back to article Blighty's stealth robojet rolls out a year late

The UK's "Taranis" robot stealth jet has finally rolled out of assembly, the year after it was supposed to be in ground testing. The Taranis UCAV at its rollout ceremony. Credit: BAE Systems Doesn't even save British jobs, let alone lives Taranis, a jet-fighter-sized unmanned aircraft of the same general sort as the USA's …


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  1. Peter Ford

    Only one year late?

    And only £18million over budget?

    I'd say that's a win for the British defence industry.

    It's bound to get the chop :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      That must make it one of the most successful MOD procurements of the last 30 years.

  2. ravenviz Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    80% reduction in Propulsion Jamming systems activation cost


    1. Z 1


      but it does it come with face melting blasters?

  3. spider from mars
    Thumb Up

    you were funnier when talking about robot overlords

    I know Lewis reckons we should just buy everything from the yanks, but I do think it's worth financing these projects to maintain a domestic technology base; no sense them having all the fun. 150 mil is small beans, in government terms.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah - but

      Why aren't we investing that money in things people will actually buy? You know - consumer items or even some lovely high techery to help rebuild our crapped out infrastructure.

      As the article says the RAF doesn't want and can't afford Taranis - so if our own forces won't have the thing who are we going to flog it to? We can't expect the Saudis to cough up now BAE has been caught bribing them for their previous crap planes.

      BAE has to be the worst company in Britain and one that makes me nostalgic for our crappy nationalised car plants and steelworks. Its products are universally shite, overpriced and never less than laughably late. It's nothing more than a blackmailer - 'keep buying our lousy planes/frigates/submarines/guns or we'll fire the workforce.' Close it down, give the workers a small lottery win apiece, buy American/French/Swedish - and not only would we have stuff that works, we'd be better off.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Did you miss?

      "Furthermore, Blighty's fighter factories haven't built a new plane on their own since the 1960s: all the UK forces' current aircraft are full of imported technology and have been for decades."

  4. S Larti

    £143 Million?

    Nice to see my taxes being well spent .


  5. Anonymous Coward

    Yep - that's BAe

    "An industrial capability for which we have no identified requirement"

    That sound like BAe all right. Indeed the same could be said for much of the UK defence sector, along with other usual suspects like GEC, Westland, etc etc.

    These companies employ some bright engineers (crap management though). Maybe they should do something more constructive rather than starting prjects for stuff that nobody wants, nobody can afford, and that will ultimately fail.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      > along with the other suspects like GEC...

      The defence parts of GEC were sold to BAe nearly a decade ago now. Still, thanks for your comment.

  6. SlabMan


    Given the rate of USAfication by BAE, at what point do their products switch from being:

    'Useless overpriced UK crap whose only role is to protect jobs'


    'Proven value for money US kit that we should buy lots of'?

    1. Ru
      Thumb Down

      Re: Dilemma

      > 'Useless overpriced UK crap whose only role is to protect jobs'

      > to:

      > 'Proven value for money US kit that we should buy lots of'?

      Given BAEs track record in this area? Not any time soon. They supply overpriced US crap for which we pay an additional premium, as far as I can see.

    2. Adam Salisbury


      When the merkification is complete we'll just have useless, overpriced, imported crap instead.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        @Adam Salisbury

        "When the merkification is complete we'll just have useless, overpriced, imported crap instead."

        Only problem with this.

        Merkins reckon BaE is French, hence *very* skeptical stuff passed to them won't end up in the "wrong" hands.

    3. PirateSlayer
      Black Helicopters


      Name the 'proven' US kit. Their drones are all pretty shit if you read the history!

      1. James 139


        Im not convinced a lot of military tech is properly proven sometimes.

        1) does it power up?

        2) does it fly/move/float?

        3) does it do anything it shouldnt at this time?

        4) did it cost a LOT of money and are the units very expensive?

        If so, deploy it and see what happens, can always fix it later.

        If not, keep working on it whilst we request additional funds to "fix" some problem.

  7. JeffUK
    Black Helicopters

    Don't forget

    Spitfire was designed way before the RAF realised there was a need for it.. so don't be too harsh on the defence industry having some balls and putting money into something just because they think it will work out!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Ministry wanted a better fighter in 1934

      And issued specification F.36 for an 8 gun fighter with what would become the Merlin engine.

      They same year they had issued a specification for an 8 gun fighter with an air-cooled engine for use in the hotter parts of the Empire.

      The first spec gave us Spitfire and Hurricane.

      1. Dave Bell

        Not so daft...

        Rolls Royce may have been the key.

        They're still building and selling the best jet engines in the world.

        In 1934 an air-cooled engine wasn't a silly option, and the USN preferred them, all through the war. Match a late-war Spitfire against an F4U Corsair, and I wouldn't like to say which was a better fighting machine. Most likely, the better pilot would win. The Bristol Hercules had the power to compete with the Merlin.

        The Spitfire and Hurricane didn't come out of nowhere. Supermarine, Hawker, and Rolls Royce already had the telented engineers. And, in the aftermath of that era's Great Depression, the government was trying to keep those design teams intact.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      If only...

      That's the problem though. It's not BAe's money - it's the tax payers. These companies NEVER spend their own money. So if it fails, what do they loose? Not much is the answer.

  8. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I know, i know...

    I know its useless, serves no purposes and accomplishes nothing for the UK military but i gotta say the Taranis looks awesome!!!

    That is how a fighter jet SHOULD look...

    1. Graham Marsden

      All it needs...

      ... is a red light strobing across the front...

      May I be the first to welcome our Cylon Overlords!

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues

        Cut to hot blondie...

        ... saying: "It has begun."

