back to article Britain's Harrier jump-jets reprieved to fly and fight again

Blighty's famous force of Harrier jump-jets, controversially disposed of during last year's defence review along with the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers, have been reprieved: the radical vectored-thrust jets, believed by many to have been the best strike planes in Britain's arsenal, will fly (and almost certainly, fight) again …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tad unfair.

    "Every time a Tornado gets airborne, it passes through a point of no return on the runway after which, if there's a problem, there is no room to brake to a halt and the crew must eject and let the plane wreck itself"

    That's a little unfair on the Tornado, almost every conventional jet aircraft, including the one that takes you on holiday, reaches a point of no-return, and the 747 doesn't have ejector seats!

    It's simply a case of how much runway does the plane require to reach take off speed and then stop again. Most runways just aren't long enough for both.

    Having said all that, I certainly won't defend the MOD's decision to scrap the Harrier and leave us with no Naval based air operations. You can can already see the effect that has had from the sabre rattling coming from Argentina. They wouldn't have dare do that again if the Harriers were still airborne.

    1. Dave 3
      Mushroom

      Tish!

      The Falklands is not defenceless.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_the_Falkland_Islands

      1. Philolai

        He didn't say it was

        The issue is that the Argentinians know exactly where the airfield is on the Falkland Islands and in the event of a large scale invasion 4 Eurofighters and accompanying garrison may not be sufficient to stop it, and we have no means to bring other aircraft to bear. We couldn't even land troops without the air support which we cannot now provide.

        1. alexh2o

          It might be a long trip but we could still deploy Typhoons to the Falklands and use our air to air refuellers to keep them airborne. We should in theory be able to deploy a Type 45 destroyer and maintain air superiority that way (the Argentinians wouldn't be launching their fast jets if they were being missile locked a mile after take off).

    2. Tim of the Win

      They've been moaning for years, it has nothing to do with the carriers. After the war we built a semi-decent RAF base on the islands and this should serve well enough to defend them from a new attack, which is never going to happen.

  2. Grease Monkey

    All this tells us is that the US marines wanted a source of cheap spares. It is not of itself a comment on the scrapping of the harriers by the MOD. That really is an opnion piece who's author is clutching at straws to try to prove his point.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Cheap?

      "The mothballed fleet of 74 Harriers, plus the UK's inventory of spare parts, is being bought up lock, stock and barrel by the US Marines."

      We will be buying them back again at vastly inflated prices - standard practice for short-sighted short-term policies.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        @Elmer Phud

        Or maybe we now have an opportunity to manufacture and sell more spare parts at a profit? Given that these planes were only recently mothballed, I can't imagine we have got rid of the tooling and manufacturing expertise needed to do this quite yet?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          Knowing BAE Systems...

          ... Yes, they probably have gotten rid of the tooling and sold it for scrap.

        2. laird cummings
          FAIL

          Why would they *need* to buy parts anytime soon? The Marines just got an entire boot full of spares, including airframes, which will see them in service for years and years - You surely don't expect BAE to keep tooling around for production lines which will sit idle whilst the Marines churn through the decade or more of spares they now have on hand, do you?

  3. Silverburn
    Facepalm

    To the UK government...

    <-- see icon

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or maybe a "cash entering back pocket" icon. Would be interesting to know if a sale to the Americans meant that someone close to the government makes a few bucks that they otherwise wouldn't have made.

  4. NikT
    FAIL

    Poor...

    More misleading, pro-US, Pro-RN, Anti UK, Anti-RAF rubbish from the former Naval officer. When will the Reg defence desk hire someone who can write accurate reports?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      By accurate do you mean a post that agrees with and does not deviate from your viewpoint?

    2. Dick Head

      Well...

      Why don't you enlighten us poor, benighted civvies who are paying for this stuff where the inaccuracies are?

      1. despairing citizen
        Big Brother

        Brain Washing in evidence

        Whilst, in my opinion, Lewis is very good for a defence correspondant, there are times when evidence of the RN intake course brain washing do appear.

        There are a number of items in the article, that whilst true, and have been put out of context, and hence do not represent a balance apprasial.

        For example the take off conditions apply to all fixed wing operations, from cessna to C-5 Galaxy. The problems become more pronounced at altitude and tempretature, especially in dry cliemts due to changes in air density.

        Air Density is also an adverse factor in helo and VTOL ops as well.

        Poor air density basically means your aircraft has to go faster and/or carry less in order to generate the required lift (i.e. lift greater than weight)

    3. Chad H.
      FAIL

      Err

      How can he be anti RAF and anti RN when if he had his way the author seemingly would have these aircraft flying with said organisations?

      Given their capabilities; and the fact we now need to rely upon the French of all people for carrier capability perhaps it's not the register that's anti RAF and RN; but the current government.

  5. Ed 11

    Which ones...

    Lots of detail, yet no where could I see whether this sale relates solely to the old RN Sea Harriers, RAF GR7/9s or some combination of the two.

    1. Paul_Murphy

      74 Harriers

      Must be the lot surely?

      And there goes my chance of having one on the lawn. :-(

      If I were the US marines I would be sitting very smugly indeed thank you. We go to the effort of developing and making these, and the yanks get the benefits.

      I wrote to my MP on the subject at the time, not that it did any good.

      ttfn

      1. despairing citizen
        Happy

        What are the contract terms?

        Given the effeciency of central stores, I expect in 10 years time, they will find enough Harrier parts to build at least ONE whole aircraft.

        If truthful, we are likely to say, "here are all the bits we could find"., when we hand them over to USMC.

        makes it interesting on whether we will be in breach of contract for that

      2. Tom 13
        Happy

        The marines would never sit smugly.

        They will of course give you a very loud Hooo-yaaaah! as they thank their lucky stars that for a change their second hand equipment is first rate quality.

    2. Marvin the Martian
      Paris Hilton

      Which part of "lock, stock and barrel" made you think it's about a conoisseur's selection?

    3. Zingbo

      It'll just be the GR.7/9s. The Sea Harriers were retired much longer ago. In addition the Sea Harrier was was a first generation Harrier while the USMC operates second generation Harrier II models. I expect there's far less commonality of parts between the Sea Harriers and the USMC's AV-8Bs than there is between the AV-8B and the GR.9.

    4. NightFox
      Coat

      Difference

      As we non-flyers at Wittering used to say:

      How do you tell the difference between an RN and an RAF Harrier?

      The RAF one still whines when the engine's shut down.

  6. Dog@86G
    Megaphone

    F**in F***ity F*** F***!

    That is all

  7. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Beancounters in charge of defence?

    Makes sense, as we're talking about Britain, I suppose....

    1. Silverburn
      Facepalm

      yeah but...

      ...where were they when the goverment(s) ran up almost a trillion quid in debt?

      Beancounter = incompetent muppets with a tenious grasp of the real world, if you ask me...

      1. admiraljkb
        Facepalm

        Beancounters wreck the world, one bean at a time, but Air Forces destroy (friendly) bags of beans at a time. The only common enemy is the Air Force., and that applies on both sides of the pond.

        Since Great Britain is in effect a giant Aircraft Carrier, I don't understand why the RAF just doesn't get folded into the Royal Navy. (other than Politics and Air Force plays that better than Army and Navy everytime...) Unless there is a European war again, the RAF will be on the sidelines while the US, French, and Italian navies pick up the slack.

        The US Air Force is just as bad, and stealing funds from Army and Navy, when the Army and Navy are first responders, and the Air Force has to fly halfway around the world to get anywhere. In the US's case, the Air Force needs folded BACK into the Army (which is who they actually work for) to stop the budgetary madness.

        1. despairing citizen
          FAIL

          Re: operating air power via other arms.

          "Since Great Britain is in effect a giant Aircraft Carrier, I don't understand why the RAF just doesn't get folded into the Royal Navy. "

          Given the history of how the sea captain led navy consider air power, the decision in 1918 to create the RAF is why you don't speak german.

          If the RN had been in charge we would of have entered WW2 with old out of date biplanes (what was on our carriers at the time?)

          Given modern naval warfare, destroyers are targets, carriers are combat vessels, the RN chose to loose the carriers, and keep their career promotion prospects, by keeping more hulls in the form of useless destroyers and frigates, rather than a fewer number of useful carrier hulls.

          1. James O'Shea
            Headmaster

            beg pardon

            but there were no 'old, out of date' biplanes aboard RN carriers in 1939-45. There were _new_ biplanes (Fairey Swordfish, and later, Fairey Albacore) torpedo bombers; the RN retired the last of its Gloster Sea Gladiator fighters just before the war. The RAF flew Gladiators in combat (Battle of Britain, and air defence of Malta; okay, Faith, Hope and Charity were Sea Gladiators, but were flown by RAF crews and were the sole air defence of Malta for a considerable time...) (here's a pic of Faith <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ZZZ_003915_E_Gladiator.jpg>) but the RN had all metal monoplane fighters (Blackburn Roc, Fairey Fulmar, so not very good fighters...) The Swordfish was speced in the mid 1930s, and actually performed well. It was the single number one best anti-dreadnought weapon in the ETO, killing several Italian battleships and damaging others at various points, mostly in Taranto harbour, and getting three hits on BISMARCK... two of which were inconsequential, and one of which jammed the rudders and doomed the ship. The primary anti-aircraft guns on BISMARCK, the twin 105-mm quick-firing guns, were controlled by the very best electro-mechanical computers then available (Hoo-rah! IT content!) which made them very accurate... except that someone on shore had figured that modern aircraft flew at 150 knots or better, and the fire-control computers couldn't track anything slower. The max speed of a Swordfish was 120 knots (if someone got out and pushed) so they literally flew too slowly to be shot at by the 105s. The hand-held 37-mm and 20-mm guns were much less accurate.

            When the Swordfish stopped being a front-line torpedo-bomber (partially due to the shortage of German or Italian major surface combatants to torpedo...) they did excellent anti-submarine work, again thanks to their very low speed. The Albacore, which was supposed to replace the Swordfish, had an enclosed cockpit and was faster... and much less liked, and was phased out in favor of... the Swordfish. (The less said about the Barracuda, the better.) Swordfish were still flying anti-submarine and air-sea-rescue operations at the end of the war. (Just not doing it where there was any chance of encountering hostile aircraft...)

