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back to article Crash grounds RAF Eurofighters - for Battle of Britain Day!

The RAF was left eggfaced in recent weeks as its entire force of fighters - nowadays made up of new and horrifyingly expensive Eurofighter "Typhoons" - was grounded following discovery of faults in their ejector seats. The grounding was particularly embarrassing as it came into force on Battle of Britain Day, the 70th …

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Achtung Spitfeuer!

dakka dakka dakka

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Anonymous Coward

Next week...

Join us again, same time same place next week for the next edition of Lewis vs. Eurofighter, in which he rails against the shade of gray used for the Eurofighter's paint scheme and how it is horribly outdated in post-climate change British airspace.

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in all fairness

it's obvious that he isn't super keen on the eurofighter, but seemingly with good reason!

I mean, lacking the sort of radar found in a f*cking FORD?

However, it is rather shoddy to have pretty much your entire force gounded innit?

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Troll

Colours

Anti-flash white might look good. Especially if we ditch Trident and have to deliver nukes by any aircraft we still have working. The Eurofighter might (at a stretch) be able to atom bomb Warsaw into oblivion if those pesky Poles cause problems.

Perhaps we should give the Russians a ring? The Sukhoi Su-30 is half the price..

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Seriously

The Russians have the best ejector seats. We could make SU-30s under license. All you need is a ball-pein hammer and a pop-rivet gun.

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FAIL

He's got every bloody right to!

I could stomach the EF project if it hadn't (nor still is) costing us the earth, did you read the article or just fancy a pop at the author? THEY COST THE SAME AS RAPTORS FFS! The yanks stopped building those as they were too bloody expensive but thanks to good old fashioned pork barrel politics we're wasting more money on less capable kit.

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Russians

"The Russians have the best ejector seats. We could make SU-30s under license. All you need is a ball-pein hammer and a pop-rivet gun."

...and the Russian defence industry is adopting NATO standards. As so many newer NATO entrants already have Russian hardware, the Russians see NATO as a good market.

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WTF?

Ok, I'll bite

The comment was meant as a bit of fun to ridicule Lewis' weekly Eurofighter soapbox rant, where about 80% of the text is reused each time, but with a slightly different angle.

Yah-di-yah-di-yah, Eurofighter rubbish, F-22 great, austere bombing capability rubbish, can't fight its way out of a paper bag, etc. etc.

Yes, costs have spiralled, but even if (and it's by no means certain) the EF ends up costing as much per unit as an F-22:

* We can export the EF and make some $ back again, the US can't export the F-22

* EF can drop bombs and be useful after air superiority is established, the F-22 is next to useless after the first week of any war its likely to be involved in

* In that first week, the EF is no less useful at shooting down other less capable planes than the F-22, as no power we would be fighting has anything that can even go toe-to-toe with an F-15

And if grounding a fleet of planes is evidence of it being rubbish, then that goes for the F-22, all of which were grounded after one crashed in December 2004. Oops.

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@Lottie and others

The original poster made a very good point. Lewis doesn't compare like with like when he compares the cost of the Eurofighter with the F22. And I wish Lewis would stop being quite so dishonest in the comparison. These figures are largely from wikipedia, which I know isn't definitive, but as an ex RAF Officer, I understand the inadequacies better than most.

F22 Raptor. Programme Cost $65bn. Number built: 166 (187 planned). Fly-away cost $150mn.

Typhoon. Programme Cost last reported at £20bn, probably more like £25bn by now (according to Lewis' figures from the article) - this is the figure the UK government has spent, not total program costs. Number built: over 200 (471 planned). UK buying 160 probably. Fly-away cost £46mn.

I believe what Lewis routinely does is compare the cost of the whole eurofighter program divided by the number of jets built to the fly-away cost of the raptor. (If you are doing something else, please let me know Lewis). What we should do is either compare the fly-away cost, which is the cost of building the aircraft in manpower and materials; or compare the total programme cost divided by the number of aircraft.

So the cost of the Raptor is $150mn in fly away terms compared to about £70mn for the Typhoon.

In total programme costs, the Raptor is about $350mn compared to about $230mn for Eurofighter looking at UK program costs to UK aircraft built.

