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back to article MoD kit chief: Blighty unsure of supersonic stealth jumpjet

The head equipment purchaser at the UK's ministry of defence (MoD) has implied that Britain maintains an open mind on whether it will purchase the new F-35B supersonic stealth jumpjet to operate from its new aircraft carriers. General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue, Chief of Defence Materiel, seemed to confirm that there was a backup plan …

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Coat

The British Royal Navy...

Sorry...

it can't do what it says on the tin.

can i have my money back now???

mine's the one with the wires hangin out the pockets and the hooks on the bottom edge...

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IT Angle

Manned fighters

And the reason for manned aircraft, rather than drones, to patrol around a carrier battle group is?

Obviously the air force have to have pilots otherwise the whole thing could be run by a few garage mechanics but surely the senior service would be happy to get rid of the handlebar moustached contingent?

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Steam?

What on earth would you install a steam catapult for in this day and age?

You can use exactly the same electromagnetic rail technology as used by modern roller coasters rides to accelerate them to such high Gs.

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Anonymous Coward

F-35B? Nahhh...

What is needed here is...

F-35C. E-2D Hawkeye & nuclear powered boats with steam catapults. Nuff said! The French have all these now (OK Rafale M and E-2C but CDG is a nuclear carrier) It's not as if we don't operate nuclear subs is it? Come on lets buy the kit to do the job, save some cash and buy F-18E/F Hornets if its a bit steep at least they are "off the shelf"!

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Darling!

With darling shoveling billions about willy nilly to support banks that don't need supporting, he should rethink and invest in British shipbuilders and reactor manufacturers to produce carriers that will have a decent usable lifetime without unnecessary retrofits for stuff that should be included from day one. Then there would be no fannying around trying to decide which variant of the Lightning II to go for just go straight for the `c´version and have done with it. Cheaper, faster and probably more manouverable and capable of landing with a full load.

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Another Option

Fitting our new carriers with a catapault system does not necessarily require a separate steam plant. The gas turbines they'll be powered by are capable of producing an enourmous amount of electricity, which means an electro-magnetic catapault system will be entirely feasible. These are already planned for the next generation of US Navy carriers, so it's not as though we'd have to develop them off our own backs.

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Unhappy

Navalising Eurofighter?

There is a lot of work required to navalise a land-based fighter, it's not just a matter of bolting on an arrestor hook as it was many years ago. IMHO, much as I'd like to see a navalised Typhoon (a Seaphoon?), it would probably be so expensive a project it would make the Tranche 3 Eurofighters look cheap! Any such project would be a real last resort for the beancounters, and would probably result instead in some NuLabour stupidity around an anglicised version of the Dassault Rafale naval fighter - eugh!

If we have to, can't we just use some navalised Hawk 200s (the Hawk 100 has already been fitted with arrestor gear, as has the fully-navalised T-45 Goshawk version) and put off ordering anything until it's clear the F-35B will do the job? Or do rolling take-offs and landings with the old Sea Harrier, maybe with the Pegasus 107 and bigger wing from the GR9? Would seem a much cheaper and better option, and both the Hawk 200 and a re-engined Sea Harrier would be good enough for the mainly policing type ventures we're likely to get into in the meantime.

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Black Helicopters

Just not very british....

Whatever happened to good old British garden shed engineering?

Why can't we catapult them with a bunch of big bungy cords wound up to tension with a couple of old lawn mower engines?

As for the vertical weapons weight landing this is easy. Lower one of the deck lifts 10 feet, fill the resulting cavity with foam blocks under a big bungee net and just let the plane flop down into the hole. It will even save on time and money packaging them for return to the US when they break down and go back under warranty every time we try and use them.

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Stop

So then...

Piss Up In a Brewery anyone?

What a bunch of useless pillocks.

So glad this collection of muppets are A) in charge of the country and B) in charge of the defence of our country.

I feel sooooo much safer now.

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Go electric

The US in looking into electric rail gun type catapults, could these be used instead or would that also only be available in a nuke ship.

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Coat

Lightning II

Is it called that due to remarkably short endurance and combat radius, like the original Lightning?

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Black Helicopters

Here's an idea

Why don't they just bite the bullet and order a couple of Nimitz class carriers??

