back to article Crash grounds RAF Eurofighters - for Battle of Britain Day!

The RAF was left eggfaced in recent weeks as its entire force of fighters - nowadays made up of new and horrifyingly expensive Eurofighter "Typhoons" - was grounded following discovery of faults in their ejector seats. The grounding was particularly embarrassing as it came into force on Battle of Britain Day, the 70th …


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  1. S Larti

    Achtung Spitfeuer!

    dakka dakka dakka

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next week...

    Join us again, same time same place next week for the next edition of Lewis vs. Eurofighter, in which he rails against the shade of gray used for the Eurofighter's paint scheme and how it is horribly outdated in post-climate change British airspace.

    1. Lottie

      in all fairness

      it's obvious that he isn't super keen on the eurofighter, but seemingly with good reason!

      I mean, lacking the sort of radar found in a f*cking FORD?

      However, it is rather shoddy to have pretty much your entire force gounded innit?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @Lottie and others

        The original poster made a very good point. Lewis doesn't compare like with like when he compares the cost of the Eurofighter with the F22. And I wish Lewis would stop being quite so dishonest in the comparison. These figures are largely from wikipedia, which I know isn't definitive, but as an ex RAF Officer, I understand the inadequacies better than most.

        F22 Raptor. Programme Cost $65bn. Number built: 166 (187 planned). Fly-away cost $150mn.

        Typhoon. Programme Cost last reported at £20bn, probably more like £25bn by now (according to Lewis' figures from the article) - this is the figure the UK government has spent, not total program costs. Number built: over 200 (471 planned). UK buying 160 probably. Fly-away cost £46mn.

        I believe what Lewis routinely does is compare the cost of the whole eurofighter program divided by the number of jets built to the fly-away cost of the raptor. (If you are doing something else, please let me know Lewis). What we should do is either compare the fly-away cost, which is the cost of building the aircraft in manpower and materials; or compare the total programme cost divided by the number of aircraft.

        So the cost of the Raptor is $150mn in fly away terms compared to about £70mn for the Typhoon.

        In total programme costs, the Raptor is about $350mn compared to about $230mn for Eurofighter looking at UK program costs to UK aircraft built.

        Finally, don't let US propaganda fool you. One of the reasons the Raptor isn't being built in uber quantities (other than cost) is that it isn't as good as everyone expected. With the avionics fit going into the Eurofighter (especially if the new avionics for bombing go ahead), the Eurofighter is actually more capable than the F-22.

        Don't get me wrong. We screwed up with the Eurofighter. If the UK had gone it alone and not involved the other European partners, we would probably have had the same aircraft in less time for less money. But don't put the F-22 up as a shining example of what we should have done instead. My suspicion is that the increased production volumes of the F-35 may make it a better long term choice for many things, but at the moment it is vapourware.

        1. Jean-Luc

          can you elaborate on the F22 not being so hot?

          I have seen the same thing mentioned elsewhere. By among others, one of the managers of the F16 program. Would like a flyboy's perspective on its capability.

          Not sure about collaboration-based jets myself - it seems like everyone brings in their pet requirements and you end up with neither fish nor fowl. IIRC this was the case with the Tornado. cf also Airbus A400.

          And us poor Canucks are going down the F35 road. A huge waste of money, IMHO. Our military would benefit from spreading the same sums elsewhere. Not on spending a huge proportion of our budget on kit of very debatable utility. Seems more job-related than military related.

        2. Mark 65
          Thumb Up

          @AC 16:18

          I do love to see the commentards on forums down-vote people with obviously more relevant knowledge than themselves for seemingly no other reason than they don't like what's being said.

          Personally I thought your post quite balanced, informative and reasonable but then again, I'm not going to attribute knowledge to myself that I know I clearly do not possess.

      2. NightFox
        Thumb Down

        Grounded in Fact

        The whole 'grounded' thing is not that big an issue - fleets are regularly grounded whenever a potential engineering or design problem with potential safety ramifications comes to light, often just until someone makes a decision - it's a common Friday afternoon thing in the RAF; fleets are grounded over the weekend and are back in the skies on Monday morning rather than take the almost insignificant chance of something (re)occurring.

        And it doesn't affect operations as the risk appetite changes then, and rightly so. In other words, if there's a potential risk identified, why take that unnecessary risk with non-operational flights rather than just ground the fleet whilst it's sorted out?

    2. Conrad Longmore


      Anti-flash white might look good. Especially if we ditch Trident and have to deliver nukes by any aircraft we still have working. The Eurofighter might (at a stretch) be able to atom bomb Warsaw into oblivion if those pesky Poles cause problems.

      Perhaps we should give the Russians a ring? The Sukhoi Su-30 is half the price..

      1. SlabMan


        The Russians have the best ejector seats. We could make SU-30s under license. All you need is a ball-pein hammer and a pop-rivet gun.

        1. JohnG


          "The Russians have the best ejector seats. We could make SU-30s under license. All you need is a ball-pein hammer and a pop-rivet gun."

          ...and the Russian defence industry is adopting NATO standards. As so many newer NATO entrants already have Russian hardware, the Russians see NATO as a good market.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


          "The Russians have the best ejector seats. "

          IIRC from a Eurofighter documentary Russia was where they *got* the design (or at least the *inspiration*) for it.

          It's a pretty complex beast by various accounts.

        3. neb

          ball pein hammer & rivet gun?

          is mr sutcliffe out on license now?

          tbh i'd trust him more with the sdsr than the beancounters

        4. Mike Flugennock

          da Rooskies

          Hey, laugh if you want. The Soyuz may look like it was riveted together by a bunch of pudgy old babushkas at the Heroic Peoples' Spacekraft Kollective, but it's still flying over forty years after we retired Apollo, and will be flying for some time after we've retired the Shuttle.

          It ain't pretty, but it works..

    3. Adam Salisbury

      He's got every bloody right to!

