Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that British F-35 Lightning jets are ready to be deployed on operations around the world, marking a major step forward in combat capability. 

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) described it as “a huge landmark” in what has been “the biggest defence project in history”.

The Defence Secretary made the announcement in a brand-new hangar at RAF Marham, which he opened today along with a new state-of-the-art training centre for F-35 pilots. This is part of over £550m being invested in the Norfolk base.

Mr Williamson said the UK was moving “into a new era outside the EU”, but that the F-35 shows “our commitment to a role on the world stage [is] clear to both our allies and our enemies”.

“The incredible F-35 jets are ready for operations, a transformed Typhoon has the power to dominate the skies into the 2040s and we continue to look even further into an ambitious future. The RAF has long shown Britain at its great and global best, and today it lifts our nation to even greater heights.”

There are currently 17 aircraft in the RAF F-35 fleet, with 18 more in build or on order. The UK has committed to purchasing 138 F-35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme.

2019 will see the F-35 pilots and ground crew to train in the new centre, which features state-of-the-art simulators, classrooms, and physical aircraft mock-ups. The Ministry of Defence says the facility provides “a real-life training environment replicating the challenges that both pilots and crew will face” on operations. Pilots already based at RAF Marham can now take advantage of four “full mission simulators”.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier described the “significant step”, saying “our F-35s are now ready to deploy on operations and, alongside our combat-proven Typhoon, offer a step-change in our ability to employ air power around the world”.

Mr Williamson also announced that the Typhoon has been integrated with three new weapons: Stormshadow, Brimstone and Meteor. These new capabilities allow the Typhoon to take over from the Tornado ground attack aircraft which will retire later this year. The Typhoon entered service in 2003 and is planned to remain until “at least 2040”.

The RAF trialled the interoperability between its Typhoon and F-35 aircraft last year, which it says proved “the effectiveness of both platforms when operating alongside one another”.




      • Initial Operational Capability won’t be until the end of 2020. But the big date is for Full Operating Capability which won’t be until 2023.

        But…thats for Carrier Strike capability. For full Carrier Enabled Power Projection capability we’re looking at mid 2026. And thats the real date, because until the F-35B has been delivered in numbers and has completed Block 4 development with all UK weapons it will be highly restricted. The F-35B on the QE will only be able to carry 4 weapons until 2025 (the external cannon pod, Asraam, Amraam and Paveway IV). Spear and Meteor, which are crucial to UK operations won’t be around until then.

  1. How many Tornado’s, Harriers and Buccaneer’s did we have a few years back, How many F35’s, Tornado’s and Typhoons do we have now and how many will we have in a few years ? I’d like to see a Chart showing the numbers, reckon It would be a bit of an Eye opener.

    • Eye opener?

      Depressing reading more like Cptn.

      220 GR1 and 165 ADV in more recent times alone, added to Harrier, Sea Harrier, Jaguar.

      I count around 30 Squadrons as recently as 1998.

      While of course positive and welcome news the fact remains Typhoon is now taking on the role of a multitude of other types lost to never ending cuts.

      No matter how high tech F35 is numbers alone are important, and the mass is gone.

        • To cheer you up a bit Daniele and Cap’n….. don’t forget that all countries have cut back on numbers and consequently squadrons over the last twenty years. France,Germany (ours do fly), Italy, Japan, even the U.S. although they probably haven’t noticed. Russia is recycling 30 year old bombers and for the moment at least the Chinese are flying old Migs.

          • True Geoffrey.

            Difference is we do still deploy and get involved, many other nations don’t.

            And do those other nations talk the talk like HMG do?

          • How about the figures on those country’s fast jets then? Almost all nations will no doubt have more than the UK, and South Korea and Japan both have navys bigger than ours… and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had more fighter jets also.

          • The Russians have been running exercises much like we have been doing in using older Mig 23s and 29s as missile trucks flying alongside Su37s and guided by Mainstay AWACs aircraft. I’m pretty sure that they will also be using the older aircraft as sacrificial bait.
            We have made a very bad tactical error in that we like Nazi Germany have gone down the quality over quantity route. Both Typhoon and F35s can only carry so many Meteor and by carrying out a swarm attack using older aircraft as bait, that inventory will be used up very quickly. I’m pretty certain we and Europe don’t own enough Meteor etc to cover the inventory of the Russian Air Force and Navy Therefore will be reliant on urgent resupply of inferior AMRAMM to replace our depleted stocks from the US.

