At the start of June, HMS Queen Elizabeth departed Portsmouth to continue trials with F-35B jets in the North Sea.

This opinion piece was submitted to the UK Defence Journal by Edward Davies. Edward is an MA graduate in International relations from the University of Leeds with special interests in Russia, China, AirPower and intelligence.

With the jets having already declared initial operating capability and a maiden voyage for the carrier task group planned next year, the UK is well on the way to possessing a fully integrated, formidable capability in the F-35B.

F-35Bs on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

However, although the UK has committed to a total of 138 F-35’s over the programme’s life, only 48 B variants have been purchased so far. With the type of the remaining 90 airframes yet to be decided, there has been some considerable speculation and debate surrounding the identity of the remaining aircraft. But why does this matter? Whilst most of the differences between the two variants may appear to be subtle, they were designed to meet different operational requirements and therefore deliver different capabilities and possess different performance parameters. This has significant implications for how the jets are best employed and the problems they are best placed to overcome.

Therefore, there now exists an opportunity to review the makeup of the lighting force before the outstanding airframes are acquired and how this would best meet the future defence objectives of the UK. As this article will outline, operating the correct ratio of a mixed force of both F-35A and F-35B variants could provide the UK with some key benefits without detracting from its ability to field two fully equipped Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.

So, how do the jets differ?

All three variants of the F-35 represent the cutting edge of fifth generation fighter aircraft and stealth technology. Whilst they do not inherently differ in their core capabilities, their different designs stem from the need to meet quite different operational requirements and the way in which they are deployed.

The three variants are as follows:

  • The F35A possesses a conventional take off and landing capability (CTOL) and is designed to operate from airfields and is unable to operate from aircraft carriers.
  • The F35B is the VSTOL (very short takeoff and landing) variant which possesses a maneuverable lift fan which allows it to operate from both carrier decks and short, austere airfields.
  • The F35C is the carrier version, designed to operate from flight decks with catapults and short trap capabilities.

Obviously, as the UK’s Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are equipped with ski-jump’s instead of catapults for launching and short traps for recovering aircraft, the C variant isn’t a viable option for the UK.

Below are some of the key differences between the A and B variants:

A VariantB Variant
Cost$79.2M$115.5M
Internal fuel8,278kg6,123kg
Combat range on internal fuel669 nmi (1,239km)450 nmi (833km)
Weapons payload8,160kg6,800kg
Internal gun?YesNo
Max G limit+9+7
Max speedMach 1.6Mach 1.6

 

looking at the stats above you could be forgiven for thinking that the A was the more capable aircraft. On the face of it, the A can fly further, carry more weapons, pull more G and all whilst costing $36.3M less per airframe than the B variant.

A U.S. Air Force F-35A.

However, it is important to remember that both the A and B variants possess the same electronically scanned array radars (the AN/APG-81), sensor systems, data-link and stealth technology, all of which are extremely capable and are the core on which both airframes’ impressive capabilities are built. Using these systems, both variants can conduct advanced electronic attack and jamming and possess fully integrated radar warning, targeting support and self-protection to detect and defeat surface and airborne threats. According to Lockheed Martin it is these capabilities, combined with aircrafts low observable cross section (stealth capability), which “allows the F-35 to reach well-defended targets” 1.

Additionally, it is important to note that the B variant conveys some advantages over the A in certain situations. Aside from its carrier-borne role, as a result of it’s VSTOL capability, the F-35B could also be operated from ‘austere airfields’ much in the same way the Harrier force has done previously. Austere airfields are those which have either been damaged through enemy action, have been quickly set up without the full infrastructure of a usual base or those which have a smaller runway. This could be of benefit in a quickly changing combat environment where forces need to adapt quickly with potentially limited resources, whilst also decreasing the time required for the F-35B force to be forward deployed on land as well as on, or from, the carriers. In this way, the F-35B could provide increased flexibility being quickly deployed to different areas in small groups to help reduce the threat to the aircraft on the ground.

Furthermore, it is also important to consider the development of the weapons integration on the different variants, as this is not universal across both jets. One example of this already outlined is that the F-35B does not possess an internal gun and the UK currently has no plans to purchase external gun pods. More significantly, it is important to note that weapons such as the American Joint Strike Missile (JSM), a fifth-generation cruise missile, will only be compatible with the A and C variants whilst others such as the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) cannot be stored internally on the B variant2. Furthermore, the A variant is undergoing testing in the US to deliver the B61-12 nuclear free-fall bomb, a capability which is not duplicated on the F-35B. However, once again, it could be argued this is of limited importance to the UK, which relies on its continuous at sea deterrent in the form of Trident to deliver its nuclear strike capability and does not possess any free-fall nuclear weapons.

US F-35As.

However, the lack of integration for these weapons systems may be of limited significance to the UK as it looks to integrate its own weapons to fulfill very similar roles. The UK’s F-35B’s can currently be armed with two air to air missiles and two bombs (up to 1,500lbs) with advanced short range air to air missiles (ASRAAM), advanced medium range air to air missiles (AMRAAM) and Paveway IV bombs the weapons of choice. These capabilities are to be complimented by the follow-on modernisation programme which aims to add MBDA’s METEOR beyond visual range missile, SPEAR cap 3 air to surface missile, Paveway 4 Mk3 bomb, Paveway 4 tactical penetrator, upgraded block 6 ASRAAM and Raytheon’s Stormbreaker air to surface missile to its arsenal. These weapons would represent a significant increase in capability for the jet with weapons such as SPEAR cap 3 designed to be carried internally and provide a standoff weapon which can neutralise advanced air defence systems such as the Russian S-400 whilst minimising the risk to the jet3.

Whilst the integration of these systems represents a significant increase in capability for the UK’s F-35B’s, it is here that the F-35A could provide one important advantage. Utilising the F-35A’s larger internal storage space more weapons, such as SPEAR cap 3, could be stored internally without disrupting the airframes low observable cross section and whilst also being launched from a platform with an increased combat range. Put simply, this means that the F-35A could strike more numerous, heavier defended surface targets, further away in one sortie.

Therefore, although there are only subtle differences in compatible armaments and their internal or external storage on the two different airframes, the A could provide more flexibility for future capabilities in this area as it possesses a larger internal weapons payload. In contrast, it is feasible that for some missions, the F-35B would have to carry some of these weapons externally, detracting from its stealth capability.

So, why do these differences matter?

In the past decade the world has witnessed a return to great power politics and a reinvigorated willingness of states to use varying degrees of force on the international stage. This has been accompanied by the erosion of the technical advantage the west has enjoyed over the past 70 years alongside new challenges such as subthreshold threats, in an increasingly contested world. Russia and China are two key examples of this.

In the case of Russia, a reformation of the dilapidated post-soviet armed forces which began in 2008 has transformed the forces of the Russian Federation into a modern, professional and well equipped 21st century fighting force. The Russian armed forces have continued to be a key tool of Russian foreign policy as demonstrated by their operations in Crimea since 2014 and Syria since 2015.

Similarly, China has moved away from its previous mantra of ‘hide and bide’ and, once again backed by modernised armed forces, has become increasingly confident in asserting its claims on the South China Sea and challenging American hegemony in the region. Whilst China has avoided getting directly involved in any conflicts, this does mark a step change in how Chinese military power features in its foreign policy, and how Beijing is willing to pursue its interests.

F-35Bs on HMS Queen Elizabeth

It is within this context that the UK can expect to face increasing competition from Russia, China and other state actors whilst no longer relying on the operational freedom experienced in previous wars such as Afghanistan. One key component of these capable modern military forces is integrated air defence systems (IADS). Two shocking incidents, the first in Ukraine in 2014 and the second in January of this year in Iran, both resulting in the downing of civilian aircraft have served to highlight the potency and proliferation of these weapons. But looking at these systems on an individual basis does not paint the whole picture and considering their integration into larger networks is key to understanding the threat that could be faced.

Modern IADS are complex, multi-layered defence systems that combine ground based and aerial sensors with long range highly mobile SAMS, shorter range point defence systems and electronic warfare assets and decoys. Russian equipment, such as the long range S-300 and S-400 SAMS, are combined with medium and short range systems, such as SA-17, SA-15 and SA-22, to ensure Russia can keep NATO airpower at length far within their own borders. The way in which this restricts the freedom of movement for NATO airpower would mean that S/DEAD (suppression/degradation of enemy air defences) missions would be a key priority in the first few days of a conflict with the key question being, according to Justin Bronk of RUIS4, not whether NATO could defeat these systems but whether it could do so quickly enough to avoid defeat on the ground whilst deprived of regular close air support. In parallel, Chinese systems such as the HQ-9 and HHQ-9 navalised variant are also a key linchpin in anti-access area denial (A2AD) strategies in the South China Sea aimed at keeping both naval and air assets as far away from the Chinese mainland as possible, once again restricting freedom of movement. In addition to this, whilst these two examples represent the most capable models currently deployed, these weapon systems are proliferating globally and with many smaller powers investing in these systems; as Iran demonstrated with devastating effect earlier this year4.

It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that the UK now faces a greater threat from state actors but also to it’s freedom to operate than it has in recent history. The MoD has itself recognised the change in threats that the UK is likely to face in the 21st century with the armed forces shifting their focus away from counter-insurgency operations toward peer, or near peer, conflict. It would therefore seem that the chances of the UK requiring a capability to comprehensively defeat complex IADS in the future is increasing.

In this regard, whilst both aircraft possess a powerful ability to electronically attack and disrupt components of IADS, here, the F-35A could provide a competitive edge to aid in S/DEAD or strike missions against other surface targets. As Bronk points out4, the way in which to defeat IADS is through detecting, classifying, tracking and transferring of target data onto strike assets. These assets could include cruise missiles but also stealth capable aircraft which can get sufficiently close enough to engage these targets or utilise stand-off and stand in jamming attacks to disrupt them.

This scenario is one setting in which the F-35A could confer an advantage to UK forces. The ability of the F-35A to fly further with more internal weapons without jeopardising it’s stealth capability and strike more targets in fewer stories at earlier stages in a conflict would significantly contribute to defeating these systems and gaining freedom of movement within an area of operations. This would then also open the door for less capable fourth generation aircraft such as the Typhoon to enter the fight with a much lower level of risk allowing more assets to be brought into the fight, increasing force lethality and the speed at which early objectives could be achieved.

But how practical is operating a mixed force?

With the UK not yet committed to the type of the remaining F-35’s, deciding to opt for a number of A variants would still seem to be a viable option for the UK with no obvious penalty being incurred as a result of this. Furthermore, each $79.2M F-35A would represent a saving of $36.3 million per jet when compared to the latest round of production lot 13 F-35B’s priced at $115.5M each5; a factor which could become more important as the UK economy grapples with the impact of coronavirus.

In addition to this, operating a mixed force would not require the division of resources but would continue to allow the pooling of resources, with the requirements of both types being largely similar. The current and planned infrastructure in place at RAF Marham would be suitable to house both variants avoiding the need to invest in another site for the F-35A whilst the training of engineers and equipment for the B variant is expected to be almost universal to that of the A. This could also be true for the operational conversion unit (OCU), with a mixture of F-35A’s and B’s combined together to create a slightly larger than usual squadron that once again could consolidate training.

If the UK were to procure a mixture of F-35’s it would not be the first European nation to do so. The Italian air force is set to receive 69 F-35A’s and 40 F-35B’s with the navy procuring 22 B variants for use on their newly refurbished Cavour carrier. The Cavour carrier is similar to the old invincible class in size and the number of aircraft it can carry, and as such requires a smaller number of jets to keep it operational. The Italians have been followed by the Japanese who recently announced an order of 42 F-35B’s to operate off their Izumo carrier alongside the original 63 F-35A’s on order.

A United States Air Force B2 Spirit above the English countryside near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets.

Using the examples set by both the Italians and Japanese it is possible to estimate the number of F-35B jets the UK would require to sustain it’s carriers, identifying the size of the remaining force which could account for F-35A variants. In contrast to the Italian and Japanese carriers, the much larger Queen Elizabeth class carriers can carry a larger number of jets, up to a maximum of 40. Assuming both carriers are available to be deployed with a full contingent of 40 aircraft at the same time, which wouldn’t always be required and would be an unlikely scenario, an additional 20 jets could provide the additional number required to equip the OCU and account for scheduled maintenance bringing the total number of F-35B jets required to sustain both carriers at full force to a maximum of 100. This would leave the remaining 38 jets to be purchased for the RAF as A variants, providing the UK with increased capabilities and improving its ability to meet important defence objectives.

