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back to article UK's first Stealth fighter in successful catapult test

The tailhook version of the F-35 Lightning II stealth combat aircraft – which, following the recent UK defence review, is now planned to fly from new Royal Navy carriers in years to come – has successfully completed its first catapult launch test. The test launch took place on the landbased steam catapult at US Naval Air …

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FAIL

Let's be honest

Any country that launches a carrier which has manned aircraft on it is idiotic. The future is in unmanned aerial vehicles. Getting rid of the meatbag in the front gives you a lot more options for launch and recovery, not least of which because you weigh a lot less. UAV equipped carriers will be at least an order of magnitude cheaper than conventional carriers, and more capable. Just wait until China starts churning them out!

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@Let's be honest #

I find that if you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about (including MS Flight Simulator - sorry) then I find keeping quiet is a really good idea.

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So....

..the mass of the pilot is going to be significantly more than the hardware required to replace them?

Whatever. And the mass of the plane is already 2 orders of magnitude greater then the pilot

Aerial drones are one thing but to provide the performance and strike capability of a jet fighter it will take something about the same size and weight as, er, a jet fighter.

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Erm....

You do know that an aircraft carrier can carry aircraft without people as well as crewed aircraft? The limiting factor isn't actually the ship. A dedicated UAV carrier (an unlikely item for some decades, if ever) is unlikely to be smaller for most navies - a bigger ship offers more flexibility - more or bigger UAVs and still retaining the capability to support manned aircraft (like assault helos, transports etc.)

Love the comment about the future being UAVs. It's like the 60's all over again when they said missiles (a form of kamikaze UAV in many respects) would replace manned aircraft. Didn't work in 'nam though did it? I see UAVs as making a contribution to the future, but not the complete picture. Building a dedicated UAV carrier now is too big a gamble on an immature technology and a potential white elephant. The Chinese know this, otherwise they wouldn't have thrown a wad into rebuilding an old Soviet carrier.

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It's not just the pilot...

To have a man in a plane requires a pressurised environment (so he can go above 10000ft without passing out), and ejector seat, pedals, stick, instrument panel etc.

A lot of weight and extra space that could be left out as well as the 80+kg for a pilot in survival suit, boots and helmet.

UAVs are a lot smaller and lighter than manned planes, or have much longer endurance, but are fairly specialised in their mission capability. Having a man in the plane is a compromise between weight and operational flexibility: on a carrier you probably want a fair bit of the latter...

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@Peter Ford

There are some very, very small and light fighter jets including the Gripen and Freedom Fighter. A lot of the reason for the size of the jet has to due with the mass fraction. They often want a better than 1:1 thrust:weight ratio for executing combat maneuvers, and it needs to offer this <em>while carrying a large payload</em> which is dramatically larger than a human and life support. Depending on class and mission this can include very large internal fuel stores, additional external fuel and multiple types of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons for different scenarios.

Indeed, many UAVs are a lot <em>bigger</em> than some manned fighters, such as the Global Hawk next to an F-5.

But <em>by a mile</em> the most important concern is usage considerations.

Current UAVs are designed for and deployed against enemies who have no relevant defense technology, no ability to jam signals and no real competitiveness against the UAVs. They're designed assuming a state of air supremacy.

Fighter jets necessarily must be designed assuming a technologically competitive enemy who can both jam your drone's communication, find fault in its artificial intelligence and possibly blind it or otherwise subvert its senses.

If the machine has to operate without communications it must also make life-or-death decisions about what and when to shoot and even humans can screw this one up. There are friendly fire incidents all the time. <em>Key point; our observational technology hasn't always been adequate to differentiate a 747 and F-14, or a Brit on the ground from an Iraqi</em>. Can an autonomous, unintelligent machine judge context better and make mistakes less? <em>Could its inability, coupled with jamming or other manipulation, be subverted for propaganda purposes</em>?

All things considered, I don't see the cost-risk-benefit analysis weighing against the total elimination of a genuinely intelligent, well-trained, on-sight decision-maker. Humans are imperfect and a little heavy, but so are military-grade computers and sensors and not only are humans dramatically smarter at this point in time, but something can't be both intelligence and flawless anyway.