  9. Green Lantern
    Thumb Up

    Looks like a winner

    So by defence contract standards it was delivered practically on time, practically on budget. In addition they managed this while reducing staff levels...

    If the thing is actually fit for purpose and the government allows BAE to sell it widely, then they may have struck gold.

    1. Richard IV
      Black Helicopters

      For whom?

      For BAe, maybe. Anyone want to take a bet on how much of the resultant profits will be taxable here?

  10. Paul Hates Handles

    Did they...

    ...import the parts from Gadgetzan?

  11. Spoony
    Thumb Up

    Sanity Calling

    £18 million over budget and a year late for a new aircraft? It sounds like they didn't do to bad! Why moan about that when there are plenty of other projects, type 45 for example, that are nearly a billion pounds over budget?

    At least this looks like a technology demonstrator.

  12. JDX Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Sounds cheap to me

    In terms of designing/building a new military plane, that sounds very cheap. And the increased cost is an overspend of about 15% which is pretty good actually, I don't think many software folk would consider that a failure.

    It DOES look lovely, what more is needed?!

    1. peter wegrzyn

      It is cheap, compaired to the US built equivalants

      Smaller US drones are costing 800million+ dollars (the Phantom for instance) and seem to have lower spec.

      This aircraft has deep penetration capability and the fact that the RAF don't want is a good sign - people who 'fly for a lifestyle choice' are not going to be keen on a remote piloted drone.

      BAE have built this to export (all UK source parts) and it will be cheaper and more capable than manned aircraft so the export potential is there.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Good looking white elephant

    Can it!

  14. RISC OS

    I though the picture was taken from Return of the Jedi at first

    ... I was expecting to see Darth Vader descend from the plane... that's a pretty cool photo.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    pork barreling is what politicians are for

    Expecting those 100k indubitably highly skilled people to do something useful or even halfway economically sensible is too much to ask then?

    Common sense tells me they just might, if you take them out of BAe. So letting the 100% pork barrel-fed moloch die mightn't be a bad idea after all. For that you don't even need highly expensive rounds of privatisation, salary raises and bonuses for the brass. But that doesn't net "constituent representatives" any kickbacks, natch. Carry on government.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Banality of Evil

    Great - now we too can have people who can murder others with total impunity and at no risk to themselves. This needs a logo - Who Do You Wanna Kill Today (TM).

    Here's a premeptive stike on the headless, brainless, kneejerks:

    "We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force." General McChrystal.

    1. RISC OS

      Yeah but...

      ...flying these things 2000km behind your own front line will give all thos fat barstards who weren't quite good enough to play computer games for a living some kind of hope of a job!

  17. Chris 3

    "Giving BAE the Taranis project seems to have done little to preserve jobs, however."

    This seems a very odd assertion, given that we don't know how many jobs would have been lost from the U *without* the project.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ spider from mars

    I agree completely.

    It seems Lewis likes to forget things like the missing Chinook software:

  19. David Lucke

    Stealth would be handy

    Its all very well saying we should be buying cheaper kit from the states, but what if the states isn't willing to sell? They won't sell anyone the raptor because they don't trust anyone else with proper stealth, and even JSF may well come to us with broken stealth (there was a big uproar about that a few years back, don't know whether they ended up getting the full stealth package after all). But the bottom line is that it sounds like having the domestic ability to have stealth withhout having to ask the americans permission, given they seem likely to say no, seems like a good move.

    Incidentally, if the coalition ended up killing Trident and replacing it with a cheaper deterrent, a stealth bomber seems like the only alternative plausible deterrent. Whether that's an argument for or against keeping Taranis depends on whether you reckon Trident will or should be cancelled, and whether the presence of an alternative makes such a cancellation more likely or not. But JeffUK's point that building stuff on spec instead of depending on the MOD to spot a requirement before its too late to fill it from scratch is well taken.

    1. Richard Gadsden 1

      Cruise on subs?

      Surely the obvious alternative to Trident is to fire up Aldermaston and get them to build a few Tomahawk warheads and then mount them on the Astute-class SSNs.

      Not a true strategic deterrent, but it's really hard to prevent an Astute getting into Tomahawk range of your country.

  20. Dex
    Thumb Up



    Anyone see the proggy on C4 about Concorde last night? Yes i know it's not going to fly again and yes it was expensive to run but damn, if i had a couple of mil i'm my back pocket i'd buy one, get it airworthy again just to have my own PERSONAL concorde, Bet Richard Branston Pickle doesn't have his own personal Concorde does he? Sure he's got an ISP, Airline and rail company but his own personal Concorde? i think not!

    1. FreeTard

      You forgot...

      ... his own spacehip!

      Concord was cool, far beter than anything else ever invented in the world, ever.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As I recall

      Branson / Virgin wanted to take Concorde off BA's hands and continue flying them, but BA refused. Kind of like the way Governments do stuff like after the Beeching axe, tear up the tracks and sell off the land so the next Gov. can't reverse the destruction; I forget what they did to TSR-2. Destroyed the jigs and blueprints?

  21. Andy 97

    Trebles all round then...

    Nice idea really, someone at the ministry had a very nice lunch when they decided on this.

    I hope we never have to use it,

  22. Paul_Murphy

    Heres a plan...

    Scrap the RAF and merge it, and it's budget, into the Navy,

    Let the Navy decide what it needs (catapults on the carriers and working destroyers etc.) since we are an island nation it makes sense to me.

    Never mind the fancy Typhoons, build something more useful like the Buccaneer or Sea Harrier, and lots of drones - ie things with a specific role in mind that does it well.

    Maybe think about breaking up BAE and keep the useful bits - whichever they are.


