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No cats and flaps ...... back to F35B?

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No cats and flaps ...... back to F35B?

Old 23rd Jun 2012, 09:10
  #1221 (permalink)  
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I think "the bigger picture" is that without cats and traps we have painted ourselves into the corner we shouldn't be in. Thinking bigger picture, what happens if the F35B is cancelled? What would we use for Fast Air then? We're building a carrier around a single aircraft type; that IMHO is a very stupid thing to do. What happens when we need AEW to be able to see further than the ~100nm horizon from the Helo-based MASC proposal - ie. one that can give adequate warning of far bigger missile than the likes of Exocet? We would need a FW solution to get to 25-35,000ft to see ~230nm for low level activity - contrary to some believers, the world is not flat! Doing a RIP with F35 and its wonderful supposedly all-seeing sensor suite is going to use up your embarked assets very quickly!

The whole thing could fall apart and not be "significant capability for the UK" in very short order.

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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 10:53
  #1222 (permalink)  
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I'm not sure those range figures stack up. I seem to remember ~200mile detection ranges for surface targets from an old bagger even in the early days.
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 11:58
  #1223 (permalink)  
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Neat trick acheiving 200nm from 10000ft.

By my rule of thumb a 1 m high surface contact paints at around 125nm from 10,000ft due to the planet being in the way.

(Ignoring any radar tricks, rcs or weather limitations limitations. To acheive 200nm is circa 26,000ft.)
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 14:20
  #1224 (permalink)  
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“Shame about all those 'other' wars since WW2 that RAF fighters weren't quite able to get to “

How about:

Korea – no RAF fighters involved but quite a few RAF pilots flying F84s and F86s in combat.

Suez - RAF Hunters flying CAP over Egypt

Confrontation - RAF Hunters and Javelins

Aden – RAF Hunters

Dhofar War - RAF Hunters operating out of Sharjah

Falklands - If you study the records of the Falklands war you will see that the Sea Harrier contingent contained a small number of RAF pilots (About one fifth of the total- because the RN could not provide enough pilots). Some of these RAF pilots had been seconded at short notice for the war, and were therefore flying a relatively unfamiliar aircraft, although all were experienced on RAF Harriers.

In action, RN pilots shot down 14 aircraft and damaged 2 others. RAF pilots shot down 5 aircraft, plus a helicopter which crashed while evading attack.

The first 2 air-to-air kills of the Falklands War were by RAF pilots.

Gulf War – RAF F3s and GR1s

Bosnia – RAF Harriers

Kosovo – ditto

Iraq – RAF GR4s and Harriers

Afghanistan – RAF GR4s and Harriers

Have I missed any?
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 14:36
  #1225 (permalink)  
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Exmudmover and ICBM,

For what it's worth you are both (on completely different subjects) talking complete sense. F-35B will be a quantum leap for UK defence. I have made no secret of the fact that I think it's the wrong aeroplane - but there you go, it'll still be significantly better than anything we've seen so far.

A single QECV in the CV configuration would have been almost as ridiculous as two in the STOVL to my mind. We'd have ended up like the French, ragging the CDG and her air group senseless to prove the worth of the capability year on year.

A Hobson's choice if you will.

Exmudmover brings out a very good point. The FW FAA has been propped up by the RAF and Commonwealth pilots for as long as I can remember. I can't recall any significant plot to retain FW pilots and maintainers - moving them across the country, re-training on new jet not being great for retention. I cannot remember ever seeing any significant plot to recruit more either.

So whilst I think that for ease of career management, C2 and a degree of doctrinal purity the F-35B should be a naval jet we are left with the home truths that the RAF hasn't really ever taken sea basing seriously (and why would it?) and the RN has talked a good FW game but never actually done anything to strengthen and grow the cadre. In fact it sacked a third of the drivers (who aren't the be all and end all but they are in their own little way fairly important).

