back to article F-35B Block 4 software upgrades will cost Britain £345m

Britain will spend £345m ($486m) upgrading its F-35B fighter jets to the most recent, combat-ready, version of the aircraft’s operating system. The figure was indirectly revealed by defence procurement minister Guto Bebb, in response to a Parliamentary question. “The UK’s contribution will be around 4.5 per cent of F-35 …

  1. graeme leggett

    Did we not buy the licence with [Microsoft] "Software Assurance" ?

    Bit of an oversight.

    1. ciaran

      Recent report on F-35

      This is long but interesting. Its reassuring that its still possible to criticize government programs, but its horrible that it's impossible to control them...

      http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/f-35-americas-most-expensive-weapon-war-the-ultimate-failure-24984

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Recent report on F-35

        This is long but interesting. Its reassuring that its still possible to criticize government programs, but its horrible that it's impossible to control them

        It makes for a good if compelling and horrifying read. I suspect many (most) readers here know the outline horrors but this is a little more specific/apparently informed.

    2. Len Silver badge
      Coat

      No, it's Lockhead Creative Suite.

      "Your subscription to the F-35B is about to expire, do you wish to renew?"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Compact Fusion Reactor

        Lockheed Martin announced that they would attempt to develop a compact ...F35 software release... that would fit "on the back of a truck". Later it was revealed that it needed to be at least ten times larger in all dimensions.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

          Lockheed Martin announced that they would attempt to develop a compact ...F35 software release... that would fit "on the back of a truck".

          Since they didn't mention the size of the truck, that's pretty open-ended, don't you think?

      2. Usermane

        On the middle of a dogfight:"the software has been upgraded successfully, Restarting the system"

      3. mbiggs

        F-35B Block 4 Software.....

        It's worse than that. The combat pilot hears the F-35 telling him(or her):

        - "I'm sorry Dave (or Davida)....I can't do that!"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: F-35B Block 4 Software.....

          When you hit the ejector seat.. nothing happens, except a BSOD.

          Now dumping to earth.. 20% complete!

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      "Software Assurance"

      Even if the actual software is free, implementing it (and testing the implementation) certainly isn't..

      (Much like MS SA - you might get the software for "free"[1] but you'll pay a hell of a lot on the project to implement it..)

      [1] Not really free, especially given how much SA costs. More like "slightly less expensive than buying everything all over again".

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do you actually WANT the Microsoft version?

  2. wolfetone Silver badge
    Coat

    I ain't never seen a white elephant fly.

    Until I saw the F-35B take off.

    1. cortland

      Re: I ain't never seen a white elephant fly.

      Hmm.

      TFX?

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: I ain't never seen a white elephant fly.

      Until I saw the F-35B take off.

      Anything will fly if you put enough power into getting it to fly. The problem comes when the power cuts off.. (does the F-35B glide in the same way as the Shuttle did? As in "falling only slightly slower than a brick at normal airspeeds")

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: I ain't never seen a white elephant fly.

        > "does the F-35B glide in the same way as the Shuttle did?"

        Of course it doesn't f'ing glide.

        1. JassMan Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: I ain't never seen a white elephant fly.

          Everything with aerofoils technically can glide. The difference is that "gliders" have a a "glide ratio" generally between 1:25 and 1:30 (some are slightly better or worse) but the F35 has a glide ratio of around 7.5:1. That's right nearly 8m downwards for every metre forwards.

          Obviously as with gliders, you can go into a planned dive to build up airspeed then level out or even climb till your airspeed drops again. Glide ratios are an average and you mileage may vary, depending on skill and whether you have drop tanks, missiles etc attached.

          1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

            Re: I ain't never seen a white elephant fly.

            > "That's right nearly 8m downwards for every metre forwards."

            Yeah, like a brick.

  3. James 51 Silver badge
    Flame

    Will this plane even be relevant by the time it gets to fly? We keep reading about rail guns, drone swarms, hypersonic missles. Is this another case of preparing for the last war instead of the next one?

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      No, because aircraft carriers can be used against low-tech countries only anyway, or else they would end like submarine palaces for marine fauna.

      1. Milton Silver badge

        Submarine palaces for marine fauna

        No idea why Potemkine's remark—

        ... because aircraft carriers can be used against low-tech countries only anyway, or else they would end like submarine palaces for marine fauna

        —received downvotes, because he stated a simple truth. Perhaps there are more ignoramuses around here than I thought?

        Against a weak adversary who cannot project power against you (think of every country the US has waged "war" against since 1980) the aircraft carrier is useful and will usually remain unsunk.

        On the other hand, if western carriers go up against Russian, or conceivably Chinese anti-shipping missiles, submarines and even airstrikes, the life expectancy of a carrier in unrestricted warfare is about the same now as was the case with Cold War predictions: perhaps a week for US supercarriers with large battegroups, and about 48 hours max for the pitiful UK ones with their vastly depleted escorts.

        The simple fact is that even a sizeable escort defence cannot knock down every see-skimming missile that's fired at you: some will get through, more and more of them as the conflict wears on, as escorts suffer attrition, and your limited supply of AA ordnance dwindles. You will not prevent every single enemy submarine from sneaking into range (or just lurking till you sail over the top of it), nor will you dodge or decoy every torpedo they launch. Your CAP will not be able (especially if you're handicapped by having only F-35s, with their short range, poor ordnance loadout and lack of a rear view making dogfighting a losing game) to intercept every enemy aircraft before it gets within missile range. Bear in mind that neutralising the carriers is the priority task for your enemy.

        Contrary to ludicrously optimistic and untested predictions by the US Navy, even a super-carrier can be knocked out with a single well-placed torpedo under the keel, and a antiship missile does not have to explode directly in CIC to cripple the ship: a big enough bang to shake loose a lot of plumbing is quite sufficient to badly impede a carrier's operations; and how long will it before one of those big bangs severs a few fuel lines? Or knocks out the reactor cooling system? If anything qualifies for a sacred 250-year-old rule of naval warfare, it is surely "More incoming fire will do more damage of more consequence than you imagined in your worst nightmares".

        In the Pacific Theatre of WW2, without any missiles being available, carriers went to the bottom with great frequency on both sides—until the Empire of Japan couldn't shoot back, in fact.

        The only really fundamental thing that's changed since then is that the US hasn't fought a war against a foe who could threaten its carriers and has therefore become hubristically overconfident.

        As to the UK, we ought to know better after the Falklands (where we had to keep the carriers out of range of pretty much any and every threat, or lose the war) but politicial stupidity and short-sighted penny-pinching will always have their way ... our two "supercarriers", if we have to fight against a real opponent, really are just big, fat, dumb floating targets.

        1. EvilDrSmith

          Re: Submarine palaces for marine fauna

          "As to the UK, we ought to know better after the Falklands (where we had to keep the carriers out of range of pretty much any and every threat, or lose the war) but politicial stupidity and short-sighted penny-pinching will always have their way ... our two "supercarriers", if we have to fight against a real opponent, really are just big, fat, dumb floating targets."

          And yet, without the carriers, we would have lost the Falklands war.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Submarine palaces for marine fauna

            And yet, without the carriers, we would have lost the Falklands war.

            Partly because the the other side had a very limited supply of Exocets and didn't know where the carriers were (or didn't prioritise them).

            The HMS Invincible or HMS Hermes could have just as easily gone the same was as RFA Galahad.

            1. graeme leggett

              Re: Submarine palaces for marine fauna

              Not sure if it was quite what you meant but Sir Galahad was hit inshore by bombs dropped by Skyhawks and caught fire but did not sink. More similarity with Ark Royal in WWII. Where you thinking of Atlantic Conveyor?

        2. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: Submarine palaces for marine fauna

          Milton: "Against a weak adversary who cannot project power against you (think of every country the US has waged "war" against since 1980) the aircraft carrier is useful and will usually remain unsunk."

