Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin has revealed that a new Typhoon squadron will be No. 12 squadron, and that it will temporarily integrate Qatari personnel, including pilots and ground-crew based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.

Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin said:

“QATAR proudly becomes the ninth nation to buy the world’s leading multi-role combat aircraft.

The formation of a joint squadron means our RAF will take the lead in providing training and support to the Qatari Emiri Air Force as it brings the Typhoon into service.”

The Qataris will not be a permanent part of the squadron say the MoD, but will be integrated ahead of the delivery of the Typhoon aircraft. The move will provide the country with valuable joint frontline experience on an RAF Typhoon Squadron and speed up their preparation for when their own jets are delivered.

The government had earlier announced that the life of the Typhoon is to be extended into 2040 and that two additional squadrons will be created, giving a total of 7 front-line squadrons.

“We will be extending the life of our multirole Typhoon for 10 extra years through to 2040, meaning we will be able to create 2 additional squadrons. This will give us a total of 7 frontline squadrons, consisting of around 12 aircraft per squadron.”

There will now be eight front-line squadrons. The additional eighth squadron will be formed with air frames taken from the other seven. It’s understood that increased availability will allow squadrons to downsize and provide the aircraft for the eighth squadron while still allowing the same number to fly.

It is understood that this move was made possible by the TyTAN contract, Typhoon Total Availability eNterprise service.

The contract which replaces the previously contracted Typhoon Availability Service, PC4, PC5, RDSS and Contract 1 contracts sees BAE Systems entering into a 10 year partnership with the Ministry of Defence to transform support to the UK Typhoon fleet.

Accordingto the RAF, BAE Systems will work in partnership with the Royal Air Force and the MoD and will jointly “transform the way they work” to further reduce the costs of operating the fleet at RAF Coningsby and RAF Lossiemouth by more than a third.

The three currently unmanned squadrons are expected to stand up in the 2018-2023 period.

41 COMMENTS

    • Hi Daniele
      As I say below:
      Creating something out of nothing but getting rid of something (12-16 Tornado GR4) and leaving nothing – a slight of hand if you like.

      • Hi Lee

        And as I say even further below. The nothing is indeed Tornado GR4 and this step is only until sufficient F35 are in service to keep squadron numbers current.
        It will be years until we have more than 617 and 809 Squadrons on F35 and the Tornado is going.

        Yes it is a slight of hand but I agree with it.

  1. Afternoon
    No more aircraft but the RAF still find a way to add another Sqn.
    How can you have around 12 a/c per Sqn if you are not increasing the number of frames?
    Whilst I believe in sortie generation over frame numbers I do believe that this is the start of the smoke and mirror exercise that I talked about in a previous post – creating something out of nothing but getting rid of something and leaving nothing.
    Is this going to be an operational Sqn or OCU? Are more pilots suddenly appearing from somewhere?
    Did the RAF manpower planners get something wrong and think “oh no, too many pilots and not enough Sqns!” Not a problem just create another Sqn!
    How many operational packages are these Sqns now going to generate?

    • It all seems to hinge on whether TyTAN can deliver. In a world where we hear of little but budget pressures and probable or actual cuts I think we have to be grateful if there are circumstances where new initiatives can seemingly conjure something from nothing. I know most of us here wish it wasn’t so but I’m afraid that in today’s environment the alternative to taking something away and “replacing it” by creating something out of nothing (or if successful it’s probably fairer to say creating more force elements at readiness from the same overall total unit numbers) is to simply take something away and not replace it with anything. If it works then of those two alternatives I’ll take the something-out-of-nothing option any day.

      Yes, I accept that maybe I’m succumbing to the politicians mind games so feel free to shoot me down.

      • Hi Julian
        No need to shoot you down. As I said I believe in sortie/force generation over number of aircraft, same goes for all platforms (no point in having 6 £1bn T45’s if you can ever only afford and man 5).
        However I would ask to see the evidence where these framework agreements have really ever resulted in huge efficiency savings and an increase in a/c sortie generation. All of our contracts with suppliers should be in the best interest of the user, to generate aircraft hours in the most cost effective way possible. What is his now, attempt number 6? All with BAE? Isn’t it time to start thinking outside the box?

    • Hi Lee

      I believe the pilots and ground crew for these units will come from the current 9 ( B) 12 ( B ) and 31 Squadrons at Marham on Tornado.

      As Tornado retires the number of squadrons is kept current at 8 by forming these extra units.

      The issue is how long is Tornado needed for Op Shader as the crews are needed.

      The extra frames you refer to are the Tranche 1 Typhoons which were due to be withdrawn.

      The nothing you refer to is Tornado retiring, which would have reduced squadron numbers to an even more unacceptable level than current already unless this step was taken.

