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Old 28th Oct 2010, 16:40   #21 (permalink)
 
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Looking at the decision from a completely agnostic viewpoint – I am retired now and have no axe to grind on future employment etc, I have the following points:

Cost was a clear driver, salami slicing would not achieve the aim so one Force had to go.
Harrier is the smaller and, arguably, less capable of the 2 when looking at all of the air-to-Ground roles required and ability to sustain force elements – Carrier Ops aside. Therefore, if one had to go the decision was almost made for them if they wanted to retain the maximum capability across the board until the arrival of JSF.

As to maintaining carrier capability. The wider ship’s company will always be difficult to maintain, I guess even now the RN believe they are losing the capability so perhaps we have to admit that it will take time to regain it in the future.
As to the aircrew, I have no first hand GR7/9 carrier Ops experience so admit my expertise is a bit thin on their flight deck operations, but I have flown a modern FW aircraft (well it was in service until about 5 years ago) from conventional carriers on exchange with the USN. From my viewpoint, apart from flying over water and hence having few divert opportunities, the Harrier operating procedures on and around the carrier were very different to that required for conventional aircraft ops. Therefore Harrier pilots would offer little expertise to the future JSF Force – indeed I saw some US Marine pilots having considerable difficulty transitioning to the conventional approach patterns and ‘ball’ landing techniques so perhaps the Harrier Force are the last people we should rely on.

On the other hand, the RN currently has ab-initio pilots training with USN F-18’s and this would seem the best place to grow our future capability, be it RAF or RN. Given the timeframe of JSF, we do not need to do it now, but perhaps aim to take slots in preparation for the first squadron.

Just a thought.

Lone Kestrel.
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 17:08   #22 (permalink)
 
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Doesn't (sorry didn't) GR9 carry/or be capable of operating ASRAAM?
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 17:12   #23 (permalink)
 
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I have every sympathy with the Harrier Force and I would have felt an equal wrench if, in 1994, the Bucc had been taken from Service as a cost-saving measure rather than at the end of its outstanding 25-year career in the RAF, which it was.

My take on it is, however, that the writing has been on the wall for the Harrier ever since the SHAR was taken out of service early - a decision, I believe, that was supported by the Navy to secure the future of JSF and the new carriers! In addition, the decision to withdraw Ark and insist on LUST being a helo platform until her withdrawal is a further indicator of a Navy that is hell bent it would seem (and damn the consequences) in pouring good money after bad on these 2 aircraft carriers that will now not enter useful service until 2020 (or thereabouts). No Ark, No LUST, No QE2 or PoW then what value a Harrier, for example, over a Tornado? Yes, it can turn tighter corners when doing CAS. Yes, it can carry a multitude of weapons at the same time. But it no longer operates off short strips and is not cleared for the strategically valuable Storm Shadow (a decision taken by a very senior Harrier pilot to remove it from that programme in the late 90s before contract sign). The Harrier doesn't have the legs a Tornado has and, consequently, it is a 'one-trick pony' which has proved great value in FI and Afghan but is probably less useful in a future (I accept different type) conflict in which we might be engaged and definitely so, if it has no sea-launch capability.

Of course, whilst I blame the Navy to some extent for putting themselves in the position of trying to recreate the 'Spirit of the 60s' with Global Power Projection - a game we can no longer afford to play, in my opinion - I firmly lay the blame at the door of the Blair/Brown combo who got us into this sticky mess (and here I mean in terms of: war; the financial cost of war (which was supposed to come from Brown's Contingency Fund but came mainly from the MOD Budget); and the signing of a contract for 2 aircraft carriers to secure votes in a constituency - a crazy contract that will cost us more to withdraw from than continue with whether we want, need or can use the carriers in the end!) in the first place.

It's also important to note that with another defence review in 2015 (a sensible Cameron decision to hold them every 5 years in future) there can be no guarantees that fleet carriers will survive that round as the govt's take could easily be - we haven't needed them for 5 years why should we need them 5 years in the future! I hate to say it but I can see the end of FAA Fixed Wing flying before 2020!

So it's sad that the Harrier had to go but something had to give and, I believe, the correct aircraft will be taken out of service next year. Those GR4s that remain bring more to the party than the Harrier would during our 10-year capability gap.

