back to article Possible cut to British F-35 order considered before Parliament

Rising costs might force the UK to reduce its order of F-35 fighter jets, the House of Commons has been told. Lieutenant General Mark Poffley, chief of British military capability, told the Commons Defence Committee that he was "sympathetic" to the idea of reducing Britain's planned order of 138 F-35B jets. The short takeoff …

  1. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Joke

    Well, it's a good job that our new aircraft carriers weren't locked into using F-35Bs then, wasn't it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps we could buy some Harriers...

      1. Aqua Marina

        Or even better pull the English Electric Lightning out of mothballs. These things didn't need a runway, they could be launched vertically like a rocket. You could literally push it off the edge of the carrier, throttle up and it would be flying of into the distance before it would have a chance to splash into the ocean below.

        I remember reading that when it went ballistic, it was the only plane that caught up with the US's SR71 blackbird and got a missile lock.

        They don't make em like this anymore!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Aqua Marina: Although the Lightning had, even by today's standards, very good altitude and speed performance it could not match an SR-71 in either altitude or speed. Wikipedia reckons that the max Alt was 88,000 ft but only on a ballistic trajectory i.e. that alt wasn't sustained.

          However, in one of the accounts in 'The Lightning Boys' (ISBN 978-1-908117-15-1) the pilot appears to have achieved level flight at 87,800 ft at which point "I took stock of my situation. The stick was now firmly on the backstops, I had no further elevator control other than to lower the nose. The Ailerons, interestingly, were still very responsive. Both reheats had remained alight until I touched the throttles. When I rolled the aircraft and looked down vertically..."

          Heh :)

        2. kmac499

          Sort of right, I think you'll find it was a U2 that the Lightning caught up with not the Blackbird.

          One version of this story involves the Lightning accelerating below the U2, pulling up into a ballistic climb and vertically passing the U2, whose pilot was shall we say a little surprised.

  2. imanidiot Silver badge

    Still not too late

    The ships aren't in full service yet. It's still possible to eat a giant loss and put cats and traps on them. It won't be pretty, but it's going to have to be done anyway if they are to be of any service in the future. The F-35 program is facing more and more opposition in the US as well and it's not at all impossible the yanks will pull the plug on the program. If that happens, the price for any remaining customers will probably double or triple.

    1. Salestard

      Re: Still not too late

      I thought it was a structural issue for the cats? The amount of bulkhead strengthening, miles of pipework for the steam, and additional control systems were so expensive to retrofit that it'd be cheaper to just build a new boat from the keel up?

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Still not too late

        Building a new ship would mean more work for the shipyards, and therefore (the politicians hope) continued votes, so it's not completely out of the range of possibility.

        Maybe we should sell these carriers to someone that's committed to the F-35B (the US Marines?) and build some proper ones with catapults on. Sure, it's a ridiculously massive waste of money, but we've known that right from the start.

      2. rh587 Bronze badge

        Re: Still not too late

        I thought it was a structural issue for the cats? The amount of bulkhead strengthening, miles of pipework for the steam...

        No steam - it was proposed to use the American's new EMALS cats, but they were considered a bit prototypical when the carriers were being specced, despite that fact that (according to Lewis Page IIRC), the Yanks even offered to underwrite any development issues with it (they were pretty committed to making it work since their next-gen carriers are designed around it).

        But we didn't. And then it would have been expensive to retrofit the electrics needed (and possibly bulkheads, I don't know), but certainly not as bad as having to plumb in a large steam system.

        As it turns out, it wasn't too tricky to implement and the Gerald R. Ford is now in service as the first EMALS vessel.

        1. kmac499

          Re: Still not too late

          As well as Bulkheads they would need a few thousand kettles to raise the steam. BIg Lizzie is Diesel electric.

          Which is also why the electric catapult launch was tricky, The new US super carriers have massive amounts of nuclear electric generation on board, They were designed from day one to be fighting power stations that could have upgrades loaded onto the hulls over the years.

          Lizzie would need a bigger battery or a very long extension lead back to blighty. Maybe in the Men in Sheds brigade could come up with a supecapacitor system it might work.

          1. Deckard_C

            Re: Still not too late

            The new US carriers actually use large flywheels connected to motor/generators to store the energy for launching the aircraft with EMALS anyway, so would use the same system. It's just how long it takes to spinup the flywheels for the next launch. The US carriers have four catapults and they wanted a high launch rate. Lizzie would just of had two and have less aircraft to get in the air.

