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 …

  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 Silver badge

            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 Silver badge

          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 Silver badge

        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 Silver badge

          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 Silver badge

      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

          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 Silver badge

          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?

        1. Dave 15 Silver badge

          Re: !Wings of 12

          Mind the carriers are much harder to miss with your missiles, torpedoes and bombs.

          What did the idiots do scrapping the harriers and the old carriers... I guess they lined their back pocket..

          Just watched the BBC video of Cam moron standing on the Ark telling the sailors just how amazing they are, how much he wants to thank them, how important it is to have the capability.... blah blah blah... when they say he is a two faced slimy ..... they aren't wrong.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: !Wings of 12

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

        Given that one carrier is going to be laid up more-or-less permanently as soon as it's launched, the only good news about this is that we'll only need to buy 12 F35s

        The less said about HMS Sitting Duck and HMS White Elephant the better.

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: !Wings of 12

          I'm not sure how amenable the French will be any more to the plan for us to borrow the Charles de Gaulle, and all of a sudden we've got a lot of remote assets (Gibraltar blockade running...) to protect. We might be needing both.

          1. IsJustabloke Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: I'm not sure how amenable the French will be

            We've voted to leave the EU not NATO.

      4. x 7 Silver badge

        Re: !Wings of 12

        At the end of the Harrier's life, there were notionally two RAF Squadrons, and two RN Squadrons (though under RAF control). However the RAF ran down the two RN squadrons to the point that they didn't have enough aircrew or groundstaff to man both. So the RN was forced to try and hide the fact by compositing 800 and 801 NAS into the "Naval Strike Wing" to create one thinly crewed squadron, with the pretence that a second squadron existed

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Strike_Wing

        Yet another example of the RAF shafting the RN

        The F-35 Naval Strike Wing will be the same - 809 Squadron will never be fully manned, instead you'll get a rag-tag composite group made up from whoever the RAF have spare at the time from the whole F-35 fleet. Because its unstructured it won't qualify as a Squadron - so it'll be disguised as a "wing" instead

  4. Jay 2
    Meh

    I still wish we'd managed to sort out the new carriers' power and got ourselves some (presumeably cheaper and working) F-35C. This is the closest thing to good news I've heard about the F-35B in a very long time. Whilst I quite liked the Harrier, I didn't think there was a need for a complete like-for-like replacement. More so as they were decommed over here quite a while ago.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I still wish we'd managed to sort out the new carriers' power"

      It wasn't the power that precluded F35Cs

      BAE Systems are building the ships.

      BAE Systems are providing mantainence contracts for the F35

      BAE Systems quoted more than the price of a new ship to convert the existing ones from skiramp to flattop - the price being close to the actual cost of conversion ($100 million) PLUS the amount it would lose out on from not having the F35 contract.

    2. thames

      The carriers were supposed to get the new American electromagnetic catapult and arrestor system. However, that has turned out to be a complete fiasco so far, so it seems like Britain dodged a bullet on that one. The Americans will probably sort things out eventually, but the problems would have reduced Britain's new carriers to helicopter carriers only in the mean time.

      However that was luck. The decision actually came down to someone in the MoD doing the sums and finding out that when you factor training and the rotation of pilots into the equation, the 'B' (vertical take off) version was much cheaper for Britain to operate.

      "Conventional" take-off and landing on a carrier takes constant practice for the pilots to retain qualifications, and it ties up a carrier while they do so. All of that cost loads of money in fuel. salaries, and equipment hours. Britain plans to operate the planes and pilots from a common "pool" with the RAF, to provide more flexibility and to ensure the carriers aren't dependent upon a very small pool of dedicated naval pilots.

