A F-35B Lightning from HMS Queen Elizabeth has conducted the UK Lightning Force’s first ‘austere forward refuelling’ in an overseas environment, whilst operating from the aircraft carrier.

The RAF aircraft flew to the Italian island of Pantelleria where it conducted a fast ground refuel from an Italian KC-130J.

Image Crown Copyright 2021.

The Royal Air Force say:

“This is a significant step in the F-35B strike capability and demonstrates agile combat employment in action.”

Image Crown Copyright 2021.

What is the UK Carrier Strike Group doing?

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the deployed flag ship for Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21), a deployment that will see the ship and her escorts sail to the Asia-Pacific and back. CSG21 will see the ship along with the Strike Group work with over 40 countries from around the world. The Strike Group will operate and exercise with other countries Navies and Air Forces during the 7 month deployment.

The Carrier Strike Group includes ships from the United States Navy, the Dutch Navy, and Marines from the US Marine Corps. As well as British frigates, destroyers, a submarine, two RFA supply ships and air assets from 617 Sqn, 820 NAS, 815 NAS and 845 NAS. This is the largest deployment of Fifth Generation Fighter Jets at sea in history.

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Reaper
Reaper
2 months ago

“This is a significant step in the F-35B strike capability and demonstrates agile combat employment in action.”

Who writes for this guff?! It’s the equivalent of me driving from home to a BP in Otterburn.

julian1
julian1
2 months ago
Reply to  Reaper

George wrote it. I assume the airfield had a short runway with basic facilities. Could a Typhoon or F35A have achieved the sane? I don’t know. Fuelling from a herc on the ground and short airstrip effectively means F35B can operate from many places non-STOVL aircraft can’t – we knew that, but nice to see it in practice from a carrier and away from home

David
David
2 months ago
Reply to  julian1

We’re losing our own Hercs and were enabling forces landed to protect the perimeter? It’s guff.

The Big Man
The Big Man
2 months ago
Reply to  julian1

Still need up to 1kn for the Herc to get back in the air though.

The Big Man
The Big Man
2 months ago
Reply to  The Big Man

1km

Sonik
Sonik
2 months ago
Reply to  The Big Man

It’s an exercise to prove the concept.

Doesn’t have to be a Herc providing the fuel, could just as easily be a temporary ground refueling setup, road tanker or whatever.

heroic
heroic
2 months ago
Reply to  Reaper

Does the Otterburn BP station sell F35B fuel ? If so, can you earn loyalty points ?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  heroic

Your on form today…..!

Tony Smith
Tony Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  heroic

Are Cornwall Services are offering this facility to the POW off the Cornish Coast?

Tony
Tony
2 months ago
Reply to  heroic

They’ll be able to get plenty of Amazon vouchers if they keep this up!

Clive1234
Clive1234
2 months ago
Reply to  heroic

I reckon if you buy BP Ultimate fuel and add Castrol Valvemaster Plus you might be there… 😉

Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
2 months ago
Reply to  Reaper

The source of the quote is the Royal Air Force, as indicated.

dan
dan
2 months ago
Reply to  Reaper

Many more hazards at this type of field like FOD, ect for a high tech aircraft with a very expensive and delicate engine than landing on the deck of a CV designed for it or a military base.

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago

Just a thought. Others have pointed out that the removable 25mm gunpod for F-35B, can also be used (without gun) for EW or even a backwards facing tactical radar. Why not use the stealth gunpod shape as a removable extra fuel tank? It would give the F-35B the extra combat radius it needs.

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Probably because in a vertical landing having a fuel tank blasted by very hot air (from front and back hitting the groound and coming up, as the aircraft is designed to “sit on”) isnt a very smart idea.

Wing carried tanks get a cold air barrier drawn down from above via entrainment.

But given F35B range comfortably exceeeds and Harrier, its hard to see a problem here.

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
2 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Also you need the internal plumbing.

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  Watcherzero

Quite, even putting a gun pod under there is “brave”, given what the heat can do to fine tolerance mechanics, electronics and shells, hence the travails ever getting Harrier IIs gunpod to work iirc. Not sure an EW pod would be survivable either.