    1. PirateSlayer


      I distinctly remember the navy winning the battle of Britain so you're spot on.

      Also, every country we need to bomb will always have nice big Oceans and coast lines so that the effective range of our planes will never NEED to be extended by, say, a local airfield.

      Drones are also 100% better than any manned aircraft ever was. Just check the statistics for Desert Storm when the drones scored a huge 50% success rate on their missions...which is much better than the near 100% success rate of manned F117s.

      Also, the Harrier is much better at counteracting fast threats such as the new generation of SUs being flogged to every country which hates us than, say, the Typhoon which is so slow compared to the Harrier.

      I also think that the private company BaE should be fully broken up by the state, along with any other successful business!

      Spot on.

  23. HFoster

    Probably irrelevant

    I am scared. Yeah, it looks cool. Yeah, it's probably one helluva piece of kit.

    However, it's a machine with guns and bombs, and it fucking FLIES! Meatbag controllers are in the loop now, but how long until some buzzcut somewhere decides that some egghead's improvements to target acquisition reduce collateral damage to within acceptable limits and decides the robots should have fully autonomous fire control?

    I hope I'm wrong. I hope I just have an overactive imagination and too big of an obsession with science-fiction.

    Then again, the EU have been rolling out a system of networking all vehicles, weapons and ordinance.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Title? Whatever, I can't be arsed thinking of a title.

    "the RAF is a lot more interested in jazzing up its new Eurofighters to be more capable of ground attack duties"

    "jazzing up" - heh, haven't heard that in years...

    Looks a bit too much like Cylon raider to me. We'll rue the day I tell's ya, rue it!

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Willy Messerschmitt

    The Problem With Merkin Weaponry that they are more often shiny than really effective.


    F-15: Expensive, Great Radar, mediocre aerodynamic performance, mediocre weapons. Better choice: SU-34 with electronics beefed up by Israel Aircraft Industries, EFA or Rafale. Better AAMs are Vympel or IRIS-T.

    F-22: Super-Expensive. Mediocre payload because no hardpoints. The Merkins can just afford 150. Better choice is the Sukhoi/IAI SU 34

    F-35: Expensive, Mediocre payload. Wasting weight and money on HTOVL feature only the Midget Navy and the Merkin Marines need.

    Better choice is the Navalized Sukhoi/IAI SU 34, or the Rafale-N and a real carrier.

    Abrams MBT: A true American Gas Guzzler. Better choice is the EuroLeopard with it's MTU Diesel.

    C-160 Transport: An aircraft which was up-to-date in the 1960s. A much better choice is the A400M – faster, lager, longer distance, same rough-terrain capability.

    C-17: Only useful for real, heavy aircraft runways. Better choice is the Antonov An-224 superlifter, the biggest aircraft to ever fly. Buy the blueprints for a few Mercedes Limos handed to the corrupt Ukrainian politicos and let IAI (or your own country's a/c maker) manufacture it.

    Patriot SAM: A toy compared to the Russian S-400, at least on aerodynamic performance/range.

    I could go on writing about some nifty super-silent subs from Europe, stealth frigates, and the Israeli stuff. Or why Merkin hit-to-kill SM3 is pointless when Topol-M ejects twenty decoys, each looking like the real warhead. But the above list should be sufficient.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Methinks someone is getting their designations confused...

      "C-160 Transport: An aircraft which was up-to-date in the 1960s."

      Do you mean the well-known Transall C-160 designed and built in Europe, or the dash 30 variant built by Lockheed (C160-30... could almost be mistaken for a C130 :-) which does actually hail from across the puddle?

      "C-17: Only useful for real, heavy aircraft runways. Better choice is the Antonov An-224 superlifter, the biggest aircraft to ever fly."

      As someone else mentioned above, the C-17 is capable of rough field operations, so I suspect you're thinking of the C-5 instead (although that too is capable of using the Antarctic ice runway). Now, either of these tried and tested designs, by virtue of them actually being real aircraft, would be a far better choice than the An-224, since that's just a figment of your imagination. Whether the An-225 would be a better choice is another matter, however...

      1. Willy Messerschmitt

        C130, An225

        Yes, I meant the Hercules and the Antonov 225. The first is a transport that was great in the 1960s and Lewis wants to sell it as something much better than the A400M, by the simple virtue of being a Merkin plane. Fact is, a 1960s a/c can't compete with a 2000s aircraft.

        Then Lewis will undoubtedly invoke the C17, which is bogus, as you cannot operate it *practically* on anything than a proper runway that can also carry a An225.

        An A400M can operate on the same makeshift airstrips the C130 can operate. That's the difference.

        Using Anotonovs is exactly what NATO is doing - airliftingmost stuff "cheaply" to Crackistan in the attempt to "save the Afghan women from illiteracy" (or something).

        The C17 is an expensive thing that does not do all the things boeing *claims* it can do. But it's Merkin, so it is by default better, in LP's mind.

        The economic thing is not to use C17, but the Soviet monster a/c.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Think of the grunts!

          Slight problem Willy with your wonderful A400M. While on paper it's great aircraft, it has a major issue if someone takes a pot shot at it with a AK. With the bloody thing being composite you make a severe structural foul up that's not easy to fix in the field. Meanwhile the dog ancient Hercules you get some grunt in the field to slap a quick repair over the hole, rivet it up, and it's back in the air. Cheap, effective and much easier to keep in the air. Sometimes old simple tech is better than state of the art.

          1. Willy Messerschmitt

            That Argument Can Be Used Two Ways

            The Stealthy Merkin Fighters can't be operated in the field because they need a difficult repaint regularly ?

            This kind of argument can be applied to every new technology - "imagine this or that conceived problem". You are right that small arm damage and the repair of that must be investigated with carbon materials, but it is plain conjecture that it is more difficult that with a metal plain.

