Military AircrewA forum for the professionals who fly the non-civilian hardware, and the backroom boys and girls without whom nothing would leave the ground. Army, Navy and Airforces of the World, all equally welcome here.
The government's decision to axe the UK's fleet of Harrier jump jets is "bonkers", a former head of the Royal Navy has said. Labour's Lord West of Spithead, security minister in the previous government, was supported by the Liberal Democrats' former defence spokesman Lord Lee of Trafford, who described the proposals as "madness".
Quite right - and its because w've salami sliced for the last 5 years (at least), as well as 'rolling' the end of year debt into the following year, that we are in such a state. Plenty of options (similar to the Harrier and Nimrod decisions) have been put forward over the years but the SofS has always bottled it.
Quite amusing to think of Navy, Army and Air Force peers having a go in the bar afterwards.
If we take West's statement (".. if we remove the Tornado force we are looking at £7.5bn by 2018. With the Harriers we are looking at less than £1bn. So in cost terms that does not make sense") and Craig's seeming acceptance of that, but (".. Tornado surely produces the better result particularly bearing in mind how many aircraft are needed to be supportive in Afghanistan"), then is he attaching the cost of £6.5 billions as acceptable for keeping Tornado in Afghanistan?
Hence Tornado survived since it had an enduring capability in AFG and Harrier did not.
Quite, and the point is that Lord West et al need to recall from their briefings when they bottled said decisions is that if the GR4s had been binned, it's not as if JFH would have been spending their time on a CVS anyway - as they'd have been (almost continuously) in Afghanistan.
How much deck time outside of Joint Warrior / JMCs have JFH had over the last five years? Not so much, IIRC.
Bottom line: would it have been nice to have retained both JFH and GR4? Of course - but that's not the world we live in, and I'd have kept MRA4 over JFH every day and twice on Sundays. (In fact, I'd probably have cut more GR4s to retain Nimrod, but that's a different argument.)
Considering the fact that the shar (the fighter/fleet defence aircraft!) was withdrawn many years ago, surely our aircraft carriers would not have been able to sensibly deploy somewhere where there were hostile airforces capable of striking our ships since then?
So therefor the statement that we are losing such an important asset of carrier strike... well, its simply rubbish, we lost it in real terms years ago. Yes the GR7/9's could launch from the ship, but when has this been used to real effect, without aircover from SHARs or other fighter asset, in the past 20 years?
It is a sad loss of the Harrier force and a kick in the teeth for the pilots/engineers/etc, but savings needed to be made... and we are committed to 'stan for years to come where the best fleet to service that obligation are the gr4s.
Listening to Lord West the only thought in my head was that here is lord west of the Labour party trying to score political points and playing on his military career to aid his argument; but this argument is inherently flawed!
The SDSR is completely flawed; in that we are losing capabilities that we cannot afford to lose!
We need Tornado GR4 and the Nimrod MRA4. And if we are building two Aircraft Carriers; we need some jets to operate from them. Why scrap aircraft that we have bought and paid for that can be used until we can afford to replace them with new aircraft. So, therfore Harrier GR9 Should also be kept.
In my opinion this Government should be cutting from other budgets entirely, not the Defence budget.
I say leave the EU.. I really can't see any benefits to being in this useless club. We are paying so much for another useless tier of Government.
The savings from this move would solve the financial problems at one stroke! It's the obvious thing to do..
Last edited by Out Of Trim; 28th Oct 2010 at 11:59.
I'm no fan of politicians, but I think we're wrong in lumping ALL of the blame onto the Government (either this one or the last)
According to all the pre-announcement PR, the point of SDSR was to solve the entire problem for Defence: not just the cut in our budget for the future (7.5% I understand), but also the £36Bn 'black hole' that Bernard Gray reported last year.
Now according to my calculations, 7.5% of £34Bn (last year's Defence budget) for 10 years, adds up to 'only' £25.5Bn. So the MAJORITY of the problem stems not from the 'global financial crisis' or from 'labour's financial mismanagement' (depending on whether you're Red or Blue), but from the MOD's ineptitude in controlling its own long term budget!