      5 Typhoon plus 3 Tornado now.
      7 Typhoon plus 1 F35 in a few years.
      5 Typhoon plus 3 ( or more ? ) F35 many years hence.

      Once enough F35 are in service the extra Typhoon units stand down.

      One discrepancy for me in the article is correctly stating 7 front line Squadrons on Typhoon then saying there will be 8 front line Squadrons. Others in a previous article here also had that information.

      But yes apart from that it is smoke and mirrors in that these units are not new and we are spreading existing assets thinner to keep squadron numbers up.

  2. Oh come on people stop the ‘negative vibes’…
    Danele – They mean (as I am sure you realise) this is a new Typhoon squadron. Not an entirely ‘new to the RAF’ Squadron

    Lee – This is how we re – equip current squadrons and we have done for decades. Its no ‘sleight of hand’ at all. Much better than disbanding 12 Squadron surely?
    And then you are misrepresenting the article and the MoD. What was quoted to give context was the earlier MoD statement about 7 Squadrons with the re-activation of stored airframes. What is happening now is they are ‘sweating the assets’ by being smarter with maintenance and stores logistics. If you had an asset / operational ratio of 12 / 9 and then you improve to 12 / 10 you ‘gain’ a usable airframe. That is all this is.

    And its an excellent export tool to have the customer’s Air Force embedded with the biggest operator of their chosen aircraft. I hope the RCAF are watching.

    And well done MoD, RAF and BAE for making a very expensive asset work better.

    • Of course I know that Chris.

      But we know how MoD like to spin things so I do have a certain sarcasm with MoD announcements.

      As I mentioned above I’m in agreement with the extra units.

    • Hi Chris
      Sorry for delay in reply.
      Couple of things.
      All assets are utilised to get the maximum out of their airframe life (sweating) and has been practice for a number of years. I am also aware that airframe life can be extended. To sustain an increased sortie generation with the same number of frames (including those that are in maintenance) will more quickly reduce the number of hours those frames have left. You cannot do more with less however you want to play with the numbers.
      To generate force packages you have to be able to deploy those a/c so the force generation numbers can be sustained. That is why when RAF combat sqns deploy you only ever see 8/10 aircraft deploy, some a/c are in for their majors and some minors. Reducing the number down to 10 a/c per Sqn is fine for U.K. but if they were to deploy overseas other sqns would have to release a/c to maintain satisfactory force generation rates.
      We have been embedding foreign crews for years. When foreign nations buy a/c from the U.K. they actually purchase a whole system. This is the way we have always done it. Training is part of that system, whilst great to announce it is the way we have done things for years, just look at the Saudi Airforce from Lightning to Tornado and Typhoon – the airframe is just the tangible product that people see. To get that aircraft combat ready requires all the things people don’t see when they look at U.K. FMS.
      Am I being a bit negative – maybe, but I get nervous when announcements are made implying that we are getting something extra. As Daniele points out – we are not.

  3. This is good news. Kudos to all concerned. ‘Creating’ an additional squadron from an unchanged total number of airframes is the result of more efficient and faster maintenance. This should be reflected in costs of ownership which in turn ought to make Typhoon a more attractive sales proposition.

  4. Sounds good to me.. 10 front line squadrons in the future, however they do it! 8 typhoon sqn’s and 2 F35 sqn’s plus OCU.

  5. I agree with all the positives on this and it is generally good news, however all an enemy has to do is shoot down 84 aircraft and Britains defence is severely weakened.

    Yes it is good news that the maintenance regime is providing more flight hours, but the force is just too small – not just Typhoon but the whole combat (fighter / bomber) force and that is concerning.

    We need to find a way to get this to circa the 400 airframes the USMC is proposing for its F35B force and I am comfortable with that being a combination of manned and unmanned.

    Again – if we are to support Europe from our shores (instead of theirs) then this is exactly the type of force we should be looking to develop as part of any new SDSR.

    • Pacman27 – Back the truck up a second. Why exactly should we ‘support Europe from our shores’? The EU has decided to embark on its own defence force, military policy and command structures. We are leaving the EU. Forgive me but I have lost where it is our responsibility outside of a NATO operation. A NATO that will IMHO, by the EU’s actions and the understandable annoyance of the US taxpayer, become redundant.

      Of course if the EU wishes to pay the best military force in Europe to defend them …..

  6. There is no suggestion as far as I know that two or three of the Typhoon squadrons will stand down when the Lightning comes along so the mix could be 8 x Typhoon and 2 plus 2 Lightning…. at least?

    • Oh Geoff if only.

      RAF back up to 12 Fast Air as it was in 2010.

      And totally bucking the trend of endless defence cuts and more with less, by increasing numbers? What are you smoking, I’ll have some.

      I’m afraid you will see the older Typhoons withdrawn ( the 2 extra squadrons ) once more F35’s are here.

