This year, the UK’s first F-35 squadron will declare initial operational capability.

It’s no secret that British forces wouldn’t have been able to reach that goal without their partnership with the US Marine Corps. In order to train to meet operational requirements, a decision was made many years ago to integrate the training of the USMC and RAF together. About 10 years ago the UK’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy began discussions about combining efforts on initial F-35B training with the United States Marine Corps.

Air Commodore Harv Smyth, UK Lightning Force Commander said:

“It started out as just a conversation about, ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea to pool our resources? In the early years, we knew we’d both have a small number of jets and a small number of people training, so it just made sense to work together.”

These discussions eventually resulted in a ‘pooling implementation agreement’ between the RAF, Royal Navy and USMC.

The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy plan to operate 138 F-35B aircraft. Their training will take place at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, where British pilots and maintainers will be embedded with the US Marine Corps and their fleet of F-35Bs.

This joint approach to getting the aircraft ready was very clear with recent F-35 trials aboard the USS Wasp, with much of the data produced being used to inform not only the USMC’s declaration of initial operating capability but also the British effort.

UK personnel were fully embedded in the USS Wasp trials and will use the data gathered from this event, future trials and operational deployments to support the UK’s flying trials aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018.

Co-operation doesn’t just extend to training, plans for frequent deployment of American F-35 aircraft alongside British jets aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth have been confirmed by British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and are expected to significantly boost the capabilities of the UK’s new carriers.

A key element of 21st century air power is clearly working and smoothly implemented coalition operations, the F-35 provides a unique integrated air combat capability whereby coalitions of joint or allied F-35s can be supported in common. The F-35 was designed from the outset to bring these capabilities while also being interoperable across a coalition of air power.

Two networks are core to this operability: the Link-16 and the new Multi-Function Advanced Datalink (MADL). These systems allow the F-35 to communicate with nearly all current and future NATO assets.

Link-16 is currently utilised by most existing platforms fielded by NATO members and will allow F-35 to integrate seamlessly into a coalition force structure.

MADL will complement the current networks as NATO’s first high bandwidth, low probability of detect and intercept connection. The fundamental design features of MADL enable all NATO F-35s in a deployed coalition to communicate within an Anti-Access/Area Denial environment.

The potential for cooperation between the United Kingdom and coalition forces all using the F-35 variants is significant, in terms of coalition warfare the F-35 further increases the situational awareness of all parties to a greater extent than anything flying today, resulting in a quantum leap in capability for coalition forces.

Such is the aircrafts sensor and data fusion capabilities, a small number of F-35s could provide the UK and her coalition allies with situational awareness within defended airspace where platforms such as E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS would be unable to operate.

F-35s could find and designate priority targets within defended airspace for a less stealthy fleet to attack from a relatively safe distance, further enhancing coalition capability.

The F-35s value is not only in its stealth or combat capability, it’s also in the flying sensor network it creates in the battle space.

The ability of the F-35 to drastically improve the combat capability of other assets was demonstrated recently when an F-35B and Aegis Weapon System worked together during a live fire exercise, with the F-35 passing sensor data to another platform which then engaged the target.

Using the F-35 as a broad area sensor can significantly increase a warships ability to detect, track and engage a target.

An unmodified US Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron, based in Edwards Air Force Base, acted as an elevated sensor to detect an over-the-horizon threat.

The aircraft then sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship, a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea.

Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target.

The exercise was the first live fire missile event that successfully demonstrated the integration of the F-35 to support Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air and represent a very promising exploration into the interoperability of the F-35B with other naval assets.

The F-35B will drastically increase the situational awareness of the forces with which it will deploy and for the UK, where deployed numbers may be a concern, it represents a fantastic way to enhance combat capability in any coalition or national effort.

89 COMMENTS

      • Mostly relating to software and sensor integration. Answer is yes, they are slowly getting sorted. Like all major complex weapon systems programmes, it takes a very long time to take the operating capability to a standard where it can be reliably and consistently fielded.

  1. Interesting article.

    Couple points: MFADL is indeed a powerful force multiplier but will the CVF carriers, Type 45’s & Type 26’s be equipped with it to make it useful to the RN?

