F-35 Initial Operational Capability was granted with 67 exceptions, say the National Audit Office in a report.

As of February 2020, the project team had cleared 47 of the exceptions, although Air Command is clearing them more slowly than planned, say the NAO in their report titled ‘Defence capabilities – delivering what was promised’.

The Ministry of Defence is buying 48 F-35B Lightning II aircraft. This is the first tranche of the 138 Lightning II aircraft the UK has committed to purchase over the life of the programme.

The Department will operate F-35s from the carriers and the Royal Air Force base at Marham. IOC (Land) was declared on the 31st of December 2018 with 67 exceptions against the intended milestone including: no availability of training simulators, issues with the global support solution and immature infrastructure delivery.

What is an exception?

The National Audit Office say that the Ministry of Defence declares key project milestones as achieved, without the intended capability always being delivered at that point. MoD guidance permits the declaration of a milestone “even if performance does not meet acceptance criteria, or if testing to confirm criteria have been met is incomplete”. The Department allows exceptions for a variety of reasons, “but the most frequently used in our case studies was that progress was good enough, despite criteria not being met”, they added.

“In some cases, this affected the Department’s ability to use the capability in the way intended. For example, in the case of the F-35 fighter jet (which accounted for two-thirds of exceptions in our case studies), delays to the provision of synthetic training facilities affected the availability of trained pilots and maintainers. Exceptions should be granted on the basis that there is a time bound plan for their resolution, but this was not the case in most of our sampled case studies.”

The report adds:

“The Department currently expects to deliver the promised F-35 Full Operating Capability requirements by 2023.”

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Gavin Gordon
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Gavin Gordon

Auditors always need to find something to criticise: unless they’re being paid a lot of spondulix by the auditee, of course!

Geoffrey Roach
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Geoffrey Roach

Bring back the Hurri and the Spit… Something wrong? Give it a bash…

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

comment image

Geoffrey Roach
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Geoffrey Roach

Cracking picture Nigel….probably the only ‘plane in history that replaced it’s replacement.

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Got a needle and thread, mate?

Great picture, Nigel.

Where I live we sometimes get to see the Fleet Air Arm Swordfish lumbering around the sky. Remarkable that it out lasted designed intended to replace it!

julian1
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julian1

i’m waiting for a big film to be made about that – “war in a stringbag” or similar – what a story and what bravery

DaveyB
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DaveyB

It should still be an option for the carriers. Doesn’t need assisted take off and can land on a sixpence.

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

When I was in the MOD / DERA there was a Scrutiny department. You had to submit your project documention to them before you could move onto the next phase. If it was not inline with the criteria you didn’t get the tick in the box and got sent away to sort it out. For some projects that was a BIG issue. Trouble was the Scrutineers were ‘scruffy’ civvies and not all that senior either… so the rules (language) started to change and the Scutineers slowly got undermined. 67 exceptions is the result – indiscipline that’s what this is. Indiscipline!… Read more »

Gunbuster
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Gunbuster

As I am now a PM I suppose I could now follow myself into battle, obeying the orders I give myself… It might get a bit confusing especially if my Prince guidance doesn’t fit the outcome…

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

🙂 Great answer Gunbuster… I do know a number of ex-military who have come across into management roles in the private sector (is that what you have done?) and at least one former one star ranked officer agreed with me on this general point. He even admitted that he would never have agreed with me if he was still in uniform, but after a couple of years he had realised that there was an issue. It was very honest of him. I generally understand that the training these officers recieve is designed to give them the ability and crucially the… Read more »

Gunbuster
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Gunbuster

Yes I am now working for the private sector but still fixing grey things of various nations.

