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Old 4th May 2012, 15:37   #661 (permalink)
 
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Meteor needs a big bay unless MBDA can make a smaller version. As for having to carry everything externally then it depends The difference between weapon bays is not as significant as people make out and it is not the difference between carrying externally or internally in a high threat environment. That is a red herring. It depends on your mission and the weapons you have that DO fit. The analysis is there for the missions, in depth. The original requirement for a FCBA capable of operating from a CVF and doing the desired missions is there and was (and still is) fulfilled by -B. The RN solution for AEW has been MASC for years now. The enemy of requirements is creep and the thought that there is always something better (which there usually is) but succumbing to temptation delays and costs more. The -C, in a perfect world, would be joined onboard our 2 (why not 6?!) UK EMALS-equipped CVF by E-2D with on-call tankers etc. Now if you swallow the red pill the reality is much different and we can't afford the comprehensive solution so we get what we originally bid for; 2 ramped decks and the -B. The aircraft being cancelled? There would be re-think for sure and I'd wager the carriers would be sold, we'd abandon the notion of carrier strike (no CS now in its 3rd year, purists argue longer) and the UK would buy the -A!
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Old 4th May 2012, 18:04   #662 (permalink)
 
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Sure the B fulfills the requirements for a FCBA, but I don't think it fulfills the requirements for replacing Tornado, or does it? I'm going off what other people have said on that matter. As for AEW, well yes, we won't be getting AEW for it this side of 2020, but what makes you think that the navy wont pursue that in 15 years time? I see all this grumbling about budgets as largely irrelevant because the current budget predicament isn't typical of the overall trend.

Glojo, to me, presents the most convincing argument; why would we restrict ourselves to such a narrow path and with less capable jets? I understand the arguments for the B on sea states but surely if the B was so much more advantageous, the USN would be at least buying a small number...but they aren't and never will be interested in STOVL.
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Old 4th May 2012, 18:18   #663 (permalink)
 
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The decision between B and C should be announced shortly now that local elections are out of the way. I remain of the view that the decision will be made on short term economic grounds. So, if one version means lower expenditure between now and 2015 (next SDR and general election) then that may well carry the day whatever the whole life costs or military comparisons might show. I guess this would mean the B is favoured as there will be no EMALS cost (and for the purpose of justifying such a decision, a conversion cost of £1.8bn is much more useful than a lower one) and no need to change plans that were already in place before 2010 SDSR. I dislike short-termism, but it's sometimes hard to avoid the truism that you have to survive the short term in order to get to the long one.

Whatever is announced will only be relevant until 2015. The carriers will continue to be built and F35 continue to be developed, but the government has already confirmed the decision on how many aircraft to order will not be taken until the 2015 SDR. Export buyers such as the Dutch and the Australians have announced something similar. Sensible really as until the US really commits to the fighter’s production why would an export buyer take the risk?

And what might SDSR 2015 hold? Well, the carrier/F35 debate will get another re-run. It will need UK plc's economy to be much healthier than it is now for this to be a positive review. If it isn't, it then carrier strike and diplomacy may have come, gone, and cost us a big wedge of money before we got a chance to use it.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, a Flightglobal item hints at a degree of USN ambivalence towards the F35C. The navy’s F/A-XX proposition is a potential replacement for SuperHornet and not an F35C substitute, but the demarcation line between them appears to be a little fuzzy. The big issue is, of course, money. How can the navy get the funds to start developing another new fighter as well as introduce the F35C in these austere times? For F/A-XX to be ready for 2030 LRIP, they would need to get their skates on, and so have to start spending concurrently on the C and XX development in the near budgetary future. Seems a hard sell to me.

Senior official raises F/A-XX doubts while retired USMC Generals question USN
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Old 4th May 2012, 19:03   #664 (permalink)
 
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An excellent debate all of this, which this old duffer follows with much interest. Thank you --
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Old 4th May 2012, 21:22   #665 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
The decision between B and C should be announced shortly now that local elections are out of the way.
Probably waiting for a "good day to release bad news" scenario.
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Old 5th May 2012, 08:25   #666 (permalink)
 
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ColdCollation,

I don't think there are many that would dispute that a Super Hornet & UAV mix would be a very fine solution for the UK. But as we all know, military capability is but one of the factors in these sorts of decisions.

Buy Rhinos & almost every single penny you spend leaves the UK, and all the jobs go to Boeing and the US. But UK plc's participation in the JSF program as a Tier 1 partner means that buying F35s generates literally thousands of jobs in the UK - not just BAE, Rolls & Martin Baker, but dozens and dozens of Small & Medium-sized Enterprises all over the country.