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Windows

Two words re "meatbag in front"

Chesley Sullenberger.

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Technically

Nam was an epic fail all round for the US, and proof that if you have the tactical and strategic intelligence of a Lego brick, it's not a good idea to go around starting wars.

Nice little earner for the people back home who profited from it, though.

Not unlike the F-35 and the carrier project - coincidentally.

Who cares about actual performance when there's money to be made?

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'Nam

Wasn't the war already started before the US got involved? And the US was on the cusp of winning due to the Tet offensive when Ford decided to pull out.

Though the Military Industrial Complex could often do with a bit of a trim.

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Anonymous Coward

I think the hatred comes from the fact that tese aircraft are going to cost $200-300million each

The foreign customers are having doubts, the Australian, Canadians even the Israeli's.

Having discovered the massive work share the UK is getting for the F-35 (20%) I'm now converted into a solid supporter of this aircraft, even it is an overweight dog. Fortunatly we have the excellent and cheaper Eurofighter to perform A2A.

Israel's doubts are surprising. as they are getting the aircraft for free and getting 140% return on the cost as work share.

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WTF?

Cheaper...

... Than the Eurofighter isn't saying much!

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I think the JSF program is actually in fairly dire straits

They are now trying to get Japan to buy it for their F-X program, even going to claim that the price will only be US$65 million a pop, which is clearly complete BS unless they are selling at a loss and then recouping it over 20 years by overpricing parts, support ... etc.

I guess the idea is to hook as many nations as possible to make it politically inexpedient to terminate this pork project.

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The carrier

I'm no expert but one imagines the carriers would be quite useful carrying a couple of dozen drones, chinooks etc.

No doubt the Koreans could have built us a perfectly suitable ship at a fraction of the cost, but that's another story. In fact it should probably be a rigid rule that all military kit is bought abroad - no more cost overruns, junk that does everything except just working

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Yag
Mushroom

Geez...

During the Falkland war, the French gave the desactivation codes for some quite nasty anti ship missiles...

With this in mind, do you *really* think it would be wise to build all our military kit in... says, China?

Picture related

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Happy

@Yag

Errr.....no. The French did not give us the codes for the Argentinian Exocet missiles. That's why we lost quite a few ships to them!! Having said that, I still agree it's not wise to build all your kit abroad in case they like your enemy!! The French wouldn't give us the codes, as quite simply, it would have killed their arms manufacturing in one hit. Nobody would buy from them anymore, knowing they might give the codes away.

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RE: @Yag

"The French did not give us the codes for the Argentinian Exocet missiles."

They certainly offered some more practical help by refusing to sell the Argentineans any more and helping us identify and tie up any that were on the open market. Destruct codes are probably largely an urban legend, not like you get much time to experiment when one of the suckers punches over your horizon...

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@IanPotter

Ah yes, but that's different. From a sales point of view, it is vastly different to give information which would render an already purchased product useless and simply refusing to sell any more. What I assume Yag is talking about (and what I replied about) is information regarding the locking frequencies used and various codings unique to each missile. If this information is available, it is effectively possible to send the missile off course and ensure your safety. The missile becomes effectively worthless. it's not a self-destruct code or anything that James Bondie, but technical information that allows countermeasures to work pretty much at 100%.

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Chinooks on deck probably

I'd be surprised if you could get Chinooks in the hangar. V-22's might be handy.

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MJI
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Actually they were scared of Maggie

I think she scared the Frence inot not selling any more Exocets

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Holmes

indeed

The channel cable electricity contracts were under negotiation and were still nationalised at that point. Quite a bargaining power when the french hadnt fully committed to bulk nuclear power.

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Have to say

I can't comment on it's fitness for purpose, but that IS one sexy looking bird.

Much cooler looking that the odd beak-n-boxes Eurofighter (stupid name too!).

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Good job ...

... they renamed it the Typhoon then.

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Re: Have to say

Funny, I think it's ugly as sin.

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From certain angles...

...such as directly above or below, it looks OK (I'm rather partial to the shape of the wings and the way they merge into the tailplanes a la the F22, though the forward swept air intakes give it an unfortunately retro look - still, I suppose Lightning and Thunder(chief) goes together...).