  7. Hi Pacman.. I don’t think it would be easy for another country to shoot down 84 UK Typhoon jet’s.. The Typhoon is a superb fighter jet.

    • Whilst I tend to agree with you if it was a 1-on-1 situation – we have lost aircraft in most of our major conflicts and are constrained by the small number of aircraft at our disposal.

      Certainly if it did kick off with a Peer nation – 84 aircraft is no where near enough.

      • This lack of depth across the piece is what worries me the most. They are so complex with such long lead times a fight is over before production / training moves an inch.

        Airframes, subs and ships are my greatest worry. Most vehicular stuff can be ferried in from America in quantity if worst came to worst.

  8. I do hope this squadron is based in Qatar. And that all pilots are vetted by MI6, because I’d hate for a front-line fighter piloted by a Islamist plant to use it weapons against our capital during a routine flight. This idea seems good on paper but include a ton of caveats.

  9. I think we have to be realistic about who would be a peer nation… Let’s face it that would be Russia and they would be up against the whole of NATO air power not just the UK. There is no other nation in the world that i can see where the UK would fully mobilise it’s air force to fight another nation one -on-one. I think sometimes we forget that’s what NATO is for and other military organisations we belong to.. We mobilise forces and fight together. There will not be too many occasions where the UK fights a peer nation along in the future.

    • John – for ‘NATO air power’ you should say ‘UK and US air power’ because the rest wouldn’t be around for a while. The EU Commission, as Commanders in chief of the EU Air Force would need to call a conference over several long lunches, have three late night meetings and then announce at the midnight hour they are going to seek to mediate the problems … As Russia drives its tanks across the Ukrainian and German plains …

    • Hi John

      If history has shown us anything – it is that at the end of the day we must be prepared to defend ourselves until a coalition is in place, we did this with Napoleon and the 2 WW’s and I see no reason why this would change.

      European countries commitment to NATO is all about other countries paying for their defence – especially true of Germany.

      We need to move to a force that can protect our shores from a peer threat – as that is the worst case scenario and if we have more funding and appetite available then we expand that force outwards. That is my view and for me it is best done through higher volumes of combat aircraft, submarines and escorts.

  10. It’s not peer opponents we need to look at, its the next tier down or the one below that.

    Gulf war 1, UK lost 12 jets, so in today’s money that is 1 out of 7 squadrons gone.

    The gulf war involved huge numbers of allied forces, especially from the US and more importantly the US bringing the growler a capability very few allied nations have.

    Now consider what would happen if say UK and France decided to act together against a similar opponent and consider the likely losses.

    The RAF is hopelessly under powered, considering it has been used in every conflict the UK has been involved in, which is not something we can say about the navy or even the army (to any real extent).

  11. Hi Steve
    I don’t disagree with your argument: that the RAF needs more resources.
    Even today, though, I believe the air forces of the UK and France do exercise considerable combined combat power – although the lack of a Growler type aircraft is a serious gap in their inventory.
    I think your figures on losses should be revised: the RAF lost 6 Tornado GR1s on operations during the Gulf War of 1991.
    3 were shot down by SAMs (believed to have been – Roland, SA14 & SA2)
    1 was blown-up by it’s own bomb
    2 hit the ground during low-level manoeuvring at night.
    Four of those losses were during the controversial low-level bombing phase at the start of the war. No Jaguars, or Buccaneers, were lost on operations.
    In a quarter century of warfare since Iraq 1991, fast jet losses have been minimal –
    A Sea Harrier FRS1 was shot down by an SA-7 while on a close-air support mission over Bosnia in the early 1990s, and a Tornado GR4 was lost to an American Patriot missile in a tragic case of “blue-on-blue” during Gulf War 2.
    The French also lost a Mirage 2000D to a SAM over Bosnia during 1995.
    The use of medium level tactics and precision munitions since 1991 has limited losses.
    I agree, however, that independent high-tempo operations against a modern, integrated
    air-defence network will probably result in a much higher attrition rate

    • I think the 12 include crashes, but they were still losses.

      I really don’t get why we did not invest in growler style jets after Iraq showed the extreme weakness of the conventional jets without anti radar support.

  12. Interesting comments from all above..

    But i do think 9 or 10 squadrons will suffice when it comes to future needs.. Think if i’m right in saying that would be anything up to 120 front line combat aircraft plus OCU sqn’s.

    Any extra combat aircraft for the RAF/RN in the future would be excellent but as i said i think the UK can manage with 10 Squadrons.

  13. I know I bang on about this but the USMC is getting 400 F35bs on a $30bn pa budget.

    I know this doesn’t cover everything but it is roughly 50% of the UK defence budget.

    USMC 190k people and an Airforce larger than the RAF (take a look at the infographics on this – its pretty amazing/disconcerting).

