back to article British defence minister refuses to rule out F-35A purchase

The Royal Air Force might buy F-35As instead of F-35Bs, according to a UK Parliamentary statement by the minister for defence procurement. Harriett Baldwin, in a written answer to a question from Labour MP Kevan Jones, said: The Strategic Defence and Security Review confirmed the UK's commitment to procure 138 F-35 aircraft …

  1. Alister Silver badge

    We are rapidly becoming an international laughing stock, aren't we.

    We once produced the world's best VTOL / STOL fighter aircraft, but we decided to scrap them all instead of investing in upgrades and improvements. Then we built an aircraft carrier designed to only operate VTOL / STOL aircraft, and we have to beg another country to provide some barely capable aircraft to operate from it.

    Even if you plan to only operate VTOL / STOL fighters from a carrier deck, why did no-one realise that the carrier would need to operate cargo aircraft and tankers to support the fighters, and they would need cats and traps to be useful?

    As it is, the only way to ship cargo, spares, mail, and crew to the vessel is by helicopter, which limits the range it can operate from land based support.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      I can't remember who said it, but someone once said that if politicians were given guns to sort out their own problems with each other then everything would work out pretty well. Which when you think about it is a beautiful yet upsetting thing to think about. How many lives would've been saved if it were the man in the suit who went off to Iraq to fight Saddam instead of a group of young men and women?

      Anyway, in this situation it would be the right thing to do. Politician has to fly an aircraft from an aircraft carrier, what would they use? Given the fact they'd have to do it, instead of picking something because their friend makes a few quid out of every one sold, they would NEVER have chosen the F-35 and they would NEVER have commissioned aircraft carriers that didn't come with catapults.

      1. The elephant in the room

        If memory serves correctly, at one point Saddam did challenge George Dubya to a duel!

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: giving guns to politicians to sort it out

        That would look almost exactly like the final event in the 'Upperclass Twit of the Year" competition.

      3. Dr Scrum Master

        I can't remember who said it, but someone once said that if politicians were given guns to sort out their own problems with each other then everything would work out pretty well.

        Rather like what I've always said about water-boarding: those who advocated it should have undergone it.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      WTF?

      So you're saying, instead of relying on the F-35B being VTOL, which means we have S/VTOL only carriers that have to use helicopters for cargo, AWACs etc. we should go back to using the Harrier, which was a S/VTOL aircraft which relied on helicopters for cargo, AWACs etc...

      1. Alister Silver badge

        So you're saying, instead of relying on the F-35B being VTOL, which means we have S/VTOL only carriers that have to use helicopters for cargo, AWACs etc. we should go back to using the Harrier, which was a S/VTOL aircraft which relied on helicopters for cargo, AWACs etc...

        No, I'm saying there are two different issues.

        First, that they planned to build the carrier based on using VTOL / STOL aircraft, without considering the requirements for catapults and traps which permit the use of COD and other ancillary aircraft types to support carrier operations.

        Second, having designed the carrier with VTOL / STOL in mind, they then sold off or scrapped our only operational aircraft of that type.

    3. Commswonk Silver badge

      why did no-one realise that the carrier would need to operate cargo aircraft and tankers to support the fighters, and they would need cats and traps to be useful?

      Because they don't operate that way. If you want to prove me wrong please identify the countries that operate aircraft carriers that can handle cargo planes and tankers, along with the names of the ships themselves.

      As it is, the only way to ship cargo, spares, mail, and crew to the vessel is by helicopter, which limits the range it can operate from land based support.

      Er... no. Do a search on "Replenishment at Sea" for some clues about how it is done. For the Royal Navy the role is fulfilled by Royal Fleet Auxiliaries; see the relevant Wikipedia page.

      1. S4qFBxkFFg

        "Because they don't operate that way. If you want to prove me wrong please identify the countries that operate aircraft carriers that can handle cargo planes and tankers, along with the names of the ships themselves."

        Not the commentard you replied to, but the USN appear to manage with an E2 derived transport (called the C2) for cargo. I presume it works for all their Nimitz carriers, maybe the smaller ones, and apparently they also loaned it to the French for the Charles de Gaulle.

        Tankers are another matter...

        1. PacketPusher

          Tankers are there too.

          Last time I looked, the USN used the S-3 Viking for ASW and as a tanker.

      2. Alister Silver badge

        Because they don't operate that way. If you want to prove me wrong please identify the countries that operate aircraft carriers that can handle cargo planes and tankers, along with the names of the ships themselves.

        Ok.

        The US Navy uses the Grumman Greyhound in the COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) role, to ferry personnel, mail, supplies, and high-priority cargo from land to aircraft carriers such as USS Nimitz et al. A derivative, the Hawkeye, operates as a carrier based AWACS.

        They also use the Lockheed Viking in a number of carrier based roles which include anti-submarine warfare, and in-flight refuelling (tankers).

        Er... no. Do a search on "Replenishment at Sea" for some clues about how it is done. For the Royal Navy the role is fulfilled by Royal Fleet Auxiliaries; see the relevant Wikipedia page.