            Maybe BASF has some superglue and fiber they can slap on holes on the A400M ?

            Or maybe you don't need to patch most of damage at all ?

            Regarding the glorious F15 fighter; it got slaughtered something like 4:1 by Mig29s the Luftwaffe inherited from the East Germany Air Force in mock fights in the US, if the Mig29s could come to close distance of the F15s. If the distance the F15 acquired the Mig29 was more than 10 kms, the eagle would win. (Assuming the AMRAAMs are as efficient as advertised - the Russkies certainly have developed a ton of countermeasures).

            The Mig29 simply has much better aerodynamics and the thrust-vector Vympel AAM. The Mig29 was only lacking a good, long-range RADAR and the corresponding missiles. Mind you, the Mig29 is not the best Russian fighter, the SU27/34 is even better. And if they act as a team with the Mig31 "mini-AWACS", I a sure all bets are off against F15/AWACS.

            The Russians aren't stuipid, they know very well that their only deficiency is in electronics and they made a series of strategic moves to fix that. Like buying a complete, *slightly* outdated chip factory from Germany. Now they want to get 30% of Infineon, the major German semiconductor company. I guess this is not about a RusskiFon....

    2. scub


      Heh, just realised what you guys mean by Merkins.

      I thought you`se where on about skergifnet`s LOL!

  27. Yorkshirepudding

    looks like something

    from ace combat series

    seriously! someones been on the playstation too much

  28. jason 7

    Fighting to save jobs..........

    ....that actually cost the tax payer!

    Now thats a saving!

    Let them go back to the USA.

    Most of these 'so called' brit firms are no longer British and are just owned by foreign companies (say in the US) and serve only to siphon tax payers money out of the UK.

  29. Cheese

    Re: The Problem With Merkin Weaponry

    "C-17: Only useful for real, heavy aircraft runways. "

    Not sure what defines such a runway, but the C-17s don't seem to have had many problems landing on the ice (the times I've been in Antarctica). Damn site faster getter there too...when compared to the C130s.

    1. Willy Messerschmitt

      C17 / Airstrips

      As soon as the Talibs migrate to Antarctica, we will remember the C17.

      In the meantime, we want to urgently transport something to/from a hot, dusty, somewhat flat desert-like place in X-istan. The C130 and the A400M can do that, the last better than the first.

      The C17 can do it only on Boeing's marketing brochures. In reality, it needs a long runway than can sustain high pressure and weight levels. It needs suffcient room to turn around and taxi to the place where troops/material are loaded/unloaded.

      In short, the C17 needs are real airport to perform real tasks. So the A400M and the C17 are not real competitors. C17 and the Antonovs *are* competitors. Like the A400M and the C130.

  30. Craig Vaughton

    The RAF don't Want them...

    ..because there'll be no cushy jobs flying glorified buses with BA or the like if you get taught to pilot one of these at the tax payers expense.

    "Willy Messerschmitt", I bet you believe the ads that offer 20Mb broadband as well?

    1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      No, the RAF don't want them:

      A) for the same reason the merkin air force doesn't want any X-45 or X-47s - they are a technology prover not a combat ready craft.

      B) for the same reason the merkin air force doesn't like the numerous UAVs in service - it puts IceMan and Maveric out of work.

      The British army and navy might well be rather keen on a combat ready version of Taranis though.

      1. PirateSlayer
        Thumb Up


        Which is probably already flying around somewhere in Scotland. All should remember that the tech on our coolest known aircraft was from the 50s (well, most of it).

  31. h4rm0ny

    If I weren't an ethical person.

    £145 million is petty cash compared to some of the projects the MoD throws money at.. And a year late for project we don't have an immediate need for is no big deal. If this is a project for the sake of keeping bright people in the company, then it's probably a good thing. Hasn't anyone here ever worked in a busy software shop? Don't they remember all the bright ideas everyone has if they only had the time to work on them? Never seen what happens when management says: "okay - it's a bit slack at the moment, take a couple of weeks to work on your own ideas". Suddenly it's the most productive anyone's ever been and you get solutions to problems you didn't know you have. Personally, purely from a strategic and business point of view, allocating £145 mill to a bunch of my brightest staff and saying: "go do something useful / inventive / exploratory" sounds like a great idea.

    Of course from an ethical point of view, blowing people up for a living doesn't sit well with me.

    Still, a beer for whoever set up the lighting on that thing. I'd bet a cheese sandwich they spent their formative years watching Eighties / Early-Nineties Sci-Fi.

  32. jason 7

    The main problem with warfare today is......

    .......the kit is just too expensive to either risk or use.

    Whats the point of all this high tech sophistication if you are not prepared to throw it out there?

    Would you risk $100 million of kit to take out 6 guys in a hut with $200 worth of old russian weapons? How sophisticated do you actually need?

    The cost of a Spitfire was around £12000 (or £575,000 in todays money) in 1940.

    The cost of a Eurofighter - £140 million (and delivery...well Primeminister, lets say 3 years?)

    If a non-nuclear world war broke out we'd all be out of funds and toys within a week.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Spot on

      The kit is too expensive, well the big stuff anyway. The Army tend to keep there heads when it comes to price vs. capability but it seems to be the Navy and RAF tend to go over board. Although who can blame them? Can you remember in January when the RAF where told to look at buying Super Tucano's? I think that's a great idea but you just know that the RAF don't want them because they're not very Gucci.

