Yesterday the UK National Audit Office published a detailed report on the current status of the infamous Eurofighter combat jet – nowadays officially known as Typhoon. We here on the Reg defence desk have always had a low opinion of the cripplingly expensive, marginally useful fighter: but even we were amazed by the new facts …
What a bunch of
Armour-plated idiots; those that thought up and managed this disaster will probably be sat back with their feet up on a small boy, smoking rolled up fifty-pound notes and there is nothing we can do about it.
Those who managed this were under-trained, under-paid civil servants (or noisy stand-ins from the miltary) without a clue as to how to manage a project, with no long-term oversight anyway. If they still have a job it'll just be in another cold, drafty MoD building as they watch their dismal salary and pension eroded away, with no incentive to give a toss about their current project either.
"under-paid civil servants"
What makes you think people are underpaid in the civil service?
Pay is good there these days, and coupled with huge holiday allowances, great job security and a spectacular pension, I think we deserve to get competence for our money.
Aw...bless...queue the violins
For the age old bullshit Civil Service excuses:
1) It's some-one else's fault (AKA "it's not my responsibility")
2) We don't get paid enough to be motivated (AKA "I can't be bothered")
3) We don't have the training to do the job (AKA "I'm not qualified")
Let's face facts - being a civil servant is a lot like being on the dole - except that they don't need to scratch on every week.
The British Civil Service truly are the cancer of this nation.
"Pay is good there these days"
Great - so now backdate that pay by 25 years and tell them all to buck up their ideas retrospectively too.
What is still absent is any sort of long-term responsibility for delivering any projects. But at least try to grasp that anything you can spout about now is not going to recitfy the fallout from the last half-century of disastrous procurement.
Overpaid Civil Servants?
"Pay is good there these days"
"huge holiday allowances"
"great job security"
This lot needs a serious WTF.
In which department, and at what grade, might all these benefits be found?
At a time when public sector (including civil service) workers are enjoying the benefits of massive pay cuts, sudden and extensive changes in working conditions, redundancies both voluntary and enforced, it's difficult to see how any reasonably informed person, no matter how biased against the public sector, having the brass neck to make such assertions.
That said, there are those who continue - for what reasons I've never had a clue - to insist that there's some sort of moral gulf between the public and the private sectors... Who return to "I Pay My Taxes" as though public sector workers are somehow exempt from that same taxation and are not, therefore, essentially paying themselves... Who take every opportunity to make scathing remarks about how wonderful life is in the public sector... Presumably it's only the unyielding morality of these people that enables them to resist the temptation to get one of these fantastic, 'grass-is-greener' jobs, like collecting refuse, or dealing with vomiting, fighty drunks on a Friday night. Or enduring vile and vicious verbal abuse and patronising condescension from people who think that just because "You Work For Us" and "I Pay Your Wages", it's okay to treat them with utter contempt.
The truth is that both private sector and public sector workers make an essential contribution to this country, and both sectors are suffering massive problems at the moment. Both sectors' workers are in the shit: the only ones still enjoying a nice gravy train seem to be the ones in high places. Sure, there are overpaid public sector managers and executives, enjoying far more benefit than they deserve. But before you rant and condemn every last worker for that, try looking at the banks: largely private sector; largely responsible for the global financial crisis; and largely run by men who must surely be having trouble keeping track of the zeroes on their bonuses.
Anyone who has the gall to suggest - even imply - that the either sector's workers are somehow universally better off, that they're somehow more sheltered from the storm, is clearly someone who's never bothered to look much beyond the opinion columns of the Daily Mail, and could probably benefit from learning a little about their subject before spouting nonsense.
(Yes, I do work in the public sector, and hence yes - Anonymous Coward. Because, being in the public sector, I also enjoy the wonderfully unfair benefit of being able to say exactly what I like about the public and about government with complete immunity from being fired. Oh, no, wait...)
what a big pile of steaming shite, from said
"Let's face facts - being a civil servant is a lot like being on the dole - except that they don't need to scratch on every week.