The Yanks already have the design, the later versions were made of modular components, so they can easily be upgraded and modernised over time, and between them, the two could carry the entire RAF and Fleet Air Arm fighter/strike aircraft fleets, giving the MOD all those lovely airfields to sell off for housing!!!!!

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You're F***ing Kidding . . . Right??!!

I had to check the calendar a couple of times and realised that we're a long way past 01/04/08 and a fair way short of 01/04/09. Besides, the timestamp on the article is 18:02 GMT which would have made El Reg the fool.

Having read this article twice and checked other sources of reference in respect of the world I currently (believe) I live in, I am more than convinced that there is at least one other parallel dimension or existence.

The dimension/existence that I currently occupy is one of global magnitude. The one that imbibes me with news of market collapse, millions (nay billions) of currency being pumped into economies worldwide that are suffering from SARS (Sad Assed Recession Syndrome).

Apparently, General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue and cronies occupy another dimension/existence. One that doesn't suffer from the trivial flotsam and jetsam of the real world I believe I live in.

Oh, to be on the other side of the Nexus . . . It must be a true wonder to behold!

But I am wasting time here as I have only got another 60 days to ramp up my stash of Extreme Porn before it becomes illegal and prosecutable (does that sound right Ed?).

There is but one saving grace for me in my world though, both myself and General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue will be either prosecuted or exonerated under the same law . . . To wit . . .

"Pornographic" is defined as being produced for the purposes of SEXUAL AROUSAL . "Extreme" includes acts which THREATEN A PERSONS LIFE, RESULTS, or is likely to RESULT, in SERIOUS INJURY to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals, involves sexual interference with a human corpse, or sex with an animal (dead or alive).

In addition, the picture must be grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character and "A REASONABLE PERSON" would consider the action depicted to be real.

Don't know about the rest of you but my ass is really sore from the constant shafting I take from the powers that be . . . OUCH!!

\ No icon, as none of them truly represent the EXTREME ROGERING we all have to endure!!

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This post has been deleted by its author

No worries: god will tell Blighty it flies just fine.

Shame about the Harrier. Luckily George and Tony rewrote the laws of physics, much as they did laws of evidence, privacy, habeas corpus, etc. This means a twice-as-heavy Harrier II clone can now land on any carrier - wherever and whenever a commander-in-chief needs to work on his or her Saeed al-Sahaf shtick.

Brown ne Brittan have done their part to keep the fairytale alive, and the cabinet choices made by Obama indicate that the carriage will not turn back into a pumpkin 20 Jan after all.

So that's it then - no floating cappuccino makers needed.

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Too late

'Or do rolling take-offs and landings with the old Sea Harrier, maybe with the Pegasus 107 and bigger wing from the GR9? '

It would cost more to get the few serviceable Sea Harriers back in service than you can imagine. Electro rail gun catapults are still too experimental to base a ship design on, so the only half way sane option is to add steam cats and traps to the CVF (it's in the plans it just doesn't make much sense) and buy the F-35C (Carrier version not the Jumpjet). The only snag being the RAF don't like the idea of the Navy having that capable an aircraft.

The problem with buying Nimitz class carriers off the shelf is that it would take most of the RN to man one of them which does leave something of a shortage across the rest of the fleet.

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Stop

Go for the catapult, please!

The F35B may prove to be a bit of a dog, and is unlikely to equal the Harrier in weapons capacity or manoeuvrability. The F35C, or naval versions of several other types, would probably be much more useful, and a lot cheaper.

As for the catapult, it need not require steam plant. Others have suggested the electromagnetic rail gun approach. Nice idea, but not proven in service.

Why not compressed air? A conventional "steam" catapult would run on that with little modification. The primary air supply could be taken from the first stage compressors of the gas turbines, and boosted by ordinary commercial air compressors run by electrical or shaft power from the turbines. It would need extra engine room space for compressors and air reservoirs, but much less than for a boiler plant, and much, much less than hangar space for spare aircraft.

It could be cheaper, safer and more fuel-efficient than the alternatives.

Mines the one with the air cylinder in the pocket.

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Happy

Ha ha ha ha ... Harrier!