            Please don't disparage some of the best British aircraft of the 1939-45 war.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Barracuda

              The Barracuda could be effective, as in an attack on the Tirpitz in April '44.

              And there must be a good reason they built two and half thousand of them and kept them on charge until the mid-50s

            2. Fr. Ted Crilly

              er no..

              I think you mean the crappy Fairey Fulmar, and the crappier still Blackburn Skua.

              Barracuda oth did sterling work (with RR Griffon especially so) with torps & rockets/bombs, Seafires filling the fighter gap until the the Sea Furies pop up at the end of the war.

            3. LDS Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Swordfish? It was just luck.

              The Swordfish was able to attack German and Italian ships only because of the total lack of air protection of those ships. If German or Italy had something like Japan had, Swordfish would have been destroyed on their ships decks, and not one would had dropped a torpedo against a target. Look at what happened to the torpedo bombers at Midway, while approaching heavily protected ships without figther protection.

              While Japan was able to sink two british battle ship using planes alone, the Swordfish was just able to damage the Bismark in daylight combat. Taranto was a better strike, but it required the night and surprise to keep planes safe enough. Probably it was the right plane to conduct such an attack. That's why it was also a good anti-submarine plane. It has to fly lolw and slow, and submarines don't have CAPs. Anyway, Italian "maiali" was able to inflict more or less the same damage to British battleships with even less resources, just I would not call them great weapons, just the lucky ones in a surprise attack.

            4. despairing citizen
              Thumb Down

              Out of date tech and the consequences

              The swordfish was designed with 1920's tech and delivered in the mid-30's, in a period of technical change in combat aircraft where last year's design was a coffin with wings.

              The achievments of the RN using the swordfish say more about the igenuity of certain commanders, the skill and courage of the crews, the operating environment, and some serious amounts of luck. (such as with the bismark)

              To see what we could have had on carriers, one can look at the USN's Dauntless, japan's Nakajima B5N.

              the following is the citation for Lieutenant Commander Esmonde's VC

              ""On 12 February 1942 in the Straits of Dover, off England, Lieutenant Commander Esmonde led his squadron of six Swordfish to the attack of two German battle cruisers the Scharnhorst and the cruiser Prinz Eugen, which were entering the Straits strongly escorted by surface craft. Detached from their escorting fighters (just 10 in number) by enemy fighters, all the aircraft of the squadron were damaged, but even after Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde's plane sustained a direct hit he still continued the run-in towards his target until it burst into flames and crashed into the sea. The squadron went on to launch a gallant attack, but none of the six aircraft returned".

              this kind tells you what the swordfish's operational chances where when the other side where prepared, and the sheer guts it took to go anyway.

  8. simon 43

    I began reading this piece and agreeing with the author - the Yanks seem to have spotted an opportunity to extend the useful life of an aircraft by quite some margin - at our expense!

    Forcing myself to look further than Lewis' traditional Light Blue/Dark Blue rant I found myself asking the question "Will the US Marines even bother to order off the initial production run of F-35s?"...

    1. Chris007
      Trollface

      nope

      "Forcing myself to look further than Lewis' traditional Light Blue/Dark Blue rant I found myself asking the question "Will the US Marines even bother to order off the initial production run of F-35s?"..."

      No - they'll probably get obama to get cameron to buy the intial, very expensive, run so they can buy them cheaper in the 2020's...

      1. DanceMan
        Thumb Down

        Don't know if the US will sucker Britain, but they got Harper in Canada. Harper never met a military expenditure he didn't love, and his purchase of F-35's will cost Canada for decades to come.

    2. laird cummings

      No need to

      "Will the US Marines even bother to order off the initial production run of F-35s?"..."

      They'll not need to, now - They've got what they need, and if they need higher-performance, there's always the USN to call upon. Second-, maybe even third-generation, F35s; Most likely used aircraft from USN stocks.

    3. Tom 13
      Pirate

      Sure, but only a handful for testing purposes

      instead of a heftier order for actual use.

      Now if we can just get you guys to buy the initial run of F35s.....

  9. EddieD

    Damn...

    I hoped I could pick one up second hand on the cheap...

    I do approve of this, it may not be the fastest or most powerful machine, but it fills many different niches pretty well - pretty much (in my, very amateur, opinion) a swiss army knife among military jets.

    And besides, it's nearly unique - something British that's pretty darn good - better than the competition.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    runway

    "point of no return on the runway"

    This is not a problem with the aircraft per se, it applies to any aircraft making a takeoff from a short runway (which is predicated in a good measure by ambient conditions as actual runway length), and is a fact of life in all fixed wing aviation, regardless of aircraft type.

    1. /\/\j17
      Stop

      Missing The Point (of no return)

      The point here is that the runway IS short but we are forced to operate an aircraft that really requires a longer one at that altitude to take off safely, without endangering the airframe in the case of a late take-off abort.

      We USED to have one designed specifically to take off on short runways, so ideal to operate from that strip in at least the close air support role...

      1. Paul_Murphy

        And of course the sea harriers normally took off at sea level (well, slightly above it) - pretty much a given.

      2. despairing citizen
        FAIL

        Missing other bits

        "We USED to have one designed specifically to take off on short runways, so ideal to operate from that strip in at least the close air support role.."

        The harrier, as designed, in the CAS role was suppose to operate forward with the troops, we can't secure forward operating bases, due to lack of relevant troops, and frequently local topography.

        The harrier goes slower, so it eventually turns up.

        It carries a fraction of the payload, thus the totality of what can be delivered before crawling back to base, is less than any other aircraft we except a Hawk or Tucanno.

        The harrier due to limited ordance capacity, therefore can not carry the range of muntion that a larger aircraft can, hence reducing the options available to the troops on the ground.

        The harrier has one crew, the tornado has 2 crew, this means the guy on the ground gets to talk to somebody who only has to be concerned with hiting the right target, not overloaded with that and keeping his complex jet in the air, and not in the mountains.

        That said the Harrier has it's place in a well rounded air capability, if the government chose to spend the money to maintain that capabiity.

        1. smylar

          Not Really

          Yes, Tornado can do Mach 2, but not for long, it would soon be out of fuel, it would be cruising slightly faster than Harrier (Mach 1 territory)

          In terms of Libya the Harriers would have been there hours before a Tornado shows up, plus they can be based nearer the action more easily anyway, so that argument doesn't hold any water,

          So what it can bomb one/two less houses on one sortie (it usually actually means they drop slightly less ordinance on the same target), but it's higher availablity counters this, you are also forgetting that the Typhoon is due the same capability as the Tornado soon and can carry more and is faster than the Tornado.

          So I would have kept the unique abilities of the Harrier, it would have done fine in current situations and let Typhoon take on some strike responsibilities as it becomes available.

          As it is we now have two platforms that in terms of strike, do exactly the same things - clever!

  11. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    On the other hand...

    Mothballed aircraft sold to the US for money. To me this costs... the US not us.

    Whilst harriers would undoubtably be of use in Afghanistan, or in Libya, this kind of ignores the point that we have no real business being in either of those countries. I mean, everyone knows Afghanistan has a history of being a place where it is not possible to win a war, and the real reasons we are there are not to do with the defence of the UK, but are political and economic (i.e. the US tells us to / it would be a good place to drill for oil / build oil pipelines if they weren't going to get blown up).

    I'm sure I'll attract lots of flames for saying it, so go ahead.

  12. <user />
    Stop

    Never miss a chance to bash the RAF or anything none Royal Navy eh? It is becoming very tiresome, we are past the comical stage now.

  13. David Perry 2
    Stop

    The money

    How much will it raise? What are we gonna do with it? Pay off some debts or save some services which would otherwise be cut (I'd vote for some of it to go the NHS who have looked after me well frequently the past year or so - the attitude of the NHS nurses when I was somewhat scared about what was gonna be done to me was angelic compared to private ones I've dealt with)

    1. BoldMan

      £180m is what I heard from other sources and if true that would be a terrific bargain for the Yanks!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "What are we gonna do with it?"

      "Pay off some debts or save some services which would otherwise be cut"

      Of course not! This goes into someone's trousers as a "consulting fee" or something. The big question is then whose trousers exactly?

      1. Northumbrian
        Holmes

        The wrong trousers

        Whose trousers? Well, the wrong trousers probably. It will be the private consultant who "liaised" with US forces, and the bankers who are arranging the finances. Plus a promotion and (eventually) a gong for whoever claims the credit in the MoD (or whatever it's called these days).

        As for what *sort* of private consultant - well, I can't think of any names, off hand.

  14. Marco van Beek
    WTF?

    The MOD never wanted them anyway

    Didn't Hawker Siddeley fund the prototypes themselves, and then get some extra funding from the US, long before the MOD even considered them?

    Can't we just cut the MOD, and save the armed forces instead?

  15. FredScummer
    Holmes

    Werrity

    There wasn't a bloke called Werrity involved with this deal was there? If so then this deal probably hasn't been put to bed yet.

    His special advisor status probably had a lot to do with vectored thrusting of things which go up and down, if you know what I mean.

  16. Tony S

    Lewis may be pro Navy / anti RAF, but on this occasion he makes a valid point. The decision to scrap the Harriers and their carriers was a purely political one, that in reality does little to cut Defence spending and makes a huge hole in the capability of the forces to carry out certain types of task.

    I suspect that the US Marines will be paying for the stock they they buy at bargain basement prices - it wouldn't surprise me to learn that we have to pay for shipment of the items, which could end up with it costing the UK taxpayer more to give the stuff away than to simply bury in the ground.

    As it happens, I saw Lewis on News 24 at the weekend; he made the point that they could easily get rid of someone of the backroom wallahs or senior officers as they are needed less than the oiks on the ground. Too damn true; but I suspect that will only happen when the ambient temperature of Hades falls to -10 centigrade.