So, to my mind we need to pick who owns the jets. But again, we've created a Hobson's choice for ourselves.
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 16:33
  #1226 (permalink)  
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My point, badly made I freely admit, was that the RAF haven't actually had any air to air combat experience since 1945, because their fighter aircraft haven't been able to get to many of the wars when the fighting was taking place. I know full well that RAF pilots have flown in some of them, but that wasn't the point I was making.

On the Falklands - yes, I am fully aware of the RAF pilots who flew down there. They flew RN jets, under RN command, and the RN were most grateful for their skills and contributions. I suppose that the RAF were quite grateful for the contribution the FAA made to the Battle of Britain, along with the Czechs and the Poles, but everyone who flew in that were part of the RAF.

I'm also fully aware of the conflicts that the RAF have made massive contributions to. I always take care to make that point and acknowledge their professionalism. But no air to air kills (or combat?) since 1945 is a fact.

Orca's post is fair and balanced. The RN has had RAF aircrew supporting it for as long as it has existed. I also think that the taxpayer has the right to expect capabilities to be delivered in the most effective way, and future maritime air power should benefit from and exploit the RAF's skills and capabilities.

Best Regards as ever,

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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 16:33
  #1227 (permalink)  
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"have I missed any"

Yes, F3 on Op Deny Flt over Bosnia and Op Southern Watch over Iraq (which then led into TELIC). Plus Typhoon and GR4 over Libya. Plus the Jags over Bosnia.

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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 18:02
  #1228 (permalink)  
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“But no (RAF) air to air kills (or combat?) since 1945 is a fact.”

I feel you are being pedantic. RAF pilots have made air to air kills - in Korea and the Falklands. The RAF as a service has not made any. I am being pedantic now.

To continue to be pedantic , you and many other commentators on this thread often speak inaccurately of ‘Air Combat’ or Dogfighting in old money.

In practice British Air Forces personnel have not been involved in true Air Combat since Korea. In my book Air Combat (Dogfighting) implies mutually aggressive manoeuvring between 2 or more opponents who both wish to fight. If one side or other only wants to escape (The vast majority of engagements in the Falklands, for example), then that is not Air Combat, but Air Interception.

For such Interception Missions an aircraft such as the F3 was ideally suited. Who needs a hyper-agile Air Defence fighter these days - unless we’re planning to go to war against America or some other European country?

The vast majority of fighter on fighter kills in WW2 were also straight stern shots on a target completely unaware of the presence of the shooter, and I am sure that WW2 veterans would not claim such kills as having been achieved “In a Dogfight”.

For what it's worth I was for many years an Air Combat Instructor.

Last edited by exMudmover; 23rd Jun 2012 at 18:04.
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 19:08
  #1229 (permalink)  
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Surely one very good way of the RN both maintaining and increasing Pilot (and maintainer) numbers would be to have some jets now? I assume that nobody is going to get sent stateside for an eight year period?

I've said this before on this thread, but if we accept that the decision to go back to F35B and STOVL operations has been made (possibly for reasons of reducing training issues and getting a capability sooner as well as cost) then the issue now is how to get there?

Presumably it will be easier to prepare future CVF crews with the skills needed for STOVL operations than for CTOL ones? Add to that the very real possibility of embarking Harriers aboard Illustrious/Queen Elizabeth? Why can we not embark foreign Harriers?

Borrowing a few AV8Bs from Spain or Italy (particularly the former as they may be needing the UK to chip in to the bailout fund) would give us aircraft to train with, and a real capability. Alternatively (and since the US want us to have a carrier capability) lease a few AV8Bs (with support Memorandum of Understanding).

I have mentioned these ideas (and one or two others) on the Decision to axe Harrier is "bonkers" thread.

Why should any of this be seen as a U turn? Apart from the fact that there have been many U turns already, this would simply be changing the preparations for CVF. Instead of preparing for a CTOL future, preparing for a STOVL one. After all, the switch to F35C was used to help justify the binning of Harrier. This would be a chance for the politicians to be seen as in touch and able to respond to changing circumstances. Oh...! See my final paragraph about Groupthink.

