back to article 'No decision' on Raytheon GPS landing system aboard Brit aircraft carriers

The Ministry of Defence has insisted it has made “no decision” to install the US Navy’s JPALS aircraft carrier landing system aboard HMS Prince of Wales, the second of the Royal Navy’s two new 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers. US defence contractor Raytheon this week said it was in talks with the MoD over fitting its JPALS …

  1. Alister Silver badge

    QE is due to make her maiden voyage sometime in the next few months. She is delayed by several months, with both the MoD and the ship’s builders keeping extremely tight-lipped as to why.

    They forgot to include engines in the functional spec?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > They forgot to include engines in the functional spec?

      Those were included in the non-functional requirements. The Marketing Manager thought it would look good on the ship. Last I heard they were going for a V12.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        I really don't get why both the MOD & industry don't just turn around and say the actual situation.

        "Yep, this is the first 70,000 ton ship we've built and it's got a lot of automation and systems never used before. All of them have to be tested and certified as working together before the acceptance trials are completed, and any problems found are fixed according to the original contract. It'll probably be available by ($actualdate + 2 months) but it might slip further backwards slightly if we discover any real problems. However, given the ships lifetime is 50 years and we haven't got any aircraft yet, it doesn't really matter too much if it's done a couple of months later than originally expected."

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          I'd be quite happy with such a no-nonsense approach. Sadly it's not up to the standards of modern corporate-speak.

          Still can't understand why the Tory manifesto didn't just say "Against the better judgement of half of us, we're leaving the EU, FFS. That's going to keep us plenty busy. And anyway government is best that governs least."

          ... which is pretty much what the Queen's speech ended up saying anyway.

          1. boltar Silver badge

            "Against the better judgement of half of us, we're leaving the EU, FFS"

            Less than half who voted actually. Sorry, I know remainers seem to think their votes are somewhat more important than those who voted out but isn't it really time to get over it?

            1. strum Silver badge

              > I know remainers seem to think their votes are somewhat more important than those who voted out but isn't it really time to get over it?

              The Euroseptics had over 40 years to get over the '75 referendum. They didn't noticeably succeed.

      2. fobobob

        Should've had a V8, then they could've somehow spun it as being a healthy choice.

    2. boltar Silver badge

      "They forgot to include engines in the functional spec?"

      You jest, yet hasn't one of our shiny new state of the art type 45 destroyers got to have its shonky engine replaced? Unfortunately the ability to remove an engine after construction wasn't in the design brief so last I heard they were considering cutting a hole in the side of the hull and yanking it out. And that would be the east bit - putting a new engine in via the same hole and not wrecking it will be a challenge to say the least.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        last I heard they were considering cutting a hole in the side of the hull and yanking it out.

        boltar,

        I would be amazed if any marine engine is ever removed any other way. They're very, very big. They fill whole (large) compartments of ships, and being very heavy tend to get mounted below the waterline. It would be insane to design hatches large enough to get them out - plus you'd have to waste an awful lot of very valuable space to do so. As you're only expecting to do this sort of thing once or twice in the lifetime of ship - it's therefore much more sensible to do it that way.

        They changed the reactor cores in some of the submarines by cutting through the hull too, some were re-fuellable but I think that it was decided later that it was cheaper to just swap out the whole core in the Trafalgar class boats. And that's a submarine, where you have to be really precise when you weld the pressure hull back together, or you get your feet very wet indeed.

      2. graeme leggett

        The Type 45 has problems with the intercooler (an American part) which has proved not to be up to requirements when operating in the Med (or presumably other warm waters).

        The power setup of the 45 being gas turbine -> generator -> induction motors for screws + rest of the kit.

        As the intercooler isn't up to snuff, in warm water they can't produce enough power to run everything and the lights go off.

        The solution being to cut a hole in the hull to put in (more) diesel generators.

