back to article Cameron 'to change his mind' on the one thing he got right in Defence

The Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010 was, overall, a total cockup: but there was one major decision in it which made good sense for British servicemen and taxpayers. It now seems more and more likely that Prime Minister David Cameron, prompted by arms mammoth BAE Systems and by the RAF, intends to reverse that move …


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  1. Mike Richards Silver badge


    You'd have thought BAE's highly trained commando accountants would have been able to work out how to offset any losses on the jump-jet fighter contract by ridiculously overcharging on their contract for constructing the carriers themselves.

    1. IronTed

      Re: BAE

      Dude, this article really cracked me up when I read this:

      "All naval catapults then in service required supplies of high-power steam to operate: in today's French and US carriers this steam is produced by the ships' nuclear propulsion, but Britain decided it could not afford a nuclear carrier. Thus the British ships are to have gas-turbine engines, which cannot produce steam. Therefore they could not have catapults. "

      ... LMFAO!

      1. MondoMan

        Re: IronTed

        Strange but true. Apparently, no one has yet installed a combined-cycle gas/steam turbine setup on a naval vessel. Traditional gas turbines do not produce significant steam.

      2. Ray Foulkes

        Re: BAE

        IronTed - no steam produced by gas turbines? Do no naval types read this? Try looking up county class destroyers and their propulsion. Had V short sea time on HMS Devonshire many years ago. Propulsion type is COSAG. Checked only with Wikipedia to ensure it is not senility leading me astray.

        NOT, a may add, that I am proposing returning to the 70's - hot and steamy were those machinery spaces....

    2. Levente Szileszky

      Re: BAE

      "highly trained commando accountants"

      For the sake of everyone coming into contact with them I genuinely hope that these highly trained accountants who are going commando are all 25-40 females...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Army Air Corps hasn't transported any large numbers of troops since the last Big One, and even then they were pulled along by the RAF.

    The aircraft they did operate were small ones for battlefield operations.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This has to be a first

    I. I.... I can't believe it.

    For once I actually agree with Lewis on some points.

    I'm not so sure about the eurofighter bashing, but in terms of getting a carrier which could deal with loaned aircraft, so we can get a real Navy back in before 2020, seems like a sensible idea.

    Ditching the catapults and going for VTOL only carriers would be bonkers.

    FWIW, I thought the reason we didn't go nuclear, is that GB signed up to something that said we wouldn't have nuclear powered surface fleet. Something to do with hippies or the like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This has to be a first

      I think we didn't go nuclear because we still haven't ever decommissioned a nuclear reactor. So it would be stupid to keep building reactors we are unable to manage.

      Despite the protests of the Nuclear lobby the plan for dealing with old nuclear material still involves digging a hole and filling it with concrete.

      It would also seem slightly hypocritical to plough ahead with nuclear powered vessels while at the same accusing anyone who evens looks at nuclear power of being terrorists.

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: This has to be a first

        > "I think we didn't go nuclear because we still haven't ever decommissioned a nuclear reactor."

        I presume you mean because part of decommissioning nuclear reactors

        involves leaving them empty for a few decades....

        > "So it would be stupid to keep building reactors we are unable to manage."

        We're perfectly able to manage them, the ones that are being decommissioned are

        empty of fuel and simply waiting for radioactive decay to do its thing.

        In that state they are no threat, countless tsunamis could wash over them harmlessly.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: This has to be a first

        Er, the RN has already decommissioned a few nuclear powered subs by simply chopping out the section of the sub containing the reactor, towing it out to sea, and sinking it somewhere deep.

        If you pick the right spot to sink them* it's actually quite a sensible way of dealing with the problem.

        Although now I read up, I find that they're not allowed to do that any more, honestly, who could possibly have a problem with littering the sea bed with old reactors? (/sarcasm)

        *ideally next to a subduction zone so all the material is taken back into the earth's crust.

  4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    "...fired British employees continually for the last 20 years..."

    Ain't it the truth!

    Worked there for 10 years, must have endured at least 5 rounds of redundancies in that time before finally taking the money and running. It's very difficult to live with that amount of uncertainty for any length of time - many didn't wait for the next round of redundancies before jumping ship.

  5. AbortRetryFail

    Putting the boot in

    On the whole a good article, only let down by the fact that Lewis just couldn't resist grinding his axe about the Eurofighter again and getting in a few customary digs against the RAF.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Putting the boot in

      Lewis is as bad as any other biased member of the service, to him, anything in the RAF is 'crappy'. (Personaly I think the Royal Navy is a an obsolete waste of space, best replaced by airpower).

      I am still in two minds about the best choice to make between the F-35 C or B. The B model has a a lot of advantages when it comes to flexibility for land and sea usage, it may come to pass that the C is an obsolete concept and it looks that the B model will be come the preferred option for MANY countries air-forces. The B has advantage of being able to be used in any seas state and having the ability to land on any deck, including one blocked for conventional use by accident or war damage and it can use short land based strip (maybe useful in a Falklands war). The UK could also use both carriers, big advantage

      The disadvantages AWACS and range


      The latest version of the Helicopter AWAC, assuming its in Merlin helicopter can fly high enough and long enough to provide a comparable sevice to the Hawkeye, maybe it will only have a range to horizon of 150miles v 200miles of the Hawkeye and an endurance of 5hours versus 6 for the E2.


      The F35B range is limited, the solution is air tankers. If the UK is going to operate near Europe, the new Voyageur tanker fleet will eradicate this problem. And V-22 carrier born tankers could help for further afield, possibly flown from the refueling ships just ordered from Korea.

      1. Wibble

        B or C, that is the question

        If one's allowed to think logically, if we fit the ships out with a catapult then they can take both types of planes; the cheaper Carrier version and the more expensive VTOL B version. Not to mention all the other types of carrier landing planes and helicopters.

        If they don't fit a catapult then they're condemned to forever using the more complex and under-performing VTOL B version. And helicopters.

        A no brainer. We don't need no steenkiin katapult. Can I have my nice job at BaE now?

      2. Dave Bell

        Re: Putting the boot in

        That sounds a little bit too much like something one might make work in a game of "Harpoon", and possibly requiring loaded dice.

        If you can execute the mission with support from land-based tankers, you don't really need carriers.

      3. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Putting the boot in

        you mean land on any HARDENED deck. It wont be landing on just any deck. Even the venerable harrier had to be careful where it VTOL'd

      4. LPF
        Thumb Down

        Re: Putting the boot in

        I'm sorry is this a wind up ??? The B Model IS NOT The preferred option of most countries and will never by, especially at $155Million a piece are you on crack or something ? Its a white4 elephant even before it enters service!

        The Merlin AWACS is in no way comparable to a Hawkeye in either range, speed or endurance, I suggest you actually :

        Merlin Performance :

        Never exceed speed: 309 km/h (167 knots, 192 mph)

        Cruise speed: 278 km/h (150 knots, 278 km/h)

        Range: 1,389 km (750 nmi,[136] 863 mi)

        Endurance: 5 hours

        Service ceiling: 4,575 m (15,000 ft)

        E-2 Hawkeye Performance :

        Maximum speed: 350 knots (648 km/h)

        Cruise speed: 256 knots (474 km/h)

        Ferry range: 1,462 nmi (2,708 km)

        Endurance: 6 hr

        Service ceiling: 34,700 ft (10,576 m)

        And as for relying on land base tankers to support your sea borne aircraft, Jesus words fail me, I suppose your expecting an airbase to always be near for them to operate from??

        I suggest you refrain from commentating on a subject you obviously know nothing about!.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Putting the boot in

          The UK's Merlins have extended range tanks installed, so they probably out-endure the Hawkeye. The speed irrelevant. Maximum altitude is an issue, but the range difference is not as bad - you can still see out to 150miles or so at max altitude. Probably good enough. The V22 AWACs is an option, better than a 50 year old design in some ways.

          "And as for relying on land base tankers to support your sea borne aircraft, Jesus words fail me, I suppose your expecting an airbase to always be near for them to operate from??"

          Near, as in the 14000km range of the Voyagers.

          I'd prefer the F-35C, but if that not possible, there are acceptable options.

          1. LPF

            Re: Putting the boot in

            Are you still going ?? The Hawyeyes can be refuelled normally, have a larger crew and can carry a more powerful radar.

            Endurance again are you kidding, seriously look at the figures! DO you work for BAE or something?

            as for the Voyagers, yeah 14,000 KM but they have to be where the fighters can reach them, to refuel, which means that they will also be near the targets, which is why the US navy has its own tankers and fighters carry buddy stores.

            Altiude means you can look over the horizon, which means you have more time to see your attackers, spped means that you have greater chance of getting away to safety if attackers get to close!