          An excellent and well reasoned comment, but I'd just add that the rising belligerence of Russia (and to an extent China over the South China Sea) makes proxy wars more likely, and both could cascade moderately advanced assets into war zones, in the manner of Russia's behaviour in eastern Ukraine. In addition to weapons transfers, there's a number of unaligned, politically unstable countries with some advanced capabilities (mainly Iran, Nork, Pakistan, but others exist and will emerge).

          So for example, a modest shooting war in the Gulf that involved Iran is always possible, but the relevant thing for this argument is that Iran has not only a range of non-conventional forces and tactics, but it also has a range of moderately advanced largely home grown missile capabilities to sink carriers. In the 2011 Libyan engagement, all the strategically important vessels had to be kept out of the range of sea skimming missiles. There's also the possibility of technology cascade by the unaligned countries - for example last year when Iranian technology was used by Houthi rebels to cripple a Saudi frigate using a speedboat as an expendable drone.

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Submarine palaces for marine fauna

          Against a weak adversary who cannot project power against you (think of every country the US has waged "war" against since 1980) the aircraft carrier is useful and will usually remain unsunk.

          Unless said country has access to lots of small fast boats packed to the gummels with explosives and a ready supply of people willing to die for the cause.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Submarine palaces for marine fauna

            "..said country has access to lots of small fast boats packed to the gummels (sic) with explosives and a ready supply of people willing to die for the cause"

            The trick there is to park your task force further away than those small boats range since a) aircraft can cover the distance really quickly and b) it's not like the RN et al don't have access to the history of Decima MAS, S-Boats, MTBs, Biber, etc...

          2. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: Submarine palaces for marine fauna

            Unless said country has access to lots of small fast boats packed to the gummels with explosives and a ready supply of people willing to die for the cause.

            Like many other unskilled workers, the kamikazi boat drivers have had their jobs automated away.

        4. Demetrov
          Mushroom

          Re: Submarine palaces for marine fauna

          If my memory serves correct;

          Was there not a man who leaked the specs of the US Carriers a little while ago (I think it may of included the Super Carrier also), and with that there is a known "weak spot" in a very nasty area of the carriers that if hit can cause a lot of trouble (Reactor related maybe?).

          They could not repair the section as the hulls were already complete and that section would of set them back many years.

          It only takes one direct or in direct in or near the correct area to cripple a carrier and its power plants, redundancy be damned if its reactor related.

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Is this another case of preparing for the last war instead of the next one?

      Actually no. For the forseeable future, even with the advanced threats you mention, there's still going to be a role for conventional aircraft. Most of the big tech is expensive and complex, and the irregular forces we're usually fighting don't have access to anything other than older cast off weapons that are simple, portable and robust. Even with trickle down that's not going to change much. So basically there's a continuing "need" for an aircraft to bomb a few raggle taggle tribesmen, maybe disarm a third rate belligerent, and perform air-exclusion duties. None of which need the F35.

      The problem with the F35 is not so much preparing for the last war, rather that they tried to prepare a single aircraft for all roles in all possible wars. So stealth doesn't come cheap, and is of zero use in probably 90-95% of missions the RAF will likely undertake in the next half century - but good to have in case you wanted to fight Russia, or attack a minor country with some modern weapons. Supersonic, likewise - IIRC every air to air kill by UK forces since WW2 has been by a subsonic aircraft (you know, the one we decommissioned). STOL is of no real combat use for fast jets - if you need it because you ordered the wrong ships, you need it, but militarily there's no advantage from the added complexity and weight, and some considerable downsides.

      The remaining question is what use then is the F35B in a deterrent role against the Russians. And the answer is little or none, just as the Su57 wouldn't deter us. We wouldn't have enough F35 to do air defence of the UK against conventional air attacks, it doesn't have any operational air to sea missiles, and regardless of stealth would stand little chance against Russian air defences around their critical targets. Even in a conventional fight with Russia, both sides would be using cruise and standoff weaponry as their main choices. And considering the F35B on our carriers, given that we've only got two (and possibly only one operational at any one time), under what circumstances would the RN risk such a precious yet vulnerable asset? Against the tribals certainly, against anybody with sea skimmers, no way. These carriers will be like the capital ships of Reichsmarine - too few in number to risk, and thus held back to the point of being strategically ineffective.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        every air to air kill by UK forces since WW2 has been by a subsonic aircraft

        Erratum: I'd forgotten that a 92 Squadron Phantom shot down a Jaguar from 14 Squadron back in 1982, so in fact we have had one air to air kill by a supersonic aircraft.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

        "The remaining question is what use then is the F35B in a deterrent role against the Russians. And the answer is little or none, just as the Su57 wouldn't deter us."

        sorry to say it but aren't you still thinking as an independent island ...

        the joint fighter is a NATO & Friends thing, no?

        so if we count all F-35's in NATO & Friends then we can deter the Russians, Chinese or booth ...

        i presume

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

          so if we count all F-35's in NATO & Friends then we can deter the Russians, Chinese or booth ...

          The numbers ordered of the F35 by European countries are so pitiful that collectively they would struggle to defend European air space - as usual Europe hope that the Yanks would be willing to turn up and save them.

          If (say) Russia decided to invade one or more of the Baltic states, it would be largely accomplished before the West could fully react - and any reaction on the couple of days of the invasion would be reliant on whatever Europe's scant air forces had operational and available. In that context, would Russia be deterred by the handful of F35s scattered across the EU? I suspect less so than by a larger fleet of less technically advanced aircraft.

        2. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

          @AC

          "the joint fighter is a NATO & Friends thing, no?"

          I too assume that is the case (which does not discredit Ledswinger's comment in any way), but I am not sure where NATO is heading. Trump doesnt seem to have patience with European countries who dont pull their weight in funding their armed forces and the EU wants its own army which doesnt seem to be well defined in any respect (a solution looking for a problem it seems).

          I am sure if things kicked off we would band together for our selfish protection (not arguing against it) and we do allied work (rent out our forces and gear for allied strikes) but how well NATO will continue probably depends on future events.

          As for buying the F35-B, thats a cock up concerning the aircraft carriers.

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

            but I am not sure where NATO is heading

            Its all gone to pot, really. They've long ago let in countries they probably wouldn't fight to defend (the Baltics), countries very unlikely to answer the call if things kicked off (Turkey), and countries with a defence need but no material assets, so diluting the overall strength (like Romania and Bulgaria). Then they've bloated the whole thing with the idea of a global role that's a further load of bollocks (eg Afghanistan is part of the NATO "Partnership for Peace" IIRC).

            The European still won't pay their share of agreed budgets (including the UK, who cheat by including service pensions as defence spending), most of the European military assets are creaking and ancient, and inadequate in number, and the closure and run down of military bases means that they can't afford to expand easily as well as being vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike. For example, the German Air Force operates two thirds of its Tornado strike variants from Buchel, which has a single runway; the RAF is in a similar position at Marham, albeit with two runways.

            Even when they try, NATO cooperation is a bit crap - for example in the misbegotten Libyan operation, the Italian ATC and ground systems couldn't support more than one third of the potential mission numbers, several NATO countries refused to get embroiled despite the UN resolution, and British and French both had problems of running out of ordnance, even against a piss pot, essentially defenceless bit of desert.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

              most of the European military assets are creaking and ancient

              To be fair, most of the Russian military is much the same. As is the Chinese[1]. Now, the Chinese have the resources to amend that (and are doing so) but I somehow doubt whether Russia does.

              [1] Who was it said "quantity has a quality all of its own"? It's all very well being able to shoot down fighters and bombers but, if the other side has more fighters and bombers than you have missiles to shoot them down with, you have a problem..

              1. Ledswinger Silver badge

                Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

                CarzyOldCatMan: "Now, the Chinese have the resources to amend that (and are doing so) but I somehow doubt whether Russia does"

                Correct up to a point, but Russia's gone back to a command economy in some respects, and is making plenty of money selling gas to the Europeans. So whilst there's a lot of older military stuff around, they've updated quite a bit of it, and other elements in production (like the Su 57 and MiG 35) are potentially a match for anything we've got, and there's other current assets like the Su 30/34/35 that are modern and dangerous.