        Fleet replenishment by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary is fine for long-term planned logistics, where delivery times are in weeks, but of no use at all for short term requirements where COD is used.

      3. Blexie

        But they do operate that way...

        The United States, and literally any of the Nimitz and later class CVNs (and likely the class before whose name I forget from the top of my head) both operate fixed wing tankers and cargo aircraft.

        Tanker services were (until January this year) provided by the S-3 Viking which is fully carrier capable. Cargo services are provided by the C-2 Greyhound.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But they do operate that way...

          That's because the American carriers are about the size of Jersey. Although the British carriers are very big, they aren't nearly as big as that.

          1. Vic

            Re: But they do operate that way...

            That's because the American carriers are about the size of Jersey. Although the British carriers are very big, they aren't nearly as big as that.

            At 300m long, the USS Forrestal was a similar size to the new British carriers (280m).

            Here is a fun video of a transport aircraft landing on it...

            Vic.

      4. rh587 Silver badge

        That'd be the US.

        C2 Greyhounds provide a much greater range, top speed and cargo capacity over helicopters.

        E2 Hawkeyes provide a much greater range, altitude and loiter capability than helicopter-based AWACS

        Lockheed S-3 Viking has all the same advantages over heli-based ASW and aerial refuelling/tanker duties.

      5. Richard Plinston

        > please identify the countries that operate aircraft carriers that can handle cargo planes and tankers,

        When the UK operated fleet carriers they used converted Fairey Gannet AS4s in the COD role. Versions of Gannets also were used as ASW, ECM and AEW. Scimitars, Sea Vixens, and Buccaneers were used for refuelling other aircraft.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairey_Gannet

        1. YARR

          V-22 Ospreys?

          Perhaps the US will sell us a few V-22s to use as transports? Apparently they're developing a variant for in-flight refuelling.

          If drones are predicted to bear the brunt of future combat roles, the F-35 pilot will be relegated to a remote drone operator role. The question then will be if the straight-through deck of the QE class carriers are long enough for combat drones to get airborne without assistance? Or perhaps EMALS will be available to retro-fit by then?

          1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

            Re: V-22 Ospreys?

            Use of the Osprey may become part of the agreement with the USMC, that already uses V-22s for COD transport to all the LHCs that the Marines fly Harriers off of.

          2. Dave the Cat

            Re: V-22 Ospreys?

            Sadly the RN and MoD have already ruled out a V-22 purchase which is a great shame as this one airframe can accomodate all the ancillary uses: CoD (CMV-22B variant), AWACS (EV-22 variant) and Tanker using a palletised system with a drogue out the back door (less Heath Robinson than it sounds!)

            Hopefully they might change their mind but if they do you just know they'll c0ck it up somehow....

            1. Sandy5252

              Re: V-22 Ospreys?

              V22 Ospreys do not get good press. They are VERY complicated and more expensive than regular choppers. They cannot carry much and they are not armoured, makes them too heavy.

              Normal battle field choppers carry a lot of armour protection for the crew.

      6. James O'Shea
        Mushroom

        for those who really want large cargo and tanker aircraft, you should know that the SN once demonstrated that C-130 Hercules aircraft can land on a carrier _without_ a tail hook, so no need for arrestor cables, and take off again without using the catapult. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar-poc38C84

        When I last looked, the RAF still had a few C-130s. Perhaps the RN might borrow one or two.

        Perhaps the RN could also conduct landing trials in sight of land, and let me know when and where, so that I could sell tickets to view the inevitable disaster.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think we became a laughing stock years ago. Now we just keep topping up the hilarity.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Even if you plan to only operate VTOL / STOL fighters from a carrier deck, why did no-one realise that the carrier would need to operate cargo aircraft and tankers to support the fighters, and they would need cats and traps to be useful?

      As it is, the only way to ship cargo, spares, mail, and crew to the vessel is by helicopter, which limits the range it can operate from land based support."

      Lucky for us the Falklands war happened so close to home wasn't it. No way we could have sent STOVL-only carriers to win a war 8000 miles away with no friendly territory anywhere close.

    6. WolfFan Silver badge

      We are rapidly becoming an international laughing stock, aren't we.

      'becoming'? I was pretty sure that that ship sailed quite some time ago.

      We once produced the world's best VTOL / STOL fighter aircraft

      Britain once produced the world's only V/STOL fighter/light attack aircraft which actually worked; if anyone mentions Yak-38 'Forgers' I will laugh at them, Forgers could, just barely, get out of their own way. If the wind was blowing in the right direction. And they might, just might, be able to carry as much as a ton of external armament. (Yes, I know, I know, the specs say two tons... but only if they didn't carry much fuel. And it's not like they had particularly long legs even with a full load of fuel.) Forgers were the best of the rest, the theoretically far superior Yak-41/Yak-141 (don't ask, it's really stupid) 'Freestyle' never went into production, and the VAK191 was simply a joke and not a good one. Nothing else even got so far as wasting money on a prototype, unless you count the USN's 'Pogo' planes of the 1950s/early 60s.

      1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

        you forgot...

        Mirage "Balzac" and Mirage III V in the sixties.

