 20 GW, and must be able to send it to the neighbors and when the wind stops, it is North Germany calling power through Holland and Belgium.

In terms of CO2 emissions, so it is France that electricity exports its “carbon free” to Germany. Recall that the electricity produced in France emits about 50 kg of CO2 per MWh while Germany emits nearly tenfold.

October 2, 2015 11:03 am

Obs – I think a) they were working at a pace the customer was prepared to accept, and b) much of the time involved was to set up the facilities for manufacture? If you look at any photos of wartime manufacturing you see long queues of stuff going down the production line with many completed items popping out each week. Even shipbuilding was demonstrated to be possible in days not months – it may have been a one-off, and a very simple design (good!), but the SS Robert E Peary left its dock 4 days after the keel was laid. Once everything is in place, mass production works really well and fast. The need for strategic planning is to minimise the start-up delay.

October 2, 2015 11:05 am

@ Andy C

The JSM will be aimed at internal carriage on F35A but the important and cost,y bit is integrating the missile with the aircraft systems. These are the same on all versions so JSM should be available for external carriage on F35B as no doubt LRASM will be as well and also available on P8.

Looking at the cost of the LRASM we could imagine how expensive it would be to do the same with SS then there would be further integration costs for typhoon.

@ Chris – could JCB make useful modern weapons? We are not talking about knocking out Sherman tanks anymore. Making modern weapons is massively complicated. As the average factory now a days is run by robots I would seriously doubt they could be re tasked to make armoured vehicles, tanks guns etc and there is zero chance they could make aircraft.

If anyone goes to war these days they will be going with what they have and nothing else.

October 2, 2015 11:12 am

@ mickp – I don’t think there is any more gap between astute 7 and successor 1. Build dates of 2022 and 2024, only way to get more astute is to delay successor.

October 2, 2015 11:14 am

Textron Scorpion is such an obvious answer to some of the UK’s requirements that it is no surprise the MOD have been looking at it.

It’s so obvious that I wonder why it is not a more popular choice here.

It fits additional training, patrol and weapons delivery roles freeing up the full MPA and Typhoon numbers for more involved/dangerous missions.

October 2, 2015 11:25 am

Hear, hear. And the only way to generate “on hand” material is to stockpile. Not ideal, but life is very seldom about ideal. It is an expensive, cumbersome system that is like the democracy Churchill spoke of. The worst system only beaten by all others being even worse.

On the other hand, Chris’s “good enough” vehicles might be in great demand if total war happens. The only thing worse than a “bad” tank is no tank at all when you need it. Not to say Chris’s designs are bad, you get the sentiment.

October 2, 2015 11:47 am

Martin, Obs – no argument from me (except against my fine vehicles being vaguely labelled ‘bad’ – sheesh!) – modern manufacturing has embraced automation to the extreme, sacrificing flexibility and adaptability on the altar of ‘efficiency’. Where you and I might see the implications of this upon redirecting industry to war production, I’m quite sure our poorly educated* political elite have no clue in this regard. To them, an efficient washing machine manufacturer would become an efficient munitions manufacturer or efficient thermal imager manufacturer – “Its just machining and assembly work, right?”. Let’s hope reality never slaps them in the face…

Could JCB move to military manufacture? I would say they have a better chance than most. Both because their normal machinery is big and tough and in quite small volumes (compared to road vehicle volumes) and because their attitude seems better suited to picking up the challenge. Its a good solid British success; long may it remain so.

*Poorly educated as in real life experience in industry. No amount of university education in politics or macro-economics makes up for a lack of basic understanding of how stuff gets done.

October 2, 2015 12:01 pm

…well… you could “throw the kitchen sink” at them literally…


October 2, 2015 12:20 pm

“As with the massed protests over VW’s eco-fibs, the real answer (again as I see it) is not to pile in ever more complex expensive technology to convert one sort of pollution to another, but to make less pollution in the first place. Buy less new stuff. Use less fuel by driving fewer miles. Reduce household heating bills by rediscovering woolly jumpers. Buy less food and make an effort not to throw any away. Simple things that over the millions of households in the country would make a big difference.”