To conclude

Whilst the differences between the F-35A and B may appear to be subtle, each of the variants is designed to perform slightly different roles which has significant implications for how the jets perform, the weapons integrations possible and, therefore, how they’re best employed.

Currently, the UK faces an increasing threat from states with modern, well equipped armed forces who are willing to use force on the global stage in pursuit of their foreign policy objectives. One key area in which this could manifest is the deployment of IADS and other A2AD systems which are proliferating globally and have the ability to restrict the UK’s freedom to operate in a contested environment. Operating a mixed force, for example 38 F-35A and 100 F-35B variants, would allow the UK to maintain two full strength carrier wings to project force globally whilst also benefiting from the increased range and payload the F-35A brings to the fight. Here, it is the ability of the F-35A to maintain the integrity of its low observable cross section whilst carrying more weapons further to the fight which would provide the UK with an advantage in a heavily contested airspace. This would provide the UK with an increased ability to defeat IADS and other threats, whilst deterring adversaries from deploying these systems and eroding their ability to restrict the UK’s freedom to operate. Adding the increased range and internal payload of the F-35A to the UK’s inventory would increase the capability and options available to government and military decision makers which would in turn aid in its pursuit of defence and foreign policy objectives.

British and US F-35Bs.

In addition to this, the purchase and integration of F-35A into the current F-35B force would be relatively seamless, requiring no additional investment in infrastructure and only a small divergence in training for pilots, engineers and other trades to operate with the aircraft. Furthermore, at a time when defence spending is likely to be squeezed as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, each F-35A represents a $36.3M saving per jet when compared to the B variant, representing a saving of over $1.3billion across the total order (assuming 38 F-35A variants are acquired).

Therefore, it would appear that this is one of the few occasions in defence procurement when spending less could get you more.

References

1 – https://www.f35.com/about/capabilities/electronicwarfare

2 – https://www.raytheonmissilesanddefense.com/news/feature/arming-the-f-35

3 – https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/spear-3/

4 – https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/20191118_iads_bronk_web_final.pdf

5 – https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/latest-british-f-35b-cost-sees-24-reduction-from-first-orders/

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Pacman27
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Pacman27

Good article but realistically the A is a non starter. If the uk does end up with a lower A force of circa 100 aircraft, then the remaining funds will move to Tempest.

In almost all cases I don’t see us getting an A type, as we would need to set up separate logistics chains etc.

Although Tempest is c. 10 years away I am sure we will stick with the Typhoon/ Lightning mix in the interim

Supportive Bloke
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Supportive Bloke

We have a treaty obligation to buy 138 F35’s. The US have been clear they don’t care if we buy A/B (can’t use C as we all know). The advantage of the B, that is not well set out in the article, is the ability to operate in higher sea states than the C. The article fails to make clear where precisely the A variants would take off and land from. There is no analysis of the high costs (training, logistics, spares) of operating another type as there is only about 25% commonality of parts between A & B. Lastly… Read more »

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

It’s never been the plan to operate both carriers at once. Have 2 ships means 1 carrier is always available 365 days a year.

Supportive Bloke
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Supportive Bloke

Hence my final paragraph……

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

20 years away more like (Tempest)

Fedaykin
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Fedaykin

Indeed and I am also sceptical if it will ever come to fruition. I prefer a mixed F-35 buy and speed up the draw down of Typhoon. If Tempest happens all very well but I am sceptical about what is being promised.

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

I think Tempest will happen, but new fighter programs take so long to develop, I think we will be doing very well if we have a 6th gen technology demonstrator flying by 2030, let alone a proper prototype. Typhoon development will hopefully help prove certain technologies and capabilites, but this will be a very complex weapon system, and it all takes time, and money, and the right politics with ambition, and requirement to keep it going through to a product rolling off a production line, and taking to the air with young pilots that probably haven’t even been born yet.

Charles Verrier
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Charles Verrier

Yeah – Tempest is a lot of R&D work combined with some fibreglass mockups to get some press attention. IF (and its a big IF) that turns in to an actual procurement, then it will be to replace Typhoon (Combat primary, Strike secondary) while F35 replaces Tornado (Strike primary, combat secondary).

In the mean time, F35A is an actual flying thing with a huge international support framework of spares and expertise to draw on.

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

If we are only able to secure 38 A, given the OCU and maintenance requirements we would only really be able to field 1 squadron of 12 reliable. Which isn’t actually to much of a bad thing. This one squadron could then form the nucleus of a airforce “expeditionary force” of soughts. Capable of performing the full range of aerial warfare tasks independently with any additional equipment being assigned to its command when required. Much like a battlegroup from the armies 3rd division. With the remaining airforce acting similarly to the 1st division in fullfulling long term commitments.

BB85
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BB85

We probably need a chapter in here to discuss politics as well. The UK needs to keep the Typhoon production line running until 2035 when Tempest will start entering its production phase. Germany is expected to place a large order this year and with things quieting on the Saudi political front they might also place an order but I think another one will be required from the UK to keep the factory running which makes an F35a order unlikely. If we do order 138 airframes it will be over a 20-30 year period where the later models replace the early… Read more »

WeeWill
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WeeWill

Agree. Typhoon is a really good platform and there’s still room for improvement. The US still see utility in a 4 and 5 gen mix and we can and should cope in the same way. Throw some loyal wingmen in to the mix and that’s quite a potent offensive air package before we get to 6 gen. But we need to ensure Typhoon and F35 (and their weapons and drones) talk to each other; unfortunately hot air is abundant and money scarce for getting our data links where they need to be. In terms of numbers, 6x sqns of 12x… Read more »

George Royce
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George Royce

Hear hear

Bloke down the pub
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Bloke down the pub

With the proviso that you set aside the not insignificant issue of cost, the C variant should not be so quickly dismissed.

geoff
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geoff

The C needs Cats and Traps. although one would presume it can be operated on land. the cost of converting a QEC would not justify I would think.
Regards

Steve R
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Steve R

Had we gone with CATOBAR carriers we could have bought the lot as C versions, but it would cost at least another billion or more to convert the ships, so no money saved.

Bloke down the pub
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Bloke down the pub

I wasn’t suggesting cats and traps for the QEC, though the ability to operate from US and French carriers may have been useful. The larger wings on the C, cf the A variant offer greater fuel capacity and therefore range, a virtue that may be needed in the Asia-Pacific

Steve R
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Steve R

Seems an odd choice to me though to purchase carrier-jets that cannot take off from our own carriers.

Stevo H
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Stevo H

Look at the bigger picture Steve, it’s a case of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. The USMC are going to help fill the QE for her maiden voyage and having the ability to repay the favour is vital….
Basing a squadron of C’s in Bahrain or another friendly Country in that area makes it roughly half way, they could also be used in many ways as well.

Steve R
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Steve R

I disagree with that rationale for buying Cs. Buying C models, which cannot operate from our own carriers, seems to me a waste of money, doing it as just a back scratching exercise. Our F35Bs can take off from US carriers. The US Marines manage it with theirs, so can we. I like the idea of basing a squadron on Bahrain. Though this should be a B version, or an A, if we did do a split buy. IMHO, a split buy of A and B can work as long as we had all 138, or more even, in service… Read more »

Dern
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Dern

It’s worth noting that there is no reason a B can’t fly off of US and French Carriers. Given that they can fly off of the American “Gator” Carriers when in USMC service, operating off of much larger Nimitz, Ford, and (comparatived to Wasp/America similar sized) Charles d’Gaul class carriers shouldn’t be an issue for B.

The larger point is the USN F-18’s and MN Rafale’s can’t operate off QE’s. (But then Italian, Japanese, USMC etc etc aircraft can operate off QE so…)

Stevo H
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Stevo H

Mate, you have a good point here…. the Asia/Pacific/Indian Ocean AO is going to heat up and having a number of C’s available to join the US and French Carriers would be a massive help to our Allies. As you said, the C has more fuel capacity and it’s vital there as the distances are vast there, in my opinion it’s a no brainer.

Paul T
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Paul T

Another issue in the Carrier Fighter Chess game is the F35C cannot operate off of the French CDG. If they do get around to building a replacement for CDG I wonder if this will be rectified.?.

Steve R
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Steve R

To be honest I would rather invest in conformal fuel tanks for our F35Bs and some V22 Ospreys kitted out for A2A refuelling.

Fit the fuel tanks to the F35s, have them take off with minimal fuel and refuel in midair shortly after takeoff to extend their range.

To me, buying F35Cs is pointless. How often would they really be operating on a US or French carrier? And when they do it’ll be a token force, at least on the US carriers.

Paul T
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Paul T

Steve R – Thats ok but with CFT’s you are adding yet more Dead Weight to an Airframe that already has plenty to carry -all the Liftfan Mechanisms,External Hardpoints to carry Weapons that you cant carry internally,how much more can the ‘B’ take ?.

Steve R
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Steve R

My thinking was that empty CFTs can’t weigh that much and could be filled after takeoff. Would they put that much more strain on them if they were empty during takeoff?

Even without CFTs we should look at carrier-borne A2A refuelling options for the F35s to extend m their range.

Paul Bestwick
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Paul Bestwick

According to the numbers I have seen, the range on the C is not more than the A by any significant amount. The bigger wings on the C are for lower landing speeds and increased loiter times.

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

Paul Bestwick – Your right,the ‘C’ carries more internal Fuel than the ‘A’,but due to its Bigger Wing Area and Carrier Durability Measures its Heavier Weight gives it the same range.Obviously both have more range than the ‘B’ .There are plans in the pipeline to improve the efficiency of the F135 Engine so range will be increased over time.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

The USN are only receiving small numbers of F-35Cs, only 12 in 2020, and None in 2021!
The USN don’t really like the F-35C, most likely want a F-22 Hybrid!

expat
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expat

If the C has been dismissed then I think there’s no intention to converting the carriers to CATOBAR in the future.

maurice10
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maurice10

I’ve always seen the option of a mixed F35 fleet as a wise strategy, as it offers the RAF operational flexibility. To deploy F35 A’s alongside landbased Typhoons allows for commanders to operate aircraft types depending on tasks, rather than having zero choices. The unit cost and operating performance of the ‘A’ are worthy of serious consideration, and I have always felt the more sophisticated ‘B’ may require considerably more service maintenance, when deployed in very hot and sandy environments and based away from the carriers? However, the currently planned fleet of ‘B’s, may not be enough to meet RN… Read more »

Dern
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Dern

Why couldn’t you deploy a F-35B alongside Typhoon?

If anything I read the A choice as reducing operational Flexibility: With an all B fleet every F-35 can operate off a carrier, or off any airfield as the RAF see’s fit. With an A fleet there is a constraint on a % of the fleet that can only operate off airfields instead of Airfields + Carriers.

Stevo H
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Stevo H

B’s and C’s………best way forward

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

As EMALS matures, a cat could be fitted on the bow adjacent to the ski ramp, the bow is widw enough.
So you could launch 2 types of aircraft from a QE carrier?

The Big Man
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The Big Man

That’s still a massive refit. Increased power generation, energy storage and not forgetting the lack of an angled flight deck for go arounds. Plus advanced arrestor wires and a navy with no experience of this type of operation, not since the end of 1978 with the decommissioning of the Ark Royal, 42 years ago. Add to this the big increase in personnel required for this type of operation and we can’t even crew all the T45’s.

maurice10
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maurice10

I’m not saying you can’t operate ‘B’s alongside Typhoon, but the ‘A’ would be a more cost-effective use of the F35 when strictly operating a land-based operation. A F35 B could still be used for some landbased opps when used in the original Harrier role of non-airfield use such as Forrest clearings, etc?

