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.
Engines, I believe he's talking about the fuel dump issues reported in the media back in January.
As pointed out there is lots that carriers can do even without an embarked fixed wing force, although you can do even more with one.
I still think we missed a trick not using Ark Royal with the aircraft embarked for Auriga 10 deployment: SK7, Merlin, Lynx and Harrier GR9 (with Sniper recce pod and Rover) in the anti piracy role. C & C platform, good area coverage, good mix of size and armament of helos covering a multitude of options, FJ with good recce capability and live downlink to the CVS ops room and A-G weapons if needed.
Ark also did a lot of the work up of the Apaches during the Autumn Joint Warrior 10, paving the way for HMS Ocean and Op Ellamy. Little remembered but important none the less!
163627, you need to be careful how you view QE class carriers. They may be nearly 3 times the size of the Invincible class but they're still not Nimitz size and the concept of ops is far different.
The current plan is for QE to carry 12 F35s plus a mix of helos. This makes it a jack of all trades (master of none?) not a "strike carrier" as you might imagine. Personally I think it's probably the right way to go.
By state of the art C2 I assume we are dreaming about QE, not Invincible class!!!
Orca - I agree, especially about the sea shy, although I think you are being quite generous to many at the Cdr / Wg Cdr level, that seems to be the rank where they turn and become politicians and few resist!
Hi Backwards, I am sure the 'B' is a great aircraft but to me if we have carriers then we should have 'proper' carriers and there should be AEW plus EW capability. These carriers must surely be big enough to have a full capability but I bow to Not A Boffin regarding this topic.
glojo, I'm not so sure the B is a great aircraft, except in a pure engineering sense. I, like pretty much everyone else, think we should be going with the C. As you pointed out that means that not only is the C a more capable aircraft but also you can operate fixed wing AEW/EW/transport/RPA.
The carriers will have AEW capability, but unfortunately it will be rotary based with all the downsides that brings (height, range, speed, endurance).
The QE class could go with an all F35 loadout but it isn't as simple as flying the helos off and landing JSF on. And as I said that isn't the currnt plan - it's not all about fast jets, helos bring an awful lot of flex and capability to the party. Look at all the examples in your earlier post and which would have been more useful a bunch of stealthy FJ or a bunch of helos? Just to clarify - I am a FJ guy and I can't quite believe I'm saying this!
Hi Backwards, Totally agree with all you are saying, I cringe at the thought of rotary AEW but I am an old fogey that served alongside Nelson so these new helicopter toys might be sufficient but to my way of thinking we need 'height' and 'duration'
Any carrier we deploy MUST carry sufficient rotor wing capability to carry out the numerous functions that are part and parcel of carrier deployment. Looking back at our last conventional carrier I believe she carried at least ten RW aircraft but I look forward to reading the thoughts of those better qualified to comment.
This post reads like I am making suggestions but please accept I should be asking questions.
I accept the Super Hornet is getting long in the tooth but a little voice keeps asking if we are making far too much of 'First Day' strike capability. Is the costs of this technology justified when we have tomahawk along with UAVs. Why not look at the Growler along with any further developments. Boeing have the so called 'Silent F-15E' will there be further improvements for the F-18?
The "plan" such as it is, reflects it's authors rather than what the ship is capable of. There is currently a b8ggers muddle called Carrier Enabled Power Projection that seeks to have 12 F35, half a dozen Chinook, some Merlin and possibly some rotary-bag and even AH64 all embarked together.
The idea is (correctly) to demonstrate the flexibility the (large) ship brings. However, it does not mean that is only what the CAG should look like. For example, were we ever to go up against a remotely credible air force, (naval or land based) then you'd want more jets and less Wokka.
However, these "plans" are only assumptions, a bit like FE@R, they can change. What you have to make sure is that the baseline enabling capability (the ship) is flexible enough to do all (or most) the things you want to do now and in the future. That means cat n trap....
