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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Joke

David Webb?

Aren't you supposed to finish off by writing, "You look tired today, Lewis," and then Lewis spins around in his office chair, wondering which skyscraper you're in.

Or maybe I'm thinking of someone else.

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Joke

Hey, get sarcastic if you want...

...but do you realize just how much it cost for those little wiggling plastic hula girls mounted atop the main control panel of the Space Shuttle?

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F35 alternative?

So the Navy's new fighter costs even more, we can only use it with addon kit the americans sell, when the Americans tell us, and if the Americans let us borrow their itunes account (or whatever the onboard software used).

It can't take off vertically from a carrier without melting the deck, and can't land with any fuel or weapons onboard. It costs so much we can only have enough aircraft for one carrier - which rather begs the question what the other carrier is doing.

Wonder if jerrry would sell us those spare F4s ?

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Obvious

Sheesh... ones for taking off, the other for landing.

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One of these is a truly impressive British fighter plane.

Well it's the Spitfire of course... An example of what a single country can produce under pressure.

Whereas the Eurofighter is not a British fighter plane, it is an example of what a bunch of countries, speaking different languages can produce when driven by bureaucracy.

I'm sure there were less people involved in the entire production run of the Spitfire than there are in the powerpoint generating division of the Eurofighter!

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Even more impressive was...

..the construction of a Wellington bomber (LN514) from component parts in under 24hrs during the war.

It was a flying basket case as planes go, but building a fully airworthy bomber in 24hrs is a bloody good job. War spirit an' all that. Even the normal planes took 2-3 days once fullu ramped up. And the Wellington design -> prototype took months, and a few month later to reach production. Months. Not years. None of this 4 or 12 years late bollox.

Modern planes might be more complex and impressive, but our design -> production lifecycle and manfucturing processes should be equally impressive with it. What will all our fancy 'compu-ters' an' all.

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You're not wrong..

You're not wrong.. Britain's first operational jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, was delivered in in 1944 in a project that was only started in 1940.

Other second world war aircraft took even less time.. but the flipside of this was that there were an awful lot a failed projects and aircraft that didn't make it into production. For every Supermarine Spitfire (20,000 built) there's another project that failed, for example the Avro Manchester had just 200 built and was scrapped in 1942 just two years after going operational.

The key difference is that WWII had several competing manufacturers who were able to take risks and innovate to provide cost-effective solutions. It's not a million miles away from the sort of thing that the X Prize Foundation does.

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Pint

Truly amazing

That wa a fanstastic endeavour, sadly I doubt we'll see this country do anything half as impressive again without flogging the knowledge to someone to build this time.

Beer for the bomber builders!

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Slightly unfair on the Manchester

The Manchester had problems - especially with the Vulture engines- but that is far from the whole story. Avro decided to re-engine the Manchester with the less powerful but more reliable Merlin X engines. As they were less powerful, they extended the wings and added an extra two engines, making the MkIII Manchester.

Why is this important? Well, the MkIII Manchester was renamed the Avro Lancaster. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avro_Manchester. Therefore the Manchester led directly to the Lancaster, and there was much commonality between the two airframes.

Indeed, there is more than a little reason to believe that if Rolls Royce had managed to make the Vulture engines work reliably, then we would be talking about the Manchester in the same glowing terms that we now do the Lancaster.

There are much better candidates deserving derision in WWII - for instance the Gloster Gladiator or the Handley Page Hampton.

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Manchester became Lancaster

Note that they only made 200 Manchesters because the Vulture engine it used was unreliable. The design was changed to use 4 Merlins, and the went on to fame as the Lancaster.

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IT Angle

pre-war plane

FYI the Spitfire was introduced before the war in 1938, and its design and conception started well before. :)

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Tory defence policy

Outsourcing. You pay the enemy to bomb themselves. Much cheaper

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Catch 22?

Wasn't this one of the threads in Catch 22?

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Other Way Round

Milo bombed his own squadron because the enemy paid him to do it.

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FAIL

Oh dear...

Mr Page shows his ignorance again: the RAF have not retired all their Tornado F3s yet, even Wikipedia will tell you that the last F3 squadron (No. 111 at Leuchars) is not due to be stood down until next year. Oh, and please learn the difference between a phased array radar and an AESA radar before trying to make us believe that the Typhoon's CAPTOR radar is in some way inferior to the one found in a Ford Taurus. But hey, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story, eh?

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Rather worrying

Not the usual rant against eurofighter but that Martin-Baker had made a cock-up somewhere along the way.

I'd have expected it to have been the most trustworthy bit of the 'plane, despite being effectively a ready-to-fire unguided rocket stuck behind the pilot.

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It's not certain that...

