back to article UK's first stealth jumpjet rolls off line – but we don't want it

The first ever supersonic stealth jumpjet to be built for the British armed forces has rolled off the assembly line. There's just one snag: Britain decided last year that it would no longer have jumpjets, meaning that the aircraft will never serve with the Royal Navy or RAF. Regular readers will no doubt recall that ever since …

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Shame

Money spent on a British product is being poured straight back into the British economy anyway so it's not really "lost" - there is something really, really cool about vertical take off and landing, I can say this as somebody who has stood in the downdraft from a Harrier hovering directly above.

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It's a US aircraft being built in the USA; there's nothing about it that puts anything into the UK economy (perhaps the "vomit bag, one, pilot for the use of"). The reference to "First UK Stealth Jumpjet" was that we had ordered that variant from Lockheed Martin presumably to replace the Harrier.

However, we will have paid towards the development and construction costs; I suppose we should be greatful that they allow a British test pilot to take her up. (Although I'll bet that the USA aren't paying his wages, we probably are).

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FAIL

You are completely right, I hang my head in shame

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Nothing in it for us?

"It's a US aircraft being built in the USA; there's nothing about it that puts anything into the UK economy "

I think you'll find that a substantial amount of the airframe is built in Salmesbury in Lancs. Britain has invested in excess of £2bn in this programme and is the only Tier 1 partner. So whether we buy the A, B, or C model, we still get an aircraft with rear ends built in England. As will everyone else taking one of the projected 3,000 aircraft to built.

That sounds like a good deal for our economy.

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Anonymous Coward

RAH RAH RAH RAH GIBBER WE SHOULD ALL BUILD OUR OWN FLYING MACHINES AND MAKE SURE THEY ARE BRITISH RAH RAH RAH RAH!

I do not care about the article - im just waiting for the shit slinging to begin in the comments section!

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Mushroom

Get real...

The UK Defence sector has been getting fat on tax payers money for decades, ripping us all off... sure they sell globally, but just look at ALL the failed projects over the past 10-15 years. All over priced, over promised and very rarely delivered. At least buying the american kit we know things will work...

As a patriotic Brit and someone who pays a shed load of tax every year - the UK defence manufacturers can now go f*ck themselves!!! We should have done this years ago.

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1st Rule of MoD procurement

Don't make the right decision until it's going to make you look stupid.

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To be used??

So are these three planes actually going to be used by RN/RAF pilots, sit in a hanger gathering dust or be sold off to the US or other military??

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Can't we just get them flying

Because they're f*cking cool?

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Anonymous Coward

Cracks

These would be the same F35B articles that have stopped VTOL testing due to new cracks appearing?

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/new-cracks-stop-vertical-landings-on-some-f-35bs-365059/

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Silver badge

Do I understand things correctly

We have a new aircraft carrier that isn't nuclear, so has to return to port/be refuelled constantly.

We're buidling a second that will never be used.

We can't afford to buy/convert Eurofighters to put on it due to the massive over-runs of that monstrosity.

We have just rejected the other "modern" options.

We have scrapped Tornado and Harriers which, for all there ills, are the mainstay of the RAF.

We now have no viable air force or naval air presence.

Does that about sum it up?

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Viable, yes, 100% suitable maybe not.

Whilst I don't disagree that there have been balls-ups a plenty at the MOD, especially when it comes to the carriers and aircraft I have to disagree that we have no viable air force or naval air presence.

Have we not just finished a 7 month air campaign in Libya as well as ongoing operations in Afghanistan and deployments in Falklands, Cyprus etc. Yes the Libya and Afghanistan operations could have had better and more suitable equipment but it was still viable by the very fact it happened/is still happening.

Plus the MOD provides the most crucial of air roles with regard to the first role of any government, ie the protection of its citizens, through with the defence of UK air space using Typhoons based at Leuchars and Coningsby.

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Not quite, we haven't rejected the other 'modern' options, we've just changed our mind about which one to get after having put in an order for the first three of the hovering type, consequently suffering a cost and time penalty. I'm not saying it was the wrong decision, the F-35C is more capable than the 35B in terms of payload/range/manoeuvrability, it just would have made more sense to make the decision about a decade ago before anyone had stumped up any money.

Having said that due to the UK's involvement in the programme we still get a return on our investment, it's just a bit perverse that most of our R&D went on a version we won't be getting.