                I think you're right about the numbers as well. Even the creaky old stuff can pose a threat, like the MiG 29. Not a match for today's best in any respect, but if they can get it airborne with missiles it's still a viable weapons platform. Worth thinking about how in WW2 the Hawker Hurricane gave excellent service throughout the war in several roles, despite being technically outclassed in 1939, and continuing to lose ground to each subsequent increment in fighter design.

                1. LeeE Silver badge

                  Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

                  "Even the creaky old stuff can pose a threat, like the MiG 29."

                  The MiG 29 is in the same league as the SU Flanker family but, being quiet a bit smaller smaller, has a lower range and is primarily tasked with point defense.

                  Were you thinking of the MiG 21? The MiG 21 has received numerous upgrades during its 59 year service life and is likely to remain in service for some time yet. Whilst not so good in scenarios where it might end up in a turning dog-fight, which is where the MiG 29 has taken over, it's still a pretty good super-sonic interceptor.

              2. JohnMurray

                Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

                Not so... Massive re-arming, design and planing have been performed on Ru forces since 2008... http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/05/03/assessing-russia-s-reorganized-and-rearmed-military-pub-69853

                Plenty of sources quoted..

            2. EvilDrSmith

              Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

              "who cheat by including service pensions as defence spending"

              Financial and Economic Data Relating to NATO Defence, published 13 April 2012 (by NATO), makes it clear that "Personnel expenditures include military and civilian personnel expenditures and pensions".

              The same document notes that defence expenditures do not include pensions, in one exception: Bulgaria.

              So including military pensions in defence spending may seem to mis-represent the degree of funding on active defence capability, but for NATO countries, it's not cheating. The change in UK accounting procedures simply made us compliant with the rules.

          2. Lars Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

            @ codejunky "the EU wants its own army".

            Radoslaw Sikorski, a former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of National Defense has some views about it, and the EU, at the University of Greenwich.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pI54yarKz_o

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

              @ Lars

              Cheers for the link. At what point does he mention the army? I started listening to him but it does seem to be a long video with the usual excitement of listening to a politician.

              I will try to give all of it a watch/listen when I have time.

        3. Potemkine! Silver badge

          Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

          we count all F-35's in NATO & Friends then we can deter the Russians, Chinese or booth ...

          It is not the role of conventional forces. There are nuclear weapons for that.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

            we count all F-35's in NATO & Friends then we can deter the Russians, Chinese or booth ...

            It is not the role of conventional forces. There are nuclear weapons for that.

            -----------------------------------------------------------------

            It's both.

            A credible nuclear deterrence needs the support of conventional deterrence for dissuading others from actions that are below the threshold for starting a nuclear war.

            There are only three sure ways of starting a nuclear war:

            1. Start lobbing nukes at a target or three.

            2. Get rid of all conventional forces.

            3. World wide nuclear disarmament.

        4. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

          >so if we count all F-35's in NATO & Friends then we can deter the Russians, Chinese or booth ...

          But not at the same time!

        5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

          so if we count all F-35's in NATO & Friends then we can deter the Russians, Chinese or booth ...

          Probably.

          Russia has approximately 500 fighter aircraft in its inventory - Su27 onwards, Mig29 and some others (in smaller numbers). All have been upgraded to carry very heavy radar jamming so while they are not stealthy, the amount of ECM on the battlefield will deny any stealth tactical advantage and grant tactical advantage to the more agile and more manoeuvrable Gen4 "classic" aircraft. Most are with upgraded weapons and avionics now as well.

          Additionally, they can probably field half a dozen Su57s, but they are of no tactical relevance.

          NATO if USA commits all of its assets can field:

          280 F35s

          184 F22s

          300 Eurofighters

          200 or so others.

          On paper NATO outnumbers Russians at least 2:1. If USA does commits only its assets stationed in Europe it is still > 1:1

          However, while having VAST numerical superiority, NATO airforce is formed out of assets which are inferior in a "radar does not work" line of site combat units. The projected score for "no radar" line of sight combat between Eurofighter and Su-30+ as shown by RAF vs Indians is 1:9. F35B is even worse. That leaves the oldies from the remaining F18 and Saab squadrons as well as F22 which is actually a fairly decent dogfighter to pick up the slack and they are more or less numerically even with the Russians.

          Dunno. While math looks like mutual assured destruction to me, the destruction of F35 and Eurofighter does not look mutual - they clearly have the role of cannon fodder.

          1. EvilDrSmith

            Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

            The Typhoon vs Indian Su30 claim was actually 0-12.

            However, it was apparently made in an Indian equivalent of the mail on-line, and, from what I read reading around the subject at the time, no more reliable.

            It appears to be based on the RAF playing nice in the first couple of days that the Indian pilots were there and learning the area, prior to the exercises starting properly (the idea of the exercise being to learn from each other, not humiliate the guests). When the actual exercises started, the Su30's suddenly weren't anywhere near as good.

            That's not to say that the Su30 isn't a very good aeroplane. But so is Typhoon.

            The SU 30 gets its very good manoeuvrability from thrust vectoring - but if you're not moving in the direction you are pointing, you tend to generate a lot of drag that slows you down. And if you've vectored your thrust, a large chunk of that thrust is not available to counteract the drag.

            Typhoon gets its very good manoeuvrability aerodynamically, and so keeps its energy (speed) much better. (Apparently, if I understand all the technical bumf correctly, which I might not have).

            Both has IRST (passive detection), both have helmet-mounted sights (giving high off-boresight missile lock-on).

            Typhoon carries ASRAAM, which can successfully engage a target directly behind the aircraft, which I think remains a unique capability: RAAF did it, firing from an F/A18:

            http://www.yourindustrynews.com/raaf+has+successfully+fired+asraam+at+a+target+located+behind+the+wing-line+of+the+‘shooter'+aircraft_26109.html.

            Typhoon also has what is claimed to be the best Defensive Aids System fitted to a combat aircraft (incorporates warning receivers, threat library, expendable decoys, jammer and towed decoy).

            As I said, the SU30 is a very good aeroplane, but so is the Typhoon.

          2. Rudeboy

            Re: It's not RAF nor UK It's Nato ...

            If you seriously believe the Indian claims you need professional help, and an understanding of how these exercises are undertaken. The RAF noprmally never comments about these things, but dismissed the Indian claims (made by an Indian journalist NOT by the pilots) in a particularly clear cut manner.

            The best example being the US/Indian exercises when Indian SU-30's triumphed against US F-15C's.

            But...when you read the circumstances and restrictions that were placed on the US side and the advantages stacked on the Indian side by the exercise rules it was very easy to see why.

            More interesting would be when the Indians went to the US. They weren't allowed to join in with Red Flag but were allowed to attend a prior event. They got absolutely hammered. And on that occasion the rules were very even.

            Typhoon was developed specifically to defeat SU-27 derivatives. The chances of it losing 9 times out of 10 are comical.

            Now have a look at what weapons the SU-27 derivatives actually carry....not vaporware...not active homing missiles that don't exist. What they actually carry.

            The Russian air force wouldn't last beyond the opening day and they know it.

      3. EvilDrSmith

        Some sound comments, but implying the new UK carriers are 'the wrong ships' ignores a whole host of very good arguments for STOL carriers and against the 'cats-and-traps' type (which arguments have been repeated more than once in these comments pages).

        Also, referring only to UK air-to-air kills strictly limits your data set - plenty of air-to-air kills have been achieved by supersonic capable aircraft (Indo-Pakistan wars, Arab-Israeli wars, Various US adventures, East Africa, etc)

      4. graeme leggett

        "every air to air kill by UK forces since WW2 has been by a subsonic aircraft"

        But how many wars have we been in with supersonic aircraft against an enemy airforce since WWII

        Korea - transonic

        Suez - transonic, barely a war

        Malaya - no air force

        Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation - no supersonic fighters

        Falklands - no supersonic aircraft available

        Gulf War - not on fighter aircraft duty

        Afghanistan - no air force

      5. JohnMurray

        Except their "stealth" capability doesn't work if a low-frequency radar is in use....