As for Prince 2 you could insert the words “common sense” and achieve the same outcome.

sd34
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sd34

What do you think should be done about the NAO’s fraudulent claims about the MOD? It balances its budget every year, and to have a couple of civvies who know nothing about defence lie and lie again about that is disgraceful.

https://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-nao-report-on-mod-spending-bad-news.html

DaveyB
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DaveyB

There is an issue with how certain types of officers are streamlined for project teams, as its deemed they don’t really have the capability for the front line, 1st line or sea duties. But it is also an issue with how promotion is handled, as each junior officer must do a staff tour, before they are looked at for promotion. Luckily we do have some very good officers who have the capability and flexibility to jump from front line duties to staff tours etc. They bring first hand knowledge of how kit actually works in the field. The problem has… Read more »

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
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Geoffrey Simon Hicking

Please don’t say this, Ron5 will be on your back like he was with me.

Ethan
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Ethan

Going with catapults and the C variant would have been much better for the Royal Navy. Now they’re stuck with the worst version lugging a big and heavy lift fan around. In a world where anti ship missiles are having greater and greater ranges the use of a longer ranged ‘C’ variant and refuelling drones is critical for the survivability and effectiveness at range for a carrier group.

Albion
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Albion

Agreed, but we are where we are – unfortunately.

Ethan
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Ethan

We are stuck with 2 somewhat useless carriers in a real fight over open ocean, where missiles launched from a coast can outrange the planes we carry.

Paul42
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Paul42

Far from useless……..with a full airgroup they can pack a mighty punch. Anti-ship missiles will always be a threat, and defences must rise to the challenge! We can refuel our Bs with help from USMC. The projection of airpower is the key to any conflict, he who rules the skies, controls everything else. In addition, if we were to go up against a known enemy with land based anti-ship capability, do you not suppose for one moment that we would address that threat via long range heavy bombers and land attack cruise missiles?

Rob
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Rob

Agreed far from useless but your statement that the projection of air power is vital in any conflict just maybe out of date. At the beginning of WW2 the most important naval asset was the big gun battleship; nobody thought that the aircraft carrier and naval aircraft would make it obsolete. The same may be happening now; the next war will maybe see the nuclear attack submarine and hypersonic anti-ship missiles make the West’s big stick carriers obsolete too. I actually doubt it but we must invest in as many air defence systems as we can on all our ships… Read more »

Trevor
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Trevor

Has the captain of the Bismarck. The royal navy understood all about carriers, we invented them. And battleships were very useful throughout the war, principally because we controlled the sky’s over land and sea.

Cam
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Cam

We should and would have refuelling aircraft if that was the case surely

Cam
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Cam

Also look at what we did with our old small carriers and subsonic harriers. Its how we use the carriers and we can use these ones far better as we have more options and better escorts. Carrier on carrier at sea is unlikely or even A peer on peer war is highly unlikely as its suicide for both nations and their economy’s. Luckily soft power and politics with almost certainly stop a peer on peer war in the near future.

Trevor
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Trevor

How do these people with missiles actually find these carriers in the open ocean.? Who wants to fire these missiles against us?

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

What missiles from what nation might those be then? another comment from the great uniformed.

julian1
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julian1

we shouldn’t see the south china sea as the yardstick. the key roles for these carriers is to secure the northern atlantic trade routes and to a lesser extent, the med and even the gulf (probably too dangerous.) I cannot imagine a scenario of going to war with China and can imagine even less what kind of contribution we should/could make so far from home and our interests. in that respect, they are not useless

DaveyB
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DaveyB

The main thing the carrier brings to the party is 4 acres of sovereign airfield. It bypasses the need for diplomatic agreements, over-flight agreements or use of airfields. A few months ago, it could have easily snowballed into a conflict due to the hijacking and mining of tankers by Iran. If it escalated, its not unreasonable to believe a carrier would have been needed. Would Saudi, Kuwait or Oman risk letting us launch a retaliatory or offensive strike from their lands? Possibly, but its not guaranteed, especially as Iran has the means to fire a lot of fairly accurate SSMs… Read more »

Paul42
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Paul42

You mean the most versatile version? Of all the variants the F35C is the one lagging behind as the US Navy decides that maybe it doesn’t want as many as it first thought. The Falklands proved the truth worth of Stovl as Harriers launched and recovered in conditions that would have seriously hampered caliber ops. The USMC are able to refuel their Bs via V22 Osprey tankers. During QEs firstxset of trials they launched and recovered Bs in adverse weather conditions proving it’s worth.