Finally, don't let US propaganda fool you. One of the reasons the Raptor isn't being built in uber quantities (other than cost) is that it isn't as good as everyone expected. With the avionics fit going into the Eurofighter (especially if the new avionics for bombing go ahead), the Eurofighter is actually more capable than the F-22.

Don't get me wrong. We screwed up with the Eurofighter. If the UK had gone it alone and not involved the other European partners, we would probably have had the same aircraft in less time for less money. But don't put the F-22 up as a shining example of what we should have done instead. My suspicion is that the increased production volumes of the F-35 may make it a better long term choice for many things, but at the moment it is vapourware.

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Boffin

@SlabMan

"The Russians have the best ejector seats. "

IIRC from a Eurofighter documentary Russia was where they *got* the design (or at least the *inspiration*) for it.

It's a pretty complex beast by various accounts.

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Bronze badge

can you elaborate on the F22 not being so hot?

I have seen the same thing mentioned elsewhere. By among others, one of the managers of the F16 program. Would like a flyboy's perspective on its capability.

Not sure about collaboration-based jets myself - it seems like everyone brings in their pet requirements and you end up with neither fish nor fowl. IIRC this was the case with the Tornado. cf also Airbus A400.

And us poor Canucks are going down the F35 road. A huge waste of money, IMHO. Our military would benefit from spreading the same sums elsewhere. Not on spending a huge proportion of our budget on kit of very debatable utility. Seems more job-related than military related.

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@AC 16:18

I do love to see the commentards on forums down-vote people with obviously more relevant knowledge than themselves for seemingly no other reason than they don't like what's being said.

Personally I thought your post quite balanced, informative and reasonable but then again, I'm not going to attribute knowledge to myself that I know I clearly do not possess.

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Grenade

ball pein hammer & rivet gun?

is mr sutcliffe out on license now?

tbh i'd trust him more with the sdsr than the beancounters

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Grounded in Fact

The whole 'grounded' thing is not that big an issue - fleets are regularly grounded whenever a potential engineering or design problem with potential safety ramifications comes to light, often just until someone makes a decision - it's a common Friday afternoon thing in the RAF; fleets are grounded over the weekend and are back in the skies on Monday morning rather than take the almost insignificant chance of something (re)occurring.

And it doesn't affect operations as the risk appetite changes then, and rightly so. In other words, if there's a potential risk identified, why take that unnecessary risk with non-operational flights rather than just ground the fleet whilst it's sorted out?

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da Rooskies

Hey, laugh if you want. The Soyuz may look like it was riveted together by a bunch of pudgy old babushkas at the Heroic Peoples' Spacekraft Kollective, but it's still flying over forty years after we retired Apollo, and will be flying for some time after we've retired the Shuttle.

It ain't pretty, but it works..

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Chocks Away Ginger

Another victory for homogeneous systems strategies. One out, all out, the cry of Red Robbo.

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Pint

I've heard of the few...

Quote:

Some of us at least will have felt, if not safer, then at any rate more cheerful to be protected as we were last month - by a trusty Spitfire

Unquote:

but this is ridiculous.

Infinite Beer for the veteran pilots. They damn well earned every molecule.

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Battle of Brotain

Cabbage crates coming over the briney

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Vulcan?

Isn't it lucky the Vulcan to the Sky trust managed to get XH558 restored and airworthy! Maybe they can cover some of the running costs by renting it out for the occasional sortie against Johnnie Foreigner

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Pint

re Vulcan

I bet if we still had Vulcans upgraded & equipped with JDAM the yanks would snatch the hand off the RAF if they deployed them to take the pressure off the B52Gs loitering over Afganistan on close air support duties with the satnav bombs. Real OAP reunion party.

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Flame

RE: Vulcan?

Nice idea, but as part of getting the Vulcan signed off as air worthy they had to strip out all the electronics etc that didn't have anything to do with flying. I suspect that sort of thing may have put the kybosh on doing stuff like dropping bombs.

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Grenade

Nah

You just winch the bomb bay door open and roll the bombs out on trolleys nicked from Tesco.

They only cost a pound a piece, that's a bargain.

Grenade for obvious reasons

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Out of curiosity ...

