back to article How much will Britain's next F-35s cost? Not telling, says MoD

The British government has refused to say how much new F-35 fighter jets will cost the nation – as it emerges that no fighting ships of the Royal Navy will be in foreign waters during the festive period. The House of Commons' Defence Committee, formed of MPs who supposedly scrutinise the Ministry of Defence's activities, asked …

  1. Tom Servo

    Somewhere, Lewis Page just booted his cat down the hallway without realizing why.

    Merry xmas all.

  2. @JagPatel3

    Quantifying Whole Life Cost is not a priority for MoD

    One of the reasons why a funding “black hole” has re-emerged in the Ministry of Defence’s budget is because it has never considered the cost of new equipment procurement programmes on a through-life sustainment basis a priority, preferring instead to bear down on initial acquisition costs. A point that came to light at a recent Defence Select Committee hearing, which was told that MoD did not know what the Whole Life Cost of the first tranche of 48 F-35s was.

    This situation has come about because, for as long as anyone can remember, MoD has rigorously applied a policy of buying Support Assets for its military equipment separately, on a piece-meal basis, via a steady stream of short-term, renewable Post Design Services contracts let during the in-service phase, as and when the need arises rather than upfront, at the time of acquiring the prime equipment.

    When priced and submitted as a quotation by bidders, the magnitude of this Whole Life Cost always comes as a shock to people at MoD. It need not be that way, bearing in mind that the cost of acquiring and re-provisioning Support Assets required to sustain military equipment over the whole life cycle, can be in the order of four to five times the prime equipment costs.

    The simple fact of the matter is that the Whole Life Cost of any new equipment programme comprises of two significant elements – prime equipment costs and its associated Support Assets costs. The latter, itself, comprises of three discrete parts, which should be required to be identified, as separate line items in the ITT response for the first contract performance phase, namely:

    (a) Not-to-exceed price for the cost of performing the Integrated Logistic Support tasks and activities as detailed in the ILS Programme. This is a one-off, non-recurring cost to MoD. Because this cost is a direct indicator of the extent to which each starting-point for the Technical Solution has already been ILSed, comparing these figures from bidders on a like-for-like basis will quickly reveal which starting-point will require the least amount work to be performed upon it, to make it meet the ILS Requirement.

    (b) Not-to-exceed price for the cost of acquiring Support Assets for each level of repair to be delivered together with the fielded quote of prime equipment (some well ahead of IOC) to cover a specified initial support period – including the cost of holding the required stock of piece-part spares and/or Maintenance Significant Items at 4th Line, to fulfil the specified Turn Around Time i.e. a fully primed Repair Loop. Clearly, this cost is a measure of the inherent reliability i.e. overall MTBF of the proposed Technical Solution (a design characteristic wholly within the control of the Contractor) – the lower the cost, the higher the reliability. The initial support period (which will be different for each acquisition programme) should be deliberately set to commence the day after the last copy of the prime equipment is delivered and satisfactorily commissioned into service with the User – to incentivise the Prime Contractor to make sure that the manufacturing phase of the programme is completed to schedule, without any delays. The higher the percentage of non-Development items in the Technical Solution, the longer this period ought to be – perhaps 10 to 15 years.

    (c) Fixed price for the cost of supplying additional Support Assets during the remaining service life of the prime equipment. This cost should be at a progressively decreasing burden upon the MoD, reflecting the steady-state reliability the equipment will achieve beyond the early-life failures exhibited during the initial support period – that is, a cost of ownership profile mirroring the classic ‘bath tub’ curve.

    The only Whole Life Cost figures that matter are the ones submitted by competing Contractors – because they are the only figures that bear any correlation to the prevailing value of goods, services and labour in the free market shaped by competitive market forces.

    Only the priming and performance of an ILS Programme of work can result in the full spectrum of Support Assets costs to be identified, quantified and priced.

    @JagPatel3

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      @JagPatel3

      You aren't, by any chance, doing a PhD in the history of MoD procurement?

      Otherwise you write like a civil servant who's been trained as an accountant.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: @JagPatel3

        seems to write like a project coordinator to me. just about any project has its cost broken down as such.

    2. The Count
      Thumb Down

      Re: Quantifying Whole Life Cost is not a priority for MoD

      TL;DR

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quantifying Whole Life Cost is not a priority for MoD

      @JagPatel3

      None of this good advice is news -- particularly to anyone involved in computer-related procurement. For more than twenty years the Gartner Group have been telling the people who buy computer software or computer hardware that they need to budget for "Total Cost of Ownership".....and not just for the initial procurement. TCO would include:

      1 initial procurement costs

      2 initial installation costs

      3 lifetime training costs

      4 lifetime support costs

      5 end-of-life decommissioning costs

      Sounds too much like common sense!

