back to article Blighty's buying another 17 F-35s, confirms the American government

The UK will buy a grand total of 17 F-35B fighter jets between 2020 and 2022 – and acquiring the A model of the supersonic stealth fighter hasn’t been ruled out. The American government announced on Wednesday the awarding of F-35 production lots 12, 13 and 14 to Lockheed Martin. A legal formality, the class justification and …

  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Come for the article

    Stay for the inevitable comments regarding CATOBAR carriers.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Come for the article

      upvotes will catapult up

    2. Anomalous Cowshed

      Re: Come for the article

      This business of US Marines lending aircraft to the UK carriers for the first few years, and F35 aircraft being bought from the US under strict T&Cs as to how they should be used and where they may be serviced, plus all the other political developments in recent years, with the UK "fighting" in Afghanistan, Irak and wherever else her US masters dictate, and joining in on the "terrorism" bandwagon so wholeheartedly, reminds me of the film The Fly, in which the apparently normal scientist*, who has just had a whirl in his teleporting machine without realising that there was a fly inside one of the pods, gradually loses his teeth, then bits of his face, and then all the other human bits, and transforms into...a fly.

      *Jeff Goldblum

  2. DJO Silver badge

    Fighters are really redundant.

    Ground attack can be performed by drones.

    Hostile intercept by ground to air missiles.

    Civilian intercept by any plane you've got hanging around.

    After that there is no real role for fighters any more.

    1. MrXavia

      Yup,

      New Drones, helicopters and a STOL Eurofighter is what is needed for our carriers!

      Not a buggy, multi-role STOVL that costs a fortune...

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Buy Rafales (LOL!), they are already navalised How many changes would the Typhoon need to operate from aircraft carriers at sea?

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          How many changes

          A metric fuck ton.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: How many changes

            A metric fuck ton.

            It's an American design, so I'm sure that would be an Imperial (or possibly customary) fuckton.

            1. Purple-Stater

              Re: How many changes

              Imperial Fuktonne.

            2. Lars Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: How many changes

              The U.S. military uses metric measurements extensively to ensure interoperability with allied forces, particularly NATO Standardization Agreements (STANAG). Ground forces have measured distances in "klicks", slang for kilometers, since 1918...........

            3. LDS Silver badge

              Re: How many changes

              The Typhoon is an American design????

            4. Kurt Meyer

              Re: How many changes

              @ Phil O'Sophical

              Phil, a common expression used over here in answer to LDS' question is: a shit load.

              A popular alternative is: a butt load.

              Some times written as one word, sometimes written as two words.

            5. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

              Re: How many changes

              Imperial fuckton? All right! A new unit for mass. As an American taxpayer i can honestly say F-35 has fucked me a ton already.

            6. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: How many changes

              American design - so yes, 2000 fuck-pounds (or one fuckton)

              Otherwise the U.S. Navy would have to issue new tools.

          2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

            Re: How many changes

            It's probably a proprietary metric. Licensing costs alone ...

          3. PNGuinn Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: How many changes

            A metric fuck ton. Set in stone.

            It'll never fly.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Short take off and landing

          "Buy Rafales (LOL!), they are already navalised How many changes would the Typhoon need to operate from aircraft carriers at sea?"

          It would probably be cheaper to buy new carriers. Neither the Rafale or the Typhoon are short take capable. The Rafale can apparently be catapult launched, but UK doesn't have catapults on their carriers.

      2. Stoke the atom furnaces

        SAAB Sea Gripen could be a much better and cheaper choice.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "Hostile intercept by ground to air missiles."

      When they are within the range of launchers. Which usually move far slower than airplanes, when needed. Also, you need to hope their SEAD airplanes (or drones) didn't wipe them out already.

      Usually SA systems are only good to defend static targets (preferably with fighters around to help), or slowly moving ones. Also, missiles able to engage targets far enough are usually large, expensive, and launchers may have limited spares. A plane can engage at larger distance, deliver a missile closer, and from a better position to hit.

      Even your ground attack drones may require help to deliver their weapons before being downed - manned or unmanned, or they could become easy targets.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Fighters are really redundant.

      That is somewhat correct for this particular case (fighters for a naval air wing) in theory provided that you do not want to "project power". If you want to operate strictly from friendly airbases, defend established positions and intercept things coming into "your" airspace you do not need an aircraft carrier and a carrier wing.

      Aircraft carriers are purely a tool of power projection so you can do all of the above on the other side of the globe. You also do not know which of all the jobs they will have to do. So you end up using multi-role aircraft. Or so the theory goes. IMHO that theory does not compute for the current cost of 5th generation multi-role fighter aircraft. There is definitely a role for an auxiliary force of something in the SuperTucano class in addition to the jets. They are way too expensive.

      By the way, as far as "Civilian intercept by any plane you've got hanging around.", try intercepting a LearJet (15,000m ceiling) or Yak 40 (ridiculous thrust to weight) or An-72 (ridiculously low stall speed). If they have managed to McGuiver an ECM pod to prevent you from locking on, you may find that this statement needs some revising.