Isn't it really the B model or nothing? Therefore B model wins and should be seen as a good thing. Bit like the old Harrier vs. the real carrier arguments that raged on last century. Decisions are made [good & bad] and we will just have to do the job!
I'll stick my head above the parapet and say that I'm not convinced that cats and traps are the way to go.
The 2000lb class weapons in the bay of a -C is a complete red herring to me. So you're having to go in LO config, i.e. it's a high threat environment; there's a target out there that a 1000lb class munition will bounce off but a 2000lb will destroy; and the threat that was so high a minute ago that made you go in LO is now sufficiently low that there's no chance that they'll protect the said target with SA-19 or -22 to take down the odd singleton PGM. Sounds like a trivial edge case to me that can be ignored. The question about capability is 'how many SDBs do I get in the bay' and it's the same for -B or -C.
When you play Top Trumps with the fuel number of course the -C wins. But then look at how we've traditionally operated tailhook vs STOVL aircraft. Hornet guys usually aim to be back overhead Mother close to max trap, or certainly with enough gas left in the tank to make a couple of passes, and then be able to hit the tanker if necessary or bingo to the beach (seeing as we don't have a tanker...) - around 3-4000lbs of fuel? Harrier guys on ops, i.e. bringing bombs back, would routinely come back with 1000lb of fuel alongside as that was all they could hover with. My point isn't that -B's could ever match the range figures or on-station time of the -C, but that I don't think the differential is quite as glaring as people make out when you start operating airplanes and stop focusing on spec numbers.
Finally on the fuel argument, how much is 'enough'? Our mighty mighty Tornados have been hailed as very successful deep strike aircraft for decades. But they don't go as far, or carry as many internal weapons, as an F1-11 would have, and they have a combat radius with a full warload that isn't that much bigger than a -B's. Just because the -C goes further than a -B doesn't render the -B useless. The basing flexibility of the -B is better than than the -C after all.
And on interoperability - buy the -C and you get one UK carrier, limited capability of cross-decking to the Frenchies if you don't land at max trap (allegedly), and you can land on any Nimitz you find. Buy the -B and you get 2 UK carriers, the French carrier, the Spanish carrier, the Italian carrier, all the Nimitz and LHA/LHD/LHX fleet and you can use any old LPH in extremis if fuel's tight. If you smoke enough mind-altering substances you can dream of a world of bottomless defence budgets in which the UK could be able to lease fleets of aircraft or buy cat & trap tankers, AEW aircraft, On-Board delivery aircraft etc. But personally I don't see it happening, ever. If we as a Nation suddenly come into a glut of cash we first need to buy some more destroyers and frigates to defend all the eggs we're putting in our carrier basket.
I suppose my position on the -B vs -C debate is that to a degree it doesn't matter. The frontline pilots who get their hands on this jet will make either work, and make it work very well. In my head they're both as capable as each other. My concern, if I have one, is that I'd hate it if, when you visit an F-35 squadron in 20 years time, all the guys are strutting around wearing patches that declare how many times they've successfully landed their airplane, and people are talking about who won the 'line period' and is 'top hook' for the last cruise etc.
Regards all, Single Seat, Single Engine, The Only Way To Fly!
Your argument of the performance of the B vs legacy jets is entirely valid, but in your assessment of B vs C, you acknowledge that the B is the inferior aircraft; so other than the 2 carrier argument and less landing risk, what is your reasoning for preferring the more expensive B? This isn't an "I'm a know it all" question, I'm interested in trying to make sense of the logic that some people put forward for the B. At the moment, the pros and cons of the B vs C, are heavily in favour of the C.
As for getting a fully decked-out carrier air wings with AEW and COD, I guess we'll know after next years comprehensive spending review, if the money will or will not be made available for that in this decade. But I have to say, I don't buy into the pessimism that is gripping the country, yes we're in a bad financial situation at the moment, but in 25 years time we could be thanking the shale gas industry for turning us into Norway; alternatively we could be queuing at the world bank for aid, both are unlikely but you get my point. Likewise, we don't know to what extent the government will prioritise defence over other spending in a more volatile world; personally I'm in the camp that the commitment to increased spending after 2015 is a sign that the next 3 years will be rock bottom for the British military - our version of the carter years, if you will.