The British Civil Service truly are the cancer of this nation."
Oh, I never realised that those who sign on have so much work to do!
STUPID ENGLISH TWAT NEEDS HIS HEAD KICKED IN!
Lets ensure that shit like this isn't allowed to make policy, or we are all fucked.
They are actually cheaper than this
If you factor out the bribes and "commissions" paid to various public servants and trench coated strangers.
So what's the downside?
So in summary, without some air capability we won't be able to start wars all over the shop when our masters demand it? In the meantime we have a genuine air superiority fighter that is genuinely defensive. A bit of overspend is cheaper than fighting dubious wars.
In a real world you'd be right....
However, our Politicians and Civil don't live in a our real world they live in Westminster and Whitehall. They will be quite prepared (and have demonstrated several times recently) to drag us into a war for which we are un or poorly equipped.
We have Chinooks planned over a decade ago waiting to go into service... and this is just one more example.
Not one person in Whitehall or Westminster will be substantially reprimanded or lose their job or pension over this but there will be a significant number of working folks who will or have. The bigger the cock up the closer the defense lines. Draw swords, repel borders, fire grapeshot...
Export restrictions apply to UK?
I really don't think USA wouldn't sell F-22s to UK because of some export restriction.
F-22 is really state of art and good plane, it is just damn expensive to produce and maintain. Think like Concorde. It didn't have any restriction to sell to USA.
The US has made it abundantly clear that the F-22 is not for export, not even to Israel or Australia which declared an interest. I understand that the UK government couldn't even convince the US to give us full access to the F-35's source code. As for the Concorde comparison - one is a state-of-the-art piece of military hardware with numerous classified technologies and subject to a very tight arms export regime and the other was a way of transporting overpaid executives across the Atlantic.
"... British engineers and technicians are still equipped with the skills to keep on producing military equipment in an independent manner,"
Oh please. Throw enough money and time at a problem, and there is virtually nothing you can't do. "Skills to do it in an independent manner" would imply the ability to do it within a reasonable time and cost framework, which is precisely what they *don't* have.
Seriously, in this fantasy scenario you imagine, where we're abandoned by the Americans and cut off from the Europeans, how much of the total national effort do you think should be spent producing Eurofighters? I suggest that a more rational use of our resources in such a case would be to build handheld rocket and SAM launchers, LAVs and IEDs with which to fight the occupying power. You could equip a whole battalion of real soldiers, for the price of just one Typhoon.
"As someone with a relative involved in the programme", obviously you see the necessity to keep it going. But you have to make that case to the people who are *paying* the bills, not just those who are charging them.
"I understand that the UK government couldn't even convince the US to give us full access to the F-35's source code"
That was the position at one stage, but we got various exemptions when the US had a real president.
Comparing the Typhoon with the F-35 project is a huge diversion, it's apples to oranges - the F-35 has wildly different project parameters. Yes it's coming under fire but it's still going to work out cheaper and better than the Typhoon.
The real comparison on a time and capabilities comparison is the F-22 which is about half the price and with total project cost at about $360m per-plane. As for the F-22 and UK access I'm pretty sure it could have been figured out - the real problem is nobody even tried. Nobody asked.
The benefits to UK/US military compatibility are endless, something seen by the Bush administration in the F-35 which could have been easily extended to the F-22 with independence and I'm sure it could have been made palatable to congress.
The 1958 US/UK MDA agreement basically trumps any concerns that can be laid at the door of sharing the F-22 program. If we can share nuclear secrets and the trident system there's no reason we can't share the F-22. There's something to be said for sharing development costs as with the F-35 also.
At the end of the day the US got a better aircraft for less and questions should be asked why, this is a given.
> I really don't think USA wouldn't sell F-22s to UK because of some export restriction.