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Indeed the thin red lone is no more

Perhaps we could flog these carriers to the Argies.

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Stop

@The BigYin

1. Yes, but will be able to refuelled at sea, has better catapults (leccy-magnet flyboy flingers FTW!).

2. MAY not be used, could be used in a different role (helo carrier and so forth)

3. No. There is no navalised Typhoon, nor has there been any serious plan for one.

4. We have adopted a better technology that will result in planes capable of carrying more payload further with at least the same other performance characteristics as F35B (speed and so forth)

5. No, we have kept Tornado, since it is the only truly globally deployable and fully capable strike aircraft that we have, and that we have crews for. We are scrapping Harrier, because Tornado can carry anything Harrier can further, faster and a lot more of it, as well as carrying a lot of stuff that Harrier can't. That will leave us with a globally deployable air superiority fighter (Typhoon) that has a useful strike capability as well, and a globally deployable strike aircraft (Tornado) that can (with refuelling) carry anything we want to drop to anywhere we want to drop it.

6. No. We have no fixed wing naval air, this is true, but the QE will fix that (although not as much as we'd like, I agree). We have a very viable air force, that's capable of operating globally, albeit that there are critical weaknesses in some areas (maritime reconnaissance and attack, for instance. If you want to bitch about something, bitch about the cancellation of Nimrod followed by the Navy's announcement that due to that, it's spunking another billion pounds on its search for something to fill the gap).

There's some elements of truth in what you're saying, but a lot is inaccurate.

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almost right BigYin

except the tornadoes are still flying (ish) and not performing too well as they are designed for low level runs when in Afghanistan everything is high and the air is thin

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Mushroom

Actually

we only scrapped 2 squadrons of Tornadoes, we are still stuck with 5 squadrons of the things.

Icon - Like we could even if we wanted to.

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Anonymous Coward

I advise Mr. Page to have a good look at the never-ending, continuous, pervasive,uninterrupted stream of articles on Flight International concerning the major F35x programme cost overruns and airframe structural elements "hairline" and not-so-hairline cracks. The US military is just on the brink of giving up.

Cripplingly Expensive? Which one?

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Pint

Christmas is coming!

They can always wrap them in nice paper, and give them to the Italian Navy.

Even if Fincantieri is in deep troubles, as the unions blocked their plan to halve the yards and the workers, and sooner or later the government will have to do something to give something to do said yards and workers, and three conventional carriers would do the trick nicely...

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All respect to the contributors above.

But my interest is the film. Did he land with the window open ?

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No...he didnt

Thats a big barn-door thing which covers up the vertical landing engine air intake... or a sun shade for when the pilot get's hot. Take your pick!

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FAIL

Hold on...

..isn't this the same Lewis Page that was slating the previous government a few years back for opting for VTOL variants in the first place?

Perhaps around the same time he was insisting steam catapults could never be fitted to the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, despite the fact they now are being fitted?

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You didn't read the aritcle

Except steam catapults aren't being fitted, they are electric ones.

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Trollface

Only an idiot would buy this aircraft!

Get the Australian Prime Minister on the phone....

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Anonymous Coward

Cool story, bro!

I wonder is there any real advantage to developing manned aircraft over the long term?

If you imagine today is the 25th November 2050, we would surely laugh at the time and money wasted in the first three decades of this century on manned aircraft.

If we really need to fritter away our cash to still have a seat on somebody's lap at the top table, why not invest in research and development of drones / fighter drones and the software and systems to operate them? I think that would give the exchequer more bang for each pound spent and be more flexible as a fighting / surveillance / signals platform.

I suspect you could also make drones very much cheaper as you don't have to accommodate a very expensive pilot. Same goes for much smaller carriers. Imagine a carrier half the size of Ark Royal with 10 / 100 times the fighting power. The trump card is to have the best computer systems defences rather than the weapons themselves.

Time to think about where we want to be rather than where we've been.

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Go

Nice To See Rationality At Work

Mr Lewis once wanted to make readers believe that non-nuclear carriers needed VTOL aircraft because they could not power steam catapults.

Which is plain wrong, as can easily be proven by some simple calculations and as has already been proven by USN CV (not CVN) carriers in the past.

VTOL is inefficient in several ways and has only been used because there was once a great urge to do VTOL, as much as there was once an urge to do supersonic passenger aircraft.