    4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      civilian Intercept

      Good luck sending an Airbus A-3xx up to intercept an SU-22

      The Venrable EE Lightning which was basically a Jet Engine with a Pilot on top worked because it coul catch pretty well anything that flew at the time that wasn't a missile.

      Drones are no good when the enemy can jam the airwaves. Even frequency hopping radio won't work against a blanket jamming.

      1. Alt C

        Re: civilian Intercept

        I've wondered this whenever anyone says drones are the way forward. The seem to be predicated on bombing less technical enemies - but up against a second let alone first rate power - how difficult would it be to jam drones?

        I presume this must be a viable because of the research into autonomus drones but is it more difficult than sending a plane with a jamming pod?

        1. David 164 Bronze badge

          Re: civilian Intercept

          The issue isn't jamming, BAE Taranis is rumoured to have carried out completely automated bombing runs during its testing in Australia. The issue is do we hand over war to completely autonomous drones.

          Reaper and Predator drones have at least some automation built into them and can handle a large part of mission profiles without human intervention.

          1. TheDillinquent

            Re: civilian Intercept

            Yes, let the drones fight among themselves. That way no-one gets hurt.

          2. Usurper

            Re: civilian Intercept

            Jamming is actually THE issue since where's the true faith or ability in a truly autonomous drone without a jammable "link" to a human anyways?... Think about it: For the current task of finding, fixing and engaging quick-moving, difficult to ID targets, like jihadis on the move in a civilian vehicle after dark in urban streets, a drone is tethered - Let's see ANY drone have ANY sort of capability to deal with that autonomously... What would it use to decide IF and HOW to attack if there's no data link to a human?

            Sure, you can "automate" a bombing run to a fixed position, there's no magic there, and no data link even required - But true autonomy goes way beyond flying a predetermined route, or hitting a "confirmed known" target...By that simple definition, cruise missiles have been flying "autonomously" for years; but going out and deciding that there's a "higher priority" target down there, I'll go hit that?... Nope

        2. JLV Silver badge

          Re: civilian Intercept

          Actually you can read a pretty good book on Predator use by a former operator. Think of them as good at opportunistic surveillance/static target kills, but they have lag and launch-time-to-kill characteristics that might make them hard to use in a high tempo hot war against a peer enemy. 30 sec flight time for a Hellfire at their usual engagement range for example.

          https://www.amazon.com/Predator-Remote-Control-Afghanistan-Pilots-Story/dp/0760338965

          Countries should really ditch F35s, buy some good enough gen 4 like a Rafale, F18 Super or Gripen. Save money and keep an eye open on whats coming out of the gen 6 in 10-15 yrs time. Coincidentally that matches timeline on what capabilities autonomous air superiority drones might start to show as sneak peeks - an entirely different breed, totally unrelated to the current lot.

          And what the China relationship will require - a friendly enough China does not warrant a trillion $ jet procurement mainly geared towards military industrial pork. And an unfriendly China will require a whole lotta more professionalism in said procurements than has been displayed to date in either F35s or with catapult-less carriers.

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: civilian Intercept

        "The Venrable EE Lightning which was basically a Jet Engine with a Pilot on top..."

        Er, if you please, a jet engine with a jet engine on top with a pilot on top.

        1. collinsl

          Re: civilian Intercept

          And a teeny tiny fuel tank that would be empty in 15 minutes at full engine power with afterburners on.

          1. Vic

            Re: civilian Intercept

            And a teeny tiny fuel tank that would be empty in 15 minutes at full engine power with afterburners on.

            That depends on which aircraft you ere flying; the Mark 6, for example, had a big belly pan which could be used as an additional fuel tank.

            I know a few Lightning pilots :-)

            Vic.

      3. MJI Silver badge

        Re: civilian Intercept

        >>Good luck sending an Airbus A-3xx up to intercept an SU-22

        No it would take a different model within the Airbus family, if they allow them to fly again.

        I think only a Lightning could escape, the English Electric version.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Flying Duck

      "Fighters are really redundant"

      Well yes, the f-35 "Flying Duck" is quite redundant, considering that the Sukhoi can run rings around it.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Flying Duck

        A MiG-15 would have reasonable chances against an F-35. Especially in a dogfight.

        1. LeeE Silver badge

          Re: Flying Duck

          "A MiG-15 would have reasonable chances against an F-35. Especially in a dogfight."

          The F-35 won't be doing any dogfighting at all, because it wouldn't stand a chance against any 'proper' fighters it's likely to encounter when it eventually enters service; it'll be strictly BVR* then turn around and run away which, essentially, is what radar stealth is all about.

          In fact, the fighter 'F' designation is highly questionable and an attack 'A' designation would be more appropriate.

          * Beyond Visual Range

        2. SundogUK

          Re: Flying Duck

          They have tested this and the answer is: no it wouldn't. The Mig-15 would be dead before it even knew the F35 was about.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Flying Duck

            They have tested this

            In a simulator developed by the same people who wrote the oh-so-reliable F35 software, perchance?

        3. Citizen99

          Re: Flying Duck

          "A MiG-15 would have reasonable chances against an F-35. Especially in a dogfight."

          I call the Hawker Sea Fury.