      *

      But the reason people never budgeted for TCO was simple -- almost everything looked TOO EXPENSIVE. It was much easier to persuade the cheque-signing management to approve if you only put item #1 on the budget assessment. This always worked well because by the time the cost of items 2 through 5 turned up, everyone involved in the initial purchase was working SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!! (Acronym is SEP -- someone else's problem)

  3. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    Trollface

    Walk the walk?

    They can do that, just not sail the ship!

    From the article all of the fleet wil be walking the walk (or staggering the stagger) in Blighty over Xmas.

  4. Potemkine! Silver badge

    There's something I don't get

    According to Trumpy the Clown's sidekick Defense Secretary Mattis, UK is one of the few NATO nations to reach the goal of spending at least 2% of their gross domestic product on Defense.

    According to NATO, France spends 1.78%.of its GDP on Defense. Being both equipped with nuclear weapons , the two nations can be compared, even if UK relies on US for its nuclear deterrence when France prefers to be fully independent.

    France has more than 35,000 soldiers abroad, involved in external operations in Lebanon (Operation Daman), Syria and Iraq (Operation Chammal), Sahel (Operation Barkhane), Guinea (Operation Corymbe) and Indian Ocean (Operation Atalante) and also troops stationed in Ivory Coast, Senegal, UAE, Djibouti, Gabon. I do not hear about UK making so many operations outside its borders.

    So, where is the money going?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "So, where is the money going?"

      AH but what you forget is that France does not have the "benefit" of a one-stop-shop-do-absolutely-everything "National Champion" like BAe systems.

      Instead they have the far more wasteful system of multiple individual companies who still compete for the work.

      Except it seems competition, even minimal competition, does lower prices.

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: "So, where is the money going?"

        Instead they have the far more wasteful system of multiple individual companies who still compete for the work.

        Not really... All fighter/assault planes are provided by Dassault, all the boats and submarines are built by the DCN (Direction des Constructions Navales, now "Naval Group"), most of the weapons for the Army were made till recently by Nexter, and Thales is a big contractor for everything related to electronics. There is very few competition, national manufacturers being privileged to preserve independence.

        It doesn't mean France doesn't have to increase its Defense budget, military forces are overstretched and materials are exhausted.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          fighter/assault planes..by Dassault. boats and submarines..by the DCN weapons..Army.Nexter

          In the UK all of this is done by BAe...

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: "So, where is the money going?"

        Also the UK really only rents the Nukes. They obviously don't charge the US enough for all the bases they have in UK (usually labelled RAF).

        There is one billion on a bunch of drones guarding Wales?

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Coat

          "There is one billion on a bunch of drones guarding Wales?"

          True but it must be paid in order to guard Blighty from the every present danger of the Taliban Cymru*

          The price of eternal vigilance is.....steep.

          *No it's true. They do exist. Honest. What else can explains all those Watchkeeper crashes?

          1. Chris King Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: "There is one billion on a bunch of drones guarding Wales?"

            I misread that as "The price of eternal vigilance is.....sheep"

            Must get my prescription checked, and not necessarily the one on my glasses.

            1. EarthDog

              Re: "There is one billion on a bunch of drones guarding Wales?"

              NZ could kick in to help the UK, as could AUS

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "So, where is the money going?"

        But the French do have an aircraft carrier with aircraft.

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: There's something I don't get

      That's an excellent question.

      According to Wikipedia, the French navy has a similar number of personnel, but around 2.5x the number of ships, and their army is around 40% larger. We spend around 37% more on our armed services than the French do, including their gendarmerie. That was certainly something I hadn't previously been aware of.

      Now scale isn't everything and I'm not sure which of the two is more likely to have to borrow munitions from the US in any conflict lasting more than 48 hours, but the figures are quite stark.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: There's something I don't get

      "to reach the goal of spending at least 2% of their gross domestic product on Defense"

      Ah, that old BS! Just like successive governments boasting on how much more they are spending on healthcare, infrastructure, or whatever. What we really want to know is the end result... if you just boast about money spent and not about results achieved, it's probably because you're spending more for an equal or worse result

    4. Alt C

      Re: There's something I don't get

      Now I can't remember the source (Probably Private Eye) - but I believe the MoD did some serious accounting gymnastics to reach the 2% figure, f.ex including military pension funding and other sundries into the figure, rather than actual spending on kit - perhaps France isn't so creative in its accounting?