The rational thing to do would be simply buying Rafales or Superhornets. With Rafales, Britain would be treated as an equal partner (for further R&D), with the hornets Britain would merely fork over money.

Regarding the Americans, I am sure they will soon rationalize their naval airpower into solely US Navy carriers - US Marine airpower is simply an expensive duplication they will not be able to afford in the near future. Actually, even the Navy will be lucky to retain just five of their carriers when you look at the public finances.

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No he didn't

The 2 UK carriers were always designed with spare engineering space, so they could have steam generating plant installed - if they changed their minds and went the catapult route. However, they also (from memory) have gas turbine engines (possibly linked to electric drive?), rather than dirty great diesels, which are less suitable for raising large amounts of steam. However gas turbines can generate lots of leccy, so we look to be going the electric catapult route, which I guess is easier to fit than steam, and will cause less wear-and-tear on everything.

Our Lewis has put all this down before, and banged on about how he thought the best bet was probably nuclear-steam cat carriers with cheap old planes. Whether you agree with him or not, he's been reasonably consistent.

There's no reason we couldn't have had these carriers finished 5 years ago, scrapped the old stuff then, except Labour dithered on them, and held them up to wait for new aircraft - oh and fucked up the MOD purchasing budget so that they were buying 3 times as much as they'd agreed budget for and so had to keep delaying stuff (at huge cost) to make the numbers vaguely add up. If we'd done it that way we would be running them now, with cheaper, older aircraft. Then an upgrade to F35s in 5-10 years from now. My understanding is that marine airframes don't last as long if you keep banging them into carrier decks, and blasting them off catapults, so an air-group replacement after 10-15 years - probably isn't actually wasteful.

Basically the deal is cheap plane now, and new cheap plane in 10-15 years - or one expensive plane real-soon-now, with an electronics upgrade in 10 years. The costs probably work out similar, if not cheaper for the 2 plane option.

The advantage of doing it the originally planned way, was it probably helped get BAE into the consortium to build the F35. Plus delayed the purchasing decision on the carriers, to allow the MOD budget to be focused on Iraq/Afghanistan. Plus possibly better timing for getting some votes in Scotland...

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Stop

Not consistent at all...

... take a look at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/18/blighty_carrier_deal_announced/page2.html for example:

"As a result, the Brit carriers - though easily big enough - won't have catapults at all. This means that they won't be able to launch normal carrier planes, and thus that the UK must buy the jump-jet version of the new F-35, at needlessly vast expense."

They're no longer buying the VTOL variants but going the route he originally advocated. He's still criticizing them. That isn't a consistent position: it's the kind of ignorant and incoherent argument Page is so fond of. Why let the facts get in the way of a good rant?

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Mushroom

If I Were An Argentinian

I would be rubbing my hands with glee in respect of the UK government dissolving the UK's ability to ward off invaders from the Falkland Islands.

Back in 1982 there was a big defence review taking place and we were damn lucky to have enough resources to take the job on, but now I reckon the UK would be hard pushed to man a rowing boat armed with a couple of peashooters.

I believe our aircraft carrier requirements are going to be met by France lending us one as the need arises. And I can just see how friendly the French are going to be given our position with the ongoing Euro crisis.

It's a damn pity we didn't put orders into the UK shipyards for new battleships etc, because that would have kept lots of people employed. Instead of which we are hacking away the UK's defences and having to pay a social security budget which keeps these people off the streets.

We might as well put the Falkland Islands on ebay and see what we can get in a firesale. If the argies flex their muscles again they can just walk right in, and we'll be left whingeing to the UN about loss of sovereign territory.

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The Falkland Islands have an airbase

Plus an RAF detachment and troops.. Which can be re-enforced in a matter of hours.

Also, I'm not sure Argentina has quite the same force at it's disposal as it once did A quick Google suggests that they now have about 1 squadron of old Mirage III fighter-bombers and 2 squadrons of really, really old A-4 Skyhawks, plus 4 destroyers and 4 subs. Plus it's not the 80s any more.

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Commander

Do I correctly understand the sums involved?

We've just sold all our Harriers to the US Marine Corps...

For enough cash to buy just one F-35...

Is that what the MOD perceives as being the best deal we can get?

No wonder our defence finances are in a mess!

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