Dern
Guest
Dern

…then why get the A at all. If you need to operate out of forest clearings then the ground situation is such that operating off of airbases isn’t possible. The A MIGHT (if you really could make the cross training on the A and B and the two logisitics trains cost less than the F-35B’s) be more cost effective than the B, but it’s really limited. B can: – Fly off a carrier for naval operations. -Fly off a prepared Airstrip, alongside Typhoon. -Fly off a improvised short runway in a contested battlespace. A can: -Fly off a prepared Airstrip… Read more »

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Hi Maurice,

I’m not sure the F35B can so ‘easily’ operate from rough fields as the Harrier. The F35B generates considerably more down force because of its extra weight (Harrier 14,100kg, Lightening 27,200kg, source wikipedia).

The extra downward thrust would likely tear up any existing temporary surface that you could carry on a truck – so I am not convinced that the article is quite right in that respect.

Cheers CR

ETH
Guest
ETH

My concern also. With all this effort into developing an F35B resistant deck on the carriers, it doesn’t seems as simple as deploying a few surfaces in a Forrest clearing.

Fat Dave
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Fat Dave

The F-35A is cheaper and more capable so the force should be 90 F-35A and 48 F-35B. It’s that simple unless we cancel the F-35 acquisition now and reinvest in Tempest and perhaps some additional Typhoons. If the UK has to confront a peer or near-peer adversary then the carriers will be left in port. They are too vulnerable for a conflict with Russia or China. Equally, the UK cannot protect 2 carriers simultaneously, so we would only ever deploy one requiring no more than 48 B models. Ideally, the UK needs to sell both carriers immediately. No one has… Read more »

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

Carriers are exceptionally valuable assets and would play a significant role in any peer on peer conflict.

Harry Bulpit
Guest
Harry Bulpit

Theres a reason china, America, Russia and Japan are all developing new carriers.

Gunbuster
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Gunbuster

You have no idea about Naval Warfare tactics and capabilities. Modern naval warfare is not World of Warships. Russia a near Peer adversary? Nope… they are not even close. In a real shooting war, if the Northern fleet came out to play beyond the confines of the Barents and Kara seas it would cease to exist in short order…and that’s using the RN’s current vessels and capabilities . Can you see Norway, the USA, Holland etc sitting tight and doing nothing as NATO article 5 gets activated? 6x T45s means that at least 4 (on completion of the current upgrades)… Read more »

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

Well I disagree with the idea that the RN can field two carrier groups at once, it doesn’t need to. A single carrier at any 1 time would be a substantial asset and would become crucial in any convoy escort.

ChariotRider
Guest
ChariotRider

Operating fleet carriers on convoy escort duty is not a wise choice. The RN quickly stopped using Fleet Carriers for convoy escort work when Courageoous was sunk by U-29 in 1939. (I think we only had 5 fleet carriers at that time!) Two technical reasons for this is that Fleet Carriers are designed to carry a predominately fixed wing force and secondly and possibly more importantly they are comparatively noisy platforms so potentially vulnerable to detection by submarines – especially if they are running at speed to fly off fast jets. It was these leasons that led to the Escort… Read more »

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi ChariotRider
Quite a chilling picture below of Courageous going down, with 500 of her crew, south-west of Ireland.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205087018
In our running theme of exceptions, I guess you could argue that the famous Pedestal operation of August 1942 was a notable exception – with fleet-carriers once again deployed on convoy escort duty.
I think on that occasion, it was the modern carriers Indomitable and Victorious – plus the smaller Eagle.
Four torpedoes from U-73 sent Eagle to the bottom.

The Big Man
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The Big Man

Love it when someone who knows (Gunbuster) tells us how it is. That’s another arm chair admiral fired.

Airborne
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Airborne

Clueless, absolutley clueless but Fat Dave is a regular on STRN and is clueless about Naval matters there also.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Just like Harold, most likely it is him, A!

Airborne
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Airborne

Harold, aka Iqbal lol

Dern
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Dern

Ssssh, don’t say that, you’ll be branded as anti-islamic.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

F-35As are more vulnerable sitting in Marham from your Master Putin, then F-35Bs far out at sea on carriers.

I don’t have to guess what Your Real intentions are Troll FD!

Steve R
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Steve R

I would say more opposite. I’d go with 58x A and 80 x B.

80 B allows 4 operational squadrons totalling 48 planes, an OCU of 8-10 and 22-24 spare airframes.

58 A allows 3 operational squadrons totalling 36, plus an OCU of 6-8 and 14-16 spare airframes.

Andrew Baty
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Andrew Baty

We can have 55A’s And 109B’s for the same cost of 138b’s so the cost of three more would be easily done

julian1
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julian1

who would buy them? Your statement that “they would be kept in port” presumably would apply to any other nation who would buy them. it would only be existing f35b operators…likely drawn into the same conflict anyway

Stevo H
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Stevo H

Have you been drinking Dave? Sell the Carriers, are you mad or something? They’re essentially a mobile bit of sovereign territory that happens to have up to 40 of the most lethal aircraft on the planet on board and a selection of deadly helicopters. If you want to pressure someone…….Carriers are the best way to do it.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Stevo, FD is always at it on STRN! It is the first time I seen him on here, there is another Troll on here who is usually sprouting the same rubbish, but is absent so far!

Watcherzero
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Watcherzero

I think arguably a mixed B and C-variant might actually be better, C is more complex and heavier than the A with likely higher operating costs but its again cheaper than the B. Also its performance is also slightly higher than the A with better range while still being able to operate from conventional airfields and if a decade or two down the line conversion of one or more of the carriers to Cats and Traps was desired the aircraft would be good to go.

Paul T
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Paul T

Watcherzero – +1 Thats an option i have put forward before,as it basically future proofs any decision made in a few years to convert the Carriers to CATOBAR,plus if the ‘C’ was operated in the more benign environment of Land bases for much of its life,due to its more durable Airframe it might benefit from a higher Airframe life.But as is the situation at the moment its all if’s and but’s,for now the ‘B’ must be the priority.

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

I agree. The C is the most flexible platform: – its bigger wings mean it can take off from shorter airfields – also could potentially be used on QE in the future, since it should be able to take off with the ramp like F18, this would only require arrestor cables to be added, which is a lot less expensive than catapults which was deemed too expensive. There should be plenty of room under the deck to fit the arrestor wire system. – it also has the longest combat range of all 3 variants, which is a feature not to… Read more »

Meirion X
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Meirion X

A F-35C would Not be able to take off the ramp without thrust vectoring, that is without a meaningful load!

Paul T
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Paul T

Meiron x- No one is expecting the ‘C’ to Fly off the QE’s, the point was it has some advantages over the ‘A’ if used on Land only. If in the Future the QE’s do get converted to CATOBAR than hey presto the right variant is already in service. Plus in the meantime it gives the FAA/RAF a chance to operate off of the US Super Carriers if needed. Admittedly converting the QE’s to CATOBAR in the foreseeable future doesn’t look very likely.

David Nicholls
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David Nicholls

The other issue is that the A requires a boom for air-to-air refueling, so unless the RAF is goinv to get some more tankers (cost?) the A has less real max range than a B?

ETH
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ETH

Interestingly, something the article did not touch upon: refuelling. Procuring the C variant may have some logic behind with the current refuelling fleet already being compatible. And the argument of having F35C squadrons ready if a catapult refit is conducted.

Gunbuster
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Gunbuster

So here is a scenario. A far flung country invades lets say a small British overseas territory that is say …8000 miles from the UK. The UK has no friendly airfields in range and none of the other countries in the region will give assistance. The RAF having won the argument has nice shiny F35As and the RN has sold its carriers and F35Bs . The far longer ranged F35As are no use to anyone as they cannot reach that far despite having better legs than the RN aircraft. Somebody suddenly realises that if we had kept the carriers and… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Agree.

The only scenario in which I would support an A Purchase is once enough B are procured.

We have spent a lot of money on carriers, they now need to be furnished with assets to do their jobs. That means rotary and UAV as well as F35B.

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi Daniele So how many F-35Bs would secure a viable wing for the Fleet Air Arm? People on past threads have bandied about figures like 90-100. But that is far too many …… Based on past experience, about 70 airframes would be enough for three front-line squadrons (36 jets for a QE class carrier) – and an OCU, and a strategic reserve. On that basis, within the overall stated procurement target, an RAF Wing of F-35As is realistic. And again, based on past experience – Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya – we are much more likely to deploy our… Read more »

Meirion X
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Meirion X

The RAF never deployed more then 8 Tornados in Akritori at any one time, think more in Afghan.

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi Meirion, During the 2011 Libyan conflict, the RAF deployed about 30 combat-jets to the theatre – mainly a mix of Tornados and Typhoons operating from Italy, but with a few Tornado/Storm Shadow sorties flown from the UK. Other than Gulf War 2 (2003), when 60 combat jets were in action, I think Libya was the RAF’s biggest deployment this century. Perhaps a light-carrier cruising off the Libyan coast, with Harrier GR9s, would have been nice, but with a network of alliances and agile diplomats, not to mention in-flight refuelling (!) – a carrier has not been an essential component… Read more »

Meirion X
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Meirion X

You forgotten Sierra Leone Alan! Another example of a successful intervention by the use of Sea Power, especially the deployment of HMS Illustrious off the coast of SL for weeks.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Ark Royal was deployed for GW2 in 2003, but used mainly as a amph. as a platform for helos.

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi Meirion, On the subject of Sierra Leone, I’ve read aviation journalist Jon Lake state that RAF Jaguars were scheduled to operate from Nigeria, until this was kyboshed by a Navy desperate to find a visible role for carrier-strike in the wake of the 1998 defence review.
Certainly, you shouldn’t really need to invest in a 70, 000 carrier/advanced stealth fighter capability for a Sierra Leone type operation.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

If the situation is desperate enough for a intervention, yes use whatever equipment you got on the carrier!

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Also just shows you cannot relie always on neighbouring countries to host your aircraft, or maybe too many dangerous wild animals roaming the runway etc.

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Yes – but according to Jon, the UK had negotiated the use of an airbase in Nigeria for RAF Jaguars. See my comments above about a network of alliances and agile diplomacy.
Wild animals on the runway? Perhaps? But operating high-performance jets off a carrier is not without risk, either! lol
I’m not saying carriers don’t have a role, but we do have a history of deploying our air-power successfully without a carrier. Sometimes the supporters of carriers for the UK can over-state the case.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

So in that case Alan, we should have kapt some Harriers for CAS, cheaper to run for SL type ops!
I

Paul42
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Paul42

The Libyan conflict highlighted the need for Carrier borne aviation. Whilst the US and France flew fast turnaround missions from carriers, we were paying the Italians an extortionate amount for the privilege of using one of their airfields for reasonably slow turnaround missions. In the end we deployed AH64 Apaches from HMS Ocean in an attempt to provide much needed close support at short notice……paying a fortune to use somebody else’s base was not cost effective then and won’t be in the future

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi Paul, I think the RAF’s short-term Italian deployment in 2011 was significantly cheaper than the cost of £6B for two carriers, and the base infrastructure, plus the cost of their escorts, and support ships – and STOVL aircraft! lol
From memory, the French carrier wasn’t always on station.
But – yes, I can see that a British carrier off the Libyan coast would have had some operational benefits. But I think you’re over-stating the case.
Again, I’m certainly not against the QE class, but past experience shows – there are nearly always land bases available to deploy our air-power.

Steve R
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Steve R

“Nearly always” isn’t always always, though.

The Falklands War is the most classic example of why we need carriers. There might be cases in future where an allied airbase isn’t available to us, isn’t safe or within attack range, or simply is out of range.

We don’t know what foreign politics will be like in future. Will our friends from the past be our friends? What if we enter a war they are against and deny us the use of their airfields?