            Perhaps our aircraft have become too advanced and complex i.e. costly as the opposition is seriously struggling to keep up, hence the increased number of spy and industrial espionage cases now reaching the public. The Russian Pak FA (Su 57) has suffered serious engine problems as well as troubled avionics integration . The Chinese it seems are rushing and playing catch up releasing a plethora of new and updated aircraft. Will they be like the Russian Pak FA all show and no go or are they making real advances?

            The swarm attack would best be countered by an increased number of aircraft and missiles. But these aircraft would need extra pilots and maintainers which are in short supply. Even if we started using a UAVs like Tarranis it would still need a pilot to fly it and maintainers to work on it. The answer to the problem it seems is a combination of both by increasing the numbers of aircraft, crews and the integration of UAVs, but to do that would need an increase in budget and some serious political will.

          • Geoffrey – I think the days of the Chinese flying ‘old migs’ are long gone,now they have Sukhoi copies and some home produced Fighters to play with.

    • We should not just think about numbers but look at capabilities. Jaguar’s, Tornado ADV and Harrier were all very limited platforms. Remember GR1’s having to use Bucanners to laser designate targets in GW1. Tornados were in the air with lumps of concrete instead of radar for years. Typhoon can not only outperform anything in the air it can also then carry out a bombing mission better than a GR4 all on the same mission. Once the block 2 of CAPTOR E with Bright Adder is ready it can also act as its own dedicated electronic attack aircraft.

      F35 practically runs on black magic when compared to a Buccaneer or Harrier. Also the RAF that had 30 fighter squadrons had No Drones, limited ISTAR and no strategic lift relying on the US to provide everything. We needed to use half the RAF’s tanker fleet to send Once Vulcan to the Falaklands. We now have 14 of the very best AAR tankers plus another 24 A400M’s that can be converted in days. Given the budget the force the RAF has looks phenomenally capable compared to what we had.

        • It’s not numbers it quality .. Russia don’t have many active modern jets plenty of old rust but not fit for purpose .Some ppl talk like it’s unlimited spend lets get a few facts right we are Europe’s biggest defence spenders and we also spend more than Russia

    • It is not really comparable information though. Times have changed, warfare has changed and technology has changed. It would be like working out who is the greatest F1 driver in history…

  2. If the RAF requires some F-35’s for long range deep strike missions, why not fund adaptations to the F-35B, such as removable lift-fan and drop-in fuel tank, also stealth drop tanks for all versions. Extra fuel tanks for the F-35B would extend it’s range.
    The F-35B can be used conventionally by the RAF instead of STOVL. So maybe 12-24 F-35B’s could be adaptations, and the rest of the 138 committed to, are standard F-35B’s.
    I am aware that the bomb-bay is being lengthen a bit for Block 4 F-35B procurements.
    so the RAF need to take the decision to fund adaptations to the F-35B now.
    This option would be much cheaper then procuring a whole new type of aircraft like F-35A,
    The F-35A has a lot of differences from the F-35B, It will require another whole Training Unit(OCU), and logistics network, this could add £100’s millions, before actual combat aircraft brought.

    • Or buy a stealthy long ranged UAV to do deep strike. Something like Tarranis.
      Alternatively 2 versions of the new proposed tempest long range interceptor and long range strike. Or make Tempest like the Eurofighter now the world’s best multi role strike-fighter.
      I would leave F35B for what it is intended to do. Guardthe fleet from QE carriers, undertake close air support and kick the door down in wave one and two of an air campaign. Suppressing radar and SAM sites to allow Eurofighter in with stormshadow, brimstone, Paveway 4 etc. The RN and RAF need to be vocal in responses to “138 aircraft over the life of the programme” and state on record no fewer than 84-96 in active service at all times. That is the force level our armed forces need.

      • i’ve mentioned the ‘snootiness’ of the M.O.D in not buying second hand kit google;AMARG INVENTORY this regeneration has over 1000 aircraft that can be reborn, the u.k could, given a ‘mates rate’ increase the size of the R.A.F greatly there are even a couple of b1b lancers there, bomber command anybody?