    3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Relevance?

      Not sure about the F35B, but 'conventional' aircraft have a great future. Witness the Typhoon, which our 'friends' in Saudi Arabia might, possibly, maybe want to buy a few more of, and which our wonderful, nominally Christian, government will be more than happy to flog them. (Unlike the Saudi government who just flog their citizens) Aircraft are excellent for when you want to drop big bombs on children and undefended schools and hospitals, so there will be a great future for aircraft: how many slum kids can afford a rail-gun?

      #NotInMyName #GodIReallyHateThisGovernment

    4. Cuddles Silver badge

      "We keep reading about rail guns, drone swarms, hypersonic missles. Is this another case of preparing for the last war instead of the next one?"

      No, none of those things are in any way relevant to aircraft. Rail guns are basically just a replacement for gunpowder; you might be able to throw shells a bit further and more efficiently, but they still won't be any more effective against aircraft than existing ship guns. Drones can be used for things like dropping grenades, but they're useless as anti-aircraft weapons and can't replace regular aircraft unless they essentially are regular aircraft - ie. things like the Reaper may replace the F35, but swarms of small, cheap drones certainly won't. Hypersonic missiles are for sending nuclear warheads to the other side of the world and, again, are useless against aircraft and don't fill the same role.

      So no, war hasn't suddenly changed to the point that aircraft are no longer needed. The nature of the airpower required will vary depending on who you're fighting, but the need for large, fast planes that can control the skies and drop things on the ground is still very much there. The only things likely to change about that in the near future are whether there are actual people sitting in the planes, and whether carriers remain a useful way to get them where they're needed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        mmmm..not sure thats correct

        "Drones can be used for things like dropping grenades, but they're useless as anti-aircraft weapons and can't replace regular aircraft unless they essentially are regular aircraft"

        if a swarm of birds can fuck a jet engine then a swarm of drones will be just as effective!

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: mmmm..not sure thats correct

          "if a swarm of birds can fuck a jet engine then a swarm of drones will be just as effective!"

          The vast majority of bird-in-engine incidents occur at landing or take-off when the plane startles a grounded flock of birds into taking off directly into its path. Since small drones are very limited in range and altitude, that's pretty much the only thing they'd be able to do as well; there's basically no chance of positioning a swarm of drones exactly in the path of a jet when it's flying at normal speeds and altitudes. If your enemy is able to fly a swarm of drones around your runway, you have much bigger problems than the chance of a plane losing an engine.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: mmmm..not sure thats correct

          "Drones can be used for things like dropping grenades, but they're useless as anti-aircraft weapons and can't replace regular aircraft unless they essentially are regular aircraft"

          Not at all.

          Conflating home built model aircraft built by resource challenged irregulars and the drones that a modern nation state can build is like confusing an outrigger canoe with a modern destroyer.

          A properly designed air combat drone would have an enormous advantage over a manned fighter, while being much less expensive.

          Consider the following...

          Start with a lightweight single engine fighter design - F16 or Gripen, for example.

          Eliminating the pilot means eliminating cockpit (space and weight), displays, controls, ejection seat, canopy, oxygen generators, survival gear.

          Shrink the aircraft. You've lost weight, and surface area. You need less fuel, and less engine power.

          Shrink the aircraft. Look at all the redundancy intended to preserve an expensive aircraft and the pilot's life. Strip it out. Availability now goes up, as you have fewer systems that can fail to render the aircraft not fit for flight (you lost some of those when the human support went, too).

          Let's make this a purpose built air combat model. Strip out support for ground attack. Weapons load is much less, so takeoff weight drops, as does drag, wing area, software complexity (which also dropped by stripping out display functions and human interface / control capabilities that can move to the controller end).

          Reduce strength of undercarriage, fuel, engine. Shrink again.

          Reconsider the number of weapons and hard points. Do you need as much, when the aircraft is now pilot free and losing it is much less important? That and losing ground attack means you can cut back.

          Now look at structure. Manned aircraft have a maneuver capability of about 10G max - structural and pilot limits. Air to air missiles maneuver at 50G+ when they have enough energy. Design for 20 - 30G maneuvering. Now you have an aircraft that can outfly any human piloted aircraft in a dogfight, and has a much better chance of dodging missiles. Enemy firing solutions assuming the limitations of a human piloted aircraft will be incorrect, and may allow the drone to escape the theoretical 'no escape' zone. On the other hand, if the calculation is done correctly, a human aircraft may have to wait longer to fire on a drone, giving the drone the first shot.

          Your aircraft is now smaller, with a smaller engine. Reduced radar cross-section and IR signature result. With simplifications, it is now less expensive, and less expensive to operate. Build more of them than you would have for piloted craft. Increased production means lower per unit costs. Redundancy is now measured in extra drones, not backup systems in each drone.

          Because of the higher numbers, loss of a drone is less of a hit to combat capability than losing a piloted fighter. And it is cheaper to replace. More important, your pilots are not lost with the craft, so they continue learning, not only from success, but failure as well. On long missions, they can be swapped out if fatigued. A drone can have as many crew as needed - two, three, four. There can be specialists for combat, electronic warfare, landing, enemy tactics analysis. Co-ordination of crews is secure and easy, particularly if they are in the same room or building.

          You might delete some other capabilities on some drone models. Dropping the gun means savings of cost, weight, and space, which can be used to reduce size, increase climb, range and endurance, or strengthen maneuvering. If worst comes to worst, trading a drone worth 15 million, without a pilot, for an aircraft worth 150 million with a pilot is a win, particularly when you have more drones than they have aircraft, so ramming is an option if your missiles don't do the trick.

          Drones under computer control should equal a human pilot in air to air combat, even in identical performance scenarios. This has been tried with simulators, and a computer program can match an experienced human combat pilot. This allows for a 'quiet' autonomous combat mode, where the only communication is getting permission to fire. Depending on circumstances, even that might be delegated to the drone, in wartime. Safety procedures would doubtless disallow that during peace.

          Once this technology matures, piloted aircraft will serve as mobile drone controllers and targets.

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      another case of preparing for the last war instead of the next one

      Yes. But it's a very. very profitable case (for some).

  4. Russell Chapman Esq.

    Charging us for Beta grade software then

    Everyone in the software business thinks they can get away with it these days. Get something out the door, worry about patching and upgrading later, meantime you have to keep paying through the nose. I bet it will be Block 5 or 6 before things are ready. How much more will we have to pay. Yeah sure they have reduced the price of the aircraft, but they are clawing the discount back through software 'upgrades'

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Charging us for Beta grade software then

      Maybe they'll be able to reduce the costs by selling the data the software gathers on the open market.

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Charging us for Beta grade software then

      Aircraft cost $121 million each, one software upgrade costs UK £30 million per aircraft. That is cheeky! Have they been learning from printer manufacturers?

    3. Outcast !!!

      Re: Charging us for Beta grade software then

      Nah it is not beta, this is just early access.

  5. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Facepalm

    So the fighter aircraft we bought can't actually be used in real fights. To achieve that, we have to pay more money for the Chuck Norris version software.

    Nice sales job there by Lockheed.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      IOC can be compared to Full Operating Capability (FOC). Think of IOC as similar to Windows’ Safe Mode – and FOC as the whole shebang.

      "617 squadron, scramble, scramble"

      "Ah, give us a few minutes, it's just rebooting after an upgrade. Oh, hang on, it's booted into IOC, says there's a driver issue"

      1. Roj Blake Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: "...it's booted into IOC, says there's a driver issue"

        Planes have pilots, not drivers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "...it's booted into IOC, says there's a driver issue"

          Planes have pilots, not drivers.

          Only once they've got off the ground...

          1. Jos V
            Happy

            Re: "...it's booted into IOC, says there's a driver issue"

            And 'round here where I work, Airbus pilots are called bus drivers :-)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

    Well, that is nice isn't it.

    One screen to take out and the plane is toast. At least with old style separate mechanical insruments there wasn't a single point of failure.