If only there had been a top civil servant in MOD who could have teamed up with a top, non-partisan, military officer! They could have stopped the train wreck that everyone had seen coming for the last 5 years! Perhaps we should establish such posts...
As I am sure has been said elsewhere, the aircraft and pilots just represent the front end of the carrier strike capability. The idiocy of the SDSR decision, which the PM is about to compound in the FR/UK Defence deal (FT Today), is that we risk losing the capability to operate jets off carriers. All of the expertise on the current CVSs will have gone (we are getting rid of the CVSs), the aircrew will have gone (either PVRd, redundant or moved to other aircraft types, the command experience will have gone (as will the met, ATC, FC, deck handlers, planners etc, etc).
In my many years in the Service and beyond it has been the most astonishing Defence decision made - I just hope the CAS (I understand the current CAS made a promise to the PM) at the time can deliver because the RN will have lost the ability. I presume the RAF will provide all of the manpower, including ship's company?
Since the decision in May 2012 that we would purchase F35B as originally planned, and that future CVF operations would be STOVL ones, the issues of retaining STOVL skillsets amongst both aircrew and ships' personnel are more relevant than ever. The issue of whether of not the UK needs a fixed wing carrier capability in the next few years is brought into focus by talk of possible conflicts which may involve UK forces, for example possible hostilities in the Gulf or international action over Syria.
Potentially all of these things could be sorted out. We have STOVL capable ships, STOVL trained pilots and carrier crews, have a STOVL future to prepare for, and STOVL aircraft do exist. The politicians could make this into a success.
The comments and suggestions below apply even more now.
A few points:
1. At the time of the retirement of the Sea Harrier, we were assured (and I doubt the Admirals would have accepted it otherwise) that the Harrier GR9 would keep carrier flying going. The GR9 can perform a limited (fleet) air defence role - it is supposedly more agile than SHAR, has Sidewinders, and would hopefully be supported by Sea King ASACS. The support of an AEW/ISTAR asset would mitigate against the lack of radar. See later posts - including those on page 15.
It was also argued that we were more likely to need strike aircraft - ie the GR9. Now we rely totally on Host Nation Support and hoping that range, logistics, and security issues are not too tricky. What was that about Canada being denied use of a UAE airfield recently?
2. How will we maintain the skills of flight deck crews, planners, met types, FC and ATC types, and so on? What about the teamwork needed throughout the ship, from the bridge to the Operations Room to the Ship Control Centre? Before you ask, I have been aboard a carrier doing flying work ups. I also witnessed the GR9s doing an air defence exercise.
See this later post that talks about the skills needed by the carrier crew - here.
I think this review was rushed, and bodged. Would anyone with experience of these things really think that you can have a TEN year gap then pick up the baton and carry on? Were any people with carrier experience consulted?
Before the review, everyones' favourite General, Sir Richard Dannatt, was on the TV saying that certain capabilities can be put in extended readiness and then brought out of the cupboard when needed? Is this what he meant?
3. Will the next decade be like the last one (largely assymetric enemies wiithout navies. air forces, or anything like that) or the previous one - with nation state or pseudo nation (ie the Bosnian Seb) enemies with air forces, navies, etc? Fortunately, the Prime Minister can see into the future, as he said in his statement when he said everything will be counter insurgency.
4. Supposedly HM Treasury has claimed that as there may be a post Harrier gap (assuming a 2018 OSD), then a ten year gap doesn't increase the risk. You can't argue with that sort of reasoning.
5. Why is Lord West not allowed to speak up? Because he is ex RN? Or because he (unwisely in my opinion) took up a post as a minister under the last Government?
6. Despite everything supposedly being COIN in the future, we are keeping the bulk of heavy armour and artillery? Are we expecting the third shock army to break through the West German boarder? Yes, scrapping it would be short sighted, but surely if we're just looking as Afghanistan.... You don't mean the report wasn't totally balanced?