Does anyone know of a "cost per square foot"[1] table of national defense, by nation? Might be eye-opening ...

[1] Square mile, whatever.

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Boffin

I just created one...

I went and got info from Wikipedia about spending and area and used excel to create such a table. Turns out, of the top 15 military spenders in 2009, with amount adjusted for current exchange rates, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The country with the greatest expenditure per square kilometer is South Korea, spending about $240,500 per square kilometer.

United Kingdom is second ($239.300/km2). United states is 7th ($72,150/km2). Bringing up the bottom is Canada ($2,100/km2).

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MeRp

"The country with the greatest expenditure per square kilometer is South Korea, spending about $240,500 per square kilometer.

United Kingdom is second ($239.300/km2). United states is 7th ($72,150/km2). Bringing up the bottom is Canada ($2,100/km2).2"

Kind of puts it in perspective, does it not?

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Circumstances

As I recall, South Korea has a capital within artillery range of the border with North Korea. They have a pretty good reason to spend that sort of money. It's a Cold War situation, and worse than just about anywhere except Berlin.

I'm not sure we have anything like the same excuse.

I wonder what the figures are for the whole EU. Could it be argued that Maggie's notorious tax refund from the EU has become de facto protection money?

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What a dopey metric

Why would anyone measure defence cost per area? It just does not make any sense.

Why not measure defence cost per Scrabble scoring of name? "United Kngdom" might actually turn out pretty reasonable.

Surely the only real measurements that make any sense are cost/GDP or cost/population.

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@Charles Manning

"Why would anyone measure defence cost per area?"

Because it costs real money to defend square footage. Really. Think about it. From the car park you park your car in, to the tracks your train travels over, to your housing unit, to the facility you spend roughly 40 hours/week in ... The larger they are, the higher the cost of security.

Throw in vertical (airspace), and the costs skyrocket (no pun intended).

The only question is, how efficient is that security per square (cubic) foot?

"It just does not make any sense."

Maybe not to you ... But then, you're not in charge of defending anything.

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Hyperbole

Well, I suppose it's funny to say that the only operational fighters were the BBMF's, but in truth there would have been Eurofighters ready to go, if needed. They weren't unsafe to fly, after all. Just unsafe to eject from.

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Flame

Related to Hawks?

Are these the same mark of Martin Baker seats that caused all the Hawks (including the Red Arrows) to be grounded the other month, following the discovery of a surface crack?

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Black Helicopters

BAE

Another way to save money might be to nationalise BAE

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Black Helicopters

Nationalise it with WHAT ?!?!

OK I'll go along with your idea, but what are you going to nationalise it with?

There is no money left despite the fact that almost everything has already been sold. In the bottom of the tin are a few buttons and some bandwidth when the digital TV switchover is finished...

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How about....

The money they wouldn't be robbing from us anymore?

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Grenade

On one condition...

The board of directors are all imprisoned for massive missapropriation of public money, then used for target practice.

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Go

@Adma Salisbury

"The board of directors are all imprisoned for massive missapropriation of public money, then used for target practice."

Not while the Chairman and CEO have on demand access to 10 Downing Street they won't.

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Paris Hilton

UK Military Sales opportunity for El Reg?

Sell 'em PARIS, pre-modified for the "Deep Bomber" mode the R.A.F. seek.

The MoD will probably give you a few hundred million quid to merely discuss the necessary design changes.

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Coat

Isn't it asking for trouble

flying from Moron airbase?

I'll get my coat

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Dispatches Report

Watched the program last night and wondered what you'd think of it Lewis, although I must confess I didn't notice your inclusion!

The armed forces are a mess in this country and the conculsions of the SDR will be very interesting. The question of course is does the political will exist to undertake the sort of reform that this country requires. I doubt it somehow.

Nevertheless, interesting article as ever.

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Black Helicopters

Stealth Lewis

"Watched the program last night and wondered what you'd think of it Lewis, although I must confess I didn't notice your inclusion!"

The guy dressed all in black with the angular shoulder-pads?

(OK, I didn't watch it at all, but Lewis sounded posh when I heard him on the radio once.)