            Apart from the RAF heard of any other country using AWACS choppers, and the Osprey has enough trouble as it is without trying to put radar next to to massive titling damn proppellers!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Putting the boot in

              "Are you still going ??"

              Looks like the decision has been made.

              Of course its not ideal, but there is major advantages for the B model. Always being able to recover your aircraft, not matter what, the C model needs to retain more emergency fuel in case the deck is closed.

              UK has bases all over the place and 14K km is a hell of a long way.

              Altitude matters, but the difference once you get over a certain height is a diminishing return.


              You aren't going to escape anywhere, you have to respond to the attack, 5minutes or 7minutes warning at 3000mph, still enough time to fire the missiles.

              Loads of countries have helicopter AWACS and are looking at it. Still, the V-22 isn't a helicopter but the UK radar will roll in a Merlin or Osprey once its setup, its on wheels. The radar hangs down below the props, btw and doesn't have the aircraft body blocking it like the E2


              1. LPF

                Re: Putting the boot in

                Are you still going ?

                The E3 sentry has a radome on top of the plane, Thats the best airborne early warning platform in service, It gets blocked by the body ??? seriously thats was an argument!

                Name one other country that uses helicopter AEW , there are not lots, there are 4 in total, and the only think they have in common is that their carriers are too small to launch proper Haqwyeye type aircraft.

                The choppers can fly as fast, as high, handle as many targets as the aircraft , due to their small size , its FACT

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Putting the boot in

          "The B Model IS NOT The preferred option of most countries and will never by, especially at $155Million a piece are you on crack or something ? Its a white4 elephant even before it enters service!"

          The B model is being looked at for a lot of countries, whereas the C is likely to be operated only by the USA,

          For the UK, the ability to tanker the B model would overcome it limitations. So I can see a lot of flexibility with V-22's that can switch between refueling/AWAC's/other modes flying from both carriers in combination with F-35B's. Then the only limitation is the smaller internal bomb load for stealth, but thats bolxs anyway.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Putting the boot in

          I seriously doubt a Merlin could sustain 15,000ft for its reported 5 hours Endurance.

          The unfortunate thing about rotary wing aircraft is that the higher you go the more juice it needs flapping those blades around in thinner air. a fixed wing aircraft only needs to maintain forward momentum to keep height which is a lot easier to do in a plane.

          I don't have the numbers but as I said, I seriously doubt it could stay up high for long.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Putting the boot in

            Well here's hoping for a V22 alternative.

            The F35B choice is official, the F-35c could never use the CdG anyway -its far too heavy - so the whole idea was a nonstarter for the most basic of reasons.

            UK ministers are idiots.

      5. xperroni

        Re: Putting the boot in

        > Lewis is as bad as any other biased member of the service, to him, anything in the RAF is

        > 'crappy'. (Personaly I think the Royal Navy is a an obsolete waste of space, best replaced by

        > airpower).

        I've been reading Lewis' posts for a while, and for me his vision of effective armed forces seems to be something like this:

        - Sod battleships, carriers is the way to go;

        - Sod expensive "next-generation" aircraft, F18's and the like can perfectly do for the foreseeable future;

        - Sod tanks, between helicopters and ground-attack planes they're pretty much redundant;

        - Trident is king – nothing beats the prospect of submarine-launched nuclear death raining down on an aggressor.

        I believe there's plenty in there to piss off everyone, regardless of service. In fact at times I wonder if he served at all – his ruthlessly objective, task-oriented view of the armed forces makes him sound more like an engineer than a serviceman.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Putting the boot in @xperroni

          "... makes him sound more like an engineer than a serviceman."

          Hmm. As opposed to all the armchair warriors here who know better? Oh, it is to laugh ...

          1. The First Dave

            Re: Putting the boot in @xperroni

            Pretty sure I'm not the only one here who has a service background.

            To be honest, I couldn't really follow Lewis' arguments - the British-built Tornado is crap because it is old, so buy an F18 Tomcat instead?

            Don't buy British kit because it is crap, but do buy from British manufacturers to save the economy...

            1. xperroni

              Re: Putting the boot in @xperroni

              > To be honest, I couldn't really follow Lewis' arguments - the British-built

              > Tornado is crap because it is old, so buy an F18 Tomcat instead?

              From Lewis' comment on the defense review:

              (...) Nor are they [the Tornado] appropriate for Afghanistan - an 8-figure Tornado is no more use than a Reaper unmanned roboplane which costs an order of magnitude less. (...) The Tornado was built for the Cold War mission of punching into heavy Soviet air defences in a (probably doomed) bid to knock out air bases or critical supply routes far behind enemy lines: it is insanely over-spec'd for what it is doing now in Afghanistan.

              So his problem with the Tornado is not that it's old, or British, but rather that it's needlessly expensive for the kind of missions there are to fly today. There are alternatives (he argues) that could accomplish them just as well, and for a fraction of the cost.

        2. cphi

          Re: Putting the boot in

          Funny that -

          "Cambridge University (Engineering degree 1988-91, St John's College)"

  6. PlacidCasual

    What a disaster?

    Keep the catapults and forget the F-35C's. Lewis is often accused of Brit bashing but on the fundemental point surely buying VTOL fighters is a massive mistake. We would be much better off with cheap fighters and catapults than useless F-35B's and ramps.

    I don't understand the politics of all this but at every turn in the procurement of these carriers short term political considerations have stumped what seem to be good hard nosed technical ones. First the decision to forgo nuclear propulsion despite the fact we have a company that specialises in it for our own subs. Then the decision to go VTOL and limit ourselves to planes with crippled range and load capacities. Added to which we now can't use conventional AWACs or delivery planes for our carriers but must come up with ridiculous alternatives.

    British politicains have lost the plot and their back bones. This is a tragic misallocation of funds to buy crappy products.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a disaster?

      BAE/vickers merely makes the reactors in license from GE. I guess they would want their cut if they were used in carriers.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Burgers Are So Tasty

    Yeah, scrap your own industry, buy F18s and focus on Finance. It worked out well in Iceland and Ireland.

    The Eurofighter is selling nicely and it sports one of the best thrust-vectored missiles for close-range, the IRIS-T. Can be bought from Bodensee-Gerätetechnik of Friedrichshafen and will soon also menace helos who try to fsck with submarines, ermm U-boots.

    Also, the youtube videos of Eurofighter aerobatics are truely impressive and I fail to find similar F16 videos. It doesn't need thrust-vectoring because the current capabilitiea are already excellent. A lack of pilot training doesn't invalidate that. It is also claimed than Indian pilots brought down the latest F15s, which are American, Mr Lewis.

    But yes, scrapping the vertical lift F-35 would be highly rational for both America and Britain. Here is a oil-powered carrier which works nicely with catapults:

    It can even lob stuff in the air heavier than F14s !

    1. IglooDude

      Re: Burgers Are So Tasty

      Seriously, 'Eurofighters can menace antisubmarine helicopters'? Congratulations to you sir, for coming up with a selling point that no one else has thought of, or at any rate can put forward with a straight face.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Burgers Are So Tasty

        No, IRIS-T will be launched from Type212 Uboots.

    2. Mad Mike

      Re: Burgers Are So Tasty

      You're not really selling it here. I don't disagree with not focussing on Finance alone and scrapping our industry, but Eurogither.....are you serious?

      It isn't selling nicely. It has the original members and a couple of export orders....not exactly a lot. Production numbers won't be high (compared to other aircraft being mentioned) and the Saudi export order has to do with history not ability.

      The IRIS-T fitting a Eurofighter is irrelevant as according to the literature, any aircraft that can fire a AIM-9L (Sidewinder) can also fire an IRIS-T. So, that's just about any aircraft in the western world with even a bare air-to-air ability.

      I don't disagree that it handles better than a F-16, but then you are comparing it to a 1970s designed aircraft and one designed to be cheaper (massively so) and produced in far larger numbers. They weren't designed to fulfill the same requirement. Do you really mean Indian (??) pilots? Or, have you spelt that wrong? Also, it managed to bring down a F-15? So what. That's another 1970s aircraft. Now, if it managed to bring down a Raptor....that would be impressive. Bearing in mind (if you include development etc. which we've paid for), the unit price for a Eurofighter is about the same as a Raptor (which we don't have to pay development for).

      Yes, an oil fired carrier can work with catapults, but it is highly limited. It needs massive boilers to provide the steam and reliability can be an issue. Also, the speed at which launches can take place (as in how many per hour) is normally less as the boilers are a lot less efficient that producing steam through a nuclear reactor. The Kitty Hawk is an aircraft carrier from a whole different era and the logisitics are completely different. Look at the propulsion mechanism and you'll see the difference.