...this is a Martin-Baker cock-up, I've seen a few comments elsewhere suggesting that the problem was that the locking ring on the quick release buckle (the thing that holds all the harness straps in place) was not in the locked position and somehow the release button was pushed during the ejection, normally this is only rotated to the unlocked position after landing (either normally or by parachute). The basic design on the QRB is not new, it's been around on all the M-B seats since the 50s in one form or another.

That's the reason that this is a precautionary grounding and the aircraft can be flown if needed.

Don't malign M-B products, there are many thousands of people who they have extracted from otherwise fatal situations.

Flame, even if it is pointing upwards....

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So.. pilot error then?

Lesson? Read your checklist - don't rely on Allah to do your seatbelt up. Shame they had to ground everyone else because some Saudi prince's brat cocked up.

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Unhappy

So ...

The UK bomber force (I mean proper bomber) is a privately-owned Vulcan, and the BoBMF Lancaster.

The UK fighter fleet consists of Spitfires and Hurricane(s?).

What does MoD stand for again?

And the boys and girls at the sharp end have to deal with the inevitable snafus that arise. Our MPs should be ashamed.

ttfn

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Re: So ...

That might not be as daft as it sounds... I wonder how well heat seeking missiles lock onto the not so hot exhaust of an internal combustion engine as opposed to the huge wash of hot gasses that come out of the back of a jet?

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Boffin

RE: Re: So

Even first gen heat-seekers lock onto hot exhausts very well. The Portugese found that out with the COIN version of the Nomad when they started taking hits from the early SAM-7s in Angola. I can't recall reading about any Nomads getting SAMmed in Viet Nam but that might be because the Yanks replaced the South Vietnamese ones when the VC started using .50 HMGs.

As regards Lewis's latest piece of non-news, I have been waiting for him to jump on his fave hobby-horse from the minute I heard of the Typhoon problem. His attempt to try and portray it as some immense issue is just hilarious - Lewis, get a perspective and just get over your jaded attitude to the Brylcream boys.

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FAIL

Jaeger 90...

... is what they initially called the Eurofailure in Germany.

The thing really reminds me of Duke Nukem Forever...

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Pint

Not quite classic Page

but not a bad attempt Lewis - certainly up to "Navy News" standard, but not really what we've come to expect...

I mean, only one reference to the "F-22 superfighter" tsk tsk - sort yourself out man!

Beer - well I for one say "cheers" to those who built, flew and maintained our air defences 70 Years ago, and those who still try today!

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And the point is?

Excuse me for being cynical but wasn't this just an excuse to push out the same old anti-Typhoon stuff again?

Given the fault was (apparently) in the seat, which is a variation on a part used on a wide range of jets there isn't actually much which is related to the aircraft itself, and certainly not enough to justify another 2 page rehash of old arguments.

If (for example) this had occurred on the late, over-budget and under-performing F-35 - which is just as likely given the common component - would we have seen the same outpouring?

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how not to procure an aircraft.

I am increasingly disheartened by the MOD's amazing ability to convert a good idea into a bad implementation.

The Eurofighter, then the EF2000 (cos we all know it was happening in 2000, right voters?). Then the Typhoon (to inject some trust back into the project because there was a great ground attack aircraft called the typhoon in WW2, though that itself was formerly an unsuccessful fighter, and the new typhoon which was supposedly to have a full multirole capability now only really has a rudimentary ground attack option), still has a gun, but it is not now connected to the trigger on the joystick because apparently the RAF and MOD can't find their arse with both hands and failed to procure properly (or tried to save money on bullets and a gun groundcrew).

Still, it is pointy and loud at airshows so hoorah, what what!

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Flame

F-22 For The 51st State !

I am sure the 51st State could then manufacture something like the tissue to wipe the cockpit (Ejection seats are apparently not the strength of the 51st State).

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WTF?

Really?

I think you'll find that M-B has a very high reputation worldwide, and indeed many US aircraft are fitted with M-B seats. They have long been the seat of choice in US Navy and Marines aircraft with a few exceptions.

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Headmaster

ah, no we couldn't...

Here in Australiamerica we can't even produce tissues! We cut the trees down, but send them to China for the expensive and highly tekernoglical process of converting them to tissues. We then buy them back and only a 2500% mark-up.

We also paid for the US aerospace GFC bailout package, er sorry, F35. ie. we are idiots.

Aren't you lot the 52nd state? We were 51st first - we actually tried it just after WW2, and pretty much succeeded with the Howard Junta, er, regime, er, government.

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Megaphone

Nope

I am from Teutonia, the totally backwards country where Bankers don't have Total Freedom To Mess Up the Economy.

Actually I live in a tyranny where Bankers are Opressed People. I am living under the tyranny of heinous manufacturers of wicked Tool Machines, Large Airplanes and Fast Cars.

