According to a presentation on the ‘Future Maritime Aviation Force’, the Royal Navy is planning to develop a carrier launched aerial refuelling aircraft.

The presentation states that the Royal Navy wish to improve range to “enable deep strike without undue risk to own force or inhibiting freedom of manoeuvre” through the use of “organic UAS Air to Air Refuelling”, that’s a remotely piloted, sea based aircraft for those that don’t know.

Pictured at the top of this article, by the way, is the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray, an American aerial refuelling drone that resulted from the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System programme, the image is purely illustrative and not in any way a suggestion that the UK will operate this sytem.

On to the slides…

Additionally, other slides make mention of “adding mass” to the Carrier Wing with additional F-35BS and a medium FWUAS (these will be Vixen fixed wing drones, Harry Lye has taken a look at those here).

How will the drones be launched?

Earlier, we reported that the Ministry of Defence is currently seeking information on the potential for industry provide assisted launch and arrested recover systems for a range of air vehicles, which would be suitable to fit to a vessel within 3 – 5 years.

The Ministry of Defence say that this request for information is to support the development of the Royal Navy’s Future Maritime Aviation Force (a presentation on which is where the slide above came from) with potential for use with both crewed and un-crewed air vehicles.

The Ministry of Defence add that it is looking to assess the availability of electromagnetic catapult, and arrestor wire systems for the launch and recovery of air vehicles.

While the Request for Information looks to assess the “availability of electromagnetic catapult and arrestor wire systems to launch aircraft” from a ship, words associated with the previous effort to explore converting the vessels to ‘CATOBAR’ in order to launch carrier variant F-35Cs, it shouldn’t be taken as indication that the Royal Navy are abandoning the short take off and vertical landing F-35Bs and returning to catapult launched fighters. On the contrary, they’re looking to augment the F-35Bs.

In fact, the upper and lower weight limits of the catapult and recovery system outlined aren’t enough to launch or recover any variant of the F-35 in normal conditions.

The launch and recovery options mentioned would be utilised for larger uncrewed aircraft as the armed forces begin to rely on them more and more in place of crewed platforms.

Anyway, on to the Request for Information itself.

“Potential supplier and interested parties are invited to provide information in relation to potential solutions which are sufficiently technically mature to be fitted to a suitable ship from 2023.”

According to the Request for Information, the Ministry of Defence have set out the following requirements.

“Potential arrestor solutions ideally should offer:
a. Max trap 47000lbs / 21318Kg
b. Min trap 11000lbs / 5000Kg
c. Energy damping method
d. Potential for energy reclamation

Potential catapult solutions ideally should offer:
a. Max launch weight 55000lbs / 24949Kg
b. Electrical power input required against launch cycle time.”

According to the Ministry of Defence, the intended outcomes of the Request for Information are as follows:

“a. Develop further MoD understanding of the different technologies and capabilities available in the market, both current and emerging.
b. Alignment of potential future MoD requirements with industry standards and processes for procurement of maritime un-crewed and autonomous capabilities; and,
c. Enable the Authority to develop a procurement strategy that will deliver best value for money for Defence.”

The Royal Navy say that the DEVELOP Directorate leads the development of the Royal Navy’s future warfighting capability and “acts as the platform for the through-life capability for all maritime capabilities in order to achieve the optimum mix of present and future warfighting technologies for a modern, global and ready Royal Navy”.

The Royal Navy is driving hard to introduce a range of un-crewed air vehicles and to “give wider options for the use of different air vehicles types within the Fleet”.

Before jumping the gun on this news, a bit of perspective is important. Well respected naval analyst Gabriele Molinellli had the following words of caution to say.

 

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David

Will they have to angle the deck now to launch the drones using EMALS?? If F-35Bs are staying onboard, I imagine the skip-jump will need to remain.

Johan

NO

the launch system is intended to run parallel with the ski ramp, and recovery of the aircraft would be at the rear of the flight deck. on the runway line. empty drone weight is fairly low. Qinetiq @ Farnborough has been firing drones for years and have produced a working drawing of the QE, Angled deck there is no pilot to worry about,

David

Hi Johan,

Thank you for the feedback – much appreciated my friend!

James Fennell

The deck is already angled – just need to paint it in that mode if you wish.

Supportive Bloke

I think launch will be at the front parallel to the ski jump take off.

I would suggest that Recovery will be via the angled deck. Given the lower mass of an empty UAV it may not need the deck extension.

DaveyB

Not sure about that. Putting the catapult next to the ramp will limit the type of aircraft that can be launched. This is because it will limit an aircraft’s wingspan. By limiting the wingspan will prevent the use of large UAVs with high aspect ratio wings, i.e. high altitude aircraft.

Personally, I favour the waist cat, as this wont place a limit on wingspan and still allows the area alongside the ramp for parking.

Supportive Bloke

I think the issue is a mid term fix.

If the mid term fix works it can be scaled up.

ATM I don’t sense the appetite to cut the flight deck up and instead this will be a surface mounted fix.