Absolutely – lots of nails being hit squarely on the head today. Why do we not hear this common sense being more widely championed? Well because of the vested interests of the monster we have created in terms of the carbon reduction industry and those groups that have become so wedded to a ‘one number solves everything’ approach so they can all tick the box and say job done.

October 2, 2015 1:04 pm

Instead of getting f-16s or converting hawks would it be cheaper to just get the Jaquars out of storage from Cosford?

stephen duckworth
October 2, 2015 1:39 pm

On the subject of car manufacturers and their green credential’s a couple of years ago both Hyundai and Kia were caught out , in the US again , for over stating their mileage performance for their cars . The US has some of the strictest ,and often implements them far faster such as lead removed from petrol so catalytic converters can be used and solvents removed from paint both 20 years before Europe , ecological targets but at the same time leaves giant holes in its legislation SUV’s for instance. Perhaps they should spend the £11 to 12 billion fine on building a cross country network of hydrogen/electricity top up stations across the interstate network.

stephen duckworth
October 2, 2015 1:46 pm

On the second tier aircraft for the UK my vote would be for the Gripen . With 20+% UK content allready and perhaps manufacture here to on the Hawk/Typhoon production lines would retain jobs and bring a big boost to the RAF . At less than half the price of a Typhoon, affordable too.

October 2, 2015 2:10 pm

There is no need for a force structure of that magnitude for defence of the U.K. Islands. As has been mentioned before on here there is complete conventional overmatch of Russia forces in the North Atlantic NATO area.

I would echo topmans remarks regards you comments on aircraft load out.
The U.K. Air defence region is fully controlled with the current radar installations/control stations and air assets. Air tanker have done a couple of videos on the qra tanker if your interested on there website. If you want to up the qra posture just have more crews at readiness at the current bases.

Hawk of any variety with meteor is pointless. Hawk of any variant will not be getting an aesa it’s not got the power or cooling requirements. Hawk 200 was last build 20 years ago. Hawk t1 doesn’t need replaced in the training role there’s plenty of capacity on the t2 as we don’t have that big a requirement to train fast jet pilots see the tiny numbers of aircraft been bought for basic and elementary flight training.
The hawk line only reopened in the uk to fulfill Mid East purchases perhaps a dozen for the red arrows should they decide to continue with the team in the current form.

As for aggressors ect, couple of things how much can be done by linking simulators, does the uk have big enough ranges to fully test the typhoon and f35 weapons systems or will they have to go to the US to do that anyway? How much of the dissimilar air combat training could be undertaken by the current hawk t2 fleet as it current under-utilised in the training role?

F35 is not holding a cap at 500nm from ship. It will be in the region of 90nm for an hour and half or so. But why would you be doing that with NATO airbases available in Norway and Iceland. Why are you putting big external stores on your LO platform bonkers. Is there a major air launched anti ship missile requirement against a blue water threat in the Atlantic? Russians don’t need to put surface vessels in the Atlantic there main threat would be submarines or the occasional spy trawler. There ssbns don’t need to make it to Atlantic to fire there missiles on the USA they can quite happily sit in the Barent sea.

If you wish to include a mpa requirement its probably a gd idea options done to death.

William Forbes
William Forbes
October 2, 2015 2:20 pm
Reply to  AndyC

@ Andy
The brochure range was first 450nm but later, at the behest of the naval analysts in DoD, this figure was reduced to 385nm without satisfying those critics who’ve flown from carriers in difficult weather and know they must have buddy refuelling back-up if they are to ensure they avoid a cold bath. The Royal Navy has no plans for buddy refuelling, so the reserves will need to be generous when the weather is unkind. Note that the quoted figures are usually for “combat radius” with no indication of the time in combat. In reality, the F-35b may be found tactically useless in this scenario. Sorry!

William Forbes
William Forbes
October 2, 2015 2:23 pm
Reply to  William Forbes

Apologies! For “brochure range” in first sentence read “brochure combat radius”.

