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F-35 Cancelled, then what ?

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F-35 Cancelled, then what ?

Old 5th Nov 2014, 18:22
  #5361 (permalink)  
 
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The F-35A is indeed 'the air force jet', and it would be the RAF that would operate them. The C offers very little advantage over the A for land-based ops. Again, in terms of range the difference in radius-of-operations is about 10 n miles. The C is also less agile and more expensive.

I think the obstacles facing a B/C mix are as much political are they are performance based though. Having already decided once that we are going to buy it only to then go and change our minds, I can't see how the government (of whichever persuasion)/MoD can go back and reverse the decision they already reversed.

Still, it's all conjecture, which is why I qualified my initial post with "think" rather than "know". The point I was making to T93 was that there was some basis to my thought.

Last edited by melmothtw; 5th Nov 2014 at 18:32.
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Old 5th Nov 2014, 18:28
  #5362 (permalink)  
 
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I agree mate, we would look monumentally daft if it turned out we wanted a land based C. Then again, we look pretty daft already and for me it's the correct choice.

Still, good fun to punt the idea around between obviously well informed folk!
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Old 5th Nov 2014, 18:34
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I've never heard a concise reason yet why the British Government went for through-deck carriers and the F-35B from the start. There has always been a suggestion that the R.A.F. were worried that angle deck carriers would be capable of carrying a wider range of types and therefore actively tried to influence favour toward the limiting B and through-deck, lest the attraction of plonking all fixed wing high performance aircraft on the carrier fleet took hold. I find this taking service rivalry too far, but it's a theory advanced by some!?

FB
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 03:08
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Unlike many, I was paying attention back on 2000-2002, and the RAF was pushing for the STOVL variant as a Harrier replacement, for short-range CAS and damaged/improvised runway operations. The RN was also looking specifically for a Sea Harrier replacement, and had planned for ~30,000 ton carriers in the late 1990s - basically larger Invincibles.

This was at a time when a separate aircraft/system was envisioned to replace Tornado, so long range and/or heavy payload were not part of the calculation that led to selection of the F-35B on 30 September 2002. Additionally, it was only in 2002 that the RN formally declared that the size of the carriers had grown to >50,000 tons - not to immediately enable larger or catapult-launched aircraft, but to allow sufficient internal volume for more stores, future growth (see below), and to allow dual use as an LPH (thus having room for troops and their equipment/supplies). The size was also driven by the more efficient operations (including a higher sortie rate) the larger flight deck would enable.

The RN had only this to say about catapults:
The carriers, expected to remain in service for 50 years, will be convertible to CATOBAR operations for the generation of aircraft after the F-35 JCA.
In other words, sometime after ~30 years of operation.


So:
1. Both services were looking for a direct Harrier/Sea Harrier replacement only.
2. The carriers were originally planned around STOVL operations, with a slow shift to allowing the possibility of future catapult operations only appearing late in the day - the RN had NOT been looking for a US-style attack carrier at all!

Last edited by GreenKnight121; 6th Nov 2014 at 03:18.
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 06:04
  #5365 (permalink)  
 
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Greenknight121,

Of course, and I did know and understand all that at the time. However, damn my feeble memory, it has become cluttered with all the intervening nonsense about the F-35 becoming the one and only for everything and certain interested parties advancing the light blue conspiracy. Have to say, however, and I do understand that it was meant to be a cheap viable option, but nobody could have imagined it would turn out to be as expensive as it is, nor that it would become relied upon to replace everything except Transport and SAR.

FB
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 07:23
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GK

The carriers were originally planned around STOVL operations, with a slow shift to allowing the possibility of future catapult operations only appearing late in the day - the RN had NOT been looking for a US-style attack carrier at all!
In MoD it is often difficult to pin down the decision making process. But I know that in April 2003 an ex-Carrier IPT chap came to work for us and he argued until blue in the face that converting to catapults was a "Nil Cost Modification". And this is what the IPT costings assumed. When asked if this was a nett cost (i.e. the cost would be offset by ditching lesser requirements, like aircraft) he said no. So, certainly at that time and for some period before, catapults was an option, but a poorly costed or understood one.