  17. Alien8n
    Alien

    To be fair, the majority of Lewis Page's rants are just that, rants. But this one actually has some semblance of a point. The real question is, does the RAF or RN have anything to replace the Harrier's role for which it was actually designed for? The answer is no, the whole point of the Harrier was to have a plane that could take off with little or no runway, able to take off from within the clearing of a forest if need be. We have nothing that fills that role now except for our helicopter fleet, which lets face it are not designed for bombing your average dictatorship into the dirt. Certainly we don't expect to go to war in Eastern Europe any time soon, but just because we don't expect to doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to.

  18. Jonathan White
    Facepalm

    Call me a hippie pacifist but I actually find some favour in the fact there are certain types of war that we can no longer fight. Generally speaking, the majority of the population of the UK don't want us fighting those wars in the first place. if you asked the bloke in the street if, with hindsight, they think we'd have been better off not going into Afghanistan in the first place I suspect the answer you'd most often get is some variation on 'too right mate'.

    If, in the future, we can't send a percentage of our young men & women to some god forsaken dustbowl to get blown into pieces for, well, nobody seems quite sure what for, then I for one won't worry myself to sleep at night. IMO, it gives what armed forces we have left a very good excuse not to bow to the every whim of our clueless politicians, who at the mo are very much making the decision while taking none of the consequences in all areas of life..

    Let the sodding Americans dig themselves into a messy conflict with no obvious exit plan or victory conditions, I really don't see why we should go along with them.

    1. Vic

      Logical error :-(

      > If, in the future, we can't send a percentage of our young men & women

      > to some god forsaken dustbowl to get blown into pieces

      You assume that, because we are no longer equipped to fight such a war, our level-headed government wouldn't just send troops in anyway...

      Vic.

    2. Chad H.
      Thumb Down

      In other words....

      Freedom: good enough for me. You however....

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Leiws

    Remember, theese are British, not US planes. I'm surpirsed you weren't pleased we got rid of them !

  20. me n u
    WTF?

    What's a few billion dollars/pounds?

    I don't understand why so many Brits are anti-USA, when your own govt is just as bad and wasteful. We yanks clearly do NOT have a monopoly on stupidity! I guess it's contagious.

  21. Tim of the Win

    We don't actually need them, so not really a problem. Might as well get the best price possible.

    1. Paul_Murphy

      >We don't actually need them

      Umm we would have found them really useful for the Libya 'thing' - almost immediately after we got rid of them.

      The Harriers would be pretty useful in Afghanistan I would have thought, and who knows if they would be useful for anything else in what would have been their future.

      The most annoying aspect of this for me is that perfectly effective tools, such as the Harriers and their carrier have been scrapped despite keeping far more expensive, and hardly more useful things such as Typhoons, tornados, tanks and artillery pieces - useful for a European war perhaps but otherwise a very expensive way of doing things - the icing on the cake example is Libya where sitting off the coast with a carrier would have done a much better job.

      ttfn

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Wrong tool for the job

        "Umm we would have found them really useful for the Libya 'thing' - almost immediately after we got rid of them."

        Only if we parked our carrier within sight of people wanting to shoot at them, and by operating air refueling imediately above tripoli.

        The harrier is a range and payload limited aircraft, it was never designed to go on long haul ops.

        Whilst we need carriers and their air wings for proper naval operations, libya certainly was not it.

        1. A System Admin In a World He Did Not Make

          "Only if we parked our carrier within sight of people wanting to shoot at them, and by operating air refueling imediately above tripoli."

          1200 nmi range. 15 miles puts one well over the horizon. You could easily park your carrier offshore and bombard targets inland.

          Or were you exaggerating for effect?

          1. despairing citizen
            Thumb Down

            real life vs stats

            1200 miles carrying nothing, and walking home

            600 miles, carrying next to nothing, with some chance of not walking home (dependant on speed and direction of wind)

            no catapult and no runway means even less payload, and less range

            Libya had russian ASM's that could be land launched and air launch, with 75mi range, something you need to factor into operational planning, even if they did not get used.

            Libyan city of sabha, 610 miles to malta, or 415 miles to tripoli, time over target being, how many seconds if not refueling at the coastline?

  22. Mark Dowling
    FAIL

    Second hand UK gear

    For the USMC's sake I hope it works better than the Upholders.

  23. Silverburn
    Unhappy

    Meanwhile, in the news

    Ruskies invade good ol' Engerland, and meet fierce airborne, sea-borne and land-based resistance from heavily armed, well equipped and hi-tech british...

    Oh wait...never mind.

    1. Jonathan White
      Thumb Down

      Why would they bother invading Britain when they could easily just buy it?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flexibility

    Another of Lewis' rants. He keeps making his point about the flexibility of the Harriers being lost, but it isn't really valid in my view. The Harrier has a very short range. Unless you have a forward operating base very close to operations, or a carrier off the coast they are kind of useless. When we got shut of the beasts we only had a couple of through-deck cruisers to fly them off. So in response to any worldwide issue we potentially have months to wait getting the carriers in position. Look how long the task force took to get down to the Falkland's for example. With only 2 carriers there is a good chance one isn't ready for sea at a given point in time, if Libya kicked off and your carrier was in an exercise in the Pacific, the Americans could have finished the whole affair before you got your carrier in position. The Harriers don't do long transits very well, so even assuming you have a nice forward operating base (which we didn't in Libya) you probably can't fly them back from a forward deployment easily.

    We don't really have the logistic capability to support a long term naval deployment either. Just think if we had tried to use Harrier from baby carriers in Afghanistan. Firstly, I doubt we would have had the range, secondly, we would have had to overfly Pakistan, thirdly, we would have been constantly shipping out huge amounts of ordnance to the ships for at-sea replenishment since the only base in the Indian Ocean is leased to the Americans (Diego Garcia).

    Forward operating bases for Harriers can be thrown together in many places, but availability of the Harriers drops considerably when operating from a rough field site. VTOL from rough fields massively increases the incidence of FOD damage of the engines (foreign object ingestion). War fighting from a rough field is a nightmare because you have huge amounts of ordnance and fuel to take in there.

    The Tornado might be out of date, but with tanker support you can put it anywhere in the world. Same with the Typhoon. It can carry substantially more ordnance as well. Also, for good reason, the RAF prefers 2 seat aircraft. The additional workload in a Harrier limits how easily you can put fancy new ordnance on the things. Our Air to Ground missiles might have looked like overkill in Libya, but it could be a different story with the next shooting match.

    The reality is, against Lewis' viewpoint, the Tornado/Typhoon package provides the UK military with far more flexibility than something built around Harrier. It might seem sub-optimal for Libya, but they still got the job done. Next time might not be a conflict in our own back-garden (the Med) with a country right next to the sea, and a few nautical miles from a Nato country (Italy) for resupplying the ships.

    Good riddance to the Harrier. Yes, it was a great aircraft and was key in the Falklands War, but it was really the right time to get rid. The RN were annoyed to lose fixed wing for a short while, especially since they are clearly concerned they might not get their carriers and may permanently lose fixed wing.

    1. Alfred

      "if Libya kicked off and your carrier was in an exercise in the Pacific, the Americans could have finished the whole affair before you got your carrier in position. "

      6 months to travel from the Pacific to the Med? Might manage a bit faster with the engines running.

    2. Steve 151
      FAIL

      A Harrier which can fly from airfields, motorways, marginally prepared dirt strips, and aircraft carriers is certainly more flexible than a Tornado or Typhoon. Although you theoretically could transit a Tornado / Typhoon half way around the world with tanker support AND conduct a strike operation, you simply wouldn't do it. Think how long that pilot would have to fly for! Also, combat Typhoon aircraft are single seaters.

      We had three pocket carriers (+ Ocean which could carry Harriers if not operate them). With three, I believe one would always be ready, one in refit, one on standby. I doubt we've sent carriers to the pacific in the last 50 years.

      As for the length of time taken to arrive in the Falklands - a reaction time of a around month is actually very quick in terms of Strategic Mobility, when you consider you end up with a self-sustaining capability in theatre. What realistic alternatives are there anyway? Flying CAP from Coningsby to protect the expeditionary fleet isn't really an option you know...?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Steve 151

        No it isn't.

        The Harrier has a tiny range. Afghanistan would have been impossible until we had forward operating bases on the ground there. Iraq would have required overflight from the Eastern Med or a carrier in the Gulf, both of which are difficult. Harrier has rough field capability, but try servicing the thing out in the field. The engines are actually very fragile with very low hours between engine changes, and in a rough field role they get wrecked from ingested stones all the time. As I explained in my original post, the logistics of running off a road or rough field are a nightmare. All you munitions and fuel end up coming in in Hercules at best, or by road, which isn't feasible in most war zones. You either need a real airfield close to the action or a carrier just off the coast, neither of which are feasible much of the time.

        For a repeat of the Falklands we can have a squadron of Tornados flying out of Port Stanley in a very short period of time (days).

        Eurofighter has a lot more advanced avionics than Harrier to make fighting single seat with complex munitions feasible. The cockpit workload in the Harrier is huge, second only to the Jaguar.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Steve 151

          "For a repeat of the Falklands we can have a squadron of Tornados flying out of Port Stanley in a very short period of time (days)."

          Not if you don't control Port Stanley, you can't. Unless you meant something else when you wrote "a repeat of the Falklands".

        2. Steve 151
          WTF?

          ???

          "No it isn't." what?

          Variants of Harrier were used in all the conflicts you're mentioned, so I don't really see your point.

          We've got a squadron of Typhoons operating out of the purpose built Mount Pleasant, so having Tornadoes out of Port Stanley is a little irrelevant. Also, Tornadoes were in service during the Falklands, and we didn't actually do that, did we now...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Steve 151

            No it isn't more flexible.

            Being able to fly from rough fields or carriers doesn't help flexibility when rough fields are impossible to get supplies to and we have hardly any carriers. What matters is raw combat radius - especially when tankers are also in short supply which they invariably are with the British military. The Harrier has a max combat radius of 300 miles, less when flying from rough fields or carriers. The Tornado has a max combat radius of 900 miles. The Typhoon 750 miles.

            Afghanistan is about 300 miles from the sea. Put a carrier with Harriers on board there and you can't put a single airframe above Afghanistan. We only managed to deploy Harriers there when Kabul airport was secure in 2006.