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi Steve, Yes – I understand the reason for our procurement of aircraft-carriers, and for what it’s worth – I broadly support it. But for the UK, carrier-strike is a niche capability. We have deployed our air-power successfully across the world since 1982 – and haven’t needed carriers to do so. Even with the QE class in service, we will still probably conduct most offensive air-operations from airbases. From an airbase, you can generate a higher sortie-rate – with more powerful aircraft. That is the context when arguing for a split A/B buy. Why suffer the performance penalty of STOVL… Read more »

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Hi Alan, The RAF’s need to operate from distant bases in Italy and the UK meant that it was unable to generate anywhere like the same sortie rate as France and the US were able to do with their carriers. As a result the UK’s contribution to the Libyan campaign was serverely undermined. (There is a really good article I read a few months ago – can’t remember where – with a very good summary analysis of the Libyan air campaign. It’s me age!) It was this experience that largely convinced the otherwise defence incompetent Cameron / Osbourne government to… Read more »

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi CR
Ah, confounded Libya – that one always catches me out!
Mind you, I did write “nearly always”! lol
Always good to read your comments.
Kind regards Alan

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Hi Alan, True you did write “nearly always” 🙂 Something else as come to mind in this discussion. An aircraft carrier is always ready to ‘go’. Whereas a land based squadron deploying to an out of area airbase, even a well equipped base, is likely to require the movement of lots of equipment, spares, munitions, maintainers, etc. Given the limited heavy lift we have today it could take quite sometime to get a similar sized forced into theatre and fully opperational. A CSG sails with a RFA and full magazines, so assuming we sort out the Solid Supply Ship debacle,… Read more »

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

Alan, the carriers have a 50 year life, perhaps more. So how many B’s are necessary to support carrier ops over that time period, still having enough to surge both carriers with adequate aircraft, say 24 per carrier, at the end of that period? We are very unlikely to be able to do close to that with 70, no matter how much we baby the airframes, and I’d argue we need to commit the full 138 to B’s to ensure it. Especially if we need the ability to surge with more aircraft per carrier in some distant future, when USMC… Read more »

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi GHF, You make some good counter-points. The RAF has 144 Typhoons (I think 16 early T-variants were broken down for spares) to equip 7 squadrons and an OCU, with a strategic reserve – service-life 2005 to 2040 (roughly), with upgrades. In comparison: For the carrier(s), 140 F-35Bs to equip only 3 squadrons and an OCU, with a strategic reserve. Even, if you assume a 50 years’ service life (untypically long for UK armed forces), it seems an excessive number of airframes. You make a good argument about the potential benefits of running two carriers – but I’m sceptical the… Read more »

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

Alan, just a couple of points to address your thoughts. Everything I’ve read confirms the carriers were designed for a 50-year life vs, the more usual 25-30 years of escorts. There’s a couple of ways the UK could surge two carriers. 1. Organically we could do it with the 2x T45 per CSG once all have had the Power Improvement Project upgrade. Ditto for 2x T23/T26 ASW per CSG. 1x Tide, 1x SSS and 1x sub. Granted it leaves little room for slack and we might have some challenges depending on re-fits etc but doable. It would leave N. Atlantic… Read more »

Steve R
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Steve R

Hi Alan, It’s squadrons plus an OCU, not 3, so assuming the OCU will be 12 aircraft that’s 60, plus the 4 test planes we have in the US. 64. Then say 25-30 spare airframes as a reserve pool. So now that’s between 89-95 aircraft in service. The remaining 4-odd would come in at later dates to replace older ones, which would be broken up for spare parts. It would be great if we could speed up the buy rate and get all 138 in service together; we could get 7 squadrons from that (84 planes) plus the OCU and… Read more »

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi Steve
The Typhoon force (two wings) – currently has 7 front-line squadrons & an OCU – with 144 available airframes on paper. Although probably less in practice – and that will include test & evaluation aircraft, and an attrition reserve.

Surely we can do the same with 138 F-35s – and operate a mixed A/B fleet – with an RAF and a FAA wing? Six front-line squadrons, with an enlarged OCU – with about 70 aircraft of each type deployed.

Steve R
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Steve R

IF we were to have all 138 in service at once, yes. However, the 138 is over the life of the program. HMG is stretching out the purchase rate so that we only have 80-90 aircraft at any one time. Older ones will likely be scrapped as newer versions enter service.

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi Steve, Hmm …. I’ve heard that suggested, but is that really the plan? The F-35 is supposed to have a design-life of 8, 000 flying hours. Finger in the air time – 250 flight hours a year/35 years service?
Is the MoD really proposing to purchase an aircraft for £90M (?) – and then scrap it early. I think, more likely, it just doesn’t have the funding secured to buy 138 F-35s – and is making it all up as it goes along! lol

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

FYI the F35B has a projected lifetime of approx 2000h, very short compared to the promises and powerpoints. This is from 2019 GAO and DOT&E reports based on the testing they have done so far

Dern
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Dern

To be fair, in Libya the RAF operated out of Airfields because they had no choice. We’d have really benefited from having a carrier in the med so that we didn’t have a multi-hour flight with aerial refuelling for each strike mission. And even then, the Army Air Corps launched it’s sorties from HMS Ocean, not an Airfield.

julian1
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julian1

That’s true and missed on this thread. There was a strong lament for the lack of flat-top and Harriers. Fast air could have spent much longer on station. In those days carrier born fast air was cheaper than Tornado per hour. The dynamic now may not be there

r cummings
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r cummings

I think Alan is right in his A/B mix. The key strategic task in any peer conflict will be degrading enemy air defences before their ground or naval forces seize and hold NATO or Pacific territory. To do that, the UK and allies need an advamced interdiction, strike and SEAD capability. That is the role the A version is specifically designed for, which is why the international orders are primarily for the A. For the RAF, it is the logical successor to Tornado. To make any significant contribution to the allied effort, the RAF would need 4 squadrons, so 48… Read more »

Meirion X
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Meirion X

The RAF had up to 8 Tornado squadrons based in the former West Germany by end of the 1980s.
The RAF no longer has two large air bases in Germany. It is very unlikely the UK will acquire other forward air bases in Europe.
So the RAF does not need to replace those Tornado squadrons by F-35A’s, which can not be refueled by existing tanker system.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Correct. 4 each at Bruggen and Laarbruch.

Amazing to think that RAFG alone was bigger than the RAF’s fleet now.

I met an RAF GR1 pilot on a bus going into Farnborough Air show. He fully expected to be able to launch their strikes on the first night into Poland and East Germany, but to have no bases to return to, despite the RE ADR Regiments on hand.

The Harriers did not have that problem.

r cummings
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r cummings

In saying that Merrion, you are effectively standing airport strategy on its head. If we look at all the leading NATO and peer enemy air power, the ratio of air force interdiction/strike aircraft to naval fighters/strike fighters is about 4 to 1. A bit less in the USA with its Pacific strategy a bit more in China, due to its stage of naval air development. This ratio is because the strategic aim is to blunt an enemy land or sea offensive, which is best dine by (a) degrading and destroying its air defence network, in order to (b) attack and… Read more »

r cummings
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r cummings

Correction: line 2, for ‘airports’, read ‘air power’.

And most of the possessive ‘it’s’ started life as ‘its’… bleeding autocorrect!

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Yes, I am arguing for less land based strike aircraft, because Britain is now much further away from a adversary in the contemporary, in contrast of the Cold War period. It would be difficult for the UK to attack the nearest adversary without overflying and refuelling over a number of neighbouring countries. It will be difficult and expensive to permanently forward base strike aircraft near to a adversary, and most likely with conditions on their use. It would also difficult for a adversary to strike the UK without longer range bombers. I am Not arguing for a reduction of the… Read more »

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

I agree with the principles you are outlining to counter an adversary but how would we tackle the Russian IADS in Norway’s high north if we no longer have access to Norwegian airfields and where even operating from Lossiemouth might no longer be tenable? This IMV is a scenario where we would want to surge two carriers. The putative F-35 mix strategy is very dependent on what results from Tempest and also very dependent on what F-35 production slots are available over the next 15 years, and in reality only the last 10 of those years before a Tempest platform… Read more »

Meirion X
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Meirion X

GHF, I agreed the UK should have the ability to operate two carriers when necessary at the same time. But if a carrier is not available for some reason, would USAF F-35As, based in the UK from 2021, be sufficient to counter the IDAS in the ‘High North’? Or will it require a UK F-35A presence as well?

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

Meirion, the issue with either US or UK F35A operating from the UK would be tyranny of distance impacting operational tempo, per the Libya example discussed by others, in this case also against a peer adversary air force, and potentially also the lack of domestic airfield availability to launch from. However, if we assume all UK airports are operational, both for fast jets and tankers, then a 1,000 NM one-way flight gets us to mainland N. Norway from Lossiemouth, longer from airports further south. Problem is that Russian IADS will also be operating from Russian territory, so we’re looking at… Read more »

Paul Bestwick
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Paul Bestwick

Please enlighten me as to why F-35B could not do what your are describing should they be needed in Eastern Europe, especially as they are are joint owned with the RAF being the first name on the birth certificate so to speak. Then explain to me how a force of F-35A could be deployed onto the carriers should the unlikely event you describe above come to pass.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Hi Alan. Late seeing this, but in my opinion if just a further 22 B are ordered to make 70 I’d bite your hand off. So I agree with your number, thereabouts. The scenario I am totally against is one where just the 48B are delivered and all future F35 are A’s. We end up with two small fleets and are unable to fully exploit the QEC potential as 48 are far too few. As you know, I’m a supporter of the RAF on here, and agree with your points on the availability and importance of land bases. The inter… Read more »

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

I agree, Daniele, I’d like to get both A & B variants deployed in sufficient numbers – about 70 each.
And I’d like a secure future for both the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm.

r cummings
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r cummings

The current RAF plan is to buy 90 F-35 s, to equip two Ground support RAF squadrons and two naval air squadrons. Each squadron will have 12 frontline aircraft. This is the belated replacement for the Joint AV-8B Harrier force retired in 2012 (?). The question is over the remaining 48 F-35s. They will be the only aircraft to fill the gap left by the premature retirement of Tornado. It is logical that they will be the A version, due to its longer range and larger weapons payload. 48 will equip two squadrons. The remaining 4 squadrons out of a… Read more »

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

I thought you and possibly George might enjoy this well-written piece on the F35/Tempest.

Very informative!

http://ukarmedforcescommentary.blogspot.com/search?q=austere+training

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Thanks Nigel. I follow UKAFC regularly, so long ago read that. I agree with Gabriel’s opinions on many things.

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

No ones talking about removing the carrier. Even the authors suggestion prioritises the B variety over A.

Paul42
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Paul42

A number of individuals on here have forgotten the Falklands and indeed why the Aircraft carrier became the new Capital ship. Remember Pearl Harbour, Taranto, Yankee Station off Vietnam and indeed the carrier airpower projected in 2 x Gulf Wars.
Simply put, the carriers are the most versatile platforms from whi to project airpower on a planet with two thirds of its surface covered by water………
Consideration should only be given to buying the ‘A’ once we have the aircraft required to fully equip both carriers.

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

No point buying that many planes to fully stock 2 carriers, since you are missing sailors, all the logistics ships and escort ships/subs that go along with a 2nd carrier group

Paul42
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Paul42

We now have crews for all existing RN warships and actively recruiting more. Orders will be placed in the near future for new logistics ships, in the meantime the US is happy to share theirs. The final 3cAstutes are building, we are getting there.

Douglas Newell
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Douglas Newell

“Carriers are the most versatile platforms …”

Until they start getting sunk by Hypersonic and/or Ballistic Missiles.

100 years ago Battleships were the Kings of the Sea. 20 years later … they weren’t.

We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket.

Paul42
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Paul42

Defences surrounding carriers are extremely capable these days and able to deal with most threats. Take the Gulf, Iran fires missiles at a barge designed to look a little like a US carrier – and fired a ballistic missile from a shore based site…….which is carefully observed and its position plotted for destruction by US missiles prior to any carrier ops in time of conflict…..don’t believe all the negative garbage you read in the papers…..

Douglas Newell
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Douglas Newell

It’s not Iran that’s the problem, China and Russia both have very competent anti ship systems and sophisticated deployment plans. Look at the effect a small number of AShMs had in 1982, and they are much much more sophisticated now.

It makes sense for the UK to have a mixed fleet, they will deploy from land more than from the Carriers.

Airborne
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Airborne

Not at all mate, read up on the so called Hypersonic missile chuff thats banded about. No matter how hypersonic something is supposed to fly, a carrier can move, airfields cannot. And lets see how many countries are investing in carriers/aircraft capable hulls! Lots of the main players.

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi Airborne, I agree with you about the “Hypersonic missile chuff”! I think the main threat to our carriers is from submarines.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

I agree. The carrier group has to be pinpointed first. The satellites and other assets finding it can be neutralised before they get a fix to launch missiles. And the ocean is a big place.

An undetected submarine however that trails the group seems to me a greater problem.