Good arguments and whilst I don't disagree with your thought process my choice is still the C.
I do completely agree that we need strong leadership (not rules - but you can't stop the crabs making more rules given half the opportunity) to stop 'Top Hook' and 'Top Ten' patches appearing in Joint Force Lightning II. I have always found it funny how you never see a 'Top of the combat ladder' patch with the USN or 'Quite good BVR, not bad CEP' patch. (I dared to suggest once that 'the patch' (Topgun) was no more than our AWIs wearing a patch...and got looked at like I was from Mars.)
The again we are talking about the bunch who go to 'attention to award' and give people medals for going about their day to day business.
May be there is a direct parallel and the USMC award a 'top VL' for a cruise...not something we ever felt the need for!
The link is to a Defence News item confirming Hammond is still weighing up the choice between the B and C, with an announcement due sometime after May 3. The item also refers to a search for the source of the press leaks about carrier conversion costs.
I have been very disappointed in how this has been handled so far, with the indecision pointing to weakness all round, but I hope Hammond is getting accurate and impartial advice so that he can make the correct choice for the circumstances. In that respect, better two more weeks than another rushed decision followed by another about turn.
The business of leaks raises some questions too. The press are often ridiculed over howlers (see thread title for example), yet when one vested military interest or another is worried about how a project is developing, they are not slow to seek support by leaking to the press. So is the press an ally or an enemy, or both, depending on whether it is furthering your interests or belittling them?
While the accuracy is often lamentable, and there are definitely downsides, on the whole I believe that the press shining a light on some dark places is in all of our interests. Not coughing up real secrets that threaten security you understand, but military procurement in the UK has short-changed us at huge expense for too long for civil servants or governments to be able to hide behind a security cloak that does more to protect reputations and political careers than further our defence.
There are excellent points being put forward for the B as opposed to the conventional C, but what about servicing? With a carrier just over the horizon would the lack of numbers be less significant if those that were aboard the ship were available? Servicing is always a major issue and if one type needs less than the other, then should that also be taken into consideration when making this decision?
When putting forward this case, has the value of having AEW been discussed? Are the benefits of the Hawkeye significant enough to influence the decision or is it being ignored? Is that specific option as important, or even more important than what type of FJ we go for?
Do we need to look at the whole as opposed to separate parts? If we go for the B then is there a long term AEW aircraft capable of operating from a grey funnel liner?
The significance of the quoted numbers is that they are all encompassing. i.e. if you want to go to war against country A, then you had better take an air group of N F35Cs or N+Y F35Bs.
Y is due to the fact that if you want to hit deep targets - errr, well you can't so the war will last longer. If the Flankers come up to meet you then the B gives you a few 'pump and recommits' the C gives you a whole load more. The B might well have a lower availability rate...hence we arrive at Y.
I certainly didn't mean to suggest that I thought the -B was inferior, it's just different. I flew the -B a fair bit, and spent many hours in the sim 'flying' the -C and I much preferred the -B. They're both about the same empty weight (i.e. the weight penalty for STOVL is the same as the weight penalty for CV). But humping around all that extra 3 tonnes of fuel makes the -C fly differently. It's like the difference between flying an F-3 or Harrier with the drop tanks on compared to the clean config. But the -C does glide much further if you were ever to lose the donk.
I'm nowhere near clever enough to know or understand all the cost projections and estimates. Big picture though, the SDSR quoted 3.4 billion savings by switching to the -C, but I believe that included the savings from chopping the Harrier and eliminating the DPOC and only represented a cash saving of around 600 million (if memory serves). Since the cost estimates of putting the cats and traps into the PoW have ballooned from 800 million to 1.8 billion, that's certainly wiped out the up front 'saving' of switching to the -C. Curiously, the switch from -B to -C was made accepting the notion that we'd mothball the QE so only ever have one carrier with 150-200 days/year availability, which hardly sounds like an increase in overall Carrier Strike capability to me, even if the -C can go further than the -B.
