back to article Supersonic stealth jumpjet rolls off production line

The plane which will replace the famous Harrier "jump jet" passed an important milestone yesterday, with the first production F-35B rolling off the assembly line at US builder Lockheed Martin. The F-35B at the rollout ceremony The F-35B rollout ceremony. Note the raised covers above the lift fan and supplementary dorsal …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Of course if the switched to a conventional carrier.....

    ....they could use a naval version of Typhoon, or buy Rafale from France and save even more money!! But that would be sensible, so won't happen!!

  2. Matthew Bartlett
    Paris Hilton

    When did it change from VTOL?

    Not red much about planes since I moved out of home and don't get to see any of my brother of fathers materials on planes.

    The last thing I remember was that these things were called VTOL (in my opinion it sounds better than STOVL). When did this change?

    Paris because I don't know enough.

  3. Nick Palmer

    Ditching the STOVL variant

    Would mean losing the organic aircover available to a typical MEU from its own Tarawa-class baby carrier(s), typically provided by a half-dozen or so AV8-Bs; it would require the deployment of a massively more expensive fleet carrier AND its ancillary escorts and support vessels when these might be a) never used and b) needed elsewhere.

    As far as our needs, F35B appears to be ideally suited for deployment from our through deck cruisers, whilst capable of transferring over to proper carriers, if, as and when they arrive, and at the same time having a rough/short field capability, which your F-35A and C are unlikely to develop.

    And yes, it's VERY cool, as death-tek goes...

  4. Matthew Bartlett
    Paris Hilton

    When did it become STOVL?

    Always thought this was VTOL since I was a kid.

    Ah well PH because I am lacking knowledge in this area.

  5. Tawakalna


    what's the point of it being supersonic and stealthy if it can't transform into a car or a boat (or samurai-looking robot)?

  6. George

    More conjecture....

    I'm getting used to the military articles on here being opinions on the author on how it should be done his way but just wanted my 20 pence.

    "As to operations from small carriers, the US Navy has a good few full-sized ones; and the Royal Navy is getting new, bigger ships which could easily launch and recover non-STOVL planes if they had the necessary kit."

    Its all about the bigger picture. By buying these and the Eurofighter Typhoon the MoD have cut the costs of ownership of the fleet by having fewer niche planes to buy supplies for. And its not simply a case of adapting a plane to fly off a carrier (however a feasability study for the Typhoon was carried out), they have to be designed that way, stress on the airframe, the landing sensor suite, arrestor hook location, storage and ease of maintainence all need to be taken into account. If it really was the case you state, then any new plane would have ability to land and take off from a carrier.

    "This would also permit the RN to purchase and operate existing, cheap, excellent E-2 carrier radar planes to replace its current aged, badly altitude- and endurance-limited surveillance choppers."

    Yes excellent though they are, the Sea Kings primary role was anti-submarine warfare, admitedly this is less of a these days though its time will come again. The AWACS facility is provided by other aircraft of the Royal Air Force.

  7. Neil Cooper

    Why buy US?

    I don't get why we have to buy US aircraft. I understood that the Eurofighter was more than a match for anything the yanks could field.

  8. George


    There is no Naval variant of the Typhoon it was abandoned in the feasibility study stage.

    The Rafale I have no argument against. Well maybe one, its French so only fires white flags.

  9. JimC

    If they switched to a conventional carrier

    The chances are it would be cancelled in the next round of cuts, and then they'd have nothing, whereas presumably the new F35B will be able to be flown off an Invincible class...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make your mind up, Lewis...

    "Improvised basing in the field is at best a nice-to-have these days"


    "(As an example, the Harrier was until fairly recently the only fighter cleared to operate from the poorly-maintained runway at Kandahar in Afghanistan.)"

    Can't be both... Unless being able to land fighters at Kandahar was only "nice-to-have"...

  11. Dennis

    Why buy eurofighter at all

    Surely we should have bought into f35 from the start - assuring commanlity accross all attack platforms, then you dismantle the RAF leaving only heavy lift capability there and put all fighter/bomber capability in the Fleet Air Arm.

    plus plenty of UK tech in this bird.

    PS the multisensory in-helmet heads-up display is awesome

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Let's face it...

    F-35 isn't really a very good aircraft.

    It tried to do lots of things in a single package: as everyone knows this means it's not particularly brilliant at any of them.

    You'd almost suspect someone just drew up a list of buzzwords and stuffed them into a requirements document. Then everyone else jumped in with their wishlist.

    I mean, things like stealth: low RCS is a good thing to aim for and is a standard requirement, but a proper(-ish) stealth design isn't worth the compromise, particularly given the amount of counter-stealth tech on the market today. Better to build something high performance, with high survivability and cheap (so you can send lots of 'em) so it doesn't matter that they see you coming.

    Then there's the A, B and C variants: couldn't get one version to do everything, so build 3 versions. Again, none is brilliant being limited by the design commonality with the other versions. Though the commonality isn't close enough for it to have been worthwhile having in the first place as each has a high unique part count!

    The B variant really is probably the worst of the bunch - I would guess most people approaching the same problem would have come up with a different solution i.e. one that has been proven to work and doesn't melt the deck. And that meets the weight and other constraints...

    Then there's the flawed designs that mean major revisions have been required in the 'production' aircraft: not just the minor tidying that usually happens but major structural changes. Looks like someone *was* home to Mr. Cockup, then invited him to stay.

    Then there's the cost - official headline cost looks quite cheap, though for some reason the program unit costs don't seem to add up.

    Overall I think this would have been better being killed off and proper dedicated designs being produced for each role. Maybe parts could be shared (avionics and engines usually would be anyway for example) but the one size fits all approach just doesn't work.

    I just hope the fallout when it goes wrong isn't too bad. And the UK doesn't get stuffed too badly when the carrier aircraft aren't provided.

    But that's what you always get when you dump down a deposit and hope the salesman wasn't lying too much. I just wonder which past example is the closest analogy - feels like XJ220 at the moment; end product different from what was promised, performance not so good, price not the same and everyone running around trying to get their deposit back when they see what they'll actually get.

    I choose Paris as she represents the kind of person who thinks this aircraft was a good idea.

  13. Peter Leech Silver badge

    Re: When did it become STOVL?

    "The last thing I remember was that these things were called VTOL (in my opinion it sounds better than STOVL). When did this change?"

    It didn't. Vertical Take Off and Landing craft still exist (aka, the harrier)

    Short Take Off and Vertical Landing would be a different thing entirely. Of course, in brit service the harrier is only ever really used as a STOVL anyway... Apparently you can't carry much of a weapons and fuel load when you want to take off vertically.

  14. andy rock

    @ George

    hahaha, i would shorten that to just:

    "Well maybe one, its French." and leave it at that.

  15. Lewis Page (Written by Reg staff)


    Gentlemen (probably not ladies) -

    Nick: Air cover from Harriers without any organic AEW has been tried in the Falklands. It didn't work terribly well. If there is an air threat, an MEU on its own will suffer just as the Op Corporate task force did. So this is not such a big deal to lose.

    George: If we have RAF AWACS, we can have RAF CAPs too and we don't need a carrier at all. Where were the RAF radar birds in 1982? The lesson of the Falklands was very clear: carrier fighters need carrier AEW. They are all parts of the same system, and buying one without the other - as we are nwo doing for the second time - makes little sense. And if you don't like my stuff don't read it, that's my advice.

    Anonymous Coward: Kandahar is not an improvised strip in the field, it is a heavily defended military airbase. It just happened to have a crappy runway until lately. Off-base operations and Kandahar are not the same thing, and a prolonged failure to do some basic construction work hardly justifies the F-35B. Develop a whole new jet technology, or mend a runway surface? You choose.