            When you look into what is involved with EMALS you start thinking steam isn't all that bad after all, more so if just launching one type of aircraft. Not that I can really comment.

            1. GrumpyOldBloke

              Re: Still not too late

              Large flywheels - that has got to be tough on the bearings in high seas.

            2. rh587 Bronze badge

              Re: Still not too late

              When you look into what is involved with EMALS you start thinking steam isn't all that bad after all, more so if just launching one type of aircraft. Not that I can really comment.

              Well, that's the problem for the Yanks - they're running a variety of fixed wing, from heavy bombed up strike aircraft through to small C2/E2 support aircraft and the steam system reputedly isn't very adaptable. There's "Go" and "Go" with a small amount of throttling. EMALS allows tailored launch profiles for each airframe, so lighter aircraft don't need to be stressed by high-energy launches designed to support heavier aircraft.

        2. Deckard_C

          Re: Still not too late

          "In service" seems to be of of those strange terms, more it's been handed over to the Navy. As IOC isn't until 2020 and first deployment is to be 2022. Last I heard they was still having issues with the Cats and fully loaded F/A-18 but that might be fixed now, also the traps alone are now costing $1.3 billion. Bargin at a construction cost of $12.9B and $3.7B in R&D. Good to know the UK isn't along in messing things up.

      3. joeldillon

        Re: Still not too late

        The plan was to fit this -

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

        So no steam, at least. On the other hand I gather the yanks are having a bit of trouble getting it to work on their new carrier at the moment.

        1. x 7

          Re: Still not too late

          Actually....the initial plan was to use the Anglo-French (mainly Anglo in design) Converteam EMCAT system, but the Yanks didn't like us using something that wasn't American so tried undercutting on price with EMALS despite EMCAT looking the better product. Once the UK had opted for EMALS, Converteam got sold to GE of the USA, who - at the behest of the US Government, spiked the project. That gave the US a monopoly on catapault launch systems, and also military ship electric propulsion systems.

          And then they revealed that EMALS had severe issues and would be delayed........

      4. Scroticus Canis
        Unhappy

        Re: Still not too late - yes it is.

        Unfortunately there is nowhere to install the massive boilers and fuel bunkers to generate steam for the catapults or generators and batteries for electromagnetic catapults (if they could make one work).

        For what this debacle has cost a new factory to make revamped versions of the Harrier would have been cheaper.

      5. bpfh Bronze badge

        Re: Still not too late

        Hum. The legend was that the ships were designed by BaE to be cat & trap compatible IIRC... it was part of the spec (that by the pricing , they may have ignored)...

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Still not too late

      put cats and traps on them

      I suspect the rats have already left...

    3. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Still not too late

      I thought the Yanks had been having problems with the STOL F35B's melting the decks? Are the new UK carriers fitted with extra heat resistant decks?

      1. x 7

        Re: Still not too late

        " Are the new UK carriers fitted with extra heat resistant decks?"

        As I understand it - yes

      2. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Still not too late

        'I thought the Yanks had been having problems with the STOL F35B's melting the decks? '

        Not as such, the exhaust is warmer than a Harrier's but it was predicted and alterations to the deck covering made to combat it before the first embarkation. Of course the F-35 doesn't have its exhaust impinging on the deck for a particularly long period probably less than 30 seconds during the landing. The V-22 on the other hand has to have its exhaust pointing at the decks the whole time which I believe may be more of a problem.

        'Are the new UK carriers fitted with extra heat resistant decks?'

        Yes, well as I understand it there's a special coating on the landing areas.

        1. Bluto Nash
          Coat

          Re: Still not too late

          Couple of layers of heavy duty mil-spec aluminium foil ought to suffice? Works in my oven.

          Mine's the one with the Jiffy Pop in the pocket.

    4. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Still not too late

      RATO Typhoon, come on, we all want to see it happen...

      1. x 7

        Re: Still not too late

        RATO Typhoon

        the technology exists from Buccaneer days, though it wasn't used for ship launches

        http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/eb034068?journalCode=aeat

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Still not too late

          'RATO Typhoon

          the technology exists from Buccaneer days, though it wasn't used for ship launches'

          AIUI the problem with a marinised Typhoon is less the launching and more the landing back on again. Essentially the landing attitude is such that on finals you wouldn't be able to see the aircraft carrier, added to that the landing gear (and airframe) isn't designed to take the impact of a no-flare landing*. Strengthening the aircraft to take a no-flare landing gets you half way to a new aircraft, so you're probably looking at a decade long development programme with no guarantee of success.