      2. SundogUK

        Re: Flying Duck

        The Sukhoi will never see them. In recent aggressor training, the F35's were killing everything thrown at it before the aggressors even knew they were there.

    6. TDog

      The last time this view was broadly propagated was by a certain Duncan Sandys in 1957. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1957_Defence_White_Paper). That time it nearly destroyed the UK aviation industry; doing at the least very serious harm.

      This time, were we to follow your views, it is unlikely to do more than slightly inconvenience the USA.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Er,

        1. 1957 was actually 60 years ago. 60 years before 1957, the Wright Brothers hadn't yet flown.

        2. Sandys and his ilk DID destroy the British aircraft industry - no "nearly" about it. (See "Empire of the Clouds", passim - if you can read it without vomiting). But that began in 1945. The Yanks said, "You owe your soul to the company store (i.e. us), so for starters we'll have your aircraft industry. And the British government assumed the position.

        1. Mike Richards Silver badge

          Upvote for the book recommendation (which was adapted into the BBC FOUR series 'Jet' which regularly haunts the schedules).

          It's hard to work out if Sandys, Healey, BOAC or BEA did more damage to the British aerospace industries. The outright cancellation or crippling through malice and indecision of machines like the SR-177, TSR2, Britannia, V-1000, VC10 and DH-121 borders on the treasonous.

    7. SundogUK

      You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, do you?

  3. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    F-35A

    Does class A guarantee that they is better quality? For real, is that the one that actually makes you fly?

    1. Farmer Fred

      Re: F-35A

      A is for Awful, B is Bl**dy Awful

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: F-35A

        And the proposed F-35C version will be pure Crap

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: F-35A

          .... aaaaand my Ali-G reference was wasted.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: F-35A

      "Does class A guarantee that they is better quality?"

      I believe it works like this*:

      A: Alpha can be unstable and will cause crashes.

      B: Beta is feature complete but likely to contain a number of known or unknown bugs. (C and D are incremental improvements of this)

      E: Enterprise is the marketing stage at which all necessary commercialization activities have been completed and a product is available for purchase. Depending however, on Government or region.

      F: Final version that is for release to all, comes with massive support costs compared to E above. (Usually occurs when the next generation hits level C.

      *Not really, total snark. ☺

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: F-35A

        G: For "germany" - we made it especially for those guys, with all the addons they wanted. The only fair weather fighter they need! You can call it the Widowmaker!

        1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

          Re: F-35A - the Widowmaker

          Ah, yes I remember the Star fighters used by Germany. Special air into ground design.

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: F-35A - the Widowmaker

            Killed more German pilots than the USAF.

            1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

              Re: F-35A - the Widowmaker

              "Killed more German pilots than the USAF."

              Given that the USAF was formed on 18 September 1947, there is no need to check the numbers.

          2. Mike Richards Silver badge

            Re: F-35A - the Widowmaker

            IIRC - the Starfighter came equipped with a hefty payload of bribes to ensure the Luftwaffe didn't buy the Sanders Roe fighter.

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: F-35A

      @Androgynous Cupboard

      In case you were asking a serious question:

      F-35A - Standard version for the USAF, normal take off and landing.

      F-35B - VTOL version for the US Marines, has complicated gubbins that allow it to hover

      F-35C - Navalised version for the US Navy, has bigger wings and an arrestor hook etc.

      The UK is only buying the B version because our new carriers don't have catapults, so V/STOL is the only way to fly aircraft off them.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: F-35A

        Serious? Nope

  4. Stuart 22

    Handcarved?

    “low rate initial production”

    I presume this means carved by hand - hence everyone just a little bit different which makes modification, maintenance & parts a nightmare? Like what we happened with the ill-fated Nimrod MRA4.

    Not easy when they are supposed to work flawlessly for months on a wobbly boat thousands of hostile miles from a replenishment facility.

    Proven product tends to beat glossy brochure dreams. You know it works and someone else has shouldered most of the development cost.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Handcarved?

      No, although for how much strange it can look, planes are still mostly built by hand - production doesn't justify investing in highly automated lines. But the initial production has to assess everything will go smoothly, no unknown issues arises, more people are trained, supply chain works as expected before increasing the production rate. Still, it may be still that modification introduced later needs to be backported to previous production batches.

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Handcarved?

      'I presume this means carved by hand - hence everyone just a little bit different which makes modification, maintenance & parts a nightmare? '

      Not as such, with stealth you can't really do artisan crafting of your aircraft so there's LASER alignment of parts etc. Each production lot will be identical but they're keeping to relatively low numbers while testing is ongoing. As I understand it there may be some refitting required to make them equivalent to the latest production lots if that's required, but it may not be worth doing.

      I mean they say Low Rate Initial Production, but each batch is more than the total run for the Nimrod.

    3. The Electron
      Facepalm

      Re: Handcarved?

      Don't forget the yanks are still arsing around with imperial measurements and nothing lines up!

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Handcarved?

        'Don't forget the yanks are still arsing around with imperial measurements and nothing lines up!'

        That's an interesting point, as BAE make a chunk of each fuselage I have to assume either the US have used metric measurements, or BAE have had to make something in Imperial. So either way there's going to be a weird kink half way along.