DaveyB

I agree, we probably won’t see the installation of the EMALS for at 5 years at the earliest. It will need to go through a lengthy period of trials before it’s fitted. Then there’s the trial period with the aircraft it will need to throw off the deck. I would expect the combo of cat plus UAV won’t be seen for a while.

Spyinthesky

I don’t think it will fundamentally alter the general layout much, they are wide enough to allow an angled approach to be layed out for any such craft for landing with few structural modifications, only the big US carriers really incorporate the traditional pronounced big port side overhangs and this class of ship would not have had those had Catobar been incorporated in original design from the proposals I have seen. Those designs of these vessels incorporating an angled deck for landing looked very little different and that was for fully fledged F35Cs. Interestingly these general unmanned vehicles and their… Read more »

John Clark

The angled deck is interesting… While the QE class has an undeniably large flight deck, the beam is roughly the same as US Nimitz class in fact, I think it would require an angled deck extension. I believe the superstructure in this area is beefed up to accept extra structure to be added anyway, at some future point. Re the ski jump, given the size of the QE class, is a jump absolutely necessary?? It would certainly take a longer run and would make simultaneous launch and recovery difficult, if not impossible, unless the designated take off run was ‘just’… Read more »

John Clark

Supplementary thought, all this work will mean a reballasting, so she might end up at her planned for final weight of 80,000 plus tons somewhat earlier than envisioned.

In fact, if this all comes off, they might even get the modifications in their first long refits in the late 2020’s

Nigel Collins

And here using Stingray as a guide to extending the range of current manned aircraft.

“Rear Adm. Michael Manazir has suggested that three of these UCAVs could fly with an F-35 for refuelling and sensor operation.[8] Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker said that the MQ-25 can extend the Super Hornet’s 450 nmi (520 mi; 830 km) unrefueled combat radius to beyond 700 nmi (810 mi; 1,300 km). The Navy’s goal for the aircraft is to be able to deliver 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) of fuel total to 4 to 6 aeroplanes at a range of 500 nmi (580 mi; 930 km).”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_MQ-25_Stingray

Glass Half Full

Thanks for the link.

Rob

How will this work? So we went with F35B because we couldn’t afford cats & traps knowing that the range of the B variant was limited. Now they want to extend the range of the B by putting cats & traps (although limited) so thay can put UAV tankers onboard.

Probably have been better to buy F35C with cats and traps in the first place with all of the interoperability with the USN that would have brought.

BB85

Maybe the cost of emails has come down. I can’t imagine a uav used for aerial refueling being a lightweight like most other drones.

Rob

Absolutely. Fuel, being a liquid is really heavy. A UAV tanker is going to be a big bus and probably need the full emals fitted to get off the deck!

Johan

WHY would a Fuel drone land full of FUEL, ???? the MQ-25 can lift off on a runway shorter than the QE, without assist.

Rob

It needs to take off full though. I’d like to see a UAV take off with say 15,000lbs of fuel from the QE class deck.

Rob

Of course if you can land it safely empty you might be able to launch it with rocket assistance without a catapult??

Andrew Smith

Would you have any qualifications or experience to back that up, as from the story amd previous ones, thats exactly what they are doing

GlynH

Might consider that MQ-25s aspect ratio is very high so will be producing much more lift at lower speed. It even resembles a powered glider in it’s proportions. Much like MQ-9s etc. Although such a large wing span might pose problems squeezing past the ramp. But to argue with myself, if its got a low take off speed maybe the ramp would do.

Peter S

The Military Factory site is the only source I can find for the specs of the MQ25. It isn’t a high aspect ratio design, rather a slender delta with length of 69 ft and width of @40 ft. Empty weight is 14000 lbs and max weight 44000lbs. The engine looks to have @12000lbs thrust.
So there is no way to launch except with cats. It looks as though it could operate from the QE deck and is well within the weight parameters in the RFI.
Everything depends on a functioning EMAL system.

Peter S

Correction. Found some images that show a high aspect ratio wing and others with more swept back configuration. The width given on the MF site looks wrong or may refer to the folded width.
The weights given seem about right.

TrevorH

And may be emals have not gone down and cost and may be not working properly either.

Johan

its a small-scale System, not a full-blown conversion. FORD class cannot launch its 5th gen fighters, as carbon fibre doesn’t flex. so at the design stage, Emals was not a proven design, imagine having 2 carriers and a fleet of F35cs and not being able to fly. CAN YOU IMAGINE THE SHIT SHOW THE MOD WOULD BE FACING

Glass Half Full

Your last couple of sentences seem to be conveniently overlooked with 2020 hindsight by many (or should that be 2021 hindsight).

The main issue remaining with EMALS and AAG to date seems to be reliability considerably below targets and operational practicality.

F35C will deploy this year on USS Carl Vinson, so launch and recovery of the aircraft, albeit with conventional systems, isn’t the issue; its that systems and capabilities required for F35C aren’t apparently in place on Ford yet.

