back to article Once again, UK doesn't rule out buying F-35A fighter jets

The United Kingdom is edging ever closer to buying F-35As, instead of the B model needed to fly from the Navy’s new aircraft carriers, as a senior officer once again refused to rule out a future F-35A purchase. Lieutenant General Mark Poffley, deputy chief of the defence staff for military capability, told MPs “I don’t think …

  1. izntmac

    Why go totally F-35?

    Maybe the UK should just buy the F-35 Carrier variant for the carriers, some regular F-35s for NATO and regular land use and also some cheaper jets for land based use for UK air sovereignty. The F-35 is a complicated machine and to be totally relying on it is not smart. Better with a mixed fleet and one that can be serviced in the UK.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Why go totally F-35?

      There is a mixed fleet, the other aircraft is called Typhoon. They're keeping the early non-upgradeable ones for the UK Air Defence thing.

      1. Semtex451

        Re: Why go totally F-35?

        True but Super Hornets would have been a lot cheaper shurley?

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Why go totally F-35?

          Sea Hornets would have been a lot cheaper. However, they also wouldn't be able to leave the decks as the aircraft were built without catapults and the cost of adding them is greater than building a new carrier.

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Why go totally F-35?

            If a Sea Hornet couldn't do an unassisted take-off from a deck the length of the QE Class I'd be stunned.

            1. TerryG

              Re: Why go totally F-35?

              The minimum take-off distance of an F-18 is around 1600m and the QE flight deck is 284m long. It's why we invented catapults and arrestor wires.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Why go totally F-35?

                F-18 takeoff distance is 1600 feet, closer to 488 m. Still too long, but it certainly doesn't need a mile to get airborne.

                1. TerryG

                  Re: Why go totally F-35?

                  Take-off distance is 450-500m at minimum weight but it'll take around 1600m if you want to strap on a few missiles and carry enough fuel to do more than one circuit of the ship.

                  1. RPF

                    Re: Why go totally F-35?

                    No way its take-off run would triple.

                    Plus you're thinking still-wind distances. A 30-knot carrier steaming into a 20-knot wind would massively reduce the distance.

                    Then you just bolt on a ski-jump.

                    It would work.

              2. SkippyBing Silver badge

                Re: Why go totally F-35?

                'The minimum take-off distance of an F-18 is around 1600m'

                That's great but we were talking about the SEA Hornet.

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

            2. x 7

              Re: Why go totally F-35?

              A Sea Hornet was an uprated Mosquito...........not quite the same as the F/A-18 Hornet / Super Hornet you lot keep wittering about

            3. collinsl

              Re: Why go totally F-35?

              Doesn't work like that - the back bit is for landing at the same time as the front bit is for taking off, at least on conventional carriers.

              On the old Invincible class the harriers needed a decent run up for VSTOL

              1. SkippyBing Silver badge

                Re: Why go totally F-35?

                'Doesn't work like that - the back bit is for landing at the same time as the front bit is for taking off, at least on conventional carriers.'

                It really isn't, the angled deck allows you to land aircraft without them hitting parked ones if it has to go around. However it's generally impossible to operate the catapults and have the landing area clear at the same time as they overlap, I think the latest US carrier might be the first to allow that by some careful re-positioning of parts.

                1. IglooDude

                  Re: Why go totally F-35?

                  US carriers lately (since the 1960s) have four cats, two on the bow and two on the angled deck portside. The bow ones are usable more or less simultaneously (with a bit of careful timing) with landings, but the side ones are definitely not.

            4. Richard Plinston Silver badge

              Re: Why go totally F-35?

              > If a Sea Hornet couldn't do an unassisted take-off from a deck the length of the QE Class I'd be stunned.

              It may be able to do that when it has no stores, but put a few bombs on it and its range beyond the bow will be measured in metres.

              1. YARR

                Re: Why go totally F-35?

                It may be able to do that when it has no stores, but put a few bombs on it and its range beyond the bow will be measured in metres

                The Ruskies solved this by air-to-air refuelling. They have expensive "buddy" fighters converted to this role, which also have to be carrier launched and have limited range. Besides this is a moot point, since the QE class has a straight flight deck with a ski-jump, so it can only operate V/STOL aircraft at present.

                However it's generally impossible to operate the catapults and have the landing area clear at the same time as they overlap, I think the latest US carrier might be the first to allow that by some careful re-positioning of parts.

                Nimitz carriers have catapults on both the foredeck and the landing deck. See http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/x/556638285

                1. SkippyBing Silver badge

                  Re: Why go totally F-35?

                  'Nimitz carriers have catapults on both the foredeck and the landing deck. '

                  I know, however for the ones on the foredeck the jet blast deflectors of the port one impinge on the wing tip safety line for the landing area. Nothing should be inside that area for landing operations for fairly obvious reasons.

                  You also have to park the aircraft that have landed somewhere, typically this is on the foredeck area as it takes the minimum time to manoeuvre an aircraft there, minimising the interval between landings*. Essentially even with a Nimitz class, unless you've only got a small fraction of the potential air group embarked it's not practical to do simultaneous launch and recovery operations.

                  *Carriers like to minimise the time spent on the flying course as generally it's not in the direction you want to go, and makes you rather predictable for any submarines watching.