    4. David 164 Bronze badge

      Re: Handcarved?

      I believe they have announced that some parts will be using 3d printed components. Which is being use to cut costs of the project.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Odd choices upon odd choices

    I'm old enough (yes, I know, I don't look it) to recall the Falklands War. They supplemented the multi purpose sea harriers, with RAF ground attack harriers, with the dolphin noses. This freed up the sea harriers with their radar for air to air duties. If the buy the A, they wouldn't be able to do that sort of thing again.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Odd choices upon odd choices

      A modernised one of these would have been a good choice for our carriers.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...set in stone...

    Really hope they're not set in stone. That would be detrimental to their already debatable flight capabilities.

    1. casaloco

      Re: ...set in stone...

      "Really hope they're not set in stone. That would be detrimental to their already debatable flight capabilities." - Not by very much.,

    2. maffski

      Re: ...set in stone...

      Although being underground would do wonders for their stealth capabilities.

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: ...set in stone...

      Like the first Harrier RADAR?

      Since Blue Fox was not ready they use Blue Circle to get the weight distribution correct.

  7. tedleaf

    Yes,but let's wait until the usaf etc actually ok any f35 as combat ready,none have been so far..

    Have they actualy solved the problems of them asphyxiating pilots or engines commiting suicide or frames cracking or as I suspect,bodged round the problems in a desperate attempt to keep this fat,bloated and particularly useless pork barrel project going ?

    We will never even get close to buying 138,more like 38,if the yanks are lucky,then we and others are stuck with a piece of junk for the next 30 + years..

    And don't forget,all UK F35 dustbin trucks will be serviced in TURKEY !!!

    A country world famous for its high tech lead in aircraft,unlike the UK,that has no history of building/designing modern high tech aircraft/parts,ever !!!

    Would you trust a ride in a yank accident waiting to happen that has been serviced by Turks ?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      It might be quite amusing asking the Turks to have our aircraft ready for next Thursday as we are due to invade you because of Erdogan's abuse of human rights.

      I'm not too clear on why or how Turkey ever got to it's current position with Erdogan pulling the strings in some way for the last few years.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        I'm not too clear on why or how Turkey ever got to it's current position with Erdogan pulling the strings

        I am.

        Erdogan threatens the EU with nothing more than standing back and letting through a tidal wave of migrants. That's a huge lever over the EU because once the migrants are in, EU countries don't have the balls to expel many. But rather than let everybody in, they rely on somebody else to hold their borders, and that "somebody" is Erdogan.

        With the US, its different, and there's two dimensions: Syria and Russia. The Syrian dimension is that the US needs access to the Incirlik airbase to support bombing operations (if often indirectly), and they need Turkey to do some policing of the Syrian border. The Russian dimension is that Turkey is supposedly a member of NATO. The US can't afford for any Turkish/Russian romance to blossom, and the potential for a withdrawal from NATO. So they're on Erdogan's hook to serve the US "bomb the brown" agenda, and the desperate need to avoid Russian influence growing.

        Erdogan is a nasty thug, who I'd happily see turning slowly see on a kebab spit. But he's playing all sides for all they're worth, and doing that rather well.

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'Yes,but let's wait until the usaf etc actually ok any f35 as combat ready,none have been so far..'

      Well I mean the head of the USMC did about almost 2 years ago but don't let that worry you.

      https://www.f35.com/news/detail/top-marine-aviator-f-35b-is-ready-for-war

  8. Jason Hindle

    I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

    I reckon the F35B will be pretty spectacular, once it's RFS. Perhaps more effective than the Eurofighter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

      The contrarian gave you an upvote- just because.

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

      Perhaps more effective than the Eurofighter

      I'd hope so. The Typhoon is a single purpose interceptor fighter. The F35 is intended to be everything to everybody.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "The F35 is intended to be everything to everybody."

        Which apparently explains why only about 20% of the design is common to all variants. It would be interesting to compare this with say the Tornado.

        Presumably this saves some supply chain costs.

        Wheather it's enough to be worth the humungeously large (and still growing) development bill is another question.

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

        "The F35 is intended to be everything to everybody".

        And thanks to our ingenious and hardworking American allies, it fulfills every single role far better than any dedicated aircraft ever could.

        Don't you love the smell of technology in the morning?

      3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

        "The F35 is intended to be everything to everybody."

        Yes it is. But when did that ever actually work? (Other than finding out by need or accident that 'hey, look, it was only designed to do this, but it can also do that'?)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Yes it is. But when did that ever actually work?"

          It worked (for the fighter/attack role) only in airplanes designed without imposing limitations to speed, weight, costs, etc.

          Whenever USAF hoped to get a multirole cheap airplane, it got a lame duck. It also got lame ducks when it asked for airplanes bringing to the extreme a single capability (look at the -10x planes....). In the '60s, it had to get a Navy model because all of its designs were failures.

          Later, it wanted to force the Navy to share its F-111, which was unfit as a carrier plane, and the need to use its engines anyway made the F-14A far less powerful.

          The bottom line: USAF should not be allowed to write plane specs. Unluckily, it got too much power in the Pentagon, and it usual internal fights among USAF branches will deliver the usual bad plane.

