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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  1. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Gaius
      WTF?

      Cheaper...

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

    2. arkhangelsk

      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.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    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!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      @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.

    2. Youngdog
      Thumb Down

      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.

      1. Peter Ford

        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...

        1. Joe Cooper

          @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.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      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.

      1. TheOtherHobbbes

        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?

        1. John 62

          '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.

    4. Andus McCoatover
      Windows

      Two words re "meatbag in front"

      Chesley Sullenberger.

  3. John 98

    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

    1. 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

      1. Mad Mike
        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.

        1. IanPotter

          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...

          1. Mad Mike

            @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%.

          2. MJI Silver badge

            Actually they were scared of Maggie

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

            1. Danny 14 Silver badge
              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.

    2. Brian Sherwood Jones

      Chinooks on deck probably

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

  4. NogginTheNog
    Thumb Up

    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!).

    1. KitD

      Good job ...

      ... they renamed it the Typhoon then.

    2. My Alter Ego

      Re: Have to say

      Funny, I think it's ugly as sin.

      1. ChrisC

        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.

      2. /dev/null
        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

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          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

        2. GBE

          Boeing_X-32B

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

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Balanced and moderate reporting

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

    1. Paul 135
      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          F18

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

          1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        2. Anonymous Coward
          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.

  6. Jmeu
    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

    1. 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...

      1. Jmeu

        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 ;-).

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          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.

        2. fatchap
          FAIL

          Oxymoron

          "abilities are proven...maybe someday"

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

        3. 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...

          1. JohnG

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

            Even funnier if it was named after Nelson.

            1. 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...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Pete B
          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.

          1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Magnus_Pym

      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.

      1. /dev/null
        Stop

        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.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  8. Brent Beach

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  9. Mike Richards

    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).

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Wrong Aircraft

      The USMC is buying the B version which can hover and all that blah or at least is supposed to once it sorts its weight problem out. The UK is no longer buying that version as it had reached the point where converting the carriers to carry the C version (which can't hover) would entail the maximum cost and delay possible and therefore in accordance with MoD procurement policy is now the preferred option.

      That's not to say I think it's the wrong decision just that it would have been useful to have made it about ten years ago before people had actually started welding bits of steel together to make a ship.

      The UK is therefore buying the C version which is the one the USN is buying, although who knows how many of those they're actually going to buy. On the other hand the UK is only committed to buying 3 at the moment and if it turns out to be a complete cluster we at least now have the option of buying something else i.e. F/A-18E/F or Rafale rather than having two big ships that can only operate helicopters.

  10. Simon R. Bone
    FAIL

    " the plane will surely be sold in large numbers"

    surely that means you have far more chance of running up against an enemy with identical planes!

    1. Magnus_Pym

      Also

      "the plane will surely be sold in large numbers" Why?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    An "App" for UAV disablement

    I'm sure the Chinese will already be planning an "app" to go into all the "i" products they build to disable any UAVs.

  12. /dev/null
    Stop

    "seems set to put most of its rivals out of business in coming decades"

    Err, what rivals? There are NO other manned fast jets currently under development (ie. post Typhoon, Rafale, F-22) in the western world, AFAIK. The F-35 is the only game in town, and looks like the last one too.

  13. Beachrider

    UAVs

    To this point, UAVs have largely been used as surveillance craft (USA's MQ-series). Those DO take advantage of reduced UAV payload and long 'hang time' over desired areas. The MQ-8 and MQ-9 have a missile firing capability that has been used only on slow-moving land targets.

    Many European and Asia government use them for surveillance, too. Iran boasted this capability this month on their TV with surveillance video of US carriers.

    No one is advertizing their use in A2A or high-mobility land targets, to this point.

  14. Potemkine Silver badge

    "UK's first Stealth fighter in successful catapult test"

    UK's? Isn't the little nose drawing a white star? Unless UK is now _officially_ the 51st state of the Union? Let's be realitic, UK hasn't the means anymore to build its own fighters, the great Air Industries UK was legitimaly so proud in the past (Hawker, Vickers, De Havilland...) are now just souvenirs...

    1. Roger 11
      Trollface

      Heh

      "Unless UK is now _officially_ the 51st state of the Union?"

      That would be Canada

  15. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    F35 vs F22 vs UAV

    First, the F35 isn't as stealthy when compared to the F22 and other stealth aircraft.

    But then again, look at the cost of the F22...

    Is the F35 stealthy enough is the question.

    Someone pointed out the 'advantage' of UAVs.

    Ok...

    1) UAVs can do higher G maneuvers that a meatbag can't take.

    2) UAVs can have an extended time in the air because its possible to switch pilots as their shifts end.

    3) UAVs can be built cheaper because they don't have to protect a meat bag and survive.

    But then again, having a meat bag in the plane has an advantage in that the guy flying the UAV is in a bunker somewhere and doesn't have the ability to assess the situation that someone in a cockpit can.