            Even going back to the Falklands War, the harriers had such little time in the air because of their limited range that we had to keep the bulk of the task force far east of the islands to keep them safe from Argentine air attacks. And San Carlos Water was close to a disaster. If the Argentines had known about fusing bombs for sub 250ft drops, the troop carriers would have been decimated. I know the black buck missions were a joke, but we kid ourselves if we think that some baby carriers and a few Harriers make us a world power.

            1. Steve 151
              Thumb Down

              Using carrier-borne Harriers in Afghanistan would be insane - and no-one has proposed this but you...

        3. Artimus Sedgwicke

          "Eurofighter has a lot more advanced avionics than Harrier to make fighting single seat with complex munitions feasible. The cockpit workload in the Harrier is huge, second only to the Jaguar."

          Actually, that is an interesting argument. Still faster than an Apache though...

    3. Jeff Wolfers

      Making sense

      Coward.... you make the most sense of anyone here. I love the idea of a carrier-based strike force, quickly deployable and packing a punch. But with the UK's two flat tops, 'quickly' was rarely possible, and when choices have to be made, the fast jets win out I guess.

      The US Marines are getting quite a bargin tho, what with 10 small deck carriers, many permanently forward based they can show up, rattle the saber and calm things down before they get out of hand.

      There is after all only one superpower left on the planet. (even if they can no longer afford it either!)

      1. Steve 151
        Stop

        Sense?

        AC thinks that using tankers to conduct extreme range bombing is more logistically sound than deploying a carrier group...!

        Yeah, whatever...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Steve 151

          "AC thinks that using tankers to conduct extreme range bombing is more logistically sound than deploying a carrier group...!"

          Yes I do. If you have 10 carriers, and they are real carriers that run off nuclear reactors and can launch 50-100 aircraft and have fleet bases in every ocean, then feel free to deploy one of your carrier battle groups.

          When all you have is a stupid little through deck cruiser that can launch realistically 8 aircraft with a crazy small combat radius that barely gets you through national waters to land and back when you are cruising in international waters. Yes I know officially you can squeeze 12 harriers on the stupid little boats we used to call carriers, but you can't operate them for extended periods.

          Ideally you want a forward operating base near to your zone of combat. The Tornado and Eurofighter allow your FOB to be far further away - Italy for example - but carriers with a stupid small combat radius are pretty useless.

          1. Steve 151
            WTF?

            Surely better to have a single underpowered carrier group than none at all?

            With attendant fleet auxiliaries and escorts, they at least project a serious capability.

            You said it yourself that the Black Buck operations were a joke, yet you propose this as our only option. Bizarro logic.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @steve 151

              I've actually come to the conclusion that you haven't got a clue. Your claim is that Harriers are more flexible because they can fly from rough strips and carriers. My point is that in many operations, Afghanistan included, you don't have access to any airstrips early in the campaign that are in the range of a Harrier, and with a range of only 300 miles, a carrier borne Harrier can only reach a tiny part of the landmass of the world, especially when you have to put your carrier in international waters.

              At the start of Afghanistan, we knew that we weren't going to have any operations unless we could get airfields in the southern soviet states on the North side of Afghanistan. Harrier was so completely useless at that point that it wasn't deployed to Afghanistan until 2006 if memory serves. Iraq was similar, until we had finished the war-fighting phases of the war and got control of the airfields, Harrier wasn't used. Libya is another funny example. The country is over 1000 miles wide, you don't have the flexibility to strike targets across most of the country when you have a carrier 100 miles of the coast with an aircraft with a 300 mile combat range. A Tornado or Typhoon in Italy can strike the entire populated part of the country, and much of the interior, without tanker support.

              The Falklands is very interesting. I was posted there twice so I'm pretty familiar with it. The Black Buck missions were a joke. I don't propose them as the only option, firstly because we don't have Vulcans any more, and secondly because our tanker force is more of a joke now than it was then. The military realised after the war that the only hope for protecting the islands was from the islands themselves. We never even had a favourable air situation for much of the combat. Far more important to the denial of the air to the Argentinians were missiles. Sea Wolf and, more importantly, Sea Dart were the main thing that kept the Argentines using low level hit and run tactics against the fleet. Rapier was the only thing that genuinely protected the landings in San Carlos Water. Sea Harriers whilst proving very useful, had tremendously limited ability to fly CAP or combat missions due to their poor range. The realisation that we had been so lucky was one of the key reasons we invested so heavily in MPA. The only way we will ever defend that rock is the Argentines get angry about it again is rapid deployment of strike aircraft to MPA. Tanker supported flights from the UK, or even Ascension, are totally unfeasible. The fact that we have a substantial force there permanently, including QRA aircraft, Type 101 radars, and a lot of troops, makes the likelihood of being caught with our pants down much smaller. The whole principle of defence of the islands is built around the knowledge that we were lucky in 82, and probably wouldn't be lucky if we had to do it all again.

              You seem like a nice armchair theorist, but the fact that you have yet to have any credible response to the problem of range of the Harrier makes me convinced you are nothing more than an armchair theorist. In war, amateurs think tactics, professionals think logistics. Logistics is one of the things that Britain's forces are weakest at. Harrier, whilst being a nice tactical aircraft, is a nightmare to support logistically. Needing to get a forward operating base (either on sea or land) requires control of something close to your target. Once you have the forward operating base, you have to get fuel, munitions and spares into it. Having longer range aircraft like Typhoon and Tornado gives us the flexibility to deploy far away from the combat zone and still do successful strikes. It also makes resupply far easier. I would much prefer to be planning deployment of munitions, avtur, and spares to a military airfield in Italy than a carrier off the coast of Libya, or a rough field on the ground in Libya beyond the remit of the UN Resolutions. I would also prefer to be able to support our troops during the initial war-fighting stage of a conflict like Afghanistan or Iraq, and not have to wait until we control enough ground nearby to deploy Harrier. Rough field deployment of Harrier is truly a nightmare, having to fly all your munitions, avtur and spares in Hercules which is our only heavy lift rough field aircraft is a often unfeasible, especially when you want your limited Hercules fleet to also support forward deployed helicopters and ground troops.

              My final point is that carrier groups only project power as far as the range of their aircraft. The US carriers with F/A 18s on board have a range of over 1000 miles and genuinely project power. Britain's baby carriers with Harriers on board have a range of only 300 miles which can't project power over land very well at all. The rest of the ships are largely irrelevant since they have a range measured far below that, unless they carry Tomahawk missiles. Whilst I think the new Type 45s are supposed to eventually be able to launch Tomahawks, at present our submarines are the only RN vessels equipped with Tomahawk. If you want to project naval power over Libya deploy an Astute class submarine. They at least have a 1500 mile range, we have more of them, and they can defend themselves from attack from land.

              Harrier made a tonne of sense back in the cold war when we expected to be able to deploy them only a short way behind the combat troops in West Germany. These days, when we are unlikely to control anywhere within 300 miles of the combat zone until warfighting is over, they are a waste of time, stick with long range, more flexible aircraft. Of course, if you want my full opinion, I don't think we should have any manned aircraft at all, they should all be replaced with UAVs. I might be the only ex-RAF officer with that view, but I think that is the way forward.

              1. Steve 151
                Meh

                @AC

                OK, you've clearly spent a long time on Wikipedia researching this (your use of TLAs and other jargon has jumped several notches, assuming this is the same anonymous coward as before), so I'll reply as nicely as I can, despite your snarky remarks...

                Your narrow definition of 'flexibility' appears to be 'has longer range' - I'll concede that Tornado and Typhoon both have longer range than the Harrier.

                In terms of the wider definition of operational flexibility, which includes elements of strategic mobility, logistical footprint, maintenance, infrastructure, training, sortie generation, FE@R, response time, interoperability and more - not least of which is value for money - Harrier compares extremely well.

                Specifically addressing the range issue: (which is a strawman argument, but anyway...)

                A Harrier with 4 drop tanks can ferry 3000NM. With 2 drop tanks, its combat radius is probably around 1000NM, with plenty of room left for ordnance.

                The point with carrier groups is that they are mobile, and even pocket carriers with Harriers can support amphibious landings - which is why USMC are buying our unwanted fleet.

                How would you provide CAS to a hypothetical landing in say, Somalia?

                You are thinking like an airman, which you profess to be, so it is no wonder you are wedded to the strategic bombing paradigm, but think of the poor bloody infantry who are relying on you for quick response... Would you rather have a fresh pilot sitting in a fully-fuelled, armed and ready to go Harrier 200 miles away (i.e. <30 mins) or a Typhoon sitting on the pan at Coningsby with a 6 hour ferry between them and you? What about if the intervening countries decide to deny you passage?

                From a capability management perspective, the SDSR has blown gaping holes in our 'portfolio' of capabilities - capabilities that Harrier + Carrier uniquely provided. To argue that we are not more inflexible as a result is simply wrong.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  @ Steve 151

                  My use of TLAs just results from reverting to form as an RAF Engineering Officer for many years. Initially my posts tried to steer clear of them, but then your nit-picking meant I had to be more precise (for example, you complain about talking about Port Stanley instead of MPA where I was posted twice, without touching the core of my arguments).

                  "You are thinking like an airman, which you profess to be, so it is no wonder you are wedded to the strategic bombing paradigm, but think of the poor bloody infantry who are relying on you for quick response... Would you rather have a fresh pilot sitting in a fully-fuelled, armed and ready to go Harrier 200 miles away (i.e. <30 mins) or a Typhoon sitting on the pan at Coningsby with a 6 hour ferry between them and you? What about if the intervening countries decide to deny you passage?"

                  I'm actually thinking realistically. In most recent conflicts until well after the early stages we had no opportunity for forward operating bases within 300 miles of the entire combat zone. This was the case with Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc. Flying missions from the UK is also dumb, and I don't condone that idea in the long run. But all of these conflicts had plenty of places within the combat range of a Tornado or Typhoon. Iraq we flew combat missions out of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as Turkey. Afghanistan we had forward operating bases in the southern Soviet republics. Libya and Bosnia we flew out of Italy.

                  Until you answer the point about the Harrier's appalling combat range, your arguments about your beloved Harrier are just ill thought out and fatuous.