          *Land based aircraft flare just above the runway to cushion the impact, carrier aircraft don't because they're aiming for a small area of the deck to ensure the hook catches on a cable. The flare introduces sufficient ambiguity into the landing area that the rate of go-rounds would be unacceptable.

          1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

            Re: Still not too late

            > "Essentially the landing attitude is such that on finals you wouldn't be able to see the aircraft carrier.."

            Augmented reality system with a camera on the nose...

            Ok perhaps not, but should be poss to knock up an automatic landing system now anyway.

            1. SkippyBing Silver badge

              Re: Still not too late

              'Ok perhaps not, but should be poss to knock up an automatic landing system now anyway.'

              BAe did propose something along those lines, along with an automated flare to make the landing point predictable without having to strengthen the gear. The question is, do you actually trust BAe to produce something like that on time and cost?

              Not to mention a Typhoon wouldn't be able to get off the deck with as big a war-load as an F-35B, so you need more aircraft for the same effect.

              Personally I think we should have gone with catapults and arrestor gear, but that argument wasn't made sufficiently well in about 1998. Talking about it now doesn't get us anywhere.

              1. hoola

                Re: Still not too late

                I don't know all the costs, but some of the missiles are awfully expensive. Couldn't they just put a web cam, a few servos and an action man in the cockpit and go for a one-way trip. These is so much electronics anyway you probably don't even need the remote control. You need less fuel, don't care if it buggers up the airframe too much on take off as long as it flies and have no landing issues. At the moment the best use appears to be to put a trebuchet on the deck and lob the aircraft and or missiles at your opponent. No pilot training and minimal fuel required, just enough to make a nice bang!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still not too late

      Yep, building two fucking great big boats at massive cost, built specifically to fly one type of unproven jet, is a bit of an odd choice really. Still, who cares about efficacy : as long as the correct palms get greased.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still not too late

        I believe the original idea was that the carriers would fly the Sea Harrier until whatever replaced them became available. That was why there was much talk early on of them being designed so they could be easily converted to use cats and traps, allowing the RN to opt for the F35C or any other carrier-capable fighter if they so wished.

        Whether the government at the time simply painted a misleading picture isn't clear, but it turned out not to be true and BAE had designed the carriers from the outset to fly only STOVL aircraft. Then the Cameron government came along in 2010 and scrapped the Harriers to save money, apparently only discovering at that point that it would cost too much (according to BAE) to adapt the carriers to fly anything else.

    6. Tubz

      Re: Still not too late

      Agree, scrap the F35 order, take the hit on retro fitting and purchase some F18 Super Hornets.

      1. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Still not too late

        Does the price of a F-35 equal that of two F18s? If Britain buys half the number of intended aircraft, does that mean the price per unit doubles?

      2. rh587 Bronze badge

        Re: Still not too late

        Agree, scrap the F35 order, take the hit on retro fitting and purchase some F18 Super Hornets.

        Broadly speaking, that is precisely the reason BAE neglected to do any actual work on the "for but not with" Cats requirement, so that when the incoming Government decided they wanted to do it, there was no chance of BAE losing F35B orders in favour of a Boeing Super Hornets (which our Navy Pilots have been keeping their skillset alive on in the US, and which they apparently like very much!).

    7. This post has been deleted by its author

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still not too late

      David Cameron announced he was going to have the things converted to cats and traps when he was PM because of the problems with the F-35B programme and its escalating costs; apparently, being able to modify the boats like that relatively easily was in the contract. He back-tracked when he was told the cost was prohibitive.

      I still don't understand why Blair's lot thought it was a good idea to order two huge expensive carriers flying aeroplanes that hadn't yet been developed, using a V/STOL system which had at the time not shown to be practical in service.

      Call me Mr Silly if you like, but at the time I couldn't help thinking "Erm, why not much smaller carriers, kit 'em out with modern Sea Harriers derived from the Harrier II - with some helicopters, and lots of drones, for the anti-sub and general purpose lookout role."

      Yes, such drones had at that time not been deployed in service as far as I know, but developing a new Sea Harrier and suitable drones would have been an awful lot cheaper than the F-35B programme was predicted to cost even without the inevitable cost over-runs

    9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "and it's not at all impossible the yanks will pull the plug on the program. "

      Bu***hit.