    1. Caladain

      Jammin

      Also, it doesn't take into account the fact that UAV control channels can be jammed by the enemy, rendering the UAV useless and sitting ducks to the slower, fatter aircraft with the meatbag in the seat.

      1. gpfwestie

        Jammin ?

        You can't jam a microwave signal originating from a satellite.

  16. Neil 38

    Very funny

    The UK, Stealth Fighters, Aircraft carriers. Is it April again already?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Carrier F-35s mooted by ASBM?

    Doesn't ASBM technology moot stealth carrier aircraft deployments. In conventional wars to date current US carrier aircraft technology has proven more than sufficient. In confrontations with technologically advanced countries, the ASBM/AntiASBM issue becomes ascendant since there are no real peers to US stealth technology (nod to wannabees J-20 and T-50).

    I'm still looking forward to a real world confrontation between ASBM and anti-ASBM technologies. ASBMs with nukes would appear to be an absolute threat to a carrier group.

    1. arkhangelsk

      Actually

      the J-20 and T-50 feature less stealth partially because in the wake of high-powered fire control capable L-band and even VHF band radars, it has become less possible to hide anyway because stealth doesn't work nearly as well against those lower bands.

      So not only could those two countries ill-afford a F-22 level stealth, that level of stealth isn't worth as much anymore in tactical terms.

    2. Nater

      ASBM

      It depends on how advanced the ASBMs are and what kind of defenses the carrier group has. The US, in particular, is known for it's very advanced Aegis destroyers and cruisers. The SM-3 and Aegis combination has a certain level of ABM capability. If this is enough to counter the Chinese ASBM threat, no one knows. What is likely, however, is that future systems will be developed and deployed with this threat in mind. I would assume both missile systems and directed energy systems.

      With a nuclear warhead, you really don't need a dedicated anti-ship ballistic missile. Any ballistic missile with enough range would work assuming it could be fired fast enough and had a warhead with sufficient yield.

  18. Delbert

    Stealthy

    Its really an interesting concept buy a stunningly expensive fighter aircraft to be used against an enemy which will not put aircraft in the air after hostilities are declared if recent conflicts are to be the norm. Probably the only countries in the world who might risk a fighter war would be Israel who last time I checked we were not at war with and maybe North Korea. Would anybody like to start a war with Kim's finger on the trigger of a nuclear arsenal I'd rather hope only in a (puppet) movie. Which rather leaves Iran who seem to be going the route of long range anti aircraft missiles and UAV's ?

  19. D. M
    FAIL

    F18

    Yes, we aussie bought F18, but it is kind of not fix for our situation. F18 would make a good buy for you brits, since you have aircraft carrier. We do not. F18 just doesn't have the range we need. You brits have carrier, F18 would make very good sense.

  20. Nater
    WTF?

    Development time

    I find it strange how much longer it takes to build and test aircraft these days. How many years did it take from RFP to IOC with the F-15A? I don't know when the RFP went out for the F-X program, but the Air Force chose the Eage December 23, 1969. The F-15A reached it's initial operation capability January 6, 1976. That's seven years.

    The YF-22 was chosen as the winner of the ATF program on April 23, 1991. Unlike the F-15, the plane had already been built and flown in competition with the YF-23. The F-22A reached it's initial operational capability December 15, 2005. That's over 14 years.

    It's as if Lockheed-Martin decided to milk the US Government on the already expensive F-22A. I know that the Raptor is a technically advanced air craft, but so was the Eagle. The Eagle was the first fourth generation fighter aircraft. It represented as much a leap forward in it's day as the Raptor. It took half as long to develop and deploy.

    I'm sure if you look at the development and deployment of the F-16 and F/A-18 and compare it with the F-35A and F-35C, you're likely to find very similar time lines to the F-15A and F-22A. A defense contractor milking the US, and in this case, foreign taxpayer.

  21. Beachrider

    More systems on modern aircraft...

    Modern military aircraft have more elaborate systems. Engine control and engine monitoring is an extremely big deal, since the pilot needs more automation in dealing with issues other than "go" and "how-fast" (remember, 'speed is life' for military pilots). Same for avionics. Control systems and pilot monitoring (e.g. 'is pilot awake?') are waaay more advanced in these planes. Finally, fire-control and advanced weapons deployment are all focused on the pilot, too. We aren't flying many jets with a separate weapons officer, anymore. There is also the building of training mechanisms and protracted testing cycles that affect the time-to-delivery.

    I guess if someone came out with a usable SCRAMjet or other major technical breakthrough, that would result in a shorter cycle-time, too.

  22. Andy Howarth

    Typhoon with a tailhook?

    If we're tied in to buying more Typhoons than we need then how difficult would it be to beef up the undercarriage and fit an arrestor hook? OK maybe folding wings too.

    I'm not an aircraft designer so am perfectly willing to accept it might be impossible or stupidly expensive but has it even been considered?

    I'm sure BAE could find a way to do it if the alternative was us buying Rafales. We could offer them a deal that we'll finish both carriers with EM catapults if they can do that and convert the Typhoons for less than the cost of the alternatives.

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