        Never got into production, but as for now the Mirage III V is still the fastest VTOL aircraft at Mach 2.

        1. Vic

          Re: you forgot...

          Never got into production, but as for now the Mirage III V is still the fastest VTOL aircraft at Mach 2.

          Well, if we're allowed to do aircraft that didn't make production, the Hawker-Siddeley P.1154 also made Mach 2.0, was rather smaller, with rather higher MTOW, and didn't need nine engines...

          It was scrapped in 1965. And now, half a century later, we're buying in VTOL aircraft that are slower than both of the above.

          Vic.

      2. IWVC

        and early experiments with plenum chamber burning (afterburning in the front nozzles I think) showed very promising supersonic potential if developed properly.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If memory serves me right...

      didn't the contract stipulate the ability to be able to add cat-trap if it was required? I'm sure I read an article somewhere that went on to say that although that was a part of the design requirements, it turned out that it wasn't done and it would cost a lot of money to go back and do it?

      I remember thinking if I'd paid for something and was then asked to pay a lot more cash to rectify the contractor's mistake, I'd be REALLY pissed. Then I remembered I'm one of the people paying for this through my taxes.....

      1. Dave the Cat

        Re: If memory serves me right...

        Your memory does indeed serve you correct.

        The carriers were supposed to be designed 'for but not with' catapults and arrester gear. BAE did no serious design work on this after 2006 despite continuing to suggest to the Labour government of the time that they were. Hence the rather embarrasing senario when the Tory government decided to go with the cats and traps option after the 2010 SDR, at this point they still understood that this was possible, only to be told by BAE afterwards "Erm.... actually you know what we promised? Yeah we didn't do it and now you can't"....

        General Atomics was contracted to install an electromagnetic catapult but informed the government that BAE had been somewhat economical with the truth of 'For but not with' and that it would cost nearly £2bn to install them and put back delivery of Queen Liz back to 2023 at the earliest.

        Cheers BAE another monumental F**k up.

    8. MyffyW Silver badge

      Hornet

      Think I might have asked this before, but could an F-18 be launched without catapult from HMS Queen Lizzie? And if so how much would it cost to string the requisite rubber bands across the deck to retrieve said commodity-fast-jet?

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    A is actually not a bad piece of kit

    A is the only one which has > 1 thrust to weight ratio so combined with vector thrust it is not such a bad piece of kit. If and only if it actually works. At least the spec is pallatable.

    It will also complement the Eurofighter which is a fine piece of kit until it gets into line-of-sight, then it is a sitting duck.

    The "designed to be an interceptor" delta wing geometry of the latter translates to half-a-county turning radius (similar to an old Mig). So modern fighters like the Su30 onwards, F22, F35 block A and even the Rafale which have half of its stall speed and can literally turn on-their-heel in mid air (like the old Harrier) can enjoy a turkey shoot. If the force has both the Eurofighter and block A having said turkey shoot becomes a much more difficult proposition.

    1. David Neil

      Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

      But the F35 has been shown to be at a severe disadvantage against a 3rd gen fighter like the F16 in visual range engagement. It's advantages come in low observable/stealth - once you're in a dogfight it's been beaten comprehensively in tests.

      So your position that it can fill that gap when the Typhoon gets into visual range engagements is wrong.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

        But the F35 has been shown to be at a severe disadvantage against a 3rd gen fighter like the F16 in visual range engagement. It's advantages come in low observable/stealth - once you're in a dogfight it's been beaten comprehensively in tests.

        Reminds me of when they first deployed Phantoms in Vietnam. They were the latest/greatest combat aircraft with an awesome killing capability...but that capability came exclusively from missiles. Get them within close range of enemy fighters armed with cannon and they basically didn't even bring a knife to a gunfight.

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

        So your position that it can fill that gap when the Typhoon gets into visual range engagements is wrong.

        You are right - I just realized that the vectoring is Block B feature. Not Block-A.

        This makes block A is the only Gen-5 fighter with no thrust vectoring which means that it is a s***age all around. Due to stealth and lack of vectoring it will be beaten flat by Gen-3, Gen-4 or thrust vectored Gen-5 once it is in line of sight.

        So it is not any better than the Eurofighter in a dogfight either. If not worse - an F22 or 4+ generation Sukhoi will have either one of them for breakfast. So UK will be complementing one fighter that sucks in close engagement with another. I can see the other rationale (Eurofighter still till this day is not really a ground attack craft, while the F35 is supposed to be able to do it). This is however the most ridiculously expensive way of filling this gap.

        Thanks for pointing it out.

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

          "This makes block A is the only Gen-5 fighter..."

          You could have just stopped there. Other than the F-22 (obviously also American), there are no other Gen-5 fighters. The PAK FA and J-20 are far from operational and have capabilities even more questionable than the F-35, and other than a couple of countries that claim to be developing them (India and Turkey specifically, while Japan has an experimental platform for testing) those are the only candidates that exist. The F-35 deserves plenty of criticism on its own merits, but its pointless to try to compare its features and capabilities to other Gen-5 fighters when no other country actually has one.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

          "So UK will be complementing one fighter that sucks in close engagement with another".