Am I alone in finding it rather amusing that our American cousins are struggling to re-invent a technology which Britain pioneered almost fifty years ago? The first flight of the Hawker Siddeley P.1127, the experimental prototype which became the Harrier, was in November 1960.

Maybe the F-35B will finally achieve vertical thrust in time for the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the P.1127. The deadline is 19 November 2010.

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Jan

F35B?

You will get your very own F104G, mark my words.

Lets hope this time not too many pilots die.

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Anonymous Coward

The problem with the F-35C trap-and-cat verion

The problem with using the Dave-C, or any other trap-and-cat aircraft for that matter, is that arrested landings are #$%^ difficult. So if the aircraft are going to be any use, the pilots need to practice all the time. That in turn means that the same aircraft and pilots can't spend years at a time in, say Kandahar, a zillion miles from the sea and a carrier to practice on.

Whereas a STOVL is much easier to land, so you can afford to spend more time on land-based operations. Now if the Brits had lots and lots of 'spare' frames and drivers, so what. But they haven't.

So,

* go for Dave-C and you've pretty much got a single-role carrier aircraft fleet,

not much use if there's no call for maritime-based strike, or

* go for Dave-B and have a dual-role fleet that can do either carrier-based

or land-based strike.

If, and that's the rub, *IF* it works.

Glad it's not *my* tax money they're gambling with

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Black Helicopters

Landings

Someone should cut me a cheque if this gets used. Why not have a massive blower under a grill set into the deck. It'd be like the inverse of a ramp. The plane can use the updraft from the underdeck blower to provide extra lift, like the indoor skydiving malarky. Vectored blowers might even make the process more stable.

If it's good enough for Ms. Monroe...

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Black Helicopters

@Andrew Crystall

If you have done any reading you will know that the cost of the carriers and attendant botched up aircraft already exceeds that of buying "off the shelf" Nimitz class carriers, F35C's and E2's.

There is even a clue in this article (90% of a nuclear carrier).

As I said, put the Fleet Air Arm on one and the RAF on the other, with the government determined to PFI everything in sight, I am sure P&O can be bribed into providing the crews.

Although I think you will find the crew requirements for ship handling between the Nimitz class and the "Rubber Duck/White Elephant" class are not dis-similar, you were probably counting air crew and air maintenance crew as well.

Just think about all the private prisons/asylum seekers holding centres you could build on all those runways; not to mention Tesco superstores, Pizza Hut and Starbucks.

Any left-over space can be used to store unsold cars produced in Coventry, Swindon etc.

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Nimitz Class

Manpower is really the issue with American carriers (or indeed any American ships) - British ships tend to have a tiny crew for their size required to operate them. American ships don't. I mean come on, they employ a guy who's sole job is to keep the vending machines on the ship filled up ffs, in the RN that would probably fall on some poor AB who's already doing 3 other people's jobs :p

Nimitz - 3,200 men plus Airwing of ~2,500

CVF - 600 (Possibly plus airwing, which would be maybe another 120)

Quite a gap...

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Anonymous Coward

Why not?

Just build some more nukes, and spend the rest of the money on helicopters? I can't remember the last time we actually went to war with a nation that actually HAD an airforce, or a navy, so why even bother?

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Anonymous Coward

a title is required

'These are already planned for the next generation of US Navy carriers, so it's not as though we'd have to develop them off our own backs.'

Well thats if the yanks are selling it yet...Probably not due to the factthwey havent got it to work properly yet...Thats the problem with prototype tech it doesn't always work. however... If we made a start sooner rather than later and worked on the tech thoroughly off-ship, we could probably exceed the success rates of current rolllercoaster tech (99%??) and have a modification free working system ready by the time the decks are built

question is would it be cheapr to build prototype test rigs which were actually ready when needed, or go with steam n boil?

which raises one question how long to launch? are they going to keep the steamers on all the time? or only in theater? flick the kettle on lads we need to get going..

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Progress

Please remind me - why did we ditch the Harrier in favour of this electro-mechanical lump of lard? It's American - of course it's overweight!

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Anonymous Coward

Poor RN.