      I could stomach the EF project if it hadn't (nor still is) costing us the earth, did you read the article or just fancy a pop at the author? THEY COST THE SAME AS RAPTORS FFS! The yanks stopped building those as they were too bloody expensive but thanks to good old fashioned pork barrel politics we're wasting more money on less capable kit.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Ok, I'll bite

        The comment was meant as a bit of fun to ridicule Lewis' weekly Eurofighter soapbox rant, where about 80% of the text is reused each time, but with a slightly different angle.

        Yah-di-yah-di-yah, Eurofighter rubbish, F-22 great, austere bombing capability rubbish, can't fight its way out of a paper bag, etc. etc.

        Yes, costs have spiralled, but even if (and it's by no means certain) the EF ends up costing as much per unit as an F-22:

        * We can export the EF and make some $ back again, the US can't export the F-22

        * EF can drop bombs and be useful after air superiority is established, the F-22 is next to useless after the first week of any war its likely to be involved in

        * In that first week, the EF is no less useful at shooting down other less capable planes than the F-22, as no power we would be fighting has anything that can even go toe-to-toe with an F-15

        And if grounding a fleet of planes is evidence of it being rubbish, then that goes for the F-22, all of which were grounded after one crashed in December 2004. Oops.

  3. Is it me?

    Chocks Away Ginger

    Another victory for homogeneous systems strategies. One out, all out, the cry of Red Robbo.

  4. John Ferris

    I've heard of the few...


    Some of us at least will have felt, if not safer, then at any rate more cheerful to be protected as we were last month - by a trusty Spitfire


    but this is ridiculous.

    Infinite Beer for the veteran pilots. They damn well earned every molecule.

    1. Mullerrad

      Battle of Brotain

      Cabbage crates coming over the briney

  5. Nigel Callaghan


    Isn't it lucky the Vulcan to the Sky trust managed to get XH558 restored and airworthy! Maybe they can cover some of the running costs by renting it out for the occasional sortie against Johnnie Foreigner

    1. Kevin Reilly

      re Vulcan

      I bet if we still had Vulcans upgraded & equipped with JDAM the yanks would snatch the hand off the RAF if they deployed them to take the pressure off the B52Gs loitering over Afganistan on close air support duties with the satnav bombs. Real OAP reunion party.

    2. Jay 2

      RE: Vulcan?

      Nice idea, but as part of getting the Vulcan signed off as air worthy they had to strip out all the electronics etc that didn't have anything to do with flying. I suspect that sort of thing may have put the kybosh on doing stuff like dropping bombs.

      1. Glyn 2


        You just winch the bomb bay door open and roll the bombs out on trolleys nicked from Tesco.

        They only cost a pound a piece, that's a bargain.

        Grenade for obvious reasons

  6. jake Silver badge

    Out of curiosity ...

    Does anyone know of a "cost per square foot"[1] table of national defense, by nation? Might be eye-opening ...

    [1] Square mile, whatever.

    1. MeRp

      I just created one...

      I went and got info from Wikipedia about spending and area and used excel to create such a table. Turns out, of the top 15 military spenders in 2009, with amount adjusted for current exchange rates, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The country with the greatest expenditure per square kilometer is South Korea, spending about $240,500 per square kilometer.

      United Kingdom is second ($239.300/km2). United states is 7th ($72,150/km2). Bringing up the bottom is Canada ($2,100/km2).

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Thumb Up


        "The country with the greatest expenditure per square kilometer is South Korea, spending about $240,500 per square kilometer.

        United Kingdom is second ($239.300/km2). United states is 7th ($72,150/km2). Bringing up the bottom is Canada ($2,100/km2).2"

        Kind of puts it in perspective, does it not?

      2. Dave Bell


        As I recall, South Korea has a capital within artillery range of the border with North Korea. They have a pretty good reason to spend that sort of money. It's a Cold War situation, and worse than just about anywhere except Berlin.

        I'm not sure we have anything like the same excuse.

        I wonder what the figures are for the whole EU. Could it be argued that Maggie's notorious tax refund from the EU has become de facto protection money?

    2. Charles Manning

      What a dopey metric

      Why would anyone measure defence cost per area? It just does not make any sense.

      Why not measure defence cost per Scrabble scoring of name? "United Kngdom" might actually turn out pretty reasonable.

      Surely the only real measurements that make any sense are cost/GDP or cost/population.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Charles Manning

        "Why would anyone measure defence cost per area?"

        Because it costs real money to defend square footage. Really. Think about it. From the car park you park your car in, to the tracks your train travels over, to your housing unit, to the facility you spend roughly 40 hours/week in ... The larger they are, the higher the cost of security.

        Throw in vertical (airspace), and the costs skyrocket (no pun intended).

        The only question is, how efficient is that security per square (cubic) foot?

        "It just does not make any sense."

        Maybe not to you ... But then, you're not in charge of defending anything.

  7. Dom 3


    Well, I suppose it's funny to say that the only operational fighters were the BBMF's, but in truth there would have been Eurofighters ready to go, if needed. They weren't unsafe to fly, after all. Just unsafe to eject from.

  8. Tom 260

    Related to Hawks?

    Are these the same mark of Martin Baker seats that caused all the Hawks (including the Red Arrows) to be grounded the other month, following the discovery of a surface crack?

  9. bcollie
    Black Helicopters


    Another way to save money might be to nationalise BAE

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Black Helicopters

      Nationalise it with WHAT ?!?!

      OK I'll go along with your idea, but what are you going to nationalise it with?

      There is no money left despite the fact that almost everything has already been sold. In the bottom of the tin are a few buttons and some bandwidth when the digital TV switchover is finished...

      1. Adam Salisbury
        Thumb Up

        How about....

        The money they wouldn't be robbing from us anymore?

    2. Adam Salisbury

      On one condition...

      The board of directors are all imprisoned for massive missapropriation of public money, then used for target practice.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        @Adma Salisbury

        "The board of directors are all imprisoned for massive missapropriation of public money, then used for target practice."

