The UK press is bursting with indignation today as the process of scrapping the Nimrod MRA4 submarine-hunting aircraft begins. But in fact the four planes now being broken up were a financial and engineering disaster. Had they gone into service they would have become a terrible, cripplingly expensive millstone around the neck of …
Don't celebrate too quickly
The MOD is bringing six squadrons of Sopwith Camels out of a museum to replace them. Just as soon as they can figure out how to retrofit wings made from purest unobtanium.
Probably a better aircraft
✓ Easier to repair
✓ Cheaper to buy
✓ Cheaper to fly
Don't forget that the then new all-singing all-dancing Bismarck battleship was crippled by obsolete Fairey Swordfish torpedo planes and that in many cases "obsolete" things work better and last longer than their modern replacements. As to the alleged cost savings obtained by scrapping military hardware, I fear that we are once again seeing an outbreak of grocers shop economics. In my own lifetime I have seen the railways cut to the bone, the cotton industry destroyed and also heavy industries such as coal-mining, steel-making and ship building smashed. Even railway rails now come from France! Does the government really think that all the people thrown onto the scrapheap can become hamburger flippers? Perhaps the new philosophy is to let redundant people become burglars and to just give them a caution if they are caught. This method avoids the cost of prisons and transfers the cost of support onto Joe Public instead of central government.
price of jobs
If you figure what a boon doggle project like this costs compared to the number of jobs it produces even indirectly you would be hard pressed to think of anything even remotely as expensive per job. Take it from us Yanks defense spending is a very poor way to create jobs and is instead of a much better way to channel slush funds to the top executives of offense companies such as Boeing as well as the very large institutional shareholders and hedge funds.
Coach-built not the same as bodging
Though not an efficient use of the workforce either but then things were done differently in the old days.
The problem is not that they were coach built. Coach built stuff got us into space, to the moon and to the bottom of the Mariana trench.
It is trying to augment coach-built stuff with modern ITIL/PRINCE2/LEAN/IS200x managed production methods which was a problem here. If they did the "augmentation" using the same methods as those used to build them they would have long been back in the air.
As someone who has hand-built parts for the mighty hunter in a previous career, I can assure you that the guys that put them together and those that (until recently) kept them together are far from 'bodgers'. Only five major incidents in 50 years flying is a safety record that very few aircraft can match. The sneering tone of the article is distasteful to put it mildly.
The tech on board was old school, but it regularly pissed all over American equivalents on joint exercises. Not bad for a bunch of valves, tin foil and hairy string.
The old girl may not have a place in the modern battlespace, but there's no need to kick her in the arse on the way out.
Yes you have to take the fack that Lewis is Navy and as such has a +4 hate bonus vs the RAF. But this aside these things are stupid.
Why they didn't take a modern airliner and upgrade them instead I don't know.
Why not a modern airliner?
This WAS a modern airliner when things were started. It also happens that this is a reliable airframe, a robust airframe and totally capable of satisfying the requirements on it. To restart based on another airframe at this stage would be entirely stupid. What are you going to do? Abandon every surveilance aircraft the minute airbus/boeing announce something new? No. Look at the yanky spy aircraft - its hardly the most upto date airframe either.
I can tell you why
Modern airliners are built at the limits of the material science. Bastardising them to do something different is a very expensive and difficult affair.
A lot of the older designs have _MUCH_ more tolerance built in. That is why NASA continues to modify its early "no-composites" B747 and does not try anything like that for example on a B777 airframe.
If a Nimrod equivalent was to be built today the best starting point would have been a fully re-manufactured airframe from one of the 70-es jets. L1011, Vickers VC10 or anything else from that era. They all can be abused to an extent no modern airframe can.
However with a lot of them the problem of "coach building" would have been all the same as with the BAC Comets.
Thousands built half-way through the previous century, and many still flying today, all because they are the best tool for the job -- simple to operate, simple to maintain and very reliable.
Perhaps the Nimrod upgrade was a poor decision, but the fact that DeHavilland Comet derivatives are still flying says a lot for the design.
There is one
Poseidon P-8A build on the 737 airframe / bulk discounts for our limey friends starting at $125M http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgTv5DrJLcM&feature=relatedhttp://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/happy_32.png
Poor use of statistics ...
"Only five major incidents in 50 years flying is a safety record that very few aircraft can match."
Any aircraft that spends that much time on the ground, under repair or in maintenance, can easily match that IMO.
Every commercial aircraft by Boeing has millions of miles more of unaffected and safe service.
This 'superbly designed' aircraft, at its first engines one test, had o be delayed due to the cockpit being full of water due to unknown leakages.