                2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

                  Re: Why go totally F-35?

                  > The Ruskies solved this by air-to-air refuelling. They have expensive "buddy" fighters converted to this role, which also have to be carrier launched and have limited range.

                  The Royal Navy had been doing that with Scimitars and Buccaneers before the Russians even had a carrier.

            5. paulc

              Re: Why go totally F-35?

              "If a Sea Hornet couldn't do an unassisted take-off from a deck the length of the QE Class I'd be stunned."

              fully armed and fuelled?

          2. /dev/null
            Joke

            Re: Sea Hornets

            Sea Hornets would, I'm sure, be much cheaper, but who builds aircraft out of balsa and plywood these days...?

        2. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Why go totally F-35?

          'True but Super Hornets would have been a lot cheaper shurley?'

          Than what? We already had the Typhoons.

          They would have been cheaper than F-35, if we'd brought the more expensive carrier but as we didn't that's a moot point. Of course if we wait until later in the production run the unit cost of the F-35 may well have dropped to around SH levels anyway.

        3. Faszination

          Re: Why go totally F-35?

          "True but Super Hornets would have been a lot cheaper shurley?"

          They would have been and DON'T call me Shurley.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Why go totally F-35?

      I used to think F/A-18 Hornet's were the answer (until fitting a catapult turned out to be more difficult than balancing several tonnes of aircraft on a jet exhaust).

      Then I thought drones seemed like a good idea.

      And then finally I thought sod it and decided it would be easier to learn French / German / Russian / Mandarin / Sanskrit [delete as foreign adversary changes] and really hit the military-industrial-complex where it hurts. Take your cancellation clauses and shove them up your venturi pipe, BAe.

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Why go totally F-35?

        "And then finally I thought sod it and decided it would be easier to learn French / German / Russian / Mandarin / Sanskrit [delete as foreign adversary changes] and really hit the military-industrial-complex where it hurts."

        We should go for the Danish defence solution as proposed by Sandi Toxvig. Spend a relatively small amount of money installing telephones every 500 metres around the coast. When someone picks up the handset a recorded message repeats "We Surrender" in all known languages.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Why go totally F-35?

          When someone picks up the handset a recorded message repeats "We Surrender" in all known languages.

          ...including Welsh.

          1. mwnci

            Re: Why go totally F-35?

            "Ni ildio"

    3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why go totally F-35?

        "So you think the UK's defence ministry is so moronic, they didn't go through the obvious first?"

        Yes.

        Pork, Barrels and all that.

      2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Why go totally F-35?

        "So you think the UK's defence ministry is so moronic, they didn't go through the obvious first?"

        Revisit the Typhoon procurement, where some mid level policy wonk wanted to save money, and decided the gun was old hat, so let's do away with the gun. Except the aircraft avionics would require complete recalibration if the weight of the gun wasn't there. So what was there available with the same weight distribution as the gun? The answer? The gun. Great, so we'll keep the gun, but save money by not buying any ammunition for the gun. Hence the first Typhoons were deployed dry. Only a mid-level policy wonk could thin they achieved something there.

        1. Bob Dole (tm)

          Re: Why go totally F-35?

          Great, so we'll keep the gun, but save money by not buying any ammunition for the gun.

          You don't need ammo if all you are doing is flying in an air show.

      3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Why go totally F-35?

        @oodhhan

        How about this... silence your mouth and listen for a change.

        Wow quite a rant. You forgot to indicate to whom you were speaking. I'm sure one of the lucky commenters will be thrilled to find out they are the object of your diatribe.

      4. Dinsdale247

        Re: Why go totally F-35?

        I'd perhaps agree with you except every retired pilot or industry expert in every pro-military blog I have read (and there is lots) have said the same things about the stupidity of military purchasing and the complete loss that the F-35 program has become.

        All the west is doing is pricing itself out of the ability to fight. The loss of life is too politically expensive and this perturbs ever military decision made. The F-35 was an attempt at a NATO wide upgrade scheme for an American company. It's a failure of complexity and distributed manufacturing. The rest of us should all opt out and look at more conventional/cheaper solutions and accept a couple of deaths (or stay the hell out of it).

    4. bexley

      Re: Why go totally F-35?

      Because for every aircraft type you need a whole roster of engineering and technical staff, with one of two types you obviously need far fewer staff, fewer spare parts, fewer support contracts, fewer test and development projects, few weapons integration programs.

      The F35 is something of the holy grail for the cash strapped air forces of the world, yes it is a very expensive capital expenditure but the operation expenditure is relatively low compared with operating a mixed fleet.

      Anyway, mixed fleet of what? In almost every conflict of the past 30 years, the air space has been contested with Russian Surface to Air gear. That has necessitated a stealth capability that the Super hornet does not have. Russian and Chinese air defences are getting better and are available for purchase by our usual adversaries so Super Hornet is not actually a logical choice as it cannot operate over heavily contested airspace, is old and is a generally worn out design which is why everybody is buying the f35.

      Our carriers can only operate f35 anyway, nothing else will fly from them unless we buy some mv22 osprey which highly unlikely.