      The short "rolling" take off and landing (they won't actually use vertical take off or landing) capability in the F-35B is nearly automated, and is simpler than it was with a Harrier, and vastly simpler and easier to learn than catapult and arrestor hook equivalents. The pilots can rehearse this on land airfields (equipped with a ramp for this purpose), which means that the carrier can be on active operations rather than tied up in training maintaining pilot currency. The carriers can operate with 12 F-35Bs under normal circumstances, but "surge" to several dozen more as circumstances require, and all without having to maintain a dedicated pool of specialised naval pilots.

      So overall, given the UK's particular situation, they decided to go with the solution that saved significant amounts of money, provided more operational flexibility, and didn't tie up a carrier as much with training. But the money saving was the big one.

      P.S. - When reading about costs in the press, keep in mind that the MoD does full life cycle accounting these days, which includes fuel and salaries, which together can greatly exceed the sticker price of a plane. You have to dig to find out what those are however, as the popular press often don't understand what those are and just publishes a "big number" and let's you assume that is the sticker price.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @thames - wonderfully informative post, thanks. You're not by any chance at the DPA, are you?

        Cheers.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "supersonic fighter"

    If I was a journalist looking for an adjective to characterise the F-35, "supersonic" would not do the job - our fighters have all been supersonic for decades.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: "supersonic fighter"

      The Harriers weren't supersonic.

      1. rh587

        Re: "supersonic fighter"

        The Harriers weren't supersonic.

        Technically they weren't fighters either. Our fighters have indeed been supersonic for decades.

        The Harrier was an air interdiction/close air support strike platform, hence it's GR5/7/9 designations (Ground attack and Reconnaissance). As it happens it performed quite well air-to-air against Argentine fighters as well, being highly manoeuvrable with it's vectored thrust and strongly anhedral wings. But that wasn't it's design role.

        1. Matthew Smith

          Re: "supersonic fighter"

          True, though its main superiority was it was so slow in comparison to the Mirages, was that the Harrier could put on its airbrakes and watch as the Mirage flew past in front. After that, the massively superior american Sidewinders would do the rest.

        2. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: "supersonic fighter"

          'Technically they weren't fighters either. Our fighters have indeed been supersonic for decades.'

          The Sea Harrier was a fighter though, hence the FRS1 (Fighter, Reconnisance, Strike) and F/A-2 (Fighter/Attack) designations. Fitting it with an air to air radar was a bit of a clue, plus the AMRAAM missiles on the later version.

        3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: "supersonic fighter"

          In a flat dive a Harrier could go supersonic. Read the reports from the Falklands written by the pilots themselves.

          1. Matthew Smith

            Re: "supersonic fighter"

            In a flat dive, a Sopwith Camel could got supersonic.

            1. itzman

              Re: "supersonic fighter"

              In a flat dive, a Sopwith Camel could got supersonic.

              Er no. WE had to wait for WWII before manned aircraft were - if not going supersonic - at least getting close enough to destroy themselves. There is anecdotal evidence that maybe a late model spitfire or a tempest may have exceeded the sound barrier and lived to tell the tale, but no one really knows.

            2. thegroucho

              Re: "supersonic fighter"

              There is something called "never exceed speed", I suspect Sopwith Camel's would be unlikely anywhere near this high.

              Maybe in vacuum?

              1. Danny 14 Silver badge

                Re: "supersonic fighter"

                The hawk isn't supersonic and is classed as a fighter.

            3. Nurg

              Re: "supersonic fighter"

              That's true but it's not considered a successful dive if it results in a pancake. Also, less crucially, it never actually happened.

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "supersonic fighter"

              In a flat dive, a Sopwith Camel's wings would probably fall off...

          2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: "supersonic fighter" @Steve Davies 3

            Supersonic in a dive is known as transonic.

            1. Graham Dawson

              Re: "supersonic fighter" @Steve Davies 3

              No, transonic is when airflow around different parts of the aircraft are above, at, or slightly below the speed of sound. The dive is irrelevant.

        4. MJI Silver badge

          Re: "supersonic fighter"

          FRS1

          Fighter

          Reconnasance

          Strike

          They had RADAR and Sidewinders, they were fighters

        5. The First Dave

          Re: "supersonic fighter"

          The designation of the Fleet Air Arm's Harriers (the ones that actually lived on carriers) was FRS.1 ...

