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Tornado RAPTOR - how much of a capability gap?

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Tornado RAPTOR - how much of a capability gap?

Old 28th Jan 2019, 18:10
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Tornado RAPTOR - how much of a capability gap?

Writing for AIN, Chris Pocock wrote: “BAE Systems has provided further reassurance that the Eurofighter Typhoons serving with the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) can fully take over the ground-attack and strike roles from the service’s Tornado fleet, which is due to be retired by March 2019. The company is promising “a seamless transition of capability from Tornado to Typhoon by the end of 2018.” But one key RAF Tornado capability is not scheduled for transfer— the Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for TORnado (RAPTOR)—even though it is currently providing vital imagery over Iraq and Syria to the coalition partners engaged in Operation Inherent Resolve.”
So how big a capability gap will the withdrawal of Raptor leave?

At the 10 January IOC ‘event’ (and previously), a number of people said that Raptor is still very much required, and that it is still being used pretty well every day on Shader. Tornado folk tend to say that it does things that you can’t do with a Litenining pod, or similar, and that it’s very high resolution and LOROP capabilities can’t be matched by targeting pods. That would seem to be borne out by the fact that similar recce pods are still being acquired in addition to Sniper and Litening pods, by a number of Rafale, F-15 and F-16 operators.

But at the same 10 January event, Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth (Air Officer Commanding No.1 Group) sounded a contradictory note. Speaking to Chris Pocock and I, he said that there wasn’t much tasking for Raptor. He also said that Raptor capabilities were being directly replaced by capabilities on a range of platforms – including a ‘wide body’. (What system is that, and on which widebody?)

At RIAT last year Air Commodore Ian Gale, Assistant Chief of Staff Capability Development C2ISR and Senior Responsible Owner, Air ISTAR, said that Raptor would be relaced by a ‘suite’ of existing already in-service ISR capabilities, including space-based.

Of course the DB110 has been flown on a Reaper, and I understand that there has been some consideration of putting RAPTOR on current Reapers or on the new Protectors, but this does not seem to be a definite decision, nor anything like one.

Although the Royal Air Force reportedly completed a series of test flights of the Rafael Reccelite XR reconnaissance pod on the Eurofighter Typhoon (or were these trials on Tornado?) in late 2015 or early 2016, procurement of Reccelite is not currently planned.

Instead, some Typhoon Force senior officers have suggested that the forthcoming Litening 5 pod on Typhoon will replace RAPTOR. I'm sure that Litening 5 will be a huge improvement on Litening 3, and maybe on RecceLite, but will it adequately replace DB110 in RAPTOR?

At the 25 January Tornado ‘do’ I’m told that the RAF Marham Station Commander Group Captain Cab Townsend apparently said that EOTS would replace the Raptor pod’s ISR capabilities.How can this be so, given that EOTS is effectively an internally mounted set of previous generation Sniper LDP LRUs?

I understand that the F-35's sensor fusion, AESA radar and sheer connectivity will make it an extremely powerful ISR tool, but I'm curious about the impact of losing the particular ISR capability represented by RAPTOR.

I'm not looking for anyone to spill the beans as to what is going to happen - I'm interested in opinions as to the implications.

Last edited by Jackonicko; 28th Jan 2019 at 21:31.
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Old 28th Jan 2019, 22:15
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Bet a Buccaneer could carry it. Oh sorry I forgot.
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 08:43
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Really interesting thread and hopefully it will get interesting responses.

I can only assume that the MoD has carried out a risk review and gap analysis and with their usual funding shortfall has concluded that they can live with the capability loss.

This being added to all the other capabilities that are and have been lost.
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 10:17
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Doesnt seem like the sort of material to be discussing in an open forum.
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 10:52
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Wasn't there the same fuss when a few Canberra PR9's with something BIG installed were retired?

falcon900,

Why is it at all sensitive? We have it, we are about to lose the capability of carrying it, hardly a secret is it.
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 12:39
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Originally Posted by falcon900 View Post
Doesnt seem like the sort of material to be discussing in an open forum.
If we were talking about tactics when using RAPTOR, or the exact performance parametrics of the DB-110 sensor, or any performance limitations imposed by carriage, then you'd have a point.

But the retirement of the pod, without replacement, is not militarily sensitive. Indeed, if some of those I've spoken to are correct it's not even an issue, since the capabilities it offers are either unnecessary, unwanted, or are already offered (or will soon be offered) by other systems.