          Which is actually quite reasonable, as we have no current or foreseeable role for carrier-borne fighters anyway.

          The real question is why throw good money after bad? The carriers themselves were only built to get some votes for Gordon Brown - they don't really need any aircraft, as they will never be used. Ask yourself:

          1. What are the odds of the UK going to war with any nation that can defend itself, without the help of the USA?

          2. If the UK goes to war in alliance with the USA, why would the two small puny British carriers be needed when the Yanks have got 11 huge ones twice the size and far more effective? (Quite apart from the fact that any reasonably up-to-date enemy would sink an attacking carrier in about five minutes using hypersonic missiles).

          1. WolfFan Silver badge

            Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

            (Quite apart from the fact that any reasonably up-to-date enemy would sink an attacking carrier in about five minutes using hypersonic missiles).

            This is why your carriers need:

            1 large, long-range, supersonic, interceptors carrying long-range missiles: to kill missile-carrying aircraft or inbound missiles a long, long, long way out. Pity that there aren't any more F-14s carrying AIM-54s, isn't it? F-35s with AIM-120s just aren't the same. And the British carriers simply won't have enough F-35s to stop a mass attack, anyway. Depending on the range from base, Tu-22M Backfire maritime strike aircraft can carry one, two, or three hypersonic 200+ nautical range cruise missiles, each with a one ton HE or a nuclear warhead. Backfires usually operate in regimental strength, 21 to 27. That's 21 to 81 Mach 6 inbound vampires from 200-250 nautical miles range... AIM-120s have a max range of about 70 nautical miles, an effective range against cruise missile sized targets of under 50 nautical miles. That's less than 30 seconds flight time for a Mach 6 missile...

            2 escort ships with long range hypersonic surface-to-air missiles. The USN has lots of Ticonderoga and Arleigh Burke ships with Standards, max range 100 nautical miles, effective range against cruise missile sized targets 70-80 nautical miles. Anything that got past the USN's F-18s and F-35s armed with AIM-120s would have to get past lots and lots and lots of Standards; a typical USN carrier task force would have a Tico or a Burke as the goalkeeper, right next to the carrier, with 122 (Tico) or 90 (Burke) Standards, and would have one to three more Ticos or Burkes in the inner, Anti-Air Warfare, ring. (The middle, Anti-Submarine Warfare ring, would have ASW ships which would be nearly helpless against inbound hypersonic missiles, but the Russkies or the Chinese ain't gonna waste carrier-killers on ASW frigates. The outer ring would be mostly ASW helicopters, some of which might turn on radar enhancement systems to try to look like a carrier to a cruise missile's radar.) The RN has Type 45s, armed with Aster 15 missiles. Max range 30 km, or 16 nautical miles. Good luck with that.

            3 local point defences. The USN's carriers have Sea Sparrow missiles, not much good against hypersonic cruise missiles but better than nothing, and Phalanx or Goalkeeper close-in defence guns, again better than nothing. (Note: the latest version of the Sea Sparrow has an effective range of about 12-15 nautical miles against cruise missile sized targets. That's right, the point defence system on American carriers is almost as long-ranged as the fleet anti-air warfare systems in the Royal Navy. Someone should tell the Admiralty that the days of 'give them a broadside and board them in the smoke' are long gone.) The RN might have Phalanx and a few 30-mm systems. Phalanx is a 20-mm Gatling gun, based on the Vulcan gun fitted to many American aircraft. Goalkeeper is a 30-mm Gatling gun, based on the gun carried by the A-10. The 30-mm gun the RN is getting is based on the Bushmaster revolver gun. I know which one I want on my ship when the signal 'Vampire! Vampire! Many inbounds, Mach 6, range 150!" goes out, and it ain't no bloody Bushmaster.

            The RN's carriers ain't gonna last five minutes against a modern missile strike. The USN's carriers might actually survive one, maybe two, attacks... until the escorts run out of Standards. Then it's all over.

            1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

              Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

              And when the American carrier group runs out of standards, more can be flown in using those Greyhond carrier-capable transports for high-priority cargo, then transferred to the screening escorts using helicopters or even ship-to-ship.

              (Assuming the USN has enough standards in inventory for replenishment)

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

              "The RN's carriers ain't gonna last five minutes against a modern missile strike."

              That;s all very depressing until you stop and think about the reality of the world. The UK and it's little RN is not going to be going up against the Russians or the Chinese on its own. Not ever. And what exactly would have to be improved to make the RN into something useful against such an enemy? Nothing we could ever affors, that's for sure.

              To be honest, I can;t think of anywhere, currently, apart from the Falkland Islands, where we would need a carrier because there's no nearby ally we could borrow airfields from. But then alliances change. The US didn't want to help, at least not overtly, during the Falklands conflict because of alliances and relationships in South America, despite being one of our most close allies and the "special relationship". Without our own carriers, there's have been little point in sailing down there at all.