    3. Johan Bastiaansen

      Re: Burgers Are So Tasty

      "Yeah, scrap your own industry, buy F18s and focus on Finance. It worked out well in Iceland and Ireland."

      Yes, I'm sure if Iceland and Ireland had subsidised their military industrial complex, everything would be honky dory.

      "Also, the youtube videos of Eurofighter aerobatics are truely impressive."

      Good argument. Really. I like it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

    Lewis - you are kind'a right if the new carrier is designed to address the current hotspots which are Gulf and South West Asia. There a catapult carrier reigns supreme.

    By the time the carriers will be deployed these will not be the hotspots of interest. The hotspots will be _ICE_ _COLD_. Waddayathink? Mrs Kirchner will stop with the nationalization of Repsol property? Do not think so. It is only a matter of time before another scrap this time OIL DRIVEN and even further south of the Falklands. The question of the scrap for the arctic resources is also open though there it will probably end up in a "new cold war" without any shots being fired.

    The problem with putting air power into these "cold spots" is that:

    1. The "cannot land with full ammo" problem does not stand - it is cold enough for engines to produce lift sufficient for full load landing.

    2. The catapults royally suck. Steam is outright unusable and it is unclear how usable will be electric if water splashing onto the deck freezes instantaneously the moment it hits steel at -10C.

    This is the one (and only) environment where VTOL reigns supreme.

    In any case, you are also right that the carriers will be mostly useless. However, the reason will not be the aircraft or the carrier design. The reason will be that while Britain is building a carrier force usable north(respectively south) of the Polar circle it is not building any icenreakers. Dumb - dumber.

    1. IglooDude

      Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

      You'd think that the NATO carrier-equipped navies would have thought about launching aircraft from catapults in seriously sub-zero temperatures and rough seas, what with all that potential North Atlantic "steam north of the Kola into the Barents Sea and beat on the Soviet Northern Fleet" NATO strategy in the 1980s.

    2. proto-robbie

      Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

      Pycrete, 2000 metres deck length. Almost indestructible, and circumvents all your issues (although it will need nuclear propulsion, very big sails or genetically modified uber-penguins).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pykrete.

        Why Pykrete (it is Pykrete, not pycrete).

        You might as well find a suitable iceberg, cut a slot in one end and freeze a nuclear tug unit (basically a tail of an existing nuclear submarine) into the slot. Here is your unsinkable aircraft carrier - 10-15km in length, airstrip capable of taking on strategic bombers and facilities for a whole airfleet (OK, it can be sunk but it will require a nuclear warhead to achieve that).

        You can augment it with cooling units and/or build a couple of "ice-shape/ice-deposit" maintenance bots. If you start with a suitable berg it will take a couple of years to shape and form it completely. The cost will probably be less (and the time) than building two legacy carriers. It can pay back as a "base" for drilling operations (while protecting them at the same time) and be "officially" civilian until requisitioned. The waters around South Georgia are cold enough in winter to sustain it and in summer it can go south to the ice edge :)

        By the way, why do you think russians invested so much in subsequent SP stations :)

      2. Dave Bell

        Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

        You'd probably want a Marine Commando on board for deck security, maybe with a squadron of tanks in support. Give a few cavalry-types green-beret nragging rights.

      3. Dave the Cat
        Thumb Up

        Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

        Liking the uber-penguins idea, as an alternative they could consider a fleet of harnesed GMd sharks with frikkin laser cannons on their heads for propulsion and area air-defence.....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Erroneous enemy assessment maybe?

      "is unclear how usable will be electric if water splashing onto the deck freezes instantaneously"

      Hmmm, some sort of electrical heating system perhaps. MInd you, where would take that electrical power from?

  9. Bob Vistakin

    Its the classic Jack Straw dilemma

    When labour were in power he'd stand up in the House of Corruption saying he was all for defence cuts, since that was the party line at the time. Yet he'd go back to his constituency in Blackburn and tell those at the ROF plant (Royal Ordnance - making bombs etc) that they had no need to worry since he's fighting hard to keep their factory open and jobs safe. In the end, as we all found out, he and his party shat on everyone but in this case, as in this article, its kinda no-win - do you put national workers interests first, or fuck 'em and buy foreign to save money?

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Its the classic Jack Straw dilemma

      TBH with the savings you be better off paying the workers to sit on the dole - for the amount of british workers that are left. 1bn saved is a healthy 10000 each for 100000 workers and I doubt there are 100000 workers left.

  10. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Skimming usual eurofighter dig, this is spot on.

    The choice is between an untested plane design and an untested catapault design, but with the latter providing vastly more flexibility. So we're not choosing it.

    It staggers me just how fucked defence spending is in the UK - the vacillation, pork-barrelling and incompetence would be almost comic if it wasn't billions of pounds at stake, let alone UKs ability to project force.

  11. MrXavia

    What I don't get is why we don't make our own fighters? surely if the French can do it, and the Americans can do it, we can do it??

    This whole F35 project has taken what 20 years to get finished? really it takes THAT long to design and build them?

    I say lets go for catapults, rent a few aircraft for now, and build our own combat planes in future!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Try Buying This One

      I am sure it is rusting somewhere in America.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "What I don't get is why we don't make our own fighters? "

      We do.

      Large parts of the Eurofighter and F-35 are made in the UK. UK is gaining big on f-35 workshare, far more the cost of buying it.

    3. HP Cynic

      20 years

      That's about right yes.

      I remember flying the EAP Simulator at BAE Warton when I was teenager, the EAP took a long time to reach production as the Eurofighter/Typhoon.

      Incidentally I "crashed" it in that I managed to taxi my EAP under the runway and start driving about underneath the landscape. The staff were very concerned as "that's never happened before".

      Perhaps they should just take my "idea" and develop tunnelling, sumbersible fighters and be done with it.

    4. Giles Jones Gold badge

      We're the 51st state, so we buy from the US and in return they give us nothing.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Kevin Turvey
      Thumb Up

      Re: Missing the point entirely

      Actually it's the Ministry of Defence but I agree completely. What are we defending against?, and what are we trying to prove? We are no longer a super-power, why do we always tag along and try to match up to the US in whatever wars it likes to get involved in, if they want to get involved thats up to them. If we refuse to play ball they'll simply put slightly more troops or whatever in to cover what we would have done. We are in the EU, in most cases anyone who is going to attack us is going to have to come thousands of miles across the EU before they get to us, we can back-up our EU neighbours if they are attacked and we can back them up if they are but mostly I think we should stop trying to be something we're not and start spending on more important things.

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: Missing the point entirely

        There are arguments that we should be looking at these issues on an EU-wide basis. What do we gain from the rest of the EU? What can we best provide them? There's more to a Navy than tradition, that's worthless without effective ships, but we could do a good job of being one of the naval specialists. The service we have the least need for is an Army.

        It's division of labour, all very sensible, but i can't really see the Conservatives wanting to cooperate with the EU

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Missing the point entirely

          "We should be looking at these issues on an EU wide basis"

          Who are you kidding, apart from yourself? All of Southern Europe is bankrupt and has limited appetite for military adventures, operationally the Germans are exceptionally reluctant to take part in any international action involving guns, which leaves the unpredictable French and the smaller countries. Look at the Libya fiasco - turned out well in spite of everything, but Europe's effort was a shambles - the Italian NATO control centre could barely launch and control a fraction of its planned capacity. we ended up flying antique Tornadoes all the way from Norfolk to Tripoli with inflight refueling because we couldn't have proper use of French, Italian or Spanish airfields. Germany was opposed to any action, those involved regularly ran short of ammunition, and the only reason anything came of it was because of US support in the shape of technology, cruise missiles, satellite and intelligence gathering. And if you think that was a one off, what about Kosovo, where Europe dithered, faffed and farted for four years until the Yanks decided enough was enough.

          Now take a look at the history of pan-European defence projects - Tornado, expensive, not good for much really. A400M wildly over budget, less effective but more costly than a bigger, rangier and better all round C17. Typhoon - expensive, crap, no worthwhile export orders. Even one our biggest export successes, the AW101 (Merlin) doesn't really compare too well to a CH53, costing much about the same as a basic 53, but with only a third of the payload.

          So, still want to throw your lot in with Europe?

      2. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Missing the point entirely

        Carriers are simply the seaborne extension of air superiority. This is something that is relevant to any conflict. A carrier means that your air power can have greater effective range and can be projected anywhere where British interests or citizens are at risk.

        If nothing else, England has an interest in ensuring freedom of navigation on the high seas.

        It's not just about misguided American adventures. It's also about hunting down pirates and dealing with natural disasters.

        You need a Churchill or Nelson icon.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How VTOL looks like

  14. Mr Young

    Brit bashing!

    hopefully I'll be able to buy a Harrier on ebay soon - what's the gallons per mile and top speed?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brit bashing!