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

Hypersonic anti ship missiles are completely un-proven, and everyone massively underestimates the difficulties of finding, tracking, and engaging a modern warship at range that doesn’t want to be found, let alone from a 1000nm range. carriers are big, the sea is vast.

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

Robert, agree with many of your posts but we should provide some time gating/conditions around hypersonic threats and the kill chain to support them before dismissing them entirely. Are long range hypersonics a threat today? Pretty unlikely for the finding, tracking, and engaging reasons you list. A decades time? Two decades? Much less certain once we start getting out in time, and the carriers and their air wings are 50 years assets. What is likely to address the finding, tracking, targeting low latency requirements will be LEO satellite networks. The proliferation of 100’s if not 1000’s of such satellites using… Read more »

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

Excellent explanation mate, I am better educated for future developments in this area. 👍

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

Carriers have never been invincible, in fact the biggest threat are subs Much harder than you think to sink a carrier with hypersonic missiles. First of all you need to locate the carrier group which is fairly difficult in the open ocean. Satellites cannot see through clouds etc… and they only have a limited window to locate the carrier until next orbit. Also military are aware of satelitte schedules and change course to hide their heading in a conflict Hypersonics have a massive trade off between speed and manoeuvrability. It remains to be seen whether they can hit a moving… Read more »

Douglas Newell
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Douglas Newell

Never said it was easy. Even Sun Tzu talked about making your enemy think you are somewhere where you are not. So finding an enemy will always be an issue. Also to use a Carrier you need to bring the carrier to position where it can be used, and Pacific where any potential peer conflict is likely to take place is a busy place … the South Atlantic was pretty empty but the Argentinians with their limited resources still managed to make attacks on the Fleet. The Chinese and Russians have much better resources and systems than the Argentinians had.… Read more »

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

There is no underestimating. The fact is that hypersonic have thus far not shown that they can hit a moving target. China and Russia are not the only ones that have worked on hypersonics. This has been studied and researched for the last 50 years by western nations as well. FYI ballistic nukes are hypersonic in re-entry The reality is that China and Russia have never demonstrated that hypersonics can hit a moving target. You can also find passages in Sun Tzu about deceiving the enemy.

Douglas Newell
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Douglas Newell

Sounds a lot like underestimating to me.

I’m glad you’ve cleared up that there is no threat against the Carriers from the Chinese and Russians. I hope Western Navies are listening and realise there is no need to prepare countermeasures.

PS I know how ballistic missiles work. But not all hypersonic missiles will be ballistic.

Lordtemplar
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Lordtemplar

Omg seriously. I did not say China and Russia are not a threat to the RN. In fact they are very real threats since they have hige numbers of submarines. All i said is hypersonic antiship missiles are very far from a proven effective weapon. This is just fact. Or can you enlighten me and show me some proof, as far as we know this has never been tested successfully. Many countries in the west have been also studying this for many decades. The reason they did not pour money into it suggests that this is far from a convincing… Read more »

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

spot on mate, definitely a lot hype and bs about the hypersonic threat to our warships. but as glass half full says above, 10/20 years time, Sombody might have mastered the tech to make it work.

Dern
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Dern

To be fair… had the US Carriers or hypothetical Italian Carriers been in Pearl Harbour or Taranto, respecitvely, they’d have been mullered too… sameway as Bern would have been mullered if it had been at Mers-el-Kabir.

Habour strikes at anchorage are not a good measure of a ships relevance to naval warfare.

Paul42
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Paul42

Possibly, but they would have been Mullerrd by other carriers who launched the strikes in the first place as opposed to land based aircraft……. The Pacific war was won using carriers, the B29s carrying the A bombs could not have flown to Japan without the capture and use of the island of Tinian. You also conveniently forget Yankee Station off Vietnam, the Korean War and 2 x Gulf war, Afghanistan, Libya and of course the Falklands. Carriers have proved themselves so many times over. A complete sovereign airfield able to strike where land based either cannot, or are only able… Read more »

Dern
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Dern

Ummm… no? If the US carriers where at Pearl Harbour they’d be at the bottom of the harbour along with the battles ships. Same if there had been Carriers at Taranto, same as if there had been carriers at Mers-El-Kabir. The point was harbour strikes are not representative of what is or is not obsolete. How the rest of the pacific played out is not relevant to that point.

Paul42
Guest
Paul42

The point here is to illustratate how carriers can and have been used effectively over many years, whether that be port strikes or otherwise. Pearl harbour is an illustration of how devastating airpower can be launched from the sea, you seem to fail to recognise where the attacking force came from?

Dern
Guest
Dern

You really didn’t read my tweet then. I suggest you go back and re-read it before you continue.
My point is that it doesn’t matter where the attacking forces come from in a port strike scenario, as Mers-El-Kabir and Queen Elizabeth and Valiant show, any ships taken by surprise by a force their not expecting in Harbour are toast. It doesn’t matter if that force is Battleships, Aircraft Carriers, or Submarines.

Douglas Newell
Guest
Douglas Newell

Force Z? HMS Sheffield .

Not saying it would be easy- but our enemies have plans in place and they have the tools to implement them.

Dern
Guest
Dern

Again… your point? How is Force Z relevant to the fact that Port Strikes are not representative?

Douglas Newell
Guest
Douglas Newell

It was meant as part of the wider over arching debate about the efficacy of Western Carrier Strike nowadays. You mentioned Mers El Kebir – a port strike. I mentioned Force Z, who were not in Port but at sea, like a Western Carrier Group. And Importantly they were destroyed because warfare had moved on, Capital Ships were no longer the top of the Naval Warfare tree. If Port Strikes are not representative as you say, then strikes on moving ships must surely be. And Force Z got mullered (As did poor HMS Sheffield) – to use the term mentioned… Read more »

Dern
Guest
Dern

Right and that’s got nothing to do with whether port strikes are representative or not, so I’m confused why you are presenting that like it’s some sort of counter argument.

Douglas Newell
Guest
Douglas Newell

I think the threading on this site isn’t brilliant, your reply came into the inbox while discussing the threat to Carriers – so my conversation was not limited to to that one specific threat. Thats why I mentioned “the wider overarching debate”.

The email link seems to jump to strange places on the page.

Lordtemplar
Guest
Lordtemplar

Battleships became obsolete because of advances in technology like missiles and aircraft. What technology has replaced the need for a mobile airbase? Are aircraft obsolete? No they are not. Missiles do not have unlimted range, they are very expensive and it is not sustainable to depend on only that over time for continuous operations. Carriers enable you to support sustained operations over time, not just 1 strike. The US has been using carriers to offer air cover for ground troops in afghanistan for almost 2 decades, you could not do that with missiles. Also carriers were quite usefull in Lybia/Syria.… Read more »

Douglas Newell
Guest
Douglas Newell

Not saying Carriers are obsolete – just that they are increasingly vulnerable. How expensive is a couple of salvos on Onix/Yakhont class missiles in comparison to a big deck western carrier. Add the possibility of stealthy modern missiles, hypersonic missiles, Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles, satellite tracking, wake tracking, Chinese/Russian sub activity even just as intelligence assets. And what happens if the Big Boy isn’t playing with us, and its just our Carrier and its defence group against a sustained attached from a peer+ adversary? Crowsnest and 24 Fighters (if we are lucky) versus the Russians and/or Chinese. We assume western… Read more »

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

I like the reference to Star Wars 😄. You have some interesting points, but we are never going to face down the Chinese on our own with one carrier and a handful of escorts. But we have to remember, the Chinese are not very good at deploying it’s navy beyond it’s own regional area, you don’t see Chinese task groups operating freely around the world like the RN or USN can. So a task group on task group scenario in a neutral area, say the middle east, we would hammer them. Facing the entire Chinese fleet in the south China… Read more »

Douglas Newell
Guest
Douglas Newell

That’s a fair point. Of course Carrier groups are still useful, i’ve not argued they aren’t. However since WW2 they have operated in benign environments (barring the Falklands in 1982) where there has been no credible threat against them. That will not always be the case going forward as we return to great power competition. Knocking out a Western Carrier would not only make military sense, but would be of immense propaganda value. The shock to a basically “soft and entitled” western public of the loss of a Carrier could potentially be war winning for our enemies. American public opinion… Read more »

TwinTiger
Guest
TwinTiger

What about mid-air refuelling the A? If you plumb it like the C then you lose the internal gun.

Heidfirst
Guest
Heidfirst

Do you lose the gun? Mind you the gun on the F-35A is still causing issues.
https://www.facebook.com/defenceaustralia/videos/705336876959257

BB85
Guest
BB85

There is only one refueling option for the A so it would mean upgrading the tankers with a boom. They probably need to be upgraded anyway for are maritime patrol and early warning aircraft from Boeing.

Jordo
Guest
Jordo

I believe the probe is on the opposite side to the gun on the A model.

Andy
Guest
Andy

The RAF have been subtly campaigning for the F35A since the decision to build the carriers was taken.
They have no love of naval aviation and would love to see the number of F35B airframes capped at 48 to 60 .

The problem is they are likely to get there way and we only purchase 48 F35B due to a combination of costs, SDR and political stupidity.
Dominc Cummings is not a fan of the carriers or the F35B program so I see major problems ahead .

Just remember every defence review leads to cuts .

BB85
Guest
BB85

It won’t happen. The carriers are here for the long term which means if the current F35B variants need replaced they will be more likely than not be replaced by newer F35B. If we do order for 138 eventually the later half will likely replace the first half.

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

The RAF have been invested and involved in the carrier programme from day 1. They are tri service strategic assets, and are just as important to the RAF to freely deploy it’s capabilities around the world as it is for the RN. The Lightning force is a 50/50 manned operation between the RN/RAF, it’s all stationed at a RAF base. It’s just a lot of made up inter service nonsense to say they have no love of going to sea, or they don’t want many F35B’s.

Nick C
Guest
Nick C

Interesting article, which has already provoked some interesting replies, such as the predictable one of “ sell the carriers ASAP” . Gunbusters reply debunks that, the one thing you can always expect is the unexpected. A full air group for either carrier is unlikely to be as high as 40 fixed wing aircraft, since that would leave no space for the helo element, which leaving aside the potential shortage of airframes is likely to comprise 9 ASW Merlins and 4or 5 ASAC Merlins. 2 F35 squadrons will comprise 24 aircraft which will give a pretty full deck to play with.… Read more »

Joe16
Guest
Joe16

The numbers I’ve seen for the QEs are 50-70 aircraft of all types, so an F-35B force of 30-40 per carrier is not unreasonable. I think the greater problem would be having sufficient pilots to stand up two carrier air wings… I think you’re quite right though, the big airframes problem with two CBGs at the same time is our limited number of helicopters I also don’t think we should split the buy, that 138 airframes figure is supposed to cover us over the lifetime of their service, for attrition and replacement of early airframes up until Tempest replaces Typhoon… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

As Joe16 suggested the carriers can carry many more aircraft than you (and many others to be fair) credit them with, i.e. 70x plus F-35B. “As Kyd says, it also gives the ship greater flexibility, not just in terms of the number of aircraft it can carry – he says it could carry more than 70 F-35Bs” One downside is that many of those aircraft will be stored on deck which isn’t likely to be great for maintenance of stealth coatings and high aircraft numbers complicates deck operations. Then there may also also be practical issues of supporting all those… Read more »

Nick C
Guest
Nick C

Read the article, very interesting thanks. I think that the the most significant word in the paragraph you highlight is “could”. No doubt you can load the deck as hard as you can, but can you operate flexibly and can you sustain a significant sortie rate? I seem to remember that the ship is intended to sustain up to 120 sorties a day, this would imply up to 5 a day per aircraft with 2 squadrons embarked. So is this intended to be met by more aircraft or can they really crew and service the aircraft to sustain that rate?… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

No doubt. With a deck size approaching that of a Nimitz we “could” do lots of things but the practical solution is likely to be much less as you suggest.