If I offend anybody here, I do not mean to. If I have got any facts wrong please correct me (politely).

Foldie

Last edited by foldingwings; 28th Oct 2010 at 21:33. Reason: Oops! Edited to add 'in the RAF' Oops! I'll get shot at dawn!
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 18:59   #24 (permalink)
 
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GR wrote

Quote:
Doesn't (sorry didn't) GR9 carry/or be capable of operating ASRAAM?
House of Commons - Defence - Fourth Report

'With the MoD's recent announcement that it will withdraw Sea Harrier by 2006, however, it will not now be fitting it with ASRAAM. Work to date, which will now be nugatory, had cost £1.2 million.[274] And ASRAAM will also no longer be fitted to the Harrier GR7/9.[275]'

TJ
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 19:04   #25 (permalink)
 
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I don't think you can blame the navy for the Global Power Projection concept that resulted from SDR98 (and in actual fact is still supported in the new SDSR). All three services signed up to it and in fact the concept behind it originated back in the early 90's as the Cold War ended.

The idea that "good money is being poured after bad" on the carriers is also a fallacy. If you subscribe to the idea that power projection is required, then naval air is also required, which means carriers. Ark & Lusty cannot be extended much beyond their present OSD, partly because the ships are totally sh@gged but mainly because their futures are inevitably linked to the only aircraft they can fly (the Harrier - F35B cannot operate from CVS). Therefore new ships are required and the fact is that new carriers need to be significantly bigger than the CVS, partly because of the aircraft and partly to ensure the deck has enough room to operate a useful number of aircraft. The sorties required were all supported by campaign-level OA, which drove the rate and therefore the deck park requirement and hence the size of the ship.

At this point it should be pointed out that a conventional carrier (or larger STOVL ship) might not be tied to a single aircraft type - size has a flexibility all of its own - something which is often overlooked. Indeed, the biggest objection to the carriers has always appeared to be based on their size, as opposed to their cost. Should we be paying £5Bn for two CVF? Hell, no - we could and should have got them for around £3.5Bn the pair (assets that will last 50 years and operate at least two generations of aircraft). The reason we didn't get them for that price is largely to be laid at the door of Cyclops, although the actual root cause is the failure to update the long-term costing lines originally generated for the ships circa 1998 when they were 40000 te concept designs costed at £2.7Bn. Is there an alternative - unfortunately not (the spanish and italians must be sweating a bit now Dave B is at risk, the Indians and Chinese on the other hand have no such problems).

Those concept designs were based on fitting aircraft into a ship (ie how many can you fit on the deck and in the hangar), rather than decks designed to generate sorties. Once the more detailed studies began, it quickly became clear that larger ships were needed and at that point, the LTC lines should have been updated. They were not (a MoD MB failing) and in 2003 the result was that when BAE / Thales came back with a price of £3.2bn, panic ensued. Four years was then spent trying to fit the budget cost-effectively (they couldn't). Result, lots of folk wanting to cover their @rses, while cost escalated (nothing ever gets cheaper by deferral). Lord Drayson eventually blackmailed the remaining shipbuilding industry into consolidation (the Maritime Industrial Strategy) through use of the carrier contract as a none-too-subtle blunt instrument at which point it became inevitable that the remaining industry would only sign up with some eye-watering cancellation clauses. Ironically, at this point, Cyclops belatedly realised that his constituency had a vested interest in the ships being built and started being supportive - just in time to pick up the sobriquet "Gordons carriers". In truth, were it not for the fact that they're being assembled in Rosyth, he would not have given 1% of two-thirds of a flying f8ck whether they were built or not, which brings us back to the reason for where we are now.

SDR98 endorsed the carriers (as has SDSR) - it's just that Cyclops never wanted to pay for them and the navy has paid a blood price ever since trying to keep the programme, as there is literally nowhere else to go. Either we have a global navy (and armed force for that matter) capable of doing at least some things alone, or we collapse on home defence in which case OPV, MCMV and SSK for the navy, Tiffy, Sentry and a few tankers for RAF (no need for strike or long-range AT), plus a home defence force for the army. Anything else is to become another nations political fig-leaf, nothing more, nothing less.
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 19:20   #26 (permalink)
 
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Not a Boffin,

Quote:
If you subscribe to the idea that power projection
As I said:

Quote:
Global Power Projection - a game we can no longer afford to play, in my opinion
But thanks for the other interesting aspects of the debate.