                  1. Steve 151
                    Unhappy

                    Fatuous? Nice one

                    I did specifically address the range issue, in the bit where I said "Specifically addressing the range issue" in my post above.

                    As others have said, the 'on-paper' combat range is a red herring. Your 300 miles figure (I assume from wiki?) is underpinned by a million and one assumptions. In flight refuelling is entirely possible with the Harrier, extending the range indefinitely.

                    Even assuming 300 miles is a hard limit, a carrier sitting over the horizon (say for arguments sake 20 miles) would put the Harrier within range of a hell of a lot of Libya - I suspect 90%+ of the population live within 200 miles of the coast.

                    Your argument about FOBs makes no sense - Harriers can sail all the way to theatre in their own floating FOB...

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Ha ha ha

                      I would like to see you willing to sit in a carrier 20 miles off the coast of a country that has large stocks of anti-ship missiles with a range measured in hundreds of kilometres.

                      I would also like to see how you manage to do in flight refueling on your harriers when your air to air refueling aircraft are based in the UK, and you have no intention of putting tankers near the coast of a country with large numbers of surface to air missiles. We also don't have a lot of tankers either. If you are flying your tankers from the UK, or from somewhere like Italy or Turkey, you might as well transit your combat aircraft with the tankers, especially if your combat aircraft have a much longer combat range and can leave the tankers hundreds of miles away from hostile territory.

                      Feel free to sail your harriers all the way to theatre, then sit them 150-200 miles off the coast because of the Surface to Surface missile threat, and also other threats from suicide bombers in speedboats or from shore based aircraft - remember during the Falklands we kept the carriers far back East of the Falklands primarily because of concerns about the land based fighters. Remember that Libya has Exocet - and remember what they did to us back in 82.

                      Feel free also to look up the combat radius of Harrier in Jane's (which is my source). I've actually been generous with the combat radius since 300nmi is when operating with normal take off and landing from a land base. Stick them on a ship, or operate from an FOB and the combat range is reduced again.

                      "Harriers can sail all the way to theatre in their own floating FOB"

                      Sure - like they did for Afghanistan. When your combat range is 300nmi a large part of the Earth's surface is out of range from ship based Harrier.

                      1. Alien8n
                        Alien

                        Exocet

                        It's a bit unfair to bring Exocet into the argument. The only reason the Exocet was able to do so much damage during the Falklands was the fact that no one had the common sense to reprogram the air defense to recognise the Exocet as a hostile target. This resulted in missiles not being intercepted mid flight as the systems thought they were friendlies. Something my uncle had to see the results of first hand (he was on the Uganda).

                        End of the day, current military engagements are not Harrier friendly, agreed. Makes no sense sending Harriers to Afghanistan. But then that's not why we had them. They made perfect sense in the Falklands, as they were short range multi-purpose aircraft. The whole point was we could get them there quickly and they took off and landed on a dime. They also had combat capability that a regular aircraft doesn't, which was put to good effect against the Argentinians. But even that role was not the reason the Harrier was invented. It was invented to fight in a European theatre, a theatre that disappeared during 1989. The whole point of the Harrier was the ability to create makeshift bases in the middle of German forests, away from the airfields that would inevitably be bombed back to farmland. The real question then is not whether we need Harriers for today's wars, but whether we believe we could need them for a future European war.

                        1. Anonymous Coward
                          Anonymous Coward

                          @Alien8n

                          In general I fully agree with you. Although I still think Exocet is very relevant. Surface to surface and air to surface missiles are the biggest fear of carrier battle groups. The fly in incredibly low, and generally your radar doesn't spot them until they are less than a minute out. Sea Wolf and Sea Dart were definitely pretty capable, but both had computer system problems. The modern day concern though is a swarm of 50-100 (or more) of the things coming into your carrier battle group. Your aircraft might get some, your Type 45 escort ship might get 20-30 of them if it has time to unload all 48 missiles. Then you are reliant on CIWS. CIWS stands a good chance of getting one or two missiles, but are very poor at hitting missiles aimed at a ship other than your own. So if the enemy has got their targeting right and got most of them flying towards the flag ship, it is highly likely that you will have leakers. This is one of the key reasons RN (and USN for that matter) deployments tend to stay well away from the coast, unless they are confident that the surface to surface threat has been dealt with. The latest Exocets have a range of about 100nmi.

  25. Stephen Channell
    Facepalm

    Harriers fail the political test because they are sub-sonic and not particularly stealthy, but that is not an argument for Tornado & Eurofighter, it’s an argument for drones and cruise-missiles. Once you knocked out air-defences (like cruise-missiles did in Libya) the kind of meat-bag airplanes you need are Apache helicopters or Harriers… and the US Marines clearly agree.

    Tornado & Eurofighter must be jolly good fun to fly, and jolly nice to watch at air-shows.. but the only beneficiaries are the thrill seekers and budget airlines (who don’t mind the odd hard-landing from their RAF trained pilots).

  26. Mickey Finn
    Facepalm

    Those Harriers were rubbish….

    … They didn't fit in with the defence needs of the European Union armed forces. :)

  27. JimH
    Happy

    What a great debate ! Lewis always gets em going !

    Sorry guys the bean-counters did sink the Harriers, but the reasons are all about greedy, greedy RAF and Fleet Air Arm hubris.

    When the JSF (F35) was mooted, USMC got talking to RNFAM about a variant with Short Take Off Vertical Landing to replace / enhance Harrier fleets with an invisible, supersonic hover-bird.

    Only Harrier was conceived and operated at the "cheap-end" of the financial spectrum, it's fixed costs were written down (development and manufacture investment), it's future development path was limited (no chance of any Air Vice Marshal or Admiral getting sticky hands on big project budgets to make themselves look important).

    So replacing with F35 B's looked (and was) a massive step-change increase in cost of acquisition and operation/maintenance per unit - the business case was very weak indeed.

    So the smart alec's got together and created the most expensive OPEX business unit either RAF or FAM ever had - Joint Force Harrier - cost was no object as they had to make the current budget so big it would make the step-jump to F35's look relatively sane . . . in happy expectation that the idiotic Labour Party running the Gordon Brown Bingo-Ticket jamboree would cough up whenever F35 arrived.

    Unfortunately F35 is very, very late (amazingly JFH forgot to consider this), and then, in 2008 something happened outside of JFH's Happy-Go-Lucky Mess budget - a whopper of a financial crisis.

    Finally the Mad, One-Eyed Scotch Git was chucked out, after spending all the money on Burgers, and along came some nearer to sane politico's looking to try and save the household.

    Carriers and their planes look a big, big thing, so got some attention, they basically asked JFH whether they could save any OPEX money or not ? What a problem ?

    Say "Yes" and the now even-bigger step-up to their 'Super-Harrier' would look unscaleable, or Say "No" take the chop (maybe lose 2-3 squadrons ?), and be able to go back into the historic accounts for justifying the budget you need for your shiny new toy ?

    So they said "No" - and MoD and UK Cabinet pulled the 100% plug and killed the brilliant cold climate grasshopper for good.

    Would the members of the command elite who had presided over this fraud (because it was fraud and you'd better hope the National Audit Office aren't bored one day and open those reports otherwise it's ball and chain for some of you Commodores, Marshals and Admirals) come clean to save the "old girl" ?

    No chance Greedy Sods, Jam today (nobody was demoted after being promoted into the Virtual World of Joint force Harrier, then having it shot from under them), and more Jam tomorrow with all those shiny new toys - in 2020 at todays rate of success.

    My only hope is some smartarse in the cabinet buys a fleet of drones instead and cancels the whole F35 order. If we are going to buy carriers with Catobars we should buy up 2014-2018 production of F18 SuperHornets ahead of time, that way we'd get something useful to replace all other supersonic types, and use the drones for those interdiction/strike missions we previously expected to use the "Ghost Planes" for. Mind you BAE will probably come up with a non-flying winged Kack costing 90% of an F35 as the drone, coz them American ones are just too reliable.

    If in doubt ? Spend tax-payers money as unwisely as possible - UK Armed Forces Unofficial Motto - the key is to spend big on stuff that doesn't work apparently . . .

  28. Sporkinum

    The Widow Maker

    Here in the US it's known as The Widow Maker, The Scarrier, and the Lawn Dart. That's why I guess spares are needed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: widow maker

      The reason that US forces have problems with the operating an edgy aircraft like the harrier, is selection and training.

      For example the "top gun" course, best of the best, etc., in the UK military is part of the basic training (Tac Weapons at RAF Valley), you have to pass it before you get given a fast jet..If you don't pass, you get put in a role (helo, Nav, tansport pilot) where you are less likely to kill yourself.

      It was noticable that exchange aircrews with the RAF tended to represent a disproprionate number of prangs with our harriers..

    2. Silverburn
      Happy

      AC put it more politely than me...

      ..personally, I call PEBCAK on the septics...

  29. John D Salt

    AC wrote:

    > He keeps making his point about the flexibility of the Harriers being lost, but it isn't really valid > in my view.

    Your view, on the evidence presented, appears not to be based on accurate observation of evidence from the external world.

    > The Harrier has a very short range.

    AV-8B ferry range 1800 n.mi., Typhoon ferry range 2100 n. mi., so there's not a lot in it. At the time of the Falklands war, I believe some of the Harrier ferry flights were record-breakers.

    > Unless you have a forward operating base very close to operations, or a carrier off the coast

    > they are kind of useless.

    You are to be congratulated on your perspicuity. You might also care to observe that the Harrier is able to operate from a wider aviety of bases than any other fixed-wing jet. All other fast movers require a long, flat, vulnerable strip before they can operate from a land base. All aircraft needs bases; Harrier demands less than any other type. To say that this shows a lack of flexibility in the Harrier is a fine display of barking moonbat logic.

    > When we got shut of the beasts we only had a couple of through-deck cruisers to fly them off.

    They became carriers when Kieth Speed was Navy minister, don't you remember?

    > So in response to any worldwide issue we potentially have months to wait getting the carriers > in position. Look how long the task force took to get down to the Falkland's for example.

    Still quicker than the RAF managed without Grey Funnel Lines' assistance, wasn't it? The only other RAF type that contributed attack sorties in the Falklands was one of which three examples had already been sold to museums -- and if the tanker support available had been used to support Harrier ferry flights instead, there would have been another eight Harriers available with the embarked air groups.