      Far too many members of the Con-gress jave beem "persuaded" of the programmes vital importance to national pork defense.

      That programme will run for decades.

      LM has guaranteed orders, upgrade programmes, spares, etc.

      Who cares if it doesn't work?

      1. skeptical i
        Meh

        Re: "and it's not at all impossible the yanks will pull the plug on the program. "

        re: "Far too many members of the Con-gress have been 'persuaded' of the programme's vital importance to national pork defense."

        I don't know if the congresscritters have swallowed the nashnull deefence kool-aid, but the creators of the F-35 boondoggle were very careful to ensure that some factory in each state made some of the bits of the F-35, and with the economy still swirling the bowl it is unlikely any politician would spike a program that creates/ maintains jobs back home (and most manufacturing jobs pay more than the cash- register- punching service sector jobs, to twist the knife a little harder). Mind, these are also the same congresscritters who see food stamps and other social benefit programs as the work of the Devil his own self (welfare for corporations good, welfare for individuals bad).

    10. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Still not too late

      " It's still possible to eat a giant loss and put cats and traps on them."

      BAE quoted doing the job: It's cheaper to build new ships

      1. rh587 Bronze badge

        Re: Still not too late

        BAE quoted doing the job: It's cheaper to build new ships

        Or, to flesh it out.

        BAE told them it would be cheaper to build new ships because they were afraid of losing F35B orders in favour of Super Hornets if they did the conversion. And they can pull that shit because what are we going to do - pick up those lumps of hull and take them to some other defence contractor to finish the job?

        BAE have a monopoly, which means they can basically tell lies if it suits them and we've nowhere to go.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "BAE have a monopoly,..they can basically tell lies if it suits them and we've nowhere to go."

          Don't call it a monopoly.

          Call it a "National Champion."

          That's what the civil servants in the MoD called it when they were encouraging/cajoling/strong arming the various mergers that made it up.

          Which is why thethe CEO is as far as I know the only head of a major war corp that's got on demand access to a head of state, in the form of the Prime Minister.

  3. James 51 Silver badge
    Terminator

    No chance of using them a drone carriers with a small fleet of preadators and reapers? The movie Toys was worryingly far sighted.

    1. HereIAmJH

      Time to kill the whole F-35 program

      We should all be dropping the F-35. By the time they are ready for combat everyone will be using drones exclusively. Let's just save a trillion $$$ and go there now.

    2. HKmk23

      First sensible comment I have seen.

      No one seems to think of the future.....all thoughts are based on past wars and actions. The tank is obsolete due to the attack helicopter and they are all obsolete due to the drone. So if drones cannot be launched from the soon to be obsolete fleets of oil tankers (think electric cars) then these easily destroyed aircraft carriers could serve perhaps as mobile launch pads. The drones of course are controlled from thousands of miles away so no pilots necessary!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First sensible comment I have seen.

        The" tank obsolete due to the attack helicopter" statement is an interesting point as it also has the counterpoint that "you cannot hold land with attack helicopter". Also they can be taken out with shoulder mounted munitions and don't fare well when there are fighter jets around. In warfare you can normal find an argument for most X being redundant because of Y.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: First sensible comment I have seen.

          Do attack helicopters have loitering ability? Do they have kettles and toilets?

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: First sensible comment I have seen.

        The drones of course are controlled from thousands of miles away so no pilots necessary

        So - how would they cope with jamming and/or EMP effects? Pretty hard to remote-control something if you have no connectivity to it..

  4. Spanners Silver badge
    Pirate

    Why cats?

    Do they need catapults? I am sure I heard someone say that the Saab Sea Grippen doesn't need them. Getting a non-US aircraft would not only save money but it would reassert our sovereignty.

    This would keep our xenophobes happy too. Sweden are reputed to be open to reconsidering their EU membership too.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Why cats?

      Mind you an older war proven British designed aircraft does not need them either

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Why cats?

        Is that the Fairey Swordfish?

        1. Salestard

          Re: Why cats?

          "Hello? BAe? Yes, we'd like you to build us a fleet of new carrier-borne strike aircraft. Already got the designs, so no development required. We might want you add a mounting for a TomTom or similar, plus some USB charging ports.... What's that? £112m each, delivery by 2023? Bargain! We'll order 400 and expect to receive 17 within the next decade"

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Why cats?