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

The air from the liftfan is relatively cool. A fuel tank in the place of a gunpod, would also be empty by the time the F-35B wanted to land. Re range. Comparing between aircraft has problems with different criteria, but public source says F-35B combat radius is 450 miles. Harrier GR5 is listed circa 1990 as a 553 mile tactical radius with 2x external tanks & 7x MK82 bombs. Late 2001, USN carriers off the coast of Pakistan were able to launch aircraft to attack Afganistan. We did not send an Invincible, as the Harriers lacked the range for deep… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

No it isnt. It is several hundred degrees as the lift fan is a bery effeftive compressor Plus the fountain that hits and circulates in this area (is designed to because it provides lift – see how the doors open to capture it) comprises that and core nozzle flow which is ~1000. Its why Harrier II never had a gun pod that worked (expansion of shells and gun components), and why AMRAAM on the fuselage stations on Sea Harrier had to be discarded if they landed with them due to vibration damage. Putting a fuel tank there is insane, and… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Which Harrier? GR3? Harrier II had double the range. It also used drop tanks regularly. A feature F-35B lacks at the moment. No point spending $130-150 million each on an aircraft that cannot reach the enemy.
Lets face it, heat resisting materials have been around since the space shuttle. That was 40 years ago. New, better materials have been developed since then.

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Even wiki only claims 350 for AV8B. That is devoid of context as to the sortie profile which I’d estimate was all medium alt and in Europe for that kind of number. Public info claims over 600nm for F-35B. I’ve never met anyone who claims the Harrier had greater range than F35B, its a weird ex perience to be honest! Harriers didnt use drop tanks regularly because the landing environment ate up their carriage life requiring maintenance. Harrier could lift them off a carrier but it had to be partially fuelled to remain within max weight limits and thus go… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Playing top trumps with F-35B/Harrier II is difficult because I do not know the conditions they based it on. 600nm for F-35 is probably the A not the B. Bis most often quoted as 450 & sometimes as low as 390nm. Flight International Nov 1995 claimed 1110km max for the Harrier II. Even I think that was optimistic. Fact is they are both short legged. Neither, if launched from a carrier sitting off a coast, can strike targets deep inland. There are many ways to sort that. The US might just use F-35C for such missions. If they need extra… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Nope, the 600nm claim is for B. The A is irrlevent to this. As for 1150km, well that just made up or a completely different profile and config, possibly even ferry range. There is no doubt the F35B has a considerably longer range than AV8B. Hence “short legged” is relative. F35B confortsbly meets UK requirements as laid out in the KURs for the JSF program. I really cant see a problem here. The reality is we arent the USN (we have 1/10th the resources) and do not have their requirements. This idea we need to match them seems daft, we’d… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

The British Government has put a lot of money into carrier strike. The QE/F-35B will work in many situations just fine. The problem is if the enemy is deep inland. If F-35B cannot reach the enemy, then the RN risks a “Jutland” moment where it loses the faith of public & politicians alike. F-35B is short legged, but can be boosted by air refuelling, more onboard tankage, a long range stand off weapon, or a combination of the above. I am not bothered on how exactly, the range is increased, but just that it is put into the forward list… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

It has indeed, but that’s also an argument to fund other capabilities rather than obsesse on thr best gold plated one trick pony. The actual argument for the carriers is that some larger percentage of the world is acctually all coastal based. It was never about being able to bomb deep, deep inland, if that was the requirment we’d have spent the money on penetrating bombers. F35B is much longer legged than Harrier. It also has access to Voyager, again offering a superior tanking capability to its predecessors. A stand off weapon was always planned, and remains so. So what… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

We will have to disagree that F-35B has more range than Harrier. All the public source data, I see puts them much of a muchness. How the F-35B gets more range, I will not worry about, as long as it gets it. Jutland. The RN did what it wanted to do in getting the German Navy to turn & run back to port & stay there for the rest of the war. The public just looked at it like the score of a football match & saw the Germans sank more of our ships than we sank theirs. The public… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