Ethan
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Ethan

Yes, of course they’re more versatile. Against a much less developed nation who only operated a few air launched Exocets. And even then, the only use of the carriers was to protect other ships and provide air superiority for the fleet. They could not perform any strike missions due to limited range and payload. If this is what we need carriers for, then why invest billions on two under armed supercarriers as opposed to smaller escort carriers?

Callum
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Callum

You’re aware half the Harrier fleet during the Falklands were RAF close support versions that, shockingly, provided close air support not air superiority?

Paul42
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Paul42

The Sea Harriers did conduct strike missions, but due to limited numbers their primary role was air defence which they carried out very effectively against far superior numbers of Mirage and Dagger fighters try reading ‘Sea Harrier over the zFalkkands’ by Sharkey Ward. The F35B is a fifth generation stealth Warplane, considerably more capable than a Sea Harrier, and indeed the majority of Fighters. Projection of airpower from the sea is critical and the F35B can fulfil the mission admirably

Callum
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Callum

Better in a game of top trumps, sure. The reality is the C variant has been the most delayed, and EMALS has barely just qualified for service in the US.

There have multiple articles on various pages explaining why the RN has gone with STOVL, so I’m not going to go into a lecture on the subject. The overall conclusion is that the B variant and ramps are, for the RN, the best option.

Ethan
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Ethan

I’m aware the procurement for EMALS has been a disaster, and that was a dodged bullet for the RN. This doesn’t counter act the fact that our F35’s are the worst of the group and will perform the worst in a conflict. We also cannot launch electronic jammer aircraft (which is becoming much more important), AWACS or refuelers

Paul42
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Paul42

What on earth gives you the ill-informed impression that the F35B would perform the worst in combat? Absolute twaddle!

Ethan
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Ethan

Limited range and payload capacity. Not to mention some weapons can’t be carried due to a smaller internal weapons bay.

Ron5
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Ron5

Range on internal fuel is still better than any Rafael or Typhoon.

Go back to your bridge.

Ethan
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Ethan

The combat radius of a rafale is much greater. Not to mention it can carry more weapons due to catapult assisted take off.

Ron5
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Ron5

You are misinformed, on internal fuel the F-35B out ranges Rafael. Especially if carrying a warload.

Ron5
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Ron5

Not on internal fuel it isn’t. And the F-35B has a greater maximum takeoff weight than Rafael. So two errors in two sentences.

Paul42
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Paul42

The F35B can only carry a 1,000lb JDAM as opposed to a 2,000lb version, but of course the 2,000lb version is only ever carried by heavy bombers…….you have to remember an F35 woukd only operate in total Stelth mode in the opening days of a conflict and the Bs would be tasked with strike and air defence as appropriate, after which we can carry a truly impressive warload externally. With regard to range, US Navy carrier borne aircraft were refuelled via in-flight refuelling on a regular basis, and the USMC are bringing their Ospreys with them on QEs initial deployment.… Read more »

Paul42
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Paul42

That should be regularly refuelled during both Gulf wars

Ethan
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Ethan

Regardless, we should also not rely on friendly nations as our exclusive method of inflight refuelling. Catapults would allow for the launch of AWACS planes, refuelling drones and electronic jammers. I’m aware the F35 can do the former, but not to the standard of an E/A18 Growler

Paul42
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Paul42

The USMC, with whom we have an excellent relationship are already developing under wing jamming pods for the F35B based on those used by the EA18G. The UK will at somepoint have to order the MV22, both for air lifting troops ashore from POW and for refuelling our F35Bs.

Trevor
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Trevor

We would never have built the carriers with catapults or arrestors.

Callum
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Callum

“Worst performing”. Once again, in a game of top trumps, sure. The B variant was the first to enter service, has proven operationally reliable, and offers the best availability for carrier operations.

The Lightning itself spreading offers enhanced AEW and electronic attack capabilities over previous gen aircraft through sensor, which helps to alleviate the lack of dedicated aircraft for the roles. We’re not planning on fighting the USN in open battle, what we do have are still the best non-american carriers

Ethan
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Ethan

Of course, the two carriers are excellent assets. What I’m saying is they could have been done better.