Can someone call Amnesty For Bankers International ?? My last bonus is now two years in the past !!! Imagine That !!

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Anonymous Coward

As soon as I saw the headline

I knew Lewis Page would be creaming himself over this

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WTF?

naff off Lewis...

the grounding is ONLY for non-operational flights... if we went to war, they'd be given a waiver and any modifications needed would be given a crash priority (scuse the pune... ).

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Grenade

Gun Savings were a bluff

The aiming algorithms were so inaccurate that if you aimed at a towed decoy you risked shooting the towplane out of the sky.

Jock Stirrup was closer to the mark than he intended when he appeared before the house of commons... http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmdfence/45/4102003.htm

The RAF made the gun operational again in 2006 after this lot had fixed the work of a so-called German expert who'd obfuscated the algorithm to big up his own importance...

http://www.blacksuntechnology.co.uk/Projects/Aerospace.htm

In it's defence Typhoon hasn't been modified to carry laser pod or smart bombs it was always intended. It's just being delivered a lot later than planned because it's being done by the Germans who have less thanj zero interest in mud-moving and consequently don't give it a great priority.

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Joke

C4 Documentary

I expected Lewis to be more rugged and, well, handsome.

Poor Ms. Bee.

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Anonymous Coward

paper-plane committees

~ Wasn't it Hitler who said nothing good had ever been achieved by committees? The Me-262 doesn't look so bad now, does it? Just don't push the throttle forward too fast because there's no ejector seat...

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Coat

RE: paper-plane committees

Don't mention that title again on El Reg, in derogatory manner, since P.A.R.I.S. seems to be going just fine. It IS a paper-plane, and it is being designed by a committee, actually.

You know, the Paper Aircraft Released Into Space? (Where is my coat?)

I'm astounded nobody even mentioned the Mosquito (aka "The Wooden Wonder", aka "The Timber Terror"), that was faster - if not the fastest aircraft, for a brief moment - during WWII, it was made of balsa wood, and turned out to be an outstanding twin-engined propeller fighter, envied (and ranted??) by Hermann Göring, himself. Wikipedia said it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Mosquito . How come there were none of those on the celebration? Did I miss it? Pity.

You found my coat behind that lumber stack? Oh, thank you.

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Not just fighters

I went to Sywell Airshow a few weeks ago, hoping to see the Vulcan. It was, unfortunately, grounded due to weather - but the Lancaster did a rather impressive display. Clearly had the Cold War turned hot on a rainy day, we'd have been better off fitting the Blue Danubes to WWII-era Lancasters...

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Black Helicopters

Here's a thought...

We're overpopulated, do we really need working ejector seats in these things?

Black helicopter because they don't have ejector seats.

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Ejection seats for toffs only

Impressive as Vulcan was, only the pilot and copilot had ejection seats. The poor buggers in the back had none, and were seemingly expendable.

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Anonymous Coward

But being a jolly good chap

(And having read sufficient War Library and Commando)

the pilot would stay at the controls of his stricken aircraft while the rest of his crew got out.

Then, if he could, he'd have flown what remained of his "crate" back to the airfield.

and if he'd done a good job of it, perhaps he might be up for a minor gong.

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Re: But being a jolly good chap

And they really were:

‘Flying Officer L.T. Manser … stayed at the controls of his damaged Manchester aircraft, at the cost of his own life, so his comrades could parachute to safety.’

http://www.rafbombercommand.com/people_vc.html

‘P/O Tom Tomlin DFC from Plymouth … stayed at the controls of his aircraft whilst his crew parachuted.’ (http://www.49squadron.co.uk/Roll%20of%20honour/Roll_T/Tomlin%20Tom.html)

Flt. Lt. Peter ‘Andy’ Anderson ‘didn’t make it and perished when the plane crashed. Like many pilots before him he had stayed at the controls too long in order to ensure every crewman had got away.’

http://www.207squadron.rafinfo.org.uk/belgium0505/anderson_pm_110445.htm

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Coat

Faulty seats

Not the first time MB have delivered duff seats, but at least the Saudi pilot knew he was ejecting. If memory serves, the Harrier GR5 test pilot didn't when the seat head box barostat triggered the drogue 'chute charges and dragged in out through the canopy without the benefit of setting off the MDC first!

Last seen flying on regardless by a KC-135 that was inbound to the UK and was vectored onto the now pilotless machine, the GR5 finally came to grief in the Irish Sea. Naturally enough the GR5 fleet was grounded until that was fixed as well.

There again, at the time the UK spec INS platform wouldn't speak to the rest of the systems, the new Aden gun hadn't arrived yet and when it did fell off, but they're another story...

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Interesting story becomes the usual rant.