        6. x 7 Silver badge

          Re: "supersonic fighter"

          "As it happens it performed quite well air-to-air against Argentine fighters as well,"

          The SEA HARRIER did that, not the Harrier. The Harriers dropped bombs during the Falklands war, all the air-to-air stuff was done by the Sea Harriers, which were optimised as an interceptor for knocking down Russian Badgers and Bears. The Sea Harriers were never intended for air defence / air superiority work against other fighters - the radars didn't even have a look-down capability. The seajets had to fly below the level of the incoming argies to be able to pick them up. Quite remarkable airmanship.

          The MkII Sea Harrier with the Blue Vixen radar was the only Harrier variant capable of air superiority work, but even that was subsonic. It was actually the most potent radar we've ever had, but true to form the aircraft were withdrawn prematurely

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "supersonic fighter"

        Harriers entered service in 1969.

        And, like the F-35B, they were somewhat different to other "fighters".

        So "supersonic short takeoff fighter", for example, would have been appropriate.

  6. Ucalegon

    Typical, now Lighting striking twice?

  7. graeme leggett

    70 -odd years since jet age started

    July 1948 was first crossing of Atlantic by jet fighters. Six Vampires.

    Though they had to stop in Iceland, Greenland etc along the way.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: 70 -odd years since jet age started

      "Though they had to stop in Iceland, Greenland etc along the way."

      Air-to-air refuelling not being a "thing" back then....

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: 70 -odd years since jet age started

        Air to air refuelling did exist, Cobham had been working on it during the war and there were plans to use it in the Pacific.

        I think having to pilot across water using a map in your lap was something to do with it as well. Keeping the sections short and maximising chance of somewhere hard and earthy to put down on - or bail out over - would be a good thing in my mind.

      2. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: 70 -odd years since jet age started

        the range of the vampire was 1220 miles, so it could go further than the F35....

  8. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    If I was the Air Marshall...

    I'd buy stuff based on how cool I thought it was, so it would be A-10 Thunderbolts all the way for me. I'm not sure I'd last long in the job though... but perhaps just long enough to have a go in one and blow some stuff up with the mega-canon on the front.

    1. Vic

      Re: If I was the Air Marshall...

      I'd buy stuff based on how cool I thought it was

      That's basically what they did - they spent all the money on Typhoon, so the other current platforms had to go. If F35 ever turns up, we'll have to work out how to pay for it...

      Vic.

  9. John 104

    @A10 Warthog

    Top 5 coolest airborne weapons platform ever. And yet, my stupid government wants to replace them with the idiotic F35? That's one I don't understand. Reliable, tough, combat proven, and very cheap to build/maintain. Greased palms are to blame, I suspect.

    1. fnj

      It has to do with the inescapable fact that A-10s are meat on the table for any kind of fighter; even a 50 year old fighter design. But so were B-17s in their day, and that did not make them useless. P-51s could escort them, and nowadays if we would only build A-10s PLUS single-purpose air-superiority fighters, and use them both together, we would get a hell of a lot more bang for our buck - or I should say a much better bang PLUS much less bucks overall for the bang.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "A-10s are meat on the table for any kind of fighter"

        A10s are not fighters. They're ground attack aircraft (hence the "A" designation)

        For that matter F35s aren't meant to be either. They're Close Air Support and Ground Attack aircraft.

        F22s are supposed to take care of the pesky aspect of taking out any SAM and airborne opponents. The F35 is intended to go in and do the mopping up once air superiority has been established and was supposed to be a cheap alternative once the expensive F22 had done its job.

        F22 got "too expensive", so was discontinued and F35 expanded into multirole functions.