October 2, 2015 3:02 pm
Reply to  mickp

The problem with this is that our current economic system is based on two things; continued consumption and ever-increasing house prices. The moment everyone does what MickP says is the moment every economist starts screaming about how the world is going to end. Not to mention that less consumption=less tax=less money for the MoD as there’s no way that they won’t get shafted in favour of the NHS.

October 2, 2015 3:12 pm

Perhaps its time to reset the economic system on better foundations then. Exports of goods & services springs to mind.

October 2, 2015 4:05 pm

@Outsider “The problem with this is that our current economic system is based on two things; continued consumption and ever-increasing house prices” Don’t get me started on that! I assume when quoting me you were referring to what I was quoting from Chris? Anyway, I do agree with him

Without artificially low interest rates many people could not afford to pay for their house in part because the original house price exceed a sensible earnings multiple but also because there is a greater tendency to buy ‘stuff’ rather than scrimp and save etc (on e.g. a pension). It’s all out of whack and there is little incentive to save. The economy is delicately balanced (figuratively not literally) on weak foundations. All that is preamble to saying the overall spending budget will remain under intense pressure and defence will struggle to get an priority in the interdepartmental battles. Despite the genuine public affection for our forces, few would chose to back that up with cash over say a weekly bin collection (if given that stark choice) or perhaps more pertinently, a new iPad, top of the range car, etc. Equally, politicians of all persuasions are hamstrung by the very vocal and very influential media / lobbyists on what we apparently have a moral duty to do, DFID, refugees, infinite NHS funding etc, etc, etc. In that context, SDSR 15 will be no better in kit / force size terms than steady state and shuffling deckchairs but may in fact be slightly worse. We therefore need in my view some transparency and brutal honesty with how we decide how much forces and of what type we need – zero based force structure analysis. It might get to the same answer but even I in my ‘fantasy fleet’ world want to clearly understand what we need to do to meet our needs properly, with no gaps. What we don’t need to do, goes

October 2, 2015 4:34 pm

Hawk Mk.200.

I am a fan of that fighter. Nonetheless, I understand it was not successful in market and I do understand why.

– Too small, it cannot carry enough loads.
– It also lacks range, not highly mobile, nor has high cruise speed (important for interception)
– Nonetheless, the radar FCS make the aircraft costy.

On the other hand, recent fighter are becoming quite expensive and un-affordable for many small nations. In that point, unified LIFT and light-fighter option may work. In this respect, the most promising will be T/F/A-50 of KAI/LM. But, cannot the Hawk mk100 and 200 pair do something, as a “cheaper choice” for that selection?

There are no room for investing in to Hawk anymore?

Can you insert 30cm hull in the middle and new wing wider by 10-20%, as well as your thrust 20% higher? This will make your Hawk mk.”300 & 400″ families. In these days, mobility is not important for BVR fighting, but radar size, range, cruise speed and load does. In light-fighter, there is no hope for load. But with smaller engine and wider wing, you would be able to make your range longer, tolerable as a “light fighter”. With Hawk 200 already flying, a aerial design for a single seat hull with (relatively) large FCS is there.

OK, maybe I am just a “dreamer”. But, yes, Hawk is beautiful and sad to think it is over. Also it is the LAST of British designed airplane flown (Typhoon is international, I believe)…

Just for fun…

The cheapest available choice on market is Gripen (or ex-used F-16), and it is NOT cheap. Here I am talking about F-5/A-4 replacements. There is almost no hope to 1:1 replace F-5 to Gripen. Even replacing F-16 with Gripen NG may require reduction in number.

Korean T50, or F/A-50, is a mini-Gripen sized super-sonic light-figher/trainer, which looks like successful.
M-346 with 2/3 weight of F/A-50 is also very competitive, although it is almost pure-trainer.
Hawk, with similar weight to M-346 and only half the thrust, will not look attractive, surely.

However, Hawk is good as a LIFT trainer. If you want a fast-jet fleet, you need ; initial trainers, some T-6 Texan IIs and then Hawks (or equivalents). Even if your airforce is small, you cannot avoid having a Hawk-class LIFT if you want a fast jet.

Then, “unified LIFT trainer and a light-fighter” may work, may, just may….
In this case, your direct rival is T/F/A-50, which is 50% heavier, 2.5 times superior in thrust and possibly 50% expensive.