    > With only 2 carriers there is a good chance one isn't ready for sea at a given point in time,

    Yup. Real navies need more than 2 carriers.

    > if Libya kicked off and your carrier was in an exercise in the Pacific, the Americans could have

    > finished the whole affair before you got your carrier in position.

    Remind me, how long did the Libya affair last? And how much did it cost the Typhoon force to deliver a slack handful of Storm Shadows?

    > The Harriers don't do long transits very well,

    ...apart from setting records for them in 1982, obviously.

    It's pilots that don't do long transits very well -- and the same appies for long-range combat flights. Much better to park the force as close as possible to the target and fly the hell out of them. Look at the astonishing sortie rate the Harrier force managed in the Falklands.

    > so even assuming you have a nice forward operating base (which we didn't in Libya)

    What, Italy's not a nice forward operating base? I'm sure the hitels the RAF crews stayed in were jolly nice.

    > you probably can't fly them back from a forward deployment easily.

    Why on earth not? Is the air resistance greater flying back than going out? You are just inventing fatuous fake complications to support your silly and unsupportable opinion, aren't you?

    > We don't really have the logistic capability to support a long term naval deployment either.

    We ought to invest in our loggy capabilties too, then.

    > Just think if we had tried to use Harrier from baby carriers in Afghanistan.

    Why would we have done that? It's a silly suggestion. The sensible thing, and what we actually did, was to operate Harrier from land bases. And a study on the order of merit for CAS operations in Afghanistan showed that it was Harrier first, Tornado second, Typhoon third. When the RAF goes to an all-Typhoon fleet, it will have chosen the worst of the possible types to fight the one war we are actually fighting. It would make a fine episode of "Yes, Prime Minster".

    > Forward operating bases for Harriers can be thrown together in many places, but availability > of the Harriers drops considerably when operating from a rough field site.

    And for all other RAF types, it drops to nil. It's not the Harrier that's inflexible.

    > The Tornado might be out of date, but with tanker support you can put it anywhere in the

    > world.

    No you can't. You can't put it at sea, so most of the world's surface is out straight away; and even on the dry bits, it requires long stretches of flat concrete from which to fly. That is a very restricted sort of "anywhere".

    > Same with the Typhoon.

    Yes, same with the Typhoon , although we might one day see it turned into the jet age equivalent of the Seafire and pranging itself in deck landings.

    > It can carry substantially more ordnance as well.

    Which matters why? The current emphasis on PGMs means you are seldom going to need more than a single JDAM. And if weight of ordnance matters, forward basing and a high sortie rate are a better bet than long-range strikes with heavy loads, as, again, the Falklands showed with striking clarity.

    > Also, for good reason, the RAF prefers 2 seat aircraft.

    Traditionally it has been the RN that preferred 2-seat (and 2-engine) aircraft. Harrier isn't a naval aircraft in origin, remember, it first saw service in the RAF -- as did the Hunter, Lightning, Jaguar, and Typhoon, all single-seat types, which suggests that you don;t have that much of a clue what the RAF prefers. Maybe of the RAF hadn't wanted a single-seater for the P.1154 specification, it wouldn't have been cancelled.

    > The reality is, against Lewis' viewpoint, the Tornado/Typhoon package provides the UK

    >military with far more flexibility than something built around Harrier.

    Utter, utter tosh. Tornado is not long for this world in any case, but the only thing they can do where they score heavily over Harrier is air defence. A brief study of the UK's air-to-air actions since 1945 will show how frequently that capability is needed, whereas CAS is needed for the war we are fighting now.

    You did know there was a war on, did you?

    Mind, the USMC operate very well with British forces. I have every expectation that before long we will discoer that USMC Harriers have been flying CAS in support of British troops on the ground when the RAF types in theatre were incapable of doing so.

    All the best,

    John.

    1. Steve 151
      Thumb Up

      Bravo

      I agree entirely with John's masterful fisking

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So many inaccurracies John D Salt

      I'll pick out a few of the more egregious:

      > > The Harrier has a very short range.

      >

      > AV-8B ferry range 1800 n.mi., Typhoon ferry range 2100 n. mi., so there's not a lot in it. At the

      > time of the Falklands war, I believe some of the Harrier ferry flights were record-breakers.

      Ferry range is rather useless for actually fighting. There combat range matters. Combat range of Harrier < 300 nmi, less if operating from rough strips or a carrier. Combat range of Typhoon and Tornado around 900 nmi.

      > You are to be congratulated on your perspicuity. You might also care to observe that the

      > Harrier is able to operate from a wider aviety of bases than any other fixed-wing jet. All other

      > fast movers require a long, flat, vulnerable strip before they can operate from a land base. All

      > aircraft needs bases; Harrier demands less than any other type. To say that this shows a lack

      > of flexibility in the Harrier is a fine display of barking moonbat logic.

      Harrier can operate from anywhere. You can't get its fuel, munitions and spares in anywhere. Last time I worked with the Harriers their fragile engines were lasting about 10 flying hours apiece - that is nightmare of resupply. They have improved that, but the first stage compressor on those birds takes a real beating. Logistics rule modern warfare. You can have the most flexible airframe in the world but it is useless without bombs and fuel. The British military has dreadful logistics capabilities - we rely on the Americans a huge amount. For Afghanistan we kept having to rent Antonovs.

      > Remind me, how long did the Libya affair last? And how much did it cost the Typhoon force to > deliver a slack handful of Storm Shadows?

      A damn site less than a carrier task force would cost.

      > > The Harriers don't do long transits very well,

      > ...apart from setting records for them in 1982, obviously.

      Very funny, 2000 miles is nothing when the world is more like 20000. But what matters is having somewhere to put them. Harriers in Italy can't even reach its target.

      > > so even assuming you have a nice forward operating base (which we didn't in Libya)

      > What, Italy's not a nice forward operating base? I'm sure the hitels the RAF crews stayed in

      > were jolly nice.

      And with a 300 nmi combat range what were we supposed to do from Italy - eat ice cream? Even Tripoli to Sicily is over the combat range of a Harrier.

      > > you probably can't fly them back from a forward deployment easily.

      > Why on earth not? Is the air resistance greater flying back than going out? You are just

      > inventing fatuous fake complications to support your silly and unsupportable opinion, aren't

      > you?

      You do understand the big issue with Harriers is that if you are doing VTOL landing you can't carry a full combat load. Dumping ordnance you have bought back to a VTOL rough field site is rather wasteful don't you think. These are real issues that if you read any of the analysis that went into dumping Harrier you might understand.

      > > We don't really have the logistic capability to support a long term naval deployment either.

      > We ought to invest in our loggy capabilties too, then.

      With whose money? We can't afford the stuff we had - that's why we retired a fleet of aircraft.

      > > Just think if we had tried to use Harrier from baby carriers in Afghanistan.

      > Why would we have done that? It's a silly suggestion. The sensible thing, and what we

      > actually did, was to operate Harrier from land bases. And a study on the order of merit for

      > CAS operations in Afghanistan showed that it was Harrier first, Tornado second, Typhoon

      > third. When the RAF goes to an all-Typhoon fleet, it will have chosen the worst of the possible

      > types to fight the one war we are actually fighting. It would make a fine episode of "Yes, Prime

      > Minster".

      We didn't get Harrier to Afghanistan until 2006 because of security issues. A combat force is rather useless if you can't use it until the warfighting is finished.

      >> Forward operating bases for Harriers can be thrown together in many places, but availability

      >> of the Harriers drops considerably when operating from a rough field site.

      > And for all other RAF types, it drops to nil. It's not the Harrier that's inflexible.

      Please cite your evidence. My many years as an RAF Engineering Office state that your argument is made up. We had supply problems with RB199 after the cuts in the early 90s, availability in recent times is actually pretty good.

      >> The Tornado might be out of date, but with tanker support you can put it anywhere in the

      >> world.

      > No you can't. You can't put it at sea, so most of the world's surface is out straight away; and

      > even on the dry bits, it requires long stretches of flat concrete from which to fly. That is a very

      > restricted sort of "anywhere".

      Ok, who has a navy that we are going to fight? The Americans? Every battle we have fought since the Falklands has been on land. They have also been fought from nice airfields in places like Italy, Saudi Arabia, the southern Soviet Republics, Kuwait, Turkey, etc. etc.

      >> It can carry substantially more ordnance as well.

      > Which matters why? The current emphasis on PGMs means you are seldom going to need

      > more than a single JDAM. And if weight of ordnance matters, forward basing and a high

      > sortie rate are a better bet than long-range strikes with heavy loads, as, again, the Falklands

      > showed with striking clarity.

      Which matters during warfighting. Like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      >> Also, for good reason, the RAF prefers 2 seat aircraft.

      > Traditionally it has been the RN that preferred 2-seat (and 2-engine) aircraft. Harrier isn't a

      > naval aircraft in origin, remember, it first saw service in the RAF -- as did the Hunter,

      > Lightning, Jaguar, and Typhoon, all single-seat types, which suggests that you don;t have that

      > much of a clue what the RAF prefers. Maybe of the RAF hadn't wanted a single-seater for the

      > P.1154 specification, it wouldn't have been cancelled.

      That was true in the past. In recent years we discovered that 2 seaters give the crew much better situational awareness. The back seat ballast has a lot of uses.

      >> The reality is, against Lewis' viewpoint, the Tornado/Typhoon package provides the UK

      >>military with far more flexibility than something built around Harrier.

      > Utter, utter tosh. Tornado is not long for this world in any case, but the only thing they can do

      > where they score heavily over Harrier is air defence. A brief study of the UK's air-to-air actions

      > since 1945 will show how frequently that capability is needed, whereas CAS is needed for

      > the war we are fighting now.

      Tornado is long for this world, at least in the ground attack role. We've just finished upgrading them all to GR4. We are expected to keep them in service until 2025. You let on your horrible lack of knowledge when you claim that the only thing they score heavily over Harrier on is air defence. The Tornado F3 was always a weak air defence airframe. It became marginally better with things like JTIDS, but it is still weak. With equivalent missiles fitted, I would take a Harrier over an F3 any day of the week. The Ground Attack variant though has been used in every war we have fought after the Falklands. It is a very capable aircraft. The Typhoon was designed to replace the F3, and has been converted to do ground attack missions as well.