        Not while the Chairman and CEO have on demand access to 10 Downing Street they won't.

  10. Ged T
    Paris Hilton

    UK Military Sales opportunity for El Reg?

    Sell 'em PARIS, pre-modified for the "Deep Bomber" mode the R.A.F. seek.

    The MoD will probably give you a few hundred million quid to merely discuss the necessary design changes.

  11. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Isn't it asking for trouble

    flying from Moron airbase?

    I'll get my coat

  12. Adam 67

    Dispatches Report

    Watched the program last night and wondered what you'd think of it Lewis, although I must confess I didn't notice your inclusion!

    The armed forces are a mess in this country and the conculsions of the SDR will be very interesting. The question of course is does the political will exist to undertake the sort of reform that this country requires. I doubt it somehow.

    Nevertheless, interesting article as ever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Stealth Lewis

      "Watched the program last night and wondered what you'd think of it Lewis, although I must confess I didn't notice your inclusion!"

      The guy dressed all in black with the angular shoulder-pads?

      (OK, I didn't watch it at all, but Lewis sounded posh when I heard him on the radio once.)

    2. blackworx
      Thumb Up

      Re: Dispatches Report

      iirc Lewis' 15 secs ended with the pithy, if predictable: "Sovereign defence capability? Don't make me laugh."

  13. Cazzo Enorme

    "the plane had originally been mean to turn up no later than 1995"

    The original delivery date was even earlier than that from what I recall. I distinctly remember going to the Farnborough air show as a child in the very early 1980's and seeing the engine-less airframe on display, accompanied by a description that said the finished article would go into service by the end of the decade.

    1. Strath Dionard

      That was the EAP

      If you saw it in the eighties, then it would have been the EAP, the mostly-British technology testbed built by BAe- see

      This first flew in 1986 (hardly the early eighties) and was a long way from being a fully-capable combat aircraft. According to one contact in the industry, it would have had to have been totally redesigned to make into something akin to a weapons platform.

      IMHO the biggest problem causing the delays in the Eurofighter has been that there has been no real need for it until recently. The existential threat it was designed for - countering developments in Russian aircraft - did not occur, and the existing planes - mainly the Tornado and Jaguar fleets - have been capable of filling the requirements of the respective air forces. Yet the countries involved always knew that they would eventually need something to replace their existing fleets.

      The previous generation of planes is now getting rather long in the tooth (although the Tornado in particular is still a very useful aircraft). Because of this, it makes sense to replace them with Eurofighters as its capabilities in A2A and A2G are introduced and enhanced.

      One thing I have not seen - and is vitally important - is the running cost per unit for the Eurofighter and (say) the Tornado at the same point in their service careers. Such costs can easily dwarf the initial purchase costs over a 25-30 year lifespan. Additionally, availability figures would be interesting to see. Are the Eurofighters really hangar queens?

  14. Desk Jockey

    "Featuring your correspondent"

    Complete with cheeky grin and a plummy voice, bless! Nice plug there.

    I would have describe Dispatches as good not excellent. Too many basic errors such as those highlighted in the article above. Get the facts straight before you present them, otherwise why should we believe any of your other facts? A reasonable bit of reporting if some gross generalisations and a stupid linkage between US Blackhawks and inadequate UK helicopters. Helicopters and jets are frequently allocated by NATO command systems, it doesn't matter who the nationalities are, more of a case of who has drawn the roster for that task on that day.

    So are those Eurofighter pilots taking their own chutes into the cockpit with them, just in case?

    1. stu 19

      Personal Chutes for Pilots

      Not much use unless you can get outside of the explosion zone really, DOH that's what the ejector seat does, um well doesn't do !!

  15. Andy 97
    Thumb Down

    Well at least some of it's British...

    I hope the MOD don't forget the 2 very costly and painful lessons of the past again.

    As an island nation I shudder at our lack of ability to protect our shores.

    Successive mistakes by governments have left the people that defend us begging spares off other NATO forces - what a joke.

    Someone (the one responsible for not doing the homework on the procurement) at the MOD should be sent to assist the troops in Helmand.

    1. Adam Salisbury

      Yeah they should...

      Sweeping for IEDs by hand preferably!

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Andy 57

      "Someone (the one responsible for not doing the homework on the procurement) at the MOD should be sent to assist the troops in Helmand."

      I saw the programme on the Ch4 iplayer and there's about 20 000 of them. 10 000 in Bristol. At least one of which got a chauffeur driven car to and from his London home *every* day (BTW the MoD procurement site is next door to a Bristol railway station to London.

      Good luck with that.

  16. Daniel Garcia 2


    "Pilots were warned that they would have to fly even with faulty ejection seats in the event of any hostile incursion into UK airspace, but fortunately this did not occur."

    yes, fortunately not because heath and safety of the pilots, more because hostile incursion on those term will be something more serious like a 9/11 type-event or a starting WW III.

    btw, how good was the ejecting system of those spitfire?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      It was a lot more simple

      Undo seat harness,unplug oxygen hose,pull out mike lead,reach up and release canopy,unlatch cockpit door,invert or push stick forward,climb up out of seat and dive out behind trailing edge of wing

      No complicated electronics or mechanics needed just basic physics applied.

  17. David Webb


    The cost of the F22 Raptor was $65billion so has a per plane cost of $339million or around £217m per plane. Saudi Arabia on the other hand are buying 72 aircraft for £4.4billion which puts it at a unit cost of £61m. Would be interesting to know where you managed to add an extra £156m per plane, gold plated fuzzy dice and go faster stripes made of gold pressed latinum?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      David Webb?

      Aren't you supposed to finish off by writing, "You look tired today, Lewis," and then Lewis spins around in his office chair, wondering which skyscraper you're in.

      Or maybe I'm thinking of someone else.

    2. Mike Flugennock

      Hey, get sarcastic if you want...