  16. Craig Vaughton
    Black Helicopters

    Old hat

    We could have had supersonic Harriers in the early 70's if our, as usual, shortsighted lords and masters hadn't axed the development of the Hawker P1154 and it's accompanying plenum-chamber burning Pegasus engine.

    Of course it wasn't stealthy, but at that time, only Lockhead's Skunk Works knew what that meant.

  17. bob


    Of course the Rafale only fires white know why.

    Depending on American hardware isn't so bad. Buy from the Russians....or make your own. If you can.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: When did it change from VTOL?

    VTOL = Vertical Take-Off and Landing

    STOVL = Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing

    So VTOL hasn't been changed, it's just that the F-35B is a STOVL aircraft, not a VTOL one.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Stop spending my money on Viagra

    Stop spending my money on generic brand Viagra you dick less politicians.

    I want hospitals and provision for the elderly, spend my money on me when I need to be looked after not crap so that dick less old men can get hard by bullying other poor saps who also have to pay tax to another bunch of dick less old men.

    It's my money stop lining your pockets and give it back you thieving bastards!

    (Decembers pay slip has just arrived.)

  20. Starace


    Couple of points:

    Why buy E2s? If the Seakings are than much of a problem, then the Searchwater AEW system could probably be moved to something else (Merlin?) without huge problems as it's a pallet mount - the helicopters aren't particularly customised. And the radar is certainly OK given it's basically common to the current Nimrod setup. But one of the nice points about using the existing helicopters is that they can be tasked to AEW *or* the equipment can be quickly removed and they can be used in a conventional role - try doing that with a Sentry. Plus they can be deployed to smaller ships, used in conditions that don't allow fixed wing aircraft to operate etc. etc.

    Naval Typhoon variant wouldn't be huge effort - main constraint to date has been no-one wanting them. More robust landing gear and extra corrosion proofing is quite simple. As is the landing sensor suite. Arrestor hook is already fitted on the existing aircraft. So technically it could happen, though I would guess failure of F35 program needs to happen first.

    As I understand it the new carriers are designed to allow catapult retrofit so Plan B may still happen!

    Personally I still think that for the role it carries out, a design refresh/update of the Harrier would have been a better plan - take something known to work, incorporate the material and manufacturing advances of recent years, fit more modern avionics and an updated cockpit suite, and see how it goes. Better than the hacked bastard child that is the F35B, and likely much cheaper too.

  21. mad clarinet


    The early versions of the Harrier were VTOL - the later versions are heavier and carry a larger payload.

    This extra weight had the effect of making the Harrier unable to take off vertically - so its not STOVL. (i.e. it needs to do a running jump rather than a standing jump).

    Yeah - I'll get my coat

  22. Jerry H. Appel


    As to the Lightning II's short range, the AV-8B or GR-7/9, have very short ranges without drop tanks which cuts the weapons load in half or more. AV-8A and pre-GR-7 models had a published combat radius of 125 miles (250 for the newer ones). That is OK if you are only 50 miles from the front and doing CAS missions. Deep interdiction is out with either of these aircraft.

    While the author gripes about the Lockheed-Martin version that won with its three different verions, the Boeing competitor needed only two models and used the same lift system as a Harrier. The fan system on the Lightning II (British kit), with the swiveling nozzle and 10 doors that have to open up externally blows my mind. Seems much easier to damage.

    The idea that the F-35 can only carry internal weapons is non-sense. Yes, it isn't stealthy that way, duh! I guess that is what stand-off weapons are for.

    As to buying an AWACS, the AESA system on the F-35 is probably more powerful than AWACS systems used in Dessert Storm and each aircraft can share the data which provides a joint, composite picture of the battlefield. Is it nice to have a dedicated platform? Sure, but how much do you need?

  23. Sacha TF Padovani

    Too bad for the Italians???!

    Right, Mr. Page, as a child of both UK and Italian citizens, I hereby decree that your monthly subsidy of linguine and prosecco has been indefinitely suspended.

    So, please tell me, just how are you going to cope without a fundamental El Reg unit of measure, and the accompanying knickerless-sponsored beverage ..?

  24. Andy Bright

    Final Version

    The final version of the Typhoon was supposed to be quite good, not sure they've reached it yet tho, can't remember from all the conflicting time lines and order schedules and quotas and selling all of ours to the Saudis.

    The problem was, being British, we don't like to make things easy for ourselves. Feels too much like cheating. The Eurofighter was going to incorporate the same technology as the F-22, had similar maneuverability, similar payloads, all kinds of stuff. Perhaps the F-22 was a better design, who knows? We'll never find out, or at least the RAF won't.

    You see we like our armed forces to posses a touch of death-wish. Look at the Tornado. The idea was simple. Fire all it's missiles via-point-and-click, and then die in a fiery death when they all miss and the other side gets all uptight about being shot at. Just for good measure we'll include the maneuverability of your average Space Shuttle, and fly low enough for them to shoot us down by chucking rocks at us.

    Enter the Eurofighter. Undoes all the death-wish stuff by having dogfighting maneuverability, lots of missiles, stealth and all manner of fancy addons that until now were only found in an F-22 prototype. No! No! No!. Can't have any of that, we'll get ours nice and early, well before anyone gets a chance to implement such rubbish, and as a punishment for trying to survive we'll take away your cannon too.

    Apparently running out of missiles is not a scenario acceptable to RAF doctrine, so it won't be planned for. And just in case anyone decides they can survive after shooting all their missiles, we'll sell all our new Eurofighters to the Saudis and put you back in Tornados.

    And people wonder why the Navy decided against trying to land a Typhoon onto an aircraft carrier. Is it too late to order some F-22s?

  25. George

    I understand your point Lewis...

    and don't get me wrong, your articles always raise good points, especially the Stealth paint issue damaged with grit, something I hadn't even thought of.

    I see your point with the Falklands but that Anti-Air Radar is now done by the Type45 destroyer (or will be when they are deployed). Admitedly far more expensive than a fleet of E-2 Hawkeyes but more profiecent in defending the fleet against both missile and plane threats.

    It is difficult to know what they are planning (are they even planning at all!) but there seems to be change of roles across all the forces and their equipment.

  26. Mike Plunkett

    Doesn't Happen Often...

    ...but I actually agree with most of the things that Lewis has written in this article! The RN would be much better off with the F-35C and the E-2D, and the new carriers will be 'fitted for but not with' catapaults and arrestor gear i.e. they will not be fitted from new, but weight and space has been set aside so that they could be added in the future. Officially this is to allow for the possibility of conventionally launched UCAVs coming down the line, but...

    The one quibble that I have with the article is the assertion that UK dropping the F-35B would kill it. Personally I think the USMC would have enough muscle to keep the programme alive, and the USAF has shown at least a passing interest in acquiring a number of them. Add in export potential to the likes of Italy and Spain (and possibly even Australia, Japan and South Korea all of whom are investing in flat tops of various sorts), and you have some reasonable(ish) reasons not to can it.

  27. Zad

    Woah! No brakes!

    The big advantage the Harrier had was that if could VIFF - vector in forward flight. Pointing the engine thrust forwards allowed it to decelerate much faster than any other aircraft, forcing any attacking aircraft to overshoot the Harrier and put it right in the middle of it's gun (well rocket) sights. The Harrier also has the massive advantage that it doesn't look like it is straining to have a poo when in hover.

  28. Stephen Ware

    And back again (Rebuttal)


    'Kandahar is not an improvised strip in the field, it is a heavily defended military airbase. It just happened to have a crappy runway until lately. Off-base operations and Kandahar are not the same thing, and a prolonged failure to do some basic construction work hardly justifies the F-35B. Develop a whole new jet technology, or mend a runway surface? You choose'

    Not entirely a correct. In a larger war situation which has to be planned for militilary wise as well as the smaller venues (such as Afghanistan) operating from forward runway locations that are constantly attacked might be an important consideration. Indeed was that not reason why the marines purchased the AV-8B Harrier for ground support in the first place (As well as off-field) ?