    Secondly, the UK doesn’t have a “plan” to operate 138 F-35’s. There’s a vague commitment that over the life of the F-35 program (50+ years maybe), the UK will buy 138. At the moment the UK has ordered 8 and says it will have 24 in front line service by 2023. That’s in seven years time when both carriers will have been in service for a while.

    Those 24 is all there will be to equip two carriers each capable of fielding 50+ aircraft. No plans exist to increase that number just, once again, a vague aspiration to increase to 48 one day, sometime.

    That’s the reason for the RN’s great love of the US Marine Corps, they need the American jets to fill the decks of their carriers because the UK Treasury is too cheap to buy enough. Poor show. Why on earth is the UK building such big carriers just to carry American jets around? Makes no sense.

    • I thought QE Class could carry 30 aircraft? 12 (1 squadron) for routine and 24 (2 squadrons) for wartime, then make up the space with helicopters.

          • I think the USMC and RN will do a lot of joint exercises and training programs with the F35. During wartime there is a good chance if QE or PoW is deployed the USMC will bulk up the numbers if it saves them paying for an additional wasp on deployment and the RN has extra capacity. The saves in man power are huge.

    • The announcement by Osborne in 2015 *did* contain a commitment to buy the full 138 F-35s, and there will be 24 for *each* aircraft carrier. Typically the carriers won’t operate simultaneously, so this is an Air Wing. The schedule is for all 138 to be in service by the 2030s.

      Since the UK is a Tier one partner in manufacturing the F35, the UK economy will be getting a boost even from F35s delivered to the US and to third countries. To my mind, this has been a pretty brilliant deal all around.

      • There is no “schedule” to get 138 F-35B’s in service by the 2030’s. That is a flat lie.

        Here is the exact statement from the 2015 SDSR: “We will maintain
        our plan to buy 138 F35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme.”

        That “programme” is expected to last over 50 years.

        After 5 years in service, the carriers, designed to carry 50 each, will finally get to share 24 F-35B’s. That is a national disgrace. No firm plans to increase that number past 2023 furthers the disgrace.

        • I can’t help wondering if running a serviceable fleet of around 60 F35’s and about the same Typhoon by the mid 20’s, is enough to pose a viable ‘ready the fight’ fleet?

        • The plan is to have 42 by 2023. That will encompass three squadrons, 2 active and 1 OCU. Which provides 24 available for carriers duties.

          There is a commitment to eventual purchase 138 over the lifetime of the program. This will involve standing up at least two additional squadrons in the late 2020s.

          The carriers are designed to operate a maximum of 36 F-35s. 12 regularly, 24/36 in a surge. 36 is achievable by 2023 in an emergency.

          It is almost guaranteed that we will purchase more than 48. The 138 number doubtful though.

          Ron stop been a cuck.

    • I suspect the answer to your first question Ron5 is no. Last time the navy tried something like this, fitting their main units with the Cooperative Engagement Capability, the Treasury pulled the funds. So I suspect the carriers, T45s, Typhoons, Voyagers, Airseekers and whatever replaces Sentry will not get MFADL (or NIFCCA). As for your second question, I suppose one answer is that we are contributing the most capable flat-top to a combined NATO force that our resources can afford, whether for use by the RN, RAF, USMC or Italy. But you are right to be sceptical, I doubt we’ll ever see more than 12 Lightnings on a Queen and if it does surge in an emergency, I doubt it’ll be to anything over 24. That plus 9 ASW Merlins and 4 Crowsnest will make a total of 37 or there about… but I suspect the USMC will enjoy their deployments to the British ships.

    • Ron5 is aggressive and unnecessarily unpleasant Jon. He is unusual for this site – I think most of the posters tend to be far more normal than him, so don’t let him put you off visiting the site.

      • I thinks that’s a bit unfair Ben, some comments are a bit off-base, fantasy fleet and on occasion pure trolling but there are a few commenters here with very deep knowledge and expertise,. For instance, if an A400M article comes up we actually have (if I’ve remembered correctly) the ex Airbus programme manager of that project as an active commenter here. There is also Gunbuster with deep first-hand knowledge of RN weapons and other systems, Lee re RAF stuff. There and also many others who ask interesting questions and make astute observations. Sometimes you can miss out on some great additional insight and information by not reading the comments. I respect your right to your opinion Ben but in general I find the comments section quite valuable.