  2. Brenda McViking
    Thumb Up

    The UK already made the mistake of buying American with the pathetic excuse for a plane known as the F35, not to mention having a bunch of useless Chinooks directly due to American manufacturers marketing a solution they were incapable of delivering. Not that MoD procurement are competent either but it's fashionable nowadays not to blame the victim...

    So pipe down Raytheon, if you want to go and moan, do so to Lockheed Martin and Boeing as they've already taken all of the available budget. The UK taxpayer has spent quite enough on useless American military tech for one Millenium.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sorta

      Both cases itis a joint clusterf***

      BAE and the rest of the UK industry claiming it can take American and deliver the additional customizations (f.e. the flight software for the Chinook) requested by the MOD. In all cases a total clusterf***...

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'not to mention having a bunch of useless Chinooks directly due to American manufacturers marketing a solution they were incapable of delivering. '

      Bollocks, the Chinook Mk3 fiasco was entirely the result of the MoD insisting on a spec that no one else* had ordered combining the most modern version of the CH-47 with avionics from when Pontius was a pilot. I believe the thinking was that the commonality with the rest of the Chinook fleet would save money, so obviously that worked out well.

      The Dutch ordered the same variant of aircraft with the manufacturers default avionics at around the same time. It entered service without any problems.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        combining the most modern version of the CH-47 with avionics from when Pontius was a pilot

        Class!

        It is also pertinent to note that it wasn't just the bunglers of the MoD trying to write their own control software, it was also the MoD's own interpretation of its own flight safety rules that stopped the Mk3's from being used. It was a Whitehall classic. At the time, the Army and RAF were crying out for helicopters in Afghanistan, and due to this complete screw up, the Mk 3s were sitting in a (rented) hanger gathering dust. I daresay that servicemen died as a result of this, but in true MoD fashion, nobody was held to account for the lost lives, or the waste of several hundred million quid.

        And the truly incredible thing is that the MoD should have realised exactly how complicated the flight control software is on a Chinook from the enquiry into the 1994 Isle of Mull crash, where (regardless of the true cause) questions were raised over the FADEC controls. Despite this, some bungling, bungling FUCKWIT at the MoD actually thought "lets modify the Chinook control systems ourselves, without talking to Boeing, it can't be any harder than coding in Basic, can it?"

      2. Deckard_C

        There where ordered with modern avionics, just it couldn't be certified to RAF regulations because when the software was designed in the US it wasn't documented enough to meet the RAF regulations. Nobody thought to check this when they where ordered. So they might of been perfectly safe to fly but didn't have the paper work. The US and the Dutch have different regulations so for them they where safe to fly.

        The temporary solution was to install the same old avionics as the rest of the fleet. They where then used for UK based training allowing more of the older Chinooks to be deployed to Afghanistan. They where still fairly different to the rest of the fleet as originally order for special forces use. They where stuck in a hanger for years until Afghanistan forced the MOD to spend the money to get them flying.

        The long term solution was the replacment of the avionics by modern avionics when the rest of the Chinook fleet got there avionics replaced.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      The UK taxpayer has spent quite enough on useless American military tech for one Millenium.

      Apparently not if we watch the posturing, etc. of both Brit and US defense industry types.. They obviously see a few more billions to suck out on this project from you and even more from us in the US.

  3. wyatt

    I like the manual option.. 2 needles which everyone has used for years and trusts.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      And I'm assuming there's still the option for a radar talk down, so you just have to do what the nice voice on the radio says.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      There's a very finely balanced decision to be made here.

      The more automation you can introduce into aviation the safer you can make it. Because meatsacks make mistakes. Of course that's assuming that your piece of automation actually works as advertised. So making carrier landings easier is in general a good thing. Remember that you may be asking your pilots to take off, mid-air refuel, fly for several hours to a destination, get shot at, then fly back (possibly re-fuel again) and then try to land on a carrier at night. By the time they get back they're going to be tired and not at their most alert, being on the come-down from the stress of cobat. So the easier you make stuff, the lower the chance of accidents.