      N.B. i'm not trying to defend the MoD here, this is just the numbers bullshit sucessive governments have made them do - it doesn't however detract from the piss poor leadership at the top of the MoD and its appaling procurement failures

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's something I don't get

      we don't spend any money on the armed forces, we spend it on the MoD a massively stupid lumbering beast, that only lets the armed forces have some input every so often. leading to some very interesting conversations at User Acceptance Trials & Demo's, where both the supplier and the end client (armed forces) are usually in agreement about what is needed, yet the MoD still decrees that neither side know what they are talking about. Thats why there is always a massive overspend.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's something I don't get

      According to NATO, France spends 1.78%.of its GDP on Defense. Being both equipped with nuclear weapons , the two nations can be compared, even if UK relies on US for its nuclear deterrence when France prefers to be fully independent.

      This paragraph is laughably incorrect on several levels.

      FIrstly, the french figure of 1.78% includes things like the National Gendarmerie. This is like the UK counting the budget for the police in our defence budget.

      The French budget mostly goes on personell, with relatively little going on R&D and acquisition of new equipment- look how obselete most french equipment is! Britains budget mostly goes on the development and production of the most advanced equipment on the planet.

      In a standup fight, I don't think anybody would seriously think that France could possibly win a war against Britain. It'd be like star wars vs dads army. France's military would be rapidly slaughtered in job lots, and the main threat to Britain winning would be Britain running out of advanced weapons before France ran out of planes and tanks. French submarines are tiny first generation nuclear submarines that don't even have towed sonar arrays, for goodness sake. Direct comparison is laughable.

      The UK does not rely on the US for our nuclear deterrence. We bought a number of Trident missiles from the US instead of developing our own system and for reasons of cost effectiveness these are maintained in a common pool of missiles. However, we supply our own warheads and there is nothing preventing us from using the missiles as we choose.

      Lastly, you don't hear about the UK making so many operations outside our borders because it's simply not newsworthy. We're so used to our troops being deployed all over the world newspapers rarely bother mentioning it. The British Army does keep a partial list on their website if your interested in checking though.

      In short, France's military is still a colonial force. It's great for beating up on disorganised milita groups and acting as an occupying force, but wouldn't be effective in a war against a first or second world nation state.

      Britains military is a smallish high quality professional force that is throughly effective and destructive at high intensity warfare and could rip a first world army to bits, but it's really quite small, and is too small to be a proper occupying force after it's utterly destroyed the opposition.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: There's something I don't get

        and is too small to be a proper occupying force after it's utterly destroyed the opposition.

        Is there really such a thing as a proper occupying force anymore? Look how many troops the US put into Afghanistan and Iraq -- that all went swimmingly. I doubt even the Chinese military could spare enough soldiers to rotate through such a mission and be effective.

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: how many troops the US put into Afghanistan

          Afghanistan: Eating armies since the Victorian age.

          Probably earlier. Did Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great bother?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: how many troops the US put into Afghanistan

            "Did Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great bother?"

            Not sure about Genghis but Alexander certainly did.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: how many troops the US put into Afghanistan

              Not sure about Genghis but Alexander certainly did.

              With a (as was usual for AtG up until India) great deal of success. Some of the cities he left were still in operation a good deal later and the various Hellenistic monarchies there survived a good long time.

      2. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: There's something I don't get

        The French budget mostly goes on personell, with relatively little going on R&D and acquisition of new equipment- look how obselete most french equipment is!

        At least France has planes to put on its carrier, which are probably at least as efficient as the british ones, looking how both air forces compared in Lybia. Also, I would'nt call Leclerc tanks being inefficient, nor would I say that for the Saphir or Triomphant classes, GCT 155 mm AUF2, or Tiger helicopters

        Britain winning would be Britain running out of advanced weapons before France ran out of planes and tanks

        ROTFL!

    7. Fading Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: There's something I don't get

      Obviously the French get better value for their used equipment (never fired only dropped once)...

  5. M.Zaccone

    Quel surprise!

    Sigh, with HMS Obvious Target springing a leak, throwing more money at the military is possibly the last thing we need. Maybe we need to consider whether the money we are already spending is being spent well ?

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Quel surprise!

      HMS Obvious Target

      The ingenuity of the MOD seems to have eluded you. As long as the aircraft carrier carries no aircraft, it is not worth attacking - I'm sure this was their plan all long.

      1. davemcwish

        HMS Obvious Target

        @Warm Braw

        No, this is precisely the reason a small renegade force should attack, watching us spend another £3.1bn, another round of UK Defence Spending navel gazing and angst amongst the media.

  6. Muscleguy Silver badge
    Mushroom

    What about the Home Front?