The f35b is a dog. The harrier could jink and do all sorts of things. The stupid system in the f35b is useless for combat and only fit for airshows if you are lucky.

The compressed air idea seems logical. Not being an engineer I couldn't confirm eitehr way. However I am guessing that the time it would take to generate the required pressure may be an issue.

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Joke

Or...

just get rid of the aircraft carriers and stop fighting everyone elses wars for them...

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Go

CTOL or STOVL?

The new carriers have been designed from inception to be reconfigurable at a minimal cost, due to fairly obvious technical risks (and costs) associated with a STOVL F-35. Rather than spin this story as some kind of MoD incompetence and the UKs inability to design military ships, I would suggest that this is all good engineering practice to ensure that we don't end up with two white elephants in 8 years time!

Electromagnetic Catapults are inherently risky due to their reliance on electricity (which can't be guaranteed on-board ships) and the safety factor of flinging 40 tonne aircraft (and a pink, fleshy pilot!) off the side of a ship. Steam catapults, after all, have been around for 60-odd years and are proven technology. Notwithstanding all this debate, the new carriers have allowances for both of these technologies in the design (both in space, and to a lesser extent, power).

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NIHS

@SkippyBing

@John Browne

["Electro rail gun catapults are still too experimental"]

["Nice idea, but not proven in service."]

Gentlemen, I appreciate that the Civil Service suffer from that debilitating condition of "Not Invented Here Syndrome", but electromagnetic linear induction motors have been around for decades and have been being used by talented intelligent engineers for some considerable time, including those very unreliable high speed MagLev trains around the world which haven't been using them at all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Launched_roller_coaster

This is simple reliable off the shelf technology, aside from the fact that STEAM + SALT WATER = ENTHUSIASTIC RUSTING and the strains on the aircraft due to steam catapults are a significant factor affecting aircraft lifespan.

Which immediately rules it out for use by the MoD.

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Anonymous Coward

Steam... Really

Ditch the steam and use Linear Induction Motors, job sorted

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Manned fighters

Drones are expensive.

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Coat

The irony..

"Sorry, F35 can't do the job and we're installing catapults on the new carriers, but to save money we're buying Rafale's"

If we'd have hammered an aagrement out with the French over design lead ages ago, we might even have had Eurofighter earlier and cheaper.

There again, if the French can't flog a few abroad, it must be bad!

Mine's the coat with the HGSS badge on and Q A HR-E GR1 on my service book.

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Paris Hilton

Lightning 2

Rich - in this case the lightning '1' would be legendary P38, not our (equally as lovely, just in a different way) EE incarnation.

PH, cos she could handle twin booms...

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Unhappy

delusions of lost empire

can anyone explain what the carriers are for? For a colonial war on illiterate tribesmen (Afghanistan) you don't need carrier-borne aircraft. For a sea-based attack on a state with modern defence systems (Iran for instance), the carriers would be useless as they'd be spotted by drones and sunk by sea-skimming missiles as soon as they came within range. For protecting shipping lanes, long-range land-based aircraft are a lot cheaper and less vulnerable than a carrier.

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Tom
Silver badge

Even then its only stealthy if you use US radar

Sticks out like a sore thumb using sw radar.

You canna break the laws of physics captain - but you can rip of some gullible governments!

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never be an early adopter

and certainly not of American kit, from rifles to carriers. Let them work out the bugs, study their mistakes, assess any successes, then go build smaller, faster, better at a lower cost.

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Alien

Wake Up, Smell the Java, Swallow the Red and Blue Pill :-)

"You're aware of how much the Nimitz class costs, right?" ... By Andrew Crystall Posted Thursday 27th November 2008 23:51 GMT

Andrew,

You're aware that the Nimitz class costs are fully loaded with fatty pork to fatten the corrupting lobbyist machine, Stateside.

And whenever you consider that and the statement ..."The UK carriers, however, are to be propelled by gas turbines rather than nuclear reactors, so as to save money. But a gas ship, unlike a nuclear one, has no ready source of steam.

