back to article Lightning strikes: Britain's first F-35B supersonic fighter lands

The first of the Royal Air Force's new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter jets landed on British soil last night, heralding a new era for the Royal Air Force. The supersonic Lightning II, as it will be known in RAF service, was flown across the Atlantic by RAF Squadron Leader Hugh Nicols, in the company of two US Marine Corps F-35Bs …

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  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Curious minds want to know

    Did it land together with its mission planning system.

    This "marvelous" piece of hardware has an integrated spares, logistics and mission planning system which runs ONLY on USA mil cloud. If it is using that system, UK is just a "host" for this "parasite", it is effectively not UK property, as UK needs to talk to said system to assign it a mission plan for it to go and bomb (or fight) something. It is on a benevolent lease.

    So, curious minds want to know - did it land with our OWN spares, maintenance, logistics and mission planning system or it is under American command.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Curious minds want to know

      So, curious minds want to know - did it land with our OWN spares, maintenance, logistics and mission planning system or it is under American command.

      In that respect I'd want to look much closer at the software as well. You don't want it to automatically drop a bomb when it flies over an area that the US decides to have a problem with..

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Curious minds want to know

        This curious mind is wondering why our one had to be escorted by the other pair. Or are they the aforementioned spares?

        Or were they afraid it would get lost, or the pilot would take the chance to Brexit to somewhere else?

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Curious minds want to know

          This curious mind is wondering why our one had to be escorted by the other pair.

          There's safety in numbers. West coast seagulls can get pretty aggressive at this time of year, before there are enough holidaymakers around to feed them chips and ice cream.

        2. JetSetJim Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Curious minds want to know

          > This curious mind is wondering why our one had to be escorted by the other pair. Or are they the aforementioned spares?

          They have craft-to-craft voting so that if one system fails the other two can reboot it while providing the service. They'll not all fail at the same time, surely

        3. Tom Servo

          Re: Curious minds want to know

          It's because the F-35s are flying at the Fairford air show in 10 days time - along with F-22, typhoons, f-16s, F-18s, Mig-29s, Grippens, Rafales - should be a fun day.

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: Curious minds want to know

            Currently loads of planes flying in along the Thames to line up with Fairford runway this evening. Kids are moaning, and low cloud = can't see anything

          2. elDog

            Re: Curious minds want to know

            Could some of you kind blokes over there get a reading of the decibel level when these F-35's take off from the air show?

            My little city of Burlington, VT, US is slated to host a squadron of these - within residential housing areas. The clamour from the F16s doing frequent drills is incredible (horrible). I would have to believe that these weighty guzzlers with after-burners turned on are several levels higher.

            Strange that the USAF has not suggested a demo of the enjoyment-of-life while these white elephants land, and then have to take off again.

            1. El-Regio

              Re: Curious minds want to know

              From what I've heard they're substantially quieter than the F-16's/F-18's.... disappointingly so....

            2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

              Re: Curious minds want to know

              My little city of Burlington, VT,

              Out of luck - they are making them more silent nowdays. Nothing to do with airport noise regulations, more to do with the fact that if you can hear it for miles, there is little point in stealth. This for once is before the event of someone rebuilding WW2 pre-radar early warning systems for today's age:

              https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/e3/40/8e/e3408efaba0fcc2ac39600b948728dac.jpg

              IMHO, it is still worth it to rebuild it by the way. Throw in some DSPs to clean the noise out, differentiate target types and get an idea of relative velocity via doppler shift, put the horns at 100m distance with optics in between them and slave a ZPU off the rig off to a ZPU. Absolutely silent, cheap as chips, absolutely passive - nothing visible until it fires either. Can be mass produced at a couple of % the cost of an average AAA so you can saturate an area with them too. So much for "stealth" in ground attack role I guess...

            3. uncle sjohie

              Re: Curious minds want to know

              According to the Dutch MOD, it's louder than the F16, but a little less loud than the F104 Starfighter the F16 replaced, measured at Leeuwarden airbase a couple of weeks ago.

              1. cortland

                Re: Curious minds want to know

                My ex and i were At Ramstein Air Base for an air show some few years ago, when a pair of Canadian 104's decided to fly over in afterburner at about 500 kts and see how high they could get us to jump.

                It worked.

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Curious minds want to know

              Didn't you know there was a military airfield nearby when you bought the property/home? If so, what were they flying out of there at the time? Hang gliders? Piper Cub two-seaters? It's those jet fighters that make it posible, in part, for you to live in the freedoms you have now.

              1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

                Re: Curious minds want to know

                Jet-wash, the sound of freedom.

                Sign at a USAF base entrance.

              2. Marshalltown

                Re: Curious minds want to know

                The last time Burlington faced a military threat it was from the British Army and the soldiers were not equipped with jet fighters, or even multishot weapons. All an airbase would protect anyone from is Canada. Now Canada is not to sneered at. They built one of the very early hi-tech fighters ever built, though the soviets stole the plans, and the PM had every hull scrapped. But, still, as useful as those fighters might one day be, claiming to have freedoms left after the Patriot Act is perhaps a little rose colored in the lens department.