The 'old girl' never entered modern battlespace and should have had the door slammed in its face for being late to the party, decades ago. I can recall in 1989 a bunch of incompetent project managers from the original MR aircraft looking for jobs - seems like there will be even more incompetents around this time as well.
Not always the safe option.
We tried that down here in Oz. Do a bit of a search for "RAAF" "Wedgetail" "Delay". Cutting edge MIL systems and integration into a modern, proven airframe. In the end they had to dumb down the deliverables because it was going to be too hard to do.
The risk from that project was being the lead customer that in a project that was commissioning new systems and integrating them. Fortunately the maker knew that there are other buyers in the pipeline and they will offset the development costs.
We keep upgrading our Orion maritime patrol aircraft, however once the P8 gets to market I am sure we will be lining up for that. If we are smart we will stay out of the development and purchase a v2 or v3 model right off the production line.
Re: Why not a modern airliner?
26 October 1952: BOAC Comet 1 G-ALYZ crashed on takeoff from Rome-Ciampino Airport, Italy.
3 March 1953: Canadian Pacific Airlines Comet 1 CF-CUN stalled on takeoff at Karachi, Pakistan.
2 May 1953: BOAC Comet 1 G-ALYV crashed at Calcutta, India.
25 June 1953: Union Aeromaritime de Transport Comet 1 F-BGSC skidded off a runway at Dakar, Senegal, damaged beyond repair.
15 July 1953: A BOAC Comet landed at Juhu Aerodrome instead of Santacruz Airport, Bombay. The aircraft was flown out some nine days later.
10 January 1954: BOAC Flight 781 Comet 1 G-ALYP crashed into the sea south of Elba, Italy.
8 April 1954: BOAC (operating a charter as South African Airways Flight 201) Comet 1 G-ALYY crashed into the sea north of Stromboli, Italy.
13 September 1957: No. 192 Squadron RAF Comet 2R XK663 damaged beyond repair in a hangar fire.
27 August 1959: Aerolíneas Argentinas Comet 4 LV-AHP flew into a mountain on approach to Asunción, Paraguay.
20 February 1960: Aerolíneas Argentinas Comet 4 LV-AHO was damaged beyond repair in a heavy landing at Buenos Aries-Ezeiza, Argentina.
23 November 1961: Aerolíneas Argentinas Comet 4 LV-AHR Flight 322 hit a tree on takeoff at São Paulo, Brazil.
21 December 1961: British European Airways Comet 4 G-ARJM crashed on takeoff from Ankara, Turkey.
19 July 1962: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-AMW crashed into a mountain 100 km northeast of Bangkok, Thailand.
20 March 1963: Saudi Arabian Government Comet 4C SA-R-7 crashed in the Italian Alps near Cuneo.
28 July 1963: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-ALD Flight 896 crashed into the sea near Bombay, India.
22 March 1964: Comet 4 G-APDK on lease to Malaysian Airlines, was damaged beyond repair landing at Singapore.
12 October 1967: British European Airways Comet 4 G-ARCO damaged by an inflight bomb explosion, crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Turkey.
28 December 1968: Middle East Airlines Comet 4Cs OD-ADQ and OD-ADR both destroyed by Israeli troops in an attack at Beirut, Lebanon.
14 January 1970: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-ANI crashed at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
9 February 1970: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-ALE crashed after takeoff near Munich, West Germany.
3 July 1970: Dan-Air Comet 4 G-APDN flew into the Monteseny mountains, northwest of Barcelona, Spain.
7 October 1970: Dan-Air Comet 4 G-APDL damaged beyond repair after a wheels up landing at Newcastle Airport, England.
12 October 1967: British European Airways Comet 4B G-ARCO Flight 284 crashed into the sea east of Rhodes following an inflight bomb explosion.
2 January 1971: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-ALC Flight 844 crashed near Tripoli Airport, Libya.
Shuttle comparason fair?
The shuttle has a terrible history. Out of 134 missions two have crashed and approx 50 launches have been scrubbed due to minor defects and adverse weather. If aircraft were that bad then LAX or LHR would have 4 crashes before breakfast every day.
Sure some military aircraft might have has worse mission:crash ratios (eg. the old Swordfish), but they had to keep operating under adverse conditions even when the weather got bad and kept flying when the carrier deck was pitching and rolling 15 metres or more.
No. Just whittled out of wood. I believe we are still good at that technology.
Whatta stoopid thing to write. The shuttle coped with conditions just a tiny bit more extreme than a 15m pitch on a carrier deck, what with actually flying into space and all. The requirements are orders of magnitude more complex than those for a military plane.