    Oh wait...

    This stupid thing is a failure from the day it was dreamed up.

    Oh, for a totally modernised Harrier... Going faster than the speed of sound is really only useful for interceptors (as told to me by an RAF Wing Commander at an RAF base in Germany in the 1970's.)

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

      Oh, for a totally modernised Harrier...

      Stop being Russian, it is not fashionable. They can modernise and replace all avionics on Su-24, Su-25, Mig-29, Su-27, Tu-22M and Tu-160 (*)

      We are not supposed to. We are supposed to buy the latest and greatest and scrap the old stuff.

      (*)The narrator at their 9th of May parade a couple of years back was nearly having a boner announcing the upgraded versions as they overflew. I, in the meantime, was reading some of the perennial El Reg coverage of F35 and swearing like a docker.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

        They can modernise the avionics all they want, if the airframe design is 50 years old (as is the case with the Tu-22M and Su-24) then its stealth characteristics will be negligible. They'll stick out like a sore thumb on modern radar.

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

          They'll stick out like a sore thumb on modern radar.

          That may be true, but is stealth any better? To believe so, one would need to assume that whilst aircraft designers have been developing stealth capability over the past thirty years or so, radar and missile designers have sat on one hand with their thumb up their arse. I think that's pretty unlikely myself.

          When bombing some third rate dump like Libya or Syria, I'm sure stealth works a treat. Against a modern air defence system created by a country already building its own stealth aircraft, I'm far less convinced. I gather that the smart money is on bringing together multiple observations from different radar systems to create a sufficiently accurate location to put a missile on, and I'd then guess using any of a number of techniques for non-radar homing.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

            Lower frequency radars and echo repeating jammers plus infrared targeting.

            So if you cant fly with AWACS as you dont have air superiority (yet) your "invisible" plane is a bit screwed.. as it has to get close and dirty to kill the enemy, and it will be detected by meter radar and targeted by IR.

            At this point you will probably use long range cruise missiles to bomb out radar sites and AFs.. and if you can do that and have to do that, then what is the point of the f35s?

            I mean, I do understand the principle.. but the point of the f35 was to be cheaper than the f22 with less advanced stealth features and multirole.

            Now it is MORE expensive, so even if it works as advertised, it fails in cost.

            If you look at the t-50/SU-52 it is quite clear that this "stealth thing" is not cheap. Not at all.. well, that and expensive AESA radars, datalinks, etc etc.

            So maybe block 60 F16s makes more sense...

            1. cortland

              Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

              Not so much discussed is that multiple 35's whose radar and computational power is networked may be practically as good as having an AWACS circling around some hundred kilometers from the scene.

              It's all new, that. I wonder if it will work as well is expected the first time it has to.

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

          then its stealth characteristics will be negligible.

          Correct.

          Which is exactly why the modernization included high power ECM counter-measures on every aircraft.

          Who cares if you are stealthy or not if nobody's radar works to start off with.

          Does this idea work or not - too early to say.

          1. ciaran

            Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

            In any case if you turn on your radar you're not stealthy any more.

            No matter how much hi-tech jumping around you're doing, if you outputting 10's or 100's of watts of power, you will be detected passively by anyone in range.

            ECM is a good approach. It helps if you're not built like a mirror, so having a small radar cross section is an advantage. How small is an economics calculation vs. the cost of the ECM. In this the french Rafale is a better design than the Eurofighter.

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

              The ECM carried by the Vulcan was rumoured to be powerful enough to cause physical damage to some of the US radar equipment they used to practise against.*

              Who needs stealth when the opponent's radars are all smoking from the electronics?

              * Allegedly.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

            Who cares if you are stealthy or not if nobody's radar works to start off with.

            Or if you can get ten of your upgraded aircraft for the cost of one F35-B. Doesn't matter if the F35 shoots down five of yours (except, of course, to the pilots and their families) if the other five are still around to shoot down the F35..

        3. LeeE Silver badge

          Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

          "if the airframe design is 50 years old (as is the case with the Tu-22M and Su-24) then its stealth characteristics will be negligible."

          Compared with, say, the B-52, which entered service in 1955 and which is planned to remain in service through to the 2050s, or the F-15E, which has replaced the retired F-111 in the medium range strike role - the F-15 entered service in 1976, just two years after the SU-24, and the 'E' model remains as unstealthy as the first A/B models.

          So yes, both 'sides' will continue to use non-stealthy aircraft for the foreseeable future.

          But radar 'stealth' relies mostly upon reflecting radar pulses away from the transmitter/receiver instead of back towards it, and one way around this, at least for territories that are already occupied and controlled, is a transmitter that can send identifiable pulses, combined with a coordinated and distributed receiver network made up of many relatively inexpensive omni-directional sensors in an IoT type of scheme. The sensors would not actually do any tracking, reducing their complexity and cost, and just report the ID of the received reflected pulse and the time of receiving it. This would be enough to alert you to an intrusion and give you a rough idea of location and track, and probably sufficient to get passive electro-optical systems looking in the right direction. Stealth just isn't quite so useful in the attack role, at least against a technologically equal opponent, as it's made out to be.

          Btw, there's no reason why such sensors couldn't also be dropped in large quantities over territories that are not controlled, or are controlled by an opponent, but that would open the possibility of them being collected and interfered with, so that they send back bad data.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

            ..a transmitter that can send identifiable pulses, combined with a coordinated and distributed receiver network made up of many relatively inexpensive omni-directional sensors in an IoT type of scheme.

            And perhaps not unsuprisingly, this is what the latest radar systems from Russia & China appear to do. Which then leaves the challenge of targeting hostile aircraft. So either directing interceptors or engage via air defences. But potentially force 'stealth' aircraft into operating at low level and/or at night. In which case they become less useful for CAS or other strike missions. Not that the F-35 seems very useful for CAS, at least compared to Su-24s, A-10s, F-15s etc. A few procurements have opted for the venerable F-15 over the F-35 because that's a cheaper and more reliable multi-role aircraft. I'm a bit dubious about how well the F-35's would do in combat given they're pretty delicate compared to alternatives, and may spend more time as hanger queens than on CAS duty.

            1. Rudeboy

              Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

              Which procurements are those then....

              The world wants to know....

        4. AS1

          Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

          Is stealth important when the updated Tu-22M's ordnance includes three Kh-32, a hyper-sonic anti-ship missile with an estimated range of 600 miles? This is more than the combat range of the 35B (500 miles) on internal tanks. If the QE class (with dubious independent AWACS capability) saw the Tu-22 coming, could it actually plot an intercept in time to prevent, or even retaliate against, a strike from this range?

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

            could it actually plot an intercept in time to prevent, or even retaliate against, a strike from this range?

            Depends on the speed of the incoming missile. If it is faster than the air defence weapons can cope with, not much can be done to stop the incoming weapon. Nominally the Sea Ceptor missiles on a Type 23 escort will defend up to Mach 3.2. Although the Kh-32 isn't really hypersonic it has a speed of Mach 3 to 3.5, so maybe, maybe not. But that's based on public statements about capability, and I'd be very surprised if either side were telling the truth, so you'd have to assume both systems real capabilities will differ.

            The carrier might get lucky with its Phalanx, but against a supersonic target the chances are not good, and at the very short operating range of that weapon, the missile debris would still hit the carrier at a multiple of machs even if the warhead exploded. I'd imagine a few hundred kg of shrapnel moving at mach 3 would make a considerable mess.

            1. Rudeboy

              Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

              "Nominally the Sea Ceptor missiles on a Type 23 escort will defend up to Mach 3.2. Although the Kh-32 isn't really hypersonic it has a speed of Mach 3 to 3.5, so maybe, maybe not."

              You're basing Sea Ceptors ability to intercept based on a tail chase scenario...its what the Daily Mail did....can you not see a rather obvious problem with that?

        5. JohnMurray

          Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

          Russia has plenty of low frequency radar...so the stealth aircraft will also stick out like a sore thumb...