            I still think we should seriously consider digging up the design for the Sea Hornet (a development on the famous Mosquito) and build a bunch. If BAE plays silly buggers then do what we did in WW2 and subcontract the build of everything bar the engines to furniture makers.

            The pluses is that it's a cheap war tested design with 4 times the range of the F35 and a semi similar payload. It'd also fly off smaller carriers that won't fly modern jet aircraft such as our commando carriers that currently can only carry helicopters, the cost per flying hour is impressively low and it can remain on station circling waiting to drop bombs for longer than the F35 can fly before running out of fuel. (and these abilities are war tested)

            The minuses is that it's slower, and isin't stealthy. And frankly from our experiance over the last decade or so with Iraq & Afganistan that doesn't really matter to somebody who's idea of anti aircraft equipment is an AK47...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Why cats?

              If BAE plays silly buggers then do what we did in WW2 and subcontract the build of everything bar the engines to furniture makers

              You've not encountered the business practices and out-turn prices of people like Howdens, Magnet, Sharps, I see.

              I believe they have all adopted the "defence contractor" business model.

              1. hplasm Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: Why cats?

                "You've not encountered the business practices and out-turn prices of people like Howdens, Magnet, Sharps, I see."

                There is the advantage of getting them 'On SALE' for most of the year...

                1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

                  Re: Isn't stealthy

                  Actually, since it's made out of wood, it would have some stealth characteristics.

                  1. SkippyBing Silver badge

                    Re: Isn't stealthy

                    'Actually, since it's made out of wood, it would have some stealth characteristics.'

                    Unfortunately the main one would be that radar would be able to see all the lovely internal metallic components with their corner reflectors.

                    Also there's the slight issue that they tend to de-laminate and rot in damp environments. Which is a problem if you plan on using them for more than a decade.

                2. Chris G Silver badge

                  Re: Why cats?

                  I think it may be wise to stay away from furniture manufacturers, the majority of whose furniture is largely made of chip board or MDF. Particularly in a marine environment, having the fuselage and airframe suck up hundreds of litres of water and then swelling up spectacularly, may affect their flight envelope.

                  Otherwise I am all for a resurrection of the Mosquito.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Why cats?

              "The minuses is that it's slower, and isin't stealthy."

              Even when going up against more advanced opponents, steath's advantages are overhyped.

              It only works from the front and then only out to 30 degrees off the boresight. Networked radar systems can paint it from behind for a SAM to intercept from the front. This is what was done to that F117 over Bosnia.

              1. SkippyBing Silver badge

                Re: Why cats?

                'It only works from the front and then only out to 30 degrees off the boresight.'

                Not true, stealth works where ever you design it to work. Generally the idea is to design the object so the radar reflections are in a known direction, e.g. the 2, 6, 8, and 10 o'clock when viewed from above, you then plan the mission based on ensuring those spikes don't go over a radar close enough to give a usable return. The F-117 shoot down occurred after the bomb bay was opened which increases the radar signature in all sorts of directions, plus a certain amount of complacency on the part of the USAF.

                The question is would you rather go up against a modern SAM and AA threat in a stealth aircraft, or a non-stealth aircraft?

                1. StephenTompsett

                  Re: Why cats?

                  I would rather sit at home in the warm and pilot a RPV!

                  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

                    Re: DFS

                    The MoD would be the only people not to buy them in the sale.

                2. Stoke the atom furnaces

                  Re: Why cats?

                  Surely if you are only in possession of 48 airframes, you would not want to risk an F35-B attacking targets defended by modern SAM and AA defences? You would leave the job to drones or Tomahawk/Storm Shadow cruise missiles.

                  1. SkippyBing Silver badge

                    Re: Why cats?

                    'Surely if you are only in possession of 48 airframes, you would not want to risk an F35-B attacking targets defended by modern SAM and AA defences?'

                    Depends on the nature of the threat, but generally you'd risk what you need to win the war, then deal with the consequences afterwards.

            3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

              Re: Why cats?

              @Spanners, @Peter2 - So, use the Sea Hornet design, and subcontract to Ikea?

              The major advantage is that you store far more below decks as flat-packs, and assemble them on the flight deck...

            4. Roj Blake Silver badge

              Re: subcontract the build of everything bar the engines to furniture makers

              DFS struggle to make a sofa that doesn't fall apart after six months. I'm not sure I'd trust them to build a plane.