October 2, 2015 4:36 pm

sorry the last 13 lines (after “just for fun”) is old draft!! Sorry I could not delete it. Just, just ignore it …

Stu W
October 2, 2015 5:32 pm
Reply to  Chris

But this is changing, additive manufacturing techniques are the game changer. One offs, an low runs with zero tooling cost are a very real possibility and in some cases available today. This technology also has the potential to take sting out of operating different fleets.

Stu W
October 2, 2015 5:42 pm
Reply to  JamesF

When the Hawk was dropped from T-X BAe should have jumped in on Northrops clean sheet design for USAF T-X. Who ever wins the T-X will certainly have a shot at the light fighter market also.

Stu W
October 2, 2015 5:49 pm
Reply to  AndyC

If we were to go for second hand F16 we should be looking part-ex for new Typhoons much like the French were trying to do when they offered UAE the Rafale, the mirages were to be taken in exchange as I understand. By doing this there’s some industrial offset.

October 2, 2015 5:56 pm

Stu W – there might in future be cases where overgrown 3D printers could paint up a fast jet fuselage, but how would such a thing be qualified? In such a process what controls the structure of the material? There would be no such thing as grain orientation, for example. Everything sintered from dust that you hope was uncontaminated. So I agree there’s potential in replacing items that might normally have been sand cast & machined; possibly replacing low stress items traditionally machined from solid. But I would be quite concerned if (because its ‘easy’) a manufacturer announced it would make everything from powder…

Stu W
October 2, 2015 6:14 pm
Reply to  Steve

Harpoon went through aerodynamic check on the Typhoon 2 years ago. But I see anti ship was specified in the Kuwait purchase.

October 3, 2015 7:58 am
Reply to  jedibeeftrix

@Jedi: Not sure I agree on the Carrier and SSN comment – I’d say whilst it is not critical a forward based carrier greatly increases the ability to harry an attacking force as do SSNs. Also SSNs are key to protecting the CASD which is most definitely aimed at defending the UK.

I’m sure people will argue SSKs could take the SSN role, but the is still a distinct advantage of the increased speed and underwater endurance a SSN brings.

October 3, 2015 8:05 am

I’d say an area for consideration is to look at forming a UK Fyrd / National Guard / Gendarmerie which when combined with a smaller core of army units will be perfectly suited to support the police in anti terror / humanitarian operations and give the starting point for creating a much larger force in times of crisis. Not linked just to the defence of the UK, but I see little benefit for having a single full time division sat on Salisbury plain.

October 3, 2015 8:52 am

We did have a Fyrd once, got wacked at Hastings. I think the Army 2020 aspiration is just that. One company/squadron in each ‘adaptable force battalion. Difficult to get the beggars to volunteer though. Work in Aus with the militia – but they have a longer history than us of the part time soldier being taken seriously (as do the US).

October 3, 2015 8:59 am

I am sorry to poor cold water on your enthusiastic ideas but you are playing fantasy fleets and inventing requirements to match a desire to go out shopping for disparate equipment that would rob budget from other programs.

“The fact is that the Hawk T1 OSD is coming up pretty fast and they will need replacing in their various roles.
1. If the Red Arrows are to have any on-going UK promotional role they will need to fly some sort of British aircraft. Typhoons would simply be too expensive to operate. The only realistic option is to buy more Hawk T2s or some Hawk 200s. As the latter has a radar and can operate BVRAAMs it would seem to me to be more useful to buy the latter.”

I do hope that the Red Arrows continue but obsessing about get aircraft for them is silly. Actually I would agree that Hawk T2 (or a variant of the Hawk 165 being built for Saudi Arabia) is a logical solution. I am actually expecting one last Hawk buy to allow the TMK1/1A to retire and re-equip 736NAS and the Reds. Hawk 200 is not a realistic solution, it is an unneeded point defence fighter even if you did bolt METEOR to it. Hawk 200 is a sales failure that is long out of production. To adopt it would require BAE Systems to develop (at great cost) a new variant, a wasteful exercise when we would be better to spend money on other stuff. We already have a fighter in Typhoon, money would be far better spent on that. If needs to be supplemented then retain Tranche 1 or extend Tranche 3. There is also the option of using the multi role F-35B down the line.