  29. Starace

    Re: Woah! No brakes!

    Just to point out the flaw in this comment:

    The only problem with the concept of the rapid deceleration (whether like this, or Topgun style using the airbrake) to attempt to cause the following aircraft to overshoot so you can shoot them in the arse is that it's a fundamentally flawed idea.

    Any fast jet pilot will tell you that if someone tried that kind of thing, all they're doing is making themselves an easier to target to hit. And in a combat situation you'll probably point this out to them in the most direct manner possible.

  30. Fred


    Coming from the country that made ze spitfire? gotta buy from the yanks???

    Poor show gentlemen....


  31. Dave


    I know technology has advanced since Concorde, but I'm still trying to equate stealth and supersonic flight. You might not know where it is but you know it's there somewhere just because of the noise.

    Anyway, didn't the Soviets have a VTOL aircraft with a spare engine pointing down? I think it was prone to high-speed impact with the ground because it never really featured much. The Harrier appears to have the unique selling point of managing to do everything with a single engine and steerable nozzles.

    One wonders why it's taken the nation with the most technologically-advanced military so long to duplicate the Flying Bedstead, even to the point where they resorted to buying the Harrier design (how many non-US aircraft designs have the US had in service) because it was unique?

  32. Gary McCabe


    "Despite being packed with sexy features..."

    Lewis, can I take a moment to remind you that this machine is designed to kill

    human beings?

    You find this sexy?


  33. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "Pointing the engine thrust forwards allowed it to decelerate much faster than any other aircraft, forcing any attacking aircraft to overshoot the Harrier and put it right in the middle of it's gun (well rocket) sights."

    Surely, if the other man is close enough behind you to be unable to react to such a manoeuvre, you are in terrible trouble that will not be rectified by clever engine management. Perhaps this kind of capability could be used to pull tighter turns in a dogfight, but from what I have read in Sharkey Ward's "Sea Harrier over the Falklands", the Harrier is not a natural "turn and burn" aircraft, the wing loading is too high. A pilot trying this kind of thing would not be exploiting the aircraft's strengths. And once the Harrier has lost its speed, who will save it from the enemy's wingman?

    "We could have had supersonic Harriers in the early 70's if our, as usual, shortsighted lords and masters hadn't axed the development of the Hawker P1154 etc"

    Here's a navalised P.1152:

    Now there's a what-if. Presumably they would have been built and used and worn out a long time ago; perhaps we would now be complaining about the JSF in the same way that Americans complain about how the Super Hornet has replaced the F-14.

  34. Dave Jones

    Why not VTOL?

    Because planes are a lot heavier taking off than landing. Nowadays they take off with a full weapon load and limited fuel, refuelling in-air once they get to high altitude where the jet engine is more efficient.

    Amusingly, it's only in jet fighters that VTOL is even close to possible, because they have a thrust to weight ratio better than 1, at least when they're not carrying a couple of tons of weaponry.

    For anything else, VTOL means carrying around more engine than they need for most missions. The Harrier's thirst for fuel was legendary.

  35. Dave Jones
    Thumb Up

    Stealth and sonic booms

    Stealth is about getting close enough to hit the enemy before you are detected. These days, "close enough" can be measured in miles. The F-117 is neither invisible nor particularly quiet, but by the time you've detected it and scrambled or directed your fighters, it's been and gone and dropped its load. Of course it's not

    capable of supersonic flight, but it goes pretty fast for all that. If you detect it at 10 km, you have 30 seconds or so to do something about it. If your stealth plane is supersonic, cut that time in half.

    having said that, going supersonic on the way in is a bad idea for all kinds of reasons, but going supersonic on the way out is a really good idea if you can do it.

  36. Morely Dotes
    Thumb Up

    @ George

    "your articles always raise good points, especially the Stealth paint issue damaged with grit, something I hadn't even thought of."

    True, but you'd need a metric buttload of paint damage to get any serious radar reflectivity. First, each paintless area has to be as large as (or larger than) the wavelength of the radar signal, in at least one dimension; for example, assuming X band radar at the top end of the band, each paint chip has to be at least 25mm long. That's a huge scratch. Secondly, you'd need hundreds of them reflecting the signal to make a blip that any trained operator would read as an aircraft.

    Good article, really, but that point was not well thought out, IMHO.

  37. Nick Palmer

    Thanks for the response, Lewis...

    ...though I'd point out that organic AEW is provided at the mo by those Whiskey Sea Kings that you dislike so much, and that solution could be carried over - indeed it'd be a good stopgap to suggest to our colonial brethren on the LHAs. Indeed, it's largely as a result of the Falklands that they were introduced. Of course, not shitcanning proper carriers in the first place would probably have helped... As has been noted, you could shift it to another helo platform (unless, of course, they ever get the Osprey un****ed, in which case, hey, I'll have a dozen ;-) ). If you're not mucking about trying to launch prop aircraft to provide AEW, you don't NEED catapults.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Harrier and all VTOL / STVOL are overrated

    Try doing a search on harrier crash la times. Read the series by the LA Times on the problems with the Harrier, all the lives wasted because the design is flawed, and the USMC insistence on pursuing this crap regardless.

  39. call me scruffy

    Re: Naval Eurofighter

    The carrier version of Eurofighter actually died out quite late in the day, well into this decade, although I don't know how much development work was done. The (official) reasoning was that Eurofighter had badly over-run, and there was more confidence that JSF would be ready in time. As it happens EFA over ran so far it very nearly didn't sell at all.

  40. lglethal Silver badge

    @ lets Face It

    Anon Coward - I cannot begin to disagree with you enough!!!

    All those people saying that we should be using regular versions of other aircraft for carrier duty do not understand the design requirements of carrier life. The landing and takings do not actually apply that much of a problem to the aircraft. The biggest issue is the motion of the ship on water. A Seaharrier (designed for carrier landings) is 30% heavier then a regular land harrier because the wings and wing joints have to be strengthened by that much to accommodate the continual up and down flexing caused by waves when its sitting on the carrier deck. You "could" use a regular F-35A on a carrier but its life would be about a quarter of the life you were expecting because it is not reinforced for this continuous motion.

    The comments made about making cheap, throw-away planes is incredibly stupid in that if you look at the biggest costs to any airforce you will find that it is pilots who cost the most so sending out lots of cheap planes with expensive pilots that get shots down will cost a lot more in the long run and after a few such sorties would leave you with a massive skills shortage. I suppose the alternative to this is unmanned aircraft but lets face it killbots arent yet at a level where they can do all our killing for us yet!

    yes there are 3 versions of the F-35 they share about 40% commonality that is all. 60% of an aircraft allows specialisation, so on this point your incredibly wrong. All 3 have very distinct roles and have been designed in parallel which in itself is a great achievement as in most cases like this a single version is created then the variants begin off that basis. This does not allow anywhere near the degree of specialisation accomplished by the F-35.

    Yes there have been substantial structural changes in the design process of the F-35. This happens in MOST fighter designs as new technologies and developments occur. However, most fighter programs are done in secret for one country and the public never hears about the problems faced. The transparency shown in this program is quite outstanding. Oh and on the delays front the majority of delays have been caused by the americans attempting to make the aircraft reverse-engineering proof, so that some other foreign power cant steal the american tech put inside it (stealth, etc.). This is completely and utterly fucked by the americans because if they want to sell a military product to another country they should accept the fact that that is now another country's product to do with as they wish. I must applaud the Uk MOD for threatening to pull out of the JSF program when the amercians initially refused to give them any technical data.

    @ the dog fighting people - modern fighter aircraft dont dog fight. They fire Beyond Visual range Missiles at each other or when one notices a BVRM coming at them they fire a counter measure that (hopefully) distracts and misguides the missile, they then fire their BVRM and the other guy fires his counter measures. The person with the best counter measures wins if both exhaust missile supplies they call a draw and go home. That is modern fighter warfare. The days of the Red Baron are dead and gone...