So, you are ignoring all the evidence F35B outranges Harrier? Well, it’s true what they say about leading horses to water! You believe that if you obstinately insist, but it is manifestly false. You genuinely fear F35 running out of fuel and ditching? You’re aware that historical instances of that were as much about navigation and fuel management as they were actual range? Harrier has been shortlegged for 50 years, have many crashed due to running out of fuel? Why do Voyagers need to refuel each other? They may not have endurance – look up what an A330-200 can do,… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Where is your source? I am quoting from Flight International/ British Aerospace & other publications. They all say the combat radius of F-35B is 390-450 miles, while Harrier GR5/7/9 is 500-550 miles. Truth is both are short legged. The US is wanting more range from its future carrier aircraft as it realises new Russian/Chinese/Iranian anti ship missiles put its ships at risk. They will need to stay further offshore. Back in 1982, Hermes & Invincible were kept far away from Argentina because of the risk from a small number of Argentine Exocets. If I am wrong, then so is the… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

You aren’t qouting from anything! A half remembered flight international comment on Harrier 30 years ago, and British Aerospace hasnt existed for 2 decades! From 2 mins on the internet: F35B from the RAF website is combat radius greater than 450nm https://www.raf.mod.uk/aircraft/lightning-f35b/ Harrier combat range of 556km, so 300nm https://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/harrier/ So greater than 50% difference in favour of F35B. Hardly surprising given fuselage and wing volumes and a modern efficient wngine sized for cruise with a low drag inlet and airframe vs Harrier. What has USN carrier and doctrine got to do with F35B? We arent the US, we don’t… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Well I am quoting from the British Aerospace Harrier V/STOL report September 1986. They built it, so they should know.
July 2021, Combat Aircraft Journal, page 15, a photo of the 60th out of 83, KC-130J delivered to the USMC. The Pacific pivot, means the USN & USMC are looking for more range, either with more tankers, or with asking for greater range from new aircraft.
The UK usually plays catch up, a few years later.

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

You havent provided a qoute let alone a source with reference, other than a number bereft of context. I have.

How about a more recent one? Given Harrier II wasnt even in service then…

We both know if you could find one you would have, hence the obstinate reliance on a contextless qoute from 35 years ago.

Honestly, your horse is dead. Bury the poor thing!

The US are welcome to look for more range, noting they do with their bombers too and are looking to fight across the Pacific. Still dont see any relevance to us.

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
11 days ago
Reply to  Rogbob

“F35B is a credible carrier based strike fighter” How is it? If a RN carrier group is staying out of the range of DF-26 or Kinzhal (which it should if it has any sense), the F-35B doesn’t have enough range to reach land. And even if it did, it can’t carry HARM (the standard variant) or JASSM/JASSM-ER/JASSM-XR internally, which defeats the point of having a supposedly stealthy aircraft in the first place. The RN’s F-35Bs don’t carry LRASM (and even if they did, they couldn’t carry it internally) and they won’t have any anti-ship capability until SPEAR 3, which can’t… Read more »

Patrick Bindner
Patrick Bindner
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

F-35B can take off in still air at tropical conditions in 550 ft, with 14000 lb of fuel & 5000 lb of ordnance. Then fly a 500 nmi leg, engage in combat & return 500 mi to its pointof origine & land vertically, retaining its 5000 lb ordnancel oad.

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
10 days ago

Got links to back up all those claims? AIUI the F-35B can only take off vertically with about half a tank of fuel and no ordnance. This is why F35Bs on the QE carrier use short take-offs and use a ski ramp to maximise the amount of fuel and ordnance they can get in the air. If your F-35B has enaged in combat, then why is it returning with the same amount of ordnance it set off with? Plus AIUI the F-35B has to discard ordnance and/or fuel in order to land vertically. AIUI this is why SRVLs were invented… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago

One of those reasons the F35B was clever decision. Far more mobile and deployable than the F35A.

Sonik
Sonik
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I agree, the A versus B argument is pretty moot IMO.

The principal advantage of F35A is combat radius; but if you are deploying from a proper airfield then you can probably deploy a tanker from there too. So the B can do most of what the A can do but not the other way around.

dan
dan
2 months ago
Reply to  Sonik

Right now the British CVs have no way to refuel the F35Bs when in flight so range will be a very big issue when going up against near peer enemies like China where you want your CVs a long way from the enemy ships or mainland. Hopefully this shortfall will be rectified in the not too distant future.