      On the other hand, brand new systems take time to integrate, time to train on and time to iron out the bugs. Plus cost more. So tried and tested and less complicated may be the right solution initially. Maybe buy later, when it's an off-the-shelf job, tested by the Americans for a few years?

      You may also get the attitude of senior officers that "In my day I had to fly when it was all manual and difficult, so why can't these young whippersnappers? Aren't they supposed to be elite?"

      I also read that the US had much higher casualty rates than we did, flying Harrier. There could be any number of reasons for this, but the suggestion was that it was because the US Marines tend to get the third pick of the pilots, after the Navy and Airforce have taken the cream. Harrier was of course a bugger to fly when transitioning from normal to vertical flight, so much harder than the F35 will be. But I wonder if that also suggests to them that they want all mod-cons?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > JPALS, by contrast, is a GPS-based system.

    Which means it relies on a satellite system the US controls, and Russia can and would destroy in the opening salvos of any major conflict?

    Seems the "broadcast to the world" system at least has the advantage the UK can control when it gets switched on and off, not two rival powers.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'and Russia can and would destroy in the opening salvos of any major conflict?'

      I'd say that's a bit strong, 'would like to' and 'might be able to' would seem more accurate.

      Also it's nice to have options when you're not fighting a 'major' conflict, you know like we have been for most of this century.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'd say that's a bit strong, 'would like to' and 'might be able to' would seem more accurate.

        They have had the capability to do that for 50+ years. Same for the yanks. And for a while now - the Chinese. The caveat is that most anti-SAT weapons are not immediate - hours and sometimes days between launch and collision. So GPS, GLONASS and friends may still function as long as it is necessary to guide missiles to targets. In a post-first-launch conflict (if there is such a thing at all) - not so much.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          The caveat is that most anti-SAT weapons are not immediate

          I would think that lofting a midsize nuke[1] into orbit so that the EMP can take out satellites would be pretty quick..

          Sure - it would wipe out your satellites too - but if your forces have already trained to not be reliant on them and are expecting things to go dark them it's less of an issue.

          [1] Or two. It's not like the various sides don't have plenty to spare.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The problem isn't limited to a major conflict, it's also an issue in any conflict the US doesn't approve of.

        Having a hard dependency on another states goodwill built into your major power projection platform seems fairly silly to me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Having a hard dependency on another states goodwill built into your major power projection platform seems fairly silly to me."

          Doesn't matter. The F-35 won't boot up if it couldn't connect to the Lockheed Martin Cloud for 30 days to check the license validity.

    2. yet_another_wumpus

      That's a bit extreme. A more likely issue is that even the Iranians have managed to hack/jam a GPS signal sufficiently to convince an American drone to land in Iran. GPS is handy, but you should never rely on it.

    3. My Alter Ego

      There's always Galileo, which our good friends the EU run. Oh wait...

  5. EyePeaSea
    Coat

    > JPALS, by contrast, is a GPS-based system.

    This really bothers me a lot. The planes will end up being routed down tiny country roads that aren't fit for large vehicles, as well as giving wildly fluctuating ETAs.

    It will end in tears.

    1. GreggS

      especially if they use Apple maps

  6. Sequin

    Sister ship?

    Surely the Queen Elizabeth must be the Prince of Wales' mother ship, not sister ship? (Don't call me Shirley!)

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Sister ship?

      It's a European monarchy, there's a lot of that sort of thing going round...

    2. maffski

      Re: Sister ship?

      The real problem, Shirley, is that the Queen Elizabeth will age twice as fast as any other ship in the fleet

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Sister ship?

      I think if they had planned to name one of the ships after Prince Philip, he would have had sharp words about the capabilities of a ship bearing his name and got them fit it out with catapults, planes fit for purpose, etc.