      ...but do you realize just how much it cost for those little wiggling plastic hula girls mounted atop the main control panel of the Space Shuttle?

  18. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    F35 alternative?

    So the Navy's new fighter costs even more, we can only use it with addon kit the americans sell, when the Americans tell us, and if the Americans let us borrow their itunes account (or whatever the onboard software used).

    It can't take off vertically from a carrier without melting the deck, and can't land with any fuel or weapons onboard. It costs so much we can only have enough aircraft for one carrier - which rather begs the question what the other carrier is doing.

    Wonder if jerrry would sell us those spare F4s ?

    1. Ty Cobb
      Thumb Up


      Sheesh... ones for taking off, the other for landing.

  19. Steve Evans

    One of these is a truly impressive British fighter plane.

    Well it's the Spitfire of course... An example of what a single country can produce under pressure.

    Whereas the Eurofighter is not a British fighter plane, it is an example of what a bunch of countries, speaking different languages can produce when driven by bureaucracy.

    I'm sure there were less people involved in the entire production run of the Spitfire than there are in the powerpoint generating division of the Eurofighter!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Even more impressive was...

      ..the construction of a Wellington bomber (LN514) from component parts in under 24hrs during the war.

      It was a flying basket case as planes go, but building a fully airworthy bomber in 24hrs is a bloody good job. War spirit an' all that. Even the normal planes took 2-3 days once fullu ramped up. And the Wellington design -> prototype took months, and a few month later to reach production. Months. Not years. None of this 4 or 12 years late bollox.

      Modern planes might be more complex and impressive, but our design -> production lifecycle and manfucturing processes should be equally impressive with it. What will all our fancy 'compu-ters' an' all.

      1. Adam Salisbury

        Truly amazing

        That wa a fanstastic endeavour, sadly I doubt we'll see this country do anything half as impressive again without flogging the knowledge to someone to build this time.

        Beer for the bomber builders!

    2. Conrad Longmore

      You're not wrong..

      You're not wrong.. Britain's first operational jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, was delivered in in 1944 in a project that was only started in 1940.

      Other second world war aircraft took even less time.. but the flipside of this was that there were an awful lot a failed projects and aircraft that didn't make it into production. For every Supermarine Spitfire (20,000 built) there's another project that failed, for example the Avro Manchester had just 200 built and was scrapped in 1942 just two years after going operational.

      The key difference is that WWII had several competing manufacturers who were able to take risks and innovate to provide cost-effective solutions. It's not a million miles away from the sort of thing that the X Prize Foundation does.

      1. Strath Dionard

        Slightly unfair on the Manchester

        The Manchester had problems - especially with the Vulture engines- but that is far from the whole story. Avro decided to re-engine the Manchester with the less powerful but more reliable Merlin X engines. As they were less powerful, they extended the wings and added an extra two engines, making the MkIII Manchester.

        Why is this important? Well, the MkIII Manchester was renamed the Avro Lancaster. See Therefore the Manchester led directly to the Lancaster, and there was much commonality between the two airframes.

        Indeed, there is more than a little reason to believe that if Rolls Royce had managed to make the Vulture engines work reliably, then we would be talking about the Manchester in the same glowing terms that we now do the Lancaster.

        There are much better candidates deserving derision in WWII - for instance the Gloster Gladiator or the Handley Page Hampton.

      2. xenny

        Manchester became Lancaster

        Note that they only made 200 Manchesters because the Vulture engine it used was unreliable. The design was changed to use 4 Merlins, and the went on to fame as the Lancaster.

    3. Sensi
      IT Angle

      pre-war plane

      FYI the Spitfire was introduced before the war in 1938, and its design and conception started well before. :)

  20. SlabMan

    Tory defence policy

    Outsourcing. You pay the enemy to bomb themselves. Much cheaper

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Catch 22?

      Wasn't this one of the threads in Catch 22?

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Other Way Round

        Milo bombed his own squadron because the enemy paid him to do it.

  21. /dev/null

    Oh dear...

    Mr Page shows his ignorance again: the RAF have not retired all their Tornado F3s yet, even Wikipedia will tell you that the last F3 squadron (No. 111 at Leuchars) is not due to be stood down until next year. Oh, and please learn the difference between a phased array radar and an AESA radar before trying to make us believe that the Typhoon's CAPTOR radar is in some way inferior to the one found in a Ford Taurus. But hey, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story, eh?

  22. graeme leggett Silver badge

    Rather worrying

    Not the usual rant against eurofighter but that Martin-Baker had made a cock-up somewhere along the way.

    I'd have expected it to have been the most trustworthy bit of the 'plane, despite being effectively a ready-to-fire unguided rocket stuck behind the pilot.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      It's not certain that...

      ...this is a Martin-Baker cock-up, I've seen a few comments elsewhere suggesting that the problem was that the locking ring on the quick release buckle (the thing that holds all the harness straps in place) was not in the locked position and somehow the release button was pushed during the ejection, normally this is only rotated to the unlocked position after landing (either normally or by parachute). The basic design on the QRB is not new, it's been around on all the M-B seats since the 50s in one form or another.

      That's the reason that this is a precautionary grounding and the aircraft can be flown if needed.

      Don't malign M-B products, there are many thousands of people who they have extracted from otherwise fatal situations.

      Flame, even if it is pointing upwards....

      1. Anonymous Coward

        So.. pilot error then?

        Lesson? Read your checklist - don't rely on Allah to do your seatbelt up. Shame they had to ground everyone else because some Saudi prince's brat cocked up.

  23. Paul_Murphy

    So ...

    The UK bomber force (I mean proper bomber) is a privately-owned Vulcan, and the BoBMF Lancaster.

    The UK fighter fleet consists of Spitfires and Hurricane(s?).

    What does MoD stand for again?

    And the boys and girls at the sharp end have to deal with the inevitable snafus that arise. Our MPs should be ashamed.


    1. Steve Evans

      Re: So ...