Last edited 3 days ago by Glass Half Full
Andrew Smith

exactly, all the experts here would be on it no doubt

Supportive Bloke

I agree that the not using F35C and EMALS decision has been 100% vindicated.

The peculiarity here is that the problem seems to be the controllability of the EMALS rigs. I find this very strange as the power levels are not actually that different to very high power EV’s and Elon’s EV truck must use about the same power levels.

john melling

If we have a few UAV tankers onboard the PoW or QE, could that mean less space for F35s and helicopter numbers?

And one UAV tanker might need to carry 15,000 lbs of fuel like the MQ-25.
Refuelling the F35s like this, however, will add an additional 300-400 miles of strike range
So If we can do this, then we will add a great capability to carrier strike.

Supportive Bloke

Or even just be used to reduce take off engine stress by taking off with lighter fuel loads?

But I agree there is loads of utility to the idea.

Jonathan

The queen Elizabeth’s are able to carry far more very large F35Bs than we could generate, so there is going to be plenty of space for smaller drones.

Andrew Smith

A few (enough to support a strike package) amd they return to the carrier shortly after and fill up again

Ben

Steady on EMALS doesn’t appear to be reliable yet. I would think look at it again in 20 yes time when F35 replacement is considered and EMALS is working reliably for the Americans.

Last edited 3 days ago by Ben
Martin

You will notice the USN that has the F35C is also developing the MQ25 for the same mission. The F35B is much more interoperable with US forces than the F35C. Range is an issue but trading for CATOBAR qualification would eat up almost our entire fleet.

Jonathan

A lot of the problem with CATOBAR is generating the qualified pilots. That’s not a concern this proposal.

Andrew Smith

its not for F35s. Its for other unmaned aircraft carrying fuel sensors or armaments. Emals was totally unproven during QE build and would also require ripping out everything five decks below the flight deck because of the affects of emals

Meirion X

There is a partial deck between flight deck and hanger to place EMALS equipment, when it is proved reliable to install.

Last edited 2 days ago by Meirion X
john melling

Are looking at the equivalent of the Boeing Singray MQ-25, which will carry 15,000 lb of fuel. Or a smaller one?

Nigel Collins

It’s interesting to note that the Gripen E could be launched from our carriers if we installed CATOBAR/STOBAR as it fits within the weight limits mentioned.

F36B The F-35B can fly at a maximum speed of 1,960km/h. The combat radius and maximum range of the aircraft are 833km and 1,667km respectively.

Gripen E 800km and 3,200km
The Gripen can fly at a maximum speed of 2,470km/h. The combat radius and ferry range of the aircraft are 800km and 3,200km respectively. Its service ceiling is 15,240m.

https://www.saab.com/products/gripen-e-series

Lordtemplar

FYI The Gripen E has as much chance of being a carrier fighter as a Typhoon. You need reinforced landing gear to take off and more importantly for recovery.
The demands on carrier based aircraft is as extreme as it gets, this is just not improvised, and would require substantial redesign.

Nigel Collins

Read the above link, they have already designed it. As I mentioned in a previous link, we could see other nations like Sweeden flying from our carriers if we go ahead and install. They are already flying 3D parts, something that future designs will be made from to cut manufacturing time and costs. A lesson already learned from the Alias F35 fiasco. Gripen Maritime is part of the Gripen E-series. We are establishing Gripen Maritime as its new generation carrier-based fighter for the future. Intended for both CATOBAR and STOBAR operations, the Gripen Maritime size and flight/hangar deck manoeuvrability will… Read more »

Robert Blay.

Has a Gripen Maritime been built and flown? genuine question.

Captain P Wash

nope.

Robert Blay

Thanks. Didn’t think so.

Meirion X

Not yet, unless the Swedes want to build one?

Supportive Bloke

For their non-existent aircraft carrier?

Lordtemplar

A powerpoint full of promises does not a plane make, except a paper plane
Considering Sweeden has never designed a carrier aircraft or even operated a carrier, so excuse the skepticism

Last edited 2 days ago by Lordtemplar
Nigel Collins

I’m talking about weight.

It’s interesting to note that the Gripen E could be launched from our carriers if we installed CATOBAR/STOBAR as it fits within the weight limits mentioned.

Meirion X

A Sea Gripen would Need a lot of work on it to strengthen the undercarriage for it to use Cats & Traps.
It would be expensive and for the testing.

And who will put up the money to make it happen?

The Sea Gripen is a good idea in principle Nigel, but other realities come into play!

Last edited 2 days ago by Meirion X
Supportive Bloke

Oh and maranising the whole thing?

Johan

we didnt fit cats and traps let it go

Martin

Cue talk of “proper carriers” now

Nigel Collins

Let what go Johan?

Royal Navy seeking information on cats and traps to launch drones
“A Request For Information (RFI) issued to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has revealed that the Royal Navy is seeking information on potential electromagnetic catapult and arrestor wire systems that could be used to launch and recover ‘air vehicles’ from ‘a suitable ship’ by as soon as 2023.”

https://www.naval-technology.com/features/uk-carrier-cats-and-traps/#:~:text=The%20systems%2C%20known%20as%20'cats,uncrewed%20aerial%20vehicles%20(UAVs).