Maybe I am a simple thicko, but surely the situation is that we currently have no STOVL aircraft, having binned them and having been told that CTOL is the future. Our Pilots are now mostly flying CTOL aircraft (Hornet/Super Hornet) stateside, at cost of HM Government. The US wish that we still had a carrier capability. We currently have a carrier capable of STOVL fixed wing operations, which will be true most of this decade. Other European nations are in possession of Harriers - despite current economic woes. RN fixed wing pilot numbers declined in recent years, which is now something the RN is trying to correct (what will these people fly when not stateside?).

Getting some carrier jets back ASAP will not just make the transition to CVF/F35 easier, but may be a matter of life and death. The SDSR assumptions have been proven wrong, and this decade looks like it will be full of chaos and violence. It would appear that sending a task group to the Gulf is still an option - yet restrictive ROE that demand positive identification of targets and restrict the ability of shipborne weapon systems to deal with threats may prove lethal. The US is beefing up the defences of Minehunters etc in the Gulf. We are not, we are however sending an LPH to the Thames to acts as a platform for helicopters on an air defence role during the Olympics. Perhaps our politicians simply do not value our ships and sailors?

SDSR was a complete foul up. The Harrier/CVS capability was axed at the last minute by the Prime Minister, supposedly as the Chief of General Staff (now CDS) urged him to rip up the plans to cut Army numbers, but it would appear that those cuts are still going ahead. Neither the Army or RAF gained anything from these cuts. Is defence planning really a race to the bottom?

I have recently been reading a self improvement book called Can Do by Dutch Psychologist Ben Tigglelaar. It is about making positive changes, not just by having intentions but also by understanding the role that situations ply in our behaviour, and that difficult situations are best countered by anticipating them and developing what he calls counter behaviour. There is a lot to it, much of which is applicable to organisations as well as individuals.

Is the behaviour we need in order to prepare for F35B operations to have jets embarked this decade? If we want to recruit more fixed wing Pilots (and retain existing ones) this decade then we need that to be an attractive option?

Another thing briefly mentioned is one of our major enemies in the MOD/defence, and other organisations - Groupthink. Mr Tigglelaar outlines following as characteristics of Groupthink, can you recognise any from the Harrier/Carrier arguments?

Not expressing your true thoughts and feelings
Consciously maintaining an illusion of unanimity
Investigating only a limited number of alternative solutions to a problem
Being extremely selective in looking for and applying external information
Speaking negatively about people outside the group
Rationalising decisions that were not particularly good
Not developing emergency scenarios

Last edited by WE Branch Fanatic; 1st Jul 2012 at 15:29.
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 20:37
  #1230 (permalink)  
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Honestly, I do have to chime in here. That's a fairly classic RAF response. As if the RAF had managed to avoid all that 'warry' stuff by just being so good.

Shame about all those 'other' wars since WW2 that RAF fighters weren't quite able to get to, in which the fighter pilots of our Royal Navy 'kept their hands in'. I seem to remember one just 30 years ago.

Sent in sorrow, not anger....

I understand that there were a few R.A.F. Pilots flying off the carriers, after a short crash course, for want of a better description, but alas being R.A.F. Harrier Pilots, their know how was blowing stuff up on the ground, which I understand they did satisfactorily. The RN Sea Harrier pilots, I imagine, stuck to their forte, shooting things down, not that the R.A.F. didn't have anyone capable of shooting things down, just that their expertise was doing so with the afore mentioned Lightnings and Phantoms.

Oh, a PS for you, why didn't they station Sea Harriers permanently in the Falklands? Why Phantoms?


Last edited by Finningley Boy; 23rd Jun 2012 at 20:42.
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 21:32
  #1231 (permalink)  
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Oh dear, oh dear...

This government will NOT endorse any of your suggestions WEBF, because to do so would admit an error of strategy in the first place; it would be political suicide, especially considering the number of u-turns of late. No, the RN sadly must muddle through with the benevolence of other countries and their carrier assets until we get our own. That is the painful truth to all of this.