    • Good idea Meirion, but in theory it could mean that someone sensible in the future could make all the F35B’s FAA only and the RAF won’t have that. By wanting the F35A option there will be no way the FAA can get their hands on them which makes the RAF bigger and the FAA smaller. And yes it will cost £100’s millions more but that would all have to go to the RAF of course and that would be money not going to the FAA so a double win.

    • “If the RAF requires some F-35’s for long range deep strike missions, why not fund adaptations to the F-35B, such as removable lift-fan and drop-in fuel tank…”

      Of the 3 versions, the F-35B is the most complex and the most expensive to build. To re-engineer the F-35B with a removable lift-fan, and a drop-in fuel tank would be a epic disaster, financially. Plus, they would not be ready in any reasonable time.

      Part of the reason for the delays in the F-35 project was all the new manufacturing technology being used in its construction. This caused additional delays as the structures for the airframe were heavier than anticipated and weaker. Time had to be spent to redesign and test the airframe to make sure it met specifications. If it was already that difficult to begin with, can you imagine the costs and time needed to add those features?

      In many ways, it would be more cost effective to buy a different variant of the F-35. When the MoD was flirting with the idea of converting the QE class carriers from STOVL to CATOBAR, the F-35C was the choice. However, it was not only the fact that the C variant was a CATOBAR aircraft, but also the fact that it had the longest range of the 3 variants. Range that was needed for those deep strike missions.

      • Rokuth – pretty much what I said on the similar (almost identical thread) here,but can I add that your mention of the F35c is interesting,my take on it is purely versus the ‘A’ version,im sure their Range is about the same,the ‘C’ has a bigger Wing area (folding) and is heavier but if used in the relatively benign Land based role its Strengthened Airframe would result in more Airframe hours and therefore a longer life,plus the fact that if HMS QE and POW did actually get Cat’s and Trap’s in the future (admittedly not likely) there would be no need to buy more F35’s as they would already be in the inventory.

    • Yes it is the RAF’s master plan to buythe F35A so it can have sole use of it not the Navy. Oh yes they might want to use the F35Bs too.. By splitting the F35 but they enhance the RAF role at the cost of the numbers of F35Bs that can be ussed on the QE/PoW.

      You are talking about the RAF here the folk that ‘moved’ Astralia on the map to prove we did not need CVA-01.

      We should buy all F35Bs to get maximum use for the carriers and by the way flexibility for the RAF. Any F35A buy is just empire building for the RAF rather than UK.

        • Hi,

          Yes as this came from an RAF officer…

          The lower levels of tge RAF are with the carrier, however it appears tgat tge higher levels may have another agenda.

          Rob N

  3. Good point Captain
    The bigger worry for me is not the low numbers of this undoubtedly good aircraft but how the low numbers equate to battlefield effect on target, resilience and attritional reserve.
    It is craven folly to think we have exquisite kit we can win against peer opponents but not consider how we will continue the fight when 10, 20,30, 40 + aircraft are lost in combat.
    Ditto the navy how would our current lean navy, with only 17 escort warships in service, cope with a Falklands level of attrition eg 4 sunk, 6 heavily damaged, 7-8 moderately damaged and no forward repair ship having scrapped RFA Diligence without replacement.
    Quantity is a capability in itself and our potential peer opponents Russia and China (especially China) know this. NATO, except the USA, is now a hollowed out force likely to offer tough initial opposition and then ever weakening due to lack of reserves.

    • In sum, NATO is significantly larger than Russia.

      The problem I think is, coordination and resolve. I’m not convinced all our European friends are as committed as we’d like to think and even if they are – trying to marshal their resources quickly against a highly organised and singular, coherent fighting force would be difficult and I imagine the initial attrition rate would be terrible.

      • The problem for Nato is that every country has a different red line before they would be willing to take action against Russia. We can see that most obviously with Germany who are not as keen to impose sanctions when Russia invades another country. The only clear red line is that if a full Nato member is attacked everyone has signed up to fight, if the democratic system of a Nato member is influenced by Russia or down right manipulated there is no clear policy which Russia is happy to exploit.