Think again. We would get the downgr^H^H^H^H^H^Hoptimized for export version, lacking all the fancy "integrated systems" stuff we don´t have anyway (like having JSTARS guide your munitions) since the yanks didn´t let us have those in first place, yet get charged for them (export surcharge, different language manual, RHD, you get the drift...).
Britain (or anyone in Europe) does not have the infrastructure to fully utilize the F22.
otoh, none of the above is any defense for the desaster we made of that excellent "Jäger 90".
In my (not so) humble opinion multirole aircraft are shite anyway..., Spitfires AND Stukas, now that would have been sometthing.
this doesnt put any money in to the economy, think about it, the MOD buys something from a company, fair enough that company gets a sizeable chuck of money, but given that the MOD doesnt have any money in the first place that money must come from somewhere, and it does, tax, so they tax everyone else there by removing money from the private sector to buy something, except its not as simple as that, becase we still need to pay all the idiots who came up with this idea in the first place so we have to be taxed more so to make up the difference, so in actual fact whenever the MOD or the govenment in general spends anything on anything we are all taxed for it and its doesnt add value to the econemy at all, the over all effect is negative, yes that one company will do well out of it but you need to think about the bigger picture.
whats needed is for us to actually sell something to other people outside of the country, this is why, or partly why the country is so screwed.,
Good ol' Frédéric Bastiat at work?
Let's stop pretending this is about 'defence'. The US is not going to be under attack from military aircraft and neither is the UK, so air superiority fighters are nothing more than expensive 'look-at-me' entries in an international cock-waving contest. As for foreign policy interests, the yanks have F22s, it still didn't win out against Facebook and Twitter in the fight to keep our friendly Arab dictators in power.
The economics of spending 10s of billions of pounds building military aircraft to ensure oil supplies is evidently pointless. If they spent 10% of that money on developing alternatives then they wouldn't need to secure foreign oil supplies anyway. And there would be no rich Saudis to fund jihad.
Why don't we just sell the rest to the Saudis too
How long will it be before we have Air-To-Air drones that can outfight trained fighter pilots anyway.
They don't need to worry about G force (as much)
They don't need oxygen, cabin pressure, ejector seats.
Kamikaze is 100% less kamika
Only need worry that the communication protocol gets hacked and we all know that would never happen with the MoD.
They should worry
"Only need worry that the communication protocol gets hacked..."
I'd bet there is a way to make an effective jamming device for anything that relies on radio signals, for a very small fraction of the cost of the drone. You don't need to hack the communications protocol to make a drone almost useless.
We already have
But we call them missiles.
Only if they are being controlled by radio signal
I think GPS signal jamming is likely to be a more useful defense system to drones of predator bots.
A well designed drone wouldn't be remotely driveable just for this reason.
So much better to just make 10,000 of them, and punch in the GPS co-ordinates you want them to to either attack or observe. This way they are not able to be subverted or taken over.
Also, like most missiles once launched, there would be no taking it back.
Also GPS jamming won't be fool proof. It would be pretty simple (especially as tech improves) to load up maps, and visual topology to compare to, the drones could find their target based on geological markers (say 2 miles north of the Washington Monument, or a particular hill or valley.)
They could also work like mating migrating birds: Sleeper cells in the country to be attacked release homing devices that act a simple targeting system. 1-2 plants could place dozens of these simple radio devices all over a building. Swarm flies over town, senses the signal and attacks like a swarm of killer angry bees.
Welcome to the future where despots and tyrants can reign death from afar.....well cheaper and easier than now anyways....
Who says it's only RF Control?
Maybe for the UK. But the US, China, Russia have military satellites in orbit that could conceivably "talk" to their drones through point to point lasers. Try jamming that.
Currently, the US Airforce controls its drones in Afghanistan from a base near Las Vegas by way of satellites. The article doesn't state what communcations is used, but even if it's still RF, it's very hard to jam a spread spectrum tight beam RF signal that's coming from/sent to space if you don't have satellites of your own.
