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RAF offered F117 by Reagan?

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RAF offered F117 by Reagan?

Old 2nd Jan 2017, 21:56
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RAF offered F117 by Reagan?

Surely a load of old tosh....

https://theaviationist.com/?p=40900


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Old 2nd Jan 2017, 22:30
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Well. it's The Guardian, but they're citing "[f]iles released to the National Archives in Kew on Friday", so maybe not too toshy.
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Old 2nd Jan 2017, 23:21
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IIRC it was on offer a couple of times
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Old 2nd Jan 2017, 23:36
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Surely it was a machine with a mission that only the USAF could undertake and basing any on this crowded little island would have exposed the project in short order?


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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 09:11
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I'm not sure it couldn't have been operated by someone other than the USAF, but I agree that basing it over here would have been difficult. We were involved in it, with at least 2 test flights and a brit exchange pilot, from the early days. My worry is that if we had procured it we would have inevitably messed it up - a paragraph in that article sums it up:

Believed to be dubbed F-117C, the British variant, was planned to be equipped with B-2 type intakes, a F-22 type clear-view canopy, British avionics, F414 or EJ200 engines, plus a number of BAE structural components or sub-assemblies.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 09:21
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Good job we didn't take up the offer, a 'one-trick pony' in my opinion. Might have done the job in GW1/GW2 and Balkan conflict, but would have ended up being a millstone around the taxpayers neck.

Like most things that come from that side of the pond, USDoD would put down limitations on what we could have, then BAe would have had their say.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 12:32
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The RAF might have gotten a few F-117s, but if we didn't have the jammer support and probably wouldn't have had Elvira (and the trained operators) we'd have been left with a small force of aircraft with very limited payload. The main selling point (low observability) was compromised by lack of support. Good for headlines, poor for utility.

A key issue with the F-117 was that it needed a great deal of mission planning and routing (including the "Elvira" emitter database) and heavy support including standoff jammers like the EA-6B or EF-111 to be effective. With those, as seen in the Gulf in 1991, it worked well: without them fully deployed, rather less so (Serbia).


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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 13:22
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On counterpoint, the 117 could have offered some utility to the RAF despite all the above.
- Yes it was perhaps a one trick pony, but it was a pretty good trick. A small element of "Silver Bullet" aircraft can prove handy in the first few days of a conflict.
- It would have given the UK access to stealth some 30 years before the UK fields a stealth aircraft. Perhaps this could have been useful for UK doctrine and aircraft development- maybe influenced the next generation of aircraft programs.
- Some comments about basing in the UK giving away the secret perhaps don't really matter. The offer was made in 1986. If the UK had taken up the offer it would have taken several years to build up the capacity (likely with a UK element in Nevada). So perhaps IOC a few years later- all by the time the 117 was first officially acknowledged in the US in 1988. There are quite a few RAF bases off the beaten path...a few have even been known to operate certain unmentioned aircraft..... Sure spotters would have seen them, but again we would be around the 1988-1990 time frame when the cat was already out of the bag.
- Much is made about the loss in Serbia, but no one ever said the aircraft was invisible. The USAF used poor tactics: underestimated the AA defenses, used predictable flights paths and unencrypted radio traffic during the raid, and IIRC the aircraft overflew the same target several times. Definite no no's.
- "might have done a good job in GW1/GW2 and Balkans, but...." That is why you buy warplanes. Yes it might have been expensive, but war is expensive. 6 Tornados were lost in combat in GW1. I believe all were lost on airfield attacks using non-precision weapons, all at night I believe, ~4 at low level. What is a better tactic? Penetrating at low level with dumb bombs, or dropping a precision weapon onto a shelter from a stealth fighter at a much safer altitude? The 117 excelled at these night precision strikes. What was the "cost" of the lost aircraft and brave crews?
- On support aircraft- granted support helped, but the 117 still had some utility by itself.
- The aircraft could self-designate. The UK used buddy designation for years which is less efficient.
- Now taking a perfectly good aircraft, having BAE rip everything out a put in UK engines and avionics- I believe we have been down that road before.