      That might not be as daft as it sounds... I wonder how well heat seeking missiles lock onto the not so hot exhaust of an internal combustion engine as opposed to the huge wash of hot gasses that come out of the back of a jet?

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        RE: Re: So

        Even first gen heat-seekers lock onto hot exhausts very well. The Portugese found that out with the COIN version of the Nomad when they started taking hits from the early SAM-7s in Angola. I can't recall reading about any Nomads getting SAMmed in Viet Nam but that might be because the Yanks replaced the South Vietnamese ones when the VC started using .50 HMGs.

        As regards Lewis's latest piece of non-news, I have been waiting for him to jump on his fave hobby-horse from the minute I heard of the Typhoon problem. His attempt to try and portray it as some immense issue is just hilarious - Lewis, get a perspective and just get over your jaded attitude to the Brylcream boys.

  24. ITSMeagain

    Jaeger 90...

    ... is what they initially called the Eurofailure in Germany.

    The thing really reminds me of Duke Nukem Forever...

  25. simon 43

    Not quite classic Page

    but not a bad attempt Lewis - certainly up to "Navy News" standard, but not really what we've come to expect...

    I mean, only one reference to the "F-22 superfighter" tsk tsk - sort yourself out man!

    Beer - well I for one say "cheers" to those who built, flew and maintained our air defences 70 Years ago, and those who still try today!

  26. Starace

    And the point is?

    Excuse me for being cynical but wasn't this just an excuse to push out the same old anti-Typhoon stuff again?

    Given the fault was (apparently) in the seat, which is a variation on a part used on a wide range of jets there isn't actually much which is related to the aircraft itself, and certainly not enough to justify another 2 page rehash of old arguments.

    If (for example) this had occurred on the late, over-budget and under-performing F-35 - which is just as likely given the common component - would we have seen the same outpouring?

  27. SuperTim

    how not to procure an aircraft.

    I am increasingly disheartened by the MOD's amazing ability to convert a good idea into a bad implementation.

    The Eurofighter, then the EF2000 (cos we all know it was happening in 2000, right voters?). Then the Typhoon (to inject some trust back into the project because there was a great ground attack aircraft called the typhoon in WW2, though that itself was formerly an unsuccessful fighter, and the new typhoon which was supposedly to have a full multirole capability now only really has a rudimentary ground attack option), still has a gun, but it is not now connected to the trigger on the joystick because apparently the RAF and MOD can't find their arse with both hands and failed to procure properly (or tried to save money on bullets and a gun groundcrew).

    Still, it is pointy and loud at airshows so hoorah, what what!

  28. Anonymous Coward

    F-22 For The 51st State !

    I am sure the 51st State could then manufacture something like the tissue to wipe the cockpit (Ejection seats are apparently not the strength of the 51st State).

    1. Anonymous Coward


      I think you'll find that M-B has a very high reputation worldwide, and indeed many US aircraft are fitted with M-B seats. They have long been the seat of choice in US Navy and Marines aircraft with a few exceptions.

    2. Adrian Esdaile

      ah, no we couldn't...

      Here in Australiamerica we can't even produce tissues! We cut the trees down, but send them to China for the expensive and highly tekernoglical process of converting them to tissues. We then buy them back and only a 2500% mark-up.

      We also paid for the US aerospace GFC bailout package, er sorry, F35. ie. we are idiots.

      Aren't you lot the 52nd state? We were 51st first - we actually tried it just after WW2, and pretty much succeeded with the Howard Junta, er, regime, er, government.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        I am from Teutonia, the totally backwards country where Bankers don't have Total Freedom To Mess Up the Economy.

        Actually I live in a tyranny where Bankers are Opressed People. I am living under the tyranny of heinous manufacturers of wicked Tool Machines, Large Airplanes and Fast Cars.

        Can someone call Amnesty For Bankers International ?? My last bonus is now two years in the past !!! Imagine That !!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As soon as I saw the headline

    I knew Lewis Page would be creaming himself over this

  30. paulc

    naff off Lewis...

    the grounding is ONLY for non-operational flights... if we went to war, they'd be given a waiver and any modifications needed would be given a crash priority (scuse the pune... ).

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Gun Savings were a bluff

    The aiming algorithms were so inaccurate that if you aimed at a towed decoy you risked shooting the towplane out of the sky.

    Jock Stirrup was closer to the mark than he intended when he appeared before the house of commons...

    The RAF made the gun operational again in 2006 after this lot had fixed the work of a so-called German expert who'd obfuscated the algorithm to big up his own importance...

    In it's defence Typhoon hasn't been modified to carry laser pod or smart bombs it was always intended. It's just being delivered a lot later than planned because it's being done by the Germans who have less thanj zero interest in mud-moving and consequently don't give it a great priority.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    C4 Documentary

    I expected Lewis to be more rugged and, well, handsome.

    Poor Ms. Bee.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    paper-plane committees

    ~ Wasn't it Hitler who said nothing good had ever been achieved by committees? The Me-262 doesn't look so bad now, does it? Just don't push the throttle forward too fast because there's no ejector seat...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: paper-plane committees

      Don't mention that title again on El Reg, in derogatory manner, since P.A.R.I.S. seems to be going just fine. It IS a paper-plane, and it is being designed by a committee, actually.

      You know, the Paper Aircraft Released Into Space? (Where is my coat?)

      I'm astounded nobody even mentioned the Mosquito (aka "The Wooden Wonder", aka "The Timber Terror"), that was faster - if not the fastest aircraft, for a brief moment - during WWII, it was made of balsa wood, and turned out to be an outstanding twin-engined propeller fighter, envied (and ranted??) by Hermann Göring, himself. Wikipedia said it here: . How come there were none of those on the celebration? Did I miss it? Pity.

      You found my coat behind that lumber stack? Oh, thank you.