Captain P Wash

Nigel, It says nothing about converting the Carriers…… It was looked at originally and again at the later stages of design/build….. “let it go” is actually sound advice until we know actual facts.

Martin

Typhoon can do the same but then you end up with something like J15 that’s barley armed and incapable of most missions.

F35B is amazing, why would we want anything else. I dare say they could have a combat kill ratio of 20 to 1 against Gripen E much the same as the do against other 4th gen aircraft.

Nigel Collins

I’m not quite sure what you mean Martin? Did I suggest we purchase them?

Please can you provide me with a link that shows a 20:1 kill ratio against the Gripen E, it sounds very interesting?

EW is the future and Saab is very well respected in this area and at half the cost of the F35B equals a 2:1 ratio with Gripen already cleared for Meteor. The F35B will not have them on board until 2027/28.

https://www.saab.com/newsroom/stories/2020/june/the-importance-of-a-highly-advanced-ew-suite

Nigel Collins

You might also find this interesting Martin. 17 March 2021 The F-35 program office is evaluating results of an assessment by university software experts as to what’s needed for the final — and repeatedly delayed — combat simulation phase to get underway. The rigorous testing was supposed to have occurred in December, the latest missed starting date for the Joint Simulation Environment exercise once planned for 2017. The review team assessed all the elements necessary to start the combat testing in a highly sophisticated simulator to evaluate how the F-35 — and future aircraft and electronic warfare systems — would… Read more »

Martin

https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/02/20/air-force-chief-defends-f-35a-against-complaints-boasting-kills-at-red-flag/

No disrespect to the Gripen E but it’s not in the same league as F35 in anything other than kinetic performance. Gripen E does not have any embedded EW excluding SELEX Raven that I am aware of and Raven is a highly limited capability in comparison AN/APG81

Nigel Collins

“the F-35 reportedly dominated the competition with a 20:1 kill ratio” against which aircraft? I missed that in the link. The F35B will not have Meteor installed until at least 2028 along with other missiles such as Spear Cap 3. Block 4 will not be ready until at least 2026/7 and they’re still finding new bugs to fix. Irrespective of how the two compare, my point was, that we could fly an aircraft of this weight off the carriers in the future if we install Cats or EMALS, absolutely nothing to do with the F35-B VS anything! That being said,… Read more »

Robert Blay.

You will probably find Nigel, that most aircraft don’t respond to well being hit by lightning, and they all avoid flying through thunderstorms.

Nigel Collins

I’m surprised. I spent many years flying on commercial airlines both here in Europe and particularly in South East Asia during the rainy season with thunderstorms all around. Bumpy yes, but it didn’t seem to bother the plane or indeed the crew. I wonder why they singled out the F35 again? I never heard of any other military aircraft being mentioned in this context before? “Whether because of flying through rain, lightning strikes or high wind, a thunderstorm is not going to bring your airplane down. … Lightning can strike an airplane, and has probably struck the one your on. Rain, wind, ice and snow can be… Read more »

Robert Blay

Yes, aircraft are designed to be safe if they encounter a lightning strike, but for a small military fighter what lot’s of very complex avionics, a lightning strike will often result in a precautionary landing, and a thorough check over.

Martin

Most of the issues with F35 are the scrutiny it is under. Remember tornados flying around with concrete instead of radar for years. Given the massive range of missions F35 is slated to fill and the sheer complexity of the system it was always going to take a long time to get to where it needed to be. EL Lightening and Phantom where on their 6th version by the time they even got a gun. If spitfire had been developed under the media scrutiny of today it would have been canceled in 1938. F35A is flying off the shelf at… Read more »

Nigel Collins

An interesting report?

“Though the Joint Strike Fighter was conceived as a relatively affordable fifth-generation aircraft, it’s generally acknowledged as the world’s most expensive weapons platform. Flying the F-35 currently costs $36,000 per hour, and it has a projected lifetime cost of $1.7 trillion.”

https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2021/03/05/ripping-f-35-costs-house-armed-services-chairman-looking-to-cut-our-losses/

Nigel Collins

I’m not sure if you read this post? F-35B 2000hrs has been quoted for early lot production aircraft, Is the report suggesting we won’t know what the airframe hours for lot 9 and later until 20204? UK lots curtesy of UKDJ “2 F-35B in LRIP run 3, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 4, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 7, 4 F-35B in LRIP run 8, 6 F-35B in LRIP run 9, 3 F-35B in LRIP run 10, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 11, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 12 6 F-35B in LRIP run 13, 8 F-35B in LRIP run… Read more »

Robert Blay

But you know the costs will come down Nigel, as every fighter takes years to mature and reach the requirements in both capability and cost. We live in the age of the Internet and social media, which is the only reason so much information is readily available that simply wasn’t with past fighter projects, but they had just as many problems and delays. F15 & F16 was a nightmare in both those types early years. In fact F35 is in a much more advanced state straight out of the box when you look at the capabilities of it’s radar, EW… Read more »