        • The Good thing is that the Russians would only be invading our European neighbors anyway. Zero Chance of a Russian force every getting past Poland. This may stiffen there resolve with the exclusion of Germany However most of NATO adds very little militarily. Its the US and British response that matters

    • Mr Bell. I believe that our Technology, Ships, equipment and Training since 1982 have completely eclipsed anything the Argentines Had, Have or may have in the future. The Lack of numbers Is my concern, and most of us here seem to share those concerns too.
      We are seeing a determined Russian and Chinese military introducing new ships, aircraft and Equipment. The Chinese Navy Is building at an astonishing rate If you go look It Up. We appear to be heading back (foreward) to a new Coldwar Will we have enough equipment to make a difference in so many parts of the World ?

          • Actually, That’s not such a bad Idea, Post Brexit, We could Kick off “Global Britain” by Moving Into Argentina and Rebuild their Economy I’m sure The Majority would Welcome the chance to become Wealthy again. And We’d get Cheep Steaks too. Plus, We get to Refine all the oil Locally rather than having to Ship It 8000 miles.

            What do you guys think ?

  4. First off, I apologise for my hysterical behaviour here a month ago. I was convinced that everything I said offended people (and when I thought the opposite later on another website, this turned out to be true).

    Anyways: Can someone tell me whether the F35 will have any anti-ship capability? I presume that her main purpose is to network with U.S/other friendly craft and tell them where the enemy ships are, whilst also defending any friendly carriers from aircraft, thus freeing up U.S/other friendly craft to undertake strikes. Therefore our only heavy weight anti-ship capability will be in Astute.

    I’m probably wrong here, but I want to know how I am wrong.

    • Hi Geoffrey, Since the Sea Eagle missile was retired ten or fifteen years, I think our fast-jet
      anti-shipping capability has been limited to LGBs.
      Indeed during the recent Libyan campaign, RAF Tornados took out at least one Libyan corvette with such weaponry – albeit the vessel was tied-up in harbour at the time.
      I know SPEAR is supposed to be deployed on the F-35B, but I think its really only suitable against light-attack craft.
      It’s certainly another capability gap that has been allowed to open up!

    • Unless you count the F-35’s gun, I expect the trusty term ‘fitted for but not with’ applies to the F-35’s anti ship capability. Then again, with the upcoming retirement of Harpoon, the ‘gun’ is the UK’s surface fleet only anti ship capability.

    • Hello Geoffrey, It’s only a place for people to discuss and give their opinions, In the big scheme of things It’s really not that important and certainly nothing to get upset about. We all have different Views, nice to see you back.

    • SPEAR 3 is the planned anti-ship weapon for the F-35B for the UK. There are foreign options as well (the American LRASM and somewhat secondarily the JSOW-C1, and the Norwegian JSM). Turkey also has the SOM-J, but god only knows how far along that actually is. The UK as far as i’m aware hasn’t expressed interest in any of these for the F-35. None of these are actually integrated onto the F-35 as of yet anyways (well JSOW is, but it probably won’t be approved for combat use until next year).

    • Hi when it’s operational spear3, 8 weapons in internal bay + external hard points if not stealthy ( 3 per hard point) so a flight of RAF f35s could be throwing 50+ missiles, size will not be a consideration with numbers like that. Even one F35 or typhoon will likely overwhelm and mission kill any warship that’s not a top end air defence vessel.

      Everyone gets all excited over heavyweight ASMs but I suspect the way we are going with small stealthy highly accurate weapons will be far more useful and deadly in any future wars the UK will be involved in. Accidentally killing 6000 people on floating hotel with a dumb heavyweight ASM will loss a war pretty quickly.

  5. For those wanting more:
    We are only as powerful as our Tax Receipts. The nation is burdened with crippling welfare demands…

    As for the F35B, great news! Israel shows us how quick you can combat ready something when you have enemies on your borders. I’m sure The US would prioritise the UK delivery of F35 should the need arise!

    And what about Gavin Williamson? He’s doing a great job replacing Michael Fallon and sounds like he could transition us out of Europe single-handedly.

    • “We are only as powerful as our Tax Receipts”. Yup 90% of us pay them, the other 10% Use off shore accounts !!!!! not to mention Google, Costa et al, oh and Don’t mention Foreign Aid, It might cause an argument.

      • LOL! I didn’t throw that one in to be divisive, merely an objective view.