    They aren't protecting the Home Front. There are NO RN ships based anywhere near the oil and gas fields. Basically we are relying on the Norwegians to notice and interdict miscreants.

    Twice in recent year the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier battle group has appeared off the Moray coast, right in the middle of the oil fields ostensibly 'sheltering from storms'. Requiring a suitable class of escort vessel to steam at high speed (if it doesn't break down) all the way from Devonport. On the second occasions the MoD was reduced to asking local fishing skippers to keep tabs on the Russkies. Low cloud and bad weather grounded aircraft monitoring and looking up the Admiral Kuznetsov's Facebook page. I kid you not.

    Unlike when said battle group sailed down the English channel these events went utterly unreported by the MSM. The SNP had to ask questions in the House to get the matter formally recorded in Hansard so they would have disappeared from the record, never happened. Check Hansard if you don't believe me.

    It was all over the Scottish Indy online media but the MSM ignores that too.

    We are mushrooms in this country, kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: What about the Home Front?

      just follow the black smoke. that thing creates plumes that would make a 19c steamer proud.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The Gulf deployment is a vital bit of peacekeeping"

    Yeah, I kinda agree with that. One question I would ask : does it need to be a billion pound anti-air destroyer to do it? Wouldn't the task be better performed by 2 or 3 'Clyde' style large patrol craft? I'm obviously at odds with the Govt and the Admiralty here, but I'd personally like to see a navy with strength in numbers, rather than a dozen really expensive ships. Back in my day, people moaned about the Type 21 'Amazon'. They were small, un-upgradable and had a lot of faults. But when the call came in 1982, they were available in numbers, and proved very useful, perhaps in situations where larger, more expensive assets would not have been risked. An expensive type 45 is lovely, but cant be in two places at once.

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Quality vs quantity

      I would rather have quality over quantity.

      In 1982 we had a navy that was very good against submarines, but rather lacking otherwise.

      An expensive type 45 would obliterate enemies that are serious theats to Type 21s with little danger, as they can with aster missiles, using advanced sensors, etc. The 45 is capable of destroying air targets the 21 cannot even detect.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Quality vs quantity

        Yep, it's an age old question, and not everyone is gonna agree with me. I'm also not comparing 21 to 45 : totally different ships. over different eras. Like comparing Brian Jacks (judo from the 70's) to Anthony Joshua (Boxing from the 2010's). You have a point about the AS obsession from that era, and the falklands taught that more balance was required. But the problem with only having a few expensive assets is this. What if they are broken on the day you need them? What if they are being refitted? What if they are in the Caribbean, when you need them in the Gulf? Would anyone risk a billion pound ship doing NGS in san carlos water (or whatever future equivalent). I guess as with most questions, it's balance isn't it. You need stuff that's capable, but also, enough numbers of it to be useful.

      2. Semtex451 Silver badge

        Re: Quality vs quantity

        I'd ask a Russian which is better.

      3. Alt C

        Re: Quality vs quantity

        We had a ASW navy at the time because thats what we were tasked to do within NATO - the navy's primary role at the time was to defend the GIUK gap and provide ASW for carrier groups - remember Russia was such a big bad at the time every NATO military was primed for fighting it rather than anything else that might crop up.

      4. Joe Montana

        Re: Quality vs quantity

        Quantity matters a great deal...

        A large but low quality force could still wear down a superior but smaller force... Weapons that are cheaper and simpler to build may not be as effective, but they are also cheaper and quicker to repair or replace when they get damaged or destroyed.

        Also if you're using expensive missile to destroy cheap disposable drones, it will cost you a lot more to keep firing the expensive missiles than it costs the enemy to launch the disposable drones. You may have a 100% success rate at killing the drones, but that rate turns to 0% once you run out of missiles to throw at them.

    2. Chris 15
      Facepalm

      >An expensive type 45 is lovely

      Al long as it isnt asked to operate on ~70% of the worlds watermass where the temperature is wrong for it eh?

      I'm honestly surprised the excuse for their lack of fitness for the purposes we actually need them for isnt 'you aren't supposed to get the hull wet'

  8. mako23

    Welfare over warfare

    The U.K. a spends so much money on wasteful welfare that there isn't money for anything else.

    1. }{amis}{ Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Welfare over warfare

      And your point is... all armed forces exists to maintain the welfare of the state, i may loath the lefts inability to balance a check book but i wouldn't live in a country that does not value welfare in general.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Welfare over warfare

        i may loath the lefts inability to balance a check book

        Really? Then I have some news for you.

        I'll leave it to you to determine which party has the better record in government of funding the social security safety net.