Nigel Collins

The costs are going up not down and the delays are increasing with additional faults being found. Block 4 may not be ready until after 2027 hence the reason for a clean sheet design now being considered to replace the ageing fleet of F16’s Did you read my post that says Turkey has flown the F16 in conjunction with the S400? Even more reason for the US to sort this out quickly? Have a read of the latest report from the GAO. Link attached. “We found the F-35 program is now 3 years into Block 4 modernization development and the… Read more »

Robert Blay

I’m not getting into this pointless F35 slagging match with you again. I don’t know what you think you are going to achieve with this constant F35 bashing. It’s going to be in service for the next 40+ years, like it or not. It’s going to provide outstanding capability to the RAF/RN. And any new 6th gen will compliment F35, not replace. And how on earth is designing a clean sheet fighter going to save money. That is absolutely bonkers. If they want a new 4.5 gen, they should buy Typhoon.

Nigel Collins

Just simply replying to your comment on “my post”.
Personally, I always enjoy a debate rather than a slanging match with the evidence to back up what I say.

“But you know the costs will come down Nigel, as every fighter takes years to mature and reach the requirements in both capability and cost.”

As for bashing, I’m simply posting the facts from the horse’s mouth.

I have another comment awaiting approval, just ignore it when it appears.

Robert Blay

I’m not denying any of the cost overruns or delays. It is there in black and white. I’m Just highlighting that it’s nothing new. F35 is a vast project, and hugely complex. But ultimately, it will provide a step change in capability compared to anything before. You cannot make a Ferrari for the cost of a Skoda. And the subject matter experts in allied airforces and defence ministry’s understand the capability it will provide, hence why they are buying it. They are not stupid. They see the reports on cost & delays, they also see the results in exercises and… Read more »

Robert Blay

I’ll ignore the post waiting approval. 👍

DaveyB

The 20:1 kill ratio was based on Red Flag exercises, where they faced USAF F15s, F16s and US Navy F18s. There has not been any published data of F22 vs F35, which is likely to favour the F35 in BVR engagements, purely duet o newer radar and the distributed aperture system. Be interesting to see how the F35/Meteor combo fares against 4th and 5th gen aircraft?

OkamsRazor

A more logical way to look at this is from the viewpoint of risk and complexity. Cats/Traps are and have historically been a problem looking for a solution. They are complex/inefficient from a platform (ship) perspective and inefficient/damaging from a delivery (aircraft) perspective. To a degree this is reflective of the F-35 B/C argument. One is longer legged and slightly cheaper, however the other is longer lasting and more complex. However, many proponents of the “B” variant fail to appreciate that the custom of the US Navy is to almost always refuel for “mission” flights anyway. Therefore having slightly longer… Read more »

Johan

finally someone who gets it and not living in the 1970s

Supportive Bloke

You missed the cost of carrier qualifying CATOBAR crews and the perish ability of the skill.

Other than that I tend to agree.

But there is probably something we are totally missing in terms of forward positioning the refuel drones as it is easier to make a low RCS drone than a helo.

There will be a good reason for this about face: probably a blend of catapult tech and performance requirements of the UAV’s.

James M

I think training is probably one of the main factors. In a scenario where we have to surge aircraft to the carriers, that almost certainly means sending RAF aircrew with them, and I’d bet it’s much easier, quuicker, and cheaper to teach a pilot to use a ski jump than to train them for CATOBAR.

Not to mention the need to procure something like the T-45 Goshawk for carrier training, unless we want pilots to have their first crack at landing for real in a £100 million fighter.

Nigel Collins

The USA is already considering a 60/40 split in favour of UAV’s on board their carriers by 2030. I think the UK is far more advanced with UAV technology than we are letting on given the success of both Taranis and Magma and a request for assisted launch by 2023. Drones will play a major part in EW, refuelling and air to air engagements in the future no doubt. Even more concerning is Russias ability to both see and track the F35 by 2030, something I’ve been talking about for the past three years on UKDJ. They can already see… Read more »

MikeB1947

Taranis and Magma were basically design concepts only. Unless there is something going on at Warton, about which we are not being told, there appears to be no sign that BAE is taking UAVs forward to production status.

Pacman27

And that is a pity as we could be world leaders in this field, taranis could have been a launchpad for us and we could have been selling it to our allies by now, just as the Norwegians are selling JSM/NSM.

Supportive Bloke

I’d almost be surprised if we were told everything going at Wharton ATM.

The one thing I would note is the absence of BAE laying people off or talking about winding things down. The union has also gone jolly quiet. So I sense positive things going on.