        Ditto, Gavin Williamson. I just hope I haven’t stirred up the Brexit/Anti-Brexiteers!

      • Scrub reference to Costa and tax dodging! Very wrong. You mean a big green coffee company! Precision is important! ;o)

  6. “The United Kingdom (UK) Ministry of Defence (MoD) has abandoned plans to integrate the MBDA Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missile on the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), and is instead looking at the far future integration of a new long-range deep-strike weapon projected under the still embryonic Selective Precision Effects at Range (SPEAR) Cap 5 programme.

    Officials have also disclosed that while the United Kingdom still plans to integrate the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and the projected SPEAR Cap 3 precision stand-off air-to-surface weapon on the F-35B, there is as yet no concrete programme agreed with the JSF Program Office.

    As the sole Level 1 collaborative partner for the JSF programme’s System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase, the United Kingdom has negotiated the integration of the Raytheon Paveway IV precision-guided bomb and MBDA Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) as part of the Block 3 release. Paveway IV and ASRAAM, together with the Raytheon AIM-120C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), constitute the UK’s ‘threshold’ weapons fit.

    Speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society’s (RAeS’s) ‘Delivering Capability: A Balance Between Weapon and Platform’ conference in November 2015, Iain Barker, part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl’s) weapons integration team, said that the UK’s status as Level 1 partner in the JSF programme had “allowed us to influence the F-35 design to get UK weapons on board”. He added, “All were legacy weapons of known size and shape, allowing the [internal weapons] bay to be designed around the weapon shapes.”

    The original plan was for all three threshold weapons to be qualified for internal carriage on the F-35B. However, the 2010 decision to switch to the F-35C variant – subsequently reversed in 2012 – had repercussions for this plan according to Barker. “The two variants have different internal bays, there is no commonality,” he explained. “So we had to start from scratch again on the B … during this [period] we lost internal ASRAAM as a capability we would field.” Accordingly, ASRAAM will now only be qualified as an external store.

    “SDD weapon integration has had its challenges,” added Barker. “Test envelope availability; differences in configuration approach; political direction; weapon updates; and programme concurrency.

    “The UK has its own weapons, and DOSG [Defence Ordnance Safety Group] to work with. That required a redesign of how the UK would do flight test to get the appropriate data to support certification.”

    Internal integration of Paveway IV has encountered some challenges. “The battery firing device lanyard was found to be incompatible with the [weapon] rack,” said Barker. “It was an easy fix, but would have to be fitted across all racks, so the decision was taken instead to modify the weapon lanyard.”

    Initial F-35B handling trials carrying ASRAAM and Paveway IV mass/shape models on external hardpoints began in late 2014. Paveway IV weapon separation testing began in June 2015 with the release of two inert weapons from the internal weapons bay of aircraft BF-03.

    Under current plans, the F-35B is scheduled to achieve initial operating capability (IOC) at the end of 2018 with the three threshold weapons. An MoD spokesperson confirmed to IHS Jane’s that “integration of the UK’s System Development Demonstration (SDD’s) weapons is currently proceeding to plan and [they] are on track to be cleared to support UK F-35 Lightning II IOC in December 2018”.

    Beyond the IOC, the United Kingdom has been developing plans for follow-on development involving the integration of additional weapons to maximise the aircraft capability. Storm Shadow was a threshold weapon in the original JSF Joint Operational Requirements Document, with external weapon stations 3 and 9 designed to accept the 3,000 lb store. However, Barker told the RAeS conference that integration has now been dropped. “We will not certify Storm Shadow on F-35,” he said, adding that the plan “is that the aircraft will get SPEAR Cap 5 as a future deep fire capability”.

    The SPEAR Cap 5 capability requirement is currently planned to be met by a nascent Future Cruise Anti-Ship Weapon studied by MBDA under a French/UK co-operation project. IOC is envisaged in the period 2030-35.

    Asked to comment on the rationale for not proceeding with Storm Shadow integration, the MoD told IHS Jane’s that there “was never any formal requirement for Storm Shadow to be integrated on the UK’s F-35 aircraft”.

    Meteor and SPEAR Cap 3 both remain in the frame for follow-on integration as part of the F-35 Block 4 programme. A cropped-fin Meteor concept has been developed by MBDA to enable carriage inside the F-35 bay; a feasibility study has subsequently concluded that there are no significant issues to overcome with regard to integration.