    At present, the 3 versions of the F-35 are all on target to meet their specs. yes there behind schedule and probably a bit overbudget there still a hell of a lot cheaper then developing your on inhouse british fighter!

    PS As an aerospace engineer who has worked in both military and civilian aerospace design projects - i do have an idea what im talking about. Hence the boffin icon!

  41. Dave Bell

    This won't be the first time they thought dogfighting was obsolete

    Ask the American pilots in Vietnam who flew missile-armed interceptors without guns against the MiGs.

    Maybe modern missiles are good enough that no enemy will survive to get into dogfighting range--that I can't judge--but what happens if your opponent is radar stealthy? And, biggest question in warfare since the days of stone clubs, what if he doesn't fight the battle you expect?

  42. JimC

    Lot of Falklands lessons being missed here


    Using expensive ships as radar pickets leads to large attrition in expensive ships. You need to be using "cheap" aircraft, and the cheap aircraft need to be aloft all the time, which means using Helos or fighters is probably not great.

    No dogfighting happened in the Falklands: it was all superior missiles.

    And running out of ammunition, be it missiles or bullets, is scarcely a new phenomenum. I think in the Battle of Britain a Spitfire carried around 30 seconds of ammunition.

  43. John Griffiths

    It isn't WWII anymore

    As the informed readers have noted, dogfighting is as dead a military art as fencing.

    Yes, in some conceivable situations someone on a battlefield might wish they had a sword, and a pilot might wish they had a machine cannon.

    But it's just not worth the weight anymore, or the training time that could be spent on something more useful.

    Also on the subject of stealth. If it was just a coat of high tech paint then there would be no problem with external stores, just give them a lick of the magic paint.

    Stealth technology has far more to do with the shape of the aircraft deflecting radar rather than reflecting it.

    Finally on the subject of AEW&C (we've moved on from AWAC peeps) I imagine you've defined an excellent use of an unmanned vehicle which will be able to cruise for a long time at a great height without needing to carry the weight of a toilet or food, let alone the meatbags who need these things.

    Finally on the Falklands an organic taskforce air capability of just a handful of planes held off a large land based air force reasonably well. That would seem to be a pretty good argument for it.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    At the risk of sounding serious

    The picture on the front of this article has a pink hue to it, as so aptly pointed out by my lovely wife. So, that leads me to ask if there's a "Hello Kitty" version available to civilians?

    For the love of <insert your Deity here>, have you no shame? My wife has a Hello Kitty <expletive deleted> fetish. I mean it's bad enough I have to see that mouthless freak plastered all over her, the house, her bike, her car, damn near every shred of her clothing and "accessories", but on an aircraft that is going to replace one of the UK's greatest aircraft?

    But seriously folks... Sure, I'm a homer, when it comes to US aircraft, but when it came to seeing the harrier, the lone exception being the SR-71, seeing Harrier in flight still gives me an erection.

  45. Bob

    Research is key to argument

    Below is a good place to start.

  46. Natecar

    You all missed the baisc mistake in the article

    The U.S. Marines actually are as tough as they think they are.

    They also like having their aircraft so close to the front that the pilots sleep in a foxhole.

  47. heystoopid

    Oh well

    Oh well just another piece of canon fodder for the more versatile and cheaper Russian Sukhoi given that it's original parent the 27 model could in real time both out fly and out shoot the entire complement of NATO air craft sent up to shoot it down for breakfast lunch and dinner and then some !

    Mind you to say those pesky Siberian Russian Bears in the Arctic Circle can build a better fighter cheaper then the wankers in the west will undoubtedly start a flaming match !

    Flame on wankers !

  48. John Griffiths


    Just a shame the Russian simulators are crap and their (as a result) under-trained pilots will be plucked from the sky in their flashy beasts by missiles coming from targets they can't even see.

    Like cavalry charging at tanks.

  49. Hans Averdung

    1982 and all that

    All the peepz pointing out the "penalties" in the F-35B's design remind me of old Bill Gunston and his desperation with the people that used to whine in the exact same tones in the 80s... the people who gave you that utter monstrosity called the Typhoon. Those intakes are so big Voyager 2 will be able to detect a radar return from beyond the heliopause. And besides, it needs more runway than a 380 to take off. Ugh.

    My only question re: the F-35B would be Can it VIFF? If not, it's a waste of money and a step back, just like PrivatAir is (all the Connolly leather in the world gets tiresome after 7 hours, compared to 3 for the wonderful and equally expensive Concorde). VIFFing turned a flying-brick close support ugly thing like the Harrier into a credible fighter that smashed some very well-flown opposition (see the YouTube videos of the Argentines for factual support) and made the war winnable by reducing the number of bombs with good fuses they could drop (search the Web; six fuses --just six-- and the war would have been lost, so say the boys that were there). What effective vectored thrust can do with a good design... The latest derivatives of the Su-27 come to mind. What VIFFing would do to that handsome beast is no doubt in the nightmartes of Western air-force types.

    So shut up. All the "penalties" in the world wouldn't have mattered if Argentina had had some STOVLs they could base at Stanley instead of the ground-loving Mirages. That was settled the "penalty" argument for all time. A war you beancounting types almost made impossible. If Galtieri had waited 6 months, there would have been no carrier force and no Harriers. Bye-bye Kelpers.

  50. Schoofs

    White flag shooters


    "...The Rafale I have no argument against. Well maybe one, its French so only fires white flags."

    Remember the Falklands war, George? If I recall correctly some (initially) floating Royal Navy infrastructure was left somewhat 'scratched' after a close encounter with Exocet missiles. These missiles were launched from Argentinian Super Etendard strike fighters. Both the Exocet and the Super Etendard are ... French-built.

    Also nice to know:

    "These uprated aircraft, designated Super Étendard Modernisé (SEM) participated in NATO's "Allied Force" operations over Kosovo in 1999, flying over 400 combat missions with 73% of the assigned objectives destroyed : the best performance of all the air forces involved in the missions over Kosovo. The SEM also flew strike missions in Operation Enduring Freedom".

    Pretty deadly and accurate white flags. Wanna buy some?

  51. TeeCee Gold badge

    Some points.

    1) The Harrier was regarded as a White Elephant by the US military when it came out, 'cos it wasn't supersonic. The Marines insisted on evaluating it (as they're *really* bloody-minded and don't like taking accepted wisdom from other arms of the military) and rapidly came to the conclusion that it was a "must have" item.

    Nice to see that with the advent of a new STOVL aircraft everyone's climbing over each other to say it's of no use. Try learning from history rather than repeating it's mistakes.

    2) VIFFing. During said US marine evaluation, the Hawker project manager was upset to be woken at about 3am (time difference) by a request for an answer to the question: If you're going flat out and you shove this nozzle control around, will the airframe take it? The following day the answer was supplied that the Harrier was as tough as old boots and it would, indeed, be ok to do this. The subsequent Aggressor evaluation of the Harrier, using VIFFing as a defensive/offensive technique came the conclusion that a Harrier in the hands of a skilled Harrier pilot was nigh-on impossible to shoot down for a modern, supersonic fighter as you just could not hold a missile lock for long enough. If the supersonic boys slowed down to handle the problem, the more maneuverable Harriers promptly handed their arses to them on a plate (there are more tricks in VIFFing than just "stop quickly...").

    3) The vertical lift system on the '35 is a ducted fan. It's extremely unlikely to melt anything and significantly less so than a Harrier, which points its hot jet exhaust downwards.

    The Soviets actually built a 'plane with a couple of extra jets pointing down to provided VTOL. That one required a concrete emplacement to take off from and land on (very useful).