Robert Blay

None of the current stealth aircraft are completely invisible to radar, they all have to manage the aircrafts signature in many different ways, Electronic signature ect And they are designed to have low radar signatures against different radar wave bands. A simple radar at a airport might be able to pick up traces, but a radar in a fighter will not until you are at very close range, and it would be game over long before that anyway. Stealth is another tool to increase survivability. It doesn’t mean you are completely invisible

Nigel Collins

“Rezonans-NE radar can detect aerodynamic targets 373 miles away and ballistic targets 746 miles away and up to an altitude of about 62 miles.”

How accurate will it be by 2030 and at what range and height?

Robert Blay

Tracking is one thing, engaging and destroying is another.

Nigel Collins

It depends on how much useful data they’re able to collect and what equipment the Russian planes are carrying to acquire it?

It seems rather foolish to me to send up the F35 in close proximity to either Russian or Chinese aircraft when an F16 will do the job.

https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2020/03/video-norways-new-f-35-filmed-russian-anti-submarine-plane

Robert Blay

Because F35 is replacing F16 in Norwegian service. So they have to start using it.

Glass Half Full

F-35 (as with other US stealth aircraft platforms) uses Luneburg lenses to increase their radar signature in non-combat operations. So the Norwegian’s are very unlikely to have flown without them being in use for this type of intercept. I suspect very few F-35 air forces have flown without Luneburg lenses in use. This is the issue with Turkey having F-35s. They might have flown them against their S400 radars without using Luneberg lenses, knowing precisely the circumstances under which they were doing that. This would have generated a database of F-35 capability against the S400. That’s not information any F-35… Read more »

Nigel Collins

It appears they have already used their F16s as a testbed for the S400

I wonder what deal was struck for their S400s? Their pilots and ground crew will have extensive knowledge of its performance characteristics as they continue to manufacture parts for the F35 up until 2022.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/31187/turkey-tests-f-16s-and-f-4s-against-s-400-radars-in-defiance-of-u-s-sanctions-threats

Nigel Collins

“Turkish manufacturers are involved in building some 937 parts for the F-35, according to Pentagon. About 400 of those parts are sole-sourced in Turkey – meaning there is no other partner manufacturing those parts.”

https://www.dailysabah.com/business/defense/turkey-to-continue-manufacturing-f-35-components-through-2022-pentagon-says

Meirion X

With the exception of AEW, of which RN would only need to qualify a few pilots.

My concerns of drone AEW, is Jamming!
Even though a signal can be encrypted, but the whole signal can be jammed?

Last edited 2 days ago by Meirion X
Martin

If they can jam a drone they can jam crowsnest or E2. With out radio communications airborne AEW platform is useless.

DaveyB

It’s not as simple as that, there are a lot of variables that need to be considered. Such as the strength and location of the jammer. Is the data link directional or omni-directional. How far is the targeted aircraft away from the carrier etc. Iran managed to jam and hack the USAF RQ-170 Sentinel drone, then once under their control, land it. The Wiki information is incorrect on how it was jammed and then controlled. Iran would need to jam the control signal relayed via a satellite data-link and then send a more powerful overriding signal to control it. If… Read more »

Martin

Could not agree more, it’s taken the UK decades of experience and billions of dollars of US tax payer money to make a 5th generation super sonic aircraft land like a helicopter and people are complaining about it. The USN/USMC will be operating twice as many F35B’s vs C and we can cross deck then almost instantly with minimal training not to mention we already have four key allies who will be operating F35B with more to come.

Glass Half Full

If the RFI on CATS/TRAPS establishes that EMALS/AAG systems are still too expensive and/or not ready for prime time, then linked below is the type of platform that might work for AEW and AAR (albeit it would need to be larger than the full sized Rhaegal in the article). https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/update-sabrewing-aircraft-nears-first-flight-of-rhaegal-uav-half-scale-prototype The remaining issue is launch and recovery of the Vixen FWUAS for strike. But this might be a much smaller fixed wing platform than AEW and particularly AAR require, with simpler/less expensive launch and recovery options, presuming we want a UAS with high sub-sonic performance for strike. If we don’t… Read more »

Pacman27

A parachute aided landing UAV may be the solution here. Although that will require a bit of a clean up after

Glass Half Full

We seem to be moving beyond parachutes and nets/cables for retrieving UAVs, even for the smaller UAV platforms now. Neither recovery method is likely to be viable for a Vixen platform, which seems to be relatively large based on its roles … and we probably wouldn’t want to routinely drop it in the drink either 😉 If we don’t need high sub-sonic speed for Vixen then I was thinking more along the lines of VTOL platforms such as those illustrated by Samad Aerospace, e.g. Q Starling, E-Starling or Starling Jet, shown in the timeline linked below in the 2022-27 timeframe.… Read more »

Reaper

This lot are on glue. The carriers we already have could have been good to go with a solution, today.
Bizarre.