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Re: Dispatches Report

iirc Lewis' 15 secs ended with the pithy, if predictable: "Sovereign defence capability? Don't make me laugh."

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"the plane had originally been mean to turn up no later than 1995"

The original delivery date was even earlier than that from what I recall. I distinctly remember going to the Farnborough air show as a child in the very early 1980's and seeing the engine-less airframe on display, accompanied by a description that said the finished article would go into service by the end of the decade.

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That was the EAP

If you saw it in the eighties, then it would have been the EAP, the mostly-British technology testbed built by BAe- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Aerospace_EAP

This first flew in 1986 (hardly the early eighties) and was a long way from being a fully-capable combat aircraft. According to one contact in the industry, it would have had to have been totally redesigned to make into something akin to a weapons platform.

IMHO the biggest problem causing the delays in the Eurofighter has been that there has been no real need for it until recently. The existential threat it was designed for - countering developments in Russian aircraft - did not occur, and the existing planes - mainly the Tornado and Jaguar fleets - have been capable of filling the requirements of the respective air forces. Yet the countries involved always knew that they would eventually need something to replace their existing fleets.

The previous generation of planes is now getting rather long in the tooth (although the Tornado in particular is still a very useful aircraft). Because of this, it makes sense to replace them with Eurofighters as its capabilities in A2A and A2G are introduced and enhanced.

One thing I have not seen - and is vitally important - is the running cost per unit for the Eurofighter and (say) the Tornado at the same point in their service careers. Such costs can easily dwarf the initial purchase costs over a 25-30 year lifespan. Additionally, availability figures would be interesting to see. Are the Eurofighters really hangar queens?

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"Featuring your correspondent"

Complete with cheeky grin and a plummy voice, bless! Nice plug there.

I would have describe Dispatches as good not excellent. Too many basic errors such as those highlighted in the article above. Get the facts straight before you present them, otherwise why should we believe any of your other facts? A reasonable bit of reporting if some gross generalisations and a stupid linkage between US Blackhawks and inadequate UK helicopters. Helicopters and jets are frequently allocated by NATO command systems, it doesn't matter who the nationalities are, more of a case of who has drawn the roster for that task on that day.

So are those Eurofighter pilots taking their own chutes into the cockpit with them, just in case?

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Unhappy

Personal Chutes for Pilots

Not much use unless you can get outside of the explosion zone really, DOH that's what the ejector seat does, um well doesn't do !!

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Well at least some of it's British...

I hope the MOD don't forget the 2 very costly and painful lessons of the past again.

As an island nation I shudder at our lack of ability to protect our shores.

Successive mistakes by governments have left the people that defend us begging spares off other NATO forces - what a joke.

Someone (the one responsible for not doing the homework on the procurement) at the MOD should be sent to assist the troops in Helmand.

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Yeah they should...

Sweeping for IEDs by hand preferably!

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Go

@Andy 57

"Someone (the one responsible for not doing the homework on the procurement) at the MOD should be sent to assist the troops in Helmand."

I saw the programme on the Ch4 iplayer and there's about 20 000 of them. 10 000 in Bristol. At least one of which got a chauffeur driven car to and from his London home *every* day (BTW the MoD procurement site is next door to a Bristol railway station to London.

Good luck with that.

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fortunately

"Pilots were warned that they would have to fly even with faulty ejection seats in the event of any hostile incursion into UK airspace, but fortunately this did not occur."

yes, fortunately not because heath and safety of the pilots, more because hostile incursion on those term will be something more serious like a 9/11 type-event or a starting WW III.

btw, how good was the ejecting system of those spitfire?

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Boffin

It was a lot more simple

Undo seat harness,unplug oxygen hose,pull out mike lead,reach up and release canopy,unlatch cockpit door,invert or push stick forward,climb up out of seat and dive out behind trailing edge of wing

No complicated electronics or mechanics needed just basic physics applied.

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Cost

The cost of the F22 Raptor was $65billion so has a per plane cost of $339million or around £217m per plane. Saudi Arabia on the other hand are buying 72 aircraft for £4.4billion which puts it at a unit cost of £61m. Would be interesting to know where you managed to add an extra £156m per plane, gold plated fuzzy dice and go faster stripes made of gold pressed latinum?

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