      Instead we have a pair of carriers from the Duchy Originals Organic range.

  7. roytrubshaw
    Coat

    Is it just me?

    "No decision has been taken as to whether HMS Prince of Wales will be equipped with the Joint Precision Landing and Approach System (JPALS)"

    Shouldn't that be either "JPLAS" or Joint Precision Approach and Landing System?

    Maybe that's the been the trouble with the F35 all along, they're doing the landings before they do the approach - but then that's the US for you: always putting the cart before the horse--

    Mine's the one with the funny straps at the end of the sleeves

  8. SkippyBing Silver badge

    What's a bit depressing is that the UK originally developed an equivalent system for trials with the VAAC Harrier* aboard INVINCIBLE, so it would appear to be a bit of a lost opportunity as far as UK exports are concerned.

    *The VAAC Harrier was essentially a trials test bed for the controls in the F-35B, the safety pilot had the normal manual Harrier controls including nozzle lever to control the thrust vectoring. The front seat just had a throttle, stick, and rudder pedals, the flight control software then did all the complicated stuff so that pulling back on the stick meant you always went up, pushing the throttle forwards always meant you went faster etc. unlike the conventional controls where the response depended on whether you were in jet borne or wing borne flight, or somewhere in between. Makes the task of flying the thing much simpler.

  9. Felonmarmer

    World +dog detection systems

    "JPALS, by contrast, is a GPS-based system. Rather than the ship broadcasting a glideslope to world+dog, JPALS emits an encrypted burst of data that allows the approaching aircraft to precisely fix the ship's position and make a safe landing"

    I'm fairly sure that the subset of world+dog that want to and could do anything about a ajrcraft carrier would already be aware if its presence. Probably from the news.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: World +dog detection systems

      Possibly, although it's nice if you're landing guidance system couldn't be followed by say, a missile.

  10. The Electron
    Pirate

    EM noise

    "Rather than the ship broadcasting a glideslope to world+dog"

    Ignoring the various radars that will be blasting out signals for several hundred kilometres around the ship, plus all the other electro-magnetic noise from on-board systems; and the navigation and deck lights visible at night. Kind of hard to miss a giant lump of metal floating in the water!

    Perhaps they should glue some infrared lasers to the deck and use their "night vision" for VFR landing...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: EM noise

      Strangely enough, they can turn the lights off if they think there's a threat.

      Equally warships often operate on passive detection systems only, i.e. EMCON (emissions control). So if you're an aircraft carrier, the enemy know you're there somewhere, but the idea is not to let them narrow that down to a particular grid reference they can fire missiles at.

      This is why you have AWACS aircraft on your carrier as well, so you can turn the radars on only when you're a decent distance from the carrier. Also because being higher up your radars can detect things further out, that would be over the horizon for the ship.

      Strangely enough the admirals do tend to have thought of this basic stuff already...

      1. Alister Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: EM noise

        @I ain't Spartacus

        This is why you have AWACS aircraft on your carrier as well...

        Strangely enough the admirals do tend to have thought of this basic stuff already...

        Except that they can't launch or recover AWACS aircraft from the nice new carriers, strictly helicopters only, (with reduced range and endurance) so maybe the admirals thought of the basics, but MOD decided it didn't matter.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: EM noise

          And just a further rant, in addition to a lack of carrier based AWACS, the lack of cats and traps also means that you can't use carrier based tankers, so your strike aircraft are limited to relying on land based tankers which are big, cumbersome and a prime target for enemy action.

          The highest fuel consumption of a fully armed carrier strike aircraft is the initial take-off and climb to its operational ceiling.

          Previously, for both the US and UK navies, normal practice would be to launch your carrier-based tankers (for the US they would be Lockheed S3 Vikings, or latterly FA18 Super Hornets, the Royal Navy used to use Sea Vixens or Buccaneers), then you would launch your strike aircraft, and they would carry out an air-to-air refuelling before setting off for the target.