              1. Peter2 Silver badge

                Re: subcontract the build of everything bar the engines to furniture makers

                The question is would you rather go up against a modern SAM and AA threat in a stealth aircraft, or a non-stealth aircraft?

                Well, after the first 2 weeks there won't be much of a modern SAM and AA threat after the Supression of Enemy Air Defence part of smashing whatever country up. Both are largely dealt with by missiles anyway so it doesn't really matter that much what your launching them from.

                The major advantage is that you store far more below decks as flat-packs, and assemble them on the flight deck...

                In WW2 the americans did actually do more or less this to replace losses.

                DFS struggle to make a sofa that doesn't fall apart after six months. I'm not sure I'd trust them to build a plane.

                The lack of longevity of the De Havilland Mosquito & Hornet suddenly makes horrifying sense. Maybe get real carpenters doing the job or make them out of metal? I'm sure some CNC shops would be happy for the work...

                1. SkippyBing Silver badge

                  Re: subcontract the build of everything bar the engines to furniture makers

                  'Well, after the first 2 weeks there won't be much of a modern SAM and AA threat after the Supression of Enemy Air Defence part of smashing whatever country up.'

                  That's great, but you need something for the first 2 weeks, which is when the F-35 operates as a stealthy aircraft, once the SEAD has taken place it can operate in non-stealth mode and load up with around 20,000lbs worth of stores. Which is about 2/3rds the max all up mass of a Harrier, i.e. including the aircraft.

            5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

              Re: Why cats?

              "If BAE plays silly buggers then do what we did in WW2 and subcontract the build of everything bar the engines to furniture makers."

              Add a silly name, and you've got yourself a sweet deal with IKEA.

              1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
                Trollface

                Re: Silly name

                Call it "Moskito".

                1. ArrZarr Silver badge

                  Re: Silly name

                  I think you mean the "Møskïtø"

                  1. David Cox

                    Re: Silly name

                    Ironically the Swedish airforce actually used the Mossie from 1948-54

                    http://www.avrosys.nu/aircraft/Jakt/115j30/115J30-2.htm

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Why cats?

          "Is that the Fairey Swordfish?"

          Possibly, but no matter which one it is, there's no tooling to make them.

    2. joeldillon

      Re: Why cats?

      There's the small problem with the Sea Gripen that AFAIK it doesn't actually exist yet.

    3. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Why cats?

      "Sweden are reputed to be open to reconsidering their EU membership too.". No, stop daydreaming.

  5. seven of five

    sans starboard landing gear.

    Given the past record on this order, we´ll probably end up with 50 jets, each lacking the starboard wheel or maybe a stabilizer...

    1. collinsl

      Re: sans starboard landing gear.

      Naval aircraft don't have a port or starboard, because it gets confused with the ship. They have a left and right, and the ships keep port and starboard.

      Reduces confusion, apparently.

  6. Nik 2

    UK-headquartered multinational BAE Systems builds about 15 per cent of the F-35, it is not clear whether this is done in the UK or through BAE's American subsidiary.

    Both - there are very substantial bits of aeroplane built in the UK, but there are also BAE Systems Inc (as it's called) elements to the F35.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      " There are also BAE Systems Inc (as it's called) elements to the F35."

      It hasn't escaped some people's notice that the price BAE quoted to convert the carriers to EMALS was about the same as they would have been expected to lose if they lost the contract for maintaining those RN-F35s

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        it was the same because thats what it was. BAE had that enshrined, the carriers can take traps, the contract also had recompense to BAE

  7. Colonel Mad

    I think the Rafale only needs traps, am I right?

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'I think the Rafale only needs traps, am I right?'

      Depends if you want to take off again. The Charles de Gaulle definitely has catapults fitted for the purpose of launching them.

  8. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    previously insisted that it bought the F-35s outright and did not lease them

    Warfare as a Service?

    1. Nik 2

      Warfare as a Service

      Has been considered, but there were problems finding enough money to pay for the liability insurance.

  9. PlacidCasual

    Charlie Foxtrot All Round

    This whole debacle goes back to the 1997 Strategic Defense Review when we chose to build gas turbine, cheap to build, expensive to run, low capability carriers over nuclear powered high capital, low running cost, catobar carriers that would had a reasonable choice of cheap and proven planes to fly off the damn things whilst we waited for the F-35 to sort itself out.