Let's be kind and say there was a variable degree of competence and experience. In December 2000 a similar level of derangement was evident when the IPT was recruiting for their FOAEW team (Sea King AEW Mk7 replacement). They didn't even grant any of the Mk7 team an interview for any post because AEW/Mk7 programme experience was "irrelevant to FOAEW". And you wonder why FOAEW and MASC didn't happen, and they're reinventing the wheel on Crowsnest?
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 09:39
  #5367 (permalink)  
 
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GK - I just said much the same thing in an adjacent thread.

http://www.pprune.org/military-aviat...ml#post8729015

However, you add an important bit of context in that in 2000-02 the RAF still hoped for something else beyond Tornado, and nobody knew how to spell UCAV outside the US.

And to repeat a point I have made a few times on the question of F-35C for the RAF: Much of the F-35C's extra fuel comes from ditching the internal gun and its feed system, rather than from bigger wings. The greater span should improve aero efficiency subsonic but it is also 5500 lb heavier empty than the A. The RAF's best bet would be a no-gun F-35A with a probe, but when it costs $246 million for a brake chute one can only imagine...
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 10:09
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1. Both services were looking for a direct Harrier/Sea Harrier replacement only.
2. The carriers were originally planned around STOVL operations, with a slow shift to allowing the possibility of future catapult operations only appearing late in the day - the RN had NOT been looking for a US-style attack carrier at all!
This rather confuses the issue of ship size with operating mode and role which is not entirely valid.

It actually went something like this.

Back in the mid-90s the RN was having to think seriously about what capability to replace the CVS with - primarily because the ships would be 30 years old by the end of the noughties. That led to a wide variety of operational analysis studies that ranged from "Do nothing" (ie let the ships and SHAR retire without replacement), through an analogous "replacement in terms of capability" (a CVS-ish CAG and ship), all the way up to a 40 aircraft ship (heavy fixed-wing, light on rotary).

In parallel, the old Director Naval Architecture Future Projects team ( a couple of naval constructors) developed some concept designs based on these OA options, from a 15a/c pure STOVL ship up to a 40a/c CTOL carrier. There were variations on the theme - commercial standard build, two vs three, STOVL vs CTOL, but these were primarily about cost and availability rather than output capability. These were presented at a RINA conference in 1997 and formed the basis of the cost submission for ST(S) 7069.

What the OA demonstrated was that CVS-sized ships did not bring much to the party in the scenarios looked at - most of which involved medium regional conflicts, as opposed to NATO vs Warpac (which was by then defunct). ie Their cost-benefit was marginal. However, if you had 40 cabs aboard you gained a step change in capability and the cost benefit equation was much more valuable. The ship studies showed that if you were sensible about your maintenance requirements and your shipboard systems, you could get the same availability from two big ships as you would for three small ships for broadly the same overall price. The bigger ship also carried less risk in terms of growth in the (as yet undefined) STOVL cab.

That was the basis of the ST(S) submission - two big capable ships of 40000 te that could do Fleet Air Defence, Maritime Strike, Local Air Superiority over a landing area, Land strike etc, plus host a dipper squadron and what was FOAEW/MASC, now Crowsnest. Definitely more than a CVS replacement.

The aircraft that was to fulfill this capability was the Future Carrier-Borne Aircraft (FCBA), for which the various studies assumed a number of options, from the Stovl StrikeFighter (SSF) - which eventually became F35, through a navalised EF2000 operating in STOBAR mode, to an F/A18E/F. ISTR there was even a Harrier SuperVariant as well. THere was a parallel RAF requirement for Future Offensive Air System (FOAS), which was the Tornado replacement.

The operating assumption for the ship was STOVL - the basis for which was essentially a mixture of familiarity, perceived risk in catapult options (we'd got rid of steam, we weren't having a nuclear ship and EMALS back then was veiwed as very high risk) and also a nod to the RAF need to replace its three squadrons of Harriers. I can't actually remember that being an explicit requirement for FCBA, although that did develop in later years (primarily post formation of Joint Force Harrier), when FBCA became FJCA (J being "joint").

Right at the back end of the 90s, after submission of ST(S) 7069 (for the ship), MoD began to look at the options for the FCBA aircraft in more detail, with development of more detailed scenarios, with associated sortie generation requirements and flying programmes. They also wanted to know whether a CTOL ship was invariably going to be bigger (and therefore assumed more expensive) than a STOVL (or STOBAR) ship so they could better cost the overall programme.