Sonik
Sonik
2 months ago
Reply to  dan

Agreed

I think AAR is one of the stated reasons for Vixen and the EMALS RFP. With the addition of CV launched UAV refueling, F35B should be be able to have at least as good range as the other versions in all situations.

Jaralodo
Jaralodo
2 months ago
Reply to  dan

I think they are planning to do buddy to buddy refueling for the time being.

Sonik
Sonik
2 months ago
Reply to  Jaralodo

In many situations it will be possible to use land based tankers, with F35 deployed from CV closer to the action, to keep the sortie rate up. I think USMC/USN do similar ‘towline’ ops over the Pacific.

Plus UK is perhaps better off than even US here because Voyager has a lot more range/offload and UK has quite a few fully sovereign bases around the world to operate tankers from.

Last edited 2 months ago by Sonik
Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
10 days ago
Reply to  Sonik

Where will land-based tankers take off from in a war against China or Russia? Northern Australia? Kadena? Guam? In the first hour of a war these air bases will be targeted and even if the tankers get airborne they’ll be at threat from long-range land-based fighters, ship-based SAMs, carrier aircraft and land-based SAMs. They wouldn’t last two minutes.

Last edited 10 days ago by Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
10 days ago
Reply to  dan

Exactly, this is a major problem. We can’t use the MQ-25 refuelling drone because the QE and PoW don’t have cats & traps and in any case the MQ-25 can’t carry a meaningful amount of fuel; same goes for Ospreys and other tilt-rotors for in-air refuelling. I really can’t see a solution to this problem unless we find a way to make it safer for ships to get closer to land (which is far easier said than done for MANY reasons: anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, mines). Personally I’d just buy very long-ranged Airbus A350s, modify them and fill them with loads… Read more »

Last edited 10 days ago by Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
10 days ago
Reply to  Sonik

ALL F-35 variants lack range when it comes to countries the size of Russia and China, which are 9,000km and 5,000km across respectively.

If carriers are staying out of the reach of DF-26 and Kinzhal, then F-35Bs and F-35Cs don’t have the range to reach China or Russia.

As for the F-22, if one takes off from Kadena Air Base it could barely reach China’s east coast.

Last edited 10 days ago by Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
10 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

The F-35 isn’t a rugged aircraft that can take off from just anywhere. FOD when landing and taking off could potentially damage the RAM coating, EOTS/DAS senors and even get into the engine and lift fan inlets. When using the engine and lift fan for shorter take-offs from roads and landings on roads, F-35Bs are going to create huge amounts of FOD, which is why the deck of the QE carrier has been specially hardened to prevent this FOD issue. Plus F-35s need a lot of ground crew and a sophisticated air base to service them. Rugged Gripens can land… Read more »

BB85
BB85
2 months ago

I hope the AirTanker don’t find out, they will be billing the RAF for the fuel they drew out of someone else’s aircraft even if it was sitting on the ground.

Sonik
Sonik
2 months ago
Reply to  BB85

It’s allowed, RAF use other NATO AAR all the time. AirTanker contract is only exclusive for AAR services operated directly on behalf of MOD.

Steve
Steve
2 months ago
Reply to  Sonik

The first thing that crossed my mind when reading this, is that both planes landing to refuel gets around the whole airtanker contract.

Sonik
Sonik
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Exactly, technically it’s not even AAR. The AirTanker contract has plenty exemptions it’s not as restrictive as the media hype would have people believe.

Last edited 2 months ago by Sonik
Jake
Jake
2 months ago

does anyone know if an RAF Voyager will be shadowing the carrier when it reaches the Asia-Pacific region/Areas where there aren’t likely to be NATO assets?