              1. Dave the Cat

                Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

                To be fair while not overtly supporting the UK, Regan did plan to help if the crapola really hit the fan:

                https://news.usni.org/2012/06/27/reagan-readied-us-warship-82-falklands-war-0

          2. Richard Plinston

            Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

            > the Yanks have got 11 huge ones twice the size and far more effective?

            In the Falklands war the British carriers regularly operated the Harriers in weather conditions that would have shut down the American fleet carriers entirely. For example in the frequent fog when there was no visibility the conventional aircraft would not be able to land, and thus would not be allowed to take off. For the Harriers the carrier would leave a trail of flares on the water behind them. the harriers would go into vertical mode, drop down to sea level (identified by the flares) and follow the trail to catch up to the carrier.

            In a large seaway, common in the south Atlantic, the surging of the flight deck would make it too dangerous to try to land. The Harriers would come alongside in vertical mode and would slide sideways over the deck at the mid-point where there was little or no vertical deck movement.

            Fleet carriers are not always more effective.

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

            "1. What are the odds of the UK going to war with any nation that can defend itself, without the help of the USA?"

            Not very high, of course. But who'd have thought we needed carriers until Argentina invaded the Falklands?

            The new carriers and the expensive US aircraft might not be the best solution, but it could be argued that it;s better than no solution.

      3. Chz

        Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

        I'm not saying it *is* as good as an F-16 at visual ranges, but all tests to date have involved neutered F-35s because the software and testing was incomplete. In the test you're most likely referring to, the F-35s were restricted by software to pulling 6Gs. Which is naturally going to lose you an aerial knife-fight.

        We still don't really know its capabilities, or lack of them.

      4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

        It's advantages come in low observable/stealth

        Security through obscurity, again?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

      Would the vertical take off version not have to have a trust to weight ratio of more the 1 to work ?

      1. Horridbloke

        Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

        "Would the vertical take off version not have to have a trust to weight ratio of more the 1 to work ?"

        By my understanding there isn't a vertical take off version.

        1. Richard Plinston

          Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

          > By my understanding there isn't a vertical take off version.

          The F-35B can take off vertically, but only with reduced gross weight. ie: no armament and reduced fuel. STO on a ramp allows full warload. Vertical landing is done after the fuel has been used up.

          Just like the Harrier actually.

        2. Dave the Cat

          Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

          "By my understanding there isn't a vertical take off version."

          This seems pretty vertical to me....

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW28Mb1YvwY

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A is actually not a bad piece of kit

        I love the idea of a "trust to weight ratio". We could use it to set up a scale for the reliability of politicians and businessmen.

  3. John Dann

    Here's an idea for El Reg: Employ a correspondent to write on defence matters who has half a clue what they're writing about.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      can't see what's wrong with the original article it is simply factual. Some of the "knowledgeable" comments seem a bit questionable though.....

    2. m0rt

      @John Dann

      Lewis, is that you?

    3. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Show working or shove off, there's a good chap.

      1. IHateWearingATie
        Devil

        Let the troll feeding commence

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Employ a correspondent to write on defence matters who has half a clue what they're writing about."

      Are you sure we're all on the same Page here?

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Really

    you couldn't make this up...

  5. IHateWearingATie
    Joke

    The icon says it all

    Not a funny joke either :(

  6. small and stupid

    Can anyone explain again why we bought STOL carriers instead of proper ones?

    I would have thought that the really expensive parts of an aircraft carrier - the bits that can overrun spectacularly - are basically the same for both.

    1. IHateWearingATie

      Tis a long and sorry tale - have a search through Lewis Page's archive of columns as there are a few on on.

      Long and the short of is was the MoD procurement team thought they had written an option on the shipbuilding contracts to include catapults and associated STOL kit if they wanted. They hadn't. When they got a cost to include them I seem to remember it was more than the original cost of the carrier so they gave up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As I recall Lewis was quite in favour of the STOVL idea, due to the benefits in terms of flexibility and training costs. Trap landings have to be constantly practiced. You need carriers at sea all the time conducting constant flight operations, so you can rotate all your naval aviators through them on a regular basis. Apparently STOVL operations at sea are less difficult, so land-lubber RAF pilots can convert to carrier operations with a few days of refresher training. Very handy if you're a country that has only a couple of carriers and can't afford to operate them with full air wings all the time.

    2. Mark 65

      @OP: UK military procurement has always been about what some pompous prick coated in medals who's never been in a skirmish wants and never about what the cannon fodder actually need to get the job done. One of the only parts of the military where this doesn't apply (as much) is the special forces who are a bit more forthright in demanding access to better kit than the rank and file but who still get short changed nevertheless.

  7. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    RATO Typhoon

    I think we all know it needs to be done, if only for the lolz.

  8. Simon Harris
    Joke

    Two problems, one solution.

    1. There's an aircraft carrier doing nothing.

    2. London apparently needs another runway.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Two problems, one solution.

      Just send the Glasgow up to, well, Glasgow. Then park the Queen Elizabeth in the vacant berth and (voila!) London becomes the only world financial capital with a downtown airport!!

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: Two problems, one solution.

        London already has a proper downtown airport LCY.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nah they don't need another run just VTOL / STOL planes.