        6. This post has been deleted by its author

        7. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

          "They can modernise the avionics all they want, if the airframe design is 50 years old (as is the case with the Tu-22M and Su-24) then its stealth characteristics will be negligible. They'll stick out like a sore thumb on modern radar."

          ...

          Stealth is well on the way to being obsolete. It was another 'technology to eliminate dogfights' silver bullet, something the technocrats, particularly in the casualty averse US, have been looking for since the F-4 Phantom, whose missiles were supposed to eliminate the need for a gun by killing all the enemies before they could get in range.

          Stealth is only effective against certain wavelengths - those typically used by aircraft radars. Other radars, including modern air defence radars, operate in other bands, where only bombers are big enough to take advantage of many of the stealth techniques involving aircraft geometry, at least versus 2m radars.

          Stealth coatings are quite fragile - at least one or two reports I have seen indicate that the F-35 can't fly through rain without damaging the coating. And then there are hailstones...

          The F-35, in part because of multi-role compromises, is radar stealthy only in limited frontal arc. From the side or rear, not so much.

          Stealth was developed in an era when high capability IRST (infrared search and track) was not fitted to aircraft. While IRST is still shorter range than some radars, depending on target, good IRST now has a range of 50+ km... rivaling radar in some situations... and the F-35 has a rather hot engine.

          Integrated air defence systems also track targets by their emissions - which becomes a contest between defence systems and evasion capabilities of the networked communications that modern fighters use to integrate into their own tactical nets.

          The defence integration also means that you are not just hiding from the enemy in front, you are hiding from ground based, often mobile, systems and the other enemy aircraft and drones that may be out of your radar stealth arc.

          As well, stealth aircraft are more limited in armament (size and number of missiles) because external ordnance kills stealth.

          The F-35 has little or limited supercruise, and cannot carry external fuel without breaking stealth. Many other fighters are faster. This means that opposing aircraft moving faster give enemy missiles more kinetic energy, speed, and range, so nominally equal missiles on a non-stealth aircraft may be fired from farther away, giving the enemy a chance to break off after firing. More missiles also means more and more diverse incoming missiles which complicates countermeasures and reduces chances of dodging missiles.

          F-35 mission availability is currently hovering around 25%, and repair times are high, so the number of such aircraft actually available for use is much less than you would expect by comparing numbers of aircraft.

          All in all, any of the three Euro-canards is probably a better choice.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

            "All in all, any of the three Euro-canards is probably a better choice."

            Although IIRC, the Typhoon is somewhat specialized for air to air, so Gripen or Rafale might be a better multi-role choice.

            Personally, I find the Rafale's refueling probe aesthetically inelegant, but that's just me.

            OTOH, Gripen's low logistics footprint, and short field/road capability is kind of interesting.

            1. Rudeboy

              Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

              "Although IIRC, the Typhoon is somewhat specialized for air to air, so Gripen or Rafale might be a better multi-role choice."

              This is nonsense. The Typhoon was developed on a requirement to replace Phantom AND Jaguar. It has always been intended to be swing role. As the cold war ended though the integration work on air to ground weaponry was defunded as Germany, UK and Italy had hundreds of Tornado's, AMX, Jaguars and Harriers. What they lacked was modern fighters. So that was concentrated on. As Tornado has been planned for retirement the A2G weaponry has made a comeback.

              By 2019 the RAF's Typhoon will be superior to either Rafale or Gripen, as well as massively superior in A2A. The reason? Brimstone and Storm Shadow will be integrated. Add in the already integrated Paveway 4 and Enhanced Paveway 3 and thats a superior capability than Rafale (its colossally more than Gripen). It can also carry all that stuff whilst remaining fully aerobatic and carrying 4 Meteor, 2 fuel attacks and 2 Asraam. Something that neither Gripen or Rafale can come close to.

    2. Dr Who

      Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

      What? The Jensen Interceptor can go faster than sound? That's not what my Supercars Top Trumps said.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

        Stealth doesn't exist. Even the F-35 can easily be identified by radar installations designed in the 80s and 90s. Yes, it makes it slightly more difficult when low to the ground using mobile radar installations, but anything large and fixed will pick them up easily enough. And in todays interlinked combat systems, if the ground can see you, so can the interceptors in the air (And the SAM sites)

        1. EvilDrSmith

          Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

          Stealth does exist, it's just not binary ( 'you have it or you don't'), but shades of grey.

          It's about reducing the radar return from the aircraft to the detecting system, and the basic physics behind shaping and radar absorbent (or transparent) materials doesn't change just because your opponent also understands these principles and has made his detection systems less vulnerable to them.

          Whether 'full stealth' is worth the financial cost or other design compromises necessary to achieve it is, of course, and entirely different question.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

      "Totally modernised Harrier"........the Hawker P1154 project was cancelled ages ago, and it was (at the time) a totally modernised Harrier....supersonic too! Ah....the good old days!!

      Signed: A Dinosaur

    4. Rudeboy

      Re: and Pigs might fly a.k.a F-35

      That was true with earlier generations of aircraft. Going supersonic actually used colossal amounts of fuel and wasn't possible with most external stores.

      But...F-35 carries its weapons internally. Typhoon and F-22 in particular have the ability to supercruise at high mach numbers (go supersonic and sustain it without using afterburner). Thats a paradigm shift. The Rafale can just manage it, Gripen can't, SU-27 can't.

      For comparison a production F-15C allegedly has a top speed of m2.5. In reality that was a stripped down, cleaned up version on max afterburner for a few seconds. A normal F-15C with limited external stores couldn't go beyond m1.8 with full burners engaged. In comparison F-22 and Typhoon can hit m1.5 with full warloads without afterburner. They're massively faster in practice. If we ever allow RR to upgrade the Typhoon engines to their full potential (about a 30-40% increase in power with no increase in fuel burn) god knows how fast it would go.

  7. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    The fighter is already expected to be the most expensive military aircraft ever produced

    I saw a program on PBS America about the initial competition for the next generation aircraft. The aim was to keep costs low as previous aircraft contract costs had escalated. Nice to see the US Government have got costs under control. Under the control of Lockheed Martin, that is, not the US Government.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Do you mean the next-gen after the F35, or the competition which lead to the F35?

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        @Alister

        The competition which lead to the F35

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: @Alister

          Ah right, thanks.

          I think I saw that, too. Ironic that the stated aim of the program was to reduce costs, as you say.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Under the control of Lockheed Martin, that is, not the US Government

      Well, politicians and senior military types need a nice soft directorship to go to after they retire..

    3. JLV Silver badge

      Good of you to remind us. We all tend to forget this POS was originally sold as a high volume low cost alternative to the F22 (which can't be exported).

  8. ColonelClaw

    This whole paid DLC thing is getting out of hand.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re:DLC

      At least you have a chance without the DLC.

      If it was being done by EA, your planes would spontaneously explode until you brought the latest DLC....

  9. @JagPatel3

    Failing to quantify Whole Life Cost

    One of the reasons why a £20bn funding “black hole” has re-emerged in the Ministry of Defence’s budget is because it has never bothered to consider the cost of new equipment procurement programmes on a through-life sustainment basis, preferring instead to bear down on initial acquisition costs – notwithstanding the fact 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.

    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 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.

    The fact of the matter is that the ability to identify, quantify and then confidently price Support Assets can only be accumulated progressively, as the Technical Solution is being advanced during the design, development, systems integration and prototyping phases of each equipment acquisition programme – it cannot be gained overnight! Central to the quantification of Whole Life Cost is the systematic determination of the inherent reliability of the prime equipment, bottom-up, starting with each individual Maintenance Significant Item. A methodology that has not been applied by Defence Contractors, because they have not been specifically directed to do so by MoD.

    But what is especially worrying is that, instead of using common sense and setting-up a single fixed, all-in Through Life Budget for each new military equipment acquisition programme to encompass costs for the prime equipment and its associated Support Assets required for through-life sustainment, MoD has created two separate, expandable budgets – the Equipment Procurement Plan and the Equipment Support Plan – thereby giving a clear indication to Industry, that it is happy to continue with the practice of procuring new equipment using one pot of money for the prime equipment, and paying for its in-service support costs from the second, using Post Design Services contracts – just like in the bad old days of the Defence Procurement Agency and the Defence Logistics Organisation, the predecessor stand-alone entities to MoD’s arms-length defence procurement organisation at Abbey Wood, Bristol.