      As with all RR products "sufficient". (At least to get you killed)

  15. swilson

    well how about signing

    1. Dave the Cat
  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They can't see it coming

    Trust shiny faced Dave and his "never done an honest day's work ever" mates to make a further mess on something they've already buggered up well and truly.

    But they're ignoring the problem of the US budget deficit if they go for the "B". Have a look around US defence policy blogs, and you'll see the incredibly rough ride the F22 has had because of cost escalation (not a uniquely British skills, I'm afraid). Originally USAF wanted 750 F22, for a total cost of $26 billion. What they've ended up with has been 180 odd aircraft for around $74 billion. Even with the vast lobbying power of the US military industrial base, they are sooner or later going to have to cut defence spending, and there's some very obvious targets. Already the F35 programme is 54% above the first full programme estimate, there's proposals to reduce the purchases by about 180 aircraft in the next five years, the whole programme is mired in technical problems, many associated with the common platform and the needs of the B variant.

    Dave is stupid enough to plump for the B, but in addition to vast additional cost increases that are likely, it (the B variant) remains a high risk programme that US lawmakers and air force officers are highly likely to can at the first opportunity. And USAF don't want the B, nor do USN, it's only the Marines. And they'd probably take a Harrier upgrade if the choice was that or no aircraft at all.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting piece

    Good comment piece passionately written. It needs more numbers though. How much more does x cost over y? How does this fit in with the scale of defence expenditure generally? How does it compare with what other G8 nations pay?

    Also, you need to get yourself on the Today Programme more often. Dodgy lobbying is a big story at the moment, perhaps you've noticed?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting piece

      "How does this fit in with the scale of defence expenditure generally? "

      The entire F-35 budget expenditure is expected to cost the USA $1.3 trillion over its lifespan. Other countries will add about a third to that.

      The UK's workshare is about 10-20% (minimum say, $150billion), massively overriding the comparatively piddling cost of buying the F-35 and carriers.

      Lewis ignores thinks like this.

  18. Matt Hawkins

    He we go again ...

    So in conclusion another article where Lewis makes it clear the UK would be better off if we let the entire country be run by foreigners. Preferably the US but at a push the French.

    It is better to have average, expensive kit that was made in the UK by British workers than fancy stuff that was made abroad. If our Government realised this we would still have a car industry as Rover could have existed purely making police cars, taxis and ambulances.

    As we will find out in the future we won't be able to afford any US or French equipment because we will have no wealth to buy it with.

    The US can proceed with a carrier build and take the risk that the electric catapults will work. We can't. They have got plenty of other carriers. This can't be taken as a guarantee that the technology will work. The F35 is over budget and barely flying despite US reassurances to the contrary. Assuming the technology must be on-track because some US Senator gives the green light for a carrier build is a silly mistake to make given all the examples in recent history.

    1. PlacidCasual

      Re: He we go again ...

      I'm plainly not privy to the engineering reports regarding the linear induction motor catapult but the reports and videos freely avaiable on the net have shown it working well with genuine aircraft takeoffs from the land based test bed. My gut feeling is this technology will work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: He we go again ...

        Lewis ignores that the problem with the F-35C is not taking off, but landing. It may need a major redesign to work - no F-35C has ever successfully landed using a trap.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He we go again ...

      Electric motors are known to create extreme torque, even at small sizes. It is clearly an issue of providing the necessary power and cooling. Seems a rather limited engineering problem, as Supercapacitors are already there.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Dave Bell

        Re: He we go again ...

        I've seen arguments that it's the electric and magnetic fields in the vicinity of the catapult that would be an issue. It might need some things kept further away from the catapults. That has some plausibility, and i wouldn't want to route a data cable alongside a catapult. But the thing is going into a steel box. Is it really going to be a big problem with that sort of inherent screening?

        (I bet BAE will tell you it's going to cost a lot to be sure.)

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: screening

          You can use optical fibre for data cables.

    3. /\/\j17

      Re: He we go again ...

      So let me get this right, it's Brit-bashing.

      Suggesting we buy the US F16 or the US F35C or the French Rafales in preference to the US F35B is Brit-bashing and not supporting UK industry...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He we go again ...

      Lewis isn't making any such case - just that there's a variety of capability available on the world market for a whole range of costs. Our domestic experience of building our own has admittedly kept a few (and that is a few) in paid work, but at what cost? What British designed and made defence kit (or even European) is the world beating a path to our door to buy? Nothing. Our only export deals have been on the back of bribery or rigged procurement deals where we give the buyer the money to buy our kit. Looking at our history of weapons making, it's not good, is it? Nimrod MRA4, Nimrod AEW3, Future Lynx, Bowman, Snatch Landrovers, Typhoon tranche 3, Type 45 frigates, SA80 - all of them useless, expensive, crap, and there's plenty more where that list came from.

      If you were correct that the UK produced average kit that was expensive your argument might have some merit - but we haven't make even average defence kit for a good half century. I agree bail out of F35B, maybe even C, but we need a strike aircraft consistent with the military adventures our politicians choose to prosecute, and neither the antiquated Tornado, nor the Cold War "one way ticket" Typhoon are going to do it, so we need to buy somebody elses, and we don't now have time to engineer something ourselves (ten years from initial prototype, and ten years or more to front line deployment in numbers).

      So if we want strike aircraft F18 is now the obvious answer, maybe re-engine with RR (like we did with Phantoms) if you want some local boondoggle element. If BAe had chosen to develop at modest cost an intermediate technology STOL (not VTOL) strike aircraft as a commercial venture (say Harrier GR9 redesigned for better airborne performance, but stripped of the costly VTOL capability, and having no US tech on board due to export controls) then they'd be well in here, andhave some real export potential. I'd say BAe have sown the seeds of their own demise by their poor cost control, lack of innovation and lack of commercial risk taking.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: He we go again ...

        "What British designed and made defence kit (or even European) is the world beating a path to our door to buy? Nothing."

        Really? The UK is the third biggest exporter of arms in the World.

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Re: He we go again ...

        "......but we need a strike aircraft consistent with the military adventures our politicians choose to prosecute, and neither the antiquated Tornado, nor the Cold War "one way ticket" Typhoon...." Your arguments might hold a smidgen of weight if they actually contained any reasoning as to why you consider the Tornado and Typhoon as unsuitable.

        In reality (a place you might want to visit every now and again), the Tornado has proven very useful both in war (both Iraq wars) and peacekeeping (former Yugoslavia and between the Iraq wars, and currently in Afghanistan). I'm sure you'll start on about how the Tornadoes "failed" with the JP233 in the strikes on Saddam's airfields in 1991, neatly avoiding the fact the US asked for the RAF to carry out the attacks as they simply didn't have the capability to mount a low-level strike with F/A-18s, F-15s, F-16s, F-111s and B-2s, and also neatly ignoring the many other missions carried out by the RAF Tornados in 1991 (the RAF GR1As were the only allied jets capable of flying low-level recce missions, and did so throughout the campaign without loss). In fact, in the second Iraq campaign in 2003, the only Tornado lost was to friendly fire from a Septic Patriot missile (the dodgy IFF capabilites of the Patriot also led to a shooting down of an F/A-18).

        As for the Typhoon, the only active work so far has been in Libya, where they performed faultlessy, unlike the USAAF's F-15Es ( In training and NATO exercises, and foreign purcurement tests, the Eurofighter/Typhoon has done very well, often being ranked as the only real competitor to the F-22. The Rafale rarely gets a look in unless it's a case of the bargain basement option, as shown by the Rafale's lack of foreign sales.

        "....Our only export deals have been on the back of bribery or rigged procurement deals...." Yeah, like the L16 mortar as used by 30-odd countries, including the US (as the M252). Or the L118 105mm Light Gun (twenty-one users), also bought by the US as it was simply a better design than the Yanks could make on their own. Or the BAe Hawk trainer, used by eighteen customers (including, again the US!), and having doubly outsold the Fwench Alpha Jet. There were plenty of commentators telling us we should have ditched the Hawk and gone with the European Alpha Jet, which looks really stupid now. All three are examples of British arms export successes, no bribes required.

        ".....So if we want strike aircraft F18 is now the obvious answer...." Simply, no. The F/A-18 is a very good aircraft, but it can't even match the Torando GR4 (as proven not only in NATO exercises but in the Iraq campaigns), and is woeful compared to the Typhoon as an interceptor (less performance, less missiles, and less development potential). It is probably the best budget carrier fighter right now, but not the best land-based fighter by a long margin. It is also only cheap now because of the massive fleet operated by the US, but if they get replaced by F-35s then the people still operating F/A-18a are suddenly going to see a hike in maintenance costs, meaning cheap today is not necessarily cheap tomorrow. Trying to guess how the Fwench might price the Rafale is simply silly, especially given the large number of modifications that would be required for it to operate as an RN aircraft.