“2. Let’s look at the aggressor role. ”

Why? There is no ugent need to stand up a dedicated aggressor squadron. There are already mechanisms to allow combat training to our fighter pilots within the current force structure:
A) Simulators
B) Typhoon playing Red Air
C) Using the services of contractors
D) International exercises

Spending millions on buying Hawk 200 or F-16 is wasteful when the requirement is already satisfied. To be honest I would say you are looking at the US and saying “ME TOO”! The US has a vast amount of combat aircraft and dedicated Aggressor aircraft has a fair amount of logic to it. For the UK F-16 is an unnecessary exercise in money wasting, it is alien to our inventory. It wouldn’t just be your hoped £10 million per aircraft. It would also be training and maintenance support plus a fair amount of scarce personnel. That is crazy just to give a dedicated Aggressor squadron with a nebulous secondary role of air defence. I can think of a fair few things the RAF would rather spend its money on than getting an elderly American fighter jet. Just imagine the Airships being told that the MOD were sinking £300 million plus on elderly F-16. There would be mass resignations!

October 3, 2015 11:03 am

RE “We did have a Fyrd once, got wacked at Hastings. I think the Army 2020 aspiration is just that. One company/squadron in each ‘adaptable force battalion. Difficult to get the beggars to volunteer though. Work in Aus with the militia – but they have a longer history than us of the part time soldier being taken seriously (as do the US).”

I love the naming convention, the Fyrd was the standing part of that army, though, the House Carls (carls simply being men, not necessarily mounted, so not knights, with a land holding to see to their kit, but in the direct employ of the ruler).

The new US army chief is proposing this, to be decided in Q1:
“going from two brigades to four is still a relatively small part of the force. The [National] Guard alone has 28 brigade combat teams: seven armored brigades that would train at Fort Irwin, California; 20 infantry brigades that would train at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and one Stryker brigade (infantry in light armored vehicles) that could go to either. At Milley’s suggested four rotations a year — assuming two at Irwin and two at Polk — Guard soldiers in armored units would get top-level training at a CTC once every four years, but infantry only once a decade”

So, the big difference is that the NG has formed units. And under the proposal it would have the same kind of force to field as the British Army (4 bdes)
– funnily enough the 4 out of 28 is (as a fraction) very close to the 1 in eight that was the basis (in training or deployed) for the Force 2020 reserves component, as proposed. Just that (as JF says, even though the autocorrect played a trick on him) we don’t seem to be getting anywhere near to the target.

Would be interesting to see what kind of money is spent on the Army NG (allowing for a lot of their kit being hand-me-downs, but that would not be much different in the UK), and scale it to the UK target manpower, to get a realistic benchmark, for use in the on-going SDSR.

October 3, 2015 11:30 am

We can indeed agree to disagree. But PLEASE think this through! I think you have written an article full of wishful thinking and opinions then proclaiming them as must have requirements on a very shaky set of assumed requirements. I agree Hawk T1/1A needs replacing, I would put money on a follow on order of Hawk whilst the line is still hot servicing Saudi needs.

But adding an AESA radar and missiles to Hawk adds a large amount of money to its operating costs.

What national emergency? What situation would require us to maintain a fully combat capable Hawk variant that will be vastly inferior to Typhoon and F-35B? If you can’t lay that out then there is no requirement and you are playing fantasy fleets. The Hawk T1A was wired for Sidewinder and gun pods to replace Hunters being used by the RAF’s Tactical Weapons Unit. In theory the Hawk T1A were to be paired up with Tornado F3 or Phantom as a radar shooter pair. In reality Hawk T1A rarely carried Sidewinder and the capability was quietly forgotten as it was more of a hassle then it was worth. The Hawk T1A was more of a hinderance to the Supersonic heavy fighter paired with it then a benefit, the best it could do was hang around over the airfield. You could stick a BVR missile on Hawk but you can’t get around its core performance and the lack of day to day need for it. There is no requirement and stating “we should have just in case of a national emergency” is a very poor justification. That theoretical £250 million you speak of could be far better used elsewhere.