Foldie
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 19:50   #27 (permalink)
 
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Punching above our weight

As Cameron said, "we should be rightly proud of our ability to punch above our weight". Well, if we take this analogy. We may have lost our jab, right upper cut and left hook, but we still have a puncher's chance if we connect with a hay maker. Over to you Mr Oppenheimer..................
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 20:07   #28 (permalink)
 
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Have I missed something? Did the PM not state that Tornado only remains to cover the Afghanistan deployment. That being the case, the remainder of the Fleet after the initial drawdown (half the current Squadrons) gets chopped in 2015 when we leave.

Also and now we have opted for the F-35C, does it not make sense for this to be the version adopted (bar the USAF and Marine Corps) by other NATO allies and Australia? This would allow co-operation with other friendly nations as well as the US and French, further building on the point made by the PM and considered so important that it was worth delaying the carrier(s) to alter their design at an estimated cost of £500 Million.
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 20:18   #29 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
after the initial drawdown (half the current Squadrons)
Did I also miss something??
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 20:25   #30 (permalink)
 
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Look's like tha Navy has been doing some sort of exercise in the Solent:

Pompey news

RN website: RN Warships Demonstrate Awesome Capability

Commanding Officer of HMS Albion Captain James Morley said: “This is a staged event to show our industry partners, national and international audiences exactly what we can do. It is important for us to show what we can deliver and the aim is to develop the understanding of how we work together and how we are configured to deal with a crisis.

“Afghanistan is the focus for the Services at the moment, and we have hundreds of Royal Navy sailors working out there right now, but we must also be ready as a country should a crisis happen elsewhere in the world and this demonstrates to our guests our enormous capability in doing so.”


I thought the Prime Minister had looked into the future and saw no crises for ten years?

Anyway, I hear the MOD refused permission for Ark Royal or the Harrier to take part.

Last edited by WE Branch Fanatic; 9th Aug 2014 at 10:09.
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 20:26   #31 (permalink)
 
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Not A Boffin:

You say F-35B cannot be operated from a CVS, on what do you base this? It's academic now as we aren't getting any 'Bs anymore, but this myth has been doing the rounds for a while. A couple of years ago I was visiting Lusty and got chatting with some of her officers and crew about this. At the time they had a full sized mock up of the F-35B on board so I asked the obvious questions: Can you handle the real thing?

Yes they can, the Lightning fits on the lifts (it's a bit of a squeeze length wise but in rough weather they would just load it on diagonally), and it's empty weight is well within the 18.5 tonne limit for the lifts. The Lightning is substantially heavier than the Harrier when fully loaded but not proportionally larger. The Harrier has a spot factor of 0.89 and the F-35B has a spot factor of about 1.05. If you can get 12 Harriers aboard a carrier plus helos, you can also get 12 Lightnings aboard to replace the Harriers, not 8 or 6.

But as I said, it's all academic now.
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 20:35   #32 (permalink)
 
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My mistake as according to Air Forces Monthly:-

"Despite the Harrier being axed entirely, the Tornado force will also be reduced by two squadrons and one of the two operating bases, either RAF Lossiemouth in Moray or RAF Marham in Norfolk, will be surplus to requirements".

When we are out of Afghanistan, does that not mean the end for Tornado in 2015 around the time of the next Review?

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Old 28th Oct 2010, 21:16   #33 (permalink)
 
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Mr Boffin,

Many thanks for a most interesting piece. Am confused by this though:

Quote:
mainly because their futures are inevitably linked to the only aircraft they can fly (the Harrier - F35B cannot operate from CVS).
and

Quote:
the spanish and italians must be sweating a bit now Dave B is at risk
How much bigger is Principe de A and Cavour than a CVS? Not a flame, but thought that they are a much of a muchness. Confused (as usual, no?).