@ Rob Dobs
Drones are remotely controlled for a good reason, i.e. prevent massive SNAFUs where a software glitch/bug, an error in the coordinates or some allied unit being where it's not supposed to be, or all of the above, cause lots of harm to the party using the drones or to innocent bystanders, with a big PR recoil. In a far future, things might be different, but that would need some kind of true IA. Of course cruise missiles use some of the techniques you list, but they are used in totally different ways to armed drones. They can't do 'search and destroy' nor 'area denial' missions, which afaik are armed drones bread and butter, they only attack fixed targets whose coordinates are well known.
What PR recoil?
We have killed scores of innocent people in Afghanistan, regularly light up wedding parties and all manner of similar mischief. I bet that the drones are about as discriminating in killing Taliban as the "stir fry" explosive/incendiary mix dropped on Dresden in WW2 was in killing Nazi's!
Nobody here gives a shit about brown people; It is funny how we still have to fight their civil wars for them, though.
Lasers jammed in Blighty
Being under perpetual cloud and all.
Not all of them...
Only the ones where we want their land or resources.
Filling in holes
I read somewhere that the peculiarities of capitalism mean its good to pay people to dig holes and fill them in again. Is this what the defence budget really is? Keeps dangerous people off the streets, well ours anyway. And wastes a vast amount of money on badly planned engineering efforts like the typhoon and whatever that pointless plane was that got scrapped unused. Also since we are selling these to nutters in the middle east maybe the yanks are asking us to make it shit compared to the raptor?
No, it isn't.
"I read somewhere that the peculiarities of capitalism mean its good to pay people to dig holes and fill them in again. "
You need to read a better book. Henry Hazlitt's "Economics In One Lesson" would be a good place to start (and that is probably where you would finish, too.)
I think you'll find that in mainstream (ie not-batshit-insane) economic circles, Keynes is still considered a major figure - certainly rather more authoritative than Henry Hazlitt...
GDP, not capitalism
GDP is unfortunately over used as a measurement of economic performance.
GDP does not distinguish between productive activity and unproductive activity. It is unfortunately easier to stimulate GDP through non-productive activity than productive activity.
Maybe I should have added the joke icon as people seem to have taken my economic comment seriously... I was just joking in an obviously obtuse manner that they are wasting money on an epic scale for no real reason other than incompetence. Strangely enuff I was not seriously suggesting it is a key part of government x,y or z's economic strategy to blow cash in this way :-)
Couple of points
Lots of people were employees making these - so there is a uncounted benefit there (direct cost - how much money would be spend on their dole) These people them spend money which is of benefit to the economy. I'm not saying the project isn't a disaster - it certainly seems to be, but not quite as bad as quoted perhaps, once these other items are factored in.
And are there not a few ground attack tornado pilots about to be made redundant - surely easier to retrain than to start from fresh.
Not sure I agree here.
I think you'll find that most of the folks who make Eurofighters are (highly) skilled and 'The Dole' would not come into it much, if at all. If they hadn't been employed in this project then they would have been employed elsewhere. Indeed, that they were not employed effectively elsewhere could be seen as a twofold blow. They were employed using taxes that need not have been collected/spent and had they been efficiently employed their work may have resulted in more effective unit production leading to higher employment in the UK overall.
What we are really talking about is the 'Opportunity cost' associated with this unmitigated commercial and defense disaster. If we had in place administrators who didn't have their heads in dark places then maybe we wouldn't have bought these machines. Alternatively, if it had been determined that the Eurofighter was the way ahead and the project had been effectively delivered then the costs would have been substantially less or we would have had more for less.
As it stands this is just another cock up in a long series of MoD cock ups from which nothing seems to have been learned.
I'm reminded of a line from towards the end of "Burn after Reading" .... "what did we learn from this.. I'm not sure, sir,.... Well, I guess, Not to do it again...." but it was a comedy and they were American spooks.
employed != working
> Lots of people were employees making these
There were thousands employed on Typhoon, very few of them actually did any meaningful work. Some of them even used to turn up on Saturday mornings at overtime rates just to read the paper.