    IIRC, when Hawkers were demonstrating the Harrier at the Paris(?) air show, the annoying "wurp, wurp" noise went off that means that the clever bit that balances the puffer jets has failed. In turn, this means "get out now". The pilot banged out and the unaccompanied Harrier then turned turtle and landed on top of the Soviet concrete monolith (Hawkers were trying to be flash by touching down on the grass next to it to prove they didn't need one) and their unfortunate aircraft. The diplomatic stink caused was a tad serious.....

  52. Anonymous Coward

    @ Final Version (and others)

    There have been a few interesting (unofficial) reports sneaking out about Typhoon, in the past few weeks. Early in 2007 the Indian AF sent over some of their brand new Flankers, thrust-vectoring, the works; 'officially' no opportunity was taken to try these two cutting-edge fighters against each other - unofficially there was a chance for some pilots to have a crack at each other, and Typhoon flew rings around the Flankers.

    Also during the year some Typhoons went to the States to 'visit' the F-22s. In BVR conditions the Raptor did what is said on the tin, it was stealthy and pretty much unbeatable. Very, very unofficial reports say, however, that in 'real world' conditions with close in fighting Typhoon creamed the pride of the USAF!!

    Typhoon has been built with a certain amount of future proofing - a naval variant would be feasible, if the US decided to play hardball (again) over some of the technology and software issues. Interestingly it would also be possible to incorporate the type of thrust vectoring nozzles that feature on the F-22 and recent Russian jets; the structure of the fuselage can easily take the necessary modifications, but the software would need an extensive re-write.

    One option you have all missed in the AWACS/ASaCs discussions; an AEW version of the V-22 Osprey has been proposed and is, apparently, favoured by many.

  53. stalker



    "They also like having their aircraft so close to the front that the pilots sleep in a foxhole"

    Not sure how much tactical sense this makes, to be honest. Pilots (and planes) are multi-million dollar assets, having them that close to the front line seems like a...dumb?.....idea.

    I'm ex-army (british) and have to say that whilst the marines are fantastic guys, and very capable at what they do, their doctrine and training focuses on very different areas from ours. An example: We once did an exchange, and sent our recce platoon over to the states for a "swap", before a gang of jar heads came over to us. Some comments passed by them (not verbatim, but you get the idea)

    on fighting: "jesus did you see that? He hit him with his face!"

    on setting off for a 12 mile march and shoot competition:

    "waddya mean we have to walk? Wheres the freakin' humvees? A truck? you gotta be shittin' me!"

    on losing said competition:

    "how the f**k do you guys walk so fast with all that shit on your backs?"

    on losing out on a girl to an engineer:

    "yeah man, i'm gonna bust your face!"

    5 secs later

    "shit man, let him get up! stop hittin' him! you brits are crazy!"

    on getting up in a morning:

    "semper fi! do or die! gung ho! gung ho! gung ho!"

    This last i feel sums up the main differences between them and us...they are more (openly) aggresive, arguably better equipped, and theres more of them. They ARE that hard because they throw men and resources at the job until it gets done, whilst our soldiers have to work with the bare minimum of resources and support. compare your average US marine with pvt. charlie bottle from manchester, weighing in at 90lbs and doing the self same job, you realise that they may be as hard as they think, but we are a damn sight harder. we just don't tell everyone about it :)

  54. Matthew Morrison

    RE: It Isn't WWII Any More

    @ John Griffiths - to be fair John, the Phantom programme, albeit late on, highlighted that we hadn't quite reached the era of doing without a relatively cheap 'n' cheerful back-up weapon just yet.

  55. Steve
    Thumb Up

    @John Griffiths

    "Yes, in some conceivable situations someone on a battlefield might wish they had a sword, and a pilot might wish they had a machine cannon.

    But it's just not worth the weight anymore, or the training time that could be spent on something more useful."

    Have you not seen TopGun. "Too close for missiles, switching to guns"...

  56. Anonymous Coward

    @Andy Bright - Eurofighter has a cannon...


    * Gun: 1x 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon

    In fact, the same cannon used on the Tornado, Alpha Jet, Gripen and planned for use on the F-35 but they switched to a variant of the GAU-12 'Equalizer' cannon as used on the US Harrier II. The UK Harrier GR7 and GR9 though do not have cannons.

  57. David Evans

    @Andy Goodair

    The Typhoon may be the best thing since sliced bread, but that's no guarantee a navalised version would follow suit; The Typhoon has a number of design issues that make conversion for naval use pretty complex; low wing design, high landing speed, landing visibility problems etc. not to mention the the amount of airframe strengthening it would need; about a million years ago I used to work in the design office for BAe, working on the T-45, the navalised Hawk trainer for the US navy. By the time they'd finished redesigning it they could have designed an all-new aircraft; and the Naval plane weighed more empty but only had about 2/3 the takeoff weight of the land-based Hawk. Successful naval adaptions of land-based aircraft are extremely rare; the other way around, certainly, but bear in mind, one of the reasons the French went their own way with the Rafale was because they wanted a plane designed for carriers from the outset.

  58. Ishkandar

    @Mike Plunkett

    Investment in flat-tops is *NOT* a valid argument NOT to can a plane !! The Chinese currently possess *THREE* large flat-tops; Two are now casinos with landing/parking spaces for private choppers and the third is a floating hospital. Not one of them will ever carry a warplane !!

  59. Steve Ringham

    Harriers in combat

    @Ashley Pomeroy

    If you'd read all of Sharkey's excellent book (well worth reading for anyone interested in a "bottom-up" view of the Falklans campaign as a counterpoint to Sandy Woodwards "top-down" tome) you'd know that he successfully piloted his Sea Harrier in mock combat against F-5s and even F-15s. The art of dogfighting is to make the opponent fly in the speed regime where your 'plane handles best - Sharkey understood his aircraft very well, hence his success against F-15s.

    Due to it's design, Harriers (all models) fly very well very slowly - far slower than air superiority fighters. That and the ability for the pilot to shield it's Pegasus engine's heat signature - keep the nose up and let the broad wings hide the exhaust ports.

    In the Falklands, the faster and (on paper) more capable Mirages learnt to keep well away from the Harrier patrols after their initial encounters. The Argentine successes with Exocets appear to be due to gaps in the patrols due to operational changes (it's all explained in the book).

  60. DutchOven
    Black Helicopters

    @Andy Goodair

    We've got to buy this plane. Whatever happens, we won't stop our military spending.

    We can't take our lips and tongue off the cock tip of the american military in case they go off in a huff.

    If we upset them then they'll probably decide that we're part of the "Axis of Evil"...

  61. Nev

    @ George

    "Well maybe one, its French so only fires white flags."

    George, T'es une vrai connasse.

  62. James Pickett


    No mention of the price, I see. Apparently this is about $60m each, or enough to buy three of the AV-8 Harriers it is designed to replace. I wonder which would be more effective..?

  63. Mark

    @ Starace

    Considering that during the Falklands war 20 Harriers managed to thwart 120 Argentinian mirages by shooting -a lot- of them down using the air-braking/enemy overshooting strategy. The Argentinians (and French) also thought that the Harriers would be easy targets, and how wrong they were. Its a great strategy that has been conclusively proven in a theatre of war.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AEW Planes

    Air search radar is limited to line of sight. Since the Earth curves this means that at sea you are luck to pick up sea skimming missles and/or planes at much over 18-20 miles (on a good day....more likely to be 5-10 miles). Putting air search radar on an airborne platform increases the the performance considerable...the higher the better. RN used to have Ganetts for this task but with the demise of the fleet carriers (Ark Royal, Hermes, Eagle, Bulwark Victorious etc etc) we where left with the stunted things that are currently in service (Invincible, Ark & Illustrious) which had not facility for Airborne early warning aircraft.....Having almost had our arses kick in the Falklands because of this (and lost Sheffield & Coventry specifically as a result of this lack of radar coverage) we ended up with a kludge solution that is the Sea King fitted with AEW radar.