          I'm afraid the F-35 will be one of these.

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

          """The F35 is intended to be everything to everybody."""

          "Yes it is. But when did that ever actually work? (Other than finding out by need or accident that 'hey, look, it was only designed to do this, but it can also do that'?)"

          DH Mosquito

      4. Alumoi

        Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

        The F35 is intended to be everything to everybody.

        Or, as somebody once said, jack of all trades and master of none.

      5. collinsl

        Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

        Something we learned in WW2 was that you needed a large variety of aircraft to perform specialised roles - hence having the 3 V bombers just after the war. The Valiant got into service quickly, the Vulcan was extremely high performance and the Victor was technologically advanced.

        The TSR2 project also taught us that it's impossible to get a good multi-role aircraft without going over budget and with constant government interference. And out of that we got the continuation one of the best low-level strike aircraft ever, the Blackburn Buccaneer.

    3. Milton Silver badge

      Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

      "I reckon the F35B will be pretty spectacular, once it's RFS. Perhaps more effective than the Eurofighter."

      I guess your tongue was in your cheek ... there's really no objective reason to expect the F-35, especially the absurd -B version, to be anything except a monstrous, failing waste of money. "Can't climb, can't turn, can't run" wasn't even the half of it. Rear view is basically non-existent, and won't be compensated any time soon by the unachievable super-helmet, which, even when its code is finished, is still likely to make pilots sick, break their necks or force them to switch off most of its jumble of functionality in order to be able to think. The ordnance loadout is pathetic, the range is crap and the turnaround times are realistically going to be days once they begin to see real-world use.

      All of which wouldn't matter if this jet's purportedly amazing stealth really would allow it to stand off from great, safe distances and shoot down enemies like potting fish in a barrel. But the Russians and Chinese have worked assiduously on a number of highly effective measures to counter so-called stealth, and the F-35 itself is stealthy only if it carries very few weapons and hasn't picked up a pebble scratch off the runway.

      If the US is planning to fight a significant war against any adversary which is not restricted to pickup trucks, RPGs and tea-towel headgear, it had better do so before it has to rely upon the F-35: because if it waits 10 or 15 years to pick a scrap with China, or Russia or even Iran and has to depend upon the F-35, there's liable to be grave embarrassment.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

        "the F-35 itself is stealthy only if it carries very few weapons and hasn't picked up a pebble scratch off the runway."

        And isn't wet, and hasn't overheated.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "And isn't wet, and hasn't overheated."

          That was the F117 over Bosnia IIRC.

          Supposedly the F35's has a 2nd generation anti-radar coating that is a bit more "all weather" as opposed to all-weather-in-the-Middle-East-in-Summer.

          Naturally it will be a bit more expensive but what price can you put on safety, eh?

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "US is planning to fight..any adversary..restricted to pickup trucks, RPGs..tea-towel headgear, "

        I wouldn't guarantee US victory even then.

        The SAS in the Western Desert in WWII demonstrated the way to handle the threat of advanced aircraft is to attack the airfield and blow up the planes. If you're feeling exceptionally ruthless you shoot the pilots as well (although that was later viewed as a bit excessive). They were gearing up for a similar mission during the Falklands.

        This was not cricket. It was not very gentlemenly either.

        It was very effective.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

      "I reckon the F35B will be pretty spectacular, once it's RFS."

      I reckon the crashes will be, at any rate. The things are so tubby that all an opposing plot has to do is let the things fly into the ground.(**)

      These were never intended as air superiority fighters(*). That's the F22's job along with enemy ground defence supression. The "cheaper" F35 was supposed to be doing ground support work.

      (*)The fact that they're being sold as such to "allied countries" _and that those countries are buying that scam_ says a lot about military procurement.

      (**) A war situation may well be all standoffs and missiles at 35 miles, but there are plenty of other times when aircraft get up close and personal without firing a shot. Encouraging the other guy to fall out of the sky is all part of the game.

      1. Milton Silver badge

        Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

        The politicians who approved the F-35 POS have much to answer for. But of course, Lockheed was ever so friendly, and generous. It made sure to spread the manufacturing and services over as many congressional districts as possible, turning the pork-barrel into pork-carpet-bombing.

        The saying goes that it's hard to persuade a man to believe the truth when he's being paid to believe something else.

        And so those behind the F-35 chose to ignore the stark lesson of the F-111—the last time some benighted idiot thought a single airframe could somehow perform all tasks better than all predecessors. They also chose to ignore the lessons of single-engine combat aircraft: they are lost way more frequently than twins (some imbecile Canadian minister, asked what would happen when an F-35 engine failed up in the high north said: "It won't"). And they chose to ignore the lesson of the F-4, sent into combat over Vietnam without a gun because—obviously!—with missiles available, all engagements would be at long range, so you'd never get into a close quarter turning dogfight with a hungry MIG after your AIM-9s had run out. No missile used in combat has ever achieved even a 50% kill rate: missiles get better and more sophisticated, sure, but so do countermeasures. And complexity is an excellent way to diminish reliability anyway.

