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Old 12th Jan 2019, 18:12
  #11672 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Just behind the back of beyond....
Posts: 3,923
You may notice in the papers and online news sites that some of those present were clearly under the impression that GW had implied that the IOC declaration had opened the way to deploying the aircraft for use on Shader, and that the newly 'combat ready' aircraft would be sent to Akrotiri to participate in Operation Shader, flying missions against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

That was very much not my impression.

It is true that Gavin Williamson did say: "I won't go into specifics on where they're going to be deployed but this is a fighting aircraft that is there to be used and to keep Britain safe.”

But Williamson also said that “it is important to make sure that you are using the right airframes for the right types of conflict, and at the moment we have got an excellent tool, for operations over Iraq and Syria, in Tornado and Typhoon. Sometimes using the F-35 is not going to be the most appropriate or the most cost-efficient type of fighter to be using in certain conflict zones where there is going to be no real peer-peer threat, and we need to match the type of strike capability we use with the type of threat.”

It’s nice that Howard Wheeldon is upbeat about everything, but the skeptical journo in me would ask a number of questions. I don’t pretend to know any of the answers.

Previous IOC declarations have been defined in terms of having a squadron (or more) capable of carrying out a particular defined role at least as well as the precursor aircraft type. The cynic might suggest that the F-35 IOC definition seems less challenging?

How useful the F-35 would be on Shader, with PWIV as its sole air-to-ground weapon, with no gun, no direct fire weapon, and no LGB capability? Would EOTS give as good an ISTAR capability as even the Litening 3 pod?

And how badly do the RAF really want to put an F-35 in the S-400 MEZ in the Middle East and let the Russians soak up its various signatures?

With all possible respect to a very fine group of aviators, I admit to also wondering how 'trained' the aircrew really are on their new mount. It’s been reported that they've dropped one bomb between them at Aberporth (notwithstanding the fact that 17 have dropped more in the States, including a five-bomb drop). They don’t seem to have flown much, while the simulators apparently still aren't up and running in the UK. So how combat ready can they be? How much of a proper pairs lead/four ship lead work up can anyone have done? How expert on the F-35 can the Squadron QWI actually be?

Could an overseas deployment possibly be more than show-boating at this juncture?

And some of the engineers and support folk privately expressed real doubt that the aircraft would be going anywhere imminently, as there simply aren't the support staff to support meaningful deployments.

And in the light of the USMC experience with its first deployment one might ask how deployable the UK version of ALIS might be? How deployable is the LO repair capability?

And what will be the implications of the need to send aircraft to Cameri for depth maintenance? What are the limits on what the RAF and UK industry are allowed to do to these aircraft, and what effect will this have?

And what about mission data…..?

Is this IOC declaration not the start of a process, in other words, rather than the end?
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