      It would be lovely to enjoy access to a vast range

  2. SkippyBing Silver badge

    I would note that generally a squadron will embark with the carrier as it deploys and stay with it until it gets back to UK waters. On the grounds the people running the carrier need about as much time in the UK* as the people running the aircraft it tends to work out okay. So you should be able to cope with 1 F-35B squadron per carrier, which is more or less what the Sea Harrier force did as the 3 Invincible class ships were generally run as 2 in service and one in extended readiness.

    But yeah, mixed fleets generally more expensive.

    *This is known as harmony time, individuals should have a set number of days not deployed in a rolling time period, e.g. 180 days in 2 years. Obviously this is different for the different services so I'm not totally sure how it works out if it's an RAF squadron on the carrier rather than a Navy one**.

    **If you're on exchange with another service I believe you follow their harmony guidelines so RAF pilots in an RN squadron would just have to live with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wars tend to be 24 hours/day affairs, so with just one F-35B squadron of twelve aircraft per carrier then with 4 reserved for CAP1 to protect the carrier and 1-2 unserviceable/being serviced you're going to be left with just 7-8 aircraft for missions.

      But with no screening force of 8-10 anti-aircraft vessels to protect it, the carrier isn't going to be afloat for very long.

      The only way I can see these carriers and their F-35Bs operating is as part of a U.S. task force and so I have to conclude that these carriers and their F-35Bs are the price that the U.K. has had to pay to the U.S. for its protection; they don't really belong to us - we're just looking after them for the U.S.

      1 two in the air plus two being turned around to relieve them.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        The ships are designed to generate a sortie rate that I think needs ~36 aircraft to achieve. The question ultimately is do you want to regularly deploy with that many aircraft or save that until an actual war? I believe the current plan is to work towards regular deployments with 24 aircraft initially, so probably two squadrons. For which you need 2 front-line squadrons and a training squadron as a minimum.

        My badly made original point was that you don't need four squadrons to generate one on the carrier, you basically need one and sync its generation and deployment cycle with the carrier.

      2. Bob Dole (tm)
        Pint

        The only way I can see these carriers and their F-35Bs operating is as part of a U.S. task force and so I have to conclude that these carriers and their F-35Bs are the price that the U.K. has had to pay to the U.S. for its protection; they don't really belong to us - we're just looking after them for the U.S.

        Someone gets it. Have a beer.

        Now, don't rock the boat and please accept these papers granting the UK status as an Unincorporated Territory of the United States.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Now, don't rock the boat and please accept these papers granting the UK status as an Unincorporated Territory of the United States."

          New Puerto Rico? But without the climate.

  3. Augie
    FAIL

    We're basically committed into buying this giant whale..simple.

    They wont rule anything out for now as that could either have repercussions on further deferments or worse, questions as to the newest gin palaces are fit for purpose and bought around a single airframe design.

    1. Frank Gerlach #2

      Lewis Page

      ...will explain to you how this is a much better idea than giving the job to your own engineers, technicians and workers. You know, the Jäger 90/Typhoon is tainted with the "euro" letters !!!

      Otherwise an excellent aircraft with a much better safety record than the F22 and on par with Russian aerodynamics, unlike the F18 and the F35.

      But I guess Lockheed has a much better sales department and patriotism is so 1960s.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Lewis Page

        'Otherwise an excellent aircraft with a much better safety record than the F22'

        Really? I can find one fatal F-22 accident, there were thee Typhoon ones in one month.

        http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/15088/three-eurofighters-involved-in-deadly-crashes-in-just-one-month

        1. Frank Gerlach #2

          Typhoon vs F22 Safety

          For a long time, the Jäger 90/Typhoon had no fatal accidents whatsoever, while the F22 had very serious issues in its flight control software right from the start.

          Also, the F22 fleet is quite small as compared to the Jäger 90.

          F22: Five Full Losses: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-22#Zwischenf%C3%A4lle

          Jäger 90; Six Losses, one of it probably in combat in Yemen. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurofighter_Typhoon#Zwischenf%C3%A4lle

          F22 fleet: 180

          Jäger 90 fleet: 515

          That means the Jäger 90 has about twice better safety statistics, if you normalize by fleet numbers.

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Typhoon vs F22 Safety

            'That means the Jäger 90 has about twice better safety statistics, if you normalize by fleet numbers.'

            In terms of losses yes, in terms of fatalities though I think the F-22 is better placed with 1 fatal accident vs 4 (not including the one in Yemen). Also I can only find reference to 406 in service Typhoons (from Flight Global https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/spanish-pilot-killed-in-eurofighter-crash-400225/) where are you getting 515 from?

            Having said that normally* I try and normalise accident rates by flying hours and I doubt we'd be able to get those figures easily!

            *I work in flight safety so I actually do do this quite a lot.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      The problem

      Well, the nub of the problem is that the QE class doesn't have a catapult or arrestor system, and fitting one now would cost about as much as new carrier (we're told).

      This means the only fixed wing aircraft that can be used on them are V/STOL aircraft, and that limits the choice to:

      Yak-38 - Soviet design, out of production, Uncle Vlad probably won't sell us any.

      (Sea) Harrier - 1960's design, out of production.

      F-35B - Modern design, very pricey.

      So, given that there's only one aircraft that is currently being produced that can actually be used on the QE, that's the one we're going to have to get.

      (Whether or not this situation of being stuck with only one choice of plane could have been avoided is a separate rant for a different day)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Britannia rues the waves

    Far better to have specialists at sea without the inter service rivalries.