    “With Meteor, neither the weapon nor the platform were designed with each other in mind,” Barker said. “We’re having to clip the wings in order to fit into the bay, and make some minor bay modifications. We will still deliver the capability we require.”

    SPEAR Cap 3 is designed to meet a UK requirement for a new mini cruise missile able to attack mobile/relocatable targets at medium stand-off range. MBDA has matured the so-called 100B concept – a network-enabled turbojet-powered 100 kg class weapon sized for a quad loadout in the F-35B internal bay – as part of the UK’s sovereign complex weapons pipeline.

    While the US-developed GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II has also been assessed in relation to the SPEAR Cap 3 requirement, the MoD is at this stage continuing to pursue the MBDA technical solution on the grounds that it is the only weapon option that fulfils all its key user requirements. The MoD now plans to fund MBDA for an extended Assessment Phase through to a SPEAR Cap 3 Main Gate decision planned for 2018.

    “SPEAR Cap 3 is a weapon specifically designed for the F-35 platform,” Barker said. “The F-35B is intended as the primary platform for this weapon.”

    The UK’s aspiration is that weapons introduced under follow-on development should reach the front-line in the early-to-mid 2020s. However, Barker acknowledged to the RAeS audience that the programme timelines for follow-on weapon integration had yet to be finalised. “After SDD, we no longer have Level 1 status,” he said. “It becomes all about aircraft offtake numbers. So we have to battle with all the other partner nations.

    “The challenge for the UK will be to fit the UK weapons into that timeline to get what we need. The Block 4 programme is heavily dominated by the US customer, and it also requires modifications to the aircraft and the availability of the weapon. So Meteor will come first.”

    Barker added that the MoD is looking at what scope there is to drive down the cost and compress the schedule of follow-on integrations. “So we want to look at doing Meteor and SPEAR Cap 3 environmental testing together ideally to save on time and cost,” he said.

    The MoD told IHS Jane’s in a statement,”Planning for F-35 Lightning II follow-on modernisation is currently being undertaken by the JSF Programme Office. It is intended that both Meteor and Spear Cap 3 integration will form part of this upgrade programme.”

    British F-35B to Carry Meteor Missiles from 2024

  7. Cam,
    coming back to your response to mine…that was the very point I was making. They don’t have the equipment levels that we have. As for the size of the South Korean and Japanese navies I think you need to do a recount, particularly with regard to capability.

    • Indeed, it’s worth noting that the Japanese navy lacks some of the assets possessed by the RFA, and all of their replenishment tankers are smaller.

      I believe they also count landing crafts as part of their fleet, and this is something we also best them in – i terms of numbers and capability.

  8. Great news for the RAF and not before time. Now let’s have 2 RAF and 3 FAA frontline squadrons by 2021. Fat chance of that of course. The pilots will be there if they haven’t died of noredom by then but the planes won’t.
    The yanks don’t stockpile their planes, they operate them. Look at the F22. 187 built 75% operating. 300 op hours p.a. 20 year lifespan. Same with their ships. And the B52? Triggers broom doesn’t come close!!

    • Not sure that’s true on F22. The US wants 75% availability across the entire aircraft fleet but its not going to get it even on legacy aircraft. F22 availability is terrible. Look How many could not even get off the ground to get away from the Hurricane. Navy F18 Fleet is also in a terrible position. B52’s are kept in the air due to vast historic spare part inventories while B2 also has a terrible availability. The US claims 13,000 active military aircraft yet its tempo rate is terrible for a fleet that size. Its held on to too many combat ineffective legacy aircraft for little or no military benefit other than to keep bases open in congressional districts. Much of its fleet is crewed by part timers and reservists. It has the worlds best aircraft (F22) but can only afford a handful of them and then vast numbers of mediocre aircraft like F16 with little combat capability and other aircraft like A10 which is unsafe to take anywhere near a modern battlefield. How much utility does an aircraft like B52 or B1 have compared to just lobbing cruise missiles out the back of a Cargo plane? The Entire USN is based on F18 which is a very mediocre aircraft.