Word has it that the UK would, if forced to it, equip the carriers with a separate steam boiler plant for the catapults as well as the gas-turbine propulsion. This wouldn't be cheap: a similar plan in France put the cost of a steam'n'gas double power solution around 90 per cent of what a nuclear ship would cost - without the nuke ship's advantages of endurance and extra hangar space. " ..... why bother building anything which doesn't possess ALL the latest cutting edge technology/engineering/Artificial Life Support Systems for that is exactly what such Carrier Groups are.

It would be an Astute Support Decision too for Super Sub-Atomic Programs to say Nothing of Future NEUKlearer Projects in the Communications Pipeline ..... such as Emergency High Tech International AIdD Delivery rather than just a Smart Arsenal of Dumb Bombs and Top Gun Desk Jockeys doing as they're Told to keep some Wall Street Zero Hero in the Lap of Luxury.

Ahhh, that feels better. ....... A rant a day, keeps the doctors away :-)

PS. ..... And y'all do Realise that Land, Sea or Air is not where IT is at for Global Command and Control ..... for without Control of CyberSpace and ITs Hearts and Minds Facility, have you Zilch in the Way of Power...... but IT does keep Business and Industry Engaged.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Seb Gray

If the (nuclear) CdG is so good, why do you think the French are procuring a (dino-diesel) carrier?

@Lewis - I know you are speaking from personal experience on operational issues from your RN days. However, do you speak to industry and MOD procurement before writing all of your articles? There are several factually incorrect statements made in this article and previous articles I've read.

That being said, I always enjoy reading your analyses.

As a starting point I would suggest you contact the PR department of LM UK and ask them to pass comment on this particular article.

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Boffin

Linear motors are not an option...

... yet.

The CVF is fitted-for-not-with catapults partly in the hope that by the time it needs them, the technology will be mature enough.

Yes, rollercoasters already do it. No, that's not relevant, because the fastest example manages only about 1.6g and reaches only half of the stall speed of a typical aircraft . Oops. Couple that with the fact that electric motors - rotary or linear - become less efficient at higher speeds (max torque/acceleration is at the start), and you have a big ol' pile of Unproven Technology.

Steam works very well indeed. Compressed gas/combustion-pressurised (i.e. airgun/firearm tech) are possibilities, I believe. Linear motors would be nice if they can be made to work, but that's not yet.

AC for obvious reasons.

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daft...

Why on earth would you want to tie yourself to the limitations of stovl aviation? Surely it makes far more sense to have the option of fielding a fixed-wing conventional air group - slap in a diagonal deck (British invention) with a catapult and, if you really want, put a ski jump on the bow (although another couple of cats would probably make more sense.) with the longer decks, short takeoff isn't so important, although the agility of such multi-mode aircraft is appealing - and vertical landing in some instances may be a useful mode.

From the propulsion point of view, the real benefit of going nuclear is range... iirc, the US carriers do carry fuel, but only so that they can refuel the battlegroup. nuclear powerplant is also pretty compact. The only benefit of gas turbines that i can see is in weight/modularity enabling distributed power generation - assuming a turbo-electric propulsion system - shaft connected power is inefficient and so last week.

Anyway, it's always worth having catapults to scare the american pilots with... ours were always shorter and harder... making taking off from British carriers all the more exciting for our visiting friends from accross the pond.

Can we get a frigate with a decent calibre gun if we're going shopping? there's probably something suitable in Naval Stores somewhere!

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Pirate

Re: Ha ha ha ha ... Harrier!

They are not even reinventing it. The F35 VTOL program was a failure until they payed for some consulting from Yakovlev design bureau in the 90-es and bought the blueprints for Yak-141 Freestyle.

As far as catapults of any description (and especially steam ones) the main problem with them is that they freeze in high lattitudes. The catapultless design more or less says what do the "great minds" in Whitehall think of as the main theatre of engagement for the next 30 years - Arctica and Antractica.

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Paris Hilton

@ Cube

"Why can't we catapult them with a bunch of big bungy cords wound up to tension with a couple of old lawn mower engines?"

Why not just attach them to the anchor with glider pulley wires and make the boat go backwards? Can they go backwards flat out? How many gears do they have?

Maybe they could put another gear box on it if it is a problem. They could put the brakes on and rev it up and drop it straight into 2nd or even 3rd.

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Dead Vulture

Where's Fred?