    We'll end up with no sodding planes and use the things as replacements for HMS Ocean.

    Still we're only spending £50Bn a year on the country's credit card interest payments. Heaven help us when the low interest introductory period runs out on that :-(

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Charlie Foxtrot All Round

      "when we chose to build gas turbine, cheap to build, expensive to run, low capability carriers over nuclear powered high capital, low running cost, catobar carriers"

      It doesn't really matter WHAT is below decks driving the whirry bits.

      Carriers are obsolete, they just haven't noticed yet. The DF-21D and DF-26 have seen to that.

      Just like battleships after 1932 - and the RN insisted on continuing to build them right up to the outbreak of WW2

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Charlie Foxtrot All Round

        'Just like battleships after 1932 - and the RN insisted on continuing to build them right up to the outbreak of WW2'

        As did everyone else, and a surprising number of them made it through WW2 so I'm not sure your point is valid.

        'Carriers are obsolete, they just haven't noticed yet. The DF-21D and DF-26 have seen to that.'

        People keep saying that as if potentially being sunk in an all out war has somehow never been an option before. Soldiers are vulnerable to bullets, we still have them, tanks are vulnerable to missiles, we still have them, etc. etc. Having a missile that can sink a carrier isn't new or unusual, you still have to target it and navies plan and develop tactics to counter that this all the time. For a long range missile such as DF-21 that would need 3rd party targeting the first stage is defeating the 3rd party's ability to accurately report your position.

  10. michael cadoux

    Has anyone noticed that when (or do I mean if?) our aircraft carriers finally get some F 35s, the Pratt & Whitney engines will be serviced in ... go on, have a guess ... yes, NATO country ... no, they'll be serviced in ... Turkey. Friendly, stable Turkey. Think about the possible geopolitics a few years hence when Erdogan either blows his top and stomps out of "the west", or is deposed by somebody even worse, take your pick. YFG.

    1. batfink

      Turkey

      Well they've just bought a couple of S-400 batteries from Russia, which kinda gives you an idea which direction our good friend Recep is looking at the moment...

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Turkey

        Erdogan is a delusional looney, thinks he is something much better than he is and is playing both sides against each other. At some stage he is going to become the subject of regime change attempts, either external or internal. I personally would not sell him life insurance.

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'yes, NATO country ... no, they'll be serviced in ... Turkey. Friendly, stable Turkey'

      Err.. Turkey is a NATO country, although god knows how. I'd be more worried about the US nukes that may or may not still be forward deployed there. Besides by the time we get the aircraft Norway and the Netherlands should also have engine servicing facilities on line.

  11. OzBob

    Forget the choice of our airplanes for the moment

    Did anything think about providing the capability for allowing our allies to launch and land non-F35 aircraft on these carriers?

    "Sorry, F18 with a short fuel load we can't capture you, try swimming for the nearest arrestor cable carrier about 100 miles east of here"

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Forget the choice of our airplanes for the moment

      Well we've managed without that capability for the last 4 decades so I'm guessing it hasn't been seen as a vital requirement. It would be a planning f*** up of epic proportions for the aircraft to get in that position in the first place, the chance of being near another carrier at the same time must be infinitesimal.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Forget the choice of our airplanes for the moment

        But we did have the only carriers which could launch in terrible weather.

    2. collinsl

      Re: Forget the choice of our airplanes for the moment

      "Or, you have the option of ejecting and we'll put a helicopter up to recover you, but say bye-bye to your multi million dollar aircraft...

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Please sir, can we have our Harriers back?

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      FAIL

      F-35B--the "B" stands for boondoggle!!

      Yes, I am waiting for the act in this comedy where the U.S. Marine Corps sells Britain back the now thoroughly worn-out Harriers for twice what the U.S. paid for them when Obama was in office. Then Britain finds out that through some combination of inept negotiation and bureaucratic oversight that the planes were purchased, but not the screws that hold them together.

      This will probably be discovered when the Harriers arrive back in Britain in a series of open wheely-bins full of random parts.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: F-35B--the "B" stands for boondoggle!!

        "This will probably be discovered when the Harriers arrive back in Britain in a series of open wheely-bins full of random parts."

        They've probably converted them to left-hand drive anyway, so we'd have to contract BAE at some exorbitant price to convert back to the right-hand drive.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: F-35B--the "B" stands for boondoggle!!

          av8b's would be a substantially better deal anyway.

      2. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: F-35B--the "B" stands for boondoggle!!