        1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

          Re: Welfare over warfare

          The Conservative governments have always had to sort the mess after the labour cov got in, afterall each Labour gov before New Labour was only in office for 1 term.

          the Fiscal comaprison is on policy and normalisation. Conservative governments borowed beacuse they had to, Labour because they could.

          The Great Depression, WW2, the 70s oil crisis, the winter of discontent, the dotcom bubble, the 2008 financial crisis. these are issues that the conservatives faced comming into power, the previous labour government caused many of them.

          Like the Nuclear powerstations, London Airports, road and rail networks, telecomms networks, investment in the National Asset has been delayed and degraded in real terms constantly since the great war, and it has lead to a rise in national debt a complete failiure in the balance of payments, and a gross fall in productivity.

          Far from being the world leader britain was at the end of the 1800s we are probably a third rate nation with the un deserved attitude of a top one.

          ----

          On the note of french defence spending, there equipment is not too different in capability from our own, but the companies they buy from are at least still part owned by the state, hence they get preferential pricing. The french gov has holdings in most industries and makes more from this than taxation.

          On the cost differential, we may have less in terms of equipment, however we are probably the best trained millitary in the world, we spend more per man on training than everyone else, our special forces are more use and our regulars more capabale. In standard NATO deployment the US are the bulk and the British the specialists, with the germans providing the funding and everyone else bulking out the US.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Welfare over warfare

            The Great Depression, WW2, the 70s oil crisis, the winter of discontent, the dotcom bubble, the 2008 financial crisis. these are issues that the conservatives faced comming into power, the previous labour government caused many of them.

            Many of them? Just one of them. Read a fucking history book - five of your examples had global causes! Only the winter of discontent was caused by a Labour government policy, and strangely enough pay restraint was a policy which the Conservatives supported.

            1. JB@register

              Re: Welfare over warfare

              I think that is the critical point. As with the 2008 meltdown, all of labours deregulation plans were enthusiastically backed by Hague et al.

              And vice versa for other national disasters I'm sure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Welfare over warfare

      "The U.K. a spends so much money on wasteful welfare that there isn't money for anything else."

      Would that be helping the homeless, of which a disproportionate amount are ex-forces?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Welfare over warfare

      So Mako23 is hoping for Mutual Assured Destruction, so nobody has to worry about war pensions ?

  9. Banksy

    Subs?

    What about subs? I thought our nuclear deterrent was constantly at sea?

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Subs?

      I believe you're correct about our nuclear deterrent being at sea. However, I think you're incorrect in referring to subs in the plural - only one on patrol at a time.

    2. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

      Re: Subs?

      Being fair to the article, if you run up a flag on a sub so that it's visible ("flying the flag" as it were) sort of ruins the crafts stealth capability.

  10. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Boom time over?

    > illustrating the point that the RN is overstretched and the defence budget needs to grow.

    Maybe not. Isn't it just possible that it means you can get by with far less destructive capacity when you stop trying to blow the crap out of every government you disagree with?

    1. scrubber
      Mushroom

      Re: Boom time over?

      Or how about the Ministry of Defence being for, well, defence?

      Seems that our budgets have risen since we decided that securing BPs supernormal profits at the expense of the locals rather than just having the ability to blow the crap out of anyone that pokes their heads beyond the borders of France or Norway.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please leave a message after...

    ** ring ring, ring ring **

    "Hi there, you've reached the offices of Her Majesty's Royal Navy. We're sorry we can't answer your distress call right now but currently our offices are closed until the New Year. Possibly even next New Year. Please leave a message after the tone and we'll get back to you as soon as we have capability. Please note that requests for air cover will be handled on a first-come first-shot-down basis from some time in 2020. Alternatively, please press 1 for maintenance and breakdown updates, 2 for funding shortfalls and requests, 3 for booking guided tours of our empty aircraft carrier decks, or 4 to leave a rousing Christmas message for all (and we mean all) our sailors currently at home on leave. For all other information please contact someone else. Thank you."

    ** Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep **

    A/C

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: Please leave a message after...

      > ** Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep **

      At least the message didn't end

      NO CARRIER

  12. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "While other, small, warships are at sea, no vessels designed for smiting Her Majesty's enemies are out and about – illustrating the point that the RN is overstretched and the defence budget needs to grow. Key to British defence policy is credibility; if you don't look like you can walk the walk, nobody's going to take you seriously when you talk the talk"

    Perhaps it needs to shrink?

    Last time I checked, most countries defending themselves didn't need to do it all over the planet.

    Oh, by the way, there is a large number of like-minded countries right next to us, with the same democratic values. If only there was some way to cooperate and share the costs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, by the way, there is a large number of like-minded countries right next to us, with the same democratic values. If only there was some way to cooperate and share the costs.