    Much better for loiter times and height to have a fixed wing solution...increases the range considerable.

  65. heystoopid
    Black Helicopters


    @john if those pesky Russians were crap pilots then please explain the missing numbers of the cream of both USAF and the RAF pilots flying some very sophisticated heavily armed jet air craft were mysteriously lost in flying over many former Soviet Russian States back in the cold war or why the ratios were not so hot in the Korean War !

    By the way in the same period how many Russian Military aircraft were shot down flying over the so called Western NATO Countries ?

    One very unsophisticated Russian pilot pre training begins with all candidates subject to a high speed centrifuge G test prior to being placed in the appropriate training program where as the wankers in the west post test their pilots after their expensive training program before being moved to advanced jet trainers the two seat versions of the front line fighters !

    You also forgot to mention a number of salient facts about what happened to an entire range of NATO aircraft including the ultra sophisticated F15E advanced model (not the crappy very long in the tooth older F15A with high flight hours as the nose section forward of the first Wing Spar frame section now tends to fall off in any G turn above 5 but that is another story for another day) for all these aircraft became canon and missile fodder to the so called lesser Russian counterparts !

    Me thinks you have completely forgotten about the results of the last three years Asian Pacific War Games with the Indians supposedly flying the far less sophisticated export model Sukhoi SU-27 or how a small batch old MIG-29E's of the old East German Air Force post 1989 took out the best of the best in the European theatre for nearly a decade !

    The problem in the west is that we suffer from the syndrome that if it was made behind the Iron Curtain and built by the Russians it can only be crap or rubbish ! , But how soon we forget the numerous assorted very expensive white elephants like "Blue Bolt" or the equally crap Bloodhound Ground to Air Missiles , the TRS2 or the two decades needed to iron out the bugs in the F111 to name but a few of the numerous late over designed and ten times overpriced rubbish and the lousy battle unready junk sold to equip our western armies on the Rhine or the many numerous extensive well documented military lemons made post WW2 ! How soon we forget western arms maker make far more expensive but very useless play toys that cost between ten and a hundred times more then their Russian equivalents !

    What price a choice indeed !

  66. Paul Rafter
    Thumb Down

    Oh Dear

    Some of the comments here are just plain wrong, there seems to be a lack of understanding on many things. Did someone say the Eurofighter has stealth!? where did you dream that up? Harriers need replacing they cannot carry many weapons or are capable of long range flight. The B varient will always be useful as someone said before you dont just send a carrier in, it requires support ships supplies, an Aegis cruiser or 2 a few ASW destroyers o maybe a sub or 2. Can the RN supply that? no. Who ever said the waves add strain on the wings? plain stupidity. Naval versions worst enemy is salt the modification to navalised one plane aren't much but the catapult strain and arresting wires strain mean the whole aircraft needs to be structurally sound otherwise it will pull itself apart. Who ever said planes only fight BVR is just wrong, they love to do BVR but its not always the case. Otherwise IR missles which work in visual range and cannons on planes would be useless yet they have them because NAM taught them a reason, NOT every fight is BVR. The Eurofighter is crap not stealthy and slow, the F-22 is hands down the best fighter in the world the Euro fighter loses in nearly every way to an F-22 the F-35 shares some tech from the F22 but comparing the F35 to the Eurofighter of F22 is not fair the Eurofighter was concieved in the 1980's the F-35 wasn't. Rememebr if a plane carries weapons externally it WILL NEVER be STEALTH. And what people fail to forget is theres no point having a sick aircraft loaded with weapions that can go fast, as if it cant lock up its enemy with radar then its game over. Look first Shoot first KIll First. One last point top gun decceleration manouvers and harriers pointing there thrust forward, will result in death. Jet jocks live by a rule. Speed is energy, Energy is Life, nuff said.

  67. ton

    how about

    some kind of small zeppelin or balloon to take care of the aew role, remote control, could keep it in the air for days.

    the e2d works but only on big carriers as the french found out during trials, as the deck was just a bit to short for them to land on it

    as with all air warfare today command and control decides the outcome, get your planes in the right place at the right time and your opponent is doomed, make sure he does not see you and he should not even take off. All of history proves that if you don't control you lose


    sound is not an issue, as its speed is limited, thus sound is perfect to find a submarine at 10 20 knots, but a fighter jet even subsonic is almost as fast as the sound it makes so by the time you hear it it is there, at supersonic speeds you hear it only after it is past you (and then only if your not dead)

  68. Sweep

    @ Lewis Page

    Increasingly any article by Lewis serves only to put forward his own views on his pet subjects.

    When are we going to get a section of the Register that is just called Lewis' Blog? Or alternatively why doesn't he just run for Prime Minister? Or EU President?

    Would you vote for him?

  69. alyn
    Black Helicopters

    What made the Harrier a success in the Faulklands

    The Harrier consistantly out-manouvred surrender-monkey Mirages and super Entendards by vectoring their thrust in flight and regularly exceeded their design specifications, even going supersonic for short periods in dives. We could never buy froggie aircraft just as they would never buy ours.

    Nobody doubts that the US can produce top quality military hardware, the British could too if we put as much money into defence,but the F-35 is unproven in battle. Wait for Faulklands II or Viet Nam II. Then we'll see if it "kicks ass"


  70. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Boggling

    The beauty of stealth and supersonic really. It can't be "seen" by conventional radar and the noise it makes is of no help either. The damn thing could be pumping the Star-Spangled Banner out of a loudspeaker, but it would have overshot you (no pun intended) by the time you heard it - the plane's flying faster than the speed of sound y'see. :-)

    And regarding the STOVL and VTOL debate on the Harrier, IIRC, the Harriers can still technically do a vertical take-off, but would be next to useless as it can't carry weapons or much fuel to keep the weight down (the reason it needs to dump all its fuel before vertical landing).

  71. SnowHawk

    Not sure if you noticed

    I may be a little biased in this, as I am an Engineer that has worked on the F-35 program, but in case you haven't noticed, the F-35 is the cheap alternative right now. As expensive as the program is, you will not get a capable new fighter for less money. Especially not one with the sort of life-span that this program is envisioned to have. F-35s will be flying for a very long time.

    Nine Partner Nations (United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Australia, and Turkey) are involved in the development of the F-35, with development efforts being spread out to those Nations in relation to the amount of development costs that they contributed. And yes, the whole withholding info from the British was a stupid thing to do, but withholding from Turkey is probably the right thing to do.

  72. Andy Bright

    @ Anonymous Coward - re Eurofighter Cannon

    I know the Eurofighter has a cannon - it's just the RAF ordered theirs without one to save money. And then said something stupid about never needing one in modern combat.

    The process went like this.

    Our glorious ex-Prime Minister promised the RAF they would get new planes. He then promised the Navy they would get new aircraft carriers, made a big speech about how we would once again have a great Navy and then someone pointed out the budget didn't quite stretch that far.

    Worse, aircraft carriers aren't much use without planes to fly off and onto them. Sure we could use harriers, but why then bother with the big aircraft carriers?

    So cuts had to be found and a series of stupid decisions were made in order to save face.

    First you have to remember that the Eurofighter was going to receive upgrades to it's spec over a timeline, and that the final spec (a la F-22) wouldn't be met until the very latest Eurofighters rolled off the production line.

    Unfortunately the RAF got theirs first. And while we were allocated a portion of later orders, we had this sticky issue with the aircraft carriers and the F-35s, the planes we decided to buy to save face. And actually the F-35 wasn't too bad an idea either, if we had the money.

    So where do we get the money? Well we could increase the defense budget, except we can't because we've promised it all away on other things - like fancy new passports and ID cards and some really, really big databases.

    Here's an idea - why not sell some planes to the Saudis. Well great, except the Saudis won't buy Tornados any more because they've had a go in F-15s and F-16s, so they know they're rubbish. What they would be interested in though, is the very latest version of the Eurofighter, the ones better than our own.