If -B gets cancelled the carriers will be sold not converted and, most likely, the RAF will buy one of the other variants as a GR4 replacement. Right now -B is the critical path to carrier ops unless we suddenly find the money to fit 'Cats and Traps' should 2 variants lose a sibling.

Stark reality.

Last edited by ICBM; 23rd Jun 2012 at 22:08.
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 22:19
  #1232 (permalink)  
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You are quite correct, concur entirely.
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 22:21
  #1233 (permalink)  
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The RN Sea Harrier pilots, I imagine, stuck to their forte, shooting things down, not that the R.A.F. didn't have anyone capable of shooting things down, just that their expertise was doing so with the afore mentioned Lightnings and Phantoms.

Oh, a PS for you, why didn't they station Sea Harriers permanently in the Falklands? Why Phantoms?
Wasn't the demise of the big carriers in the 70s in part to do with an Air Force claim they could defend the fleet anywhere in the world?

Having once again proved the flexibility of VSTOL, the SHAR and GR continued to provide air defence until three months later the less flexible conventional fighters could finally defend the fleet, oh sorry, the Islands.

Why would they permanently base a fleet asset on a land base?
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Old 23rd Jun 2012, 22:33
  #1234 (permalink)  
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Why would they permanently base a fleet asset on a land base?
Or why would they base an aircraft without a radar missile when a long range, all weather radar missile equipped aircraft was needed?
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Old 24th Jun 2012, 01:46
  #1235 (permalink)  
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Have I missed something or are we beating ourselves to death with the bleeding obvious?

We only had VSTOL carriers, so the only UK FW in the fight were VSTOL ones. (And the Vulcan). When the war was over there was a small period of time when the surfaces available dictated a VSTOL aircraft mount QRA. Once we'd built the requisite runway the big chaps turned up.

This is as simple today as it was then. Maritime aviation will always lose out to land based aviation when it comes to scale. If you want the biggest and fastest you probably have to go for land based. If you want the most flexible you go for VSTOL. If you want a happy marriage of the two, CV is the answer. At about that point you check the wallet, see what you can afford and go back to the beginning.

Or just guess the answer. Announce it in the press and call it SDSR.

Who would want a CVS based SHAR when a land based F4 was available (nearby)? No one. Who would want a SHAR when nothing else was available? Everyone. Who would want a carrier based F4 in place of a couple of CVS based SHAR? All depends on where you stand on the pitching deck/ sortie generation debate!
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Old 24th Jun 2012, 08:57
  #1236 (permalink)  

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Just to change the subject slightly - what about stealth in all of this? If I remember correctly, a long time ago, when we used to talk about the fabulous new ‘joint strike fighter’, (or ‘joint combat aircraft’, was it?) that was going to be the best thing since the last best thing, stealth seemed to be very important. And also very expensive.

So I was rather struck with that excellent pic (thanks glojo) linked at post 1224, of the B exposing herself.
She's got a huge gun pod and six underwing racks. Surely, that can’t be any more stealthy, possibly less, than a Typhoon? And does it matter? Quite apart from the fact that it has been so far, as mentioned above, very expensive to get to this stage.


edited to say, the link to the pic seems to be too long to work. Not sure how to make it fit - but it's still in glojo's #1224. Sorry!

Last edited by airsound; 24th Jun 2012 at 09:02. Reason: link not good
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Old 24th Jun 2012, 10:07
  #1237 (permalink)  
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The pylons are not stealthy but the gun pod is, allegedly. Look in any book or manual concerning stealth and LO principles and the first rule is to avoid 90deg angles. The pylons don't help there.

I wouldn't like to guess what the relative LO merits are between a Typhoon and the F-35B in that picture because it is an incomplete story in my opinion. You'd only be in that configuration after expending external weapons so you'd take a bigger LO hit if those each had weapons on. Similarly you'd then need to compare it to the LO signature of a Typhoon full of AIM-120, ASRAAM and EPW/PWIV.