        The Ironic thing being that "cheap" F35s are now more expensive per piece than the "expensive" F22s with the price tag continuing to increase by the day. It should have been dumped (like the F111B was) and replaced with a better design (F14 and 15 were both cheap jets to fill the gap that the F111B cancellation opened up), but the procurement and manufacture model has deliberately been setup so that cancellation willl affect too many senators' pork.

        It's not for nothing that it's nicknamed the Jet that ate the Pentagon. The primary lesson learned from the F111B exercise was how to set things up so that they can't possibly be cancelled.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          I doubt seriously that the F35 has the wherewithal to do serious close air support/ground attack. Minimal armor, a pretty poor loiter time on target, etc. It does, however, have the "F" designation which the USAF loves. The Army/Marines love the A10 for support at it does what they need. The other F's that have pressed into the job.. not so much. I'm not sure if it's still in discussion but from what last heard, the Army and the Marines were discussing the feasibility of taking in the A10's once the AF decides to get out of the ground attack business.

      2. John 104

        @fnj

        Of course they are meat on the table. They are intended to come in after air superiority has been established.

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Just one small vital point to consider ........

    Surely all conflicts and future wars are waged to be won and lost in cyberspace, and that prime strategic and tactical area of command and control is beyond the reach of any old time machinery and explosive munitions, no matter how shiny brand new and effective they may be touted and sold to the ill-informed.

    Is modern-day Lightning II type weaponry, latter day Spruce Goose territory? Too little too late and too expensive to boot in an era abounding with commanding control areas which practically renders it virtually useless and an anachronistic museum piece before its time? And the answer to all of those simple questions is a resounding and uncomfortably truthful, YES.

    1. MrDamage

      Re: Just one small vital point to consider ........

      Please explain how a cyberspace "war" is going to stop North Korea from deciding to head south?

      Or "Russian Sympathisers" from marching into another country that Putin likes the look of?

      You can't code your way around an angry mob.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Just one small vital point to consider ........

        "You can't code your way around an angry mob."

        Hack the IoT road signs and street names?

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Just one small vital point to consider ........ @MrDamage

        It is quite clearly evident with your post, MrDamage, that cyberspace warriors have very successfully invaded and taken over command and control of your head space type with the implantation of a very particular and peculiar otherworldly media hosted and broadbandcasted view ...... which is in the Bigger Picture of Great Games Plays, a designedly narrow and harrowing perspective in service of an inevitably self-destructive Military Industrial Security Complex Program and Projects.

        Is uncomfortable, indisputable evidence of such as fact presented here ...... http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-06-30/collapse-western-democracy and the result of a palpable fear of an emerging rising popular backlash against brainwashed public civil service forces supported here .....The Militarisation of America?

        It's all about the printing and spending of mountains of paper money in some very weird and closed circuit circles, Mr Damage, causing all the damage and creating all the conflicts, and apparently, if you can believe many recent media accounts, Mark Carney, the foreigner Canadian presently at the helm of the Bank of England, and boy oh boy is that an alien outsourcing, is a fan of the process and planning to unleash another wave to save and stabilise crooked markets. Some would consider that certainly perverse and even downright criminal. And with a Parliamentary system colluding, what does that say of the mother of all democracies? A disgraceful sham and global fraud?

        It's a mad,mad, mad, mad world in deed, indeed, and a space place of never ending unbelievable bounty for the sane to betametadatamine and exploit ‽ . :-) Yep, it sure is at least that.

      3. Vic
        Joke

        Re: Just one small vital point to consider ........

        Please explain how a cyberspace "war" is going to stop North Korea from deciding to head south?

        Or, indeed, how F-35 would?

        Vic.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Re: Just one small vital point to consider ........

      No its drones all the way down, cause thats all you will be able to afford

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Obsolete already?

    With the advance of drones and introduction of 'throwaway' autonomous craft, what's the point of this?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Obsolete already?