Sonik
Sonik
2 months ago
Reply to  Jake

Interestingly, AirTanker are talking to India about a possible leasing deal:

https://theprint.in/defence/airbus-emerges-frontrunner-as-iaf-looks-at-10-year-lease-for-mid-air-refuellers/597893/

So a Voyager visit to India would be a good opportunity to tie up with the IAF for a demo.

fearlesstunafish
fearlesstunafish
2 months ago

am i the only one that finds the fact that we need a typical waffle statement because a plane landed in a field and got refuelled depressing?!? ok so modern aircraft need longer runways, but landing in fields and getting refuelled was standard practice prettymuch since the dawn of aircraft…. in some ways the fact modern aircraft aren’t designed for austere landings is a step backwards! if the transport ones can be built with that in mind…. even if they dont use it all the time…..! either way its not exactly impressive, especially cause those photos dont look particularly “austere”… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by fearlesstunafish
Dern
Dern
2 months ago

One of the first times the plane has been tested doing what it was built for? Hence a good news story, and impressive as very few aircraft in the world can do this. The days of landing on grass airstrips is long gone, not only because making an aircraft viable for air-combat means that it can’t deal with the kind of FOD that you might find in an actual field, but also because gone are the days you can get away with a 5t aircraft being your frontline fighter (an F-35 weights 22t to compare). As for it not being… Read more »

fearlesstunafish
fearlesstunafish
2 months ago
Reply to  Dern

i wasn’t saying that at all, im just kinda fed up with the government waffle that implies things like this are an achievement when they are just doing what they should be expected to do….. its the waffle i have an issue with not the capability, because lets face it, planes have been refueling from fob’s since the cold war… and that was exactly what it was designed to do….. if it couldn’t do it that would be worse….. (ive also found myself thinking the same about their boilerplate statements about defense issues in general/covid/economy/etc so maybe i am more… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by fearlesstunafish
Dern
Dern
2 months ago

I mean it is an achievment when it’s done for the first time. So there’s that. Secondly even if it was routine, which it isn’t, the MoD should be highlighting it’s capabilities and showing the Taxpayer their £’s at work. Great, planes have been refuelling from FOB’s since the cold war. But A): FOB’s are not austere like this, they usually have in place fuelling infrastructure. Not landing and quickly improvising a refuel which is definitely not common practice. B): We haven’t been practicing working from Improvised airfields for a very long time, all the comforts of working out of… Read more »

Steve
Steve
2 months ago

In an era of designed for but not fitted, it is an achievement when one of our assets actually does what it’s meant to be able to. Depressing but true

DaveyB
DaveyB
2 months ago

These really are baby steps for the F35. In the last 5 years, the Typhoon Squadrons have been deploying to austere locations. By that I mean old RAF airbases in the UK. The idea is to see if the aircraft, crews and support services etc can operate away from a main base with all its facilities. This is for a number of reasons, as an expeditionary quick reactionary force. But also if the cack does hit the fan, and someone lobs a few cruise missiles etc at Conningsbury or Lossiemouth. The F35B will go through the same trial process. The… Read more »

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
10 days ago
Reply to  Dern

“Hence a good news story, and impressive as very few aircraft in the world can do this.”

Very few aircraft can land on a runway????

Dern
Dern
10 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Jarce

Not what I said and you know it.

Oh is it irritating when someone does that? Sorry.

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
7 days ago
Reply to  Dern

It’s EXACTLY what you said. Or rather wrote. You wrote: “Hence a good news story, and impressive as very few aircraft in the world can do this.” I then wrote in response: “Very few aircraft can land on a runway????” And you reply was: “Not what I said…” I have no idea how else to interpret what you wrote. This article is about an F-35B landing on the Italian island of Pantelleria, south west of Sicily. I assume this was at Pantelleria Airport. How is an F-35B being able to land on a runway at an airport good news? Or… Read more »

Dern
Dern
7 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Jarce

It’s impressive when you look at what they actually did, but that goes directly over your little head.

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
1 day ago
Reply to  Dern

“It’s impressive when you look at what they actually did…” Which is what? Land on a runway? An F-35 doing a SRVL on a carrier is far harder than landing on a runway. This F-35 then refuelled using a refuelling aircraft that also landed on the same runway. Explain to me what is impressive about that. Refuelling in the air is much harder. And what possible practical application(s) does this have? An F-35B is going to kick up a lot of FOD if landing on a genuinely austere runway on an island that unlike a commercial or military runway won’t… Read more »

Karl
Karl
2 months ago

Me too, its guff. What they dont tell you is rough field operation with this piece of equipment is impossible. So no Harrier in a hide scenario. Thats FOD, this precious and expensive plaything is a fairy posing as a machine of war.