Dern
Guest
Dern

So, this is out of left field, but does anyone have any opinion on the Army gaining aircraft in the close air support role? What about a split buy between F-35B for the FAA and AAC (FAA operating off carriers and AAC off of improvised airfields closer to forward lines) and the RAF could play around with F-35A’s on their airfields? (Yes okay I know there’s no money for it and I’m playing armchair air vice marshal, but what’s peoples thoughts on the theory?). Or if not a F-35 split buy, how about something like the Super Tucano that the… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

What would be more likely IMV is the AAC having total control of all land based rotary wing/vertical lift plus Watchkeeper and smaller UAV platforms, the RAF having only fixed wing with Typhoon and Tempest platforms inc high end UAVs, with the FAA having F-35B, Wildcat and Merlin and a range of higher and lower end UAVs. It would seem to simplify training, maintenance and logistics support and put platforms with those most likely to be their customers. In addition the AAC just transferred their fixed wing to the RAF so it seems unlikely this trend would be reversed. I’m… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

The only thing the army should be operating are the battlefield helicopters of JHC and the RAF SHF. Combat jets are the domain of the Air force and FAA IMO. 5 Regiments Defenders have also transferred to the RAF.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

And I omitted the tactical UAV’s of the RA and Apache, obviously.

Dern
Guest
Dern

Okay: but why do you think that?
Why shouldn’t, in an ideal world, the Army have control over it’s fast air support given that they are more invested in it than the RAF?
If the RN get’s it’s own jets because the RAF isn’t all that interested in operating off ships, why shouldn’t the army get control of it’s close air support?

Dern
Guest
Dern

I’ll add that the transfer of the Defenders from AAC to RAF is something I also fundamentally disagree with, and stinks of RAF powergrabbing to me. The Army should be able to conduct local aerial recconaissance without having to go through a tri-service structure every time.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

I agree on that. Why it has happened I am unsure, mind.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Crikey Dern, that is a question that I will have to think how best to present my reply as it has so many angles. Some assorted ramblings. Where to begin? In a ideal world collides with the the real world. I think with the FAA they have always operated their own aircraft, regardless of whether in recent times with defence cuts forcing purple operations the RAF want to operate from ships or not. Where has it been said the RAF is not interested in operating off of ships BTW? Or is that more inter service rumours stuff? JF Harrier and… Read more »

Dern
Guest
Dern

Of course the ideal world collides with the real world Daniele that’s why I was very careful to admit that I am playing fantasy Air Vice Marshall. With the treasury as it is there can’t be any argument for F-35’s for the Army… however in an ideal world, F-35A for the RAF, F-35C for the FAA, and F35B for the Army would be great. The RN has not always had the FAA btw: The RAF was created by merging the Armies Royal Flying Corps with the Navies Royal Naval Air Service in 1918, and the Navy only regained it’s own… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Thanks Dern. Fascinating as always.

Dern
Guest
Dern

Same Daniele.
Sorry to waste your time with a hypothetical ,:D

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

You joking. Not at all. You’re military, and I greatly respect your views, imagined or otherwise.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Numbers need to be adjusted to reflect test and evaluation aircraft which are part of the 138. IMHO the surge capacity for B types in a fantasy fleet should be 36 and 24 for the 2 carriers. That will require spares to cover losses and maintenance and assumes in a NATO crisis the 2nd carrier ciuld have airwing topped up by USMC. ‘A’ can be limited to 2 x squadrons plus some OCU units and I wonder if the specialist logistics support necessary could be partially overcome, at least initially, by sharing lakenheath with USAF. As the F35 volumes ramp… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

An interesting observation was made in a previous article here on UKDJ by John Hartley at the start of the comments thread. “It is interesting to note the difference between headline bare bones price & the fully equipped, suited & booted, spares & ground equipment price. A bare F-35A has a headline price around $85 million, but fully equipped on this deal, it comes in at $219 million each. The V-22 has a bare bones price of around $70 million, but looking at the Indonesian deal, a fully equipped price of $250 million. Something to think of when playing fantasy… Read more »

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

MoD statements to DSC state $115m each for F-35B.

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

Try again! This is a waste of US taxpayers money, hopefully not ours.

“The Pentagon’s own budget documents list the FY 2020 procurement cost for those 48 aircraft as more than $101 million, nearly $12 million more than the figure rolled out for press reports. Using the Navy’s charts and the same math shows that the real costs for each F-35C is more than $123 million, while each F-35B costs in excess of $166 million. But even that figure doesn’t tell the whole story.”

https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2019/11/deceptive-pentagon-math-tries-to-obscure-100-million-price-tag-for-f-35/

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

I forgot to add, this isn’t just a FMS, a Tier 1 Partnership!

Simon
Guest
Simon

I suppose the main issue is how quickly Tempest is likely to come into service and what its exact role will be. If it does everything the F35A can do and more, what’s the point of ordering the F35A. If the UK were to order any F35As it’s not going to be until after there are enough F35Bs to equip both the carriers fully, which must be the best part of a decade away. By then Tempest could be on the horizon.

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

Well said!

geoff
Guest
geoff

Haven’t read any of the posts yet but i would think the biggest obstacle to operating both types is the small numbers to be procured in total. Even the supposed 138 number is in doubt and bearing in mind that the RN can only operate the B then would a small number of A’s really be worth operating? Read an interesting article about a proposed plan to acquire F35b’s by the Australians and they echo what many of us have said, that whilst the B sacrifices payload and range it more than makes up for it with the flexibility of… Read more »

john melling
Guest

The F35B would be more flexible in various scenarios thus enabling the Typhoon to follow on. I personally would buy more than the 138B we are supposed to be getting which will give us the flexibility needed. Selling off HMS Ocean which would have been part of the amphibious doctrine being developed for the RN was a big mistake We need to buy a few amphibious assault ships capable of having a decent amount of F35B on so not relying on the RAF RAF sticks to Typhoon and F35B until Tempest comes along to make a very lethal package Perhaps… Read more »

Steve R
Guest
Steve R

Could that £1.3 billion saving be used to buy a dozen more A variants, and/or increase the buy rate? If we could get an extra dozen from the savings then it might be viable: – 4 combat squadrons of B: 48 planes – 2 combat squadrons of A: 24 planes – mixed OCU with 10 B and 8 A – 24 spare B airframes – 18 spare A airframes Total A variant: 50 Total B variant: 82 Total aircraft: 132 Leaves 6 spare airframes of the original 138, or 18 if an additional dozen or so were ordered with the… Read more »

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

Seeing there isn’t the money to buy them in the first place, planning on spending the “savings” seems more than a little strange.

Joe16
Guest
Joe16

This is a thought provoking piece, and although I wouldn’t agree with it, thank you for posting it. A lot of my counterpoints have already been mentioned in different places by others, but thought I’d put them down anyway. Yes, the A-model has a better range and payload. However, we are supposing here that we have a base from which we can launch it within its combat range- if we don’t then the extra 200 miles is a bit meaningless. I understand that Typhoons and F-35Bs flying from RAF Akritori for OPShader either have external tanks or take on tanker… Read more »

Pacman27
Guest
Pacman27

bit of quick and dirty maths would indicate we could have 5 squadrons of both A and B for the cost of 138 B versions (using numbers above) 4 x sqdn of 16 aircraft plus 1 squadron maintenance / OCU = 80 aircraft of each Type this would mean the carriers would have a normal compliment of 32 F35’s with the ability to load 2 carriers at once if need be (no one saw the Falklands or twin towers sneak up – so we should assume we will need to use both at once at some point in the future)… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

Posted more on this further up but two observations
1. Any F35A undermine Tempest numbers, even if we assume the total cost of a mixed F-35 purchase is similar to only F-35B as you model it. Its not just F-35A numbers undermining the justification for Tempest aircraft, its the extra personnel – pilots, maintenance personnel etc for what would be a much larger air force if Tempest numbers weren’t cut.
2. 80x F-35B isn’t going to be sufficient to support operations with a 50-year carrier life and still have 2x carrier surge capability at the end of that period.

Steve R
Guest
Steve R

Why would it undermine Tempest numbers? Tempest will replace Typhoon, not F35. When Tempest comes in the two planes will have different roles: Tempest primarily as an air superiority platform, with a secondary air to ground role, and F35 (whether A, B or a mix of both) as strike aircraft. By the time Tempest rolls in the major expenses such as building Dreadnought will be over, with all 4 subs likely completed before Tempest reaches IOC in 2040 or so – being realistic, 2035 is far too optimistic. The money that previously went into the Dreadnought subs, now freed up… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

Steve, you’re assuming that an aircraft resulting from the Tempest program is primarily an air superiority platform, because the Typhoon is primarily thought of in those terms. When the Tempest program was launched in July 2018 the RAF and BAES stressed that whatever resulted shouldn’t be thought of as a specific type. Also that systems and weapons (within and outside the platform) will define the platform, not the other way around. Major new fast jet platform designs are multi-role from the outset and will be expected to do both well. It is also worth contemplating what future air superiority would… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

Here’s a follow on interview on Tempest with BAES
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogAtFy3q3xk

Pacman27
Guest
Pacman27

My personal preference is not to do a split buy if we really are going to get 138 B variants, this is to simplify the through life costs associated with running 1 fleet, I would also put any additional money into Taranis and get that up and running as a national capability. It seems ridiculous to me that we seemed pretty close to product ionising Taranis which is a potential game changer and yet go all in on Tempest from the beginning when it may not even be needed due to pace of technological change. I also think the carriers… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

Per your 2nd para, Justin Bronk at RUSI suggests that very thing (link for paper below), i.e. that a down selection of options from Team Tempest program could actually result in only producing an unmanned solution. That doesn’t seem likely, but I suspect learning from Taranis and Magma programs might well contribute to the program, either directly as UAV solutions or as components of an optionally manned platform. As a more general observation it seems many have made assumptions, like Steve above, about what will be produced from Tempest. The interviews I linked to above make it very clear that… Read more »

Rob N
Guest
Rob N

Actually the maximum plane capacity of tge QE class is 70 F35 not 40. So if you wish to operate both carriers at full power all tge UK’s F35 would have to be the ‘B’ type. The author has also not considered the F35 in context with other 4th generation aircraft that can carry more weapons. The F35 will act as the data acquisition node for targeting and intelligence. It can then pass this data back to assets further back to then fire weapons. It is a force multiplier. Taken in this context the A vs B differences are less… Read more »

T.S
Guest

138 is the total over the lifespan of the F35, we will never see close to this operational at the same time. The F35 will see huge developemnt over this period too, and buying too many now may mean we never benefit from future block versions. For my 2 pence worth, a realistic target should be all B models as A could step on the toes of Tempest. 4 operational squadrons of 12 units by 2030, plus 1 Training makes 60, plus an ocu of another 12. That brings us to 72 aircraft which would allow us to fill one… Read more »

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

Very much agree TS!

John Clark
Guest
John Clark

I would broadly agree TS, perhaps 90, allowing for reserves is an adequate number of B models.

Acquisition of the A model entirely relies on what happens with Tempest in my opinion.

If Tempest fades away, then expect an A buy, with the UK hitching it’s wagon as a bit part player in a US Gen 6 project…

Noth
Guest
Noth

There’s still the problem of AAR with the A variant. The Voyagers would need fitting with the US system, for whatever extra cost that brings (it’s been an option on the A330 for years, so no real integration problems).

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

Most likely the PFI is asking for a load of money up front for a change of terms of the contract!

nigel
Guest
nigel

Use the first 20 or so early F35B for training instead of upgrading them as they are limited ( pre block 4?) offensive armaments+10 f35A, the next 60 F35B for the carriers as it is doubtful we would sail both in full strike carrier mode , eg 36 x F35b, ( would most likely have usmc f35 aswell ) this should leave 48 f35A for raf dedicated SEAD/anti radar missions/first offensive strike operations, included in this number is some airframes in maintenance so available numbers would be less, would still save buying costs, but this assumes the uk will commit… Read more »

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

Unlike the Europeans who need F-35A to deliver tactical
Nuclear bombs. The UK does No use tactical warheads any longer.
The RAF only deploy a few Tornados in Akritori at any one time!

RichardB
Guest
RichardB

Interesting article, but I’m not convinced on the logic of the 100 B and 38 A split. 38 F-35A’s is too many aircraft for one 12 aircraft front-line squadron, but not enough for not enough for two – which I’m certain the RAF will argue as being the minimum. If you go back 23 years to the birth of the CVF project, the RN was ambitiously aiming for 4 front-line squadrons of 12 “Future Carrier Borne Aircraft”, plus another 16 aircraft in a second-line squadron. When the FCBA became the RN/RFA Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA), these totals apparently didn’t change… Read more »

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

I do hope you are not Richard Beedall because so much is inaccurate in your post.