Now Fred's gone, if we need steam, can't we just repurpose some of his old traction engines?

Marginally more seriously, someone asked how much compressed air would be needed. I think that's an interesting question. From first principles, I reckon if you could store a worthwhile proportion of ship's engine output for a few tens of seconds, you'd have more than enough stored potential energy to pass on as kinetic energy to the aircraft being launched. And it would probabl be more proven and better behaved than the electric solution.

However, as someone else pointed out, there's a certain amount of mechanical stress for any aircraft involved in any kind of assisted launch (and for the ship too). I suspect that comes into this somewhere.

Can't we just privatise the forces? It's a well known fact that the private sector can work miracles in terms of budgets and timescales, right?

Gravestone. Lions, donkeys, etc lead to undeserved and unnecessary gravestones.

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Pirate

Weigh the anchor as the Rev. Spooner might say

I was going to make a flippant comment about attaching the front undercarriage leg to the anchor chain and then allowing the anchor to drop. Rocket assisted anchor might do it. Or a streamlined towed device that suddenly becomes very unstreamlined. Fix up to a pully at the front, cable back to the aircraft...

Or attach a large flywheel to the ship's gym, and get all those flabby water babies peddling away. Bit of cable and a clutch and away you go. If that didn't work you could always attach large sharp bits to the flywheel and bite chunks out of other vessels that got too close. Is Craig Charles up for some commentary?

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supersonic stealh?

Why bother with the stealth and all the penalties? Wouldn't it be cheaper just to make it so fscking fast that by the time you'd seen it coming amd worked out what to do it would have already shat on you and gone home? It's not like the carrier it lives on will be very stealthy anyway...

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Black Helicopters

@Daniel Wilkie

I'd like to know how you got these numbers, the current CVL's have a larger crew that this, and the "Rubber Duck/White Elephnat" is supposed to be a full sized carrier.

Yes the yanks over-crew their boats, reduce the Nimitz crew by about a third and that would seem to be about the correct number.

As for aircrew and mechanics, please remember that a Nimitz class carries 90+ aircraft, compared to our current CVL's 20(ish), of which, only 6-8 are Harriers.

Steam v Electric

Since they were testing rail guns on a warship over a year ago, I would guess that the speed problem has been solved, although obviously reliability still needs to be proven.

Of course, knowing the MOD, they will specify "Clockwork" and will already have pre-ordered them from Woolworths.

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Flame

Why are buying ships for aircraft that dont work

The plane has not been proven to do the job we want, so why buy the ships that will only be able to do the job we want IF the plane works!

Why not waite untill the plane has been deliverd and proven to work as we want, this includes being able to fight of any aircraft it is likely to come up against, then buy the ships.

This would save a lot of money now. Of course we would losse some moey providing a stop gap solution but the figer for that is unlikely to be pure gusework like wether the Americans can deliver a plane that will do what we want.

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Anonymous Coward

X-32

In the (rigged) competition the Boeing entrant worked, but for a few tweaks.

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@Ian Emery

Naval-Technology.com, and Wikipedia (don't say it) - I've done some more digging around and the complement is 1,450 including aircrew and support staff according to the MoD fact sheet, I'm not sure how much of that is aircrew related as it doesn't break it down.

It's still 1/5th the crew for a Nimitz class though. The Type 45 has a crew of 190 compared to the 315 on a Batch 3 Type 42, even though it's bigger. Modernisation I guess. But again, if you compare a Type 45 to the crew of a Yank equivalent, say the Arleigh Burke, that has a crew of 275. They don't need to worry so much about manpower I guess so why bother relying on Automated systems? Sadly our navy DOES have to worry about such concerns so our ships nowadays are designed to minimise crew requirements.

As for the aircrews, CVF's will carry 40 aircraft so granted it is a lot less. However there's no point buying a stonking great Nimitz class if you're only going to fly with half an air wing. Plus they can't physically get into Portsmouth Harbour which is why you used to get the awesome sight of them anchored out in the solent when they visited. I can't remember whether it was the depth (not insurmountable) or the angle you need to turn to get to the nuke parking area, but it's one or the other.

I do agree about the EM Catapults though, they'd seem a much better idea. And not just because they get automatic cool-points.

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