Dont be silly
Remove the pilot error issues, bombs and terrorists, then you are left wioth just the well known structural failures of the Comet 1 airfarmes. This was down to little or nothing being known about metal fatigue at the time, and that square windows on a pressurised airliner were not the best idea. This was addressed sucessfully and teh resulting airframe was strong, and gave very good service. Fact is the comet 4 was a strong reliable aircraft
The P8A still isn't as good as the old P3
The old P3 (turbo prop) did exactly has it needed. It flew low and slow. It could stay in the air for 14 hours without refueling and, above all, it's quiet. It seems to me that quiet is necessary when you're hunting subs. The P3 did most of its patrolling on 2 of its 4 engines increasing its range and time on station. the P8A is an expensive piece of sh__.
1971 MODERN ?
Achtung Achtung - UK guy believes 1971 is modern ?
Actually old chap most American airframes in use today where build with a lot of military switch capability in them as part of the gov funding requirements in case you Brits invade us and try to steal our cold beer againhttp://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/pint_32.png
But its got an American flag ( soon to be Chinese ) on it so its gotta be great righthttp://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/pint_32.png
Airliner Flight 322 hit a tree on takeoff at São Paulo, Brazil.
Hang on whilst my mind boggles.
If a Nimrod equivalent was to be built today the best starting point would have been a fully re-manufactured airframe from one of the 70-es jets. L1011, Vickers VC10 or anything else from that era.
You couldn't base it on a VC10 airframe, though because "since [the demise of the Comet] large aircraft have no longer been made in the UK". Hence the VC10 doesn't exist, which make me wonder how I managed to get to Hong Kong and back in the early seventies.
Did you even read the fucking article?
"Modern airliners are built at the limits of the material science. Bastardising them to do something different is a very expensive and difficult affair."
How does that sit with being able to buy a Boeing 737 based equivalent for less than a third of the cost? With much lower ongoing support costs.
Re: Re: Why not a modern airliner?
Well, sure, that's a long list of incidents, and maybe for many/most of them it says something about the reliability of the aircraft, although you'd have to look at the incident reports to draw any actual conclusions, but quite what "destroyed by Israeli troops in an attack at Beirut, Lebanon" and "damaged by an inflight bomb explosion, crashed in the Mediterranean Sea" have to do with reliability or safety issues beyond a straight copy and paste from Wikipedia remains somewhat vague.
Were the designers of the Comet to blame for the likes of Bruce Willis not being able to emerge from a flaming aircraft hangar, airframe intact, ready for take-off? Sheesh!
Re: 1971 MODERN ?
"Achtung Achtung - UK guy believes 1971 is modern ?"
Slicing through your incoherence here, it should be noted that in 1971 the Comet 4 was still a relatively modern aircraft in terms of introduction timeline (not necessarily technology, otherwise they'd probably have weighed up using Concorde or something similarly new at the time - perverse, maybe, but it's the military, remember - but read what others have said about not using the absolute newest kit). That it is no longer modern has more to say about the continual refurbishment of these planes, not some non-existent decision to go and procure some Comet airframes in this day and age.
And, by the way, no amount of feeble "old chap" and "achtung" exclamations can cover up an inadequate grasp of the discussion's finer points.
Re: @Anton Ivanov
I'm sure Mr Ivanov was comparing the 777 to other Boeing models, and despite modern variants of the 737 being introduced all the time, the original variants quite probably differ considerably from the 777 in many respects identified as being of importance. And since the 737 was introduced at the end of the 1960s, maybe it isn't regarded as a "modern airliner" by some people.
Just what are we going to use to locate the daft b*astards who decide to set off to Florida in a rowing boat/dingy/pedalo to prove themselves hard, if/when they get into trouble ?
We're going to do what we should've done in the first place and let evolution take its course....
That one's easy
Give the daft pedalling buggers a free SatNav. They'll run aground on the Isle of Wight, having put in EuroDisney by mistake.
If you set out on that sort of trip without at least one EPIRB you shouldn't expect much chance of rescue. If you've got one they'll know your position within 3 miles, so a Nimrod won't be much use.
You know the rules: Use of 'simples' = meerkat up bottom.
If you'd just step behind the screen to your left and remove your trousers, please.
Fly one up there
Then we can fly a Nimrod up there and you will feel much betterhttp://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/go_32.png
...keeping the airplanes a while longer? Here is my plan:
- Have them fly out over the most remote parts of the North Sea.
- Using the spacious Nimrod bomb-bay, drop the mass of nameless bureaucrats, committees and government officials responsible for this albatross of a project.
- THEN scrap them.