      • F-18 mediocre? Surely you don’t mean the superhornets? There are a few typhoon pilots who have attached to USN superhornet squadrons who say its far superior to the Typhoon because of of sensor integration. As for spending billions of pounds to develop “our own” weapons to mount on the F-35, we’d be better off using that money to purchase already proven and far more tested american weapons. The money saved from not developing them on our own would mean perhaps we could afford to actually purchase an adequate enough of those weapons.

      • The USN is NOT based on the F-18 Hornet it is based on the F-18 Super Hornet which is only theoretically the same aircraft. Only the Marine Corps is still flying the original F-18 as they decided to consolidate the Harrier and Hornet fleet replacements. On Super Hornets being mediocre? They do better than most at their price point. Especially the Growlers and new Block III birds.
        On the F-16 being “very mediocre” how many have actually been shot down? Despite it being one of the most widely exported panes ever. They are easy to fly simple to maintain and can turn very sharply.
        “B52s are kept due to vast historic spare part inventories while B2 has a terrible availability rate”. B52s are kept because they can takeoff from Barkesdale AFB and ruin someone’s day in Afghanistan while carrying a bomb and cruise missile load that most people can’t really grasp the lethality of. As for B2s the availability rate is made artificially high due to a small number being procured due to the bottom falling out of the Anti-Communist market in the 90s.
        Not able to afford F22s? No the Air Force could have had many more of them but Secretary Gates was preaching the gospel of Counter-Insurgency and No Peer Threats. Currently with China the way it is the Air Force is more interested in the Penetrating Counter Air (gen 6) and B-21 Raider programs than restarting F-22 production.
        Staffed by reservists and part timers? Their is no such thing as part timers Air and National Guardsman are still Airman and Soldiers and have shown themselves to be so when called to service. I suppose the concept citizen soldier is difficult to grasp.
        As for A-10s being unsafe on the battlefield? Nothing is safe on the battlefield hence the name.
        B-52 or B1s compared to lobbing a cruise missile out of a cargo plan? Just missile and bomb load, speed, range, durability and in general everything else.

  9. Morning Gentlemen from a balmy in the sub-tropics Durban.
    Some random thoughts. We have some superb equipment in small numbers-certainly enough to fight a regional conflict such as another Falklands and enough to fight elsewhere in tandem with our main allies. Going beyond that the question is-can you ever see us fighting a conventional war on our own against the likes of Russia or China? Or more to the point-can you ever imagine us fighting Russia with our allies in a conventional war that would not soon escalate into a Nuclear war in which case the number of F 35’s or Astutes that we field becomes academic.
    I see the role of the UK Armed Forces as maintaining a professional defence capability in terms of equipment and quality of training second to none and maintaining a presence around the world in line with how we see our place in the world as a global trading nation. In addition to reinforce the links we have with our Commonwealth partners and the 16 remnants of Empire scattered across the Seven Seas!!
    Also I am sure many of you remember the remark at the time when we armed our Hawk trainers with AA missiles to act as 2nd tier guardians of RAF fields to the effect that the Soviets would be quaking in their boots at the thought of facing Trainers? Well in 2019 with the rapidly proliferating number of really smart weaponry available to us that just need a delivery platform, maybe it is now not such a bad idea?

  10. @geoff, the idea is not so crazy, if we can get the Hawk and F35 to speak to each other then the idea would even have more merit. With one F35 using its sensor suit to control the Hawks weapons fit it would cause the same problem as what NATO forces face when facing Russian tactics of using old air-frames mixed in with modern aircraft.

    • I agree.

      I’m not in the loop and no expert, but a while ago I raised the concept of re-manufacturing some basic but tried-and-tested aircraft designs that were relatively stealthy and (these days) low-cost. e.g. dH Mosquito and in reasonable quantities i.e. Bulk – not absolute high-end whizz-bang state-of-the-art.

      The point is something like it, airships, or even take a few scrap Jumbos from Kemble and ram them full of launch-able weapons could be a really useful weapons platform today (a la B52). Come up with a secure data-link to say NATO F35s for target designation and weapon-type selection, and you’re in business. Stand back from a swarm attack and launch the bad news all on demand from the F35s, then scoot pronto to re-fuel and re-arm. Sort of an airborne warehouse as 2nd line defence or stand-off attack platform …could even drone it up (or at least give the pilots ejector seats).