At this point, people started to look at deck operation seriously, including getting NAWC in America to do some flightdeck designs, where it became clear that if we wanted to generate lots of sorties, but not have the deck swarming with badgers, chockheads, bombheads and grapes that we couldn't afford, the deck was going to have to get bigger. The 1997 concept designs had been just that - concepts for ROM costing purposes, nothing more, with limited consideration of how the ships would actually work in practice. The next cycle of designs by MoD, BAES and Thales identified that for the bigger ships, 40000 tonnes wasn't going to cut it and you were going to end up significantly north of 50000te even for a STOVL ship. Once you got there, the cost difference between a CTOL and STOVL ship starts getting marginal, although you obviously need to buy the cats and arrester systems. STOBAR was in the same ballpark as STOVL, but generated much less sorties because that mode demands the worst of both worlds in terms of launch and recovery areas, which knocks your safe parking area (crucial for sortie gen) right down. Never mind the comedy attempts to make EF2000 able to see the meatball on a sensible glideslope......

Not long after that, people started to realise that the STOVL aircraft was technically pretty risky and that a hedge against failure was required. This led directly to what was known as the Hybrid design - essentially a large ship, big enough to host two cats and an arrested recovery area, or a STOVL runway, without drastic modification to the overall design. What that last sentence means is that there would obviously need to be internal arrangement changes for the cat troughs and arrester gear engine room primarily on 2 deck and that the flightdeck strength needed to be designed against the CTOL recovery requirement (irrespective of how she was completed), but you would not have to change the overall dimensions or configuration of the ship. This basic philosophy is what both BAES and Thales submitted their final designs against in 2002 or so prior to the downselect of the Thales design, but appointment of BAES as the prime.

Unfortunately, no-one had updated the Long Term Costings against these larger ships - they were still assumed (by MoD Centre) to be the original ST(S) 7069 cost - which was an unpleasant (but entirely predictable) surprise when the ACA submitted their first project price for the ships and it was 600M over the assumed budget. This led directly to the whole two-year Design Alpha, through Delta exercise where MoD tried to get the cost to match the budget and eventually settled on the current Delta design, which was capable of being completed as either STOVL or CTOL, but - and this is crucial to understand - only if the decision was made at a relatively early stage in build and only if the necessary detailed design work to take the catapults and arrester gear had been completed in time to inform the build. This latter activity was never contracted until the SDSR2010 decision AIUI, by which point, the first ship steelwork was halfway done and the second ship would have had to have been delayed (incurring huge TOBA costs) before design work completed.

Both ships remain convertible if required in future, but it won't be cheap - although it might be cheaper than previously postulated, once the TOBA implications are removed. For example, the electrical generation and distribution software apparently inlcudes modes to account for EMALS loads and EARS inputs.

Tuc's ex IPT bloke was right back in 2003 in that (cost of the cats and arrester themselves excluded) the difference between the operating modes would not have resulted in a new design or a larger ship - ie cost-neutral. However - as ever - that statement needed to be put in context.

Apologies for the essay, but a long way of saying that STOVL does not necessarily preclude the capability of an "attack carrier" in terms of Tacair, although obviously the ASAC/AEW element is a little trickier.

Last edited by Not_a_boffin; 6th Nov 2014 at 10:20.
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 11:31
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Boffin - many thanks -

that is a very clear and coherent summary of just how we've finished up where we are...............

usual mix of over-optimism, lack of joined up thinking and no one person in charge
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 11:45
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How well does the A model hook work?
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 11:46
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NAB,

Excellent post.

What yours and also Tuc's post illustrate was the lack of detailed, instinctive, understanding within the MoD of the way aircraft carrier design drivers relate to each other. In particular, there was little appreciation of how crowded aircraft carriers are, and how much they really cost to alter after they are built.

The phrase going round in about 97 to 2001 was: 'air is free and steel is cheap' - inferring that bigger ships would have lots of free space and any conversions would be 'easy'. The CVF PT were told at the time that this was hoop, but as Tuc so rightly points out, there was plenty of hubris flying around at that stage.

Easy to criticise, as it was years since the UK had last designed a ship of this size - but lack of knowledge was not shown as a risk on the registers I saw. Neither were defective cost models. And there were ways of mitigating these risks.

This then led to the SDSR 2010 nonsense of deciding to go for cats and traps without getting the costings in place.

Now we are where we are, best regards as ever, to those getting the ships and the aircraft ready.