What you are forgetting is its not just about buying the aircraft with a particular weapons fit but everything else around it. Keeping a nascent radar and missile equipped capability for a what if scenario when we already have assets in place and coming to meet our needs draws resources from elsewhere. Buying F-16 would be even more costly! And for what?! An unneeded aggressor role and a what if national emergency? think it through! We barely have the manpower now to sustain our current combat fleet, adding another would stretch it even further. F-16 doesn’t even carry the same Air to Air fit as our fleet (well except AMRAAM but its days are numbered in UK service). Are you suggesting we integrate ASRAAM and METEOR onto it? ASRAAM wouldn’t be too much of a fuss considering the F-16 has carried it but METEOR?

What scenario is so serious that we have to start using Hawk in the air defence role? If F-35B is intended to be multi role and lets say the Russians for the sh1ts and giggles tried to saturate our ADZ is it not better to pull F-35B into the role?

There is a finite budget and many different capabilities requiring attention and funding. Introducing extra aircraft types like F-16 or increasing the baseline operating costs of a trainer by adding missiles and a Radar make little sense.

Stu W
October 4, 2015 2:10 pm
Reply to  Chris

Chris. I believe BAe, Rolls and GE already have parts flying on airframes. Not at this time suggesting we’re there yet by a long way but we shouldn’t dismiss the possibilities. I guess many would have said the same about carbon fibre 30 years ago. Parts cured in ovens not so dissimilar, contamination is also a major concern in the manufacture of carbon fibre parts. One of the interesting things about additive techniques is the ability to material where its really required to strengthen the part, for instance its difficult to make hollow part with existing techniques. With additive techniques the part can have hollow pockets allowing more material to be added where peak stress occurs but still keeping the overall weight down. I know its being embraced by the F1 industry where they are continually designing and improving the cars.

Stu W
October 4, 2015 2:33 pm
Reply to  Fedaykin

No convinced it’s a huge effort to produce an armed Hawk. 165s coming off the line now for Saudi have the capability and BAe have an MoU with HAL in India to arm India’s Hawks. Not saying is a solution mind. My only other thought is the costs of flying the Typhoon and F35, having pilot rotating through Hawks as aggressor is a far cheaper way of keeping hours up.

October 4, 2015 3:11 pm

Stu w

You can arm hawk just as you can arm a Learjet. But putting meteor on hawk is pointless. Any radar you could possibly put on hawk would have insufficient range to effectively use meteor to its best potential. Then you have the performance limitations of the hawk airframe. Bvr engagements require the launch platform to get to high altitude have gd acceleration and to be able to aggressively manoeuvre to maximise the potential for a kill and not be killed, hawk is at a huge disadvantage against any likely foe in the NATO area of operation. Then consider the aircraft it’s most likely going up against the Su-27 or later variant/mig 29. Either you need to see the enemy before they see you by having a longer ranged sensor or you need to be low observable or both. Hawk has neither of these qualities and so will be seen and shot before it can respond.

If you looking at using hawk to shoot at civil traffic or ga aircraft or helicopters ok if you really want to fine a cannon or asraam would be more than enough if you can catch civil traffic in a hawk that is.

If you want to keep hours up in a cheap way use the modern simulators more, pilots are more battle managers in a cockpit now anyway. And fly the jets when you need to practise the things you really to fly the jets for. And if you want to practise basic airmanship fly gliders.

October 4, 2015 4:48 pm

@Stu W
As mark says ‘If you want to keep hours up in a cheap way use the modern simulators more, pilots are more battle managers in a cockpit now anyway. And fly the jets when you need to practise the things you really to fly the jets for. ‘

This is very much the way things are going now, there’s a move away from FH and keeping currency that way. Even exercises that be done by linking various sims, perhaps in different countries. The idea of buying, on the face of it cheap but actually costly, a/c to keep FH and currency is gone. Simulators (or synthetics as they are called now) are the way forward. I think it’s something that we can lead in and I know there are export areas we could do well in if we plan it correct now.