        4. x 7

          Re: Curious minds want to know

          "This curious mind is wondering why our one had to be escorted by the other pair."

          The three aircraft were the first attempt at a global deployment exercise - to see if the aircraft could be sent overseas without breaking down in mid-Atlantic. The exercise worked. The results would have been unfortunate if the exercise failed

      2. Lusty

        Re: Curious minds want to know

        @AC DO-278 will in theory make it very easy to review the software, if a little time consuming. Everything is traceable from idea to build so it'd be difficult to hide anything effectively. That's not to say we're not blindly trusting the US, but if we choose to we can review easily.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Everything is traceable from idea to build"

          "Everything is traceable from idea to build"

          Is "traceable" a synonym for "shown to be correct" (testing, formal proof, both?)?

          And does that include the compilation tools (and beyond) in the build process?

          DO178 was largely a box ticking paper chase, no more, no less. I don't expect 278 to be any different but ICBW.

      3. PacketPusher
        Devil

        Re: Curious minds want to know

        All your planes are belong to us

    2. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: did it land with our OWN

      SInce it flew straight from the US I'd say it landed with the Merkin one and will be retrofitted with ours later.

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Curious minds want to know

      What about all the British parts on it?

      Lift Fan

      Quite a bit of air frame

      Martin Baker ejection seats

      Some of the electronics

      We could stuff the US if we wanted

      1. MattPi

        Re: Curious minds want to know

        "What about all the British parts on it?

        Lift Fan

        Quite a bit of air frame

        Martin Baker ejection seats

        Some of the electronics

        We could stuff the US if we wanted"

        I heard Martin Baker beat out Lucas Electric for the contract; that's a shame as it would have been the first bit of Lucas stuff that would work when you didn't want it to rather than the other way around.

        1. Dave 15

          Re: Curious minds want to know

          Lift fan.... good God, I know the yanks were behind the curve but basically this is not much different to a jet powered helicopter.

          I just LOVE the way the British government continues to stab Britain in the back... scrapping a proper British plane for a load of bug ridden American junk...

          Sorry, but this is crap, when will we ever get a British government willing and able to back the country whose tax they are spending? They STILL haven't got us out of the EU, they STILL haven't put together a FUNCTIONAL aircraft carrier to replace the 3 they destroyed, they STILL don't have aircraft capable of watching the enemy or aircraft capable of taking off from anywhere rather than needing lovely runways. At least the Harrier operated in places like Afghanistan and didn't need to wait for the guys to go in and clear a massive area and put down a runway.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Curious minds want to know

        Martin Baker ejection seats

        Have they worked out how to stop them breaking the pilot's neck (due to the extremely heavy helmet system) when they eject yet?

        1. CanadianMacFan

          Re: Curious minds want to know

          Yes, heavier pilots.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Devil

          Re: Curious minds want to know

          Pilot supplied neck brace?

    4. YumDogfood

      Re: Curious minds want to know

      Oh yes, I heard about that big ball of mud. Should be up on The Daily WTF.

    5. x 7

      Re: Curious minds want to know

      It uses the American system

      It has to

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Harriers

    the US Marines had WAY more sense than the Fleet Air Arm. A vertical landing makes for much sense when landing on a ship rolling about at sea.

    1. oldcoder

      Re: Harriers

      Unless it is windy... Helicopters have been known to be blown off carrier landings even in relatively mild wind.

    2. P0l0nium

      Re: Harriers

      Last I heard these are F35Bs ... with lift fans. The same vertical landing variant that the US marines ordered.

      Personally, I think they'd have been better off with the C variant. Why fly a short range 'plane from a honking great carrier ???

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Harriers

        The UK Carrier don't have STEAM driven catapults. The US ones do because they are Nuclear powered. Our Carriers ar Diesel powered.

        That's why the 'C' variant won't be used by the Navy/RAF.

        When the Harriers (there is film evidence) made trial landings on Ark Royal the weather was at times pretty foul. Landing on a ship and hoping that the arrester hook catches was by all accounts[1] far hairier than a vertical landing where the beefed up undercart was able to withstand a 2-3ft drop thus countering the motion of a ship rolling about in rough seas.

        [1] Intel gained from talking to one of the pilots who took part in the trials many years ago.

        1. Adair

          Re: Harriers

          'Our Carriers ar Diesel powered.' - point of information, but as I understand 'our carriers' are in fact electrically powered, primarily via Rolls Royce gas turbines, but with diesel ancillary/backup generators.

          In principle this would have made them ideal candidates for the electro-magnetic catapults being fitted to the latest US carriers. Unfortunately filthy lucre and bureaucratic incompetence may have intervened.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Uberseehandel

            Re: Harriers

            The UK turbines can't drive sufficiently powerful electric generators to drive the EM cats. But, had the ships been fitted with RR nuclear power systems, there would have been sufficient electrical power available to drive the cats.

            The planes would have been faster, cheaper, longer ranged, and easier to fly, and incidentally more reliable. But a pol chickened out on the nuclear angle, so they fudged the "life cost" of the nuclear option to make it "seem" expensive.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: electro-magnetic catapults

            From what I've heard, it was purely a case of bureaucratic incompetence.