... can we include Lewis in the cargo as well?
My wife was quite upset this morning - after I explained to her that these "ultramodern" airplanes, whose demise was so lamented on BBC, were almost as old as the Sally-B. She was furious at BBC wasting money trying to justify upgrading an old Lada by Brabus.
If only a fraction of the Nimrod restoration budget could be spent on keeping the Vulcan and Sally-B flying it would have done much better service to the country...
"The MRA4 was essentially a new aircraft, with current-generation Rolls-Royce BR710 turbofan engines, a new larger wing, and fully refurbished fuselage. Much larger air intakes were required because the airflow of the BR710 engine was significantly higher than that of the original Spey 250. The rebuilt aircraft borrowed heavily from Airbus technology; the wings were designed and manufactured by BAE Systems (a former Airbus partner) and the glass cockpit was derived from that of the Airbus A340."
An old Lada with an LCD speedo and custom-shaped wings will still remain an old Lada. Sorry.
I wasn't sure whether you were for or against, but the comment shows they were a small number of custom developed aircraft, for which maintenance costs would be huge.
I'm surprised they didn't simply use an Airbus or similar. Someone has mentioned that they're built near tolerance limits, but this is a fallacy; they're built to hold several hundred people and their luggage, so carrying a small crew of 10 and some electronics (even several tons of electronics) will probably be a weight reduction. You wouldn't even have to put a glass cockpit and redesigned engines and wings on them, because the ones they come with would be perfectly adequate, and Line Replacable Units would be available for the most part in any BA/Virgin service depot if really needed.
Paris, because getting her going is almost as expensive as a Nimrod.
> fully refurbished fuselage
Why did they refurbish old fuselages?
I know very little about aircraft construction - but given the cost of the project, did it really save much money to use old frames?
And, if what we read above about the hand-built approach to sizes is correct, surely it is that decision that ultimately doomed the whole idea.
This is beginning to smack of penny-wise, pound-foolish management...
Wife Upset ? So was mine
But I was talking about a different Rod problem dearhttp://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/pint_32.png
The BBC haven't really been arguing to keep them, in fact they did an article about 30 minutes ago talking about how crap they were and how they had to go...
That was the BBC News this morning. Mind you, the presenters in general sounded and looked more boisterous and euphoric than usual - must have had a busy night after the TV Awards ceremony...
Pimp My Nimrod
£4Bn? Should've given them to Tim Westwood and he would have got custom interiors with playstations and mobile wifi, alloy landing wheels and supercharged engines in there for a FRACTION of that.
Use the saved cash?
Maybe they should use some of the billions saved to help the 450 employees and families who will be affected when the jobs are lost. This will have a big effect on the local area - many of these people were my schoolmates
Here... have this!
The Telegraph reports 1,200 likely job losses. Instead of "investing" £4bn in the MRA4, we could just have given those 1,200 people a cool £3m. EACH. And it would still have been cheaper.
" This will have a big effect on the local area - many of these people were my schoolmates"
As it *always* does. Is it in a marginal Lib Dem or Con seat? Being in one (when Labor was in power) was very helpful then they were deciding where to build the next generation of aircraft carriers and submarines (coincidentally also built by BAe)
And once again BAe will play the "But think of the *incalculable* loss of skills/jobs/(revenue-to-us) to British industry" card.
As they *always* do.
I think BAe have used it's staff as "human shields" *many* more times than Saddam Hussein ever did.
""Maybe they should use some of the billions saved to help the 450 employees and families who will be affected when the jobs are lost."
I quite agree.
As others have said if it's defense industry jobs you could take *half* the programmes cost and pay *every* worker (they tend to earn normal peoples salaries, not investment gamblers) their *lifetimes* salary *several* times over and still come out a *long* way ahead.
It's funny in the 80's people used a similar argument to keep open the steel works of British Steel open. A group with 10s of 1000s of workers.
The government of the day didn't bat an eyelid on shutting them down.
I find defense engineering fascinating (human kind is rarely so creative as when it's trying to hunt and kill its fellows) but I loath special pleading by giga dollar (most of BAe staff are *not* in the UK and most of it's revenue is not in £. So much for the "British" in BAe) defense con-tractors.
I don't think I've *ever* seen a group of *huge* companies more prone to special case whinning that than the giga corps of the defense *business* (not hobby, charity, vocation or sacred trust)
Actually I do have a more constructive suggestion on defense procurement but I'll leave than for a more balanced post.
Vladimir Sally-B is still flying - Saw her last year...
I agree though that some of that Nimrod money could have been put to keeping her flying and all the other WW2 planes still flying!