The Future of Naval Fixed-Wing Capability

Discussion in 'The Fleet Air Arm' started by Six_and_a_Half, Feb 22, 2007.

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  1. On a little musing, I've been thinking about the future for the Royal Navy's fixed-wing component of the FAA and was wondering if the F-35 JSF really is the best option. I don't know the actual figures, but I do know that the UK has invested a lot of money in the development of the F-35, and it still isn't in service yet. However, in fairness there were substantial delays caused by arguments about whether the UK would be allowed to repair and service the aircraft in home territory.

    So what could be the alternatives to the F-35? With British Aerospace playing a huge part in the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon (which will soon see service), I wonder if a navalised version of this aircraft could be employed. It will lack the V/STOL ability of the F-35 and the Sea Harrier aircraft, but it is an adaptable fighter that can switch from air-to-air to air-to-ground with the flick of a switch. This could be a cutting advantage in naval aviation, where pilots are expected to fill many roles.

    But the Typhoon does also make me think of the Rafale and the Saab Gripen aircraft. These modern fighters are currently in service with the French and Swedish forces already. The French Navy operate a navalised Rafale so development won't even be neccessary. However the bullet that we would have to bite with this is the impossibility of servicing and repair in home territory. Since the Rafale is developed and in service we would have no leverage to convince them to trade with us the blueprints and technical documentation as well.

    Finally, although this really is on a serious point out-of-the-question, would all these aircraft be surpassed in the naval aviation role by an upgraded Sea Harrier, which is a tried and tested aircraft?
     
  2. I think it is a question of whether we could foot the enormous bill of navalising Typhoon, personally I think that BAe already have a contingency for this which they would rip UK Plc off to implement, i am of course cynical!!

    Remember that aircraft like F-18 have seriously beefed up undercarriage to deal with the impact of the landing. Typhoon, Gripen etc etc would need extensive mods to make them carrier proof.

    Alternatives: SU-27K and MIG-29K (political suicide if we bought them I think.)

    FA-18F, RAFALE.

    The French did offer John Reid, when he was temping at MoD, RAFALE because the Yanks were getting cagy about the software access to the F-35.

    I think for ease, payload and performance i'd choose FA-18F.

    WAFUS would probably differ from me, however it is in service at the mo, would be cheap because of the amount that have been produced and the through life costs would be manageable as well.

    Final Point:

    GR9 is a great CAS and AG aircraft by the looks of things, but isn't really multi role or beefy enough for the kind of work we want it to do.
     
  3. chieftiff

    chieftiff War Hero Moderator

    Very recently I was fortunate enough to host some BAe guys, because of the nature of the meeting and subject matter discussed I learnt quite a few technical details about JCA, I've got to tell you we want it, Typhoon, Rafale et al are nothing more than bloody spitfires in comparison, it really is the next generation aircraft / engineering / maintenance package.
     
  4. chiefy

    your damn right

    during one of our many standdown days due to no hets in the final throes of Sea Harrier we were fortunatre to meet with some of the bigwigs of JSF and yes this a/c will wow anybody with its technicological smart packages.

    i just hope that i get 2OE so i can work on em
     
  5. The F-35B was chosen because the RAF demanded a STVOL aircraft. If that requirement had been dropped, the F-18E Super Hornet was the clear winner on cost and availability. The F-35C was the clear winner on stealth and technology. Unit cost of the F/A-18E, $60m. Unit cost of th F-35C, $65mil. Unit cost of the F-35B, $90mil.

    Let's not forget, the STVOL F-35B is still a paper plane and may not even work as advertised, it's still over a year away from it's first flght. To lose weight to get it to work they have already reduced the size of the internal bomb bay significantly and left off the gun.

    We are paying 50% more for the more complex version with less range, no gun and a significanlty smaller internal weapons load. Sounds about right for MoD procurement decisions!
     
  6. Peter,
    A navalised Typhoon would be too expensive to develop for such a small production run, much as BAe would love u to do so!

    An upgraded FA2?!! Why would you upgrade a 1960's technology airframe with poor endurance and payload? Likewise, the GR9 is an 80's design.

    Realistically, if we don't get the F-35, we'll have to buy off the shelf FA-18E/F or Rafale. Both are capable with advantages over the other. Given how underpowered the Rafale is, like DingDong, I'd also probably go for the Hornet although the aircraft is less than impressive in a number of areas. I suspect any such purchase would be a lease whilst a robust UCAV capability was established for the longer term.

    However, the F-35 therefore undoubtedly remains the best option. It should offer us good low observable capabilities and a superb sensor capability largely derived from the F-22. Which JCA variant is however a moot point. The F-35C is undoubtedly the most capable of the 3 variants. However, the STOVL F-35B would be capable of operating from austere locations such as the GR7 is doing now. Swings and roundabouts.

    I'd caution a little bit about getting too gooey eyed about the Lightning II however. Whilst it'll have superb sensor capabilities, theF-35 will be less manoeuverable, have far less payload, overall endurance and supercruise endurance than the Typhoon.

    Nevertheless, F-35B or C will be the right option for the RAF/RN and should compliment Typhoon well. We need to stick with it.

    MM
     
  7. Even though the F-35 now has negative cannons?

    I'm afraid to say that I've never flown an air-to-air combat sortie, so I cannot actually talk with too much (if indeed any) authority, but I would have imagined that some form of weaponry would be quite advantageous in dogfighting. I realise that although great faith is placed in BVR and ASRAAM's and AMRAAM's, but one can always store more bullet rounds on an aeroplane than guided missiles. Bullet rounds are more often than not cheaper to fire, too.

    However, as I said before, my experience of actual dogfighting is nil; But I do still believe that cannons are a crucial piece of weaponry. Perhaps a veteran pilot would be able to agree or disagree? But in an attempt to remain focused on my point, is the F-35 still the best option despite the lack of cannons?
     