          With the new British carriers, you can't do that, so either the strike aircraft are limited to the range of the fuel they have left after take-off, or they have to rendezvous with a land based tanker, which will normally be (in the UK) an Airbus A330 or A400, which will have to have flown from a land base out to where the carrier is operating.

          You do have to wonder if any admirals actually had an input into the decision making process.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: EM noise

      Kind of hard to miss a giant lump of metal floating in the water

      Take your F-35 up a couple thousand feet and remember that tiny postage stamp you're supposed to land on is actually "a giant lump of metal floating in the water"

      Edit: And "blasting out signals" is basically why navy subs very rarely use active sonar. I assume other navy vessels go "emissions dark" in times of combat as well.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: EM noise

        I assume other navy vessels go "emissions dark" in times of combat as well.

        Not if they want to see stuff aiming for them they don't. Yes, I know they can use AWACS, but those would die pretty quickly in a real combat.

        So the carrier escorts have to take over the duty. And probably die fairly quickly too.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vague deja vu ...

    Nimrod/AWACS anybody ?

  12. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Available for weddings, Bar mizvahs ...

    Note the useful addition of some nice marquees allowing the boat to be used for public functions and generate revenue while in dock.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Read it as "JPALS emits an email burst of data that allows the approaching aircraft..."

    And thought

    "S**t. After Windows for Warships....

    Outlook for fighters."

    Obviously my bad.

    BTW. That data burst may be encrypted but wouldn't it's operating frequency and its very existence indicate a carrier was in the area which could be found by direction finding?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Read it as "JPALS emits an email burst of data that allows the approaching aircraft..."

      It's just one single transmission though, rather than a continuous data transmission. So it's going to be very much shorter and harder to detect or triangulate on.

      With the availablility of satellites and the like, I don't think anyone is trying to hide the existence of their carriers in a particular area. Just to make the positional fix vague enough that they can't be targetted with weapons. Obviously having all those fighters means they're then supposed to deal with any reconnaissance aircraft after a firing solution in the traditional manner.

  14. ridley
    Facepalm

    I don't know what the fuss is about

    The F35B's range is so small the carrier will always be in view anyway.

  15. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "She is delayed by several months, with both the MoD and the ship’s builders keeping extremely tight-lipped as to why."

    My sources tell me that somebody had ordered 'Military Grey' paint instead of 'Battleship Grey" paint.

    1. graeme leggett

      It'll be fine once Humbrol get new stock in.

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    BTW, I still maintain that they should have named the second carrier the "Duke of Edinburgh".

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      You should get an award for that...

  17. GrumpyKiwi Silver badge

    Mirror landing system

    Just install a mirror landing system. Invented by the Royal Navy and adopted by the rest of the world. Has the advantage of not sending any electronic transmissions.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Mirror landing system

      They'll have multiple systems. The US will likely have ILS as a backup, plus for use by other NATO planes.

      We can't use the mirror system anyway, as we're not using arrestor gear. F35 will do short takeoff with ramp, and land vertically.

      But I doubt GPALS is there for landing. It's to give approach assistance in bad weather, while creating less radio noise. So they may still be using the old landing systems. This is just to lower pilot workload on approach.

      1. GrumpyKiwi Silver badge

        Re: Mirror landing system

        Indian Navy (and the Royal Navy) was using the very same mirror landing system for their Sea Harriers. Instead of bringing an aircraft down to the arresting wires, it was set to bring the Sea Harrier to a point 40 feet up and just to the right of the island.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Mirror landing system

          In which case I sit stand corrected.

  18. Sanguma

    Entirely OT but ...

    For one horrific second I was an American, puzzling over why the good ol' UK would be naming their warships HMS Prisoner of War and HMS Quantative Easing ... then it passed, and I remembered I warn't either a Yankee, a Dixielander or a West Coaster ... and I thought it was just an aspirin I'd taken!!!

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