  2. Maybe Ron5 could have delivered in a more soothing way what was said ,however irrespective of how aggressive his tone what he said was factually correct. Maybe its time someone voiced some of our frustrations for after all our politicians certainly don’t seem too phased by the situation but then they irrespective of party over the years have rarely delivered in practical.

  3. When it comes to politics, my guess is as good and as bad as anyone else, but this is my understanding of what happened.

    When the financial crisis hit, there was a realization that we really couldn’t afford our military plans, and so the sdsr2010 happened with a number of heavy cuts. At this time, they wanted to cut the carriers from 2 to 1, but it was more expensive to do so than to build the 2 (i understand) and it was politically too toxic to sell one of them and so we got stuck building 2 carriers that we couldn’t afford.

    However, we kept on with the planning on the assumption that we will only have 1, which we could afford, and so the numbers of F35’s we have planned are fully aligned with this.

    Effectively this means we have to spread the jets over the 2 platforms, and so it is unlikely that they will ever operate at max capacity and this is why the assault ship idea came about, it gives us a way getting better value for the 2 platforms that we realistically don’t need, based on the resources at hand.

    The 138 figure is as always a political game of pass the parcel. We will have them at some point in the future, but its upto some future government to either find the money or announce the cut in numbers. The same game with the new light frigate, a vague notion that we will have more vessels but not actual order.

    Saying that, its not all doom and gloom. Imagine if during the Falklands we had a carrier with 48 jets (instead of 20 odd we had at the time) and a second maxed out with Apache and Chinooks to support the ground force. I suspect, with this, the ground war would have been a lot easier.

    Ok we have the issue of lack of escort vessels compared to then, but that’s another story. Let’s hope at some point in the future they will equip the carriers with defensive missiles or the CAMM(L) could be somehow used onboard the carriers.

  4. Steve’s comment is bang on. Despite the cuts and the doom mongering over so much concerning HM forces and the MoD few countries can match our capabilities, in many areas.

    I also don’t get what Ron5 is supposed to have done? |From my point of view everything he said was fair comment and correct re numbers.

    If we can get both carriers in service simultaneously one with a mixed Tailored Air Group of 12 plus F35, 9 Merlin for ASW and 4 or so Merlin for AEW plus a second carrier with Lynx, Apache Chinook in effect replacing HMS Ocean I would settle for that.

    • So would I! I think on balance our armed forces are doing pretty well although we can all agree they could be doing a lot better. The main problems are manpower and morale. I doubt we’ll be able to get the two carriers to sea, not for a lack of aircraft, but for a lack of boys and girls to go on them…

  5. The way the Royal Navy has been depleted over the years is a national disgrace,any country with a few modern weapons would cause us we really serious problems in a conflict. You can forget retaking the Falklands,we are not capable.. Horatio would turn in his grave!!.

    • And how would Argentina invade in the first place ? The current condition of our military is a calculated gamble, things will improve considerably in the near future.

    • That’s funny because in 1982 Argentina had just 5 modern weapons and they almost stopped the royal navy. If they had ten air launched Exocet we would probably have been done. The RN by 2023 will be at its most capable high end fighting force since 1945 equipped with the worlds best naval fighter. Fewer ships but everyone of them sate of the art and no bullet catchers among them.

      A force with 2 Queen Elizabeth Class packing 40+ F35 4 T45 6 T26/T23 and four Astute SSN’s is more than enough to take on any other Navy in a blue water engagement except the US Navy.

    • Yep forget the Falklands because the Argentinian armed forces have ceased to exist as a viable fighting force.

  6. Have just read that the first batch 42 X F35 are dangerous due to shortcuts in the safety process also faults with the landing process computerised cotrols and clutch these issues may never be fixed bugs in 1 million lines of code this has a knock on affect due to the fact the the two UK carriers have only this aircraft no other aircraft can land on our CARRIERS due to No CATS and TRAPS. Uk might have to convert one of the carriers due the Uk government being so short sighted with this aircraft and Carrier

    • Wouldn’t believe everything you read Colin! Yes there are problems with the f-35. Name me one major military programme that hasn’t been beset with problems? I should know, I’ve been around quite a few. The majority will get sorted out eventually. Those that can’t will be dealt with through operational procedures and workarounds. This is going to be one hell of a military capability. No need to change anything. Let’s keep our heads and continue to work relentlessly towards delivering that capability.