  10. phuzz Silver badge
    Pint

    Here's a good question to argue about:

    If the requirements for VTOL had been dropped, ie only the -A and -C variants were going to be built, how much better would the F-35 be?

    Not having to worry about fitting in the vertical lift bits would simplify the entire design, and instead the Marine Corps and the Fleet Air Arm could have gone for a bespoke VTOL aircraft, that's not compromised by also having to also be a conventional fighter/bomber as well.

    (There's that supersonic version of the Harrier's engine, the Bristol Siddeley BS100, still sat in the Fleet Air Arm museum, just saying. Harrier 2 anyone?)

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Evil thought

    I wonder how these money sinks would fare against several thousand cheap 'weponised' drones.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Evil thought

      Why not ask Arthur C. Clarke?

      http://www.mayofamily.com/RLM/txt_Clarke_Superiority.html

  12. 0laf Silver badge

    They still make Harriers for the Yanks (or the Yanks make 'em) why not just buy some of the buggers back?

    On land we'd have been better buying more F16s for quarter the price since they do everything we need really. I mean FFS for most of the conflicts we're in right now we'd have been better buying the US's A10 off them since they didn't seem to want them.

    They're aren't enough facepalms in the world for those carriers. Only politicians can fucks up so monumentally, consistently and repeatedly. Can we not fit some coal boilers in there for the steam? Probably more sensible then building two feckin billion pound carriers that would have relied on a launch mechanism that didn't exist and they couldn't afford to develop.

    1. Andy 97

      The new ships don't have ramps.

      The Harrier doing a VTO would burn lots of fuel and require refuelling again once it was airborne (or have its range greatly reduced).

      Perhaps someone with greater knowledge of the Harrier could confirm this?

      1. S4qFBxkFFg

        It would certainly use a lot of fuel, but afaik the hover time was mainly limited by the amount of water carried. (It may seem bizarre, but injecting water into a jet engine actually increases the thrust.)

        Apparently it cools the engine enough to allow it to run at higher power settings, but an engineer I spoke to said the reduction in density (water vapour is much less dense than air) was more important.

        1. Mayhem

          Cooler engine intake means more denser air coming in, cooler turbine means more RPM possible, and adding water increases the mass of what comes out the other end, all combined meaning more thrust.

          And a shitload more pollution, due to unburned fuel passing straight through, hence the black smoke trails.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            We need to be more ambitious

            "And a shitload more pollution, due to unburned fuel passing straight through, hence the black smoke trails".

            Just like "Admiral Kuznetsov", in fact. Oh shit! You see what this means? Those sneaky Russians have got the jump on us again - they've got a VTOL aircraft carrier. (Sorry, "heavy missile cruiser").

        2. Richard Plinston

          > It would certainly use a lot of fuel

          In a conventional take off the engine is used at full thrust from brakes off until climbing speed is reached at some safe altitude. In a vertical or STO take off the same is done. The time taken and fuel used is not significantly greater. There may be weight limits for a VTO. Certainly a vertical landing does use a lot more fuel than a conventional landing (where the engine is only used at low levels of thrust).

      2. Kurt Meyer

        The new ships don't have ramps

        @ Andy 97

        "The new ships don't have ramps"

        The new British carriers certainly do have ramps. The picture at the top of this article clearly shows a ramp on the portside forward.

        1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: The new ships don't have ramps

          > "The new British carriers certainly do have ramps. The picture at the top

          > of this article clearly shows a ramp on the portside forward."

          That's a codpiece.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "They still make Harriers for the Yanks (or the Yanks make 'em) why not just buy some of the buggers back?"

      The Yanks don't make them any more, that's why they bought all of ours to cannibalise for spares.

    3. Peter2 Silver badge

      They don't make them. That's why the Americans sensibly bought up our entire stock of Harriers, plus spares for less than the cost of an F35. They aren't operating them, just keeping them to break for spares as it's a lot faster and cheaper than trying to get the parts fabricated when required. The USMC therefore manages to keep their harrier fleet flying cheaply until they have a delivered and working replacement.

      The electromagnetic catapults do work, and were offered them (IIRC) for a $200 million fixed price, with the Americans covering resolution of any faults that came up at their expense. The problem was that our ship designers had pencilled in a bit saying "these could go here", but then didn't do any design work for putting in wiring etc, meaning that the ship would have to be extensively modified at a greater cost than the original price for the carrier.

      We are now likely to end up in a position where we have the carriers, but no aircraft. We stand a good chance of being in the unique position of being the only country that operates a carrier for another country to fly the aircraft off of!

      Frankly, I think we ought to dig up the designs for the last generation of prop based aircraft which didn't need catapults or (complicated) traps. The Sea Hornet (a development of the famous Mosquito, with folding wings for carrier ops) would fit in the hanger of our new carriers and took off and landed from the smaller carriers we used in WW2. It's got a similar payload for ground weapons at the F35's maximum range (which should be compared to that of the Sea Hornet for a serious WTF?! moment)

    4. Richard Plinston

      > They still make Harriers for the Yanks (or the Yanks make 'em)

      """ in 2003, the 72nd and last AV-8B to be remanufactured for the USMC was delivered. ... which marked the end of the AV-8B's production; the final new AV-8B had been delivered in 1997"""

  13. Andy 97

    British aircraft building was decimated during the 60's and 70's so that rules-out our chaps. Now we're left with a project that's still not delivering and we still don't have an alternate provider that we could deal with.