  5. /dev/null

    Why? Because F-35As can fly further, carry more ordnance, and are about $28m cheaper than an F-35B, since they don't have a lift fan and associated impedimenta. Given that F-35s of some description will be the de facto replacement for the RAF's Tornado GR.4s, in addition to their original task of replacing Joint Force Harrier (now just a distant memory), the F-35A is probably the most appropriate variant to do that, since no Tornado squadron has ever been expected to fly off an aircraft carrier.

    Oh and in the good old days of the Sea Harrier, the RN only had three squadrons (and one of those was a land-based HQ/training squadron) for their fleet of three aircraft carriers...

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'Oh and in the good old days of the Sea Harrier, the RN only had three squadrons (and one of those was a land-based HQ/training squadron) for their fleet of three aircraft carriers...'

      Of course in those days you could only fit two squadrons (~20 aircraft) of Harriers on a CVS at most. With QEC the upper limit is probably about 48, so it'd be nice to be able to do that when needed.

    2. RPF

      Correct.

      This is about the RAF getting F-35s for their tasks (e.g. long-range interdiction), not the RN's needs.

    3. Frank Gerlach #2

      "the F-35A is probably the most appropriate variant to do that, since no Tornado squadron has ever been expected to fly off an aircraft carrier."

      Hey Lockheed, get your folks a LOGIC class. The F35A will not fly off carriers either.

      For moderate development cost, the Typhoon can be used as a low level ground attack aircraft. Using British Storm Shadow ALCMs, for example.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Call Milo Minderbender

    I'm sure he'll have a solution such as paying the restless natives to bomb themselves…

    What's that you say? He's tied up Yemen at the moment?

  7. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    I'll be honest, I'm not really following the authors logic on this one. I would imagine that the aircraft on a carrier stay on a carrier throughout a deployment (Barring failure related replacements). So when talking about carrier related deployments - squadrons refers to the Manpower rather than the aircraft themselves.

    4 squadrons of manpower sounds about right - 1 on board, 1 in Training, 1 on leave and 1 on ramp up. But for the aircraft I cant see you needing more more than 3 - 1 set of the carrier, 1 in maintenance/overhaul, and 1 for Training (probably used by the ramp-up Crew as well).

    In Addition, for the Training crew, you can probably achieve the majority of the necessary training in standards F-35A's, the only parts that are different are landing/take-off, but all of your in flight training would be identical. Considering the F-35A is significantly cheaper (to buy and to run) then using them as the majority of your trainers makes considerable sense.

    Also, considering the continual squeeze on the MOD's Budget buying F-35A's as your land based squadrons (in combo with the F-35B's as your naval variant) is going to make your maintenance costs significantly lighter - when you only have F-35's as fighters then you can standardise your equipment nicely. Similar to how most Airlines tend to stick with either all Airbus or all Boeing aircraft. it allows your maintenance costs to be cut significantly.

    Finally, it sounds like the author is mistaking the RAF with the Fleet Air Arm. The RAF is the land based fleet and you would expect them to upgrade the Tornados to F-35's. The Fleet Air Arm which belongs to the RN controls the aircraft on the carriers, is subservient to the Navy, not to the Air Force. If the Air force is buying F-35A's that doesnt have any effect on what the Navy are purchasing (unless the Air Force purchase is funded by taking money from the Navy). So it really is two separate Topics here...

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'If the Air force is buying F-35A's that doesnt have any effect on what the Navy are purchasing (unless the Air Force purchase is funded by taking money from the Navy). So it really is two separate Topics here...'

      Not true, it's referred to as Joint Force Lightning, the aircraft are run as one big pool with one organisation dealing with all aspects of their operation. As such MoD is buying 138 aircraft some will be in RAF numbered squadrons and some in RN numbered ones and may move freely between the two. So more F-35As means less F-35Bs.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "maintenance costs to be cut significantly."

      Maintenance costs cut - F35s? Does not compute especially as the maintenance is outsourced non-competitively.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Its the maintenance costs of having just F-35's compared to having F-35's, Tornados, Typhoons, Sea Harriers, Super Hornets (as some commmentards have suggested), and whatever else would get thrown in. A single set of spares, and tooling is a LOT cheaper than 5 different sets each needing very specific tooling, maintenance Training and spares.

        Thats what i meant by maintenance cost savings.

        Plus unless I'm mistaken, the non-competitively outsourced work you mention is for Major Overhaul not standard level maintenance.

        1. Frank Gerlach #2

          "A single set of spares, and tooling "

          Lockheed Cool Aid ?

          The A and B versions have lots of differences.

    3. rh587 Silver badge

      4 squadrons of manpower sounds about right - 1 on board, 1 in Training, 1 on leave and 1 on ramp up. But for the aircraft I cant see you needing more more than 3 - 1 set of the carrier, 1 in maintenance/overhaul, and 1 for Training (probably used by the ramp-up Crew as well).

      I was thinking exactly this when reading. A squadron per carrier and a shared pool for OCU and work-up.

      Your squadron that is rotated on leave does not need aircraft!

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        > Your squadron that is rotated on leave does not need aircraft!

        How do they get to Spain then ?

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Your squadron that is rotated on leave does not need aircraft!"