        ' U.S. Marine Corps sells Britain back the now thoroughly worn-out Harriers'

        Don't worry, the USMC haven't put a single flying hour on them*. They have stripped them for spares though so they're not exactly in a fly away condition anymore.

        *I believe there were sufficient differences between the AV-8B and the GR-9 that integrating them into the USMC fleet would have been a massive headache. i.e. you'd need a bespoke supply chain for the GR-9, which even if you only had certain squadrons fly them would be a PITA. So it was simpler to use them to increase their holding of spare to extend the service life of the active fleet.

      3. Stoke the atom furnaces

        Re: F-35B--the "B" stands for boondoggle!!

        I thought the 'A' in F35A stood for 'Awful' and the 'B' in F35B for 'Bloody Awful'.

  13. rtb61

    The Real Death Of Attack Carriers

    Best way to attack a carrier battle fleet. Get yourself a submarine, put a nuke on board. Sneak within nuke range of the targeted fleet and then surface and proudly announce to that fleet, that you have a an nuke on board and of the submarine receives a sufficient shock, say a warhead designed to sink the submarine the nuke will detonate and your move mate.

    For shits and giggles when you park you seaborne nuclear mine alongside the very expensive attack carrier, start trolling the carrier by firing torpedoes at the escorting vessels, they can always commit suicide by retaliating.

    The solution to that attack, scatter you fleet to safety, then abandon you attack carrier and then target the submarine, you lose your carrier but save the fleet, well, until the next suicideing submarine finds them, see the sub and killing it will kill you.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: The Real Death Of Attack Carriers

      That might work with some of the newer diesel-electric subs, but most subs won't be able to get within 5-10 miles of a CVN.

      1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

        Re: The Real Death Of Attack Carriers

        The modern carrier group is a Defence in depth model

        ASW frigates surround the fleet outside torpedo range, these are covered by AAW destroyers which protect the entire group from above, allied with air defence from the carrier air arm. beneath the surface are several hunter killer/fleet subs designed to protect against an incursion. C&C is done from the Carrier and this is all drilled and co-ordinated, with all the compoinents moving as one unit at the speed of the slowest.

        this can then deliver a strike wing to anywhere in the litorial region (from edge of international waters to 200miles inland)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its utterly ridiculous that we bought this plane without the ability to service it here. Defence should be about defending the country not about greasing the palms of private companies - who all too often operate a near cartel. The moment there is any serious conflict you can bet that these firms would be either nationalised or the gravy train halted.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      We have the option of servicing it here ourselves, as Israel have chosen to do with theirs. It's just we'd have to pay a few billion to replicate servicing facilities that are available in friendly countries. So you'd have to justify that request for funding and/or sacrifice something else to pay for it.

  15. Sanguma

    if the straightjacket fits ...

    "MoD claims it's still committed but warns of 'uncertainty' "

    Nice to know. :) But what's the diagnosis? And where are they committed? Or is it community care?

    Mental health these days! What's the world coming to?

  16. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    I've said this for a while but the F35 project is a lemon, the A and C are heavily compromised by having to accommodate the nesacary adjustments for the B, with the convention that the B orders are considerably smaller and considerably different to the A&C the current thinking is they may scrap the B all together, leaving the compromises in the A&C frames making them inefficient.

  17. Huns n Hoses

    Convenient

    I do like how defence is so important, except when there are other priorities.

  18. Stoke the atom furnaces

    French Navy Dassault Rafales are kicking their heals during the Charles de Gaulle's 18 month midlife refit.

    If the ships had cats and traps the RN could take them to sea.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Outsource new Harrier builds to China!

    There's something to be said for simple but effective.

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. David Cox
    Pirate

    This one nearly got built

    *cough* HS P.1216 *cough* for those of you yearning for a return to Sea Harrier.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Aerospace_P.1216

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    People make steam catapults sound very hard.

    Because they historically derived the steam from the boilers driving the steam turbines to drive the propellers.

    But gas turbines can generate a lot of electricity.

    There are such things as electric "flash" boilers that essentially aim to run so hot, with so little water that it all goes more or less directly to steam.

    I looked into this for steam cars and "fireless" locomotives, both of which are basically big pressurized, insulated tanks. Modern composites could operate up to about 390c, which can deliver substantial pressure.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: People make steam catapults sound very hard.

      But is it as efficient and flexible as EMALS?

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