        If Russian or Chinese enemies had wanted to poison American defence procurement and harm its military capability for the next two generations, it's hard to see what they would have done differently if given control of Lockheed and Congress. They must be delighted ... and happy to postpone any future war until the F-35 has supplanted its teen-series predecessors.

    5. Jason Hindle

      Re: I'm in the mood for being a downvote magnet

      Disappointed by the lack of downvotes, I'll address a random selection of responses.

      “And isn't wet, and hasn't overheated.”

      So no different to any other stealth aircraft? My limited understanding of stealth operations is that there's a lot more to them than simply fielding something with reduced visibility. At the moment, I'm suspecting Britain's aircraft will more likely be hobbled more by lack of access to munitions and sensor packages.

      “Yes it is. But when did that ever actually work? (Other than finding out by need or accident that 'hey, look, it was only designed to do this, but it can also do that'?)”

      By accident? F15. By design? F18. Two of the most successful combat aircraft ever…. British defence thinking tends to be hobbled by the MoD’s (and top brass’s) love of one trick ponies.

      “These were never intended as air superiority fighters(*). That's the F22's job along with enemy ground defence supression. The "cheaper" F35 was supposed to be doing ground support work.”

      So you reckon it's just a big Harrier replacement, with questionable stealth, and designed for exactly the same missions?

      “The ordnance loadout is pathetic, the range is crap and the turnaround times are realistically going to be days once they begin to see real-world use.”

      I'm disappointed they didn't get the A, for the RAF, but the B looks reasonable. I understand it can carry a couple of AMRAMs plus a couple of small bombs, internally.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        I wouldn't call the F-18 one of the most successful combat aircrafts

        Actually, it has been often criticized for being too slow, and with a too short range, defects only partially resolved in the larger E/F models.

        While F-15s and F-16s have been flown by IAI in real battles against capable enough opponents, F-18s have been flown mostly when air superiority was already established, or where there were no real threats - it never demonstrated how actually valid it is.

        The F-15 didn't become a good attack aircraft "by accident". Airplanes designed for overall performance (not a single performance, like the -10x) instead of cost, usually adapt very well to the attack role as well, like the F-4 and F-14 did too. Just in the F-14 and F-15 their cost, and the availability of other planes (A-6, A-7, F-4, F-16, F-18), didn't justify their use in such role. The EF-2000 too has ground attack potential.

        1. fnj

          Re: I wouldn't call the F-18 one of the most successful combat aircrafts [sic]

          Err, the plural of "aircraft" is "aircraft".

  9. Threlkeld

    Appeal to armchair strategists

    I still don't see why we are planning to send an aircraft carrier to the South China sea. What potential dogs do we have in any potential fights around there?

    What would be the Daily Mail's reaction to a Chinese carrier force in the North Sea, and would having such a force be any benefit to China at all? How long would it last in a real shooting war?

    What kind of a crazy post-Imperial game are we actually playing here, at vast expense?

    Answers would be appreciated, honestly. It can't possibly be as mad as it looks/ I hope.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

      I guess May is out to persuade the Chinese to accept a free trade agreement pronto.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

        I think it must be the tried and tested "Mouse that Roared" strategy.

        Monday: Declare war on China.

        Monday lunchtime: Surrender.

        Tuesday: PROFIT!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

      Aren't we going as Lapdogs of the Yanks?

      Just in time for the Chinese, enraged by 5 years of Trump & Pence dicking around in their backyard, to have their Anti-Carrier Cruise missiles in volume production, whilst of course our barely armed escort ships throw harsh language and spitballs at them whilst drifting helplessly as they attempt to rewire their circuit breakers on their hopeless electricals.

      Can anyone say HMS Sheffield waiting to happen?

      About the only ones who will have it worse is the Yanks with the Ford Classes < 3 launches a day electro-pults and Zumwalt and LCS floating pork barrels as escorts.

      Complete clusterfuck

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

        About the only ones who will have it worse is the Yanks with the Ford/Zumwalt/LCS

        Actually, the Yanks don't have it worse, because they've still got a huge, functioning navy of older designs, even if the costly screw-ups you name are overlooked. The Royal Navy don't have that luxury as they don't have any older carriers, cruisers, and destroyers to rely on. And whilst the traiterous actions of Blair, Brown and Cameron deserve the ultimate penalty for each of them, the RN has never had any modern, world class naval assets in its surface fleet. The Invincible class were a penny-pinching compromise, they have never had a credible missile cruiser, and the destroyers and frigates are under-armed, and lack multirole capability.

        The only thing you can say about British warships, is that most of them them are very smart to look at. Compare a US Arleigh Burke to a type 45, and the Arleigh Burke looks like it was the debris ball from the collision between an old washing machines and a ham radio operator's hut. OTOH, the Arleigh Burke is reliable, carries proven weapons, and has better all round capability, particularly in the important area of surface to surface missiles.

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

          Your post reminds me of the old apple-seller whose friends pointed out that he was selling below cost. "But I'll make it up in volume!" he explained. (This was in the days before Amazon, of course, which actually did that).

          No matter how many old pieces of floating junk the Yanks have, I bet the Chinese and the Russians have at least ten missiles for each of them. Furthermore, I am willing to bet the missiles cost less than the ships.