    What other business in the world would put up with this?

  14. Daz555

    Did Britain ever NEED to be on the bleeding edge here? Would a boatload (or airfield load) of Super Hornets not have been good enough for little old us? Cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, and would have actually worked on day one rather than needing a decade of software and hardware upgrades and fixes.

    .....and we got into this mess to start with by not choosing nuclear carriers which of course ruled out any cheap options for the aircraft themselves. Mad mad world.

    I'll eat my hat if our carriers ever end up with more than 12 navy F-35s operating from them. All that dosh to deliver the punch of 12 aircraft? It's laughable.

    1. MrXavia

      I don't get why we didn't go for a nuclear powered aircraft carrier with cats n traps from the start...

      Cost would have not been too much higher, we already have the nuclear power knowledge (our subs use nukes). Plus with cats n traps we'd be able to use any aircraft we wanted, the Eurofighter typhoon

      could have been updated to a carrier version fairly easily....

      1. graeme leggett

        Nuclear powerplants can be politically unacceptable when doing tours of the former colonies and other allies. With weapons you can be all coy and that "for operational and security reasons" you can't say yay or nay about whether you have nuke depth charges on board but when you turn up at 40 knots without a hint of black around the funnels then it's pretty clear that you're not using Esso Superunleaded and that there is a potential 'ecological disaster' onboard.

        Plus when you come to scrap them you have to be careful with disposal - can't just flog them off to be cut apart on a foreign beach somewhere

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's all about politicians' self-esteem

      It's really all about prestige, being seated at the top table, "punching above our weight", and getting photo-ops with the top Yanks. (Not to mention maybe a few plum sinecures in the political afterlife). This well-known vignette illustrates the syndrome perfectly:

      ==================================================================

      Michael [Portillo]

      Bevin also supposedly comes back at one time from a meeting with the Americans, when an inner group of ministers is discussing whether there should be a British nuclear deterrent.

      Denis [Healey]

      Oh yeah.

      Michael

      And Bevin says, apparently, “I don’t want an American speaking to me again like that, we need to have an independent nuclear deterrent".

      ==================================================================

      http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/social-economic-history/more-warlike-wed-think-the-labour-government-1945

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's all about politicians' self-esteem

        This would be the same government that effectively whole abandoned parts of the world to Stalin's tender loving care, knowing full well what that would mean ...

  15. batfastad

    Well

    So at least the "killing other humans at long-range" department has still got funding.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    stupidly ordered without catapults and traps for launching and recovering aircraft

    Indeed. In this day and age, when military forces are collaborating - the ability to land an American F-18 or even an F-35C on a UK carrier would be an advantage.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So nearly $15 billion WITHOUT engines...

    So that's very nearly $15 billion for 138 F-35Bs without engines... and who knows what else. (Although arguably an F-35 without an engine is about as useful as with one, and a great deal safer). Someone is raving mad, or else on the take. That's $500 from every one of the 30 million UK taxpayers - for which they will get what? You can bet that the cost will at least double before the aircraft are delivered, and who knows what it will grow to if they are ever actually to fly.

    For less than one-third of that - less than $5 billion - we could buy 138 excellent, state-of-the-art, tried and tested MiG-29Ks. With engines. Or, for about half the F-35B cost (without engines) you could have fully functional, tried-and-tested Su33s.

    1. Mark 65

      Re: So nearly $15 billion WITHOUT engines...

      It's 138 right now but, just like every other customer, I believe we will never take the full compliment - or full shovel of shit to use the correct term. They're over cost and underperform. Scrap the order and just get some super hornets and various other bits of kit to keep the US military industrial complex sweet.

  18. Dave Hilling

    Ugh not that debunked thing again

    The F-16 vs F-35 thing has been debunked so many times I cant believe it still gets mentioned. How about articles from people who are actually flying it to fight with it? Its a stupid thing to use flight envelope stability tests as the purpose of any comparison.

    https://theaviationist.com/2016/03/01/heres-what-ive-learned-so-far-dogfighting-in-the-f-35-a-jsf-pilot-first-hand-account/

    Or how in training F-35s had no problem waxing F-15E's

    https://theaviationist.com/2016/06/27/f-15e-strike-eagles-unable-to-shoot-down-the-f-35s-in-8-dogfights-during-simulated-deployment/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ugh not that debunked thing again

      "How about articles from people who are actually flying it to fight with it?"

      Haven't they all been suffocated while trying to fly it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ugh not that debunked thing again

        Actually, no; they are more likely to be burned.

        https://www.sott.net/article/333425-Marine-Corps-F-35-VTOL-fighter-jet-catches-fire-during-training-mission

  19. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I'm off to re-watch that episode of Yes, Prime Minister where Hacker and Sir Humphrey talk about how Britain's Polaris "deterrent" was slightly undermined for years by the fact that the warheads wouldn't bolt onto the rocket boosters.