Johan

Dont understand WHAT the hang up is with CATS N TRAPS, we moved away from it as we lost the big carriers, WHEN THE QE class was being designed EMALS and AAG were unproven and predicted to be problematic. “See Ford Class” for an example. BAEs asked to look at navalising the typhoon. was all part of the design process. BAEs said typhoon would need a complete redesign to be navalised, vey much like the Rafale. QE design allows space for the EMALS n AAG in future-proofing the carrier so to deliver a carrier that the Royal Navy could afford,… Read more »

Sean

Some people are just obsessed with redundant technology; so they’d bring back cats and traps for carriers and then campaign for battleships to be built. As was seen in the Falklands, jets like the Harrier and F35B can take off in higher sea states than those that rely on cats and traps. You also have more systems redundancy – if the cat goes down then that’s your entire air cover gone. The a number of nations are buying F35Bs for naval and land use, with the F35C only being bought by a single navy. It’s the height of pomposity to… Read more »

Andrew D

Bet the navy would find it helpful if Merlin could do Air to Air Refuelling ,RM,SBS given more legs 🏇

Ron

OK, its about time the MoD started to listen to people, many of us have said this for a few years but it is a step in the right direction. When looking at the tech specs of the cat and traps it would be or could be possible to buy into the MQ-25 Stingray program. RR, BAE, Chobham are involved in the MQ-25 so it should also be good for British industry, possibly we could do a joint venture for future development. Total take of weight of the MQ-25 with 6.8 metric tons of fuel on board is 13.2 metric… Read more »

Captain P Wash

“OK, it’s about time the MOD started listening to people ” Oh dear God, are you seriously suggesting they join this site for advice ?????? Funniest comment here for years Ron.

Ron

Morning Capt, hope life is good. As to your comment on joining this site, no to dip in and have a look at what people are thinking again why not. Two things I learnt as a senior engineer and doing my PhD in Naval history, first you never know where an idea might come from and second you need to wade through a lot of rubbish to get one good bit of info. If my comment gave you a good chuckle, my good deed for the day has been done. I do agree with another comment from you, nothing at… Read more »

Captain P Wash

It was purely the thought of the MOD looking at this site and then reading all the Hilarious comments !!!!! nothing personal but you have to admit that this site should contain the Warning “This site may contain Nuts ” ….. As for digging around for Ideas…. yes I fully agree but how about converting a simple hull just like we did 110 years ago to give us the Carrier in the first place rather than risk one or both Carriers when a new Government comes along, looks at the Costs and Hires the “JCB” company again !…. Oh and… Read more »

Ron

Thanks for the chuckle, and yes sometimes some of the comments should come with a Government health warning. Havce a great weekend, as for me getting my diving gear out for some checks before I go of in a few weeks.

Captain P Wash

Hope you don’t “go off in a couple of Leaks” mate….. ! I’m off Biking in a bit, going to blow away a few Cobwebs….. Happy Diving.

Supportive Bloke

You’d be surprised what gets recycled into government policy. I once had a comment of mine somewhere else, under another handle, circulated back to me via official channels with an interested thread of discussion attached to it. it would be foolish to think that any form of informed debate is ignored as it is casually read by many and if a cogent argument is presented then it might be picked up on. equally it would be highly foolish to over estimate the influence that sites like these might have. I too have a PhD and it is unwise to ignore… Read more »

Captain P Wash

Well that covers most angles I guess….. Even without a PhD I know Good thinking when I read it though…. !

Supportive Bloke

I wasn’t implying you needed a PhD to recognise good thinking!

But the point is that you are trained to critically formulate, evaluate, express and defend a logic argument.

Derrick

Why not use a CMV-22 for everything, a RORO package would do everything

Ron

To be honest, to expensive and old tech. I’m not sure but I think the MV-22 is a first gen tiltrotor aircraft that has gone into production.

James Fennell

Too big, too heavy, too slow, poor altitude performance, manpower intensive, eye wateringly expensive, short range compared to UAS, 1990s tech. I could go on.

Captain P Wash

Here we all go again. Nothing is actually known for certain which, if any of our current ships will gain this capability. ( Type 32 is as yet an unknown quantity with many options being looked at for example ) Yet people are re-designing the Carriers from the comfort of their arm chairs. Personally, as mentioned before, I’d rather wait until something factual is published before jumping to conclusions. Everything written here is pure speculation.

John Hartley

Most of the troubles with AAG have been sorted, so it would be wise to study fitting it to QE/PoW for STOBAR as well as STOVL operations. Three extra wires at the back, do not stop STOVL operations.
The F-35B has a small combat radius & cannot reach targets deep inland from carrier launch, unless it gains saddle/drop tanks, air refuelling and/or long range stand off weapon.

James H

When a drone is called attritable and expandable, roughly how much are these drones looking to cost that we except we will lose a few and with all these plans how many F35s would still be expected to be brought?

captain p wash

” Attritable and expandable”. ermmm ?

James H

Expendable……one letter makes a very different meaning

captain p wash

Lol, Doesn’t it jest !!!!!!

Glass Half Full

The Kratos Valkerie platform has been suggested to be around $2M. That might be an optimistically low price point, although its similar to Tomahawk.

But with single use missiles like SM-6 and LRASM in the $4M ballpark, I’d suggest anything up to $5M might be considered expendable, depending on capabilities and target value.