If you need stealth against your foe then the underside would be as smooth as a baby's bum. If you don't need stealth for whatever reason, and you're required to do, say, CAS then load her to the gunnels with useful mixed load (6 heavy bomb hard points, 4 missile hard points + gun) and off you go. Put multi-store ejector racks, e.g SDB, on and you can carry a lot. Clearly issues at sea for 'bring back' in such a heavy fit but if you know you're dropping it's not an issue coming back empty.

Last edited by ICBM; 24th Jun 2012 at 10:21.
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Old 24th Jun 2012, 10:47
  #1238 (permalink)  

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Thanks for that ICBM. I hadn't realised the gun pod was stealthy - somehow the thought of a sodding great (but stealthy) cannon is slightly odd....

I take all your valid points about external weapons loads.

But I guess my real point was that the B seems to be so limited on what it can carry internally, apart from fuel and that zonking liftfan gubbins that I wonder whether it can actually do much that's useful when it's being stealthy.


Last edited by airsound; 24th Jun 2012 at 10:54.
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Old 24th Jun 2012, 10:53
  #1239 (permalink)  
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Ivor Nidia,

I am sorry, but you have a very simplistic ideal of what constitutes operational capability. Carrier Strike is not just about the pilots of F35, safely hopping on and off a deck, it is about the performance of the total system. I have already made a post about the challenges that pilots of F35 will face in gaining Operational Qualification, which does not just mean doing circuits. Without continually operating the aircraft, the whole capability will be sub-optimal. Now, there may well be those in the MOD who are willing to take the risk, but we have all seen where that has led.

I base my comments not on a benign 9 month deployment (no disrespect intended) but on a 25 year career including service on 3 carriers, 6 of those years with the RAF, including at HQ Air Command and time in Main Building.

I have seen the difference over the years, from the time when I served on Ark, where there were Falklands Aces such as Soapy and Mogs drinking at the same bar as me, through Gulf War one, Op Deny Flight in the CAOC, time at Decci with several different squadrons not just RN ones, right through to JFH and I have seen first hand how OC has declined. In exercise Purple Warrior in 1987, the precursor of JFH was flying 4 over 4 CAP, plus CAS with what I think was 800, 801 and 1 Sqn at the time. Here is a photo of that very exercise.

ArkPurpleWarrior | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

In latter years, JFH were merely 'playing at the game' and never achieved the level of capability I remember from 1987 despite significant feats such as a 17 aircraft launch during Hairy Funnel...thank god they did not all come back! That is the point...whilst the aircrew may well have achieved a significant amount, as a total system, carrier strike did not. The various other actors soon lost their limited skills as soon as the jets left. The units were never really tested in the sort of high intensity flying programme I remember, against a challenging adversary (albeit in an exercise) followed by a long deployment. Flying in the North Sea within range of Cot/Witt does not test the system. I hope the lessons since the demise of the old Ark in 1979 have been learnt although I doubt it. There is still a significant body out there that thinks you can operate Queen Elizabeth Class part time. You cannot, I speak with the experience of serving with both RN and RAF, witnessing the failures of doing things on the cheap or part time. This country has invested a lot of time and money in QEC and the aircraft that will operate off it. The RAF, RN and Army owe the taxpayer by agreeing to use the capability to its maximum effect in defending Britain's interests worldwide, exerting influence be that through soft power such as the cocktail/school party, or evacuation, blockade, disaster relief, strike or CAP. To do anything less, in order to indulge in some single service agenda will be negligent!
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Old 24th Jun 2012, 11:38
  #1240 (permalink)  
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Nobody here doubts or questions your credentials shipmate, especially myself. My hope is that the next Defence Board share your idea of CS. Time will tell.

Airsound, 8 x internally-carried SDB plus 2 self-protect AMRAAM is pretty damn awesome IMHO.

Last edited by ICBM; 24th Jun 2012 at 11:42.
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