As a result HM Treasury does very well out of it because UK suppliers are now embedded in a program to produce 3000-odd aircraft. If you assume everyone's going to buy the number of aircraft that are on the nominal order books today, for every pound the UK MOD spends on their 138 aircraft, something approaching 3 pounds will be spent/invested in UK plc and around 1.80 of that will go to HM Treasury.

Then there's the issue of maintaining the UK industrial base & retaining knowledge and skills etc.

Regards,
Single Seat, Single Engine, The Only Way To Fly
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Old 5th May 2012, 09:59   #667 (permalink)
 
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Bastardeaux,

Any variant of F-35 would replace Tornado exceptionally well. The radar is eye-wateringly good and the range of the -B is better than GR4 with tanks. Add in the incredible situational awareness that the sensors bring and it is an extremely potent force mix with Typhoon. Stormshadow could be carried on all three variants externally, as could Meteor.

Lowe hits the nail square on the head wrt cost and the forcing function behind the upcoming decision. Industrial work share and the return of £££ to HM Treasury will rule out any F/A-18E/F buy if it's over F-35. Too much political risk in doing otherwise. Short-termism.
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Old 5th May 2012, 11:01   #668 (permalink)
 
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I think ultimately the UK will stick with the "C". I very much get the impression the decision to switch from it came from above MoD/Sec of State for Defence level - ie it was David Cameron's wish to have a carrier the french/usn could operate their aircraft from, and that meant switching to the "C".

Or alternativetely a re-run of the numbers may lead to the whole damn party, carriers and all, being canned. That would get the vote of 2 out of 3 services and the treasury.
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Old 6th May 2012, 09:20   #669 (permalink)
 
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SSSETOWTF wrote:-

"because UK suppliers are now embedded in a program to produce 3000-odd aircraft."

They're going to get a hell of a shock when only 200 are built then...............
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Old 6th May 2012, 09:52   #670 (permalink)
 
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Or alternativetely a re-run of the numbers may lead to the whole damn party, carriers and all, being canned. That would get the vote of 2 out of 3 services and the treasury.

Fortunately, "cancelling the carriers" would by now save pretty much zero money. Cancelling the aircraft, which is the only thing to save the Treasury any money, would hurt both FAA and RAF, so unlikely to get light-blue buy-in.
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Old 6th May 2012, 09:53   #671 (permalink)
 
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SSSETOWTF,

I get that, I really do. But getting best value for UK plc and the best kit for the job are often too much at odds with each other.

As noted here and on other forums, we still have a fair-sized defence budget. If could be bigger but that's another debate; what we have become very good at is going needlessly and expensively bespoke, or else being unable to plan for anything beyond tomorrow morning's headlines. That's something we can truly claim to lead the world in, unfortunately.

Getting the second or third choice of kit just because it serves constituency purposes must seem like a pretty sick joke to those who actually get shot at.

Forgive me if that seems uncompromising or naive. For me, all of this raises a much bigger issue to do with UK manufacturing policy: an overreliance on the defence sector.
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Old 6th May 2012, 11:25   #672 (permalink)
 
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ColdCollation,

British industry has mostly always driven defence contracts and decisions in this manner; sadly it is naive to think otherwise. That us why we supported MRCA and not F-15E in the late 70s. You will never get around the constituency politik of defence strategy.

NaB. An odd comment. Cancelling the carriers might save nothing on money promised but the operating and support costs over, what, 30 years would be a significant saving that would amount to much more than the investment thus far. Please educate me on the number of projected refits of 2 CVF over the planned lifespan (then add at least 25% because we always extend kit), the cost in terms of fuel, all the RAS costs involved etc? Do we even have that sustainment figure mapped out? I think we might do and understand if it is 'not for this forum'

Cancelling the aircraft won't save the Treasury money in quite the way you intimate. Like the carriers our contribution has been given already, 10 years ago or so. The cost savings are much more flexible in terms of scaling the budget by altering the buy profile over the life of the programme. This might not yield the numbers in the timeframe desired but that's real life finance driving expectation, not the other way around which is what got the World into deficit in the first place. One can effectively build one's arsenal of F-35 as quickly or as slowly as one wishes by ordering more.

If we for some reason don't end up with 2 carriers in 2020 at least the UK are able to base from land and sea (aboard USMC LHD or even CVN) to conduct strike missions. Cancel the aircraft, keep the carriers and you then start begging the coalition CV aircraft to use your carrier to justify its existence. That simply won't happen.

Last edited by ICBM; 6th May 2012 at 12:25.
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Old 6th May 2012, 15:04   #673 (permalink)
 
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Here's a thought.

Buy B. Much lower range but the ability to go to sea on small boats that the USMC actually want to use for helos. Or our own boats of which one might be available.

Buy C. If B falls over we don't care. If QECV falls over, err...we still don't care, let's stop talking about a Harrier replacement and claim we have bought DPOC. If C can't trap a wire or whatever the next problem is wrt ship integration can't be fixed - we still don't care. The crabs never wanted to go to sea anyway. At least we bought the one that goes the furthest.