    Well that was nearly enough money, but we need a bit extra. Enter cannon-less Eurofighters, and a line of bullshit about not needing cannons in modern warfare.

    So yes, Eurofighters do have cannons, but they can be removed to save money and that's what the RAF has done.

  73. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    @ too many people to list!

    1/ Fighter pilots keep asking for cannon because all too often they end up getting close and personal with their targets, and a backup is always nice to have. It also helps in "policing" actions when you can fire a shot across the bows (or nose), whereas if you fire a missile then it's not a warning it's terminal (anyone remember a Sukhoi shooting down a commercial Jumbo over Korea 'cos the Suke didn't have a cannon?).

    2/ Harrier pilots used VIFF to tighten turns, usually to gain a few degrees on supposedly better-turning opponents, and again usually to get a bead for the old and reliable 30mm Adens. The "I'll throw open the airbrakes and he'll fly right by" trick only works in Top Gun (and with much more humour in "Hot Shots"). One Harrier trick was similar, this involved using VIFF to cause a sudden climb whilst maintaining an almost level attitude, a trick that caused many opponents to undershoot.

    3/ The GR7 and GR9 Harriers were originally to have the new 25mm Aden. This was the old Aden cannon updated to fire modern (American GAU-12) 25mm ammo. Whereas the old Adens could be carried in pairs in slim underbelly bulges on the previous Harriers, the 25mm Aden had the gun in one pod and feed from ammo in the second. All nice until the gun jammed (which it did a lot!). The old Aden was much more reliable but still did jam occaisionally, but having two meant there was still one to shoot those pesky supersonic drivers down with. The cancellation of the Aden 25 left the GR7 and GR9 without cannon, it was not an original design decision.

    4/ For the Falklands, the RN was quickly supplied with what was then the latest AIM-9L Sidewinders - these still proved very disappointing, with many falling short of the brochure range. The pilots themselves said the most reliable solution was getting in close and using the Adens. One pilot put it "I rated the Sidewinder as 50% effective, but the Aden as 100%." The next gen Sea Harrier FA2 got better radar to allow use of AMRAAM instead, but kept the trusted 30mm Adens. If only the RAF had perservered we wouldn't have wasted so much time and money on the Aden 25. This is even funnier when you consider many Argentinian pilots complained their DEFA 30mm cannon (the French competitor to Aden) often didn't work! This saved at least one Sea Harrier. Rafale has switched to the new and still French GIAT 30mm, apparently not without issues, rather than co-operate on a new design or use the existing Mauser 27mm.

    5/ The Dassault Super Etendard was a flying piece of cack. The navalised Jaguar would have been massively superior, but Dassault made sure that never happened. We lost our picket destroyers in the Falklands because we didn't have AEW, plain and simple. When the Harriers were able to find the Etendards they shot them down with ease. In Kossovo (and the Gulf) the Americans had so little faith in the French jets (christened "Super Reatrds" by the USN) they gave them the easiest missions only, and kept the tough jobs for themselves. Dassault tried to make marketing out of the fact that the Etendards scored "highly" against the easy targets, everbody in the know laughed. In the Falklands, it was Exocet and poor RN counter-missile capability that led to losses.

    6/ Rafale is good, very good even, but expensive and tailored very closely to the French requirement. It would be hideously expensive to refit to RN requirements, especially as there are doubts about Rafale's ability with AMRAAM despite Dassault's insistance it is tested. Rafale has so far failed in every sale outside of France, beaten by older but better kit like the F-16 and F-15. Even the Eurofighter Typhoon which Dassault tried its best to saboutage is doing better, and anyone who thinks the French can't pay bribes really does need to do some reading! SuperHornets are better all-rounders in nearly every respect and would probably be cheaper to buy off-the-shelf than Rafale. Both, however, just like the navalised Eurofighter, Rafale and teh SuperHornet cannot work from smaller carriers, unlike the F35B..

    7/ The US Marines love the Harrier. It is the USAF that hate it. Having browbeaten the US Army into giving up fixed-wing aircraft, the USAF is intent on getting the Marines into the same pickle. Most attacks on the Harrier (including the rubbish about how it is a bigger IR target for MANPADS) originates from the USAF. Thankfully, as well as being tough, the USMC is notoriously stubborn!

    8/ The Harriers have problems in hot air like the Gulf - all aircarft burn more gas in hot air, especially when manouvering, as hot air is thinner. The Tornado display team used 20% more fuel in their Riyadh display than they did at home! This hot air led to problems with GR7s in the Gulf and lots of media frenzy, but it is often forgotten that the GR7s still did the job. If needed, the Harriers could have remained, it was just at that point with hostilities over it made more sense to withdraw them.

    9/ Supersonic fighters do not do well at low level - especially when the pilots have been trained for higher level operations. Harrier has proven much better at the lower levels than many fighters. The USAF found out the hard way when it used fighter jocks in F-16Cs to support ground forces in Iraq, and the F-16 drivers started smearing themselves all over the scenary. The A-10 was and still is better for such operations than the F-16 or the F-18 or any other supersonic figter, and the Harrier a close second. I expect the F35B to be as good, though without the A-10's super-toughness.

    10/ STOVL is a much safer way to land on a carrier! With conventional jets you have to land and then stop, with STOVL you stop and then land. The former means taking an aircraft designed to fly supersonic and trying to get it to fly as slow as possible without falling out of the sky, then bringing it to a halt in a very short space. This means building fast fighters to fly well at the 180 knot range (hard!) and making them strong enough to take the deccelleration form 180 knots to zero under arresting (heavy!). Harrier was simply lighter as it didn't need all the extra reinforcement. The RN saw a major drop in landing accidents per flight with Harrier, especially as their carriers have always been smaller. The RN's use of Phantoms on the old HMS Ark Royal was considered suicidal by the USN, and that was much bigger than the Falklands carriers. It also means you can park more aircraft ready on the deck, whereas with arresting you have to clear a space for each aircraft to land. I have seen a pair of Harriers landing at once on the tiny HMS Invincible with two others hovering nearbye. I have never seen more than one conventional jet landing at a time, even on the USN supercarriers, and any companion flying out well away in circuit.

    11/ The new Russian fighters are very good, as were many of the older ones, especially as they have moved to building high quality rather than quantity. But the F35B will still be a far better naval fighter. The Sukhoi 27 would probably have been just as ineffectual as the Mirage in the Falklands as it was the Argentinian strategy and training that put them in a poor position. The RN pilots were better trained and had a better tool for the job. In a replay, given the same strategic issues, I would expect F35Bs to triumph over a force of Argentinian Sukes and Super Retards.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andy Bright

    Actually the RAF versions have cannons, and always have done.

    The cost of deleting the cannon, designing the ballast to replace it and most importantly adjusting the avionics code was prohibitive.

    So all that was done was to just not bother to buy any support equipment for the gun, or ever load any ammunition into the aircraft, but to just leave the gun dormant. The '0' in the rounds remaining counter on the weapons display is easily ignored.

    I understand that this decision has now been reversed as someone has realised that cannons are sometimes useful, for example strafing ground targets in Afghanistan.

    Re: Saudis and Tornados; if they think they're so rubbish, I wonder why they're spending so much money at the moment on upgrades and a life extension program?

    I think what you'll find is they buy all sorts of things, and have had F-15s etc. for a while. They use everything together 'cos they can afford to and don't what to be stuffed by a single supplier.

    I believe that one reason for selling the Typhoons to the Saudis was to get rid of the Tranche 1 RAF stock. Tranche 2 (and 3, if it happens) are more capable and have the fancy technology - in helmet HUD etc. Better and cheaper to just offset delivery and get the later version than attempt an update on the old stock which isn't all needed at the moment. So sell the early deliveries and spend the money on later build.