        A bit like hot bunking on submarines :-) But paring active aircraft numbers to the bone means the active craft airframe and engine flight hours goes up far more rapidly leading to shorter service and overhaul time intervals and earlier end-of-life.

        Have we reached the point where Total Cost of Ownership of the aircraft has outstripped the TCO of the pilot yet?

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Your squadron that is rotated on leave does not need aircraft!

        Not even for going to the pub or impressing your brother's girlfriend?

  8. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Wrong math

    You forgot that only one carrier is to be operational at any given time with the other one as a spare.

    That drops your requirement to ~ 3 wings in the absence of dedicated escorting helicopter carriers, because while it theoretically can carry 50 aircraft, you need ~ 3 early warning helicopters and ~ 7 helicopters for other duties so 3 wings is about right as a maximum possible load.

    That means 2 wings on average so the RAF can indeed buy 2 wings of A or C without an issue.

    As a side effect if there is an even theoretical possibility for the carriers to be under complement and even a theoretical possibility to buy C, that puts some pressure on the extortionists from BAE to come up with a more reasonable quote to weld 6 anchors to the deck for arrester wires (the present quote is probably the highest ever quote for 6 welding jobs in the history of human engineering).

    1. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: Wrong math

      " that puts some pressure on the extortionists from BAE to come up with a more reasonable quote to weld 6 anchors to the deck for arrester wires (the present quote is probably the highest ever quote for 6 welding jobs in the history of human engineering)."

      That's a pretty good demonstration that you don't have a clue what is involved in fitting arrester gear. You also seem to have forgotten the need for catapults. "Cats and Traps" is the clue. And then there's the steam generators needed for the catapults or if using electric catapults the generators needed to power the catapults. There isn't of course room to have all this gear on the carriers.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Wrong math

        That's a pretty good demonstration that you don't have a clue what is involved in fitting arrester gear. You also seem to have forgotten the need for catapults. "Cats and Traps" is the clue.

        I do - I actually had Short Take Off, Arrested Landing in mind.

        While Model C officially is not a Short TakeOff aircraft, its thrust does not look that dissimilar from Su-33 or the navalized version of Mig29. Provided it manages to take off without stalling it should be fine.

        That, in turn is unclear - its stall speed is not published officially. However, the normal take off mode for the B model is actually ST so it is quite likely to be within limits.

        The end result it will be BETTER than F35B by all counts and the sole engineering requirement to achieve this is to weld 6 supports for the arrester wires.

        It also opens a whole raft of other interesting possibilities as more or less half of world's modern fighter and close support aircraft can be made to operate as Short TakeOff, Arrested Landing with minimal modifications (one of the reasons why this is an anathema to BAE).

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Wrong math

          SU-33 and Mig-29 do not get off the deck with what you'd call a useful payload however. Nor can the F-35C mimic the B's ST performance as it can't vector the thrust to supplement the lift from the wing during the initial acceleration.

        2. Lotaresco Silver badge

          Re: Wrong math

          " the sole engineering requirement to achieve this is to weld 6 supports for the arrester wires."

          That's simply not true. You don't appear to understand that there has to be something to absorb the energy of the aircraft when landing. This is a complex hydraulic system installed below deck.

          The aircraft has to be stopped in a controlled manner with the energy dissipated. The aircraft are landing at full throttle. The energy to be dissipated is about 65MJ.

          Simply stretching a wire across the deck would not do the job.

          Here's an arresting engine. Four of these are needed, plus all the cable runs and sheaves. Rather more than six welds.

          1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: Wrong math

            That's simply not true. You don't appear to understand

            Oh fffs... I do know that there has to be quite a complex set of hydraulics attached to that, etc. However, end of the day you still have do the f*** 6 welds for first, second and third attempts for arrestor wires. BAE quoted an abominable amount of money for that alone which was clearly intended to ensure that there is no choice of aircraft but model B.

            Nor can the F-35C mimic the B's ST performance as it can't vector the thrust to supplement the lift from the wing during the initial acceleration.

            It makes up for that by giving you a stark choice - dump weapons or crank up flight hours on that vector thrust to the point where it needs an overhaul very quickly. While it is better than the harrier which had only one choice in warm climate - dump weapons it is a nasty choice none the less. If it was not having issues they would not have started looking into the abominable idea of roll-landing. If you have to roll land you might as well arrested land and get it over with.

            SU-33 and Mig-29 do not get off the deck with what you'd call a useful payload however.

            While the model B can do so (somewhat - please read the spec carefully), it has issues landing. See above. Once you take into account the fact that it literally melts the ship infrastructure where it lands and the MTBF on the take off fan the idea of STAL starts to look very appealing. There is a reason why the Russians quite happily sold us the Yak 142 blueprints so that we copy them into the model B and went for STAL themselves after operating VTOL aircraft carriers for nearly 30 years.

            1. SkippyBing Silver badge

              Re: Wrong math

              'If it was not having issues they would not have started looking into the abominable idea of roll-landing.'

              They only looked into short rolling landings when the UK investigated if it was practical to increase the bring back weight on a Gulf Summer Day*, it turned out you could so they went for it. It's actually beyond the original spec but is a useful additional ability. Certainly the USMC have no intention of using it when operating from their** ships.