      What, the same countries that wouldn't intervene to stop genocide on their own borders in Bosnia until the Yanks couldn't tolerate it and stepped in? The same countries that squabbled and couldn't agree over a whole range of foreign interventions? The same countries who when there's some vague agreement (eg Libya) their military assets still can't work together properly? The same countries that won't spend the 2% NATO commitment (this includes the UK, because of our government's lies over what constitutes military spending). The same countries that can't agree proper common pan-European procurement for any complicated defence asset?

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Well, the UK didn't want an EU military.

        And US is the world police.

        And that was a long time ago now. It's like talking about WWII in 1970. Thing move on.

        Except if you are a Brit exceptionalist US lapdog wannabe, living in some Bond movie.

  13. alain williams Silver badge

    Eurofighter

    Shame that they canned a Naval version of this in 2001 - because then at least we would get some of the cost back through jobs; also we would have control of it rather than depending on the USA.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Eurofighter

      I think the navalised Eurofighter came up in discussion on these forums the other day. To say it was "canned" makes it sound like it was more evolved than it actually was - it was more of a concept/proposal rather than an actual thing (which is a shame, as it would been interesting to see how it stacked up against F35 in the naval role)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eurofighter

        it would been interesting to see how it stacked up against F35 in the naval role

        Typhoon was designed as an air superiority fighter, not a strike aircraft. So the airframe and configuration isn't optimal for low level manoeuvring with heavy wing loads that a naval strike aircraft should be good at, the avionics aren't ideal for launching large stand-off weaponry, and there would be a lot of work to make it cat'n'trap compatible. We'd end up with something very much heavier than the original Typhoon, and a compromise in terms of capability.

        I'd guess that a carrier Typhoon variant would be a better dogfighter* than the F35, but less good as a strike aircraft. If the UK wanted an alternative to the F35, they should have just bought a Rafale-M off the shelf. To an extent some of the airframe compromises of a naval Typhoon, but already developed and in service, albeit not the newest design. In fact, all along they should have bought Rafale-M, and never indulged themselves with the pick'n'mix F35.

        * Dogfighting: Very important to military aircraft buyers, but of little relevance in modern warfare.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Eurofighter

          * Dogfighting: Very important to military aircraft buyers, but of little relevance in modern warfare.

          Not so sure about this. Remember Vietnam and the F4 problem? No guns. Retrofit for dogfighting. There's still a buttload of countries who have fighters with guns and not the high-tech stuff using only stand-off missiles. The bigger problem is swarms of low-budget fighters verses the limited armament of a high-tech fighter. It's been a problem for defense agencies for decades.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Eurofighter

            A plane that can't dogfight is like a soldier who can't perform CQB. Experience tells you that one day you will have to close with the enemy and you'd better be ready. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a civilian.

        2. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: Eurofighter

          > Typhoon was designed as an air superiority fighter, not a strike aircraft.

          Well yes, but it has been turned into a reasonably effective one, through a series of modifications.

          > So the airframe and configuration isn't optimal for low level manoeuvring with heavy wing loads that a naval strike aircraft should be good at.

          It's up against a VTOL model though which is clearly compromised through that arrangement.

          Obviously the wings would require a re-design, but the airframe isn't what makes modern aircraft expensive. There is a visibility problem in that the layout makes it hard to see the deck, that might be tricky to surmount.

          > the avionics aren't ideal for launching large stand-off weaponry

          They have actually done it in practice though, that would have been a good argument 15yrs ago.

          > and there would be a lot of work to make it cat'n'trap compatible.

          Traps maybe, the original suggestion was that a more powerful engine was in the offing, and that the Typhoon has a very high power to weight ratio anyway so might not need a cat to get airborne. It would depend on what they could do with the wing without breaking performance of course.

          ...or just strap some rockets to it, which would look good at least.

          I suspect the actual problem is that BAe has enough of a finger in the F35 pie to make that more profitable than producing a competing aircraft.

  14. mrfill
    Holmes

    Staggering..

    Who'd have though it? A defence contract with our 'special partners' that had a massive overspend.

    Bet that's never happened before.....

  15. Grant Fromage
    Coat

    Those with long memories will recall the F111 fiasco

    At least commonsense set in and we finally rejected it when its cost overshadowed the then cancelled TSR-2 project. It was supposed to be a cheaper option, but costs escalated. You cannot help wondering if the P1154 supersonic harrier project cancelled at around the same time could be resumed for a similar budget to the F35`s as it now snowballs, we would have control of maintenance and surely it would also generate export sales.

