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Duncan Sandys Redux

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Duncan Sandys Redux

Old 9th Aug 2009, 09:03
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Duncan Sandys Redux

MoD Minister: This is the last generation of manned fighters

Repeat of 1957 vision a bit more credible this time

In a bizarre repeat of history, a British defence minister has given it as his opinion that we are currently witnessing development of the final generation of manned combat aircraft. The comments made last week by Quentin Davies MP echo those made in a 1957 government white paper by the then Defence minister, Duncan Sandys.

Mr Davies, minister for Defence Equipment and Support, made his new "last of the manned fighters" comments at an Unmanned Air Systems exhibition held on Friday at the London headquarters of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

"My own working assumption is that although we certainly need the manned combat aircraft, and are investing in some very good ones at the moment... that will take us through to the 2030s, but beyond that I think the name of the game will be UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles]," he said.

Later that day, the government did indeed ink a reduced deal for what seems likely to be the UK's final batch of Eurofighter/Typhoon jets. Current MoD plans also see Blighty purchasing an undisclosed number of F-35B Lightning II supersonic stealth jumpjets in the nearish future. The F-35 programme is now in flight testing prior to starting its main production run.

Beyond the F-35 and the Eurofighter, however, there are very few publicly-acknowledged projects underway in the Western world aimed at developing new crewed combat aircraft. Even those advocating such ideas tend to suggest that any future aircraft would be "optionally manned", perfectly able to operate without a crew if required. Aircraft like the UK's Taranis robo-bomber demonstrator and the US Navy's X-47B won't even have seats.

It would seem that Mr Davies' vision of fully robotic air forces within a couple of decades may be grounded in reality.

It isn't the first time that the UK government has expressed such views, however. The defence white paper of 1957 stated that manned bombers and fighters would soon be superseded by automated missiles. All British combat aircraft projects then underway were subsequently cancelled except for the Lightning fighter, with much doom and gloom from the UK aerospace industry (the P1127, which later became the Harrier, got rolling later).

Defence Minister Sandys went on to acquire even more fame later, when he was named as "the headless man" in scandalous photos showing an unidentified chap receiving intimate oral favours from the (married) Duchess of Argyll.

Meanwhile a surprisingly large amount of UK aviation industry did manage to survive, furnishing the British forces with the much-loved but flawed* Lightning and going on to collaborate with continental partners on such planes as the Tornado and Eurofighter. The reduced UK Eurofighter order has already led to predictions of disaster for Britain's one remaining fighter factory.

As a practical matter, the UK is already incapable of making combat aircraft without assistance from abroad. The Eurofighter requires support from the continent and America; Blighty's one remaining military helicopter factory needs similar backup when making whirlybirds. As for large aircraft, the UK's main contribution nowadays is making the wings, as in the case of Airbus airliners and the A400M military transport.

Some or all of that manufacturing may well continue, but if Mr Davies is right, the British fighter-pilot community will indeed disappear at last. ®

*Its inability to remain airborne for much longer than twenty minutes was a serious problem, as was the plane's lack of any very effective sensors or weapons. It was very fast, however, and capable of reaching tremendous heights very quickly.
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 09:26
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Dale Brown has written many books that feature unmanned fighters or bombers. In his tales he gets around the initial deployment and air supriority missions by the use of manned motherships and latterly by satellite link or space station.

If we imagine recent operations and place a UAV into the situation we can see that it wold not be simple. The initial GW1 deployment was of AD Interceptors to contain the Iraqi Air Force in Kuwait. The manned aircraft could go on state as it arrives and with tanker support could even maintain a DCA mission while the ground support deploys. For a UAV it would need pre-deployed support or, as Dale Brown uses, a mothership.

Certainly, money-no-object, we could make a good fist of it now. (By WE I mean industry - US in particular).
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 12:29
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ORAC,

Whilst a lot of this makes sense the difference this time around is that no one is trumpeting the missile as the replacement, which was the case in 1957. UK never did ever develop a follow on for the first round of the 1957 missile programme. It was envisaged that there would be generation after generation developed to follow on from Bloodhound and thunderbird, never did happen. The whole UCAV scenario is so different with BAES having a whole host in development.
Not sure about the dire predictions for the "last fighter factory" as these will be conceived, designed, engineered and built at Warton, Brough and Samlesbury


What does NOT make sense is the totally inaccurate and wholly misleading statement;

"As a practical matter, the UK is already incapable of making combat aircraft without assistance from abroad."