    • CATS and TRAPS is not going to happen .
      The F35 is not dangerous. It has risks associated with the project that will be managed by the project team.
      Post Hadden Cave you can no longer cowboy safety and risk management on military projects.

      • Sounds like you’ve been at the receiving end of post Hadden Cave! I certainly have! It led to the creation of the MAA (and not before time) and everything is now subservient to its rules and regulations. It’s like the civil world under the CAA/EASA. the problem is of course that the pendulum has swung the other way (I suppose it had to) and everyone now hides behind it. The Services have become too risk averse with everyone looking over their shoulder. But it is settling down now and many good things have come out of it. It was long overdue and had to happen. But when they want to drive a coach and horses through it, they still do – look at how they gave Airseeker its Release to Service. Basically when the RAF asked Northrop to provide them with the documentary evidence to support DE&S’ Safety Case submission they were told where to put it! In the end the SecState had to sign a waiver himself.

    • Not read this, but even if true, this is not a problem since the first batch of 42 will either go into our test planes or be eaten up by the USMC, i highly doubt any of the 42 would end up in active service in the RAF/FAA.

  7. Isn’t this all around the failures of effective procurement. Can we break the BAE monopoly and get some real value into our shipbuilding and armament programmes?

  8. Please do not tar us all with that loathsome brush. Many of us are very keen and post constructive, well considered comments.

    Of course, the MoD are not going to order 138 in one go. The cost of the early batches are going to be much more than the later batches.

    The later batches will have have developments and upgrades built in.

    It is idiotic for us to buy too many straight away. We do not have the defence budget of bigger countries and we have other priorities now. Do we need to spend more on defence? Yes, definitely. Up to 3% GDP, but that will not happen. I would settle for 2.5%.

    Lets just just set expectations at reasonable levels.

  9. Let’s just remember that this article is old – as are some of the comments judging by the time stamps. Things have improved since then, and they’ll continue to do so.

    Can we finally get behind what a fantastic asset this will be for our country?

  10. When I was a kid and didn’t understand the value of money, I recall reading about hundreds of Jaguars and MRCAs being purchased to supplement the military. These days, a few billion (just like that, millions of folks hard earned taxes) buys two dozen! How sad things have become. There is something seriously adrift with the defence budget! I just don’t understand how the French maintain a far larger air arm on less money.

    • Easy, its because they maintain older aircraft and lack strategic enablers

      No strategic Lift (C17 cost over $300 million each)
      They don’t operate 60 Chinooks
      Limited AAR capability until now
      No Air Seeker equivalent (yet again a $300 million + Aircraft)
      No Sentinal (another $300 million + aircraft)
      No P8 equivalent ( another $300 million aircraft)

      By 2025 the French Army and Navy are projected to operate a total of 210 Rafale and 40 Mirage 2000. We are projected to operate 160 Typhoon and 48 F35B at the same time. So they will have more fast jets but a much less capable and older fleet, much the same if we keep our Tornado’s flying.

      • Very interesting information Martin. Thanks. And also thanks to TH, it was a good question, one that I had wondered about myself.

        Martin – to complete the picture, you compare 2025 projections for the UK and French fast jet fleets. Does France have plans to address any of the gaps you mentioned in her strategic enablers (C17/Air Seeker/Sentinel/P8 equivalents)?

        I think I know the plans for AAR – France has 8 Voyager currently on order against a planned total of 12 so ultimately pretty comparable with UK capability, slightly less given that the UK can call the commercial/Thomas-Cook ones into service if required to get to a fleet of 14 and we have all of ours already delivered including the commercial surge ones. Is my understanding of the AAR comparison correct?