          "The thicker the hay, the more easily it is mown". - Attila the Hun

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Aren't we going as Lapdogs of the Yanks?"

        I thought the approved term was "Imperialist running dog lackey."

        But I simply can't keep up with all these fast paced changes in terminology.

        1. Graham Dawson

          Re: "Aren't we going as Lapdogs of the Yanks?"

          Dogs are Haram. It's running cat licky now.

    3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

      Who gives a shit what the daily mail thinks (its designed to sell to a certain frothing at the mouth kind of tory voter anyway)

      In any case, apart from the whinges in the usual papers, we were quite happy to let 1/2 the russian fleet sail past last year.

      And they had every right to, international water ways and all that and not being at war with us (or the french for that matter)

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

        In any case, apart from the whinges in the usual papers, we were quite happy to let 1/2 the russian fleet sail past last year.

        You're being a little unfair, we sent a fisheries protection vessel. That'll learn 'em good.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "we were quite happy to let 1/2 the russian fleet sail past last year."

        They have to practice the Baltic-Tsushima route... just hope they don't fire again against British fishing boats.

    4. SeekTruthFromFacts

      Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

      "I still don't see why we are planning to send an aircraft carrier to the South China sea. What potential dogs do we have in any potential fights around there?"

      TL;DR: The UK has defence commitments to 3 countries there, but the fact nobody here knows this shows that capacity building is about hearts and minds as well as aircraft carriers.

      The UK has a treaty commitment to the defence of Malaysia and Singapore through the Five Powers Defence Arrangement. There's also a bilateral guarantee of Brunei's defence (hence the long-standing Army base there). The FPDA is a much looser agreement than NATO, but the Royal Navy does keep stocks (and maybe a handful of people) in Singapore for emergencies. It also sends (the pitiful remnants of) the fleet there once every five years or so, just to show it can be done and for exercises. This happened in 1997 on the way to our from the Hong Kong handover and also timed conveniently with the buildup to the 2003 Iraq War, as it provided a legitimate reason for the presence of so much shipping east of Suez. This is exactly the kind of role for which the carriers are being built and the MoD will probably be relieved to show the UK actually has something to contribute again.

      These treaties were originally protection against Indonesia and Maoism; those wars have been comprehensively won (at considerable cost in British blood). Brunei and Malaysia do have claims that conflict with PR China's Nine Dash Line claims in the South China Sea, but neither would be willing to fight over them. I think the real value of these commitments is as part of a broader relationship. These countries do not reach EU standards of freedom and democracy, but if you compare them to their peers (other Chinese/post-Confucian or Islamic states) then there is potential for partnership. A large part of the Singaporean elite is educated in the UK, as are thousands of affluent Malaysians. Hundreds of thousands of middle-class people there keep their money in the local branches of British banks. Millions of working-class people support EPL teams. They have not forgotten the cruelties of colonialism, or the fact that the UK was unable to protect them in 1941 (the fall of Singapore is marked by a national holiday there), but there is enough shared history and culture to mean that both sides gain from working together. Mind you, for that to happen, the Royal Navy, from admirals to able seamen, needs to arrive with the attitude that it has something to learn from its partners in South East Asia. They know the Brits, but how well do the Brits know them? Knowledge is power, and gaining soft power from such a trip would mean listening rather than the traditional shouting louder.

      1. Threlkeld

        Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

        I can't decide if this is the post-colonial illusion or the sunk costs fallacy. A bit of both, perhaps.

        Yes, we have historical links with many countries, and yes students have valued an education in the UK (though we may have blown this advantage now). But why should we have military obligations? The reality, surely, is that any such obligations cannot aid the other parties because the true economic costs of really accepting those obligations would impoverish the UK and thus lead to unacceptable deaths here. The austerity programme is already killing our citizens in significant numbers, but a global military commitment would kill many more, even before any more British blood was spilled, just by draining more resources from the Health Service. If the duty of the state is to protect its citizens, then UK citizens would need to accept a lot less protection for Singapore to enjoy even a modest level of extra UK support. Most other countries don't burden their economies in this way, and we are competing with them.

        It's an illusion of power, and an expensive one. It's backward-looking and hinders the adoption of a truly effective national strategy that plays from our strengths and not our weaknesses. The military tail is wagging the national dog, surely?

    5. Jason Hindle

      Re: Appeal to armchair strategists

      I don't see what strategic interests Britain has in the South China Sea. All our problems are closer to home.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "y the year 2023,...the MoD hopes Lockheed will go into full production that year."

    IOW by 2023 they should have all the bugs (mostly) worked out by then.

    Yey.

    Something to look forward to.

    Aircraft by LM. Carriers by BAe. Economy f**ked by Brexit.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets hope Jeremy Hunt isn't moved from the NHS to be put in charge of the software....

  12. Kev99 Bronze badge

    They should buy 35Bs because they can operate anywhere. No need for for A or C.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Great idea Kev!

      Let's buy the most complicated, expensive, problematic version,. Yep, the one that's dragging the whole F35 programme down because of its excess of ambition over capability, and the one that nobody actually needs other than the British.