      Also I think we should be expecting more stories about overspends and "poor" management from the defence sector soon, especially with the cuts going on in the procurement side. You can't take away there staff and expect better results through "efficiency measures"

      1. PirateSlayer


        Check out the cost of bombs and you'll see people are more than prepared to use the heavy gear to save a small number of lives. Look at the cost of keeping one jet mobilised and up in the air with a pilot. Big money. Big business.

  33. Stevie


    Well to be fair they lost six months when they applied the stealth coatings prior to the Bank Holiday and no-one could remember where they parked it when they came back to work.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    machines of war...

    is it me or are these things becoming entirely pointless... it's becoming more of a who's got a bigger dick situation than actually being worthwhile..

    The merkins fall for this "air superiority" BS, and it seems a pity that companies like BAE are following suit in trying to hawk this crap... There aren't many nations out there who have anywhere like the spending capability to develop better weaponry than what is currently in existence... Can you name a single nation out there who's got anything to cope with something like a Harrier or even a Tornado - that's likely to declare war on Blighty? (before the inevitable response of the "axis-of-evil" is rolled out, seriously look at their capabilities!)

    The biggest threats to "democratic" nations come from determined people with bombs strapped to themselves or AK-47s - tell me which fucking aerial combat vehicle is going to stop them?

    Seriously, these people have their heads buried far up their arses... This money (if it is the taxpayers) needs to be spent on more useful things - say better armour/hand-held weapons for poor soldiers deployed in the field, or even better spent on addressing the fundamental issues that will cause people to take up arms (though not more bloody focus groups - I fucking hate focus groups!)

    If there really are some smart engineers there, I'm sure they'll find gainful employment elsewhere.. as for the middle-management - fuck them!

    1. Willy Messerschmitt

      Tu-95 And Russkie ALCMs

      ..will make you think twice, if you only knew about them.

      To tell you a secret, they make practice runs down the Norwegian coast every couple of weeks and they would fly right over Canary Wharf if the RAF Tornados would not intercept them north of Scotland and paint them with their RADAR.

      Also, they have some nasty cruise missiles on board and if ten Tu95s attack simultaneously and launch all their weapons from safe distance, the RAF will be hard-pressed to eliminate all of them until they hit a nice little town like Birminingham, Manchester or the City of Westminster.

      Look at this nice little ALCM:

      Much better than the Merkin stuff in terms of aerodynamics. Have fun to intercept a Mach-2 missile with a Mach-2 fighter !

    2. lglethal Silver badge

      AC Did you even read the article?

      This is a robotic bomber aircraft. Not an air superiority fighter. So obviously you didnt even read the article. Well done for entering auto-rant mode based on a picture and the words BAe...

      Additionally, this is a technology demonstrator. It is not going into production, it is not planning to be sold. It is being used to develop new technologies for UAV's. And as with most new technologies they will eventually find there way down to other products that we do use every day (you know what Teflon is, yeah? Well that started off in the Space program on a technology demonstartor)...

      1. Volker Hett

        Although Teflon is relevant in this case

        It's got nothing to do with any space program. It found it's first use in the Manhattan Project to contain Uranium Hexafluoride .

        Relevant because military technology to fry us all was put into use to fry us an egg.

        Mines the one with the integrated circuit in the pocket.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Machines of war 2

    Last night I watched "Britain's Secret Engineers". However, as it was on TV giving specific locations of the whereabouts of testing/repair facilities, it isn't very secret any more. Anyway, they were reconditioning a Chinook troop helicopter (6 miles of wires, 100,000 man hours, a cost of £140 million, 2 blokes to crash it, or 1 guy using RPG's to bring it down). They use Dell laptops to fix 'em up too! That's all the detail I'm going into. There was a also a programme on about cows, which was much more interesting and no military secrets were revealed. Hum.

  36. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Oh God, I *really* hate to say this

    Less than a 15% overspend and 1 year late in delivery is *not* bad by UK defense project standards.

    IIRC El Reg covered a report that said average over schedule was about 5 years (can't recall percentage over budge but I think it was 200%, IE 3x original "Estimate").

    But I will be b&@@£$d If I'll say well done for that.

    Here's the *real* question for *any* defense hardware.

    What are the *export* sales prospects?

    No export sales means (once again) *one* customer, the good old UK MoD.

    BaE is a *commercial* outfit. Talk of the UK Govt's "Golden" share preventing foreign ownership and relocation to abroad (IE the US) aside So what?

    They play the "You *must* support us. It's in British interests, we're British, British jobs are at risk " BS *over* and *over* again. They have not thought twice about dumping UK staff when it suits them. UK Civil Servants *wanted* a "National champion," they got one. It had rode roughshod over them ever since.

    UK Commentards. Ask yourself this question. If WWIII started tomorrow ( in the best doomsday scenario you can't see doomsday coming) who would be the enemy? Would there be time to *build* new aircraft in the way that losses in the Battle of Britain were replaced? Would there be *no* one the UK could buy arms off of at short notice? What does bank rolling the UK arms biz (or basically BaE, I'd guess the rest is <10% of all of the stuff BaE has its sticky little fingers in) buy UK PLC?

    I doubt *strongly* that there will *ever* be another world war where *every* side will retain national level arms mfg capability. if the war got to *that* scale *all* sides would be nuclear capable and it probably would escalate to that conclusion. The alternative will be multiple conflicts leaving most of the world at peace and running long enough to buy stuff in.

  37. Mike Flex


    >..the missing Chinook software:


    Thanks for the reminder. I could vaguely remember there was some dubious reason behind Qinetiq getting their staff to prat around rebuilding helicopters on "Britain's Secret Engineers" and now you've saved me having to Google for it.

  38. Mike Flex

    Re: Machines of war 2

    AC, don't worry; the location of Boscombe Down isn't at all secret. Unlike the story of how those millions of taxpayers' pounds were lost on Qinetiq's sale.