              'Once you take into account the fact that it literally melts the ship infrastructure where it lands and the MTBF on the take off fan the idea of STAL starts to look very appealing.'

              It doesn't literally melt the ship when it lands. You may want to look up the meaning of the word literally. The deck is coated with an improved heat resistant coating and having watched more videos of F-35Bs landing on an LHD than is strictly healthy I have yet to see the decks go even a bit melty. No idea where you're getting the MTBF for the fan from, I'm not aware of any failures to date so if you've got a link to some figures that'd be interesting to see.

              The Russians stopped with STOVL because frankly their STOVL aircraft were, and this is a technical term, a bit shit. The only interesting bit from the Yak-142 was the three bearing nozzle which was better than the two bearing nozzle BAe came up with for the P-1214, the design team from which contributed a lot to the JSF programme.

              *I think that's the technical term, basically a particular combination of temperature, pressure and humidity that's representative of the Arabian Gulf in Summer which is pretty much the worst case in terms of aircraft performance.

              **Okay the USN's ships.

            2. Lotaresco Silver badge

              Re: Wrong math

              "Oh fffs... I do know that there has to be quite a complex set of hydraulics attached to that, etc."

              Really? One wonders then why you stated that:

              " the sole engineering requirement to achieve this is to weld 6 supports for the arrester wires."

              Because that's clearly wrong, isn't it? There's much more to be done than to weld 6 supports. I'm left wondering if it's the world "sole" that you don't understand or "everything that you are wibbling about". On current performance, it's the latter.

  9. kmac499

    At this rate we'll have the Prince of Wales permanently anchored in Lough Neagh flying air patrols over the Irish Border.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "At this rate we'll have the Prince of Wales permanently anchored in Lough Neagh"

      It wouldn't fit through the lock at Toome. Better try Lough Foyle.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eurofighter Typhoon

    Problem is it has Euro in the name and any mention of that gets the blood pressure rising in so many of our beloved MPs. Best stick with stuff from our best buddies in the US whether it's any good or not doesn't matter. Oh, mustn't forget, we also have £350 million a week to spend on them too.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Eurofighter Typhoon

      OK BAE Typhoon then

      Well it is more or less

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: Eurofighter Typhoon

        > "OK BAE Typhoon then"

        The "Bufoon"?

  11. AS1

    Bearly keeping up

    The problem is, with the Typhoon fleet aging, what will the UK use for intercepting the Tupelov Bears that have resumed their flights near our airspace? Aside from escorting uncommunicative airliners is there another national air defense role? Ironic that our RAF's antagonist is something designed in the 1950s, admittedly with subsequent upgrades.

    Flippantly, the proposed carrier roles (bombing iron-age natives, with no capability to sink the carrier, back into the stone age, and airshows in friendly harbours) could be performed by a SeaFury squadron. Surprisingly, it has similar range and bomb capacity (cf. the 35B's internal bay) and the stealth, 10km vs 15km surface ceiling and speed differential are irrelevant in either scenario.

    I agree with a previous comment that, against any third generation jet capable power, the QE class would need to be embedded in a larger US task force where an addition dozen F35Bs are a token. In this case the RN squadron may well be supplemented by USM squadrons; this would allow F-35As squadrons for home defense to be allocated without impacting the carrier's use in a larger deployment.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Bearly keeping up

      'Surprisingly, it has similar range and bomb capacity (cf. the 35B's internal bay) and the stealth'

      I'm fairly sure the Sea Fury doesn't have an internal bomb bay, so it suffers a bigger performance hit when you add bombs. And it's definitely not stealth being designed before that was even a concept and having a five bladed spinning radar reflector on the nose.

      1. AS1

        Re: Bearly keeping up

        @Skippy

        I should have put, "while the stealth..." as I certainly did not intend to suggest the SeaFury had any stealth capability. I was attempting to convey that the QE class is neither useful in a large conflict, nor justifies the cost in the gunboat/ambassadorial diplomacy where, I hope and assume, it will spend most of its operational hours. In the latter case, pretty much any fixed-wing aircraft that could fly from a non-cat deck would suffice and I happen to like the SeaFury.

  12. x 7

    The OPs comments about squadron numbers and staffing levels reflect the RAF way of doing things not the Navy way.............RAF squadrons have a much heavier management complement and much shorter deployment periods than the RN

    The Harrier fleet was a case in point: the Sea Harrier fleet was three squadrons: 899 (Headquarters squadron), 801 and 809. Deployments were at full squadron level for months at a time. When the SHARs were replaced by RAF GR5/7 Harriers, RAF management took over and with the same manpower levels they decreed there weren't enough pilots or aircraft to do anything other than short-term secondments to the ships. Same manpower, same number of aircraft, about a tenth of the deployment team. In the end the RAF even gave up pretending to have squadrons and amalgamated the ex-RN flights into the "Naval Air Wing" which struggled to put eight aircraft in the air, and couldn't stay at sea for longer than a week.

    Just another example of the RAF doing the RN over. And guess who will be providing the F-35 crews and management? Yes, the RAF! And they haven't a clue how to do it.

    This push by the RAF is an attempt at a funding grasp: make the carriers unusable because there's no aircraft for them, and the budget will go to the airyfairy brylcream boys to buy new shiny toys.