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Ethan, Not at the time they were built. EMALS is still not reliable enough and hugely expensive. We would still be playing around trying to design the ships – years off build completion. We could NOT afford to spend the sums the US is on fixing EMALS. Conventional steam catapults would require steam generators to be fitted adding a huge amount of complicated and expensive equipment – unless we when back to steam propulsion! The RN has not had engineers trained to handle steam since the Leanders went out of service in the earlu 90’s and with coal fired power… Read more »

Ethan
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Ethan

That’s well said. I’m still agreeing that STOVL was the better option at the time, though I think with better procurement and had EMALS gone better we could have incorporated them into the design.

James
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James

If we had decided to build the QE’s 10 years after the original date it may have been a possibility but even then we couldn’t afford it so it is genuinely a total pipe dream.

Hopefully drone tech moves on quickly and they can operate a variety of systems based around them to make up the gap.

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Yeh, looking at some of the smaller drone designs the weight saved by not having the soft squiggy person in the front mean that they are way more capable than the equivalent sized manned aircraft. I wonder given the smaller size for the same payload capability if it would be possible to design them to be lifted into the deck head with the undercarriage retracted and have another one parked underneath – as the Swiss Air Force do in their mountain hangars. That would significantly improve the size of the air wing – although you would have to take ship… Read more »

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Hi Ethan,

The design was suposed have the facility to upgrade to cats, but with all the usual faffing about with specs etc it got dropped. So sadly future role changes could to quite expensive…

Trevor
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Trevor

What catapults? The ships were not designed for catapults, there is not enough steam. The arrestor gear has been problematical for the US navy. It’s becoming increasingly clear that after the 4 Ford’s, the US Navy is going to produce something different in the future.

The US and French carriers have nuclear and generate steam. As is repeatedly said the sortie rate for catapults would be lower than vtol. Everything you suggest is massively over simplified.

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

Sortie rates for one catapult will be lower compared to a STOVL ski jump. But sortie rates for 2 or 3 catapults are greater than STOVL. Not to mention the variety of planes flown. Also, I’m taking about Electromagnetic catapults.

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

And 3 plus catapults requires huge carriers, half as big again as QEs .
We either don’t have any, or we have the ones we currently have.
This is a legitimate question and it goes to the heart of what our military strategy should be.

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

The ships can incorporate at least 2. The deck space of QE is very similar to that of a Nimitz, 4 acres to 4.5

Ron5
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Ron5

Still making things up Ethan. Give it a rest. Sortie rates are not determined by catapults or ski jumps.

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Worth taking a look!

Development of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier – a design history

https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/development-of-the-queen-elizabeth-class-aircraft-carrier-a-design-history/

Gunbuster
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Gunbuster

ARRRRRRRRGHHHHH! Right the year is 2020. Anti ship missiles with ranges of hundreds of miles( far greater than 300) , that fly faster than 3.5 mach are not new. They have been around since the early 1960s…I will save you the math …that’s over 60 years. The AS4 Kitchen ASM armed Bears and Backfires in the 1960s . It is now being modernised to stay relevant (and a bit faster at Mach 4.5) . That’s still a 60 year old design. The much vaunted Zircon is not is service despite the hype. Its suffering from “Childhood Diseases” to quote the… Read more »

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

In practice, yes, but you forgot to mention human error.
Hopefully, we’ve learned from the lessons of the past.

“Revealed: catalogue of failings that sank Falklands warship HMS Sheffield”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/15/revealed-full-story-behind-sinking-of-falklands-warship-hms-sheffield

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Theory sorry.

Ron5
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Ron5

But Sheffield wasn’t a carrier was it???

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

No Ron, It was a much smaller target.

Ron5
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Ron5

It was operating in an area where the carriers would not, so your comparison is badly flawed to say the least.