  34. spl23

    Not just fighters

    I went to Sywell Airshow a few weeks ago, hoping to see the Vulcan. It was, unfortunately, grounded due to weather - but the Lancaster did a rather impressive display. Clearly had the Cold War turned hot on a rainy day, we'd have been better off fitting the Blue Danubes to WWII-era Lancasters...

  35. Tigra 07
    Black Helicopters

    Here's a thought...

    We're overpopulated, do we really need working ejector seats in these things?

    Black helicopter because they don't have ejector seats.

    1. ian 22

      Ejection seats for toffs only

      Impressive as Vulcan was, only the pilot and copilot had ejection seats. The poor buggers in the back had none, and were seemingly expendable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But being a jolly good chap

        (And having read sufficient War Library and Commando)

        the pilot would stay at the controls of his stricken aircraft while the rest of his crew got out.

        Then, if he could, he'd have flown what remained of his "crate" back to the airfield.

        and if he'd done a good job of it, perhaps he might be up for a minor gong.

        1. North Briton

          Re: But being a jolly good chap

          And they really were:

          ‘Flying Officer L.T. Manser … stayed at the controls of his damaged Manchester aircraft, at the cost of his own life, so his comrades could parachute to safety.’

          ‘P/O Tom Tomlin DFC from Plymouth … stayed at the controls of his aircraft whilst his crew parachuted.’ (

          Flt. Lt. Peter ‘Andy’ Anderson ‘didn’t make it and perished when the plane crashed. Like many pilots before him he had stayed at the controls too long in order to ensure every crewman had got away.’

  36. Craig Vaughton

    Faulty seats

    Not the first time MB have delivered duff seats, but at least the Saudi pilot knew he was ejecting. If memory serves, the Harrier GR5 test pilot didn't when the seat head box barostat triggered the drogue 'chute charges and dragged in out through the canopy without the benefit of setting off the MDC first!

    Last seen flying on regardless by a KC-135 that was inbound to the UK and was vectored onto the now pilotless machine, the GR5 finally came to grief in the Irish Sea. Naturally enough the GR5 fleet was grounded until that was fixed as well.

    There again, at the time the UK spec INS platform wouldn't speak to the rest of the systems, the new Aden gun hadn't arrived yet and when it did fell off, but they're another story...

  37. Zingbo

    Interesting story becomes the usual rant.

    I expect that 111 squadron's Tornado F.3s would prove a more effective defence than the BBMF's Spitfires and Hurricanes and IIRC in a pinch Hawk trainers can be armed with Sidewinders for emergency air defence duties. Seeing as Lewis was being picky about the facts in Dispatches, it seems fair that we can pick at the facts he's telling us!

    The first half-page seemed like a reasonable story, but it then segued into Lewis Page's usual anti-Typhoon/RAF/BAE Systems rant. Wouldn't it be easier to have just one copy of the rant and link to it rather than repeating it all the time? Or is Mr Page paid by the word?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Morón airbase

    Is that really the name of a Spain base??? Geez...

    But, on another comment, ejector seats? I believe Americans use one or two models of ejector seats across the board, from Thunderbolt A-10 to F-15 to F-18s to F-16s. If they are not the same, I bet they have high commonality. Go figure.

    Another point: ok, the Spitfire is a great aircraft, and could perhaps outmaneuver modern jets in close-range dogfights (or even P51s in its heyday, nobody tested it?) or even be upgraded with full modern avionics and weaponry in a weekend (or less), put falling back just to them is just pushing luck too far. Do you actually believe F-14s are just sitting in the desert "rotting away"? Hell no, I bet the Tomcats could jump back to full operational status in 48 hours if hell broke loose. The only gripe about them were the engines maintenance, I believe. Perhaps UK should do the same and keep old Cold-War birds in "recoverable" and "quickly recoverable" condition, without public knowledge. A dry desert is just perfect for it. I would keep them in the Atlas mountains, with due permission from Morocco, just a refueling tanker away from major conflict hot-spots in the Middle East or running back home. But that is just me.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There was a Lancaster flying at the weekend

    though, curiously, not anywhere near the big Battle of Britain bash in London, but instead down at the Goodwood Revival, accompanied by three Spitfires, a Hurricane and a couple of Mustangs. Still brings a lump to the throat (though not to the trouser, unlike the Vulcan, which does so in the not-good way)

  40. blamblamblam

    IMHO four Tornados were part of the BoB flypast on Sunday

    I was walking past the London eye on Sunday and was delighted to see the Spitfire and Hurricane fly past. Shortly after, a formation of four Tornados roared overhead. (They looked like Tornados to me anyway). A man standing near me said "It must be for the Pope's Visit". I thought he was an idiot -- but, after reading this piece claiming that the RAF was grounded perhaps they were the Vatican Air Force?

    And another thing -- couldn't we have the option of a Spitfire icon for comments?

  41. Rogerborg


    "what are you going to nationalise [BAE] with?"

    The stroke of a pen. If the cnuts running it now make so much as a squeak, unleash the full fury of the Men In Grey at both Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue on them.

    Never mind Raptors, we should just swallow our pride and buy the F3 version of the Rafale from Le Frogs, or if we can't stomach that, the Saab Gripen. Both of them would be equally as effective as the Typhoon against real (rather than imaginary) opponents, are multi-role out of the box, and a metric crapton cheaper to buy and operate.

  42. Nigel Wright
    Thumb Up

    Sleep easy..

    ....a Spitfire or Hurrucane could probably still out-turn most modern jets in a dogfight :-)

    You just got persuade the jets down to less than 10,000ft and 250mph!

  43. Jemma

    Ad nauseum

    The griffon spitfires with a few modifications could probably do the job of an all weather interceptor today. There'd need to be some re-engineering but at least you could get spare parts for the damn thing fairly simple, just go down the nearest machine shop...

    Either that or buy a veyron - reverse engineer that W12 - and stuff it in a replica airframe with a few hardpoints - it'd do the same job pretty much with over-the-horizon weaponary - might actually do it better...