    This tried-and-failed policy of buying Support Assets separately also gives the impression that MoD’s leadership has accepted that the Contractor supplying the Support Assets can be different from that which produces the prime equipment – unwittingly betraying its collective ignorance of what it is that makes Private Sector organisations tick, and how obsessively possessive they are of Intellectual Property Rights vested in their products.

    @JagPatel3

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're bringing 617 back ?

    Everybody with a dam dust off your flak !

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: They're bringing 617 back ?

      Don't know what they've been doing lately, but they were flying those big beautiful Vulcans for many years.

      1. EvilDrSmith

        Re: They're bringing 617 back ?

        Went from Vulcans to Tornados. Disbanded as a Tornado squadron when??? can't remember, but quite recently, as a prelude to reforming with F35.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: They're bringing 617 back ?

          ...but can an F35 (any variant) carry a bouncing bomb? The aiming and altitude problems are already solved with a couple of torches and a coat hanger :-)

  11. Clive Galway
    WTF?

    27% of the value for a software upgrade?

    Did I get my maths wrong?

    £345m on 15 airframes = £23m per aircraft.

    Current value is £85m, so 27% of the value of the aircraft to upgrade it to fighting capability?

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: 27% of the value for a software upgrade?

      Did I get my maths wrong?

      Nope, and neither did Lockheed Martin. You're probably thinking "wow, that would be three and a half thousand man years of effort, that can't be right?"

      But those figures are the price the customers will pay, not the input cost to LM. As usual, the original bid was a loss leader, in the certain knowledge that vast profits could be creamed on all the variations. It isn't as though the buyers can get anybody else to do the work with any hope of success (look what happened when the Clowns of Abbey Wood decided to meddle with the flight control software of the Chinook Mk3).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 27% of the value for a software upgrade?

      "Current value is £85m, so 27% of the value of the aircraft to upgrade it to fighting capability?"

      Limited fighting capability.

      You can bet a lot of functions won't be working on that software release.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's lots of money to be made from garbage

    Ask anyone with access to a hole in the ground.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's lots of money to be made from garbage

      Is this before or after landing?

      (The year of Linux on the F-35 when?)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $£$

    trebles all round?

  14. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Holmes

    The most expensive thing in the world

    Is traditionally held to be its 2nd best air force.

    I'd assume Britain will remain in the top 10 and won't have to fight the US, is out of range of China and not at war with France (unless Rees-Mogg becomes PM). I can't see a direct war with Russia happening so it would be fighting Russian proxies in minor wars and the squadron of F-35's would probably come home safely against the squadron of MiG's or Sukhois that Moscow would donate when things kicked off which would be the main decider on whether to deploy them in the first place.

    It makes a kind of sense if the UK government intend to keep getting involved in these things. Alternatively if they ploughed all the money into buying Hawk/Goshawk variants they could increase the number of pilots, hours flown and people working in aerospace.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: The most expensive thing in the world

      I can't see a direct war with Russia happening

      But as a defence planner you wouldn't be able to use that as a planning assumption. Or you could, but you wouldn't be a very good defence planner.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: The most expensive thing in the world

      minor wars and the squadron of F-35's would probably come home safely against the squadron of MiG's or Sukhois

      They are not donating those any more. All recent donations are S300 with S400 and S500 donations in the queue. Any discussion of aircraft have been strictly sale or lease at nominal value. The days when Brezhnev gave the Arabs whole squadrons of Migs are long gone.

      If they will be facing S300 or S400 some of those F35s will probably not make it home. They are not THAT stealthy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The most expensive thing in the world

        >The days when Brezhnev gave the Arabs whole squadrons of Migs are long gone

        Old joke: Why did the Soviets give the Arabs so many aircraft?

        A; The Israelis needed something to practise shooting down.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The most expensive thing in the world

          Old joke: Why did the Soviets give the Arabs so many aircraft?

          Oldie but Goldie.

          Here is a real one from a participant (not saying which country he is from). When the Israeli launched Mole Cricket 19 to clear the Syrians from the Beqaa valley they managed to take out ALL Syrian SAM sites in one day. Except one.

          The one which was not yet handed over to the Arabs and had instructors from the Warsaw pact country (not USSR) doing the hand over.

          It was not taken out because the head of the handover team immediately figured out what is going on and forced the issue for the site to relocate to the backup position.

          In order to do that, he had to shoot at the ground in front of the feet of the Arabs so they f*** move instead of sleeping on the job. As a result the site relocated and was the only one the Israeli's did not take out. However, the Syrians took offense and got the team "evicted". With the expected result - that battery was taken out next day.

          So the official lesson taken away by the Warsaw pact from the Becaa valley engagement in 1982 was completely different from the bollocks in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mole_Cricket_19

          It was "move or die". I had friends who caught the last 1-2 drafts in the same country before the fall of the wall and served in AAA. They were trained on the lessons from that and they have some unpleasant recollections (moving a SAM battery 4 times in a day is not a walk in the park).

          The other lesson is that whatever weapons you give to arabs they will still f*ck it up. Exactly as in the oldie but goldie.

          1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: Mole Cricket 19

            Yeah, I've also heard that story. With a slight difference - it was a prayer time, so locals refused to do anything else. Instructors had to tell them that they'll meet Allah very soon if they won't budge. Of course it didn't go down well.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Mole Cricket 19

              >With a slight difference - it was a prayer time, so locals refused to do anything else.

              Israel was attacked during Yom Kippur because that is an important day in the Jewish religious calendar. One should not be too surprised Israel returns the favour with high speed tickets to the afterlife being handed out during prayer times. Which is just how many times a day?

          2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

            Re: The most expensive thing in the world

            That also happened in the falklands.

            I remember reading about a howitzer battery that kept pounding british forces, and lasted a looong time before being hit.

            What they did is follow the instructions: shoot a couple of times, immediatly redeploy in order not to receive counter fire. Bad soldiers and leaders would stay in place.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: The most expensive thing in the world

      unless Rees-Mogg becomes PM

      At which point he'll be demanding that the Froggies play fair and allow us to use longbows again..

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A wild guess

    that the cost of these aircraft would pay for every persons medical and education for 20 years if it wasn't spent on death machines for a war that will never happen?

    The cost of war during peace is just as high as war itself.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: A wild guess

      that the cost of these aircraft would pay for every persons medical and education for 20 years if it wasn't spent on death machines for a war that will never happen?

      I doubt that. The entire UK defence budget is about 40% of what is spent on health, and about a 70% of what is spent on education (and incidentally about 25% of the spend on welfare and pension benefits).

      Looking in a bit more detail, the US whole-life costs have been looked at even if MoD are too stupid to ask, and are reported at $1.5 trillion across 2,400 aircraft. That gives a cost per aircraft of $625m, which seems to pass a common sense test. Using today's rate of $1.40 that's around £450m per aircraft. The UK is thinking of ordering around 140, so that's a UK programme cost of £62bn. Given the current annual levels of education (£86bn) and health spending (£147bn), the entire fifty year whole-life cost of the UK F35 programme would pay for the health and education programme of the nation for a period of four months, so not quite twenty years.

      Even so, I think we'd both agree that £62bn appears only to buy us a vastly over-complicated, over expensive piece of foreign made crap.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: A wild guess

        buy us a vastly over-complicated, over expensive piece of foreign made crap

        Indeed. When we have so much over-complicated, over-expensive home-made crap that they could buy!

        (Who was it said that it would have been cheaper to give every Westland employee a million quid and buy working helicopters from somewhere else?)

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: A wild guess

          Who was it said that it would have been cheaper to give every Westland employee a million quid and buy working helicopters from somewhere else?