    Surely we can and must do better. We should take a long hard look at ourselves and the USMC or ADF or IDF and then seek to create an expeditionary force with 50% of the available budget and use the remainder for home defence, Navy, CASD and central operations and civil service requirements.

    On the Growler front – doesn’t the F35 take this capability forward so we now won’t need them.

    F35b and 2-4 Magma is my preference for our force going forward.

    • We withdraw the anti-radiation missiles, so the f35 moves the story forward but not fully. We are effectively assuming that in the opening salvo we can nolify the opponents anti-air defenses and then bring in the typhoons. This is also assuming that the f35 stealth really holds up. Considering the russian jets were mirroring the US f22’s earlier this week, it seems stealth isn’t quiet as good as advertised.

      On the USMC front, you just can’t compare for multiple reasons, including.

      1. USMC benefit from economy of scale through purchases with the other US forces
      2. USMC budget doesn’t also include all the MOD style costs, which our budget does. Not sure what percentage of the defence costs go that way, but i bet a significant proportion.
      3. USMC budget doesn’t include any of the big cost items that are included in the UK one, for example the nuclear deterrent or the frigates/destroyers

      Then there is the IDF which is pretty much purely domestic based and again doesn’t have the big cost items, plus is heavily subsided by the US.

      ADF is more comparable, but their budget is focused different than ours with a more defensive focus, although that appears to be changing.

      Ultimately the only direct comparison really is France. UK vs France military capability and assets are pretty comparable, some areas France wins, such as man power and others such as heavy lift or sig int UK wins, although i would say France does a better job with its budget than the UK overall.

      • Steve

        I think you can compare the USMC budget – as I have highlighted and acknowledged it is not like for like, but then again the UK Defence budget is double that of the USMC – so what I am saying is spend half on replicating the USMC and the other 50% filling the other elements not covered such as CASD etc.

        For me if we can replicate or even get close (75% of) to the USMC and then spend the other £30bn on Navy – inc CASD ($15bn), £8bn (Airforce – strategic lift/support) and $7bn for central admin and civil servants.

        I will take this every day of the week.

        The argument about the USMC leveraging the scale of US procurement also applies to us as well – we are getting many items at very competitive pricing including Apaches, F35’s, JLMV’s and P8’s. So we cant really complain.

        We are so far off the pace for VFM it is ridiculous.

        • I don’t disagree on the value for money front, but it is easy to see where it falls apart.

          Take the current Apache, we insisted in adding UK specific parts to the US design and effectively doubled the price for a maybe marginal improvement in performance.

          Then there are purchases like the Wildcat’s, a decent helicopter but because it was produced locally, it has been made in limited numbers and so massively over priced for its capability.

          The combination of messing around to support unprofitable UK industries and lack of scale means what we do have is massively overpriced.

          The scale of the US domestic purchases really can’t be underestimated, just look at how cheaply they are making the new apache (why on earth we aren’t buying double or triple what we are at the cost i have no idea) is amazing when you consider it against the wildcat. Ok different type of helicopter for different purposes, but i would think looking at them as a non-expert, that the apache is more technologically advanced, better gunned and better armoured and that it should cost way more and not a fraction of the price.

          We appeared to have learnt our lesson with the new apache, f35 and the p8, but unfortunately they come at a time where the exchange rate is taking a pounding due to the uncertainty around brexit.

          We also have the other domestic purchases / mix buys, like the ajax (partially UK), frigates, carriers, etc.

          Also look at the continuous agreements to build and then midterm cuts that we constantly go through. I wonder how much the unit price of the t45 would have been if they had built the original 12, i suspect probably a few hundred million less less at a guess.

          It all adds up.

          The lack of value for money is heavily driven by our size and that we are unwilling to accept that buying domestic is no longer a real option with a limited defence budget. Whether we should or shouldn’t is a long debate and i am not sure i know the answer.

          • Agreed Steve ( especially on Apache) but also think this is the way we need to be thinking and we need to dramatically rationalise and scale up what we do buy. Merlin offers great specs and true VFM – we should have double the fleet we currently have.

            If we are to buy British then we do need to get volumes that support a price point, or accept we are uncompetitive and buy from the best value supplier.

            If we accept we are uncompetitive and wish to support UK industry – then this needs to be factored into the budget as a top up payment and be transparent. Interestingly the exchange rate is the same or better as it was stated for the business cases for these large programmes (circa 1.3) as it has fluctuated normally over the decades and been managed – so from that point of view Brexit is moot.

            Ultimately $60-70bn pa should be enough for a USMC sized force – especially if we go for a single force structure and we just need to be more rigorous and ruthless about how we spend it.

            Governance is poor in the MOD I think and requiring audited accounts (like the USMC) has to be a must going forward.

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