The Future of Naval Fixed-Wing Capability


Lantern Swinger
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?


Lantern Swinger
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.)


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.


War Hero
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.

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
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!


War Hero
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.



Lantern Swinger
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?


War Hero
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.



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.


War Hero
jumpertucker said:
.................. please look at your payrise for proof........
What payrise, it hasn't been released yet! Unless you know something the rest of us don't :oops:
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
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'.


War Hero
Yesterday afternoon:
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."
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??


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?


War Hero
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.

Magic_Mushroom said:
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.

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.


War Hero
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) !!!


War Hero
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.



War Hero
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.
Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
MoD_RSS News story: Join DASA to launch the search for the future of the Naval operating environment MoD News 0
MoD_RSS News story: Ambitious future for Naval Shipbuilding in the UK MoD News 0
soleil Navy News: "Serious Testing Begins On Future Naval Fighter" The Fleet Air Arm 14
P Naval base future revealed Current Affairs 1
MoD_RSS 28th Pontignano Conference: "United Kingdom and Italy: Together for a prosperous, safe and sustainable future" MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Prime Minister: World must unite to defeat COVID and prevent future pandemics MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Future Accommodation Model: one year on MoD News 0
MoD_RSS UK embraces hydrogen-fuelled future as transport hub and train announced MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Opportunities for clean energy in the future Philippines: op-ed by Daniel Pruce MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Robert Jenrick's speech on planning for the future MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Negotiations on the UK’s Future Trading Relationship with the US: Update MoD News 0
MoD_RSS RAF looks to the future on Battle of Britain Day MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Supercharging the future of driving this #WorldEVDay MoD News 0
MoD_RSS UK-EU future relationship: UK and Gibraltar hold further discussions with Spain MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Government launches review into future offshore oil and gas licensing regime MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Finalists revealed in competition to find homes of the future MoD News 0
MoD_RSS A Grenfell Community Update about the next phase of discussions about Grenfell Tower and the future memorial MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Pupils celebrate results that pave the way for future success MoD News 0
MoD_RSS The future of public health MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Negotiations on the UK’s Future Trading Relationship with the US: Update MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Launch of Planning for the future consultation to reform the planning system MoD News 0
MoD_RSS The future of healthcare MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Negotiations on the UK’s future trading relationship with New Zealand: Update MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Negotiations on the UK’s future trading relationship with Australia: Update MoD News 0
D Future in Mine Warfare Specialist Joining the Royal Navy 30
MoD_RSS Outside the EU, a bright future awaits Britain MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Dstl forecasts future quantum landscape for UK defence and security MoD News 0
MoD_RSS HMCI commentary: the future of area special educational needs and disabilities inspections MoD News 0
MoD_RSS On the road to a sustainable future: Net Zero Transport Board paves the way for a green recovery MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Magnox appoints Future Missions Director MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rushi Sunak, on the future relationship between the UK and Switzerland on financial services MoD News 0
MoD_RSS More firms can now benefit from the Future Fund MoD News 0
MoD_RSS New Future Skills Hub for North Ayrshire MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Virtual Events remain for now; greater flexibility of events to be offered in future MoD News 0
MoD_RSS UK commits to support Sudan’s future MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Engineering a bright future for women MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Green number plates get the green light for a zero-emission future MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Government invests £10 million to help make future technologies more secure MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Coronavirus (COVID-19): ministerial direction for the Future Fund MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Future Tech Trade Strategy launch MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Liz Truss launches future trade strategy for UK tech industry MoD News 0
MoD_RSS UK and Gibraltar discussions with Spain regarding UK-EU future relationship MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Third Future Accommodation Model (FAM) pilot takes off in RAF Wittering MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Transport Secretary announces new measures to “keep passengers safe now and level up for the future” MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Important work in tackling future risks restarts at Sellafield MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Moving Venezuela toward a democratic future MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Dstl Pioneers Future Submarine Command Space MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Securing a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Future Fund launches today MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Negotiations on the UK’s future trading relationship with the US: Update MoD News 0
Similar threads

New Posts