Exercise Crimson Warrior involved personnel and aircraft from the Royal Air Force as well as the Royal Navy, British Army, United States Marine Corps and United States Air Force.

Fast jets, multi-engine aircraft, helicopters and Unmanned Air Systems operated from Stations across the country, say the Royal Air Force.

“Exercise Crimson Warrior is a development of the regular Cobra Warrior exercises with the addition of missions to support the work up of F-35B Lightnings and helicopters that will form the Carrier Strike Group Air Wing during next year’s operational deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Incorporating large scale tactical training, the Exercise began on 19th October and involved over 70 aircraft completing a range of missions.

The Exercise also marked the end of the long and demanding Qualified Weapons Instructor Courses (QWIC), which train selected personnel to be expert practitioners in their individual warfare speciality or aircraft.

The inclusion of the F-35B into Exercise Crimson Warrior challenged and tested the UK Lightning Force and their USMC counterparts in a complex air environment, exploiting the capabilities of the advanced 5th generation aircraft.”

In addition to the fast jets, the Exercise incorporated a huge number or aircraft conducting Qualified Multi-engine Tactics Instructors, you can read more about the exercise from the RAF here.

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Dern

Especially with the F35 force I feel like the RAF needs to practice some distrubted fighting. Can we operate F-35’s off of straight bits of road and do the necessary maintenance to keep them going from woodblocks beside the road? Is flying off of large, well established airbases sustainable in a peer conflict?
Lets face it working in extremely austere conditions while trying to avoid detection as much as possible is hard, and almost certainly needs practice.

Daniele Mandelli

Don’t think so. I don’t know for sure, but assume the F35, being a far bigger and complex aircraft than the Harrier, would take some supporting to operate from austere locations like woodland hides like the RAF did in Germany.

Mark B

I would have thought so. Would have been in original RD and also a necessity for US Marines? Why break ours (as we only currently have a few) when I am sure the Americans are testing theirs to destruction. All in good – time busy at the moment.

Dern

It’s less “Why break the aircraft” and more “hey maintaining an aircraft outside of a build up airbase with hangars is hard. You need to practice that skill to be proficient in it.”
For all our talk about distrubted fighting and everyone’s worries about the Russians ability to strike infrastructure, nobody seems to think that ground crews are going to need to get used to working in difficult conditions.

Mark B

I am not sure it is a priority with the RAF at this time. Supporting the carriers plus basic activities must be the priority. When there are more aircraft then maybe.We really would need to see how and if the F35 would to fit into the battlefield.

Dern

Of course it’s not a priority for the RAF, they’re not exactly keen to go be uncomfortable in the cold and wet.
Again though this is less about Aircraft and more about ground crews, but given the amount of attention paid to the Army and it’s percieved need to fight a conventional war against a peer threat, I find it very interesting that people are much more keen to give the RAF a pass on the same subject.

Dern

Which is why we kind of need to look into getting back into the game of practising it IMO. After the end of the cold war Western Airforces seem to have gotten into this thought process of “we will always be able to operate out of relatively built up/secure airbases.” If we are talking about short comings in the way we fight, and we are looking at fighting a peer conflict, then we need to think about how to hide our aviation facilities and how to make them more mobile if needs be. Maybe this is something the AAC can… Read more »

Supportive Bloke

More the issue was that Harrier had high bypass ratio so cooler exhaust gasses.

F35 has lower bypass ration and hotter jet flux and massively more lower so not so friendly to improvised locations.

That said no engineering reason why it cannot be flown off a decent concrete pad.

Martyn Parker

I imagine the engines would melt tarmac rather rapidly, might work off concrete but very little of the UK road infrastructure is concrete these days

Dern

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hgjY_za9vA You don’t need to VL to land or take off from a sufficiently straight bit of road. TBH this isn’t so much about Pilots taking off and landing (I assume if you can take off and land from a carrier in pitching seas you can take off and land from a narrow road). It’s more about ground crews and command staff, how does operating in a geniuenly austere environment affect their operations? What considerations do we need to take into account? How to crews that are used to working out of buildings adapt to working outdoors and in tents?… Read more »

Robert Blay

We already do this. It’s called ‘Expeditionary Air Wings’ basically a mini RAF base can be set up in some pretty asture locations, and all the elements are put together to operate military aircraft. Engineering, ATC, medical/Fire cover, force protection, operations, intelligence. Elements from all over the RAF are brought together to set up a sustainable and highly deployable unit.

Dern

Do we? When was the last time we excercised this? Becasue I haven’t heard us do this with the exception of Helmand (but then as said unedcuated army bloke) and… well operating out of an established FOB that will never have to move isn’t quite the same thing.