    (BTW, anorak on, the original TSR2 was the Fairey Swordfish although the T was torpedo not tactical hence logo choice)

    1. JB@register

      Re: Those with long memories will recall the F111 fiasco

      I think it's assumed El Reg policy that posters are wearing stained raincoats.

  16. Mage Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Gulf deployment is a vital bit of peacekeeping

    We'll all have to rely on the Chinese, Russians and Indians. The US have had difficulty not going aground, ramming other ships and violating Iranian territorial waters, also you can't control warships via tweets.

  17. handleoclast Silver badge

    Xmas at home is a GOOD thing

    We should extend the idea to the emergency services. Let the police, fire service and hospital staff spend the holiday season with their families.

    It's not as if people this time of year choke on what they're eating, get hammered and start fights in pubs, or set fire to their home in oh, so many festive ways. And it's not like Kim Jong Un can figure out if he wanted to attack, the best time of year would be when most of the military are on holiday.

    Either we're prepared 24 hours a day, 365.25 days a year or we're just playing very expensive games.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Xmas at home is a GOOD thing

      Best day to attack is Trafalgar Day. Entire RN is pissed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Xmas at home is a GOOD thing

        ... and pretty useless the day after.

    2. handleoclast Silver badge

      Re: Xmas at home is a GOOD thing

      Wow! Just wow!

      Three downthumbs. For what? Who are these people?

      People who think we really should give the emergency services Xmas off because nothing bad ever happens then? It's actually one of the worst times of the year for emergency call-outs.

      People who think we really should give the armed services Xmas off because no enemy would ever think of taking action against us when we're known to be below strength? It's the best time to start something.

      People who think it's sensible to spend all that money on defence yet leave ourselves undefended for two weeks? It's like building the great wall of Mexico and leaving big gaps in it. If you're going to do it at all it has to be continuous or you may as well not bother.

  18. JuJuBalt

    Knowing our muppets....they will buy A's but still pay the higher B price tag.

  19. TheSkunkyMonk

    Microtransactions

    They are not telling because they have no idea how many updates and new items will be available for the flight computers yet all with convenient buy it now buttons and in flight currency. Bet the poor pilots end up forking out for most of them as well.

    1. Grant Fromage

      Re: Microtransactions

      It is a terrifying thought, a pilot on a mission may have to purchase in-game "charms" to activate his armaments or the key to another Fadec performance profile. I think it was fred pohl came up with this as a means of abolishing war by accountancy ( please correct me it was one of the old astounding and amazing stories types and I`m struggling to attribute correctly, although it could be Harlan Ellison, this will torture me now) , the planes were rented from megacorporations and told you how much it would cost for each munition and how much you had in the governments purse so attacks were usually called off.

    2. JB@register

      Re: Microtransactions

      I've yet to meet a serving RAF pilot who is poor. Is this a Navy thing?

  20. Andy 97

    Don't SAAB make a reasonable fighter that can land on carriers?

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
      1. Andy 97

        Gripen E?

        Supposed to be quite good too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I believe there was a little thought about a Sea Gripen, but as yet, no one has asked for one.

          It does look like the Gripen E/F might be the most cost effective fighter out there, and in many cases might outperform the F-35 - which is only stealthy from certain aspects, against a certain range of aircraft radar frequencies, while carrying a limited (internal) weapon load... on the other hand the F-35 has a very hot engine which lights it up for IRST systems (infrared search and track), high wing loading, a fragile skin (stealth coating), recurring reliability/availability problems, a crippling dependence on slow external computer support to download mission packages, and so on.

          Gripen was designed to be air combat / strike /reconnaissance, with minimal logistical demands. A C-130 can carry a logistical support kit for a squadron of Gripens for a month... and six or seven men with two trucks and refuel, rearm, and send it back to the fight in ten minutes, given a sufficient, and not very long stretch of straight road. Cost per flight hour is somewhere around a quarter that of an F-35, or less... and like all the canard Euro-deltas, it can fly rings around an F-35 in a dogfight.

    2. Casca

      It cannot land on carrier yet. Maybe if SAAB had a customer that required that function. Let's se if Brazil buys som planes. :)

  21. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    Boats?

    no fighting ships of the Royal Navy will be in foreign waters during the festive period

    Did someone forget the boats? Aka Trident subs? Or did they just give the game away and the 1 that is supposed to be on patrol is somewhere close to home?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/Matt%20homepage/Matt-Dec2017/2112-MATT-PORTAL-WEB-P1.png

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Boats?

      They typically don't patrol foreign waters. Easier to sit out in international waters.