James Fennell
James Fennell
2 months ago

Its a capability that is unique to the F-35B, like the Harrier before it. Think forwad basing on Pacific Islands or forward airstrips in the Arctic or Somalia and perhaps the usefulness becomes more apparant.

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
10 days ago

Yep, I agree with you. Plus as much as possible, we need imo to move away from aircraft that require a runway to get airborne. We should be looking at Gripens that can land on and take off from roads (and develop more aircraft like it, especially dedicated EW aircraft of comparable size and small ISTAR aircraft), long-range helicopters/tilt-rotors with a range of 1,000+ km and airships. I especially like the idea of airships since they can land anywhere: remote locations, carriers, even on water if built to provide that capability. Airships can also have excellent range and endurance (measured… Read more »

Last edited 10 days ago by Hugh Jarce
Dern
Dern
10 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Jarce

Most aircraft can land and take off from roads kid, it’s the “supporting infrastructure” beside the road that’s the issue.

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
7 days ago
Reply to  Dern

“Most aircraft can land and take off from roads kid” Can they? It depends on the size of the aircraft, how long and straight the road is and how many metres an aircraft requires to land and take off. And specifically can F-35Bs land and take off from roads? I’ve never read of them being capable of doing so. “it’s the “supporting infrastructure” beside the road that’s the issue.” Of course this is important. Sweden has sensibly created a network of locations around the country to refuel and rearm Gripens in case air bases have been taken out in the… Read more »

Dern
Dern
7 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Jarce

Oh okay so you agree that the supporting infrastructure is important… so… go back and read the article and try to engage your brain, I know it’s difficult for you, but do try to think instead of being an anti-F35 mouthpiece.

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
1 day ago
Reply to  Dern

“Oh okay so you agree that the supporting infrastructure is important…” Of course it’s important. That goes without saying. But we don’t have such an infrastructure in the UK, when we should. How long does it take to refuel and rearm a Typhoon or F-35B? Or to change their engines? The Gripen can be refuelled and rearmed in 10 minutes from what I’ve read & the engine can be changed in under an hour. This is essential capability to have if air bases are being attacked and obviously it requires a network of austere bases to benefit from this capability.… Read more »

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
2 months ago

The joint training operation with the Italians was planned to be a USMC aircraft, the RAF filled in because the USMC aircraft had to make an emergency landing on Ibiza and presumably the rest of their fleet was grounded for inspections.

J F
J F
2 months ago

WHy is this being done? Is this because the fuel tank is too small and the F35 has such a poor operating range?

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
2 months ago
Reply to  J F

The F35B has excellent endurance. Over Double that of the Harrier, and carrys more fuel internally than Tornado did, and Typhoon currently.

J F
J F
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Getting a modern 1990’s design very expensive aircraft to have a better range than the Harrier is no great feat. The Tornado operated most of the time with additional drop tanks. Add drop tanks to a supposed “stealthy aircraft” and you lose one of its advantages. Plus adding drop tanks will obviously reduce the bomb load. The Tornado was a bomb truck the F35B with its small bomb bay, is not. More and more the F35B looks an improvement of the Harrier, at huge cost. No wonder the US Navy is getting more FA-18s’. Im sure the Navy will do… Read more »

Sean
Sean
2 months ago
Reply to  J F

The USMC operate the F35B, not the US Navy.
The US Navy operates the F35C, the version that has yet to be bought by any other nation.
The increasing number of nations buying the F35B shows that the actual experts in their militaries appreciate its unique abilities.