Daniele Mandelli

I think you have a point on all this Dern. Maybe the RAF need to get some more insight from the Swedes concerning this, if our skills on it have faded. At least the JHC, RAF SHF, CHF already do it, and various army and RAF support units are in place for the framework, but would need massively expanding to be truly dispersed. Robert is right about the EAW, all main RAF Stations have one. They comprise elements of the stations Wings, Admin, Ops, Logistics, Supply, RAFR flights, RAFP flights Fire, and so on. But apart from an exercise a… Read more »

Daveyb

Iraq and Afghanistan, 904 expeditionary air wing. Admittedly the Iraq and Afghanistan operations were initially set up by Joint Helicopter Command, until the Harriers were involved flying from Kandahar. However, the Tornados after feeling a bit left out, went the full expeditionary route and 904 was set up. 904 put all the various elements of Squadron and support under one roof. OK, so the runway and most of the infrastructure were already in place. But for the Tornado Boys and Girls used to travelling with their Samsonite’s, it was a rude awakening.

Dern

Please see comment above. Operating out of established FoBs in an environment where you have total air and Artillery superiority is very different to what I’m talking about.

Daveyb

Yes I agree. However, both Chinooks and Pumas have an expeditionary capability that is tested regularly. Since we lost Harrier, the requirement for fixed wing has simply been pushed to the right. Not quite the same, Typhoons do deploy to UK satellite airfields quite a bit, but as you say most of the infrastructure is already in place.

Perhaps in the near future, we may see a more expeditionary use with the F35s

Julian

The Israelis were considering adding F-35Bs at one point specifically for austere operations – https://www.flightglobal.com/israel-further-assesses-f-35b-buy/121239.article

Daveyb

Yes, the F35B could be used from austere sites. According to Lockheed Martin the F35B generates less heat that the Harrier 2 in vertical take off and landings. Whether this is actually true is debatable. For starters the rear nozzle of the F35 is only a few feet of the ground and delivers its thrust in a single point. Whereas the Harrier’s two rear nozzles are separated by at least a meter, so spreading out the effect. It also depends on how the aircraft takes off or lands. When the RAF had the GR3 operating from hides, they generally did… Read more »

Dern

I mean we all know the F35 can operate off improvised landing strips, F18s can so it would be a shock if F35 couldnt. The issue IMO is not the hardware but the maintenance, mission planning support, camoflage etc that happens on the ground. That’s the challenging part, and because its challenging that’s the but the needs to be practiced. Imo at least.

Ron

I hope there are some aero experts here as I have a question about the F35B. With the RN FAA/RAF planing to use the shipborne rolling vertical landing SRVL method on board the carriers then would it not be possible to fit the wings and tail hook of the F35C? The wings are bigger giving more lift, they can fold giving more space and with a tail hook can land on a carrier with traps if the lift fan or the thrust vectoring nozzel fail. I’m not sure but with greater lift then I would think that the range would… Read more »

BB85

The software to control the lift fan and thrust being diverted to the wings would need to be rewritten and retested. The gains would be marginal relative to the costs.

TrevorH

as the rolling landing been perfected yet?
And as i understand it the intention is to fit conformal extra fuel tank. (??)

ETH

This is only the intention of Israel currently, with their F35I-Adir.

Paul T

Id guess that Swapping Wings is impossible short of a Major Redesign of the Airframe,ditto with the Tail Hook.

Ron

Paul, I was not thinking that it would be a bolt on system. However as much of the F35 frame is the same then that should not be a unsolvable problem. The undercarrage of the B should be strong enough. I was just thinking out loud. The extra lift could could range weight advantage and a better stall speed in the SRVL. With a tail hook the F35B could land on another NATO carrier if one is available if for example there was a issue in the lift fan or vectored nozzel. This could save a £90M aircraft ditching when… Read more »

Paul T

Modern Fighter Aircraft are precision Instruments these days,weight margins are finite,C of G has to be taken into account too,yes i agree that the Greater Wing Area of the ‘C’ has several advantages but im sure Lockheed Martin have already considered the pro’s and con’s.Perhaps the idea solution was to have put the Lift Fan in the ‘C’ instead,but as Robert says there is no need.

Robert Blay

Or fit a F35C with the lift fan. Either way, it won’t happen, and doesn’t need to.

Daveyb

No, you can’t fit the wing from a C to B without some major modifications to the C wings. The fuselage of the B model is deeper than the A or C models, as the additional volume is used for the lift fan and the ducts. The area is then blended further back to make it aerodynamic. The joint for the wings is much thicker. So where it tapers down would require a new thicker C wing specifically for the B fuselage. There is then the issue of weight. The B version is designed for vertical lift. Its wing is… Read more »