    2. Alt C

      Re: Boats?

      well the Vanguard subs job is to sit in deep water and pretend to be an empty bit of sea - really doing a bad job if they get in a scrap - you are probably thinking about the attack boats the Trafalgar and Astute class - not sure how may of those are operational ATM as the captain's seem to have a bad habbit of pranging them into boats, sandbars etc

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Boats?

        @Aladdin Sane & Alt C

        Vanguard subs - fair point.

  22. Bob Dole (tm)

    48 aircraft – that is, four squadrons' worth – is just enough to operate a single aircraft carrier, taking into account land-based training and maintenance.

    ? I thought you guys only had 1 aircraft carrier. Would would you need more planes?

  23. CentralCoasty
    Pirate

    I've just realised the RN's plans....

    ... sink the RAF by having a carrier that the RAF can't take-off or land on, then go out and buy a bucket-full of drones that can do (most of) the RAF's work.....

    ... the Admiral's will be thumbing their noses at the Air Commodores going nah-dee-dah we dont need you!

  24. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Asterix in Britain

    Reminds me of "Asterix in Britain". If they keep repeating this every year, sooner or later, someone is bound to take advantage...

    "Julius Caesar has invaded Britain and succeeded, mainly because the British soldiers under Cassivelaunos stop fighting every day to drink hot water (with a drop of milk), and refuse to fight over the weekend. Caesar, using his famous military genius decides to fight only when they stop to drink hot water and weekends."

    http://asterix.wikia.com/wiki/Asterix_in_Britain

  25. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    Just the right bullets...

    It takes much more than wild courage

    Or you'll hit the tattered clouds

    You must have just the right bullets

    And the first one's always free

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After the first 48 it won't matter what they cost...

    It seems very likely that manned combat aircraft will be both obsolete and ineffective within the next 10 to 20 years.

    Getting rid of the pilot would improve performance, drop cost, increase maneuverability, and... well the list goes on, doesn't it.

    No need for canopies, or pilot space, or displays, or survival gear, or oxygen generators, or ejection seats.

    Remove that and shrink the aircraft. Less weight, less drag... so you need less engine, and less fuel. Shrink the design again. Are you better off with two smaller planes, carrying the same armament between them? Shrink them again. Rip out unneeded redundant systems. You've now got a redundant aircraft. Drops in weight, fuel, thrust needed, and cost etc.

    Human pilots can take about 10 G. Missiles can take up to several times that... so design your much smaller lighter proportionately stronger aircraft (square cube law!) to take 25 G... now they are much harder to trap with a missile, and no human crewed aircraft can maneuver with them.

    Experiments have shown that a Raspberry Pi with the right software can outfight a veteran combat pilot, in aircraft of equal performance. Your small, cheap, expendable, numerous aircraft can sweep the sky clear of manned aircraft...

    The big danger will be the sonic blast from squealing military pilots trying to justify their existence.

  27. Sanguma

    W Morgan Petty of 3 Cherry Drive, Canterbury

    Where's W Morgan Petty when you need him? He'd organize a garage sale to buy extra aircraft and his friend Roger'd finally get the microwave working as an anti-missile device; even better, the enemy du jour would die of laughter, thus sparing funeral expenses ...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aircraft carrier? How survivable is that?

    I was under the impression that aircraft carriers were very unlikely to survive an encounter with a couple of modern AIP submarines - smaller and quieter than nuke boats, and pretty much as fast, at reasonably quiet speeds, with underwater endurance measured in weeks. One reads about the many ways carrier navies load the dice to keep the carriers afloat in their war games... a fair trial would raise too many questions.

    Then again, there are those pesky hypersonic cruise missiles coming along...

    1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      Re: Aircraft carrier? How survivable is that?

      Carriers never operate alone, they have ASW (sub-hunter) frigates and Aircraft on constant patrol and the lovley t-45 as air defence, along with some of those Astute/Trafalgar class subs and some Air to surface support from the air wing.

      The carrier's job is just to be a mobile airfield.

      Oh and the Joint Rapid reaction force are on 72 hrs standby 24-7-52+

  29. mwnci

    I dunno...By the time it's delivered and production finished, maybe 1 Bitcoin?

    On a more serious level, the supposed 37Billion hole in MoD funding will have to be met and the whole programmes will get shelved, cut, hollowed out.

    When I joined the UK Military, there were 22,000 Civil Servants, when I left 88,000. The Numbers in the Armed forces plummeted from 300,000 vs 22,000 to 200,000 vs 88,000. So the Ratio of Civvies to Service personnel went from 7 / 100 to 11/25 ....Tells a story in itself.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We could just buy the Chinese J18 at a fraction of the price. Lets face it, we're letting china in on our

    nuclear power stations anyway, so who cares.

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