Engines
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 12:27
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Harry

that is a very clear and coherent summary of just how we've finished up where we are...............

usual mix of over-optimism, lack of joined up thinking and no one person in charge
That almost suggests that where we've ended up is a very bad place. I think I'd balance that with the observations that :

1. We're paying more for the ships than we should have done. However, that is primarily a consequence of endless delays in placing the order and subsequent b8ggering about, which were almost entirely driven by an argument (largely from one quarter) that the ships were much bigger than CVS and therefore too big and too expensive, whereas the actualite is that CVS sized ships would still have been very expensive, but would have had no risk hedge against STOVL failure and would not have delivered much in capability terms.

2. While many burble on about "only 12 jets" - that tends to be wilfully missing the point that the ships can economically operate many more, as well as a variety of r/w, without any sort of extra work. There are no show-stopping technical reasons why that CAG/TAG cannot be enhanced. It is merely a question of finding money over the length of a 50 year programme.

Engines, thanks

The phrase going round in about 97 to 2001 was: 'air is free and steel is cheap' - inferring that bigger ships would have lots of free space and any conversions would be 'easy'. The CVF PT were told at the time that this was hoop, but as Tuc so rightly points out, there was plenty of hubris flying around at that stage.
I would add only that it was (and remains) entirely the correct decision to build them as they are (particularly the size). I know what the through-life margins are in the ships and for once we are not going to be struggling halfway through. I think it's fair to say that the "conversion" debate at the time was all about what would happen if the FAA/RAF decided STOVL was a non-runner or had it been cancelled, prior to build start and after the detail design had been done, rather than a mid-life conversion. In that sense they were correct - costs should have been relatively marginal, compared to any other alternative. As ever, timing is (and was in the case of the 2010 decision) everything, compounded by a dearth of really technically competent ship design expertise in the MoD in the very recent past.
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 12:35
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Originally Posted by Not a boffin
What the OA The ship studies showed that if you were sensible about your maintenance requirements and your shipboard systems...
It amazes me how studies continue to assume this nonsense. It's why everything always goes over budget!!
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 12:40
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That actually refers to the docking regime (LR class upkeep and so forth) rather than provision of spares, which I suspect is where you're coming from.
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 13:35
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More broadly, the notion of sensible being seriously factored into anything pertinent to military procurement.
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 13:39
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Gotcha.

Wanna buy another Air Warfare Destroyer?
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 16:42
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Boffin - I presume you've read Nick Childs "Britains Future navy"?

He reckons that the carriers will be mainly used as all round task force ships

We actually have some decent ships now but not enough of them - a few more '45's and Astutes woul be useful and perhaps a few Absalon types for general service would give us a useful sized and flexible naval force
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 16:50
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He's reflecting the entirely reasonable Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP) concept, which isn't actually rocket science, but just states explicitly what large carriers are capable of.

What people tend to forget (possibly because of the old commando carrier conversion heritage) is that CEPP doesn't preclude use as a "strike" carrier either.

Important point being, you can use a big deck carrier in both roles, but not an LPH/LHA type.
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 16:57
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NAB

Unfortunately, no-one had updated the Long Term Costings against these larger ships
Nail on head. DGA(N) HQ (the Navy's aircraft people, but who had a Ships and Bases section) stopped doing this in 1988 as a result of the Hallifax savings. This created the Aircraft Support Executive (sans ship section) whose role became one of "monitoring" instead of "managing". Thereafter, MoD(PE) became responsible by default for accurately stating and costing all requirements; and taking the hit when they got the former, and therefore the latter, wrong.

To take the Mk7 as an example again, and very similar to the carrier, well in to the production phase the RN still expected it to be a mere minor transmitter power upgrade, as per the original endorsement. (The Tx design was finished in 1990, but then shelved as other programmes took priority). Their planning assumed whole fleet conversion over a single week-end at Culdrose. It actually took 3 years, during which time a dual fleet was operated. The problem (from a procurer's viewpoint) was, and remains, Requirements capture and articulation. You can't accurately cost and contract a programme if the Customer flatly refuses to support you. When that HQ shut down in early 1988, it took many years - perhaps 10 - for the RN to replace the Requirements Manager posts, and even then few were trained. Certainly none of the aircraft/equipment ones. And none did the old LTC job. And still don't.
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 17:24
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And none did the old LTC job. And still don't.
Agreed, but perhaps more importantly, no-one in MoD is capable of constructing a "should-cost" estimate in sufficient meaningful detail to force certain companies to justify their programme costs, let alone allow MoD to manage their risks.

The biggest single Achilles heel of the whole process.
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