If you must employ people, employ them to do something valuable
The argument that this project kept people employed and kept money in this country is really poorly thought out.
For a start, whatever the project at this level, you'll find that most of the sub-contractors are not based in the UK. The ones you don't tend to give much thought to, the consultants, analysts and at the other end, the raw material producers etc. Then this was a European project with construction and development costs spread across several countries, so only a fraction of the management and manufacturing costs stayed in this country. Altogether the amount of money which stayed directly in the UK for this project is going to be a tiny fraction of the overall whole, certainly not worth overpaying for.
Secondly if the government must spend tax payer money to keep skilled workers employed then they should be doing so via investment and tax-breaks for commercial technology companies who have to produce products that actually work, represent value for money and which have genuine export potential.
It would have been considerably cheaper to pay those workers benefits and contribute to training courses to keep their skills sharp than to continue with this project when it was running so far over schedule, over budget and so obviously far behind the current technology.
@James Hughes 1
"Lots of people were employees making these - so there is a uncounted benefit there (direct cost - how much money would be spend on their dole) "
One of *the* classic excuses to save some defense white elephant.
"Defense" industry jobs are some of the *most* expensive jobs created in *any* industry (merchant gamblers in the City of London cost *more* in pay but funnily enough the UK govt has *never* had to pay people to take those jobs).
You could shut down the *whole* programme and pay *each* person there their *lifetime* salary and it would *still* be cheaper.
I'm currently reading El Reg instead of working on A400M CDS...
Joke alert... or not?
Relax, Don't Do It
John, your comment was *the* classic stressful comment and perhaps the *most* stressful comment of *any* of the comments I have read this *whole* time. *Each* comment I read in my *lifetime* will *still* be less stressful. I've *never* seen anything like it! *More* relaxation is needed, sir ;)
The joys of Europe
When the Royal Australian Air Force wants new planes, it just buys them from the Americans. It usually takes a couple of years from the decision to the first delivery, and the cost is whatever was agreed upon. I bet the RAF wishes it could do this, too.
Not without precedent
leaving aside the as yet to be delivered F-35 the MoD has had some experience of purchasing fixed wing US combat aircraft:
There was the attempted purchase of F-111s in the wake of the TSR-2 (it casts a long shadow) which was scuppered on costs and exchange rates.
There was the Phantom, which was bought and then was tailored to use British engines resulting in a degree of remodelling, and some UK contractors provided parts for it.
If you go back further to the war, there were the P-38 Lightnings which weren't as fast as the manufacturer had led them to believe, and the P-51s which had an engine that didn't like the high level combat over Europe.
Mark 3 Chinook helicopters
The fault isn't so much the suppliers per se, as MOD procurement.
Many models of US a/c were bought
But only one was bought in significant number - the Dakota.
"The fault isn't so much the suppliers per se, as MOD procurement."
And with 20 000 of them it's going to be difficult to pin down *whose* responsible.
You're missing a very big point - the Aussies buy straight from the yanks because they have zero options - there is absolutely no way they could ever build a combat aircraft without resorting to sticking a gattling gun on a Cessna and both of these would have to be bought from overseas.
Plenty of European countries
... do exactly that.
Fuck thrust vectoring
'The Raptor has thrust vectoring for unbeatable manoeuvrability in a dogfight: the Eurofighter doesn't.'
The Eurofighter doesn't need it because it achieves the same using its canards. Speed wins. Any design that kills its speed on purpose in order to turn is inferior. The only advantage thrust vectoring has is that it works better at low speed (<100 knots) and so impresses the crowds at airshows. You do not want to be travelling at less than 100 knots with a mach 2 missile after you.
Of course neither Typhoon or Raptor has the ability to stop and let the other guy fly past. This worked really well in '82 when the Harrier was used in anger.
Nor will they fly off one of our dinky carriers...
Need I say more?