  39. Anonymous Coward


    Sound like something I had a few hours after some Indian Curry.

    Uranus and Klingon jokes ensue!!!!

  40. Willy Messerschmitt

    Warning To Merkin Lovers

    The Merkins are at the moment hell-bent on destroying one of Britain's greatest Assets - BP. All that "special relationship" is worth nothing if a populist merkin president, an outraged public and a broken legal system are unleashed on you Crown Jewels.

    I suggest some Brit with balls phones Obama and tells him that

    A) Britain will withdraw from Afghanistan

    B) Britain will exit the F-35 program

    C) American military aircraft in the UK will be grounded

    C2) Merkin military ships will not allowed into UK harbours

    D) the next SLBM will be bought from France

    E) the harrier replacement will be the Naval Rafale

    if they don't stop threatening BP RIGHT NOW.

    1. Daniel Evans

      How Odd.

      Aaw, that's almost cute.

    2. Volker Hett

      Yeah, it's not BPs fault

      that they didn't invest in safety valve, or that they drilled there, or that they were allowed to drill there.

      This could have happened in the north sea, too. Or, to be a bit more pessimistic, this is about to happen in the north sea, too. On the other hand, wouldn't make much difference with the quality of fish&chips like it is today, would it?

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Actually, it's not BP's fault....

        The US system is, as you might expect, based on a series of subcontracts that aim to increase efficiency.

        Unfortunately, "increase efficiency" is US English for "cut corners and pocket the cash". It was not BP that built the rig and it was not BP that operated the rig. The company that built the rig was American and the company that operated the rig was American. These are the companies that fouled up, and BP's getting a raw deal simply because it's "foreign".

        The reason this is less likely to happen in the North Sea is because of our evil "Big Government". The UK has something called "safety regulations" that are backed up by law. On the other hand, the US seems to expect that the invisible hand of the market will sort it out... probably by threat of lawsuit. Aye right -- even paying off the bereaved is generally cheaper than doing it safely in the first place, so everyone's just gambling on not having a big enough accident to wipe them out in one go.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Thumb Up

          @The Indomitable Gall

          "Unfortunately, "increase efficiency" is US English for "cut corners and pocket the cash". It was not BP that built the rig and it was not BP that operated the rig. The company that built the rig was American and the company that operated the rig was American. These are the companies that fouled up, and BP's getting a raw deal simply because it's "foreign"."

          Excellent points. BTW you forgot the toothless oversight "Minerals something Agency" which allowed drillers to pencil in their inspectors reports for the inspectors to trace over in pen to "Approve." This has given Obama the perfect opportunity to put that rabid dog down.


          When the fecal matter hit the blowers BP then proceeded to respond in a *very* slow and grudging manner. Their continued upgrading of the *estimate* of how much was leaking out of the well (I'd take a wild stab and say it should be at *least* as much as what was coming out of the well *before* it lost its head, which being a f£$%ing oil company they should know) made them look either lying or incompetent. Could an organisation which spent $250k/day drilling a well *not* know what rate of payback they were getting off it?

          Merkins on the whole are pretty insular and like attacking foreigners rather than face the idea that *somehow* their home grown suppliers might be a bit lax on the safety front, which on Shrub's tenure was virtually non-existent.

          BP has done itself *no* favors with its seriously botched crisis management. From not being up front with the size of the flow to failing to *vigorously* emphasize they have been BP, *not* British Petroleum, for 10 years and having a Chairmen giving a rather good (but presumably unwitting) impersonation of Michael Caine's character in "On Deadly Ground." (Sans Steven Segal of course).

          BP might like to start by firing their PR team. There may be no such thing as *bad* publicity, but this sure looks quite a lot like it.

          Thumbs up for your points. But thumbs down for just about all the other behavior.

  41. fred #257

    BAe is incredibly good....

    ... at publicity, if nothing else. Here in NZ it was all over the news last night, this incredible new British war-winning weapon of the future...

    Not that BAe should be looking in this direction for an export sale. Anybody want to buy some well-used** mothballed Skyhawks?

    ** as in, 'high-mileage'. I don't think they ever shot anything.

  42. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    Save c £41m by spending c£253m to "revert" the Chinooks *back* to an early spec?

    There's no fail like an MoD fail.

  43. hiddenA


    The Emperor, and Darth Vader, would fly in one of those. This is a vessel for the dark side. I cannot find one of Amazon :(

  44. Magnus_Pym

    Can somebody provide a list...

    .. of defence projects that bought US and didn't regret it?

    F111 anybody? What it doesn't cost/do what they said? how rude!

  45. The_Police!

    I for one

    welcome pur new flying overlord!

  46. Sureo

    "An industrial capability for which we have no identified requirement"

    Time to start another war, then?

  47. Willy Messerschmitt

    F-35 , HTOVL CRAP

    The unfortunate fact is that Newton invented modern Physics, but 2000s Anglosaxons are too dumbed down to perform anything else than relativistic speculation physics.

    TheReg stated some time ago that non-nuclear-propelled carriers did not have the energy source to sustain the steam needed for proper, Horizontal-Take-Off-And-Landing carriers. So the Harrier pseudo-VTOL feature and consequentially the same feature in the F35 are needed. I will prove here that this is all BAE/RollsRoyce BS that will surely make RR alone 2000 million Pounds revenue for the special lifter technology. And the VTOL folks at MoD who have their careers linked to that, too.

    The state-of-the art Rafale Naval Fighter weighs about 25000 kgs, fully loaded. Minimal speed is 148km/h. That's 41m/s. Let's make it 200km/h to have additional safety - that`s 55m/s.