        ".....maybe re-engine with RR (like we did with Phantoms) if you want some local boondoggle element...." The re-engining of the RN and RAF Phantoms was a mistake, it actually gave little advantage for a lot of cost and an actual reduction in performance. You might know that if you actually knew anything about the subject.

        The probable reason for the RN also agreeing to the STOVL version of the F-35 is that someone remembers one of the key reasons why the RN liked the Harrier - vertical landings are simply a lot safer than the almost-crash-landings typical of conventional, hooked, naval jet landings. If you look at footage of carrier operations of Harriers, the deckcrew are calmly wandering around, no-one looks the least bit worried. Then look at footage of USN carrier operations - everyone is looking like a major catastrophe is seconds away, the flightdeck is definately not calm. If the US Marines are going to pick up the cost of the F-35B then what's the problem? We actually save on the cost of installing catapaults and the Yank taxpayers swallow the costs. It's not like the Marines can simply drop the jet, they don't have any other options (including the F/A-18).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: He we go again ...

          "In reality (a place you might want to visit every now and again), the Tornado has proven very useful both in war "

          Err, no, it wasn't very useful, it was all we'd got. Regarding the comments about both Tornado and Typhoon, you ignore the point both were highly mission specific to Cold War needs. The Typhoon is, pure and simple, and air defence interceptor, a modern day EE Lightning, if you like. Lightweight, fast, nimble, built for acceleration and speed. So quite how it would be better than an F15 in Libya I can't see. What was needed in Libya was a proper strike aircraft - primarily a weapons platform, not some wanky modern day Spitfire, better suited to air show posing. The Tornado could have been the required weapons platform, but was too small, with design compromises required for the high altitude fighter ambitions and low level mud plugging, and in any event designed for the era before modern stand off weapons were available, and you had to see the white of the enemies eyes. You raised the JP233 business, but the key point was that it wasn't an effective airfield denial system even in the lucky event that you've not got any credible air defences. And that is part of the problem - that the whole Tornado capability of flying fast and low isn't needed anymore. PR is no longer done by aircraft, the clever people use drones or satellites. You mutter about this without loss, that without loss, but the reality is that we lost six Tornadoes to enemy fire in 1991, against a third world power that had already been softened up by sanctions and a debilitating war with a neighbouring country, not to mention USAF and RAF anti-AA activity.

          Let's take some of your other points:

          Yes, we've sold a few small arms designs to the world, but in the context of the discussion of heavy weapons and technology they are irrelevant, earning us no great international recognition, doing nothing to give us "defence independence", or employing British workers. The Hawk is the best example you've got, but it's nothing more than a Gnat replacement, designed by hand and slide rule between 1968 and 1974. What have BAe given us since?

          F18 vs F35. The F35 is never going to be ordered in the numbers of the F18 - look at the cost projections, current spend, and the state of the US military budget and government deficit. As for the GR4 being better - look at the export data for both types.

          Re RR Phantoms, do pay attention. I was responding to a comment about making local work, not suggesting it as a wise idea. BTW, ad hominems such as "if you actually knew anything" just bounce off AC's.

          And for somebody positing themselves to be quite so knowlegeable, I'd have thought you'd do better than "the probable reason for the RN..." Do a web search on "Harrier losses", and you'll find the gruesome list of losses. Safer you say? Or was that just you breaking wind?

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: Re: He we go again ...

            You're just underlining the point that you have either not considered the matter, have fabricated "facts", or simply don't have the knowledge to find real ones.

            "....Err, no, it wasn't very useful, it was all we'd got...." Strange, the F-15, F-16 and F-18 you mention are also designs from the same period as the Tornado yet you somehow maintain they are "better" and more "modern". The USAAF and USN have been using them for exactly the same reason - it's what they've got. That's not an arguement, it's vacuous dribbling. The Tornado has been in RAF service since 1979, which is almost 33 years of continuous service, and the whole PANAVIA production run stretched to almost a thousand airframes.

            "....The Typhoon is, pure and simple, and air defence interceptor...." The Tranche 1 Eurofighter is that, but the airframe has always had the ability to be developed into a multi-role aircraft, as show in Libya. The whole history of BAe shows they have a very good record of doing so (SEPECAT Jaguar involvement, BAe Hawk, the Tornado itself). Even the old English Electric Lightning mentioned was developed into a fighter-bomber for the Saudis, it was simply an interceptor in the RAF as that was the sole role it was required for in the UK, just like the Tranche 1 Typhoon.

            "....And that is part of the problem - that the whole Tornado capability of flying fast and low isn't needed anymore..." Classic case of lack of knowledge. Drones can't do everything, as demonstrated by the Israelis on 6th September 2007. That was a classic low-entry strike, exactly the capability the Tornado provides for the RAF. And don't display your ignorance further by trying to pretend the Israelis don't have drones, they actually export them to us.

            "....You mutter about this without loss, that without loss, but the reality is that we lost six Tornadoes to enemy fire in 1991...." Which is proveably FALSE! Of the six Tornadoes lost in the 1991 action, one (ZA403) was lost to premature bomb detonation, one (ZD893) crashed on take-off due to a technical fault, and ZA467 crashed after a bombing run but without having reported any damage from enemy fire, so assumed to be pilot error. Oops, did I just make your less-than-impressive "losses to enemy fire" figures drop by 50%? So you have three Tornado combat losses against a total of 52 allied aircraft lost in combat during the 1991 campaign. And that includes the Torandos being chosen to fly the strikes deemed too dangerous for the USAAF. The 1991 losses also include one F/A-18 lost in air combat, it's thought that the F/A-18 was shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25, an even older fighter than the Tornado, which just goes to show the hollowness of your "it's old, it must be no good" bleating. If you're going to try quoting stats at least try and validate them. It's probably a good thing you post as AC.

            A total of 46 aircraft of different types have been lost during and since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, including F-15s, F/A-18s and F-16s, and even one F-14A! But you try and maintain the Iraqis and insurgents had no air-def - did they throw stones? One particularly damaging case for you was the loss of F-16CG serial 90-0776, which crashed into the ground when attempting a strafing run, something the F-16 was NOT originally designed for, being originally designed as a mid-level dogfighter. Against this background of losses to all the aircraft types you maintain are superior, the Torando had a faultless campaign and follow-up (until the GR4A ZG710 was shot down by a US Patriot battery). Oh, and please don't pretend this was all due to the stand-off capability of Shadow Storm, which was only used in eleven strikes during the whole 2003 operation. I see you don't even try denying the faultless record of RAF Tornados and Typhoons in Libya.

            "....The Hawk is the best example you've got, but it's nothing more than a Gnat replacement...." The Hawk is the best selling trainer jet ever. It won many competitive sales against other types long after its original design date due to BAe's work on updating and developing the airframe and systems. For example, the Hawk 127 version is very more advanced than the original Gnat replacement. The latest Hawk sale was to India in 2007, with the production lines still open, long after its European competitor (the Alpha Jet) has stopped production. But the most striking point of the whole Hawk story is that the original design exercise and most of the subsequent development were driven by internal Hawker-Siddely/BAe processes, not the RAF or MoD, which exposes the lie in your idea that BAe cannot develop worldbeaters alone. I suggest you just steer clear of aicraft related threads in future.

            "....Do a web search on "Harrier losses", and you'll find the gruesome list of losses..." Once again, you are simply exposing your complete lack of research. Try here (, which lists all the opeartional losses of Harriers by all operators. You'll see six Royal Navy losses, NONE of which were landing accidents. Indeed, the RN Sea Harriers have a remarkable record of only one on-deck loss (ZA174), which slid off the deck in the very heavy swell during the Falklands campaign, the pilot being rescued. That's out of a total of 52 operational RN Sea Harriers over almost 28 years of service. Now compare with the record of the Sea Vixen (, a conventional RN two-seat naval jet with catapault-launch and arrester-hook landing, of which 145 examples were built and of which 55 were lost in sevice accidents. 30 of those accidents killed 51 of the aircrews flying them. As far as I can see in the records, 22 of those accidents were deck landings or cat launches (15:7 ratio). This example clearly show the STOVL Sea Harrier was far safer in deck-landings and take-offs than the conventional jets it belatedly replaced. You sure you want to continue with that "gruesome losses" male bovine manure?

            1. Mad Mike

              Re: He we go again ...

              Interesting comments about BAE having a history of developing aircraft into multi-role. I'm not quite sure which roles you're thinking of, but I can't see this.

              Tornado - decent ground attack, especially low level. Absolutely awful fighter. Not multi-role. Reconnaisance is a standard conversion from ground attack these days by adding (normally) extra pods.