October 4, 2015 6:57 pm

While there is doubtless value in simulators, can they replicate high energy manoeuvres that are a likely part of air-to-air combat?

October 4, 2015 7:21 pm

There are full motion sims, but clearly there are some things they can’t do. But as those limitations are known and balanced against actual flying.

Rocket Banana
October 4, 2015 8:37 pm

Every computer flight sim I’ve ever played (years ago) would slowly go black (black out) if you pressed the gs to hard, or go red for negative gs (red out). I’m sure a sim can be set up with the particular pilot’s fitness levels?

As long as someone leans in the simulator and punches you flat in the face at around 7g it’s probably fairly realistic :)

October 4, 2015 9:34 pm

its amazing what exists now a days

However that’s not exactly the point you can rehearse the mission several times in a full motion sim so you can cut out the mistakes before going to fly it for real ect. It’s about balancing things to maximise training within a finite budget. I believe we’re purchasing deployable simulators for the f35 for example.

steve Coltman
steve Coltman
October 6, 2015 1:51 pm

Can anyone explain to me the logic for buying any extra fast jets when we have insane plans to retire T1 Typhoons when they are just 15 years old? The OSD of the T2/3 Typhoons would see then retired after 15 years as well. Normal lifespan of a fast jet at least 2X that. What with Super-Hercules, Sentinel, not to mention Jaguar and F3 Tornados the RAF is a very extravagant arm of service.

October 6, 2015 4:14 pm

Dear Steve

Although not in Britain, this is what I read (from this and Gabrieles blogs).

It is not the airframe structural life, but (they say) the different electronics (and structure associated with it). Updating T1 typhoon to T2/T3 standards is said to be “similar to re-manufacutering the whole forward section of the fighter”. So, if RAF are to have a “uniform” Typhoon fleet, it will be much reasonable (=cheaper) to buy additional T3s and just disband T1s.

If you are keeping the T1 typhoon as it is, no metoer, no SPEAR, no BRIMSTONE, no …, (but with ASRAAM, AMRAAM and paveways?) I think it can fly another 15 years or so.

# We in Japan has similar issue, F-15C pre-MSIP (about 100) and MSIP (another 100). Later half has a digital network wired and easy to be modified, so we already done it (also further mod. is planned). Former half is now a big discussion in Japan. It cannot even use AMRAAM (nor Japanese AIM4 ).


Peter Elliott
October 6, 2015 4:21 pm

I’d be happy to accept 2 squadrons of Typhoons without the A2G weapons or Meteor out to 2025. Quite sufficient for seeing off bears or hijacked airliners.

T1 Typhoon are basically gap fillers after Tornado goes. Medium term the additional ‘combat mass’ needs to come in the form of Carrier Capable F35B.

October 6, 2015 4:39 pm

People clearly don’t read or understand when its been repeatedly stated what is going on with the typhoon t1 on a number of threads when this is repeatedly brought up.

The RAF is not funded or has the manpower to operate more than 5 typhoon sqns it’s why the current tranche 3 typhoons that are being delievered are being “stored”. Should this change additional units may be stood up. Typhoon will be around way past 2030 it’s simply a financial planning number.

stephen duckworth
October 6, 2015 5:21 pm

The F35B as I understand it is the direct replacement for the Tornado,Harrier,Jaguar and Buccaneer plus alot of ISTAR. At times the RAF will be hard pressed to release them for carrier deployment if the projeced buy stays at 48. Personally I think they will not stop finding new uses for them as their abilities get developed both here and in the US.

Peter Elliott
October 6, 2015 5:50 pm

I think we will see F35B numbers go up and up. Perhaps forecast as 70 for 4 squadrons at this SDSR, maybe north of 100 by 2030…

John Hartley
John Hartley
October 6, 2015 6:02 pm

I still cannot see the point of the RAF getting any F-35B. CAP missions over the North Sea, or bombing raids on IS/Daesh , are better done by longer legged Tornado/Typhoon(with conformal tanks)/F-35A(orF-35E if it ever gets launched). The only mission the F-35B is any good at, is operating from QE/PoW, so why not make them all FAA? Otherwise the RAF gets a very expensive aircraft with too small a range & limited weapons bays, while the expensive carriers sit idle with no fighters aboard (unless the USMC rumours are true).