That statement totally misses the point that modern combat aircraft are now SO expensive that not even the USA can develop them on their own any more. Not because they lack the technology, they are just so frighteningly expensive!
In the UK factories ALL aspects of modern aircraft manufacture can be found. We don't build the wings for the Eurofighter Typhoon but that doesn't mean that we can't build wings any more. BAES designed the wings for the Grippen, designed and still build a new wing for Hawk, and there are more airliner wings designed and built in the UK than in any other country on the planet.
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 13:53
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All of the above contributes to the feeling that the uber-complicated manned fighter / strike ac are going the way of the battleship; prohibitively expensive to design, build and run and increasingly totemic as status symbols of glory days of old rather than relevant to today's war. As Rupert Smith put it, State on State war is effectively defunct - so why prosecute a 21st century "Dreadnaught race" which not even the US can afford?

Much better, perhaps, for the "fighter factory" at Warton to turn it's gaze toward UAVs and cheaper, lighter fighters with meaningful warloads and persistance. Maybe the spirit of Boyd needs to be rekindled for a new generation of cheaper manned CAS platforms, though with the emphasis on payload/survivability/endurance rather than Energy Management and BFM.
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 16:36
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Sandys wayward words in 1957 were the prelude which set the scene for the then Govt's decision to cancel the TSR2 and subsequently its replacement, the F-111, for the RAF.

Could QD's view be a pre-cursor for a similar decision by this bunch of shysters that are not running the country at present - they're all on their hols, bless 'em!!

The decision in 1957, however, did lead to 25 years of Buccaneering in the RAF as a stop gap measure! Could history repeat itself? I know of 3 that are still flying and a couple more that we could refurb and launch! I can even lay my hands on a nuke, if necessary!

Hah!

Foldie

PS. Sans warhead, of course!
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 18:05
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The only thing that 1957 had to do with the Bucc was that it wasn't cancelled. As regards the TSR2, thanks to 1957 it was the only game in town as far as the RAF was concerned, hence the gold plated Spec, which eventually killed it. 1957 was a cost cutting exercise, Sandys had been told to save as much money as he could, hence he planned to get rid of most of the manned aircraft, because the he knew that the primary threat to the UK was not the Soviet Bomber, but the Soviet IRBM and Bomber launched long range ASM, the only counter being a nuclear tipped ABM/SAM. Though of course, He also canned the ‘Blue Envoy’ (Super-Bloodhound) around the same time.
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 18:53
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With regard to the TSR2 cancellation; I remember being told by a Senior Officer Student on SORF at Manby that Mr Healy had reported to the PM during a Cabinet meeting that a TSR2 wing had broken whilst under test and that it was this that led to the decision to cancel the project.

The statement that the wing had failed was quite correct - but incomplete. The wing that failed was the one being tested to destruction.

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Old 9th Aug 2009, 19:17
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so, 150 hawk 200's then.
might need to scramble earlier when blackjack comes probing though!!



hang on, a single seat 128 with a good radar and the ability drop stuff might be a good idea!!
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 20:17
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The Beast of Kandahar
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 20:24
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ORAC old bean - the page doesn't load!
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 20:35
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http://formerspook.b l o g spot.com/2009/05/beast-of-kandahar.html

Use the following link and remove the spaces in BLOG
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 20:41
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Cheers me dears, that works fine.
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Old 9th Aug 2009, 22:39
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Orac

Your Beast...



...is rumored to be Desert Prowler. See here for further:

Mystery UCAV/UAV over Afghanistan, page 1

There are lots of pictures of patches on the web as well



It does have a striking resemblance to BAeS Raven.



One thing, though, UAVs or UASs are here to stay and we may as well get used to the idea.

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Old 10th Aug 2009, 08:02
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The Times - Aug 10th: Defence companies set to fight for MoD contracts

Britain’s defence companies are preparing plans to pitch this week for one of the biggest contracts to be handed out by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

They were summoned to a meeting last week, at which the MoD outlined requirements for the next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The contract to develop and operate the UAVs is worth billions to the winning consortium and could last for a generation, opening a potentially lucrative export market for victorious companies.

Groups across Europe are positioning themselves to take advantage of a surge in orders for UAVs and the negotiations have been likened to those 30 years ago that led to the creation of the Eurofighter Typhoon, Europe’s principal fighter jet.

Unmanned aircraft have been so successful in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan undertaken by the United States and Britain that they are widely expected to become the future of air surveillance and combat. They are used to track individuals and vehicles, to provide intelligence to ground troops and to target missiles. There are also plans to create combat versions that eventually would be capable of replacing manned fighters such as the Typhoon.

BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Cobham, QinetiQ, Thales, EADS and Senex met ministry officials last week to be briefed on Britain’s UAV requirements. The Times has spoken to several of the participants and understands that the MoD’s priority is to develop medium altitude long endurance (MALE) aircraft, capable of spending a day at heights of up to 60,000ft, providing ground surveillance and airspace monitoring. In addition, the MoD will continue to invest in a research programme headed by BAE into an unmanned combat aircraft called Taranis.

The ministry has also told the defence contractors that they must work together to ensure that all UAVs use the same ground stations and analysis equipment to prevent costly duplication. In Britain, BAE, Rolls-Royce and QinetiQ are developing Mantis as their offering in the MALE UAV sector. Thales and Dassault are working on a French model called Neuron, while EADS is building a German, French and Spanish system called Talarion.

At present the ministry leases Reaper UAVs from General Atomics, of the United States, for use in Afghanistan and it may choose to buy these rather than develop an expensive, independent solution.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that several European governments are understood to favour working together to develop a joint approach, which has become common practice because of the high cost of defence projects.

One agreement to emerge from a meeting between Gordon Brown and President Sarkozy last year was that Britain and France should consider cooperation on UAVs. High-level meetings are understood to have taken place already between French and British defence industry executives and this could lead to a possible BAE-Thales-Dassault joint venture. This would enable an Anglo-French UAV to corner the European market and knock EADS out of the competition.

In a further twist, the French and Germans have discussed co-operation. This might limit BAE’s future involvement in the UAV sector.

“Everyone is jockeying for position because there is a lot at stake,” one defence source said. Another said: “There is an argument that we should work together to create a Eurofighter for UAVs in terms of collaboration, but each side has to develop its own capability first.”

Britain operates Hermes UAVs in Afghanistan, which are classed as tactical aircraft. These operate at low altitude and are used for gathering intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance operations. The Hermes UAVs will be upgraded to Watchkeeper next year in a project led by Thales UK. The £800 million contract will provide the Armed Forces with 54 aircraft.
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Old 10th Aug 2009, 09:37
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The theory of UAV's replacing manned fighters is excellent but how many of us would get in an airliner knowing the pilot was sitting on the ground whilst we're flying?
If armed forces go down the route of large numbers of UAV's aren't we going to run out of frequencey bandwidth very quickly and then there ill be problems with deconfliction of frequencies!
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Old 10th Aug 2009, 10:07
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So to take out a country's entire airforce, you just take out it's satelites.

Thus also rendering most of it's armoured vehicles lost as well and most of it's other land forces (that in 10 years time probably won't be told how to read a map).

And ships are running aground after trying to navigate with out of date charts, and their weapons systems won't work as they rely on GPS.
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Old 10th Aug 2009, 10:31
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yeap reliance on technology is a huge minefield.
One of the reasons field guns are still issued with Gunners Quadrant and the No1 carries a compass.
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Old 10th Aug 2009, 11:30
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Glad to see more than one person on here has picked up the biggest problems with operating a pure UAV air force. The reliance on long range over the horizon communications, which would require quite a large number of satellites to give the bandwidth required, would required de-confliction with a lot of other data traffic for flight safety reasons and also have to be ECM resistant. This will be very expensive, as worldwide coverage would be required. Also satellites have to be replaced at least every 7 to 10 years or so. Plus you also have to take the effect that bad weather can have on Satcom link’s (just try to watch Sky when it’s raining heavily) in which a UAV would at sometimes have to operate in. Yes, the current systems in place can support the limited numbers of UCAV/UAVs in operational service, but hundreds of them at once???
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Old 10th Aug 2009, 11:43
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How far in the future can we expect to see fighter UAV's beating piloted fighters at Red Flag or some such competition?

I would think that they will be stand off missile fighters at best for a long time.

For close in or dogfighting, the bandwith required to give real time, clear and accurate video feeds from 6-8 angles would be too high.

Too save money, countries could sit thier best pilots down in front of an XBox with a copy of ace combat. Loser gets handed a pistol with one bullet in it and use of a small room out back, winner gets tea, bickies and a few medals. Next stage will be wars won by 13yr spotty oiks.

Wasn't there a Star trek episode which covered the ultimate version of this concept?
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Old 10th Aug 2009, 11:52
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Satellites are not necessarily required as long as a ground link can be provided to near the theatre of operations. See the Proteus

UAVs and HAPs - Potential Convergence for Military Communications

Efficient and dependable real-time communications in UAV systems

Warfighter Information Network - Tactical (WIN-T)

High Altitude Airships - HAA
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