              SEPECAT Jaguar - decent small ground attack. What else? They did mount a couple of sidewinders over the wings, but that didn't make it a fighter.

              BAe Hawk - great trainer. Did move it into reasonable ground attack for small/poor nations. Maybe a bit of multi-role, but again, this is a common conversion route.

              Lightning - you have to be joking. For its age a good fighter let done by dodgy missiles. It could even outturn a Phantom at altitude. Ground must be joking. Nobody ever seriously considered it suited to that. It could carry next to nothing (a decent bomb load is the primary requirement of a ground attack aircraft) and had no real aids etc. That was never a successful conversion.

              Typhoon - good fighter. Ground attack....lets wait and see. First signs look reasonable. However, you can get just as good or better ground attack aircraft for considerably less because they don't need all the bells and whistles that fighters have.

              In all these, you can say it has the capability, but making it practical and usable is a whole different kettle of fish.

              Low level attack is pretty much a relic in most wars these days. There will be exceptions as always, but most don't require it. Any modern airforce will shy away from it as it is so dangerous, as we found out in Iraq. Standoff munitions are the way forward. When you're at or near ground level anyone putting a suitable amount of lead into the sky can shoot you down and there have been plenty of examples of this.

              Using a F-16 for strafing is an example of gross stupidity and the pilot probably deserved everything he got. The rotary cannon is totally unsuited for the job.

              BAE able to develop world beaters........well one (Hawk) at least. Not sure if this should give them the credability you claim though.

              The Sea Vixen v Harrier comparison is a little dubious as the Sea Vixen is from a decade earlier. This is almost a generation in terms of development times in those days which were a lot quicker. Cat launches and arrestor recovery is certainly quite dangerous, but you have to compare the performance differential when up there as well. The F-35C will have considerably more capability than the F-35B. Do the extra risks outweigh the performance degradation? Well, that depends on the scenario. However, if you were to put a Harrier up against a Phantom for instance, the Phantom is far more capable in every way, except possibly agility.

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

                Re: Re: He we go again ...

                "....Tornado - decent ground attack, especially low level. Absolutely awful fighter...." The ADV variant was designed as a long-range interceptor, not a pure dogfighter. In apprasing the F/A-18, the RAF confirmed it did not meet their equirements met by the ADV. However, the Tornado F3 also had quite good combat capability through excellent speed, especially at low level (faster than the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18), combat persistance (lots of missiles - more than the F/A-18 or F-16, both BVR and SRAAM, and a gun), and reasonable electronics. Of all the US jets of its day, only the much pricier F-14 came even close to meeting the RAF requirement met by the Torando ADV.

                "....SEPECAT Jaguar - decent small ground attack...." Actually, at the design stage the Fwench wanted to make it smaller and less capable to prevent it stealling sales from the Mirage, but the Brits perservered in making it larger and more powerful. The result was the Jaguar actually beat the Mirage III/5 in fighter competitions such as that in Oman, and the Viggen and Mirage F1 in the case of India. Whilst the RAF versions were always ground-attack only, the developed versions, as used by India, are very capable multi-role fighters, being tasked with anti-shipping strike and deep-penetration interdiction. Indeed, despite having Mirage 2000s and various Russian alternatives, the Indians are currently extending the lifetime of their Jags with engine and avioincs updates.

                "....BAe Hawk - great trainer. Did move it into reasonable ground attack for small/poor nations..." The Hawk 200 series offers developed F-16 avionics and multi-mode radar (and therefore BVR missile capability) in a supersonic platform. Personally, I'd rather see the RAF buy a mix of Hawk 200s and Typhoons than F-35s, it would seem to be a lot cheaper option and just as suited to UN "peacekeeping" actions.

                "....Lightning - you have to be joking..." Oh dear, the limits of your knowledge are showing again. ".....a good fighter let done by dodgy missiles...." The Red Top had all-aspect engagement capabilities against supersonic targets years before the Sidewinder, a superior performance, and a larger warhead. A SARH version ("Blue Dolphin") was proposed and would have been a match for the American Sparrow, but the Sparrow was already working with the Phantom. So the Brits just made a better Sparrow called Skyflash for the Tornado. "....It could carry next to nothing..." The Saudi F53 version could carry up to 6000Lb of ordinance, including 1000Lb bombs and rocket pods, which is a long way from nothing, and more than the F-15Cs that replaced it in the Saudi service (they were fighters only, the Saudis didn't get bombs on their F-15s until they bought F-15S models in the late 90s). When the RSAF got Tornados they set themselves a target of being able to match the F53 in ground attack exercises as their acceptance criteria, such was the popularity of the Lightning amongst Saudi pilots.

                "....Typhoon - good fighter. Ground attack....lets wait and see..." Why? Job already done in Libya, in a combat environment. Don't tell me, you now want to move the goalposts and insist it has to see X number of wars before you concede you're wrong.

                ".....In all these, you can say it has the capability, but making it practical and usable is a whole different kettle of fish....." Well, the Tornado is proven in combat, and so now is the Typhoon. Case closed.

                "....Low level attack is pretty much a relic in most wars these days...." Yes, tell that to the Israelis. Indeed, the Yanks have been pushing that bilge since before the Vietnam war, where Aussie Canberra B2s managed to operate just fine in low-level bombing (using visual sights!) in an environment where Phantoms, Thunderchiefs and Skyhawks were being shot down by AAA whilst employing computerised dive-bombing tactics. The drive to laser-designated bombs was a result of the losses by the Yanks in their use of dive-bombing.

                "....Using a F-16 for strafing is an example of gross stupidity...." Strafing is a common part of ground-attack, still taught to RAF pilots and used in action (Falklands, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan). The F-16C/D is supposedly a fighter-bomber and ground-attack aircraft, the only problem being it suffers from serious sink when pulling out of attack dives, which is what led to the loss of the F-16 in question.

                "......The Sea Vixen v Harrier comparison is a little dubious as the Sea Vixen is from a decade earlier....." Not really. The Sea Vixen was operating on the larger carriers, not the little "through-deck cruisers" the Sea Harriers operated from, making the Sea Harrier record all the more remarkable. You're also forgetting that the USN operates much larger carriers than even the ones the Sea Vixens were operating from, and hence the navalised F-35s are designed for those larger carriers, not the smaller QE class ones the RN will get. The Harrier pilots I've spoken to have said they see vertical landing as better because "you stop, then you land, whereas with a normal carrier jet you land and hope you stop!" That hasn't changed from the days the Sea Vixens were operating. If you like, we can compare the number of RN Sea Harier

                landing/takeoff accidents (zero) with more recent USN F-14s activity (two lost in 2002 alone).

                "....but you have to compare the performance differential when up there as well...." OK, lets compare. The VTOL RN Sea Harriers managed a score of 22-0 against the Argentinians, including much faster and supposedly superior Mirage IIIs with BVR capability. The F/A-18 only managed 2-0 against inferior Iraqi MiG-21s in air comabts in Iraq in 1991. BAe has the clear winner there! And in NATO exercises the ordinary Harrier GR1/3s completely trounced the Phantom, so guess again. Don't forget, our over-cautious politicians often insist on RoE which include visual identification (one reason the Tornado ADV had a long-range TV camera which the Phantom did not), meaning the Phantom loses any BVR advantages even if the Harrier wasn't carrying AMRRAMs (which the Sea Harrier FA2 could). Indeed, when the Marines got the original AV-8A they trained against Phantoms and found the Harrier won most engagements. You're not really helping yourself here.

        2. Dave the Cat

          Re: He we go again ...

          @ Matt Bryant.... You make some good points, BUT, Gulf War 1 was 21 years ago. Times have changed a bit. While at the time the Tornado was a reasonable platform, it's now outclassed by cheaper and more effective airframes.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: Re: He we go again ...

            ".....Gulf War 1 was 21 years ago...." Gulf War 2 was only eight years ago, and the Tornies were still operating over Iraq in support of anti-insurgent operations there and in Afghanistan to today, as well as in the brief Libyan campaign. Despite many alternatives, including leasing surplus USAAF F-16s, the Italians chose to lease ex-RAF ADV Tornado F3s in 2004.

            "'s now outclassed by cheaper and more effective airframes." Yeah, please do supply some details to back that theory up. The Tornies now cover the following roles, please do make sure you supply comprehensive pricing to show how your "cheaper and more effective" options stack up for each role:

            Low-level recce, a role not even available to the USAAF or USN, which is why the Tornados supplied it in Iraq for the Allied forces. Drones such as the Reaper cannot supply the same capability, and definately not in the face of any real air-def.

            Low-level strike, day or night and all weather, a role avoided by the USAAF and USN, which prefers to fly dozens more aircraft in complex mid-level and high-level operations and often only in good weather. Again, long range and heavy weapon loads are required.