I expect that 111 squadron's Tornado F.3s would prove a more effective defence than the BBMF's Spitfires and Hurricanes and IIRC in a pinch Hawk trainers can be armed with Sidewinders for emergency air defence duties. Seeing as Lewis was being picky about the facts in Dispatches, it seems fair that we can pick at the facts he's telling us!

The first half-page seemed like a reasonable story, but it then segued into Lewis Page's usual anti-Typhoon/RAF/BAE Systems rant. Wouldn't it be easier to have just one copy of the rant and link to it rather than repeating it all the time? Or is Mr Page paid by the word?

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Anonymous Coward

Morón airbase

Is that really the name of a Spain base??? Geez...

But, on another comment, ejector seats? I believe Americans use one or two models of ejector seats across the board, from Thunderbolt A-10 to F-15 to F-18s to F-16s. If they are not the same, I bet they have high commonality. Go figure.

Another point: ok, the Spitfire is a great aircraft, and could perhaps outmaneuver modern jets in close-range dogfights (or even P51s in its heyday, nobody tested it?) or even be upgraded with full modern avionics and weaponry in a weekend (or less), put falling back just to them is just pushing luck too far. Do you actually believe F-14s are just sitting in the desert "rotting away"? Hell no, I bet the Tomcats could jump back to full operational status in 48 hours if hell broke loose. The only gripe about them were the engines maintenance, I believe. Perhaps UK should do the same and keep old Cold-War birds in "recoverable" and "quickly recoverable" condition, without public knowledge. A dry desert is just perfect for it. I would keep them in the Atlas mountains, with due permission from Morocco, just a refueling tanker away from major conflict hot-spots in the Middle East or running back home. But that is just me.

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Anonymous Coward

There was a Lancaster flying at the weekend

though, curiously, not anywhere near the big Battle of Britain bash in London, but instead down at the Goodwood Revival, accompanied by three Spitfires, a Hurricane and a couple of Mustangs. Still brings a lump to the throat (though not to the trouser, unlike the Vulcan, which does so in the not-good way)

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IMHO four Tornados were part of the BoB flypast on Sunday

I was walking past the London eye on Sunday and was delighted to see the Spitfire and Hurricane fly past. Shortly after, a formation of four Tornados roared overhead. (They looked like Tornados to me anyway). A man standing near me said "It must be for the Pope's Visit". I thought he was an idiot -- but, after reading this piece claiming that the RAF was grounded perhaps they were the Vatican Air Force?

And another thing -- couldn't we have the option of a Spitfire icon for comments?

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Grenade

I CAN HAZ ANSWER!!?!

"what are you going to nationalise [BAE] with?"

The stroke of a pen. If the cnuts running it now make so much as a squeak, unleash the full fury of the Men In Grey at both Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue on them.

Never mind Raptors, we should just swallow our pride and buy the F3 version of the Rafale from Le Frogs, or if we can't stomach that, the Saab Gripen. Both of them would be equally as effective as the Typhoon against real (rather than imaginary) opponents, are multi-role out of the box, and a metric crapton cheaper to buy and operate.

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Sleep easy..

....a Spitfire or Hurrucane could probably still out-turn most modern jets in a dogfight :-)

You just got persuade the jets down to less than 10,000ft and 250mph!

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WTF?

Ad nauseum

The griffon spitfires with a few modifications could probably do the job of an all weather interceptor today. There'd need to be some re-engineering but at least you could get spare parts for the damn thing fairly simple, just go down the nearest machine shop...

Either that or buy a veyron - reverse engineer that W12 - and stuff it in a replica airframe with a few hardpoints - it'd do the same job pretty much with over-the-horizon weaponary - might actually do it better...

But the point is not - what the eurocrapheap typhoon can do or what it cant (and talk about asking for trouble calling it that, tails that fall off anyone, or detonating engines ringin'a'bell??). All the army are screaming for is helicopters - so why dont we go down and get some - stop whining about it - cancel the fighter and get some decent choppers

its not because of money, power, influence or anything else. Its the natural failing of boys who like big powerful toys... they have small powerless other things. If someone was in charge of all this that just sat down and said - do we have what we need? no why not? because of so and so, who was in charge? him over there... right mate you're sacked we'd not be having an english presence on the ground thats called such because said ground is covered in chunks of englishmen.

If a load of old grannies can build a wellington in 23hrs from start to finish, most of whom left school at 14 or younger... and we nowadays cant manage to get something in the air in 23 YEARS there has to be a frell-up somewhere down the line...

For heavens sake will someone get their finger out of wherever its been shoved before it causes us some really serious problems?

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...frell-up...

Nice to see someone who has working translator microbes!

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Coat

You guys should bought Dassault's Rafales

hehehehe...

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