        • Your comparison is correct Julian. Only one U.K. Voyager in TC colours. Four in RAF colours at Brize costing money just to be maintained in working order. Could be brought in at very short notice. Occasionally rotated with one of the ones in service in an attempt to keep overall airframe hours down. France will not buy C-17. Instead buying 50 A400M in total. Only 5% of the U.K. air transportable loads cannot be carried by A400M and require C-17 (or An-124 or C-5). Don’t know the French equivalent but cannot be that different. They will not buy Chinook. Nor will they buy an Airseeker equivalent or Sentinel equivalent. They do however operate a special ELINT version of the C-160 Transall so in the fullness of time they might convert some of their A400M airframes to such a role as well – who knows…

    • Answer to your French air arm question TH is that they don’t. They have far fewer aircraft with some “frontline” types up to 40 years old. Also look at the Germans…very similar state.

  11. The strategy is one of becoming a carrier group for the US. Just like the NSA is reliant on GCHQ, make US carrier deployment factor in the UK carriers with USMC jets deployed as the second / third squadron.

    Soon the RN, with USMC planes, will be the Med / Atlantic primary carrier group freeing up US carrier rotation for the mid-east and China. I bet the US throws in an Aegis to be deployed permanently as well.

    • I agree but I think we will rotate with the US in the Middle East and Med instead of the Atlantic, QE Class will deploy there with one USMC and one RAF squadron permanently embarked. Given our deployments in the Gulf I would even argue for Fifth Fleet to become a joint Anglo US command.

      If not I would like to see a new British Eastern fleet designated and based either in Dubai or Bahrain. Given our typical deployment there is 1 T45 1 T23 4 MCM 2 Fleet Auxiliary and one SSN it is easily justifiable to have a fleet command based there especially if joined by an RFTG for half the year.

      Designating the existing assets there as a fleet sends a strong message about the UK’s capability and role in the region. (plus it sounds really cool 🙂 )

      • We already have that, UKMCC in Bahrain has OP Control of UK units in the GULF and IO.
        Soon there will be a T23 based permanently in Bahrain. The MCMV force may come down to 3 units supported by One Bay class on station.A T45 being permanently based in Bahrain is also a very good bet to make.

        • Not sure about a permanent deployment for T45 but there is normally one in the region along with an SSN and T23 at the moment.

          I am all for the single T23 forward deployment however with so few ships we must avoid permanent commitments.

    • “The strategy is one of becoming a carrier group for the US”

      We will only ever have one carrier on deployment and I would be horrified if it’s sole usage is to free up American assets so they can bolster their numbers in the Asia-pacific

      Why don’t the Royal Navy bolster the numbers in the Asia-pacific where we have five power countries there, the med is surrounded by allies, it has standing Nato and EU patrols that we can participate in, and we have air bases in Cyprus. Plus there isn’t a fast becoming superpower militarising a sea that a host of other countries lay claim to.

      There is a reason the US has carrier gaps in the gulf now, and it isn’t going to be fixed by them, their strategists see no strategic value in keeping a carrier in the gulf, in fact before they had a carrier in the gulf oil output was rising at its fastest and there is little evidence of a major shift in power dynamics there with or without a carrier being deployed there.

      Our carrier should be deployed on the strategic wishes of our own government, all around the world, wether that be the med, gulf, Atlantic or Asia-pacific.

      • Freeing up or covering a US carrier spot does not mean we are giving our ship to the US, it just means they can gap the capability as they have a trusted ally with the capability in the region. the Carrier could fill in the slot in the Middle East and conduct training with India and 5 powers all on same deployment. The USN carrier in the Indian Ocean does much the same. It does not just sit in the gulf waiting. Its near enough to respond quickly if required.

  12. Makes a lot of sense when you consider steal is cheap and air is free. The US Navy has a shortage of carriers so why not build our ships big enough and get them to give us a squadron. Also during the Fallaklands we were able t surge nearly 90% of our harrier force so even with just 48 we could fill two QE’s at a push with 36 on one and 12 on the other plus helicopters as LPH.

    • Plus there’s almost certainly some kind for development for drone launches from carrier decks coming during their lifetime (speculation). Adds a capability we currently don’t have without buying more F-35’s.