Read this for a more errrrr balanced view of past events and future prospects:

https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/138-uk-f-35-lightnings-do-we-still-need-them-a-personal-view/

OOA
Guest
OOA

Agree. The French have 44 Rafale M and make something similar work albeit they are handicapped by only having the one hull. Having the ability to regularly deploy 18-24 proper jets on a carrier is a huge capability for us and one which we haven’t enjoyed since the 1970s. I would argue that we just don’t routinely need any more than that as it already gives us overmatch on most countries in the world except the big powers – and if we are going up against them, it is reasonable to discount the idea that we would do so alone.… Read more »

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

I said earlier that, unlike the Europeans who need the F-35A to deliver tactical Nuclear bombs. Their Nuclear deterrent!
The UK does No use tactical warheads any longer.

All those 200 or so Tornados that the RAF use to have, were procured at the hight of the Cold War.
The RAF only deployed a few Tornados in recent times in Akritori at any one time!

So the RAF would never need more then 1 Squadron + some spares, anyway!

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

I mean F-35As.

OOA
Guest
OOA

Check out the link that Ron5 posted. It explains the case for a split buy better that I ever could.

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

I forgot to add, that the RAF use to deploy a substantial number of former Tornadoe strike aircraft in the former West Germany permanently, close to the front line of the Warsaw Pact.

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

A couple of points that some may see as minor, some may not: The Royal Navy has given up on the idea of using the second carrier as an LPH and the minimal engineering changes to make POW more suitable for that role have been cancelled. Very wise in my opinion. 2. There seems to be a widespread belief that deployment of a second carrier would imply a second task force. Far from it, it would almost be guaranteed that if both carriers were simultaneously deployed they would be part of the same group. As were Invincible & Hermes in… Read more »

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

So to join in the math wars, my hypothetical maximum emergency carrier group would require 72 F-35’s, with 8 remaining permanently in the US for developmental purposes and say another 10 in deep maintenance, a total of 90 airframes would be required. Organizationally I would suggest 5 squadrons of 12 aircraft plus OCU with the OCO being deployed in emergency conditions.
And the balance of the 138 become magically transformed into Tempests.

Of course if LANCA delivers on its promise, all bets are off!

Steve R
Guest
Steve R

You would need more than a 10-plane maintenance reserve. Normally sustainment fleet is approx. 1/3 of total fleet, give or take.

We won’t ever run both carriers at once unless its a SHTF, brown-trousers scenario in which we face a very real threat, not just to our interests but to us.

In which case I foresee one carrier with 36 F35B and a few helicopters to act ss a strike platform, and the 2nd as primarily carrying helicopters and Royal Marines, plus 12 F35B for immediate fleet defence/reserves.

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

@Steve R

In an emergency situation as I postulated, one third of the fleet would not be left in reserve, would it?

Why on earth would you assume a SHTF scenario requires one carrier deploys as an LPH? Even in the Falklands War, both carriers deployed as strike i.e. their primary role. Just like the QE’s would. Just like the Nimitz’s, Fords & CdeG’s would.

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

If you then extrapolate out that two carrier surge capability to still being able to deliver it at the end of the 50-year life of the carriers then you may need the full 138 F-35Bs. The ones in service at the end probably having quite different and more capable avionics including updated radar, comms, EW and sensor packages to those at the beginning.

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

Not at the same time. But as attrition losses, perhaps. But that would assume rather a high loss rate.

Simon Lees
Guest
Simon Lees

I’m pretty sure that the heat from the F35B melts any normal surface (even concrete) so operating from austere airfields like the Harrier is probably not possible.

David Nicholls
Guest
David Nicholls

the jet discharge from the 35B on vtol operations does not use afterburner so should be no hotter than the Pegasus from Harrier, just 2x as much (40k vs 20k)

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

Simon is correct, talk of the F-35B operating from austere sites is just so much hot air. Not gonna happen.

Simon Lees
Guest
Simon Lees

The heat is concentrated out of one nozzle rather than four though.

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

Ok Simon – Then under which circumstances does the F35b degrade a Runway Surface ?.

Simon Lees
Guest
Simon Lees

The carrier decks have a special coating to cope with the 1500 degree heat. Tarmac gets delivered at less 200 degrees so wouldn’t stand up to a vertical landing. Not sure about concrete

https://www.ddcoatings.co.uk/1275/new-deck-coating-hms-queen-elizabeth-aircraft-carrier

Simon Lees
Guest
Simon Lees

This articles states “three new vertical landing pads are being constructed using high-temperature resistant concrete.”

https://www.forces.net/news/raf-marhams-ps500-million-upgrade-f-35-stealth-jets

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

Simon – Exactly ,the solution is dont Vertical Land,Take Off and Land conventionally.

Simon
Guest
Simon

That would basically mean having a convential runway then, which isn’t most peoples idea of an austere operating base.

Dern
Guest
Dern

My issue is I don’t really belive the F-35A is terribly good for peer-peer combat. I think it’s a fine aircraft for doing the RAF thing of dropping bombs on people who can’t really shoot back (or if they can they do so via SAM sites etc), I don’t think it’s that great for fighting someone who has the reach and capability to strike F-35’s and Typhoons where they live. IMO this is where the RAF (and most western Airforces tbf) falls short and the Russian have a leg up on us. We have these finely tuned F1 aircraft, and… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins
Dern
Guest
Dern

Yes but it needs to go further than that. It’s all well and good to do a quick touch down and take off, but the ground crews need to practice as well.
If you can’t deploy an airbases ground crews to an area, have them set up cam nets, maintenance bays, dig in accomodation etc, then the ability of your airplanes to land and take off on a bit of road like that means nothing.

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

Under ten minutes, not bad!

Gripen turn around.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49L9BlYQSjw

Dern
Guest
Dern

The turn around isn’t the critical bit, it’s easy to go out into a field, land an aircraft, refuel it quickly and then go back to your airbase. How do you hide the Jet if it needs to sit on the ground for a while? Where do the pilots sleep? How do you brief them without a nice briefing room and projector? Have the crews practiced doing this at night? Has the RAF reg practiced setting up a permiter around the entire thing? What’s the stand too procedure? How quickly can you get the whole thing taken down and redeployed… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

I think the RAF know a thing or two about operating an aircraft from roads or even inside the city of London! Mobile bases use vehicles for moving station at short notice which also has designated secure communication versions for updates along with tents for the crews. The RAF also has the Royal Air Force Regiment of course. “The Royal Air Force Regiment is part of the Royal Air Force and functions as a specialist corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. The Corps carries out soldiering tasks relating to the delivery of airpower.” This video shows how you hide… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

Some people on here might appreciate this clip!

“Lost Footage of 1969 Air Race Feat. Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR1 XV741 and Pilot Tom Lecky-Thompson. The first time a military jet landed in a city centre. Awesome vertical landing of a Harrier Jump jet aircraft at St Pancras station in London and a vertical landing in Lower Manhattan”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt45BENU7_0

Dern
Guest
Dern

Again, the landing and take-off is the easy part.

Dern
Guest
Dern

Nigel that’s the USMC, not the RAF. I do not doubt that it’s possible to hide a jet in the woods, I’m saying there’s operational challenges involved in doing so and the RAF hasn’t practiced that art in decades now.

It’s all well and good to say that the RAF USED to practice this back in the 90s, but it’s a skill and it’s perishable. The people who last operated aircraft in austere conditions and improvised airstrips are now retired.

Paul T
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Paul T

Dern – With the RAF’s experience of operating the Harrier in the Field it wouldn’t surprise me if FOB’s have already been earmarked and surveyed much further East just in case.

Ron5
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Ron5

I vote we let you be the first to try that in an F-35B. The aircraft that the Royal Navy had to repaint its aircraft carrier in a very expensive titanium based paint in order for it to land, that one.

Paul T
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Paul T

Are the Runways at RAF Marham coated in this ‘special’ Titanium based Paint ?.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Landing pads were also built at Marham for the F-35B!

Dern
Guest
Dern

You mean on the airbases and aircraft carriers that are expected to be still working in 50+ years of Vertical Landings, instead of the improvised airfields for short landings that we’d have to abandon as soon as Russian Artillery spotted them? Yeah I think I’ll be fine kiddo. Probably better off than trying to fly out of a RAF base that had 100s of artillery craters in it at least.

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

Go take a look at how the F-35B’s operate at Marham at come back at tell us all how that compares to operating out of “Eastern European highways and tents” and not “nice, static, devloped, tarmaced, NATO airfields”

Dern
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Dern

Please grow up and learn to speak like an adult Ron instead of an aggressive child. Then go back and re-read what I wrote.

Ron5
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Ron5

I did, you proposed flying F-35B’s off eastern European roads with the pilots living in tents. Crazy talk son. So I talked crazy back at ya.

Dern
Guest
Dern

Clearly you’ve not grown up.

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

Clearly you’ve already forgotten what you wrote.

Dave61
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Dave61

id fill our QE boots four times over and then some if we’re ever called upon to help defend Taiwan or the Philippines two-mile runways will be decimated

Ron5
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Ron5

Who will be calling us?

JohnHartley
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JohnHartley

My thoughts are.
RN FAA probably needs 74 F-35B. The breakdown is 30 per carrier max, so 60 + 10 spare+ 4 early lot, for training/trials =74.
F-35B needs a heavy stand off weapon (Spice 1000?). I wish we would develop conformal saddle tanks for F-35B to boost its meagre range.
F-35A, the UK should copy Poland. So buy 32 F-35A for the RAF. Base them at Leeming. F-35A can have the weapons that don’t fit in F-35B (AARGM-ER, JSOW-C, B61-12, Norway’s JSM, etc.)
Total 106.
Leaves 32 for future top up buys if we ever need them.

Pete
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Pete

Spot on. I would add…. As the ‘A’ come into service as long rang atrike etc then so the RAF can drop the 2 x tranche 1 Typhoon sqds..

Ron5
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Ron5

Why only 30 max per carrier when they’re designed to take 36 without even going overload??? Seems a mite slow.

F-35B doesn’t have a meager range, on internal fuel and with weapons it outranges such illustrious aircraft as Rafael, F-18 & Typhoon.

Conformal tanks are unlikely to happen but on the other hand, regular old drop tanks, rather more stealthy shaped, are in the pipeline with a promise of a 25% range extension.

Do you really see the UK buying all those US weapons? I don’t. Especially the nuclear bomb.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

I can’t, either see them acquired!

JohnHartley
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JohnHartley

30 per carrier is more than hangar space, so loading with 30+ means expensive F-35B left on deck being battered by weather. I think the carriers will also need a decent number of helicopters, so I cannot see QE/PoW getting more than 30 F-35, unless we build a dedicated assault carrier to replace the sold off HMS Ocean. F-35B has a smaller combat radius than AV-8B Harrier. Israel was supposed to make a stealth F-35 drop tank, but has anyone seen one yet? British designed & built, conformal saddle tanks would be my choice. We usually do not buy expensive… Read more »

Ron5
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Ron5

John, it’s not 1920 anymore, carriers store their aircraft on deck. Normal QE design load out is 36 F-35’s and 14 Merlins. Overload is more.

Check your combat radius data AV-8B vs F-35B, the US Marines disagree.

F-35 drop tanks are to be expected as part of Block 4 upgrades. Yes, Israeli funded (well as much as Israel funds anything).

I am very confident there will never ever be UK F-35B “conformal saddle tanks”. Whatever they might be.

I’ll ignore your fantasies about UK F-35A’s delivering US nukes as being that (fantasies).

JohnHartley
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JohnHartley

Well Jane’s in 2007 said the radius of action of a Harrier GR7/9 was 594 nm. The F-35B has a reported combat radius of 450 nm, though some say the truth is nearer 390 nm. Of course its not exact, as you do not know what stores & temperature it was based on.
We all hope ANYONE delivering a B61 remains a fantasy/nightmare. However, Washington remains annoyed at Europe not pulling its weight. If the RAF has a means of delivering B61-12 & offers to do so, that is enough for NATO diplomacy.

Ron5
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Ron5

I think your copy of Janes has a misprint. And the thought of UK F-35’s being wired for US nukes is totally absurd.