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  J F

The F35 isn’t just this or that, it’s an enabler, not just a small bomb truck or “fighter”. There’s so much more to 5th gen platforms, they are expected to do so much more to include ISTAR etc all the while linked to other enabled platforms. We need to get away from top trumps how many bombs, how many miles etc and go for capability and ability. And, as any ex mil should be aware, whatever platforms or weapons, or systems are being used, tactics and training are used to enhance capability and mitigate weaknesses. It’s standard across the board… Read more »

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  J F

I’m not going to write a lengthy reply, because others have said the same. The F35 is the stealthy assassin that can slip through the back door and cut the enemy’s throat, while the Typhoon does the heavy lifting. On a side note. When stealth isn’t the priority, the F35B can carry 6 x Paveway 4’s, and 4 x air to air missiles. 2 AMRAAM & 2 ASRAAM. A Tornado GR4 could not carry all that at once. Certainly not AMRAAM. And F35B can carry that load out from the carrier’s.

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  J F

If its no great feat, you do it? The fact it took 10s of billions suggests its a little harder than you think. It is substantially better than Harrier: – much more range. – supersonic for missile launch range and threat evasion plus rapid ingress/egress to and from target – precision weapons all the way in stealth – long range AAM and bombs all on one airframe on the same sortie All in all, hard to think of a more transformative shift from one type to another? Even Tornado GR and F to Typhoon only really acheived the last one… Read more »

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
1 day ago
Reply to  J F

The problem is that the F-35B is the ONLY modern STOVL aircraft available. It’s not like there’s a wide range of STOVL aircraft to choose from. It’s the F-35B or nothing. And since the QE & PoW don’t have cats & traps then the F-35B is the only option as far as the Royal Navy is concerned. But even if our carriers DID have cats & traps, then the only options would be the Super Hornet, F-35C and the Rafale M, all of which lack range for carrier aircraft when you consider the range of DF-26 and Kinzhal. What we… Read more »

BB85
BB85
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

I know, I’m getting sick of listening to people bemoaning the F35B range. It’s plenty for what it will be used for. We are not going to be launching raids on Beijing from the centre of the pacific ocean

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  BB85

Agreed mate gets so boring doesn’t it!

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  BB85

It does get a bit tiring. To many still obsessed with ‘top speed’, or how tight it can or can’t turn. The RN/RAF love it, the pilots and engineers love it. It’s got huge potential. That’s good enough for me. 👍

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Agreed. But please Sir can we at least get to 70?!  😘  That should be sufficient for the QEC groups needs.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago

Yes definitely. I think 70-80 is doable. With Meteor and Spear 3 variants integrated. Potential UCAV’s for AEW and refuelling and all sorts of ISTAR capabilitys. We could have one extremely potent and flexibility CSG capability. And F35 is only at the very beginning of it’s development life cycle.

BB85
BB85
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Exactly there is a reason the RAF went back to the drawing board when it came to the Typhoons radar replacement and that is the proposed one was nowhere near the level of the F35 especially for networked based warfare, electronic warfare, the thing is basically a mini awac. They only way Russia or China would have a chance is if they had more aircraft than we had missiles. Which in case the of Europe on its own is probably true 😂

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  BB85

That us probably true. 😆 The planned radar 2 for Typhoon could potentially be an absolutely amazing bit of kit.

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  J F

Well it means that our fifth generation fighters are not chained to using 10,000 of tarmac, all of which are known and can be attacked or put out of a action any one of which may be a long way from where you want to be so slowing down the number of sorties you can make. The ability to use an austere site, makes it more difficult to for the peer prevent operations or allows operation in unexpected and more convenient places. Learning to operate in this way with the F35B would create a unequaled capability that the potential enemies… Read more »

BB85
BB85
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

It’s probably the most important feature of modern aircraft in terms of survivability. Most are whiped out before they ever leave the tarmac. If you are bordering a hostile country it is vital your combat aircraft are well dispersed and can be resupplied from motorways. There is no point having 100 combat aircraft if they are all located at 1 or 2 airbases and can be obliterated in a pre emptive strike

Sonik
Sonik
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I agree, what gets me with all the ‘top trumps’ performance comparisons is that the unique tactical utility of STOVL is already well proven in actual combat, for decades.

Harrier faced exactly the same complaints of technical inferiority but managed to achieve legendary status for it’s performance time and time again, often up against theoretically superior opponents.

And F35b still has all the stealth, sensor fusion etc. so all in all its only marginally ‘inferior’ to the other versions, for things that don’t really matter when the full range of deployment scenarios are taken into account.