    • I think realistically they wouldn’t be used in combat unless the first line was broken/defeated, which means there would be no F35’s to provide targetting data, better to use AWACS or land radars to provide this. I can see a lot of merit of having a final line of defence for the AWACS of some hawks with whatever they can be armed with.

  11. Random Thoughts
    The Daily Flail is reporting that RAF F-35B have a gun. I thought F-35B had no internal gun & needed a bolt on gun pod. Did the UK buy any gun pods?
    Re Typhoon. Has any anti-ship missile been integrated yet? Publicity shots have shown Harpoon, RBS 15 & Marte-ER. Did any of those get fully integrated? It would be useful to have at least one RAF Typhoon sqn equipped with an anti-ship missile if it can be done cheaply with an off the shelf, already integrated missile. Is Qatar getting Marte-ER for its Typhoon?
    I note that Italian Tranche 1 Typhoon are being brought up to a near tranche 2 capability. If that could be done to RAF t1 Typhoons, that would boost their service lives, if it can be done cheaply, off the shelf again.
    Did Jordan sell its 12 t63 Hawks. If not, it might be a cheap way of replacing RN T1 Hawks or RAF Red Arrows T1 Hawks.
    The once proposed F-35E long range strike version seems to have died. I expect the US will buy more B-21 instead. A shame as the F-35E would have been a great Tornado replacement.

    • Not sure how much benefit a gun pod would be?

      “The F-35 GAU-22/A gun has been among the most controversial topics: some criticised the fact that the Joint Strike Fighter’s gun can only hold 181 20mm rounds, fewer than the A-10 Thunderbolt’s GAU-8/A Avenger, that can hold some 1,174 30mm rounds.

      Moreover, although it was designed with LO (Low Observability) characteristics, the external pod degrades the F-35’s radar cross section making the 5th generation aircraft more visible to radars. Still, this should be acceptable for the scenarios where the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B will be called to carry out CAS missions.”

      • I agree the UK would not need a large number of gun pods for its F-35B, but a few would be handy for warning shots, or in a heavy EW situation where GPS was jammed or tampered with.

  12. Most people see a nice pic of flying things, I see some poor bastard cleaning the floor fore weeks before the pic was taken.


  13. I love this website, but my god am I sick of reading about fantasy fleets, largely by people who have a very un-realistic view of the armed forces, and today’s threats and how much it all costs. . We would all like more kit, and people, but capability is everything. Capability keeps us at the top table, not 30 sqns of hawks or 50 old school frigates. And the gov will spend to meet the defence requirments of the day, as somebody mentioned above, we have capabilitys today we could only have dreamed about in the 80’s and 90’s. One Astute class could inflict more damage then all the Vulcans and sea harriers combined could during the Falklands war. Give me 48 F35s over 300 jaguars , Harriers and Tornado GR1’s anyday.

    • I don’t see it as fantasy fleets; merely people expressing the numbers they feel the UK forces should have, and the implication is that proper funding is required.

      As for how to pay for it: some advocate reducing the overseas aid funding and using that money, others for increased taxation.

      If it were up to me I’d do a bit of both; refine the overseas aid and cut it out for countries like India who have the cash but don’t want to spend it on their poor. I’d also increase corporation tax to 25%, which is still lower than the rest of the EU and the US.

      Though I’d also legalise cannabis and prostitution; I’d never partake in either myself but the tax receipts would bring in a few extra billion to the treasury, plus the police would have two fewer crimes to fight. Win win.

      Extra cash from all those could raise budgets for defence, police and education.

  14. Russian trolls are out in force again we’ve just got the 2nd best fighter on the planet just behind the F22 .. It’s now battle ready and ppl are moaning Russia don’t have a stealth fighter all Russia have realistically is artist impression .

    • Sometimes a war cannot be avoided however, and it is for that event that we must be prepared. It does us no good to cut our defence down to the bone and then, when war comes, get spanked by the enemy.

      A credible armed forces, in both technological capability and size, also acts as a deterrent to prevent future conflict. If we’d had a fleet or large carriers and multiple squadrons per ship in the 70s and 80s, Argentina probably wouldn’t have invaded the Falklands as they’d know we’d have the power to take them back and overwhelm their forces.

      Today’s government has forgotten the lessons learned regarding disarmament or reductions prior to both WW2 and the Falklands.


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