  13. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    It'd be more expensive than just buying Bs. Why do this?

    Because if at some future point they decide to purchase more cabs of the "A" variety, a past public proclamation that they would only ever be buying the "B" would be dug out and senior people would be made to look (more) like twonks. Just because they're not ruling it out doesn't mean they're actually going to do it.

  14. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    It'd be more expensive than just buying Bs. Why do this???

    Because they can?

  15. small and stupid

    Its because the -B isnt going to work, isnt it?

  16. small and stupid

    We should have built full size nuclear carriers , or bought second hand of the yanks, or not bothered at all.

    Non-nuclear pocket carriers wedded to one unproven airplane design = fucking idiocy.

    1. Frank Gerlach #2

      Or

      Just buying from the french. They have a working carrier plus working aircraft. And it will not be such an asymmetric relationship as with the Americans.

    2. WolfFan Silver badge

      Banzai

      Much better, they should have gone to the Japanese and had them build some carriers. And some cruisers and destroyers and frigates to escort them. And the airplanes and helos to fly from them, even if the Japs had to do the design work from scratch; I have great faith in the ability of Mitsubishi and their friends to get something workable out the door in a matter of months and at a reasonable price. It'd cost less than the two white elephants and their non-existent yet hugely expensive air wings, been done in a shorter time, and they'd have an actual fleet. And if the RN asked nicely enough, the Japs would allow British industry, such as it is, to build one or two more ships in Britain, to Japanese plans, with Japanese technical teams standing close by to correct the cock-ups and to take over when the inevitable strikes start. There's even precedent for this, about 100 years ago. The other way, to be sure, but that was back when Britannia ruled the waves.

      [exits, to the tune of the Kimigayo]

    3. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'We should have built full size nuclear carriers'

      They're literally the largest carriers you could build in the UK and are bigger than anything outside the USN. Nuclear carriers come with a whole range of issues that probably aren't worth dealing with if you're not planning on having a fleet of 10 of them.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Plus, if they were nuclear there are a number of ports in the world where they couldn't conduct diplomacy, including the entirety of New Zealand.

  17. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Maybe the MoD is counting on post-Brexit unicorns to make things right

    They'll just roll up with 40 billion Sterling in a briefcase and hand it over to the British Treasury.

  18. veti Silver badge

    Think it through

    Because the US is governed by a mercantalist twat who thinks that the point of having allies is to sell them stuff, and the government wants to keep him as sweet as possible for as long as possible while it works on this Brexit bollocks.

    Seriously. Why "rule out" something, when you can always just "not do it" later?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its not about fighting wars or even defence. Its about making contractors money. Lots of money - paid for by the tax payer, and pocketed by politicians and middle men. What could possibly go wrong with that as a long term strategy ?

  20. gregthecanuck
    Facepalm

    OK... really stupid idea, but here goes...

    Instead of a carrier and runway, how about this suggestion...

    Aircraft placed on a very large drone on ship deck... carried aloft, drone accelerates to a moderate speed at which point aircraft takes over. Drone returns to ship for next aircraft. Reverse for landings? (Drone meets aircraft). It could work...

    Been watching too many Marvel spin-offs lately. Heh.

    1. MrXavia

      Re: OK... really stupid idea, but here goes...

      The chinook could possibly lift it...

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: OK... really stupid idea, but here goes...

        'The Chinook could possibly lift it...'

        Many years ago I was on Invincible for a deployment to the US East Coast. At one point it looked like we might be bringing an XF-32* prototype back for the Fleet Air Arm Museum**, to get it off the ship the provisional plan was to carrier it under a Chinook, the snag was as it was basically a flying wing, and quite a thick one, it would generate lift at around 40kts which would have made the move either very slow, or very interesting. In the end the museum decided it didn't want it, which was a bit of a relief all round.

        *The unbelievably ugly Boeing contender for the JSF competition that lost out for a variety of reasons, none of which weirdly were its looks.

        **At Yeovilton, Somerset, a great day out for all the family and about once a month they do a Saturday evening showing of Top Gun on their carrier flight deck mock up.

      2. IceC0ld Silver badge

        Re: OK... really stupid idea, but here goes...

        The chinook could possibly lift it...

        this made me LOL for real :o)

        maybe we need to clone Eric Brown ? he could get ANYTHING to fly, and he tried literally everything we had, the Germans had, most carrier take offs / landings etc

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Brown_(pilot)

  21. duncandunnit

    Why dont the UK forget about war planes and invest in water defence instead. Large parts of the UK are open to flooding.

  22. Dave Bell

    If the possible F-35A purchase is extra, for land-based use, it's at least worth a serious look for eventual Typhoon replacement.

    Whatever will be available when that comes due is going to be hellishly expensive, and the F-35A will be be effectively new aircraft to an established design. It could be a good deal. I'd be wary of a totally new design, that's part of the problem with the F-35B. We can have a pretty good idea of when Typhoon spares run out, and a replacement has to be ready on-time. But a delayed carrier force isn't as critical as an inability to defend the UK. Maybe NATO allies could deploy some squadrons, if they have the capacity, but will they want to?

