Old 20th Feb 2009, 10:46
  #105 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 760
Royal Navy And Their Supposed FW Problem

Can someone explain to me what the problem really is for the Royal Navy.

IMMIC, recent history would tell them that this phenomenon is not new and that similar (nay, exact) circumstances existed under a Labour government in the 60s when the decision was taken to withdraw all bar one of the fixed wing carriers from service thereby leaving Ark Royal to plough the oceans with a diminished force (for the FAA) of FW aircrew on board. Similar prophets of doom then declared that this was the end of fixed-wing flying in the FAA and that it was scandalous that this was being allowed to happen. In their view, probably accurate at the time, power projection was reliant on having a force of FW assets afloat both for defence of the fleet and for strike/attack operations. Nonetheless, the decision was taken and, once Ark had been scrapped, land-based RAF squadrons provided significant AD and ASuW support to the fleet in the following years.

During the run-down of the carrier force, the RAF was tasked with providing manpower to support the FAA and many RAF Buccaneer and Phantom crews ground their teeth on board Ark Royal and thoroughly enjoyed the experience too.

There was then a significant gap before the Invincible Class through-deck cruisers were commissioned but this did not see the demise of FAA FW expertise as, in preparation for them and SHAR, FAA Bucc and Phantom pilots were seconded to RAF Harrier squadrons to retain a cadre of FW expertise and gain VTOL experience. Some of these guys, like Tony Ogilvy, eventually became SHAR sqn cdrs.

So what's different today? Well, OK, the RAF's proposal seems to be that we ditch Harrier but that doesn't mean that the RAF cannot assist the FAA with maintaining FW expertise on Tornado or Typhoon. Does it? Be honest, given the realistic timescales, it's not the guys flying Harrier now who are going to form the bulk of the future FAA FW corps. Is it?

The problem for the Labour government in the 60s was affordability and that, to my mind, is the problem today. Having worked in procurement (OR as was) in MOD, I know only too well the pressures that the Treasury can and do bring to bear on projects (often specific projects of their choice rather than leaving MOD to decide which sacrificial lamb to offer up).

So, unless I have got this completely wrong, it's time for us all to stop whining and get on with it. We've been here before and we will be here again. It's all about money (or lack of it). The Navy did not lose its FW capability because of decisions made in the 60s and it won't lose it again as long as we all work together and support each other until Dave and its support vessel come along. Pragmatic solutions, albeit unpalatable to some, have to be taken and something has to give - we cannot afford everything! Better to take some pain today and protect the carrier project and thus the FAA FW future. If that has to be Harrier, which has a costly logistic support tail, and have FAA Harrier jocks trained on Tornado and Typhoon then so what!

I don't hold with the argument that Tornado can't do CAS - it can, we proved it when I flew them in Germany in the 80s and we learned the skills having also prepared for it with 3 different pre-planned options on the IGB whilst I was on Buccs in the 70s. It doesn't have to be a mini-jet to do CAS and again, based on my OR experience in weapons procurement, in these frugal days each of our air assets has to be capable of all roles - Harrier cannot carry/deliver the full weapon inventory so it would seem logical for it to be the sacrificial lamb.

The government will be quite content to 'divide and conquer' so get realistic folks, there is a place for all of us in the defence of this land - it's just a shame that some of us don't realise it and display our views publically so that those who don't understand (Journos, Joe Public and Government Ministers) can easily identify our weakness.

Now I'm off to make a curry!

foldingwings is offline