  13. Interesting conversation, and it serves to highlight the gap in capability if we are unable to put a full air group in each ship. Leaving aside the F35 debate, and I am sure that the USMC will be happy to oblige, what about the helo position? There are currently 30 Merlin HM2’s available. The full ASW fit for the ships is 9, plus four or five fitted for AEW. That is half the available airframes. Factor in maintenance and training and there are no aircraft for any other ASW role, ie deployed on a T23 or T45, or in the other carrier. Let’s hope that the forthcoming review has something to say on it. I am with everyone else on the need for an increase in defence spending, but the Public accounts committee were told yesterday that there is no new money for a forces pay rise, so I doubt that a budget hike is out there.
    Looking back to the 70’s the fixed wing Ark Royal went to sea with an air group of 12 F4’s, 10/12 Buccaneers, 4 Gannet AEW plus a COD Aircraft, 6 Sea Kings plus a couple of SAR Wessex, 35+ aircraft on a deck a lot smaller than QE. There is no substitute for numbers.

    • Helions – HMS QE + FS CDG could be quite a potent combination,CDG provides AEW Capability,HMS QE provides ASW Capabilty (plus escorts obviously) plus combined strike force of F35b and Rafale M whats not to like !

      • Hi Paul,

        absolutely. I believe I’ve pointed out in the past the synergies such a pairing would have asset wise. Add an Astute (or two) providing underwater cover and that would really vex the PLAN. particularly if there are no USN ships involved – only allied navies. Perhaps the RAN would be interested in participating?

        Cheers!

  14. Right, I’m going to play devil’s advocate now and throw a curved ball. Question: what’s the point of operating a carrier with 12, 24 or however many F-35s, if it will to all intents and purposes continue to be dependent on nearby friendly land based aircraft such as Voyager and Poseidon? For the aircraft carrier to be truly effective and therefore worth the investment, these vital war fighting capabilities should be organic to the carrier’s air wing, surely. Otherwise what’s the point? So, you could argue that in extremis you could buddy-buddy from another F-35 (not particularly effective), but a Merlin HM-2 is no replacement for a Poseidon. Even the US Navy lacks that capability once they got rid of the Viking S3A (big mistake). So will the carriers always be somewhat compromised or handicapped?

      • Wow! I totally agree with that piece Hellions. Organic fixed wing AAR and ASW, excellent and absolutely necessary! Repackaging some of the Poseidon’s systems and/or in combination with some of the very good kit on both the Merlin Mk-2 and Seahawk MH-60R onto a retreaded Viking would not be beyond the wit of man. Bring back the Viking!

    • In my opinion a carrier is still a capital ship that replaced the battleship, therefore it’s main use is to sink other ships to control the seas.

      So a refuelling aircraft wouldn’t really be needed in a naval battle between a peer on peer conflict. Would you want to send your aircraft thousands of miles away knowing the enemy has aircraft that could come to you?

      I think decades of no peer on peer conflict, even no near-peer conflict has evolved the carriers role for easy interventions in regional conflicts. Which is why questions like this are being asked and it’s a fair question seeing as getting involved against countries with practically no navy is what we have been doing since the second world war, so why shouldn’t we have that extra capability to make that job easier and more affective.

      But for me that is “extra capability” its not vital for a carriers main use, and that use is if s**t hits the fan in the SCS, we can send two carriers, two dreadnoughts of today if you will, surged with F35 and just enough AEW, surrounded with every escort we can muster to take part in a naval battle, and given who we are, who our allies are and the massive geopolitical implications of a conflict in that area would bring, it’s a battle we need to be in.

      • I think the QE class would do particularly well in a Balkan/ Med/ Middle East / Battle of Norway type scenario which would play to its strengths and its weaknesses (air group / self defense weapons) would be offset by her escorts and other NATO assets. Not talking about needing USN ships in the Battle Group mix, Euro NATO members have more than enough modern naval assets to form a truly formidable task force/s on their own.

        Cheers!