    But it's going to be a choice between Europe, the USA, China, and Russia as a source, and I have some doubts about all of them. Will any of them want to do a good deal with us, or will we end up paying through the nose for a second-rate export version?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ALL your calculations are wrong

    HMS QE only needs space for one Helicopter, permanently, with space for other helicopters in a temporary role as it will only ever be used as the new Royal Yacht. There, problem solved. Her Majesty could host some cracking dinner parties on that deck.

  24. ecofeco Silver badge

    The biggest assumption?

    Is that they will work at all.

    So far, the analysis by everyone at the MOD is how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The carriers are outdated already

    We don't need large carriers, as pretty as they are....

    Designing something smaller, with more varied capabilities would have made more sense, launching/recovering new drones would have been a solution..

    The old harriers could land anywhere, the new F35B's melt anything not designed to land on....

  26. Frank Gerlach #2

    F35 Turkey Bomber

    "Can't run, can't turn, can't climb".

    Not my words:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1Z_DuF87Sc

  27. MJI Silver badge

    Time to dust off the plans to

    P1154

    1. x 7

      Re: Time to dust off the plans to

      P1154 wasn't flyable / survivable

      The plenum chamber burning would have meant it would have eaten itself on landing: the recycled exhaust gases would have melted the ground, and the airframe

  28. IceC0ld Silver badge

    MY choice would have been ..........

    yea yea, I know, hindsight and 20/20 vision

    BUt the initial decision to build these carriers was IMHO flawedfrom the outset, we were already looking at a multi BILLION build cost, so why didn't we go all out, and pay to build our 'version' of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, using the US provided plans ?

    that way we still get to spend billions, but get two nuclear powered carrier, and if we were 'avant gard' enough, we could have upgraded to the new electric cats as well, so choice of aircraft would at least be that, we could have a choice, and a carrier that can even help out in a disaste zone

    IIRC they have a 300 bed hospital, can feed 6000 people three times a day, have power a plenty to 'pipe' ashore,can de-salinate enough fresh water to keep a small city hydrated and so on

    so far, we have one big grey war canoe with no aircraft and no AA / AS support and this is the good news ffs

  29. Milton Silver badge

    What did I miss?

    I haven't time to read every comment, sorry. So someone has probably already said—

    "But F-35As are not designed for carrier ops (no arrestor, landing gear too weak)"

    "The F-35C is the carrier variant designed for catapault takeoff and arrested recovery"

    "The F-35C has performance (range, payload) similar to the -A and waaay better than the crappy -B"

    "The F-35B is now our only option for the carriers, having flogged the 'obsolete' Sea Harriers to USMC"

    "The carriers don't have and never will have CATOBAR" systems, thanks to government mind-changing repeatedly during procurement"

    The RAF has rarely shared planes with the Navy because the specs of the planes are too different. In the Falklands some RAF Harriers were supplied to augment embarked Shar squadrons but that was possible only because Harriers don't need special equipment for carrier ops.

    BUT the RAF will not want to cripple itself by adopting the feeble F35-B. Its payload and range are simply too crummy, in addition to all the multitude of failings shared by all F35-variants.

    In short, the F-35 procurement has echoes of Brexit. A series of increasingly stupid decisions fuelled by politics, arrogance and ignorance has led us to a place where there are now no good alternatives left.

    The only "good" thing about F-35 is that in any war against a competent adversary, we won't lose the carriers because of the lousy plane—we'll lose them because the carrier "battle group" will have so few escort ships, due to defence cuts, that the ships will be sunk in less than 24 hours anyway, probably by a swarm of Russian vampires.

    And if these billion-dollar behemoths were not built to be able to take on a serious adversary ... why was the money spent in the first place? To blow up Tommy Taliban's 21-year-old $500 pickup in the desert, using a £800,000 missile as part of a £3.17m strike mission?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What did I miss?

      In a real fight no-one needs to land back on.

  30. John__Smith

    If you look at analysis of these planes you'll see that they are inferior to all likely foes in the vast majority of areas. Might as well be in biplanes.

  31. Aodhhan

    People who don't understand national defense shouldn't write an article on it

    Once again, the Register has a complete lazy and ignorant author on a subject.

    I could go into many specifics, but it will take too long to write it all out.

    I will say this... having a carrier group is the number one way to extend your country's military offense or defense and attack an enemy at any time and any where. In terms of strategy, this is a threat and counter-threat which isn't easily defeated.

    Most of our enemies don't respect our way of life, but they do respect the Navy and its capabilities. When it comes to war and peace... it all boils down to capability and who has more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: People who don't understand national defense shouldn't write an article on it

      Which possible enemy does have the highest capability?

  32. HKmk23

    But....

    The F35 b's still cannot land back on the carriers fully armed so the basic scenario is still either not take off, take off and dump all the weapons or kill somebody anyway! Well played Officer Poffle!

  33. PurpleMoneky

    Complete heresy here......

    We should buy Mikoyan MiG-29K from Russia - they would fly off the ski ramp, and would be at least as modern as any enemy we would encounter ( and we have better training etc.).

    Only $16 Million each (yes EACH) we could have 10 for the cost of a single F35B, even if the serviceability is not great, they are almost a "if it's really broken, buy a new one' cheap.

  34. RyszrdG

    Apart from the cost ..

    Is this the F35 that will need to have its engines serviced in Turkey? You know the country that is currently cozying up to the Russian Federation. Couldn't make it up!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020