    We need

    W= 1/2*m*v^2 = 1/2 * 25000kg * 55m/s*55m/s = 38MJ to accelerate this baby to 200km/h.

    A litre of Kerosene (Basis of JP-8) has about 30 MJ of energy. Now please factor in air friction, thermodynamic inefficiency and the weight of the moving launcher parts. Let's make efficiency just 10%. That means you need 380MJ of JP-8 - that's about 13 kg of the stuff.

    Now even Lewis will realize that a fully fueled Rafale-size fighter contains more than 4000kgs (!) of fuel. Adding to those thousands of kgs a mere 13kgs is insignificant.

    Now LP will certainly claim Britain cannot afford the boiler needed to generate the steam. This little calculation will show this is also bollocks:

    The admiralty has assembled their carrier crack crew and trained them in the Japanese Martial Arts of Speed and Precision. They manage to launch a Rafale every ten seconds.

    That means the boiler must supply

    P=38MJ/10s == 3,8 MW , 38MW if 10% efficient

    of steam on average. A steam tank will be replenished while the next fighter is positioned for launch, so average numbers are OK.

    The WW1 (!) cruiser SMS Gneisenau had more than 15MW SHAFT POWER. That means it had a boiler of at least 45MW, probably 60MW.

    Any more arguments, Mr Lewis ? Maybe you could attack the VTOL guys instead of hitting BAE who do something relevant ?? But that would endanger the Merkin F-35....

    PS: The F18E/F and F14 max weights aren't much different from the Rafale. At max 20% difference. Scale the aboce numbers by 20% and you get the fuel and power requirements.

    1. mky

      there is a reason

      for in flight refueling. you don't generally launch an aircraft fully fueled and armed from a carrier. you launch max weapons and only enough fuel to make it to the airborne fuel station top off and go. honestly they only thing more devastating on the planet than a nuclear carrier is a nuclear powered slbm sub, and the carrier is much more versatile.

      whine away about american weapon systems, or british for that matter. i'll place my bets on the us systems against current russian systems any day.

      all you c-130 haters need to uncork your heads from your asses. its 50+ yr old tech that still offers more capabilities than anything else mentioned.

      by the way aluminum a/c are proven, composites not so much. call me back in 50 yrs. and maybe that will have changed.

      maybe someday we can spend all this money on something worthwhile. somehow i doubt it. seems we all have to many problems seeing eye to eye.

      beer, now there is a proven tech.

      1. Willy Messerschmitt

        Does not cut it

        "for in flight refueling. you don't generally launch an aircraft fully fueled and armed from a carrier"

        So a Rafale might be loaded with just 1500 kgs of fuel because the mission will not require more. That does by no means invalidate the observation that the 2-13kgs of Kerosene for the catapult operation are negligible.

        I guess even the midget Harrier does not launch with less than 1000kg of fuel for any kind of real mission.

        1. mky

          by the way,

          not refuting yer maths, just pointing out what appear to me to be assumptions not based on the realities of carrier ops.

          the logistics of using kerosene to generate steam vs. nuclear power do not add up. i'm not saying it can't be done. the reality is that carriers need to replenish while deployed.

          replenishing at sea is going to take longer and require even more supply capacity. you will need to bring on not only the kerosene to power the steam system, but also to fuel the carrier and to fuel the aircraft. nuclear power obviates two of the three. after all, the steam generated on a nuclear carrier is a by product of cooling the reactors.

          in the real world, even the capabilities of old kit (cvn65) leave everything else in the dust, and she has been in service for damn near 50 years. maybe you brits can get her second hand in 2013.

          have an ipa on me.

          1. Willy Messerschmitt


            ..nuclear carriers are the the cheapest and most flexible option IF you have the reactor design and the money for the material etc.

            The Brits claim they haven't and Rolls-Royce tells the illiterates of the Royal Navy that this means you need pseudo-VTOL. That the Kitty Hawk class launched F14s, which are the heaviest naval fighters of all, invalidates that argument completely. USS Kitty Hawk is also named Carrier Vessel 63 (CV-63). A nuclear carrier would be a "CVN-XX".

            I venture to say that The Royal Navy would operate a cheaper and three times more powerful carrier force if they dumped the three midget carriers and simply bought USS Kitty Hawk and the FA 18E/Fs. And then five frigates of the size of USS Vincennes, rip out the weaponry and convert them to fast oilers. They would also serve the role of "Exocet Decoy Target".

  48. Willy Messerschmitt

    Nuclear Carriers ?

    Both the Essex and the Kitty Hawk class proved you don't need a nuclear reactor to launch superheavy bombers. The Essex even launched a 38000kg Goliath (!)

    They had 200MW Shaft Power and I guess most of that power was spent on moving the hull through the sea at high speed, not the catapult operations. Running at max power and 25% efficiency requires 2400000 kgs of JP-8 per day. That would be about 30000 tons of fuel to steam down to the falklands at 30 knots (in 10 days). No big deal if you have a 200000 ton capacity Supertanker waiting near HMS StHelena.

    As I said, BP is a strategic asset.

  49. Cheese

    Re: C17 / Airstrips

    Thanks for the sarcasm...I had a specific question as to what you defined to be a "real, heavy aircraft runway".

    You seem to imply that flat sea-ice is is compacted snow...but not flat desert?! Strangely, a quick search on Google comes up with plenty of video clips of the latter.

  50. Tompkinson


    Expect to see this baby operating by the 2030s. Why? In the early 80s BAe with MBB of Germany started the Experimental Aircraft Programme, a bit like this one and I should know, I worked on it. This morphed into the EFA/Eurofighter/Typhoon (a real world-beater says The Reg, but the world as it was in the 1980s apparently) which first flew in 1994, the first were delivered to Germany in 2003 and it finally started real service with the RAF in 2008. Only 25 years. Woohoo.