S41
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 21:27   #34 (permalink)
 
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draken,

lots of ifs, buts and maybes in that....
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 22:17   #35 (permalink)
 
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Obi-Wan & S41

It's not a myth. Numerous "can Dave fit on CVS" studies were done circa 1998 and repeated in the very early noughties. All concluded that F35 ops from CVS would be extremely tenuous. Just because you can physically fit the thing on does not mean that you can operate it (here we go with RVLs again).

As an example, think about vertical recovery with any sort of bring-back. Pegasus develops around 106kN of thrust on four separated nozzles, F-135 generates upwards of 170kN (and that still wasn't enough, hence the RVL idea) on a single nozzle (albeit with a fan as well). What's that going to do to a deck not designed for it? The technical term is buckle it to b8ggery. Never mind the damage it does to the deck crews who have to be in proportionally closer proximity.

As for our Spanish & Italian friends, PdA is of similar vintage to the CVS (and Garibaldi) and will go the same way. Cavour and the new Spanish ship (King Juan Carlos?) have been designed from the off to accommodate Dave-type thrust. However, neither ship has ever been conceived to offer more than a minimal FW capability - nor could such easily be accommodated in Sp/It infrastructure. However, no FW at all (should Dave B bite the dust) really does leave them limited to LPH within land-based air cover, which is pretty minimal. Do the fuel calcs to keep a two or four ship from a land base sufficiently close to a moving maritime force (even with tanker support) with adequate reaction time and it's eye-watering. That's one reason CVS grew SHAR, but also why a larger vessel is required to avoid the old self-licking lollipop charge and provide meaningful strike.

CVF is large enough to carry a CAG to defend against a credible threat and provide real punch - remember that you can veer and haul between DCA, OCA and strike as allowed by the threat. You can buy aircraft and train aircrew within a relatively short period (even if you are the MoD!) However, a largish ship generally takes 3-4 years to complete detailed design, with another six or so to build. A shortage of airframes is easier to fix than a shortage of ship.

Last edited by Not_a_boffin; 29th Oct 2010 at 11:11.
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Old 29th Oct 2010, 08:26   #36 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
However, a largish ship generally takes 3-4 years to complete detailed design, with another six or so to build. A shortage of airframes is easier to fix than a shortage of ship.
But what is missing in 2020 is the crews on the ships with any experience of aviation - from the CO downwards....I am sure the MAA will have something to say about that, indeed I wonder whether they are doing anything about it at the moment?
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Old 29th Oct 2010, 10:24   #37 (permalink)

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Basic problem is that we have in UK Inc what my Great Uncle Johnnie would have called:

"Champagne tastes and four ale money" - (Four ale being 4d a pint beer)

there's allus lots of "nice to have" but we must (another GUJ dit) "cut our coat according to our cloth!"
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Old 29th Oct 2010, 11:08   #38 (permalink)
 
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But what is missing in 2020 is the crews on the ships with any experience of aviation - from the CO downwards....I am sure the MAA will have something to say about that, indeed I wonder whether they are doing anything about it at the moment?

Absolutely - but that is a different (no less important) problem with a different solution.
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Old 29th Oct 2010, 11:50   #39 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Not_a_boffin View Post
Ironically, at this point, Cyclops belatedly realised that his constituency had a vested interest in the ships being built and started being supportive - just in time to pick up the sobriquet "Gordons carriers". In truth, were it not for the fact that they're being assembled in Rosyth, he would not have given 1% of two-thirds of a flying f8ck whether they were built or not, which brings us back to the reason for where we are now.
Which is fine, except for the fact that Rosyth wasn't in his constituency. It's in Dunfermline West, not Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (or his former one of Dunfermline East)
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Old 29th Oct 2010, 11:55   #40 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Not_a_boffin View Post
As an example, think about vertical recovery with any sort of bring-back. Pegasus develops around 106kN of thrust on four separated nozzles, F-135 generates upwards of 170kN (and that still wasn't enough, hence the RVL idea) on a single nozzle (albeit with a fan as well). What's that going to do to a deck not designed for it? The technical term is buckle it to b8ggery. Never mind the damage it does to the deck crews who have to be in proportionally closer proximity.
Word from friends who work at Rosyth was that it was a concern even with CVF. Lack of suitable deck paint being mentioned.
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