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Do try and keep up Ron5, we’re talking about the ability to locate naval vessels at sea for ASM’s to be of use and how difficult it would be to do so in order for them to be effective, not the type of ship. The ability to hide in open oceans of today is a thing of the past, satellites dedicated to finding threats and their location is now in real-time. Most of this technology remains classified, but the link below should at least give you an idea. https://earth.esa.int/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=233885&name=DLFE-2178.pdf In short, it’s no longer a question of finding a needle… Read more »

Gunbuster
Guest
Gunbuster

We learnt very quickly. Seawolf had its software modified withing a few Months. It was proven against a live exocet shot off Fishguard in 1983. The issues with Scot which led to the loss of Sheffield where implemented immediately. The call “Strangle Scot” from the EW Director is still in place now. Since then other ASM Defence issues have been put in place. Even the vessels are a lot more stealth and so hard to hit since then. Even the actions taken after a hit are completely different. Ships have different cabling, better compartmentalisation and nobody now wears nylon shrink… Read more »

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

Has there been any reporting on the tactics used by the Argentinians when using Exocet and how they found the ships? From what I remember they first tried using high flying Canberras as surveillance aircraft, trying to detect ships radar emissions. Then one got shot down by a Sea Dart, so they stayed further away. The issue for both Sheffield and Coventry was that they were doing jobs that an AWACs should have been doing, i.e. acting as the eyes of the fleet by being the radar picket. Therefore they had to have their search radars operating, so could easily… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

“Argentinean attack Sheffield was first detected by an Argentine Naval Aviation Lockheed SP-2H Neptune (2-P-112) patrol aircraft at 07:50 on 4 May 1982. The Neptune kept the British ships under surveillance, verifying Sheffield’ position again at 08:14 and 08:43. Two Argentine Navy Super Étendards, both armed with AM39 Exocets, took off from Río Grande naval air base at 09:45 and met with an Argentine Air Force KC-130H Hercules tanker at 10:00 hours. The two aircraft were 3-A-202, piloted by mission commander Capitán de Fragata (Commander) Augusto Bedacarratz, and 3-A-203, piloted by Teniente (Lieutenant) Armando Mayora.[12] At 10:35, the Neptune climbed… Read more »

ChariotRider
Guest
ChariotRider

Hi Gunbuster, Steady, mate. Deep breath! I particularly liked “Shred you afterwards.” 🙂 Much more painful than the traditional, “would have to shoot you.” 🙂 🙂 🙂 Just to support the “its a big ass’d ocean”. A ship doing 20knots will cover 240nm in 12 hours. If the ship is already at sea and you’re trying to find it then you have to search a circle of 181,000 sq.nm. That’s a huge area and the CSG would go quiet if it was trying to hide. There was an interesting episode of Britain’s biggest warship, where Commodore (now Rear Admiral) Jerry… Read more »

Gunbuster
Guest
Gunbuster

I completely agree. I spent 34 years doing this stuff and the RN was very very good at it and still is. Even in the 5 years since I left the tech has come on leaps and bounds. Luckily I still keep up to date on the systems and the current threat assessments. Things are not as bad as they are reported in the MSM.

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

Go on, dare you? (I have a red pen ready for corrections and black felt tip for redacting) Hmm, plasma stealth. With regards to EM waves i.e. radar, radio etc, plasma can either reflect, be in resonance with or allow transmission through. This is all dependent upon the plasma’s electron frequency. If the frequency equals the radar frequency and is thus in resonance, it can absorb the EM wave (totally) and not allow it to pass through or be reflected. Plasma can act as a superconductor and recently there have be strides to develop plasma antennas and waveguides. This is… Read more »

Cam
Guest
Cam

I read that we have enough up and coming pilots but there’s just not enough trainers and planes to go around! Closing training bases and getting rid of 5,000 personel wasn’t good for the RAF! I don’t know why we put up with it! Americans wouldn’t, and now everyone’s saying France is now the major european power not the UK.

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

“Everyone” ?? In France maybe, nowhere else.

Ron5
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Ron5

And yet they performed admirably at Red Flag.