      1. John D Salt

        > Ferry range is rather useless for actually fighting.

        But there is no “inaccuracy” in the figures I quoted. You do know that your moving the goalposts doesn't indicate any innaccuracy on my part, don't you?

        > There combat range matters. Combat range of Harrier < 300 nmi, less if operating from > rough strips or a carrier. Combat range of Typhoon and Tornado around 900 nmi.

        I'd like to know your sources for those figures – even though combat radiius is an infinitely-fungible figure, depending on profile and payload, I doubt that Typhoon can go better than three times as far as Harrier.

        Besides, the point I was trying to make, which I think is obvious to most people, but you seem peculiarly determined not to understand, is that Harriers can typically be based closer to the target than types dependent on long, flat runways.

        And, as you have already pointed out yourself, there's always IFR – although for some reason you didn't seem to think this applied to Harriers.

        > Harrier can operate from anywhere. You can't get its fuel, munitions and spares in anywhere.

        The proviso about getting the other stuff there applies as much, if not more, to the other types, though.So as well as failing to show any “inaccuracy” in my part, you still have not shown how Harrier is less flexible than other types.

        > Last time I worked with the Harriers their fragile engines were lasting about 10 flying hours

        If you were only getting ten hours before replacing them, either it was a very, very long time ago, or Pegasus has got worse since I last processed bunches of dodgy work-ticket data from Swanton Morley.

        > Logistics rule modern warfare. You can have the most flexible airframe in the world but it is

        > useless without bombs and fuel. The British military has dreadful logistics capabilities

        No surprise, Sherlock. And this tells us what? That we need to invest in better logistics, definitively drop the idiocy of “just-in-time logistics”, or that we need to scrap our most capable CAS aircraft? For some reason I cannot see the shiny (relatively) new Typhoon getting fantastically better availability rates than Harrier.

        >> how much did it cost the Typhoon force to > deliver a slack handful of Storm Shadows?

        > A damn site less than a carrier task force would cost.

        Do you work for BAE? The Storm Shadow strikes against Libya were an embarrassing piece of operationally pointless showboating for BAE products, and at least a carrier task force has some uses beyond advertising.

        >> ...apart from setting records for them in 1982, obviously.

        Very funny,

        Your amusement makes it no less of a fact, though, and still doesn't indicate any “inaccuracy” on my part. You do remember that you were going to pick up some of my “more egregious” inaccuracies, don;t you? Feel free to start any time you like.

        > Harriers in Italy can't even reach its target.

        Yes, that's why you fly them off a carrier. Can you remember that we discussed carriers before? You know, those things you can't fly a Tornado from, which according to your line of thinking apparently makes the Tornado “more flexible”?

        According to a House of Lords answer I'm too lazy to Google for again, Harrioer flying hours cost slightly more than Tornado, but Typhoon costs about twice as much. Not to mention the fact that your favoured approach of absurdly long-range flights means many more hours per sortie.

        > And with a 300 nmi combat range what were we supposed to do from Italy - eat ice cream?

        OK, I see you still haven't mastered the concept of having aircraft carriers, dare I mention IFR again?

        >You do understand the big issue with Harriers is that if you are doing VTOL landing you can't

        > carry a full combat load.

        If you're doing VTOL landing. So this limitation only applies in cases where other aircraft, which cannot do VTOL landing, cannot operate. See how your claim that other types are “more flexible” than Harrier continues to be utterly starved of any shred of evidence?

        And I'd still like an explanation of your, yes, egregious claim that flying things back from a forward deployment is more difficult than flying them in any other direction.

        > These are real issues that if you read any of the analysis that went into dumping Harrier you

        > might understand.

        If this “analysis” shows the kind of faulty reasoning, disregard of facts and utter lack of critical thinkling that you have demonstrated in this thread, it's probably just as well for my blood pressure that I haven't seen it. I am all too familiar with the dismal quality of much defence decision-making – not that there aren't still some pretty good analysys left, but the decision-makers always contrive to ignore them and listen instead to the shiny-bottomed apparatchiki who know what the boss wants to hear. It is hardly a secret that on grounds of operational effectiveness the project that should have been cancelled was Typhoon, a massively late and overpriced white elephant even by the piss-poor standards of British defence procurement. Politically, of course, that would have been an impossibly “courageous” decision, for it would have made it embarrassingly clear that there is very little justification for keeping the RAF as a separate service. Consequently, Lord Wossname has to come up with spurious reasons for keeping on the GR4 instead of the Harrier, like having a larger fleet (how many squadrons are you ever going to operate at one?), and being able to operate other pointless but shiny BAE weapons like Storm Shadow and Brimstone. Think of the fun BAE must have had looking at which constituencies to threaten massive redundancies if they didn't get paid for all the shinies.

        I think I trust the USMC analysis rather more.

        >> We ought to invest in our loggy capabilties too, then.

        > With whose money? We can't afford the stuff we had - that's why we retired a fleet of aircraft.

        Yeah – the wrong fleet.

        Personally I'd be happy to take money from lots of sources to fund defence adequately, starting with but not limited to the “performance” bonuses of badly-perfroming bankers. It might also be a good idea to stop pissing taxpayers' money away on PFI boondoggles with bandits like Serco. Don't try to pretend there isn't plenty of money – we're a rich country, and we very comfortably afforded a much greater level of defence expenditure when we were less rich than we are now.

        > We didn't get Harrier to Afghanistan until 2006 because of security issues.

        Again, I remind you of your promise to point out inaccuracies on my part. Harrier not only went to Afghanistan and flew from land bases, it did so years before Tornado did. This does not make the Harrier “less flexible”, does it?

        >>> Forward operating bases for Harriers can be thrown together in many places, but availability

        >>> of the Harriers drops considerably when operating from a rough field site.

        >> And for all other RAF types, it drops to nil. It's not the Harrier that's inflexible.

        > Please cite your evidence. My many years as an RAF Engineering Office state that your

        > argument is made up.

        OK, tell me when you operated Tornados from a rough field. That's a *rough* field.

        > Ok, who has a navy that we are going to fight?

        Most countries with coastlines have a navy of some kind. But even if we could somehow arrange to fight only navy-free opponents, what on earth makes you think that carrier air cannot be used against land targets?

        > Every battle we have fought since the Falklands has been on land.

        And, as we're an island, every expeditionary force we send has to cross the sea. So what's your point?

        >> high sortie rate are a better bet than long-range strikes with heavy loads, as, again,

        >> the Falklands showed with striking clarity.

        > Which matters during warfighting. Like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

        With Harriers doing their but in both places – in Aghanistan, for a couple of years before the other types pitched up to join in. So in terms of putting steel on the target, I'm failing to see how you have demonstrated any material inferiority on the part of Harrier.

        >> Traditionally it has been the RN that preferred 2-seat (and 2-engine) aircraft.

        > That was true in the past. In recent years we discovered that 2 seaters give the crew much better situational awareness.

        How many seats in a Typhoon? Count carefully, let me know when you're finished. And then don't forget that you still have to find an “inaccuracy” to point out.

        > Tornado is long for this world, at least in the ground attack role.

        > [Snips] We are expected to keep them in service until 2025.

        Really? Source, please. A House of Lords debate just after the SDSR seems to indicate 2021 as the out-of-service date, and the fleet will be run down over that time.

        > You let on your horrible lack of knowledge when you claim that the only thing they score

        > heavily over Harrier on is air defence. The Tornado F3 was always a weak air defence

        > airframe. It became marginally better with things like JTIDS, but it is still weak. With

        > equivalent missiles fitted, I would take a Harrier over an F3 any day of the week.

        Really? Personally, I reckon the F3 was probably the best thing going for the specific task of bogging around somwhere north of Saxa Vord chivvying Bears out of our airspace. Still, I would love you to explain how you imagine a Harrier is going to fulfil the AD role without having a radar.

        > The Ground Attack variant though has been used in every war we have fought after the

        > Falklands.

        In a similar spirit, I would like you to list the Tornado squadrons that operated in Sierra Leone.

        Oh, and if you could let me know about those “inaccuracies” you claimed you were going to correct...

        All the best,

        John.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @John D Salt

          Again, I'll just point out the most egregious of your errors:

          "But there is no “inaccuracy” in the figures I quoted. You do know that your moving the goalposts doesn't indicate any innaccuracy on my part, don't you?"

          No, I've made the point about ferry distance and combat radius. You don't get to avoid the deficiencies of the Harrier just by obfuscating them. The combat radius sucks.

          "I'd like to know your sources for those figures – even though combat radiius is an infinitely-fungible figure, depending on profile and payload, I doubt that Typhoon can go better than three times as far as Harrier."

          My sources are Janes, and over a decade's front line RAF experience working with fast jets including Harrier, Jaguar and Tornado. If you don't own a copy I suggest wikipedia which has remarkably similar figures.

          "If you're doing VTOL landing. So this limitation only applies in cases where other aircraft, which cannot do VTOL landing, cannot operate. See how your claim that other types are “more flexible” than Harrier continues to be utterly starved of any shred of evidence?

          And I'd still like an explanation of your, yes, egregious claim that flying things back from a forward deployment is more difficult than flying them in any other direction."

          And you keep making the point that the best part of Harrier is its rough field and carrier capabilities - both of which almost always require VTOL landings. If you are putting it at an airfield, there is a good chance that you are not within 300nmi of your war-zone.

          "Again, I remind you of your promise to point out inaccuracies on my part. Harrier not only went to Afghanistan and flew from land bases, it did so years before Tornado did. This does not make the Harrier “less flexible”, does it?"

          Tornado did not need land bases to fly missions over Afghanistan due to its vastly superior range.

          "And, as we're an island, every expeditionary force we send has to cross the sea. So what's your point?"

          Who has a Navy to shoot at us whilst we are at sea. Even with the Falklands we were safe until within land range of the Argentines. If we were up against a worthwhile hostile navy, Astute would do a far better job of dealing with them than a baby carrier with minimal ship killing capabilities.