    But the point is not - what the eurocrapheap typhoon can do or what it cant (and talk about asking for trouble calling it that, tails that fall off anyone, or detonating engines ringin'a'bell??). All the army are screaming for is helicopters - so why dont we go down and get some - stop whining about it - cancel the fighter and get some decent choppers

    its not because of money, power, influence or anything else. Its the natural failing of boys who like big powerful toys... they have small powerless other things. If someone was in charge of all this that just sat down and said - do we have what we need? no why not? because of so and so, who was in charge? him over there... right mate you're sacked we'd not be having an english presence on the ground thats called such because said ground is covered in chunks of englishmen.

    If a load of old grannies can build a wellington in 23hrs from start to finish, most of whom left school at 14 or younger... and we nowadays cant manage to get something in the air in 23 YEARS there has to be a frell-up somewhere down the line...

    For heavens sake will someone get their finger out of wherever its been shoved before it causes us some really serious problems?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Nice to see someone who has working translator microbes!

  44. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    You guys should bought Dassault's Rafales


  45. william henderson 1


    fuck no one remembers the hurricane.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suppose the silver lining is...

    ...that if we can export Eurofighter far and wide it'll be the biggest peacekeeper in history as not one air force will be able to get into the skies.

  47. Emilio Desalvo

    The Blue Skies Of Italy...

    ... where in the meantime defended by a batch of de-mothballed, modernised F-16A, offered from the DOD sometimes in the '00s, when the Tornado F3s provided by the UK to cover the hole created by the EFA delays proved to be a load of crap...

    The ITAF was HAPPY to see the F3s go, as the were worse of the F-104 Starfighters they where taking the place of, and we are talking about planes designed in the '50s...

  48. moonface

    Risk management

    Out of interest do the Spitfire pilots still wear a parachute, on these re-enactment flights, now they are not flying in war time conditions?

    Makes you wonder just how risky it is to fly a few safe circuits in the Eurofighter, if the pilot must have a fully operational ejector seat.

  49. James Pickett

    Morón airbase in Spain

    I thought Piers was going to work in the US - and what's he doing getting mixed up in defence?

  50. GrantB
    Black Helicopters

    I know where the UK can get a shed load of jets 'cheap as'

    Here in NZ, we have a job lot of A4 Skyhawks going cheap - in fact they are thinking of giving them away at the moment:

    They are upgraded to early F-16 (block C?) standard, capable of firing Sidewinders, and could probably fly off the RN's new carriers at a pinch. They are even kitted out for ground-attack unlike the Tornados.

    MOD could buy the lot for the cost of fueling up a bunch of Tornados. NZ would even throw in a bunch of Macchi trainers, though if they rust anything like Italian cars... maybe not such a good idea.

  51. This post has been deleted by its author

  52. Trygve Henriksen

    MoD; don't look now, but...

    The RNoAF has 15 old F-5s for sale, still weaponized. Just needs a bit of TLC to get them flying again.

    (They were mothballed properly when they went out of service)

    The american colonels that testflew them in 2005 said it was the best maintained F-5s they had ever seen.

    Might do as a backup for the spits. ;-)

    Of course, as the asking price is 'approx $10million' for the lot, they're probably disqualified by being too cheap for the MoD...

    Here's a picture of one...

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not the plane

    It's not the plane, it's the idiots in charge and the risk averse culture that rules the country these days.

    Does anybody suppose that if a minor fault was found on Spitfires during WWII that the entire fleet would have been grounded? Like fuck they would.

    1. NightFox
      Thumb Down

      For you, ze var is over

      To be fair I think you are well aware of the answer to that - risk is a balanced thing. There's a difference between taking a risk when there's no justification for doing so, and taking a risk because if you don't you're going to be wearing lederhosen and eating sauerkraut before the day is out.

      1. moonface
        Thumb Up

        It's not the plane, it's the idiots in charge

        Most planes fly quite happily without ejector seats or pilots wearing parachutes.

        The RAF should have take the risk on this one! I meean it's only Battle of Britain Day, the 70th anniversary of the RAF fighter force's greatest victory. Suppose it gave the old boys a bit of a laugh and something to grumble about, ohhh... those lily-livered young whippersnappers these days, etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Most planes fly quite happily without ejector seats or pilots wearing parachutes.

          Most planes are also not delta-wings and can make a non-powered landing.

          1. moonface

            Delta-wings=Fail then

            That's pretty worrying if they can't be trusted to do a few safe circuits at a display.

            According to you then, it is likely the engine might conk out, at which point, there is no hope but to revert to the ejector seat.

            Sounds to me like the FAIL is with the risk assessor. Probably the type of person who wouldn't drive a vehicle without an air bag or even walk up a flight of steps without a handrail.

        2. Will Derrrick

          Opposite spin...

          If the RAF hadn't grounded the fleet, it'd be spun the other way by some.

          "RAF Risks Hero Pilots In Deathtrap Plans For RAF Show Off" shocker where "RAF Bigwigs recklessly endangered the safety of our boys in blue on the very day we were supposed to be celebrating their predecessors. RAF bosses ploughed ahead with the needless flying of the risky Typhoon despite being warned of the problem that's already killed one pilot. This complete contempt for our modern heroes... etc". Sometimes you just can't win.

          It would have been hilarious if the Russians had sent another couple of strategic bombers in UK airspace ( ), only to have been turned away by WWII veterans flying Spitfires. That should put the fear of God into them!

  54. NightFox

    Stand by your Article

    I propose a dogfight to the death. Lewis in a Spitfire v. a Eurofighter.

    Guns guns guns

  55. Anonymous Coward

    Actually, Spitfire Was Crap

    The P51 was a much better plane, as it could escort Bombers deep into Germany.

    If you like to compare that old apple against the new orange, the Eurofighter is as least as good as the Spitfire was then. Like the latter it is a great, short-range racecar with great maneuverability.