JohnHartley
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JohnHartley

From the late 1950s, the RAF was tasked with delivering a wide variety of US nuclear bombs, starting with the Mark 7 on the Canberra. Which moved swiftly to the Valiant. Which then got US Mk 43 nukes. Move to the 1970s & RAF Phantoms & Jaguars were tasked with carrying US Mk 43 & Mk 57 nukes. This was on top of using UK Red Beard & WE177. A 1996 NATO strategy said that members with dual capable aircraft should keep one squadron trained & equipped to deliver US B61 for the alliance should it be needed. It is… Read more »

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Most probably waiting on Block 4 software amongst other things? An NNSA estimate puts the likely cost of the program between $8 billion to $9 billion. The upgraded variant will be certified on America’s F-15, F-16 and B-2 aircraft, as well as on aircraft for NATO member nations. TAn NNSA estimate puts the likely cost of the program between $8 billion to $9 billion. The upgraded variant will be certified on America’s F-15, F-16 and B-2 aircraft, as well as on aircraft for NATO member nations. The F-35 is expected to go through certification on the weapon at some point… Read more »

Ron5
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Ron5

UK F-35’s wired for US nuclear bombs = folie a deaux

Meirion X
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Meirion X

“F-35B has a smaller combat radius than AV-8B Harrier”. Not True, the AV-8B had a combat radius of 300 miles, compared with 450 miles for F’-35B.
But I think the AV-8B is better for the CAS/light attack role. But it’s safely record has not been too good.

Ron5
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Ron5

Maybe back in the day but these days against a peer?

Meirion X
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Meirion X

I know you would Not use the Harrier against modern peer defences, Ron.
A Harrier would be useful to deliver Brimstone in a Sierra Leone type of intervention, and cose air support for ground troops. Cheaper to run for light attack! Why waste F-35B airframe hours on light attack?

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Not so sure Ron, what news do you have since this article was posted on the subject? “These concerns have been particularly pronounced for the short and vertical takeoff and landing capable F-35B, which has a smaller internal fuel capacity than the F-35A by roughly 30 percent. This only increases the requirements for tanker support and the need to perform additional mid-air refuellings during already challenging long-distance flights and combat operations. The deployment of 10 U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs from MCAS Yuma in Arizona to MCAS Iwakuni in Japan in January 2017 is a prime example of the issues at… Read more »

Ron5
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Ron5

Nigel, are you not aware by now of my opinion of you and the lunatic fringe clippings you pull?

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

You mean fact rather than fiction which you fail to match on a very regular basis. Come up with some hard evidence for a change rather than just your opinion which means very little by the way!

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

The article might state it but that’s not a prime example of range issues. Its an exceptional 6,000 mile plus ferry of aircraft across the Pacific, and that’s assuming an optimum flight path which this wasn’t. As the article goes onto say “Of course, this was in part out of an abundance of caution. The route was based on worst case scenarios to ensure the F-35s would be within range of divert locations, if necessary, due to problems with the Joint Strike Fighters, the tankers, weather, or difficulty actually refueling.”

Meirion X
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Meirion X

So 32 F-35As, @ $80m each, it be $2.5Bn, would that break the bank? And has the Dollar got further to fall, or go up?

JohnHartley
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JohnHartley

I said copy Poland for a reason. Their 32 F-35A with all the trimmings, come to over $6 billion. We would be in the same price range, by the time you have all the bits to make them operational.

Ron5
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Ron5

There’s zero UK money put aside for future fast air purchases after the 40 F-35B. So yes.

Next question?

Ron5
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Ron5

*48

rec
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rec

It makes sense as long:
1) All the Bs are FAA, so that the reduced number are totally for carrier operations.
2) Its still joint and thus is reflected in OCU/OEU
3) Need a second F35 base, for As or Bs Honnington would make most sense, if not there then Leeming .
4) Typhoon line has to be kept open, replacing tranche 1s
5) Additional Merlin HM2s are vital (25)

George Royce
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George Royce

No, no, no.

We must fund our own aerospace sector, so we don’t lose the talent, skill and fortitude to rely on ourselves to defend ourselves. The bean counters will be touching themselves at the thought of scrapping Tempest project for some A variants. I believe we can make the best fighter in the world, the only thing stopping that is the lack of willpower.

Ron5
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Ron5

So buy enough F-35B’s to stock the carriers, say 91, then stop buying F-35’s and devote all remaining fast jet money to Tempest? and any Tempest technology stuff that can be pre-fitted to Typhoon? and UK LANCA?

be still my beating heart.

George Royce
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George Royce

Stop buying F35Bs after we have 70. Put heaps of money into Tempest and use Typhoon as a performance blueprint and as a guinea pig for new tech.

Ron5
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Ron5

Split the difference and settle on 80.5 and you got yourself a deal!

George Royce
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George Royce

No. We don’t really don’t know how much the maintenance will cost yet. I’ll give you 70.5.

Ron5
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Ron5

Then you are wrong. 70 is not enough to make full value of the large and very wise investment in Naval Aviation the UK has made. Bye Geo.

George Royce
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George Royce

And no, not Lanca, more like Taranis.

Ron5
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Ron5

I like LANCA because it looks like it will be able to operate from carriers in support of the F-35B’s, can Taranis-like?

George Royce
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George Royce

Taranis is mach 1 and 2 internal bays. They could make it carrier bourne

Ron5
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Ron5

Wrong again, your Taranis sounds over tasked, over engineered & over expensive. LANCA has a more realist goal to be a loyal wingman that gives a metaphorical pair of extra eyes that can scout ahead of F-35, Typhoon or Tempest formations to the great benefit of all and not something that will price itself to program death like so many UK projects.

Nathan
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Nathan

Having read recently that our two primary Typhoon airbases are under-protected and could be taken out with a couple of well placed missiles; I tend to think we should go with the Bs. We need to be able to operate from any austere runway should the unthinkable happen.

It could be useful to hide a dozen of them in Cheddar Gorge for instance should the need arise 😉

JohnHartley
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JohnHartley

Harrier could operate from a field, F-35B cannot. The USMC wanted to demonstrate austere ashore F-35B operations. They had to send in the engineers several weeks before to build landing pads with heat proof concrete plus facilities for the ALIS.

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

Given the very short take off and landing capability of the F-35B it seems almost any short straight strip of road would suffice for UK use. Operating along the lines of the Swedish dispersed operations but with much shorter runway requirements. VTOL wouldn’t be desirable because of reduced fuel and weapons load, in addition to the special landing and take-off pad requirements you noted. We would have to set up for and practice the dispersed capability though and F-35B doesn’t seem to be designed from scratch to easily support this as the Gripens were.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

I recall reading that parts of the A1(M) were going to used if the cold war went hot. Sections near Peterborough ( and the old USAF base at Alconbury) are very straight. Might not even need VSTOL STOL.

I think destroying an airbase is easier said than done anyway. How many missiles would it require to crater the runway, taxiways, the dispersed HAS complexes, fuel, and SSA munitions storage areas, all well spread out and often located off base. I’m of course talking conventional cruise missiles not a nuke.

Ron5
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Ron5

As someone famous once said, all you’d need is a landrover with a big/dirty bomb in the back and a plausible story.

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

I’m not as confident about airfield invulnerability. A combination of cluster munition warheads to tear up runway/taxiways/exposed aircraft and thermobaric warheads targeting the infrastructure (including hangared aircraft) and especially the trained personnel that can’t be replaced quickly, would be pretty devastating. I don’t think it would take that many missiles.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Sure GHF, I did not suggest invulnerability, only that I don’t think it’s as easy as some suggest.
Are there long range missiles with cluster munitions? I know we got rid of our cluster bombs.
Airfield damage can be repaired, the RE have regiments trained for the task. I’m talking taxiways runway hardstanding. The thermobaric weapons you speak of sound worrying, mind.
Does anyone in NATO bar the US posses such a weapon?

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Ha. Just looked it up. We have been using them in Syria.

john melling
Guest

If I remember rightly it was accidentally leaked that the RAF was using them.
The N version of Hellfire
Think I cheered when the news of it came on

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

Your right, invulnerability was a poor choice of word. Sorry about that. Iskander is a short/intermediate (9M729/SSC-8 variant) range missile with various warhead options including the cluster and thermobaric variants. Kinzhal, is a long range air-launched, presumed derivative of/shared commonality with Iskander that might have similar warhead capability. Then we’re into a range of other missiles that have the range and payload capabilities, but are usually just described as conventional/nuclear warhead such as Kaliber and KH-101. We probably ought to also at least acknowledge the potential for their more esoteric CGI weapons to appear too. Airfields surfaces can be repaired,… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Good post, v interesting as that area is not one of my strengths.
Yes, I read of FOAB researching after your earlier post.
This has modified my position. We are more vulnerable than I thought. I agree though that using ICBMs is a step too far as Bmews cannot tell if nuclear.
Can systems like Patriot or better deal with these weapons?

Glass Half Full
Guest
Glass Half Full

Not really a strength of mine either DM, just an interested amateur. To your question, “these weapons” is really referring to weapons with different speed and flight characteristics, even Iskander is really a platform of different missiles, some cruise, some ballistic. Ballistic weapons used to mean a weapon that followed a ballistic flight path. Systems like Patriot, THAAD, Aegis with SM-6 and SM-3 were designed to counter such weapons. Based on tests not always successfully. Field of regard from systems like THAAD can be an issue, if a missile comes from a direction outside its purview. Kaliber and KH-101 are… Read more »

TopBoy
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TopBoy

Would love 100 F35b and 38 F35a but never gonna happen. The 138 figure is becoming increasingly optimistic and even if honoured, it’s for the whole life cycle of the F35 so would never be the number available.
I would like to see 8 x (12) Squadrons of F35b – 96
With a larger OCU/training squadron of 16 F35b
With an additional 2 x (16) Squadrons of F35a for the RAF to plug the gap left with the departure of Tornado.
One can only dream…..

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

What use of the F-35A’s sitting in Marham?
They would still Not have the range, without refuelling, to reach Moscow!

Meirion X
Guest
Meirion X

An alternative to the F-35As just sitting at Marham, is to forward base a squadron at a time near to an adversary.
The next question is, will the UK Gov. seek agreements with allies to do so?

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

Poland perhaps?

OOA
Guest
OOA

RUSI paper on AirPower choices. Well worth a read for dose of reality on the tough decisions ahead.

https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/combat_air_choices_final_web_version.pdf

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

That’s awful, just awful. Shot full of logical inconsistencies, plain idiocy & wishful thinking. Conspicuous in its sheer lack of supporting facts. Bronk says he’s a part time Phd, I think I know what he is the other part.

OOA
Guest
OOA

Gosh, we’ll I’m sure he speaks highly of you..

I thought he highlights some of the dilemmas rather well. I’m not sure I agree with all of his conclusions eg. on numbers of airframes, but the broad brush on our needing to set a political direction and then prioritise between the 4 main pillars of the airpower ambition, seemed sound.

Am genuinely interested: which parts give you the biggest problem and why? (And please remember those supporting facts!)

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

OK, I need a bit of time, kinda busy today. WTS!

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

Bronk’s assertion is that the UK’s Combat Air Strategy is unaffordable. The strategy is based around 4 core pillars: 1. Keep Typhoon relevant until 2040 2. Build up/mature RAF/RN F-35 force 3. Develop Typhoon replacement via Team Tempest 4. Maintain UK industrial base Bronk has 3 silver bullets (SB) to solve this: SB1. Focus all UK defence on Russia within a NATO context (just like John Nott back in 1980) SB2. Modify the #2 pillar to become “Freeze the RAF/RN F-35B fleet at 48 airframes” SB3. Add a 5th pillar “Acquire an RAF only F-35A force” SB4. Modify the #3… Read more »

DJ
Guest
DJ

Two obvious errors in this article. The Joint Strike Missile (JSM), is not American. It’s a Norwegian missile (Konsberg), with some Australian tech, jointly funded by Norway (primary) & Australia (secondary). It is designed to be compatible with ALL the F35 variants, internally on the A & C or externally on A,B & C.

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

11 AUGUST 2020

‘Lack of final quality check’ drove F-35 non-conforming spare part problem

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/lack-of-final-quality-check-drove-f-35-non-conforming-spare-part-problem