Barry Larking
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Barry Larking

Exactly Ron. An example of how ‘expert’ opinion matches up to performance comes to mind. Before Gulf War I British Challengers were bit of a bad joke having come a miserable bottom in a N.A.T.O. tank trial. Our national media went into over drive and The Guardian’s resident poo-stirrer mocked them as ‘crap tanks’. Three hundred went out to liberate Kuwait followed by a press pack itching to find fault or ‘make-it-all-up’. After the war Brig. Patrick Cordingly went to thank Challenger’s designers and makers for a superb vehicle. Ninety eight per cent availability and the longest tank-on-tank kill recorded… Read more »

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

+1000

Gunbuster
Guest
Gunbuster

And importantly the fuel consumption was way lower than the US equivalents meaning the Loggy train was less vulnerable and a lot less needy.
(“Oh US ARMY you need to stop for fuel? We will keep going then as we have another hundred miles in the tank….)

BV Buster
Guest
BV Buster

Oh land stuff, let me put my boot in. In reference to tank trials, they are usually fairly one sided, some of the ones I have been on tend to play to a certain tanks strengths or weakness. So for example, If I was designing a shoot for Challenger 2, I would put plenty of long range engagements in that are time dependent and plenty of multiple target presentation to play to the strengths of that particular platform. I would however deliberately omit timed movement as Challenger 2 is painfully slow at accelerating. I have seen this happen on a… Read more »

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

It also helped spending a couple of months in Oman prior to kick off, ironing out the bugs, i.e. more enclosed track skirts and better filters.

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

Some interesting comments in relation to this post, something I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion in the past on UKDJ, transfer the technological improvements to a sixth-gen airframe and support the 5th gen aircraft up to block four standards. As I’ve seen on more than one occasion in my industry, once you have different software versions running on different systems, its better to draw a line under it and create something new in order to avoid the same problems that are now occurring with the F35 programme, fix one problem for one version and create two more elsewhere on… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

The next decade should be very interesting! Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert speculated in February 2015 that the F/A-XX would not rely on speed or stealth as much as previous generation jet fighters due to better signature detection and proliferating high-speed anti-aircraft weapons. Instead, the fighter would carry a new spectrum of weapons to overwhelm or suppress enemy air defences. One approach could create a minimum cost F/A-XX that uses high cost, high-performance weapons to defeat threats; according to the Navy’s Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) battle network concept, an individual platform would not need to have a… Read more »

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

“As I’ve seen on more than one occasion in my industry, once you have different software versions running on different systems, its better to draw a line under it and create something new in order to avoid the same problems that are now occurring with the F35 programme, fix one problem for one version and create two more elsewhere on others” Are you seriously saying that the UK should stop buying F-35’s because there are F-35’s operating with multiple software levels and start totally fresh with Tempest because that way there will be only one software version: the Tempest one???… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

It’s like dealing with a child who is just learning to read.

Take your time and look at the very first paragraph.

Let me help you again Ron 5, “and support the 5th gen aircraft up to block four standards.” Not due until the mid-twenty twenties. Try reading the attached links and educate yourself, I don’t expect you to think out of the box, or read between the lines.

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

This is for commercial use now, think what the military has up its sleeve. Far greater image resolution for a start, real-time tracking capabilities with a ship’s location, speed and heading. “How can satellites help tackle maritime piracy? The ability to effectively track ship and other vessel movements via satellite helps to ensure the safe passage of both passenger and cargo boats across our seas. Keeping track of each of those vessels is the first step in rooting out maritime crime. Real-time tracking of shipping in Europe is underway. EMSAs SafeSeaNet is a vessel traffic monitoring and information system covering… Read more »

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

The two-way data-link via satellite communications is still the weak point for long range systems. Possibly one of the methods how Iran gained control of the RQ170 Sentinel drone was by over powering the data-link signal to the satellite. There is clearly more to the story, like how did they know where to air their jamming signal etc. There has been a spate of countries announcing dedicated space commands. For the UK that is predominantly to control our communication and surveillance satellites. However, I do foresee in the very near future the UK’s ability to launch small to medium sized… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

It all sounds very promising indeed!