On the other hand, from the front/side it looks as if someone buggered up the aspect ratio when printing out the plans, either that or they get a herd of elephants to sit on each airframe as it rolls off the production line, to give it that unfortunately squished look.

5/10 for appearance - certainly not the most hideous of aircraft ever designed, but nothing much to stir the emotions either.

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Devil

If you think the F-35 is ugly...

You should have seen its rival in the JSF contest - the Boeing X-32:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boeing_X-32B_Patuxent.jpg

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Re: /dev/null

You're not kidding on that. Boeing very well could have lost on looks alone - I'm not saying that was the case, but wow that's an ugly bird.

It looks like a basking shark:

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

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GBE

Boeing_X-32B

What, you wouldn't be scared of a supersonic frog?

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Anonymous Coward

Balanced and moderate reporting

is Lewis having an off day? Send him home now for an long weekend to recover.

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Gimp

same old Lewis - we're talking about a mainly AMERICAN piece of kit here

The F-35 is backed by the U S of A. Considering that Lewis's opinion is always that any British project is rubbish and that we should always buy from the Americans, then this article is entirely in line with Lewis's repugnant bias.

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Anonymous Coward

To be fair to Lewis....

The British aircraft industry has only built one decent combat aircraft since the sixties, and it was based on a trainer (the Hawk) and we did that for export. The Tornado (a bureaucratic eurokludge of compromises) and the Typhoon (another bureaucratic eurokludge re-invention of the F16 that can only just about loft a bomb).

The British sacrificed our aircraft industry by forced mergers and nationalisation. Government run monopolies are as bad as private monopolies - stifling innovation, killing competitiveness and ultimately the business.

Personally, I'd have preferred a navalised Saab Gripen or F18s. Both cheaper, more capable and available now.

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F18

will do everything we want it to for a fraction of the price and running cost.

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FAIL

Are you an arm chair pilot?

At least you sound like one. Calling the Tornado project "a bureaucratic eurokludge of compromises" is rather stupid. Aside the fact that any fighter concept is a compormise (the JSF is full of them!), it went remarkably well. When the Tornado came out the Yanks made great fun about the what seems to be a kludgy aircraft witth underpowered engines (which were a design goal at that time to keep fuel consumption low), you could see them choking when the Tornado beat every American design that has been in service at that time in precision bombing competition. And we should not forget that this aircraft has been the successful backbone of four operating nations, and will be for many years to come.

As to you comment re. Typhoon being "another bureaucratic eurokludge re-invention of the F16 that can only just about loft a bomb", that is so stupid it is hardly worth mentioning. Just to say that a F16 no matter what block is in no way a match for Typhoon, neither in maneuverability nor in combat efficiency. The project took way too long, mostly due to management incompetencies, and it was very expensive. But at the end of the day it's currently one of the best combat aircraft on earth, and it provides work for many Brits and allows every nation to tweak the aircraft according to their needs. With JSF, all the technology stays with the Yanks (the UK can't even modify its software), and most of the work (>80%) will be done by non-Brits. It's always surprising how quickly this country sacrifices its own industry. It should be clear that once Typhoon has reached mature status that very likely all expertise in designing combat aircraft and related systems in the UK will be lost.

"Personally, I'd have preferred a navalised Saab Gripen or F18s. Both cheaper, more capable and available now." This might your impression you get from flying your chair, but the reality is probably very different. But then, the reason is that this is weapon technology of which most crucial parameters are classified anyways, and not available to standard laymans or even Mr. Page.

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Anonymous Coward

Stealth?

I know it's mentioned in the article but as I understand it the "stealth" really is poor in that they just paint on a very thin layer of anti-radar paint which is nothing like as effective as the "sales model" implies.

That came from a senior F-35 Engineer - albeit one who'd quit in a huff I believe.

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Pirate

Just forget about the F-35

Did you know that Brit pilots are currently training aboard the Charles de Gaulle to fly Rafale ?

Red this on some british newspaper a few weeks ago...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/8570983/Royal-Navy-pilots-forced-to-learn-French.html

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Yag

Don't forget that we are already sharing the carrier...