    If you need a modern-day P51, just buy yourself a Sukhoi-34. Extreme Range, thrust-vector control, high payload and thrust-vectored AAMs.

    The EFA is the best we could put together and it is good enough to scare off the Russkies. The F-22 is also a one-trick air-dominance pony, where European industry gets zero technology injection. But who said Britons where strategists ? Lions led by Idiots. LP is a truely British Officer !

    (The weather is getting cold here in Frankfurt an I need some flames from you to keep me warm)

    1. Jean-Luc
      Thumb Down

      Cluelessness wins again.

      (some time in 1937, presumably)

      "Mr. Prime Minister, we'd like to order some Spitfires and Hurricanes for delivery in 1939. Jolly good, got 8 machine guns each".

      "Sorry, we are waiting for the much better P51, coming in 1943. You chaps will just have to tough it out during the coming Battle of Britain show I've been hearing about."

      (And I ain't even a Brit)

    2. Nigel Wright


      By whatever metric you use, except for range, the Spitfire equivalent of the P51 at that time was markedly superior.

      The P51 filled a void that the Spitfire couldn't - namely of long-range escort fighter. But don't mistake this for being superior. The Spitfire MkXiV easily out-turned, outgunned, out-dived, out-climbed and out-accelerated the P51D. They were broadly comparable in maximum speed with the Spitfire again having the lead at high altitude.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    From the article:

    "The RAF grounded its Eurofighters on September 15, the official 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Pilots were warned that they would have to fly even with faulty ejection seats in the event of any hostile incursion into UK airspace"

    So basically they weren't grounded, they just had non-essential operations postponed whilst teh fault was investigated and resolved.

    Bit of a big fucking leap from Lewis and the Lewis apologists to state that the UK's air defence was relegated to a few airworthy Spitfires now isn't it? Especially given the article clearly shows this is not the case.

    Lewis: Normally your one-track anti-UK stance is slightly amusing, in the same way we laugh at Trigger out of Only Fools and Horses, but you really are plumbing the depths here. Can you please stop writing about defence stuff and just go back to stories about global warming where you are usually intelligent and amusing (in a good way this time) even if some of your conclusions are somewhat, well, interesting?

  57. Mike Flugennock

    Wow, sounds even nastier...

    ...that what I'd first imagined when I saw this article's first reference to ejector-seat malfunction.

    I was first put in mind of the very early days of testing of the ejector seats in the Gemini Command Module, when astronaut John Young commented to the effect that Gemini crewmen could expect a "very bad, but very short headache" if the hatch failed to blow properly in the split instant before the seat left the CM.

    But, no... parachutes prematurely separating after ejection instead of the canopies failing to blow off properly. That's got to be even nastier; at least if your canopy fails to separate properly, it's over in an instant. Instead, these poor bastards get plenty of time to think about it while waiting for the Earth to rise up and crush them.

    And, that's a hundred and eighty MILLION pounds -- PER PLANE? Jesus H. Christ. My sympathies.

  58. Evil Genius
    Paris Hilton

    Gravity is not your friend

    "Most planes are also not delta-wings and can make a non-powered landing."

    Last time I checked, all planes are capable of making an non-powered landing. Does this delta wing have some strange, as yet undisclosed properties?

    I hear the MOD are eagerly awaiting Apple to launch the iSeat.

    Paris? Well, she knows all about ejection...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Gravity is not your friend → #

      What did you check exactly my genius friend, MS Flight Simulator? You do realize that not all planes are created equal as far as gliding properties go and some are such a poor show that they CAN'T make a non-powered landing in any useful meaning of the word?

      1. Evil Genius

        Gravity is still not your friend

        Danger, Will Robinson. Humour alert failed

        ALL aircraft are capable of making an un-powered landing. Remember, a landing is only a controlled crash....

        1. jake Silver badge

          @Evil Genius

          "Remember, a landing is only a controlled crash...."

          No. A landing is anything you walk away from.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Non-powered landing

      I think that the problem is that the Typhoon is one of the new generation of inherently unstable aircraft, that are only rendered flyable by the Fly-by-Computer avionics.

      I'm sure that if the avionics were still operating, it would be possible to land, but if the avionics were out, there would be virtually no chance of any type of controlled landing. Hopefully, redundant systems and power supplies should be installed to keep the systems running in the case the primary power systems fail.

  59. asdf

    lets sell our kit to the enemy, $$$ ftl

    What the hell is up with both the US and the UK selling weapons to Saudi Arabia in the first place? Granted they have lots of cash and their monoarchy is somewhat friendly to the west. The fact is though 15 of 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. The people in Saudi hates us. What happens when the extremism the country has been brewing for decades/centuries explodes and the people get what they want for a government (will make Taliban look liberal). At least we were smart enough to ban selling them the F22 (for all the wrong reasons but still). Stupid greedy evil industrial military complex. Lets sell our stuff to our enemies and then claim we need new stuff as our current stuff is outdated. Why mess with a biz model that is allowed to work. Stupid war pigs.

  60. Alan Firminger

    Have to speak truth

    The Eurofighter was, and is, not about defending UK airspace.

    It was conceived as proof of concept to lead the UK aircraft industry into the glorious uplands of active stabilization of non stable airframes. No airline would buy an unproven technology, but an airforce will. The best bet was the air superiority fighter.

    This got lost upon the way when the British government, as always and of course, acting with the mentality of the average taxpayer chose to share with our fellow Europeans.

    The dream is still there except that the UK is out of contention. Expect Airbus to announce a series of executive jets, all, with high fuel efficiency and low cost. All deltas. Then a series of passenger airliners. And BAE might pick up a bit of the work as a contractor.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Seats dont work? So what?!

    You mean zer pilots could abandon zer planes! Cowardly kapitalist schwein!

    PARIS, because she would do a better job running the MoD.

  62. Colin 4

    Mrorons ...

    What else would you expect from "moron" airforce base ? That was just asking for trouble ....

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