            Anti-shipping strike, a role which involves both long range and low flying over water.

            I'm not holding my breath.

            1. Dave the Cat

              Re: He we go again ...

              So how are things at Lossiemouth/Marham?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: He we go again ...

            "it's now outclassed by cheaper and more effective airframes."

            Aside the Air defense variant (which wasn't something it was designed for), all the users of the Tornado continue to use and plan to do so for decades to come. They are also upgrading the aircraft.

            What cheaper and more effective airframe has replaced the tornado?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: He we go again ...

        "the antiquated Tornado,"

        It fly's fast, its got a very tough airframe and delivered the best weapon in Libya - the Brimstone. That weapon alone meant it outperformed the 'modern', 'best for A2G' Rafael.

        Old, but still very capable.

    5. Trygve

      Re: He we go again ...

      So the UK taking a punt on some cobbled-together heap of electrics being able to lob a bog-standard plane off a carrier is waaaay too risky.

      But for the UK to take a punt on vertically launching a cobbled-together overweight assemblage of turbines, software, electrics and composites designed by powerpoint specialists to please lobbyists - that's Just Good Business Sense (TM) (R).

      I can't say I'm convinced.

      The UK is a clapped-out second-rate economy, spunking billions on getting the cutting edge of late-nineties tech into service around the 2020 mark seems rather silly. The only thing sillier is applying the same industrial policy that gave us the Austin Allegro to military weaponry.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    USN Digging The JSF Grave

  20. Rubbernuke

    Perhaps people have forgotten how much experience the UK has in VTOL/STOL combat aircraft and operations. It was a crime to sell of the Harrier and it would have been stupid to buy the C since the catapults would have added 7 years and nearly 2 billion onto the carriers themselves.

    And since the UK is beginning to operate with the French, it would be great if UK F35s could land on the Charles De Gaule.... unfortunately the C is too porky so no go there.

    F18? Nah, too old and limited. Rafale? If we could get them at the same price as the Indians (25 % off anyone?). A better use of money will be to invest in UCAV technology (like the BAE Tyrannis or the consortium built nEUROn) and have stuck with the Harrier.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "since the catapults would have added 7 years and nearly 2 billion onto the carriers themselves.

      And since the UK is beginning to operate with the French, it would be great if UK F35s could land on the Charles De Gaule.... unfortunately the C is too porky so no go there."

      All of which seems completely unlikely. The carriers were based on the CdG design and with the capability to add a catapult at a later date without a redesign. How is it possible to add 7 years and 1.8billion to the cost - something the Yanks spotted and public stated was bullshit.

      The French fly the Haweye with is only slightly less heavy than the C, so that another lie exposed.

      1. Rubbernuke

        Then why the switch? And will you believe the Americans regarding the cost when they would say anything to sell the catapult system?

        1. LPF
          Thumb Down

          Because BAE are the biggest bunch of Lying gits on the face of the planet, how exactly does adding a couple of eletricals catapaults and amending the deck to allow the launch add up to £1.8 Billion? Get a grip , its an old trick used to ge6t out of doing work you don't want to do. You give a figure so stupidly high it puts off the customer

  21. Tankboy


    Politics aside, the JSF is going to be a White Elephant, regardless of what flavor it comes in. A S/VTOL, supersonic, stealth, carrier aircraft?

    I can't possibly imagine what could go wrong with that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boondoggle

      Remvoing VTOL will certainly reduce costs by 30%, if you look at the complexity of that endeavour.

  22. John A Blackley

    How odd

    A nation elects people who take vast amounts of the nation's money and spend it on toys.

    Odder still, the nation keeps on electing the same people who keep on doing the same thing.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: How odd

      The intial problem was caused by the Labour administrations of Blair and Brown, and they were kicked out by the electorate. The Tories have inherited the problems and are trying to clean up without the massive and unsustainable overspends left by Labour.

      1. John A Blackley

        Re: How odd

        Did you read the part about 'keep electing the same people'?

        I don't care what colour tie they're wearing. They're the same people.

        Go fail yourself.

      2. Dave the Cat
        Thumb Up

        Re: How odd

        Now you speak sense.

  23. FredDavies


    This is so pathetic it beggars belief. Has anyone thought about sending this to their MPs to ask uncomfortable questions in the House?


    1. Magnus_Pym

      Re: Pathetic

      "Has anyone thought about sending this to their MPs"

      Yes. It's waste of time.

      It's very expensive and difficult to get elected if you are not a member of the party of general choice in a constituency. To become the chosen candidate you need the backing of the local and national parties. You don't get that by looking like the type who might rock the boat. You get that by joining the party as a student reading PPE at the "right" university then spending years rising through the party system by proving how loyal they are, saying the "right" things to the "right" people and generally being seen to do the "right" thing. Anyone with moral fibre or backbone is weeded out along the way.

      It's no surprise then that they all toe the party line and do as they are told.

      1. Andy Fletcher

        Re: Pathetic

        Yikes - thanks for destroying my already fragile belief in our electoral system. Next thing you'll be telling me all the real power is in the hands of unelected civil servants.

  24. valdez

    Which would win in a dogfight, the B or C? I'd say it would be the aeroplane that can stop in midair, and get on the tail of the other as in the Falklands war.

    1. Kevin Turvey


      I'd say it doesn't matter as aircraft don't dogfight anymore, stopping in midair (viffing?) is probably not a lot of use against an air to air missile released from 30whatever miles away.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: valdez

      VIFFing was rarely used in the Falklands aircombats, which were usually tail-chases down to missile or gun range. When VIFFing was used it was often to tighten a turn slightly to bring guns to bear. The idea of dumping all your speed in aircombat is as silly as the old Top Gun "I'll pop the airbrakes and he'll fly right past" line. A slow/stationary jet would be a sitter for any other enemy fighters that may be loitering in the area.

      The F-35C should have an advantage against an F-35B in a dogfight but the outcome is more likely to be influenced by the circumstances (what mission profiles the jets are flying, e.g. if the F-35C is lugging Harpoons on a low-level shipping strike hundreds of miles from home, and the F-35B is flying mid-level local CAP, the F-35B is going to have the advantage) and the support available (who "sees" who first electronically, which is often also down to the radar, sig-int and intelligence provided by supporting aircraft or ships). What might be a better question is how would an RN F-35B do against an Argentinian F-35C (it could happen if the Argies steal enough Repsol oil) when the F-35B doesn't have a real AWACs (like Hawkeye) in support?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: valdez

        "What might be a better question is how would an RN F-35B do against an Argentinian F-35C (it could happen if the Argies steal enough Repsol oil) when the F-35B doesn't have a real AWACs (like Hawkeye) in support?"

        They would probably have the F-35A. AWACs and tankers have a life span of minutes in a serious combat situation, they are the first thing to target.

        I'd be more concerned about real world enemies such as the PAK FA. Its not good. Aussies did some wargaming -

  25. Rubbernuke

    This is interesting reading re the Charles De Gaulles catapult:

    It seems until the French build new carriers with stronger catapults the C would be disadvantaged as it would have to fly with a reduced weapon load- I would also be interested in seeing the maximum landing /takeoff weights of each aircraft to compare.

    1. PlacidCasual

      If we built catobar carriers and bought F-18's I imagine the problem of JSF fatness would go away, assuming it is a problem.

      As to teh F-18, in the immediate future can anyone see us fighting an enemy where stealth will be critical? Any air defence will be wiped out by the submarine cruise missile onslaught before the carrier get in range won't they? Then all we need is a relaible plane to hang the bombs off.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      CdG is a no-no

      It seems the French were cheapskates on their nuclear reactor which makes f-35C operations on the CdG a non starter.

      The F-35B may operate from the CdG, opps..

  26. jason 7

    Time to simplify things.

    Get rid of the RAF/Navy and Army as separate entities and just pull them together under one banner. That way we can also get rid of many more Chiefs/Admirals/Air Marshalls etc. etc. that just breeds masses of in fighting.

    No more bizarre arbitrary rules of RAF has access to this type of helicopter/plane but the army can only have that type of helicopter/plane etc. etc.

    It really needs to be simplified at the top. Don't we have the most top heavy armed forces in the western world?

    But what also amazes me is how those at the top of the Parliamentary chain just cave into deals that blatantly offer poor value for money in the short and long term.

    There must be a lot of stuffed brown envelopes flying around or incriminating photos locked away somewhere.

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. Rubbernuke

    Ironically the B model would be more compatible with more navies- the Italians, Spanish, French plus any American Marine vessel. In fact, anything with a strong deck.