And if they are wrong, and if RAPTOR represents something that will be missed, then it's only politically sensitive - since someone has made the wrong decision, or has failed to fund an adequate replacement.

In their excellent book "Beyond Horizons", published by UTC Aerospace Systems to celebrate 10,000 Raptor Flying Hours, Chris Pocock and Andy Jeffrey devoted a chapter to UTC's latest derivatives of the DB110 pod - including Multi-spectral and AESA TacSAR radar pods, including the FJP2 - a multi-spectral MS110 repackaged in a Typhoon centreline tank. The same pod could apparently include the SAR radar for GMTI.
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Old 30th Jan 2019, 10:09
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pr00ne, agreed, losing the capability of carrying it is not a secret, but Jackonickos original post goes well beyond that basic fact, eg "So how big a capability gap will the withdrawal of Raptor leave?", "He also said that Raptor capabilities were being directly replaced by capabilities on a range of platforms – including a ‘wide body’. (What system is that, and on which widebody?), "I understand that there has been some consideration of putting RAPTOR on current Reapers or on the new Protectors,"

Jackonicko, I am not suggesting that the retirement of the pod is militarily sensitive, but promulgating quotations from senior serving officers and seeking clarification or confirmation of the implications of their remarks with regard to what might replace the pod, along with the relative performance level thereof seems more questionable, at least to me. I might simply be being very old fashioned, but it is nevertheless wholly disingenuous to suggest that your post was confined to the fact of the pods retirement.
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Old 30th Jan 2019, 17:16
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Absolutely - I was looking for opinion and interesting insight on what is clearly a contentious issue, and upon which even senior officers are not agreed.

The wide body question in italics was not meant to be included - it slipped through from my notes. The fact that DB110 has been flown on Reaper and that there has been consideration of putting the retired pods on an RPAS was not a question - you may note the lack of any question mark!

As to "How big a gap will RAPTOR's withdrawal leave," I did suggest that I'm open to being reassured that this is a non-issue, because "the capabilities it offers are either unnecessary, unwanted, or are already offered (or will soon be offered) by other systems."
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 06:34
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Itís a tricky one Jacko - because on the one hand the RAF isnít going to miss the capability - but on the other its the reason they kept Tornado over Harrier; takes some explaining. 😉
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 11:13
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orca,

I think there were a few more pertinent reasons why Tornado was retained over Harrier, such as;

Fleet size
Stormshadow
It has a radar...

...are just a few.
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 13:13
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 14:43
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Originally Posted by downsizer View Post
+Brimstone
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Plus range.
I am always a bit concerned when we are told that a key capability can be supplied by other systems.

Unless those are provided by the available fast jets Typhoon and F35 it infers that other aircraft would have to be operated.
That means significant additional cost to that already provided by a fully integrated platform (Tornado).

Anyway, I am sure that the MoD and RAF know exactly what they are doing ......
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 15:49
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What's fascinating to me is that the arguments used to justify elimination of RAPTOR sound an awful lot like the arguments used to justify elimination of SR-71.
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 20:09
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Three bites! Rats in a barrel!
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 21:20
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Why can't the Raptor pod be installed on the Typhoon?

Is this just a wiring issue?
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 21:53
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Three bites! Rats in a barrel!
Aaaahhh - that old "excuse" ....
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 21:59
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Originally Posted by Out Of Trim View Post
Why can't the Raptor pod be installed on the Typhoon?

Is this just a wiring issue?
I seem to remember reading that the RAPTOR pod won't fit on the centreline station due to clearance issues (u/c doors and/or ground, I forget now...) and can't be hung under wing because of asymmetric load conditions. I believe at one time there was talk of developing a pod specifically for Typhoon, but this seems to have come to nought...

-RP
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 23:33
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Thanks Rhino power!
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Old 1st Feb 2019, 14:23
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MS-110 pod for Typhoon

MS-110 on Typhoon

​​​​​​​The Raptor pod simply doesn't fit between the undercarriage doors, requiring a new, slimmer pod - either based on the existing Typhoon centreline pod, or another existing pod with the right dimensions. I'm told that the French Thales Areos pod would fit, for example.

The superb book that UTC produced contains these illustrations of the pod they designed for Typhoon - it incorporates the newer MS-110 sensor, rather than the DB-110, and could incorporate a SAR as well.
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Old 1st Feb 2019, 18:46
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Donít you need a back seater to switch it on and off?😉

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