          Might have been cheaper on that day, but then the makers shut up shop, the skills and capability is lost, and we have no choice but to buy foreign kit in future. And this happens very quickly, like when that smug toffee nosed twat Cameron cancelled Nimrod MRA4 and we then had to go grovelling to the Yanks to buy Boeing P8s a scant few years later.

          A large part of the argument for "cheaper off the shelf" isn't because we can't make something cost effectively, but because MoD come up with stupid ideas that make things cost ineffective. On MRA4 if was the criminally stupid idea of hand-crafting a load of new Nimrods rather than fitting the avionics into a commercial platform, such as an A321. And sadly the same applies when MoD buy foreign kit anyway - look at the shambles that is F35, or the Watchkeeper. That last one is particularly galling, because MoD took a $2m per ship Israeli drone from 20 years ago, and then managed to end up with bugger all working and still have a cost approaching £20m per airframe.

          1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: A wild guess

            And this happens very quickly, like when that smug toffee nosed twat Cameron cancelled Nimrod MRA4

            They could have built a maritime reconnaissance and patrol aircraft (with a possible early warning secondary function) out of A330 ten times for the amount of money spent on the Nimrod. The whole idea of rebuilding airframes (the new wings) of a 1960-es aircraft is criminal in its stupidity. It is a classic example of UK military procurement gone mad.

  16. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Thats a lot for an upgrade

    but a lot cheaper than a working upgrade.

    https://xkcd.com/1969/

  17. Steve Todd

    HOW many developers are they employing?

    I make that around 54,000 man-years, even assuming $200K per man average cost.

    1. Allonymous Coward

      Re: HOW many developers are they employing?

      It's government. 54,000 person-years is just the project meetings and procurement paperwork.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HOW many developers are they employing?

      Don't forget the cost of deployment is 50% more. If you used a more likely man cost of $140k, and add in the deployment, we're talking about over 115,000 man years.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: HOW many developers are they employing?

      Main cost is testing. Not development.

      It is not dissimilar to any management system. While the "decision" modules are expensive, the real cost is in the testing especially if you have to test integration with things which cost tens to hundreds of thousands (some missiles).

  18. dnicholas Bronze badge

    But you said last week...

    "After we leave the EU we could cover that in a week with change to spare ... allegedly"

    Haha lol

  19. JLV Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Seems unacceptable for early adopters to have to pay so much for bugfixes on systems that are being sold while essentially still in beta (unkind souls might even say alpha).

    Witness the early block F35 that the USAF won't be able to upgrade.

    This is truly scandalous.

    Icon cuz that's what I would want to happen to that program. Skip to a 2030 timeframe gen 6.

  20. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Per Ardua Ad AI Strata. .... with Special Space Forces Servering Immaculate Source Intel Stations

    Things are moving on at a breathtaking pace, for here there be Leads to Follow and be Sublimely Shared with All Others via Global Operating Devices

    Does the Royal Air Force have a Secure Cyber Space Control Fleet Air Arm ...... AIMaster Pilots on Special Virtual Manoeuvres with Grand AIMaster Pilots ...... Kindred Free SuperNatural Spirits Engaging and Entangling with Thoughts of Even Greater Grand AIMaster Pilots ..... and sharing IT all here too, for free ‽ .

    How would you proceed with what you then and now know to be Perfectly True. Would you fear or rejoice to realise IT Alien.

    The money shot question is ..... Does RAF Command do Capital Mars Ventures .... on COSMIC Missions from Stellar Sources?

    And the upshot of all of that is, if RAF Command want to, they now can.

    Something for Mr Hammond to find Special Funding for Project Programming Controls, methinks, for RAF Cyber Space Command to Feed and Seed with Future Prime AIMoves.

    Hmmmm :-) .... Does that Present the Chancellor a Quandary Dilemma?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Neoliberalism is not about defending the masses. Its about enriching the few. Virtually every function of government is now subservient to adding a series of zeros to about 60 people's bank accounts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When Smoking Man appears on your front porch...

      From the frowned-upon new-sites, we hear:

      On Monday, the Monmouth University Polling Institute released the results of a survey that found that “a large bipartisan majority… feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a ‘Deep State’ of unelected government officials…..

      According to the survey:”…6-in-10 Americans (60%) feel that unelected or appointed government officials have too much influence in determining federal policy. Just 26% say the right balance of power exists between elected and unelected officials in determining policy. Democrats (59%), Republicans (59%) and independents (62%) agree that appointed officials hold too much sway in the federal government. (“Public Troubled by ‘Deep State”, Monmouth.edu)

      The survey appears to confirm that democracy in the United States is largely a sham. Our elected representatives are not the agents of political change, but cogs in a vast bureaucratic machine that operates mainly in the interests of the behemoth corporations and banks. Surprisingly, most Americans have not been taken in by the media’s promotional hoopla about elections and democracy. They have a fairly-decent grasp of how the system works and who ultimately benefits from it. Check it out:

      “Few Americans (13%) are very familiar with the term “Deep State;” another 24% are somewhat familiar, while 63% say they are not familiar with this term. However, when the term is described as a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy, nearly 3-in-4 (74%) say they believe this type of apparatus exists in Washington.…Only 1-in-5 say it does not exist.” Belief in the probable existence of a Deep State comes from more than 7-in-10 Americans in each partisan group…”

      So while the cable news channels dismiss anyone who believes in the “Deep State” as a conspiracy theorist, it’s clear that the majority of people think that’s how the system really works, that is, “a group of unelected government and military officials…secretly manipulate or direct national policy.”

  22. M7S
    Joke

    North of five billion bucks for a box of encrypted USB sticks and a secure courier!

    I'm astonished, I've seen more realistic and reasonable prices being quoted on the stands at Infosec, which is saying something.

    Clearly Maplins had the right pricing but was in the wrong market sector.

  23. Schultz
    WTF?

    £7.67bn ($10.8bn) for software development

    Wow. Let's hope they don't pay the code by the line.

  24. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Peaceful Space Offering via Registered Channels on FreedD Air Ways

    I took Simon's Programming Tale to Represent Current El Reg Interests.

    Globalised AI Gamification of/at Levels into Virtualised Strategy for Total Practical Tactical Advantage would be Introducing ITs Products in CyberIntelAIgentWares here and now.

    And for every day hence since then to be recorded as the Past, even as IT Explores AI Virgin Futures. ....... Quantum Communications AIMachinery with Deliveries for Production of Tomorrows.

    With NEUKlearer Media Teams Astonishing True Stars .... and even themselves too.:-)

    As a SMARTR Business, what Price to Markets be Globalised AI Gamification of/at Levels Worthy for/of Command and Control Levers to AId Virtualised Strategy for Total Practical Tactical Advantage?

    Methinks Fort Knox would be gladly drained for the Privileges such Advantage Commands with Prime Futures in Control, and at the Controls.

    Are future visitors here an alien species ........ and Special Air Sources doing TS/SCI MOD Work in Strange Works ...... https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/3/2018/03/22/f_35b_block_4_upgrades_cost_uk_345m/#c_3463768 ........ which Just Appear to Appear and Work Exceptionally Well.

    Or are they Far Distant Travellers Returned Enlightened with SMARTR Leads Following Future Directions with Virtual Instruction on Real Practical Leverage in Advantage Given and Received ....... A Mutually Satisfying Program which has all the advantages and disadvantages of being hooked and captured by the simplest of sweet temptations if you be so gifted and lucky :-)

    Man and Woman as One in Mutually Satisfying Spontaneous Orgasms has both Travelling Stellar Class to Other Space Places that Seed a Need and Feed that has to be Seen and Experienced to be Believed.

    After Perfect Journeys is Nothing ever as IT was before ..... and the Future Beckons with Delights Beyond Compare to Savour and Nurture, or whenever used and misused and abused for the Generation of Money for Deficit and Debt, would Propagate and Plunder be more APT.

    cc DARPA/Google Federal

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does the quoted price include an engine?

    Or is this Lockheed Martin's odd convention of quoting a 'fly-ready' aircraft without an engine?

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