Buy C.
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Old 6th May 2012, 17:33   #674 (permalink)
 
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If we buy -B we should get 2 carriers not 1 so that would have a sea-going platform for F-35 available pretty much constantly. Go -C and you'll get 1 carrier and the discussion on availability has already been had (read: horse flogged). The -C has superior range/loiter and that is very nice to have. I've already said that bay size won't necessarily make or break the mission. If the -B is cancelled by the US Govt and we cancel the carriers I would buy the -A. It has pretty much the same range as -C, has a built-in gun and has more kinematic performance than either of the others. It's also the least likely to be canned with the USAF being pretty reliant on it replacing their 'low' bit of the hi-lo force mix.

Oh and -A was the choice for DPOC

...and JSF ceased being a Harrier replacement on 15 Dec 10.

Last edited by ICBM; 6th May 2012 at 17:50.
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Old 6th May 2012, 17:57   #675 (permalink)
 
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ICBM, noted. And not naive. Just perhaps it's time for it to stop. We've history enough to learn from.

Then again, it's a Sunday Bank Holiday afternoon and I'm on the thick end of a large-calibre round from the Old Speckled Hen cannon...
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Old 6th May 2012, 18:47   #676 (permalink)
 
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ICBM

Last time I looked, we haven't committed to any money for the aircraft, beyond the three demo models. We have committed to two ships.

That kind of makes the argument you present spurious, as the way to save capital cost is to kill the aircraft.

If we do buy the aircraft, the costs of QEC refit / crewing will pale into insignificance compared to those of the aircraft.

There is also an element of fallacy in that argument. Cat n trap does not equal one carrier. Cat n trap equals one carrier in the near term - depending on the conversion cost (the real one), there may be two ships, particularly as a QE conversion would occur ~ 2022 - outside the current EPP.
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Old 6th May 2012, 20:53   #677 (permalink)
 
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SSSETOWTF -

"I think it's interesting that people generally seem to believe that the -B is the most threatened of the variants, which I don't agree with."

That may be true but not in the way that you say it. If the C either gets scrapped or kicked far into the future (sequester, sequester-deal, the simple hook fix flunks) there will be a lot of unhappy bunnies in big-deck Navy as the Marines get the big bucks for the most expensive jets in the budget, to perform missions that at best are a sub-set of Navy tacair missions.

On the other hand, if the B gets stretched out or whacked, you'll see an offensive against the C by Boeing, GE, Raytheon and the Rhino Mafia. The C and the B need one another to survive.

A point on weapons: I believe that MBDA has schemed a Meteor with slightly cropped tails that fits the AIM-120 bays, which are the same on the A, B & C. However: If the F-35 does take over the world, there will be a lot of weapons developed or modified over its lifetime to fit the outer bays - and since the vast majority of the jets will be As and Cs, those new weapons may well be sized to the longer bays of those aircraft.

As for SSSE's economic numbers: The only way I can make that work over 3000 aircraft is that the UK-domiciled content is 14 per cent, but that sounds high. Most of the jets are not Bs, and for As and Cs the major UK content is the ejection seat and a hunk of aerostructure. BAE Systems has more, but that's EW stuff in the US.

Last edited by LowObservable; 6th May 2012 at 21:10.
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Old 8th May 2012, 16:35   #678 (permalink)
 
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LO,

I recall seeing a figure of 15% quoted as the UK content in the F35, but I'm damned if I can remember where so I cannot link to the source. However, it does seem to stack up with your arithmetic.

Meantime, Mr Hammond has been talking to The Telegraph according to Defence Management. I'm not sure if this is an official announcement or government by media but, for what it's worth, it looks like hovering may be back in fashion.

F-35 'facts have changed' since SDSR - Defence Management
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Old 8th May 2012, 16:58   #679 (permalink)
 
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What a false economy, the auditors have said that the C will be cheaper, the B is still having major issues and any money that's saved from getting the B will only be eaten up by designing some ridiculous, bespoke AEW capability to produce 6 aircraft at 1 billion a pop; Jesus, what a clusterf*ck.

How much will it cost to refit the carriers, in the future, to conventional ops, when we decide that catapult launched UAVs are a capability we can't live without?
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Old 8th May 2012, 19:41   #680 (permalink)
 
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Parliamentary Question Time 24 Apr 12...

Quote:
Question

Jim Murphy (East Renfrewshire, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether Ministers in his Department have received any representations on technical difficulties associated with converting the aircraft carrier to a CATOBAR configuration; from whom any such representations were received; and when they were received.

Answer

Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

The Ministry of Defence has not received any representations regarding technical difficulties associated with converting the operational Queen Elizabeth Aircraft carrier to a CATOBAR configuration.
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