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
10 days ago
Reply to  Sonik

“Harrier faced exactly the same complaints of technical inferiority but managed to achieve legendary status for it’s performance time and time again, often up against theoretically superior opponents.” The Harrier did so well in the Falklands because it had AIM-9L, which was new at the time, and better than what the Argentinians had. By comparison, the F-35B has AIM-120 which (because it doesn’t have a throttleable engine like Meteor) can be thwarted BVR just by using evasive manoeuvres and it can’t carry AIM-9X internally. And even if it could, AIM-9X can be thwarted by old Soviet flares anyway. An aircraft… Read more »

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

Two F-35Bs took part in the exercise, one British and one Italian, and although they refuelled from an Italian tanker, a Merlin also landed, carrying a British crew to help with the refuelling operation, new to the Italians.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
2 months ago

I was interested to learn what ‘austere’ meant today. It seems to mean refuelling on copious hardstanding in broad daylight, in perfect weather, possibly at an estabished airbase. Far cry from the days of Harrier when austere meant that not only was the aircraft refeulled in the middle of a wood but that the aircraft could operate from such ‘non-airfields’.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

I guess such ops could happen again once the experience is built up?

All the enablers still exist. Just need a few spare A roads!

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Hi Graham, I remember reading about the Harrier force deploying into woods in Germany. The force reportedly had more trucks than the rest of the RAF had and we are talking about back in the 1970’s when the RAF had about 80,000 people! The Harrier force also took its own runway with it that rolled off the back of trucks, a bit like a roller garage door. All very clever and the RAF got very good at deploying into all sorts of places. However, I have real doubts that the F35B would ever go quite that far, as it is… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
2 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Hi CR, I was a BAOR warrior on-off doing 4 tours over the period from 1975-92. It was very reassuring for us army folk to know that (if the balloon went up) we could get Harrier CAS even if the Warsaw Pact had hit the runways at Gutersloh and the clutch airbases.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Hi Graham, I bet it was. I read General Sir John Hacket’s, The Third World War. Very, very good book and pretty chilling read at the time, given I grew up near High Wycombe with Strike Command and RAF Daws Hill close by. The book covered every aspect of the war from the hords of Russian tanks hitting the BAOR and the Americans in the Fulda Gap, to the Battle of the Atlantic all very authentic as one would expect from from a former commander of the BAOR. I worked with a Wing Commander who was a former F4 pilot… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
2 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I read Gen Hackett’s book too – I distinctly remember his line that the Soviets feared our Chieftain tanks but were glad that we did not have too many of them (we had 900 of them then!). I must re-read that book with the extra chapter in it. I like your F4 pilot’s story. My equally chilling one (now in the public domain) is that all our exercises ended with a long NBC phase, as we had used tactical nukes in a last ditch effort to stop the vastly numerically superior WP hordes – and had to then be prepared… Read more »

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Read it, top book.

Rogbob
Rogbob
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Except the logistics were never really stressed and it all depended on excellent lines of communcation back to the airbase. Which was unlikely in conflict. It was kind of done, but “exercise unreality” hid a lot of things even with a huge logisitical effort as mentioned above. In actuality, the intent was to use roads near light to medium industrial places offering shelter, power and light plus accomodation etc, except they were of course occupied in peacetime! Given Harriers comprised just 2 of the 12 squadrons in RAFG, then one wonders what real use having just them surviving attack would… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
2 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Other things have been ‘left behind’ – many of our vehicles ‘swam’ (albeit slowly and with some preparation) ranging from 432 to Stalwart, in case bridges were down. Not much evidence of that capability today!

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
11 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Exactly, this isn’t what I’d call austere. In the first day of a war runways like this would be targeted to prevent them from being used for this very purpose.

Peter S
Peter S
2 months ago

The main runway at Pantelleria is just over a mile long. I presume( the photo seems to confirm)that the F35b used its liftfan to achieve a rolling vertical landing. The F35a might need a longer runway to operate with heavy load. The Italian air force is fighting the navy to keep its share of the planned B order, as well as their A versions, precisely to have this operational flexibility.

Hugh Jarce
Hugh Jarce
7 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

The KC-130J had no problem landing, so why would an F-35A have a problem?