      • Totally agree with you SoleSurvivor. Trouble is the Navy has abandoned that concept in favour of providing mobile real estate for the Air Force. Maybe in time they’ll change back. The military is by definition always fighting the last war. Doctrine right now, and therefore the justification for building the carriers and getting the RAF to support the Navy in doing so, is to provide power projection for U.K. Defence. That essentially means land strike capability first. Organic air defence second. ASW and ASuW were dropped as requirements post Warsaw Pact collapse. Hence TLAM replaced Sub Harpoon in submarines and the surface fleet did not see the need for a Harpoon replacement. We also retired Sea Eagle without a replacement. Now we’re beginning to have second thoughts. We’re building T26 for ASW and have upgraded Merlin to Mk-2 spec and buying Poseidon. But there is no money still for ASuW. USN is panic funding SM-6, anti ship TLAM and LRASM as stop gap ASuW solutions but RN shows no sign of buying them although the Mk-41 VLS on T26 could fire them and the F-35B could carry LRASM under the wing. We are looking at concepts like Perseus with the French but that’s just a concept. No endorsed requirement or money behind it. So your carriers are not going to be used for fighting ships. Not for a while yet (unless they embark lots of Wildcats with Sea Venom!). Your modern Dreadnaoughts are the Astutes but just with Spearfish. So back to playing devil’s advocate: yes the F-35s should be fitted with LRASM, but I still think we need a fixed wing vehicle that can be launched and recovered without a catapult and trap that can do organic wide area ASW and AAR. Otherwise the carriers will either have to stay within friendly airfield range or expose themselves to submarine and land (missile) attack unnecessarily. Now there’s a challenge! P.S. I post this in the hope that someone can tell me I’m wrong and put my mind at rest! Oh, and the USN should bring back the Viking.

          • Wow! This is a surprise and extraordinary. Certainly puts the cat among the pigeons! Thanks Helions.

        • Fixed wing ASW and Task Group ASW are totally different concepts.
          The P8 is, lets be honest, going to be used for Bomber protection out of Faslane. There wont be enough of them to do much else.
          Organic Helo ASW will be for carrier and frigate /destroyer ops. A Merlin working in conjunction with one or two T23 (in futureT26) using towed array is a massively powerful ASW asset. The use of EW, surface search radar for use against snorting conventional subs, Sonobuoys and dipping sonar make a helo a very very good sub killer. In littoral waters there are other systems that can be added to a helo to help you find subs in the shallower water.
          RN Helo’s thats Merlin and Wildcat will carry Mk75 StingRay compared to a glorified Mk46 on a P8. With a Mk 75 you actually have a good chance of killing a sub with one hit be it conventional or a nuke, in littoral or deep water.
          The P8 is going to get the Mk54. That’s a MK46 back end with a new front end. All the modern electronics in the world crammed into the front don’t alter the fact that it is still a Mk 46 propulsion system that isnt fast enough and it doesn’t have a sub killing warhead (Shaped Charge). The RN developed StingRay was developed because the MK 46 was not good enough 30 years ago against modern subs. We are now taking a jump back 30 years with fixed wing ASW weapons.

          • Thanks Gunbuster. You could be right though MOD maintains P8 is also being bought to protect the carriers when deployed. Agreed move to Mk54 torps on the P8 is a retrograde step. But what’s the alternative? Developing a Stingray alternative would take time and be very expensive. The gps guided flying kit alone… Or the P8 would have to get down and dirty. Yes, multi static coherent active sonar using VLF VDS sonar, passive towed arrays, active and passive sonobuoys and dipping FLASH sonar is indeed an awesome capability but one which works a lot better when you have an MPA freely ranging ahead of a task group. And an organic one if possible even better.

  15. The Royal Navy must get its ships outfitted with CEC, cooperative engagement capability, to take full advantage of the sensor capabilities of the f35. A very long range over the horizon anti-air missile like the sm6 wouldn’t go amiss either. I dream of the day UKDJ reports that a drone was successfully destroyed by an sm6 fired from the mk41 of a type 26 or 45, with sensor data provided by an f35b from HMS Queen Elizabeth.

    • Don’t hold your breath CBI. Should have been done ages ago. Lord West agreed (when CNS) to a cut in escort numbers down to 19 in exchange for CEC. Then the Treasury reneged on the promise.

    • No different to any other major programme Helions. And if you wait till all deficiencies are corrected before production starts you’ll never have any aeroplanes. You have to bite the bullet and start sometime! And some deficiencies will never get corrected and operational workarounds will be developed to deal with them. Like all other sophisticated pieces of technology. Nothing new. But then nobody will ever mentioned all those areas where the aircraft performs better than the laid down requirement. Many, many more than the deficiencies. Head down, keep calm, keep working. It’ll be a great aircraft.

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