If the platform is only considered attritable, i.e. targeted for high risk missions where loss is acceptable but not desirable, then perhaps as high at $10M.

Just my guess on both though, I haven’t seen anyone articulate price points as part of a target specification.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kratos_XQ-58_Valkyrie

PaulW

Interesting that the cat and trap weight limits are just right for an old F/A-18C. If an angle deck is not added then that limits to UAV ops only. That could be a regrettable limit. Imagine a USN hornet or F35C damaged and/or low on fuel and screaming emergency. Sorry mate.

captain p wash

Those are the Maximum Weights quoted though…..

Ron

Possible silly question but something running around in my head. Could the arrestor gear assist in the rolling landing of a F35B. I know that the gear is not designed for the weight of the F35B and I know that a hook would need to be fitted. However if the hook had a automatic open system that releases the cable at 20,000kg pressure it could be a possibility. The second question is maybe more simple, everyone seems to think that the e-mal will be to the right of the ski jump. Could it be placed to port instead where an… Read more »

Lordtemplar

What does the current fleet tanker contract say about this?

Mark B

I am puzzled as to why they are being so specific about aerial refuelling. There are dozens of things drones could do. Reminds me of an old episode of dads army where they start a women’s section but they can’t seem to find anything more useful for them to do than sew on buttons. Perhaps the RN brass are so ancient and decrepit and don’t want drones (which I’m afraid like it or not are the future) they want to waste a lot of time and money paying lip service to it. We need drones running from the carriers in… Read more »

Glass Half Full

They aren’t just focused on refuelling. Perhaps you missed the slide image in the article above that showed Vixen FWUAS, Proteus RWUAS and Small UAS. None of those three Unmanned Aircraft Systems is for refuelling.

Mark B

Glass half full I got the refuelling from the title. The slide was interesting in its layout. The Merlin and F35 were at the sharp end and the unmanned solutions were in support roles (in the main). If you are going to use unmanned properly the drones should be surrounding the F35 / Merlins. The manned aircraft should be delivering the brains and the drones sensors, weapons and protection (and fuel). The slide show is interesting in that it is already conditioning the reader to think of complexity, cost and standard manned doctrine for 2030 which is exactly what the… Read more »

Glass Half Full

I don’t take that from the slide. What we seem to be looking at is a transition or bridging strategy, given that Merlin’s OSD is supposed to be ~2030. Granted, that OSD might be extended by 5, or perhaps as much as 10 years, dependent on a replacement platform availability, which might be the high end unmanned platform you’re seeking. However, we have to learn to walk before we run. We can waste an awful lot of money aiming for high end solutions before we have the expertise and especially software developed. The Vixen is shown as a fixed wing… Read more »

Mark B

If we take the approach of saying we should not rush, we have plenty of time and our existing kit will be fine for any threat for decades to come then perhaps we are expecting our opponents to sit on their hands and perhaps we are being complacent? Drones level the playing field. They can be produced cheaply, in vast quantities and can leverage existing tech. They may well change the battlefield completely in a similar way to the tank and the aeroplane. In my humble view we need to spend small quantities on R&D over a short time frame… Read more »

dan

Their CVs do need their own refuelers when they go up against near peer countries like China. Have to keep the CV as far away from the threat as possible. Also it adds to the safety of the jets having someone up there with gas to either top them off or give them a little more if they’re having trouble landing be it the weather or whatever.

Grant

Or just borrow four or five USMC v22s and put Cobham refuelling kit in the back….

Captain P Wash

Or just PX a Carrier for a Nimitz……. It’s got Cats and everything !!!!!!!

Steve

I suspect it must be much harder to do than that, or the USN would have done it as a solution for their assault carriers.

Grant

Dunno, their assault carriers probably get closer in: our F35s have to the job of F/A 18s off their large CVNs so need the range.

Anyway it would have been great to see 4 or 5 ospreys deploy – they are sharing a squadron and a destroyer so I dont think its beyond the realms of possibility!

Lepke Buchalter

Too bad they didn’t build a conventional carrier and bought the F-35a or any number of other conventional aircraft available on the world market.

Billythefish

Wouldn’t it make sense to launch these directly from accompanying fleet support aviation fuel carrying tankers – thereby reducing the need for RAS and provide additional survivability with extra opportunities for launch and recovery freeing up deck space on the Carriers?

Steve

I wonder what the rush is. 3-5 years is kinda short time frame when it comes to military planning / building. I assume this is timed to allow the uk to piggy back onto a US purchase, its the only thing that makes sense to me.

Peter S

I don’t believe this will happen. The USN has spent years evaluating UAVs from carriers. The plan was switched abruptly from strike and AEW roles to refuelling tankers only. Stealth requirements were therefore reduced. The contract award to Boeing is for 4 +3 with a cost of nearly $1b. There is logic in the US decision: it will free up the F35c and F18 from the buddy refuelling role and thus enhance overall combat power. There is no need for any alteration to the carrier itself beyond installing an operator control unit. For the UK, the costs will be much… Read more »