  8. All variants of the F-35 have cannon.

    The F-35A will be internal. The F-35B and C will be podded but this will be fully stealthy, not take up a weapons pylon and will be removable for missions where you don't need a gun.

    However, with or without cannon, the F-35 is the best choice for JCA.

    MM
     
  9. yes the F-35 or Lightning 2 to give it its proper "unused" name is a great aircraft one which we need as soon as possible given the sorry state of the borrowed Harrier GR's. However UK/US political stuff aside, when has british defence spending ever been on time and on budget, without sight of our two new carriers (remember these are in-service in less than 5 yrs and they haven't even been ordered yet) the case for the future of fixed wing naval aviation looks bleak. we are about to get a Prime Minister who hates the military, please look at your payrise for proof, any excuse to cut a few billion from the spending and he will take it.
     
  10. Jumpertucker,
    I'm intrigued. Why are the GR7/9s in a 'sorry' state?
    MM
     
  11. chieftiff

    chieftiff War Hero Moderator

    What payrise, it hasn't been released yet! Unless you know something the rest of us don't :oops:
     
  12. a pay rise - since when

    if you mean the retail price index renumeration package then that is not a pay rise

    thats a pay freeze.

    give us 8% and I'll suck of TB and GB
     
  13. As Tony got a big back slap for pulling 1500 troops out of Iraq, Des (Swiss Tony) Browne has announced 1400 more troops/matelots/crabs going to Afghanistan. Comedy timing at it's best.

    Given that, another big pay rise is due for us 'numbers'.
     
  14. chieftiff

    chieftiff War Hero Moderator

    Yesterday afternoon:
    Quote:
    4:31pm - Lord Garden "With regard to the morale of our troops, this may sound as if it is a long way from operations in Afghanistan, but it will be important to them: when will the Armed Forces Pay Review Body report be published? It is now more overdue than it has ever been, and it will be taken by the troops as a signal of how much the Government value what they are doing."
    Quote:
    4:37pm - Lord Drayson "I do not have an update for the House on the timing of the pay review report. If I can get some information, I will write to noble Lords with an answer
    ."

    Shags, I would sooner get an RPI rise with the current rate for January standing at 4.2% than a CPI rise of 2.7% (again rate for January), reality is it will be about 3%, then the Gov can say they gave us an above inflation rate rise, which is of course utter utter cra*p.

    How did we get so far off thread??
     
  15. Trying to get back on topic :) (but thanks for the info on the pay)

    I think I would hand my notice in, if they marinised the Typhoon. THe thing is a hugh white elephant for the RAF, much like the Merlin is for us. Completely overpriced. Yes it is a good bit of kit, but there is better value platforms out there, without lining BAE's pockets.

    Remember the Typhoon is at best 90's technology, and concieved for the cold war air superioty (sp?) role.

    Now the F-35B, probably fits the RAF gameplan nicely as it won't step on typhoons toes too much/obviously. Whereas for us do we really need it? The beloved SHAR, just happened to come along for us at the right time to give us some fixed wing role. But in reality compared to an US carrier, all we could do is piss into the wind.

    The F-35C is our best bet, the carriers can handle it, it has 50% more fuel/weapons load. The US navy must have a better idea than we do regarding the next gen of strike a/c, as they have had proper carriers for the last 25 years.

    Rafale, may not be as stupid an idea as it first seems. Our neighbours are building a 3rd carrier, from our design. THus the exchange of technology can be a 2 way street. I don't know about the power issue (but then the F-35b has got a power/weight issue already!).

    Reality; the goverment will um and ahh, and we will be left to modernise our current carrier's and fly UAV's or their combat equivalents. As by the time the powers that be make a decision, UAV's will be the cheapest option.

    Rant mode off :)

    Now where's my retail/pay rise?
     
  16. Ah, more paranoia!

    What has the value of an aircraft have to do with anything? Typhoon and Merlin support UK PLC. Little else matters to the Govt so take a reality pill.

    As far as which variant of F-35 to buy, it's important to remember that the RN are not the only customer for the aircraft. I'd probably opt for the C but the B is more suited to deployed ops on land.

    Regards,
    MM
     

  17. Reality is the USAF and USN seem to have no problems providing CAS with F-16's and F/A-18's over Afghanistan.

    The reason the USMC want STOVL F-35B's is so they can fly them off their large and fairly plentiful assault carriers.

    The whole 'you can fly them out of muddy fields' claims for VSTOL never held any water in the real world outside the PowerPoint presentations.
     
  18. You still have to go back to the 60's--When CVA 01 was dumped---and idiots like Roy Jenkins held sway (Remember TSR2 ). The future for any realistic aircraft was determined--never mind the platforms to fly from. Years of Labour policy--a control freak called Blair (Vote for him; oh yeah thats has to be a joke) !!!
     
  19. JABP,
    At what point did I suggest flying them from muddy fields? Please don't twist my words.

    However, STOVL clearly gives greater flexibility in terms of where you can operate from and this is why the USAF are examining splitting their F-35 purchase between A and B models for that very reason. Whilst Kandahar and Kabul are relatively well founded now, in 2001-02 they were not and both the USAF and USN struggled to fly fixed wing out of Afghanistan. That is one of the reasons why we have elected to use the GR7 in Afghanistan rather than the GR4.

    Likewise, field ops were conducted by both GR3s and FRS1s during the Falklands War.

    I reiterate however that, I personally would buy the C model as it's take off run is still relatively short.

    Regards,
    MM
     
  20. In support of MM, the USMC also have a requirement to operate from matting strips during the mid-phase of an op. Obviously the shorter the roll, the less sh1te you have to take along with you.
     

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