      1. Graham Dawson

        We didn't need it. The usmc top brass wanted a replacement for their version of the harrier, so we decided to build a carrier around that planned replacement rather than go back to regular carriers and much cheaper conventional airframes.

        Basically everyone involved decided to be an idiot and pick the most retarded way of doing things, as usual.

        1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          "Basically everyone involved decided to be an idiot and pick the most retarded way of doing things, as usual."

          I heard a story about the Eurofighter procurement that agrees with your analysis: To try and save some costs, some bright spark in Govt thought the cannon could be dispensed with, as guns were deemed old school. The avionics however were trimmed to accommodate the weight distribution of the cannon, so said spark asked 'what can we have that has the same weight distribution as the cannon?' and the answer was 'The cannon'. OK says spark, we can save money by not buying ammunition.

  13. Archtech Silver badge

    Tough choices

    "Each aircraft costs around $120m, though the exact price is jealously guarded by all involved".

    Exactly the cost of a medium-size hospital, by a curious coincidence. Not that we want any of those.

    Or the cost of paying 1,000 doctors for a year - since Tony Blair cleverly negotiated their pay up through the roof.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Tough choices

      @ Archtech

      I think the political view is its only money. Can always take more from the tax payer. If they used it right in the first place we would likely be better off as a country.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Tough choices

        The annoying thing is that, while the money would be better spent on any of a dozen productive things we can all think of, a couple of aircraft carriers in the South China Sea (or the Persian Gulf or the Baltic) can only cause us all very large amounts of grief.

        Look up the effects of a single Topol or Yars warhead; then look up how many of them the Russians have; then try to find one square inch of the British Isles that would be habitable if Putin were to get cross enough with us to push the button.

        But of course, if the Russians wiped out the UK with a thermonuclar attack, it would be OK - we can rest assured that our faithful American allies would commit suicide by avenging us.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tough choices

          Doesn't the UK have enough warheads as well to ensure Putin will the reign on a devastated land as well? Without any need for US to intervene (but nearby EU countries may not appreciate the situation too, even after the Brexit, and NATO article 4 stands...

          Also, because not many are ready to press the red button, and not everybody has even the button, how often conventional forces have been deployed? Ask the Chinese why they are deploying aircraft carriers too...

          1. Roj Blake Silver badge

            Re: Tough choices

            A lot of the time we have a single Trident-carrying submarine at sea. That's a single point of failure and so can't be relied upon.

            Also, Russia is big. Really big. You may think it's a long way to the chemists, but that's nothing compared to how big Russia is. So even if that single submarine did fire its nukes, it wouldn't be able to completely depopulate Russia immediately. And of course, Putin will have a fancy bunker somewhere.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Unhappy

              "it wouldn't be able to completely depopulate Russia immediately. "

              "Russia" has never been the target for the UK "independent" nuclear deterrent.

              Moscow, and in particular the Kremlin is the main target. Any warheads left other will be assigned to high value targets to disable the Russian's ability to fight a war.

              To be a deterrent with such a small force both the UK and France have to hurt their opponents in a way that makes them think twice about starting a war in the first place.

              1. Threlkeld

                Re: "it wouldn't be able to completely depopulate Russia immediately. "

                As the French used to say "We only have to be big enough to tear an arm off".

                Which never seemed to me to be a terribly rational way of dealing with a large, angry bear. The Russians, as has already been pointed out, can destroy us many times over. It would be up to us to give them a good reason to want to do that.

                Once a Trident boat is at sea, the crew cannot be prevented from firing missiles (should they decide to do so) by anything short of sinking the boat first. No codes, no locks, no real control. Navy traditions and discipline are very good indeed: perfect, not so much.

                Anyone fancy a remake of Dr Strangelove, only with dolphins?

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        "If they used it right in the first place we would likely be better off as a country."

        A view that people on most sides of any political debate could agree with.

    2. Jason Hindle

      Re: Tough choices

      Welcome to Brazil. First world taxes, third world public healthcare, and enough heavily armed police by the time the populace realise they've been had.

  14. ThereisaGod

    The F35 is the biggest disaster ever designed and the most wasteful. Study this total joke of a machine that has killed its test pilots because they are breathing oxygen manufactured from engine gases (multiple billions required in developing the technology to do this ... technology that failed) rather than let pilots breathe oxygen from tanks of oxygen as usual (a stupid idea ... far too cheap).

    If Britain buys this crap we will lose any war in which we are engaged. Maybe that's a good thing. Enough of being led by corrupt idiots.

  15. ThereisaGod

    The F35 is the biggest disaster ever designed and the most financially wasteful. Study this total joke of a machine that has killed test pilots because they are breathing oxygen manufactured from engine gases (multiple billions required in developing the technology to do this ... technology that failed) rather than let pilots breathe oxygen from tanks of oxygen as usual (a stupid idea ... far too cheap [and too safe]).

    If Britain buys this crap we will lose any war in which we are engaged. Maybe that's a good thing. Enough of being led by corrupt idiots already.

    western governments have forfeited the right to rule. they are not trusted. America should split up. So should the UK.Let's get rid of these damn bankers and their hoors.

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