The SDSR also assumed and relied on the notion that the defence budget would increase after 2015 in order to meet its extant planning assumptions for Future Force 2020. So the MoD still has a funding hole until at least the end of the decade, which makes it nigh on impossible to think about buying new aircraft types. If we decide against cats and traps now, we're probably not missing out on capability for a decade or 2. If the MoD gets rich enough in 20 years time to be able to afford E2Ds, C2s, F-18 tankers, T-45 trainers, X-45/X-47s then couldn't we modify the ships for cats during the normal refit cycle?
If the certified smart guys at Dstl say that you need to buy 138 -Bs or -92 -Cs (can't remember the exact numbers), personally I'd say that was another compelling reason to go for the -B. Wouldn't you rather see 4 operational squadrons of F-35 in UK markings rather than 3? The cliche of numbers having a quality of their own springs to mind.
Landing the -C on a ship is fundamentally no different from landing an F-18. It'll take constant training, you'll rack up the fatigue life of the jets whether you're embarked or not, you'll probably end up with an LSO empire and it makes us dependent on the US for our initial carrier training. Landing the -B on a ship is almost trivial by comparison. There truly will be an almost negligible training burden for embarked ops (from the pilot's stand-point), so there really is no need to thrash the clutch and lift system while you're shore-based. So I'm skeptical about all the accuracy of through-life cost projections that assume 50% of all -B landings will involve using the clutch etc. It also means that -B pilots can spend almost every minute of their time training to hit targets and not worrying about becoming 'Centurions' who have successfully landed on a ship 100 times.
As I said before, I'm pretty type-agnostic, but I lean towards the -B for these reasons. As long as we buy a reasonable number of F-35s I don't really mind what variant they are, or whether they say 'Royal Navy' or 'Royal Air Force' down the side. Let's not forget that, -B or -C, you still get the radar (that is so good that it makes you giggle like a school kid the first time you use it), the EOTS, the DASS, the MADL, the fusion, an awesome cockpit, and the LO capability.
Sorry for rambling on again. Regards all, Single Seat, Single Engine, The Only Way To Fly!
In an ideal world it would be nice to see 2 carriers embarked with a healthy number of -C, however this isn't a game of top trumps.
Given the known (particularly budgetary) constraints, if the choice is between 2 carriers and 138 -B or 1 carrier with 96 -C, personally I'd go for the -B.
If this is the choice (I don't know whether it is) then I can understand why the military brass might be advocating a switch back to the -B. I'd wager that 'more ships and more planes' carries more weight [for both the RAF and RN] than many of the advantages currently being advocated of the -C.
Add to the fact that reverting to the -B moves the short-term cost of installing EMALS (whatever that ballooning figure is) out of the current planning round (and any implications on carrier build schedule) and the case for the -B becomes more sound.
As I say, I understand the capability advantages of the -C but I can understand the rationale of a possible reversion to the -B.
SSSEOWTF I think that your arguments about different training needs for the B and C would have been very valid if the B could land vertically as a Harrier does. My understanding is that to be able to bring back unused weapons that the B will have to do a rolling landing. I would have thought that the skills needed to master a rolling landing on a pitching carrier deck at night relying on the aircraft's brakes to stop, whilst a different skill set from those of a run of the mill naval aviator, would mitigate against the swing squadron concept. Quite prepared to be corrected on my understanding..
The last time the RAF tried an RVL on a carrier (back in the early days of GR1 - once again because of lack of VL performance), the pilot concerned lost directional control and pirouetted through 360 degrees while sliding gracefully between the ranks of parked aircraft! IIRC we never tried it again. Vertical was so much easier.
No doubt 'B' enthusiasts will tell me the deck RVL won't be a problem.