            The ability to retro-fit for electro-magnetic catapults was built into the requirements, but somone forgot to include any cost limit into the contract.

            When they looked into taking up this option, it turned out it would cost almost as much to retro-fit as the Carriers cost to build in the first place!

            1. Vic

              Re: electro-magnetic catapults

              it turned out it would cost almost as much to retro-fit as the Carriers cost to build in the first place!

              Only if you buy it from BAe Systems.

              Buy EMALS directly from the manufacturer and it's about a fifth of that.

              Vic.

        2. John 104 Silver badge

          Re: Harriers

          @Steve Davies 3

          Diesel? Really? Wow. I had no idea. But then again, I've always thought the British carriers were a little wonky. :)

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Harriers

            'Diesel? Really? Wow. I had no idea.'

            Technically yes, the gas turbines are tuned to run on a form of diesel for a number of reasons including higher combustion point (important when you're sleeping on top of several hundred tonnes of it) and greater availability, pretty much every port will be able to provide it as it's the same as used by ships powered by two or four stroke internal combustion engines.

            1. fnj

              Re: Harriers

              Not to split hairs, but "diesel powered" is not the same as "diesel fueled". "Diesel powered" means using compression-ignition reciprocating engines. "Diesel fueled" just means using any kind of prime mover which burns diesel fuel.

              Queen Elizabeth class has 96,000 hp of installed gas turbine power plus 54,600 hp of installed diesel power. The diesels are evidently considerably more than "auxiliary" power plants. It's a lot closer to 1930s-40s German plans using diesels for cruising with steam turbines for dash capability.

              Note that 1/3 the hp gets you CONSIDERABLY more than 1/3 the speed. In fact, 1/3 the hp typically gives you around 70-80% the speed.

        3. Dave 15

          Re: Harriers

          Yeah, another great f*** up by the idiots in power, creating an aircraft carrier that needs a fleet of vulnerable, unprotected, slow tankers to keep them going... tankers that also need fuel... which we won't be able to get from the yanks when we are fighting their best chums the argies, or the middle east when the yanks have taken control of that, or our own north sea when a couple of bombs have laid waste to that.... great thinking from a brainless bunch of politicos and has been idiot admirals.

      2. Gergmchairy

        Re: Harriers

        Ah the short range varient, i do wonder quite how short when i read that they were refuelled fifteen times (each) to get over the pond !!! 266 miles between pit stops - yikes!!!

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Harriers

          'Ah the short range varient, i do wonder quite how short when i read that they were refuelled fifteen times (each) to get over the pond !!! 266 miles between pit stops - yikes!!!'

          I've read elsewhere they could have done it with four refuellings but went for more for safety. I'm guessing that way if anything went wrong they'd still have enough internal fuel to reach an alternate airfield before it all got worryingly quiet.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            4 refuelings versus 15

            I imagine the big reason for going overboard with safety margins is that given the bad press the F35 has received both here and in the UK, having your maiden delivery lost at the bottom of the Atlantic due to a refueling issue would not make that press more positive!

        2. Dave Bell

          Re: Harriers

          There's all sorts of arguments that can be had about range comparisons, such as how much fuel you allow for combat. But one set of figures I saw suggested that the F-35B has a lower combat radius than a Misubishi Zero.

          That 266 miles, when you include a substantial allowance for problems, is rather too plausible. 3 planes, and 3 hose units on a KC-10, maybe you can refuel all three planes at the same time, but it would be tricky flying, and hose units can fail.

    3. paulc

      Re: Harriers

      A vertical landing makes for much sense when landing on a ship rolling about at sea.

      it's going to have to be a very strong sea state to start rocking those babies about enough to interfere with the landings... and in that sea state, the wind will be too strong for flying anyway...

  3. SkippyBing Silver badge

    !Wings of 12

    It's not a wing of 12 aircraft, it's a squadron. A wing is a collection of squadrons, as in a Carrier Air Wing.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: !Wings of 12

      The air wing of each carrier will consist of 12 F-35Bs.

      With that few aircraft I'd have called it a flight, myself – two or more flights to a sqn, two or more sqns to a wg, etc etc - but in these straightened times the entire RAF would only just comprise a WW2 group, in terms of aircraft numbers.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: !Wings of 12

        Not strictly true, there was a statement that they'd always deploy with at least 12 F-35Bs, but that's not the entire air wing, there'll also be a squadron of Merlin ASW and AEW helicopters on board plus possibly some Chinooks. Fast jet squadrons, in the RN at least, have never been more than about 16 aircraft.

        Of course if you want to go to extremes 836 Naval Air Squadron in WW2 had ~100 aircraft and was commanded by a lowly Lt Cdr...

      2. Jason Hindle

        Re: !Wings of 12

        "With that few aircraft I'd have called it a flight, myself – two or more flights to a sqn, two or more sqns to a wg, etc etc - but in these straightened times the entire RAF would only just comprise a WW2 group, in terms of aircraft numbers."

        That's an implication I'd missed... So they spent Brazilians on these massive ships but the air group isn't going to be a great deal bigger than the carriers they replace?

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