          "How many seats in a Typhoon? Count carefully, let me know when you're finished. And then don't forget that you still have to find an “inaccuracy” to point out."

          The RAF has prefered 2 seat aircraft because of the increased situational awareness. Technology in Typhoon has helped to deal with that considerably. The avionics fit of Typhoon is an order of magnitude better than the avionics fit in a Harrier.

          "Really? Personally, I reckon the F3 was probably the best thing going for the specific task of bogging around somwhere north of Saxa Vord chivvying Bears out of our airspace. Still, I would love you to explain how you imagine a Harrier is going to fulfil the AD role without having a radar."

          My original statement said with equivalent missiles I would take Harrier over the F3. The advantage the F3 has is primarily that JTIDS is awesome. For ground attack I would take combat range over rough field capabilities in the modern era any day of the week.

          "Most countries with coastlines have a navy of some kind. But even if we could somehow arrange to fight only navy-free opponents, what on earth makes you think that carrier air cannot be used against land targets?"

          It is difficult to use Harrier for land targets when your range is a puny 300nmi. Loitre time over the Falklands was only a few minutes due to the dreadful range.

          "OK, tell me when you operated Tornados from a rough field. That's a *rough* field."

          I would love you to provide a reference to the last combat operation that UK Harrier flew from a rough field. It generally doesn't for logistics and range reasons. We exercised rough field capabilities during the cold war, but to the limit of my knowledge we haven't done rough field for combat operations ever. Logistically it is a nightmare.

          "OK, I see you still haven't mastered the concept of having aircraft carriers, dare I mention IFR again?"

          We have no in-flight refueling capabilities on our carriers. We have limited capability in general. For Harrier on an aircraft carrier you need to have your carrier very close to an enemy coast, and are still very limited by the dreadful combat range of Harrier. IFR of an aircraft with a poor combat range means putting your tankers, of which we have a limited supply, far too close to an enemy that might have ground to air or air to air assets for you to worry about.

          Carriers can be excellent when they have a huge combat radius like the American ones. And I think our new carriers will actually be an excellent asset - something I would quite happily pension off Tornado to get - but the baby carriers with the poor combat range Harrier just aren't flexible enough. If you can explain to me how Harrier can get to all targets that we bombed in our most recent wars I'll start taking you seriously.

          1. Steve 151
            Trollface

            OK, AC, I just think you're trolling now.

            You aren't grasping anything that people are saying to you, and you are using every logical fallacy in the book to make it look like you have a valid point of view.

            You appear in fact to be arguing that 10 - 1 = 11.

            (With less options we have become more flexible.)

            OK, fine. But everyone else thinks its 9.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Steve 151 - failing to answer any points raised

              Call it trolling, I just think you have given up because you can't answer any of the points, and you don't want the Navy to lose fixed wing even if it isn't the best option for the money the UK currently spends on defence.

              My argument: Harrier sucks because it has a dreadful combat range.

              Your defence: Use IFR which is be based in the UK, and is in really limited supply. Or move your ship really close to the coast, like not even the US do because of anti-ship missiles like Exocet. Or use FOBs which need to be in or close to the combat zone.

              Personally, even though I spent a long time as an RAF Engineering Officer, I would like to see us get rid of manned fast jet aircraft completely and go fully UAV. The great thing with UAVs is that they can have a huge combat radius and they tend to use really short take off runs so you could probably operate them from cheap carriers in the hundreds.

              Regarding throwing our Harrier, if we could have afforded it, I would have liked to see us keep all our fast jets - including Harrier. In current funding climates though, I think fast jets are a distant third priority for funding behind increased logistics capabilities and more helicopters. When we had to get rid of a set of fast jets, Harrier made sense because of their limited combat range, and because you are also spending a lot keeping the baby carriers running as well.

              1. Steve 151
                Facepalm

                I'm saying that a Harrier, being STOVL, is more flexible than Tornado or Typhoon, those being CTOL. Like a swiss army knife is more flexible than a machete.

                The UK armed forces, having lost the Harrier, are now less flexible than they were.

                That's all. Am I wrong?

                And to be fair, at least I've tried to answer your arguments, even though they are mostly besides the point. You've stonewalled and plucked out strawmen in response.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  @Steve 151

                  And I've argued that having a tiny combat range makes Harrier less flexible than Tornado or Typhoon. A limitation which I've also argued STOVL doesn't help.

                  I'll repeat those arguments which you have yet to answer:

                  STOVL means you can fly off small ships, but with a 300 nmi combat range that either means flying tankers from the UK, or going into surface to surface missile range of countries. It also puts you out of range of most of the land-mass - including countries like Afghanistan.

                  STOVL also means you can fly from rough strips, something that the UK armed forces haven't done since cold war days when we used to practice doing so in Germany. The reason we haven't done them is simple - it is a nightmare logistically to deliver weapons, fuel and spares into a rough field site, especially when you have a limited logistics capability like the UK armed forces. You are also still limited by your combat range, meaning the ground forces often have to take and hold a rough field site before getting air-support.

                  You repeatedly mention tankers whilst not dealing with the fact that tankers can't fly from rough-fields or UK baby carriers. In fact, the UK armed forces are even reluctant to forward deploy tankers beyond the UK because we have so few of them.

                  The UK armed forces have become less flexible without Harrier, but we would have become even less flexible taking out Tornado or Typhoon.

                  All these arguments I've made before, and none of them you have attempted to respond to.

                  Your analogy between a swiss army knife and a machete is good, since a swiss army knife might be great to open a cabernet sauvignon or a bottle of beer, but is useless to fight battles with. The Harrier looks pretty at airshows, but is not as useful in modern combat as a Tornado or Typhoon.

                  1. Steve 151
                    Happy

                    Well, let's just agree to disagree.

                    The fact that USMC are buying ours suggests that they are better than you think. But whatever... Life's too short.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Nothing of the sort

                      The fact that the USMC are buying them are simply that they already have real carriers in the USN, the USMC already have a very capable fixed wing force. If you have huge reserves of money, flying lots of different aircraft capabilities does increase your flexibility. As I've said before, I would have loved for the RN and RAF not to have to get rid of Harrier and the Baby carriers. Unfortunately, when you have very limited money to spend, you get rid of the thing that adds least to your capability. And on this the cabinet office and I agree - Harrier was the right thing to get rid of.

                      1. Steve 151

                        OK, well what about the points in this article? Is this guy wrong?

                        http://www.channel4.com/news/libya-axed-harriers-could-have-saved-lives

                        1. Anonymous Coward
                          Anonymous Coward

                          The Commodore and the AC agree on one thing...

                          "You just can't do it. You can't manage a combat air patrol from that distance. We struggled in the Falklands when we were 150 miles off the coast."

                          Well, the third sentence at least. And you and the Commodore agree on the first two sentences.

  30. LDS Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Comparing Tornado and Harrier is stupid

    They are two very different planes, aimed at very different taks. Anyway something written there is wrong, the Tornado flies very well at high altitudes, although it was designed also to allow for supersonic low altitude penetration when it was needed to try to pierce the USSR air defense. Because it has afterburners the Harrier lacks, I guess it reaches its takeoff speed fast enough, alhough it is far heavier due to its payload.

    Probably the Harrier may have more issues to lift off at higher airports, where air is tinner.

    The Marines always used the Harrier as a CAS aircraft able to fly from their amphibious assault ships and forward camps, not as a fighter/bomber. For that roles they always had F-4s, A-6s and now F-18s, which were and are far more capable aircrafts. And they are the only users in the US services. Nor the Navy uses the Harrier, nor the Air Force changed its F-16s or F-15Es (which are comparable to the Tornado). Israeli Air Force was never interested in it, because it would not be the right plane for their needs - due to range, speed, payload.

    As a bomber the Tornado is a far more capable platform, although larger and more expensive. The Harrier has the advantage of being able to fly from smaller airfields and ships.

    The choice of plane depends on your strategic and tactical needs. Anyway, with more and more countries being able to buy tle latest versions of MiG-29 and Su-30, I wouldn't like to face them in a Harrier. You would not be fast enough to fly away.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, "Widowmaker"...

    I always thought that was the nickname of the lovely looking F-104 Lockheed "Starfighter"... back in the day it was said the quickest way to aquire one was to buy a plot of land in (W) Germany...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      F104G

      "G for Germany.... and Gott Strafe England"

      1. Artimus Sedgwicke
        Facepalm

        F104G

        Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters.

        IIRC it became "The Widowmaker" after "G" modifications had an adverse effect on the C of G.

  32. airbrush
    Thumb Up

    Its quite funny listening to people try and claim either lot are good at defence spending, from rifles to radios to jets its been woeful. We're years ahead of anyone so why we have to keep 'innovating' is beyond me.

  33. FrankAlphaXII

    To the UK Government....

    Thank you! You saved us a large bit of cash for planes we'll actually use. You can have them back for five times as much when you realize you actually do need them.

    Signed,

    Satisfied American Taxpayer

  34. A System Admin In a World He Did Not Make
    Thumb Up

    Thanks MoD

    Dear MoD,

    Your loss, our gain. It's appreciated.

    r/s

    USMC

  35. ideapete

    Marines will always

    Buy anything to get a good jump "Semper Fi "

  36. Hairy Airey
    Stop

    Correction on the landing

    The Harrier doesn't land using it's jets, it drops the last few feet. Still one amazing piece of engineering though why haven't we come up with anything better?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Because...

      Because the US have flight decks large enough to handle F-14s (although they now just launch less powerful F-18). STOVL aircraft requires a lot of compromises, it may be better to build a larger carrier and use conventional aircrafts.

      The Harrier is surely an amazing piece of engineering, but in combat against planes with far less compromises that's pretty useless...

      The Yak-41/141 was an attempt to deliver a supersonic STOVL, but didn't enter full scale production (only prototypes flew). The F-35B is another, and is having is good slice of issue to resolve.

  37. The Other Otter

    If MoD, RAF, RN were to become 'desperate' –

    - there's always Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc.

    Alternatively, UK could sic their most powerful force upon the world and sue the belligerents. I am sure a few well aimed lawsuits would postpone a war for years.

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