Just my thoughts. Maybe not such a terrible idea....
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 13:31
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Good job we didn't take up the offer, a 'one-trick pony' in my opinion.
With the exception of the F-4, I'm hard-pressed to name one truly multirole aircraft (not just in name) that the RAF was operating in the mid-1980s. Even the F-4 was only operated in one role at a time.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 13:50
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(a) There's no way the UK could have afforded it (both to buy and to operate - the MMMH/FH for the 117 is hideous due to all the signature management processes never mind all the mission planning faffing).

(b) The UK didn't have a mission for it. In GW1 its tiny population flattered its stats. In the skies over bagdad the principle threat was unaimed, unguided AAA and stealth is no use at all against that threat. There were only (IIRC) 12 F117s in GW1, and so the loss of a single airframe would have been an 8.3% loss rate. I don't believe *any* coalition aircraft suffered an 8.3% loss rate with the possible exception of the Tonkas doing the runway denial role, which is an inherently dangerous role.

My interpretation of Ronnie's note (FWIW) would be that he had just been briefed on these new toys and got a bit excited, so he wanted to talk to his best buddy about them to play a game of top-trumps.

0.03 supplied, YMMV,

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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 15:48
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I understand the F-117 operated out of the UK for (admittedly) short exercises without making the papers.

UK nationals would have been working in the LO engineering field back then on this and other projects so we weren't out of the race really.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 18:33
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PDR1: There were only (IIRC) 12 F117s in GW1, and so the loss of a single airframe would have been an 8.3% loss rate.

Actually 36 F-117's deployed, with over 1200+ missions and 6,900 hours, many in very contested airspace in the early nights of the conflict. Had a high availability rate during the conflict.


36 deployed to combat in GW1 from 59 produced.


None were lost, so rather moot point about possible % fleet loss. Other aircraft had higher loss rates, namely the Tornado and Harrier family (UK and US).


F-117 mission stats by airframe: F-117A: Desert Storm
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 19:29
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I did not know that. Thanks,


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Old 4th Jan 2017, 15:55
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Most of the RAF Tornados lost during GW1 were in the process of carrying out loft attacks or at medium level when they were hit (one of them was actually fragged by one of its own bombs detonating as soon as it armed). Only one was carrying JP233 and that was shot down post attack at low level. 2 of the aircraft were shot down in daylight (the first one and the last)
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 18:24
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Details of RAF Tornado GR1 losses during GW1 here:


RAF - RAF Tornado Aircraft Losses
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 19:01
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TBH, even back in the 1980s it was difficult to see what sort of operation we would have conducted with F117s of our own that wouldn't also have involved allied operations with the USA. GW1 was a good example of that being so. We couldn't have used them in a Falklands scenario, and probably wouldn't have needed them either. Any kind of European conflict would have been a NATO affair.

Acquiring F117s would have been a nice demonstration of "The Special Relationship", and with Thatcher and Reagan getting on very well it's not wholly surprising that it was considered. What is moderately intersting is the timing. The DoD only confirmed the existence of the F117 in 1988, yet the offer was apparently made in 1986, two years earlier. Certainly, reading Ben Rich's book, one gets the impression that the F117 was the most closely guarded manned weapons system in the US inventory at the time, the holiest of holies, for use only when it really really matters. Perhaps the fact that Rich had a British father, and Alan Brown (Rich's programme manager) was British, also had something to do with it too.
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 19:29
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Originally Posted by sandiego89 View Post
Other aircraft had higher loss rates, namely the Tornado and Harrier family (UK and US).
RAF Harrier loss rate in GW1 was zero...

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Old 4th Jan 2017, 19:34
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RAF Harrier loss rate in GW1 was zero...
As was RAF Harrier deployment.....
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 22:30
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Big negative on UK F117 operations (or at leass independent operations) - lack of a compatible air to air refuelling system. Unless the update included a probe....
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Old 5th Jan 2017, 01:27
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Thanks for the corrections PDR & BEagle. I was likely reading this list Coalition Fixed-Wing Attrition in Desert Storm too quickly and mixed up the various GR.1, Jaguar (French) and AV-8B loss and damaged list. Perhaps whenever I see GR.1 my mind goes to Harrier, even as those models were retired/converted long ago. Now if the list had read "Jag" I may have been sharper...

An interesting list nonetheless.
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