    I've had discussions re: the whole F-22 vs. Typhoon thing with some of those involved in the flying. Seem to remember something about approach speeds and engagement ranges and how the relative capabilities meant that the right tactics allowed a suitably armed Typhoon to take an F-22. (I believe you fly in fast and engage them at close-ish range before they get the chance to work out what's happening, react and get a lock, negating any initial BVR advantage).


    Stealth - nice tech but debatable if a full stealth design is worthwhile compared to a low RCS design like a Typhoon. Most likely opponents don't have any sort of gear that would be a problem anyway. If they ARE the kind of people that could be a problem, it's quite possible they'll have a system that can detect a stealth aircraft even at extended range. Plus all the stealth in the world is useless if someone can get a thermo-optic lock on you. All you're doing is improving the situation with regard to early detection.

    It's all down to the compromise of whether using a stealth design is worthwhile compared to the possible degraded performance in other areas (e.g does a 'stealthy' shape provide the same flight performance as a more conventional 'low RCS' design?), and the high maintenance cost involved in keeping the aircraft fully functional (finishes, panel fit etc. need much more care). (Maintenance isn't cheap anyway with a 'standard' fast jet, but the costs are even higher with stealthy stuff)


    Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how F35 progresses. Once a few line pilots get access and real life comparisons start to happen we'll find out how good it really is.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The nickname really doesn't have anything to do with the haircut. It stems from the fact that on the Marines' uniforms between 1775 and 1875 there was a leather collar that was designed to protect the throat from saber slashes.

    Whatever. Enjoyed the article as usual.

  76. John Griffiths

    Top Gun

    Nice to see the gun advocates rely on 40 year old conflicts and the veracity of a 20 year old movie to push the case.

    You no longer have to point the plane at the target to hit it with the missiles guys.

  77. Geoff Spick

    Guns guns guns

    Can I point out that in the last three major wars, our aircraft spent less than 5% of their time in air-to-air action.

    These days its all about supporting ground forces with bombs, and when they are fighting at very close quarters, guns. Planes need guns and since we don't have the new A-10Cs to hand, the Harrier and its replacement need a gun. Otherwise we blow our own side up, see many angry donkey-walloper comments on the mil forums about Harriers being crap in the support role.

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "you'd read all of Sharkey's excellent book (well worth reading etc"

    Hush. Of course I've read the entire book. It is not well worth reading; it is poorly-written, dispiriting, and unenlightening. It is the least entertaining aviation memoir I have ever read. The author comes across as the most unpleasant man in all of creation. His four topics are (a) the Sea Harrier's NAVHARS system is wonderful, and so is toss-bombing (b) it was unfair for the other carrier to perform fewer patrols (c) the Vulcan raids were a waste of time and money (d) the Harriers should have been asked to patrol at low level rather than up high.

    He briefly mentions a dogfighting competition against some US fighter aircraft, although there is not enough detail to support any conclusion. His subsequent air combats are brief, and described briefly. The Argentine fighters appear to have been armed with drop tanks. The actions of other pilots seem like an irrelevance to him. He moans continually and describes himself, with a straight face, as "Mr Sea Harrier". I envisage him as the kind of man who gets angry with counter staff. Nothing in the book supports these subsequent posts in which people authoritatively talk about Harrier air combat.

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Lot of Falklands lessons being missed here

    >Using expensive ships as radar pickets

    This was due to the crap fit out of the expensive ships, ultimately two types had to be combined together because neither could do a decent job on its own.

    >You need to be using "cheap" aircraft

    Flown by "cheap" pilots?

    Living in "cheap" accomodation in the carrier?

    Aircraft stored in "cheap" storage space on the carrier?

    This swarm of aircraft taking off and landing on the multiple runways on said carrier?

    Nothing is cheap on an aircraft carrier least of all enough storage space for an aicraft.

    Actually, it's given me an idea for a new type of warship, the carrier swarm, one or two ships capable of acting as air traffic control, and multiple floating runways, little more than concrete barges.... Lose a barge - got another, lose ATC got another, got AWACS....

  80. Stephen Ware

    re: Lot of Falklands lessons being missed here

    >>Using expensive ships as radar pickets

    >This was due to the crap fit out of the expensive ships, ultimately two types had to be combined together because neither could do a decent job on its own.

    The point being made was that you shouldn't be using ships at all for purely picket duty as it just exposes the ships

    The supposed idea of 'picket' ships is to get around ground based radar line of sight problems with the curvature of the earth. If we had had a decent airborne solution then we wouldn't have probabaly lost Sheffield, Atlantic Conveyor, maybe even Sir Galahad. With the more advanced warnings we could have offered much better air support

  81. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    re: re: Lot of Falklands lessons being missed here

    The biggest lesson learned was that the RN (and to a degree, the whole British armed forces) had been far too tightly tied to the NATO mission role. This left us with a Navy that expected to be operating in the North Atlantic as part of a combined carrier group with lots of lovely USN E-2C/F-14 cover, with nothing more to worry about than hunting down the odd Soviet Alpha sub. Suddenly, said Navy had to take its small number of single-role warships and try and make them operate as an independent naval task force against a dedicated (but luckily poorly-trained) anti-shipping force.

    Our ground troops were almost as bad in that they had trained to fight in/with armour on the German plains against the Soviets, again with a nice NATO logistics system behind them. They now found themselves trying an amphibious landing without real armour support against a "friendly" power armed with the same and often superior kit (did you know the Argies actually had more nightvision gear on the Falklands than our troops did?), in an environment closer to artic tundra than German farmland, and thousands of miles from the nearest NATO warehouse.

    The RAF was suddenly asked to provide a very-long-range conventional bombing ability which it simply didn't have, because everyone had assumed that in the NATO war there would be only local interdiction at most and the only very-longe-range action would be the RN's subs throwing nukes at Moscow. Hence the deseprate refit of old Vulcans to do the job.

    Even the Special Forces (SAS, SBS and RMC) had problems as they just were not ready for the South Atlantic. Only the RMC had anything remotley like training for that kind of environment, and that was based around holding the Norweigean flank in the NATO war plan, not running Zodiacs up ice-bound inlets in St Georgia.

    What pulled it through was the grit and determination of our soldiers, sailors and arimen, backed by a gutsy PM. They pulled off an amazing victory but at a terrible cost that was largely avoidable. The biggest lesson from the Falklands War was that our military needs to be capable of independent action. This is again gradually being forgotten in the rush to meet unrealistic budgets and ludicrous commitments.

  82. Duncan
    IT Angle

    What's relevance to The Register here?

    Lewis is obviously obsessed with the military, but what the heck has it got to do with an IT news website? At least the eeeeeeepc girl has an IT angle!

  83. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: What's relevance to The Register here? (and a self-correction...)

    The F35B deal includes a hardware and software technology hand-over to the UK. This may have a (tiny) impact on our high-tech/death-tech industries, most of which now relie on reams of software code to do the death-dealing bit. Also, we just like splodey-bang-bang stuff, 'cos we grew up with Airfix.....

    As for my self-correction (non-surgical), no Super 'Tards were shot down by Harriers in the Falklands War as they were operated well away from the Harriers. The Sea Harriers proved very effective at low-level, especially against the Dassault Mirage IIIs and IAI Daggers which had both been designed for higher altitude work. This was proven convincingly on 1st May when the Mirages first met Sea Harriers. Despite being armed with Matra Super 530 missiles the Mirages got their butts handed to them on a plate and for the remainder of the War the Argies tried to avoid the Sea Harriers, hence the Super 'Tards being kept well out of harms way. Instead, the Sea Harriers had to settle for shooting down 21 other Argentinian aircraft for no loss in air combat. Given that the majority of threats to the future Fleet will be doing the same (low-level anti-shipping attacks) it is highly likely the F35B will do just as convincing a job.

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