      Lining the pockets of defense contractors of course. Once the F35 program is mostly complete, then you'll see the Pentagon and MoD being touting the need to get the autonomous drones that replace manned aircraft in these roles. But they'll manage to make them cost $100 million each because they've now learned that making one plane that's jack of all trades but master of none makes them ridiculously expensive.

      Somehow they'll argue that expensive planes are needed even without a human onboard, at least until conflict with the cheap drone squads that China will create in the meantime and sell to its allies eats us alive in a future Middle East war and we are told we need yet ANOTHER expensive program to close the gap!

  12. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Same thing, precisely...

    http://www.mayofamily.com/RLM/txt_Clarke_Superiority.html

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The supersonic Lightning II, as it will be known in RAF service,

    The RAF can call it whatever they want, but they're sullying the name Lightning..

    Boondoggle would be more apposite.

    1. Jan 0

      Re: The supersonic Lightning II, as it will be known in RAF service,

      It is a sad day that sees the official name of the English Electric P1a hijacked so thoroughly. This is an insult to the great British designers and engineers that emerged after World War II. I am wrenched by the contempt I feel for the politicians and financiers who have conspired so thoroughly to destroy British engineering and trade.

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: The supersonic Lightning II, as it will be known in RAF service,

        It's the same name as the US is using, and they had the P-38 Lightning during WW2, but while it makes some sense I agree that it is a bit lacklustre. The Officer's Mess at Binbrook had a picture on that wall, a camera-gun image from a Lightning of an SR-71 overflying London, taken from above.

        I doubt we have the money for the huge project a modern fighter would be, but we made some good stuff.

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: The supersonic Lightning II, as it will be known in RAF service,

      Yep, the P-38 was pretty amazing.

    3. Vic

      Re: The supersonic Lightning II, as it will be known in RAF service,

      they're sullying the name Lightning

      Check the specs - the Lightning flies faster[1] and higher than the Lightning 2. The later[2] aircraft could not intercept the older one...

      Vic.

      [1] Much!

      [2] By six and a half decades...

      1. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: The supersonic Lightning II, as it will be known in RAF service,

        Yup and then there was tsr2... faster and according to spec 3440 miles range.

        But even back then the British government were busy stabbing British industry to death... probably on the instructions of our masters in the US who like having the British pay for their development

  14. Dagg
    Coat

    What's the bet that they used agile to develop the F-35 software.

    IT angle, 'nough said...

  15. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    Waste of money, would have made more sense to put cats on carriers and buy Super Hornets !

    1. PlacidCasual

      Amen to that. At £20m a pop and proven record Super Hornets would have suited us perfectly until the unit cost of F-35C's became tolerable. We could have actually bought and used the damned things, the F-35B will bankrupt the navy and we'll never be able to afford to use them.

      What we really need is some Textron Scorpion type planes in large numbers, cheap to buy, cheap to fly, cheap to maintain and great for bombing medieval idiots back to the stone age which seems to be the purpose of our armed forces these days.

      Always for us the bleeding edge we can't afford.

      1. collinsl

        Or some Rafales - also good planes at much less per unit.

  16. Simon R. Bone
    Stop

    Why not buy the F35-A for RAF

    I understand why the carriers need the F35-B and can't operate the F35-C but why isn't the RAF buying the cheaper more capable F35-A?

    1. collinsl

      Re: Why not buy the F35-A for RAF

      Because the RAF have to be able to operate the planes either on a land airfield or off of one of the new carriers, or a Landing ship (HMS Ocean) off of an American carrier/landing ship/etc.

      Or, conceivably, off of a bit of motorway or a tennis court or something.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why not buy the F35-A for RAF

      "I understand why the carriers need the F35-B and can't operate the F35-C but why isn't the RAF buying the cheaper more capable F35-A?"

      There will be a joint RAF/RN Lightning force, as there was with the Harrier in later years. The RN will operate comparatively small carrier air wings, to be supplemented by RAF aircraft when necessary.

  17. rpark

    F-35b

    ...shiny- hope it doesn't kill too many RAF pilots.

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