    I wonder if these aircraft carriers will end up becoming floating hostels for would-be immigrants fleeing the Middle East?

    I mean, if they can't launch or recover the aeroplanes we have bought for them ...

    1. billse10

      Re: Bah!

      "The Grand Design" … where quite memorably Trident was "the nuclear missile Harrods would sell you"?

  20. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Britain now owns five F-35Bs

    Except, like Windows 10, not only do we not own them, but they tell their true owners everything you do with them, where you go and even potentially limit what you are allowed to do with them and/or change/add/remove functionally at the whim of the true owners.

  21. Sandy5252

    The ongoing stupidity of our MOD defies belief. Buying the carriers was no bad thing but buying them to suit only one aircraft with no Cat * Traps was just DUMB!

    The F35 is regarded as a high tech slow unreliable target for the Ruskies. I am sure the Navy will do their best with it but why not give them the best available instead of USA most expensive worst aircraft ever!

  22. Sandy5252

    The USA operates a fleet of carriers which are supported by airborne tankers and airborne AEW, the personnel support that use the CATOBAR for launch and recovery.

    Look up the Grayhound and Hawkeye.

    They have been using this type of carrier for a LONG time, with these aircraft.

    The steam catapult was a UK RN invention.

    The new American latest carriers will have a new catapult system which is electric powered. EMALS I believe.

    We could have installed CATOBAR system but our wonderful MOD needed to save 5 quid to cancelled it and now we have the worst of all combinations- a huge helicopter carrier that can take V/STOL aircraft- only one type of which exist. The F-35B is the worst version of that design- much heavier, reduced fuel load, reduced weapon load, reduced range. Makes you want to weep.

    If we fit a CATOBAR system we could use a whole fleet of different aircraft.

  23. Lotus79

    Why cannot the Royal Navy use the Lightning II C. Could this aircraft take off from a ramp and land using arrestor gear? Could the angled deck have an electro catapult so it could operate more types of aircraft?

    1. Vic

      Why cannot the Royal Navy use the Lightning II C.

      Because we don't have a carrier that can accommodate it.

      Could this aircraft take off from a ramp and land using arrestor gear?

      Yes, but you'll need a catapult as well. We don't have any carriers with catapults any more.

      Could the angled deck have an electro catapult so it could operate more types of aircraft?

      Yes. But BAe Systems want as much money to convert the current carriers to use EMALS as we paid to build them in the first place.

      We haven't got that sort of cash to throw around at the moment. And even when the next election comes around, I don't think Maidenhead has enough to do with ship-building for it to happen.

      Vic.

  24. Lotus79

    Britain has signed an agreement with USA about operating US F-35's (but marine corps).

  25. rtb61

    F35 PIG

    I thought the proper name for that extremely profitable aircraft was the F35 Pig. Double plus bonus, the very second they stop buying, they defence industry will be demanded a replacement because they are shite and this has been done on purpose. Outdated stealth, slow, expensive, crap range, unreliable, poor aerobatic performance, small payload, low durability, massively profitable though (30% to 50% with a full range of scams in place to hide it all and share amongst insiders), the global con forced by the North American Territorial Occupation farce, don't buy it and in numbers and they will replace your government.

    Poor UK now has to pay tribute to US occupiers. Give it a few more years and the US will demand direct payments for their rent an occupation 'farce' or else you will suffer an incident, protection racket and make no mistake.

  26. nemo183

    Please stop being beastly...

    Look, can we please stop all this beastliness about our armed forces? Nothing but negative, mean and cruel comments. Anyone would think there was only bad news to be had.

    Why, just the other day the Navy managed to coax one of our six Type 45 destroyers into life in order to neutralise the threat of a mighty Russian warship that could have presented a considerable threat to the nation had it turned right and powered up the Thames, rather than potter down the channel. Think of the devastation there could have been had it unleashed its deadly weapon system - three deep-sea submersibles, each of which was almost 9m long.

    Joking apart, press reports say that HMS Diamond was "scrambled". Last time I looked, all six non-functioning Type 45's were neatly lined up in Portsmouth, looking the part at least. Imagine the scene when the order came down from the Admiralty to "scramble" one. Panic must set in amongst the six captains. It's been so long that they've been at sea that half of them have lost the keys. Another two can't remember the last time they filled up the tank, leaving the remaining intrepid mariner desperately searching for the manuals on how the thing works and trying to remember if "port" is on the left side or the right side? Meanwhile, the crew are running a sweepstake on how far they'll get before they either overheat or the propeller falls off.

    And to think we could have had twelve of these broken ships, rather than six. Whoever allowed for that piece of logistical planning/procurement should be given a medal. Oh, I see they have - sort of. Des Browne was the minister for defence in 2008 when they finally whittled the order down from twelve to eight to six. He was an MP then - he's a Lord now. Unfortunately, whilst saving a few quid on destroyers, in a moment of madness he seems to have been the man who ordered two aircraft carriers..... Please tell me I'm wrong...

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