... sharing the planes don't seems that illogical.

Furthermore, this will allows Brits pilots to train on catapult take off & arrested recovery landing operations before the F35 become available. This is probably quite different than the STOVL stuff...

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Rafale. bloody good idea too

A good enough aircraft, available now at a reasonable price. I think therefore we can be sure the MOD won't buy it.

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Stop dreaming...

What carrier sharing are you talking about ?! CDG is 100 % french

IMHO, this Rafale training is not simply due to help british pilots to train until they get their brand new F35 C.

2 scenarii :

1 - Within a few year, MOD will tell the world that F35 are a lousy and expensive failing plane, and that buying Rafale will be the best solution for it’s navy. Objectively, Rafale is right now the best naval aircraft (FA18E is an obsolete cow, so, what else ?) and will still be for the next ten years.

2 – Within a few year, MOD will tell the world that it can’t afford a carrier + a bunch of F35C. Royal navy will crap it’s carrier project (or sell it to India...)

A lot of representatives in the US are right now talking about stopping the F35 project, seen as an industrial failure. I think European countries should stop dreaming about that powerpoint plane and look at plane whose abilities are proven (Rafale, Grippen, and maybe someday Typhoon ;-).

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Anonymous Coward

Training and Options

I really wouldn't want the first cat launch off a British carrier to be done by a guy with no experience.

And if the RN pilots are qualified on the Rafale, and the RAF are also using the F-35C, if things get awkward we have an alternative source of carrier aircraft.

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Happy

@Jmeu

"I think European countries should stop dreaming about that powerpoint plane and look at plane whose abilities are proven "

True

But none of those are made by BAE.

Who will play "We *must* protect British jobs at *all* costs" card as usual.

After all it beats building stuff other countries want to buy.

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Oxymoron

"abilities are proven...maybe someday"

Can you spot where the argument you are making falls down?

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Good enough?

Obviously not good enough to have any export customers (yet).... a bit disappointing for the French, I'm sure, after selling *thousands* of Mirages to the world and his dog.

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Yag
Facepalm

What carrier sharing are you talking about ?! CDG is 100 % french

I'm talking about the last year UK-French military agreements, as reported by the beeb : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11670247

"The UK and France have also agreed to keep at least one aircraft carrier at sea between them at any one time. Each will be able to use the other's carrier in some form, certainly for training and possibly operations."

CDG is indeed 100% french, but still "shared". And, froggies will also leap on the future UK carriers. It may be funny if one of them is named after Sir Winston...

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It may be funny if one of them is named after Sir Winston...

Even funnier if it was named after Nelson.

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Happy

Re:- Training and Options

"...And if the RN pilots are qualified on the Rafale...."

We'll know their capabilities for when we're fighting the French next time. We've spent more time fighting them than anybody else, don't forget.

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Yag
Trollface

"Even funnier if it was named after Nelson."

Too bad the CDG is not called the Napoleon then...

Won't be possible however, France seems to be ashamed of Napoleon those days.

French history courses even overlook this period thanks to some peace & love leftish dumbasses...

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What if the biggest customer cannot afford the planes

The article suggests hopefully - "if the F-35 programme survives at all, the plane will surely be sold in large numbers and that will eventually drive costs down."

By far the largest current customer is the US of Bankrupt. If they cannot afford the thousands of these planes they think they will buy, then the price will sky rocket. No stealth there - it will be blatantly obvious.

Can a country that is running 1.5 trillion dollar deficits but still refuses to tax half of the wealth in the country realistically be expected to have a viable economy in 5 years? Not going to happen.

The Royal Navy should buy a few F-18Fs and dump the whole F-35 program.

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Anonymous Coward

title

"The Royal Navy should buy a few F-18Fs and dump the whole F-35 program."

Australia has done the first part. The second is a possibility.

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Still going to be expensive

The USMC is only committing to 80 C aircraft which will result in them being more expensive than if the airframes had been made from the finest gold leaf hand-rolled on the thighs of Cuban women and then liberally sprinkled with sapphires. (I have no idea if this is how you go about making an aircraft by the way).

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