Peter Elliott
October 6, 2015 7:29 pm

Fast Jets are expensive to buy and expensive to operate. The UK can’t afford two separate silo fleets for the RAF and the FAA. The “surge squadrons” HAVE to be swing role so that they can be used for other tasks between times. That’s just how it is and it makes prodigious financial and operational sense.

John Hartley
John Hartley
October 6, 2015 7:52 pm

PE. Frankly that is nonsense. Giving F-35B to the RAF is groupthink at its worst. People have abandoned logic to settle on a policy that looks crazy to an outsider. If Italy can operate F-35A & F-35B, then I do not see why it is so impossible for Britain. Every role the RAF may perform, is better done by aircraft other than the F-35B. The only role it serves is on the carriers, so it is mad to give them to a service that will do everything it can to stop them ever going on the carriers.

Peter Elliott
October 6, 2015 8:07 pm

And what’s the maximum warload the Cavour can carry? The simply don’t have the requirement for surge squadrons that we do. We could ultimately send 70 or 80 planes to sea on our two carriers. But only if we have 70 or 80 carrier capable planes in our inventory.

And let’s face it how serious are countries like Spain and Italy about Naval Aviation? They’re dealing in Fleet Air defence at best: they’re just not planning to generate the numbers of sorties needed for serious power projection.

John Hartley
John Hartley
October 6, 2015 10:09 pm

PE. There is no role in the RAF for the F-35B. Tranche 3 Typhoon or F-35A both have greater range & weapon load. F-35B only makes sense for the carriers, so give them to the FAA. A maximum of 60 will be enough. Any spare money for fastjets beyond that should go to T3 Typhoon/F-35A or playing fantasy fleets LRS-B/F-35E.

Peter Elliott
October 7, 2015 6:50 am

It’s a no brainer to me to keep the T1, unmodified, until 2025. After that the RAF will start to derive significant combat mass from F35. Problem solved.

October 7, 2015 7:08 am

Anyone thought of how long the Typhoon line will remain open?
– of course a massive export success will change all that! But wishful thinking is not a good defence planning assumption

October 7, 2015 8:18 am


Typhoon line was due to run dry in 2018 but there were plans to maintain the line in a mothballed state (and redeploy the workers) if the Kuwaiti MoU becomes a firm order that should push production out to about 2020/21.

October 7, 2015 8:36 am

HH, thanks, is the closing date for Rafale known? The French order had been turned to a drip feed, but now it must be much more lively by the “conveyor belt”… I presume they will take delivery of their own planes last, to maintain some flexibility at the end (again)?
– India had calculated that they could force the wholesale transfer of the production line (for the lack of other orders)
– as things turned out otherwise, they have drifted back to their day dreams about what kind of planes to build in India (Lejas Mk2, nahh, too easy; PAK-FA, sod that; let’s do something even more complicated and on our own!)

October 7, 2015 9:02 am

Rafale is currently being built at 11 per year with French deliveries being scaled back when export orders come in. The French have claimed that their orders alone will keep the line open to 2030.

October 7, 2015 12:04 pm

> … upgrading all 49 T1 Typhoons to T2 standard … about £27.5 million each.
> The cost of a new T3 … at £62.5 million each.
Thanks for clarity.

Having brand new airframe which could fly another 30 years, with “ONLY 2.3 time higher cost” is not so bad compared to updating 15 years old T.1s. But, the critical thing is this; are you now free from the “cancelation penalty fee requested from Eurofighter” for reducing the Typhoon total order? If not, T.1 upgrade cost IN ADDITION TO the T.3 cancellation penalty will be much much expensive than ordering T.3s, isn’t it?

And another issue is the OSD of AMRAAM. Because of F35s, maybe you are forced to support it for another several years. In that case, T.1 with AMRAAM is OK. If not, T.1 in QRA role will be only equipped ASRAAM. Answer here will be quite easy: continue supporting AMRAAM (not only for T.1 Typhoon, but rather for F35s).