    Anyway, ROTM will happen long before then.....

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: machines of war...

    "is it me or are these things becoming entirely pointless... it's becoming more of a who's got a bigger dick situation than actually being worthwhile.."

    It is you. Biggest failings of both the first and second world wars were that commanders were trying to fight the last war rather than the current one.

    Biggest failure in things like the 6 day war, Suez and particularly VietNam is that commanders were geared up to fight current[1] wars rather than the one the enemy was fighting.

    "The merkins fall for this "air superiority" BS"

    Air superiority is key in any battle zone. This is basic level "War winning for dummies".

    "and it seems a pity that companies like BAE are following suit in trying to hawk this crap..."

    BAe / R-R etc are commercial enterprises. Their mandate is making cash - it could be argued that governments shouldn't be spending money on these things but to blame BAe etc. for selling them stuff they ask for is like expecting McDonalds to refuse to sell burgers to fat people.

    "There aren't many nations out there who have anywhere like the spending capability to develop better weaponry than what is currently in existence..."

    The budget for this was less than 200 million dollars. Very few nations couldn't afford that.

    "Can you name a single nation out there who's got anything to cope with something like a Harrier or even a Tornado"

    Any of them with a few tens of million dollars to spend. Harriers / Tornados are old tech. It would be like Britain fighting the Battle of Britain with Sopwith Camels - hell they were pretty shit hot back in the day....

    "that's likely to declare war on Blighty? (before the inevitable response of the "axis-of-evil" is rolled out, seriously look at their capabilities!)"

    Things change quickly. With a dev lifecycle in decades rather than months or years, plus armament times you can't afford to base tomorrow's defence solely on todays political situation. As a quick word to the wise - Libya and Iran have a lot of oil, and Russia has a lot of budget deficiency. 2+2 might not equal 4 just yet but can you afford the gamble?

    "The biggest threats to "democratic" nations come from determined people with bombs strapped to themselves or AK-47s - tell me which fucking aerial combat vehicle is going to stop them?"

    No, you have described the biggest current threat to individuals. The biggest threat to democratic nations is their electorate - most recent loonies either gained power through mostly democratic means[2] or were assisted by a popular (or populist at least) mandate[3]. The next biggest threat is invasion by a nation gone bad as previously described.

    "Seriously, these people have their heads buried far up their arses... This money (if it is the taxpayers) needs to be spent on more useful things"

    I'm listening.

    " - say better armour/hand-held weapons for poor soldiers deployed in the field,"

    UAVs would reduce the need to put bodies in harm's way. Would you rather be shot at in body armour or whoring it up at the local bar whilst the UAVs run your patrol for you?

    "or even better spent on addressing the fundamental issues that will cause people to take up arms (though not more bloody focus groups - I fucking hate focus groups!)"

    This is a very valid point. However we would be stupid to assume that asking everyone to "just get along" wold sort everything out. There will always be terrorists and there will always be war-mongers. Sad fact, but true.

    [1] Like the cold war - basically the same folly as assuming any wars we fight now would only be against untrained jihadists with nothing more offensive than an RPG-7 and a bad attitude.

    [2] Hitler, Mugabe, Sarkozy

    [3] Mao, Stalin, Bush

    1. Willy Messerschmitt

      Sarkozy ??

      I know of the arch-enemy syndrome that continues to poison Franco-British relations, so that implies some hatred towards the french president.

      But last time I checked he was busily trying to appease the Russians who were furious because one of Americas Little Dictators had started an offensive war against their territory. They were determined to root out that little bastard and his Merkin-Trained minions and it was Mr Sarkozy who saved their backsides and the Americans from a major embarrassment.

      I do not remember Mr Sarkozy to randomly start a war based on forged intelligence, either.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Hardening PARIS for battle

      "Air superiority is key in any battle zone. This is basic level "War winning for dummies"."

      Only insofar that you need to ensure the other side doesn't have it. Holding it yourself while the adversary is trying to knock you out of the sky is more expensive than strictly necessairy but useful if attainable. I might go so far to postulate that the assumption of "having the might" is the weakest link in current western strategic thinking.

      Paris because, well, la resistance, c'est irresistible.

  52. Russ Williams

    @Willy Messerschmitt

    Good analysis, aside from some French leanings.

    The Rafale is really a second-rate fighter - without the engine, cockpit and electronically-scanned radar upgrades nobody is interested in buying it. Brazil has been on the cards for a while, but still hasn't signed. The existence of a navalised version (unlike Typhoon) might make it the only choice for carrier-launched fighters, but they're probably not as good as helicopters/UAVs/cruise missiles. There's pretty much only one use case for a carrier-based fighters: parking off the coast of a country with a competent air force and engaging them in dogfights. Far better to take them down with (semi-stealthy) deep-strike weapons when they're on the ground and medium-/long-range AA missiles if they get airborne.

    As you note with BP, the US' interests are not the UK's, and sacrificing our ability to design and build aircraft - even if we haven't had a production line in half a century - for a few tens of millions of pounds is ridiculous. The Tanaris development cost less than buying a single F-35. It would cost tens of billions, and decades of research (or active espionage), to get military aircraft design capability back once lost. Yes, we don't need to build fighters now; we didn't need to perform a beach assault in the 1970s; we didn't need desert khakis in the 1980s; we didn't need to do anti-piracy patrols or land-mine/IED sweeping in the 1990s. Things change.

    The need for a defence capability is, to a great extent, influenced by its absence: a competent enemy commander will change their strategy to exploit whatever weaknesses can be found.

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