7. There is a petition: Saving the Harrier. You could also think about writing to your MP, or even contacting the Prime Minister. Of particular interest are points 1, 2, and 9. Following the sale of the GR9 fleet to the United States, point 11 (below) should be of interest.
8. The RN has paid a price of ships, aircraft, personnel, and capabilities under this review. If the predication of no wars for ten years is wong, then the consequences will involve blood and fire.
9. For a practical suggestion of how this issue might be resolved, carrier related skills retained for the future, a carrier strike capability retained for use in Libya and other places this decade, and the issue of the retired GR9s dealt with, see this post from later on:
It occurs to me that if we could supply a number (most of them?) of our now stored Harrier GR9s to the US, and continue to offer the USMC a chance to carry out embarkations of a dozen or so Harriers, we may be able to purchase or lease a number of AV8B (AV8B+ if we're lucky) aircraft in a quid pro quo type arrangement. Hopefully any such deal would include some sort of MOU in order to prevent the UK to incur major support costs, but would offer the following advantages:
1. The UK would still be able to respond to crises in which carrier aviation is useful.
2. The RN would maintain the skills needed to run a carrier with jets on deck, and would maintain a cadre of both Pilots and Engineers to work with these aircraft, avoiding the need to start from scratch later on this decade.
3. If we could get AV8B+s then it would give the Navy a capability that it lost when the Sea Harrier was retired in 2006. We would therefore be in a far better position to provide air defence for a maritime task group, or to participate in policing a no fly zone.
4. We would no longer have to pay for storing retired aircraft, and the Government would be justified in portraying this as a step forward.
5. Our potential adversaries would have something to think about - prevention (deterrence) being better than cure.
6. The defence relationship with the US would be strengthened, as would the defence relationship with France as Illustrious would be able to relieve Charles De Gaulle in x months time. Or indeed, Illustrious or Queen Elizabeth could rotate with CDG in other operations this decade.
The use of Ocean as a platform for Apaches operating in a strike role seems to show that a maritime strike capability is needed for what the Government wants the Armed Forces to be capable of doing. Now there is talk of Illustrious relieving Ocean - for which her post refit work up will need to be rushed, with Apaches embarking and learning to operate from her deck. Note the use of the word STRIKE.
10. Alternatively, there was the "out of the box" RNR/Harrier proposal discussed here and here.
11. Here is another "out of the box" proposal that I made after the decision was made to sell the entire GR9 fleet to the United States. This one would make use of existing (Sea Harrier) assets that are still mostly in MOD (or at least UK) hands. Regenerate a pair of Sea Harriers (and maybe a T8N trainer) and attach them NFSF(FW), for operation by UK based RN fixed wing jocks and/or RNR WAFUs, and regenerate a larger number if needed for an operational deployment. UK based RN fixed wing types would have something to fly, and we would have something to embark at sea.
12. On a similar note, why can be not attach just a few (a couple?) borrowed AV8Bs to Naval Flying Standards Flight (Fixed Wing) to give something for UK based RN fixed wing pilots to fly, and to provide a jet to embark aboard the carrier pre F35B? Mentioned here.
13. HMS Illustrious is in a good condition, and could easily remain in service post 2014 - to 2016 when HMS Queen Elizabeth will be ready to put to sea. Or beyond.
Last edited by WE Branch Fanatic; 16th May 2013 at 19:24.
"The GR9 can perform a limited (fleet) air defence role " - limited being the operative word. SHAR had a radar and a rocket with legs, GR7/9 with heaters only and mk 1 eyeball... I know who I would put my money on out of those two in a scrap!
Lord West can speak up all he likes; if he were doing so as 'exRN' it would be interesting and worthwhile hearing his viewpoint. But in this case it appears far more like political point scoring (he is a politician now, not an admiral and thus tarnished with the political brush) - ironic considering the only reason the harriers have been binned is because 'his' party overspent for 10 yrs, and under the same govt binned the RN Shar (which at the time had the same backlash from members of the RN).
UK Plc is watering down our global role in line with what we can afford - which is not much... sad, but true.