    Interesting reading re the B, pure speculation but an interesting analysis none the less:

    1. Mad Mike

      Not true

      The B model (and the harrier to a lesser extent) requires a specifically reinforced deck for various factors, not least heat. The Italians and Spanish do have aircraft carriers that can only take VTOL/STOVL aircraft (basically harriers at the moment), but I don't know if they're reinforced enough for a F-35B which would require more. The French actually have an aircraft carrier (Charles de Gaule) which has catapult and arrestor.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not true

        "The French actually have an aircraft carrier (Charles de Gaule) which has catapult and arrestor."

        Which is utterly useless for the F-35C as it doesn't have to power to launch a fully armed Rafale, never mind the much heavier F-35. Seems the french went cheap and underspecified the nuclear reactor, for use with the F-35, anyway.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think it's panic stations for the government.....

    Once again a Conservative government has decided we don't need those pesky aircraft carriers and what happens? The Argentinians start again! I think the government wants an operational aircraft carrier asap and sees the VSTOL solution as the quickest (which of course is what BaE advises).

    And what about BaE? I reckon that shower owill probably sell Britain out to an enemy if it delivered "shareholder value".

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Do you think there is a roomful of guys at the MoD....

    Who's only job is to yank Lewis' chain? :) I'm beginning to wonder.

    (Imagines an oak-paneled room in the Ministry of Defense, filled with pipe-smoking grandees drinking brandy. One of them pipes up, "I know what we can do next! Let's put out a white paper mentioning that we will farm out the Prince of Wales as a mobile offshore wind farm until the F35-Cs are ready!! That'll really pee in Lewis' Cheerios!!" Gales of laughter ensue....)

  31. Mips

    What a tirade!

    But unfortunately completely correct.

    Time to disband the RAF.

  32. Hillman_Hunter

    he government has had its head in the sand on this from the get go, If we can't afford to run the ones we have with just three or four helicopters on them, at the most. how will we afford ones twice as big with 20 fast jets, this is another project that at the very best will yield expensive vulnerable floating box, most probably will soak up billions tike MRA4 Nimrod and be cancelled. Already its to late to start again and build a sensible option, Nuke power / F18, or a less sensible option gas turbine / F18. I Think at the design stage they stripped away the capability for CAT's and Traps with the propulsion choices, with only two powerful gas turbines is it really fast enough to Trap, plus power and house the CAT's

    The 35b fill face the same issues as the sea harrier, not enough power for long missions missions with effective weapons loads, particularly now the more powerful engine option is cancelled.

    Now the government is caught in dilemma either go with the brain damaged and expensive to operate current config, or go back to the drawing board and beef up the design. (probably to late and way too expensive).

    It goes back to duff choices made at the start of the project, unwillingness to be truly face up to the cost and a constant push to build it as cheaply as possible and with locally sourced resources

    Put it out of its misery before we spend any more on it,

    1. Mad Mike

      Absolutely right

      The whole aircraft carrier argument is stupid, as we shouldn't even have them. We don't have enough surface ships in the fleet to effectively protect them. The Americans have known and operated aircraft carriers (proper ones) for years and know the level of other ships required for operation. The cost is huge. The RN has how many ships in active service at the moment? Proper, big ships I mean, not minesweepers etc. How many are available at any moment in time? Each aircraft carrier will need a minimum of 4 escorts and ideally a lot more. They are the biggest target out there. At the moment, we'd use the entire remainder of the navy just to protect them, let alone do anything else.

      This is before you even get to the purchase and running costs which will also be a huge burden. We need to decide what we want to do with the armed forces. Either they're around to defend the country, in which case we don't need aircraft carriers and heavy lift capability etc. Or, we want to be able to project power around the world, in which case, we probably do need aircraft carriers and had better be willing to increase the MoDs budget by a large factor.

      None of this means the idiots in the MoD shouldn't purchase more intelligently and cheaply though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Absolutely right

        "Proper, big ships I mean, not minesweepers etc. How many are available at any moment in time?"

        The US doesn't have the ability to defend their carriers against supersonic cruse missiles, the only protection would come from a British type 45 or a French frigate. All those big yanks ships are pretty useless, the missiles would swerve round them and hit the carrier.

        Quality, not quantity.

  33. Rubbernuke

    Quote from Think Defense:

    Using some quick figures for the debate about ‘C’ ability to use the C de G:

    Rafale M Empty Weight: 10,200 kg

    Rafale M Max T/O Weight: 24,000 kg

    Rafale Max Landing Weight: 22,000 kg (not clear to which variant / exactly to what this refers)

    EC-2 Max T/O Weight: 26,100 kg (for reference)

    F-35B Empty Weight: 14,515 kg

    F-35B Max T/O Weight: 27,216 kg

    F-35C Empty Weight: 15,785 kg

    F-35C Max T/O Weight: 31,751 kg

    F-18 E/F Empty Weight: 14,500 kg

    F-18 E/F Max T/O Weight: 29,900 kg

    So it looks like the B and C at max T/O weight might not be able to land on C de G, but clearly both could at less than max. Given landing at max weight is usually not undertaken, this point ‘in favour’ of the F-35B is suspect to say the least. With a larger deck, the Rafale could operate from QE class (though I am not sure if EMALS would in actuality rule this out)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Using some quick figures for the debate about ‘C’ ability to use the C de G:"

      Rafale cannot use its maximum payload on the CdG, its a couple on tones short. That equates to 9 tonnes shorter than the 35C - all its fuels and weapons...

      Its not just weight, but speed (therefore energy).

      The E2 is heavier but requires a much lower speed than a fighter (the C2 delivery aircraft the E2 is based upon has a stall speed below 100mph).

      The CdG simply isn't up to the job, the French need another carrier, maybe we could sell one to them and share it..

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        "....the French need another carrier, maybe we could sell one to them and share it.....

        No! No, no, no, NO! The political ramifications of sharing anything with the Fwench would be a disaster. Just look at the history of NATO - rest of Western Europe agree on the need for NATO, accept its standardisation program despite the impact on national programs, but the Fwench throw a tantrum and go their own way in 1966. They even insist on referring to NATO as OTAN (Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique Nord) just because they have to have everything their way. The Fwench would be a nightmare to work with, they would insist everything had to be Fwench or written in Fwench or designed by a team with Fwench lead (i.e., Fwench). Just look at their awful history of co-operation in European military projects to see their determination to destroy projects if they can't force their view on everyone else.

        I can just imagine the problems if something like Falklands 2 or Gulf War 3 happened and we had to go ask the Fwench if we could take the carrier our for a bit of action. You might as well just give the carrier to any potential enemy.

        And then you have the unbearable Fwench insistance on bragging that would follow any independent British action. I'm not kidding, if we had a shared carrier and took it out for Falklands 2 the Fwench would soon be claiming any victory was solely due to them. Think I'm kidding? Fwench historians like to claim it was actually the Fwench "defence" in 1940 that won the Battle of Britain! Anyone contemplating sharing anything military with the Fwench should remember the quotes following the Fwench surrender in 1940:

        King George VI: "Personally I feel happier now we have no Allies to be polite to and pamper."

        Air Chief Marshal Dowding, architect of the RAF victory in the BoB: "I went down on my knees and thanked God."

  34. FredDavies


    OK, folks, if you agree with the article, there is now an e-petition to let Mr Cameron know:


  35. FredDavies


    It seems we are not the only ones to agree this is a bad idea:

    The petition is still up:


  36. Anonymous Coward

    If The Australians Are Correct

    ..then the Eurofighter looks even better compared to the JSF:

    What they claim is that their simulation proved that infra-red sensors make the JSF quite un-stealthy and that the aerobatic performance is not good at all. What they claim is that aircraft like the Su27/35 equipped with the best IR sensors are more than up to the job of defeating the JSF. If that is true, Eurofighter will be very valuable for defending Britain's core interest - the Islands where the main population lives.

    Also, EFA has proven to be one of the safest, if not THE safest aircraft ever developed and produced. So far only two aircraft have crashed out of hundreds in service. There have been less F22s in service but more crashes.

    But hey, EADS can't bribe as well as the American super-weapons-peddlers !

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Regarding "Ineffective" Tornadoes

    Mr Page and others also like to bash the Tornado here and I would like to dispute that notion. The soviets built a special jamming van to electronically attack the Tornado's ground-hugging radar.

    So in the eyes of the soviets at least, Tornado was a system that brought them some headaches then. Also, Tornado was specified by a large degree by the RAF and it fits British requirements quite well. It defends the main Islands against long-range bombers from the north and it allows for deep-penetrations in order to attack airfields, bridges, railways, ports and other critical installations. And no, the Russians aren't fscking idiots who buy their weapons from a northern power and drink tea the rest of the day while playing backgammon. They make stuff themselves and love people flying at 3000 meters so that they have fodder for their S-400s.

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