F35 Discussion

I understand that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had agreed that it was the Tornados to go, keeping the Harrier fleet. But over the weekend before the Monday announcement the head of the RAF briefed the head of the Army and then the PM that it was to be the Harriers to go, the RN were left out of the loop and the PM squashed all subsequent RN protestations.

Previously you would have noted that the RN Harrier squadrons were very rarely embarked on a CVS but rather flipped-flopped in and out of Afghanistan occasionally rested by a RAF Squadron (CVF operations mainly resorted to help ops and the occasional visit from foreign jets). Now approximately 1 month or so before the infamous announcement, the RAF swapped the Harriers in Afghanistan for the Tornados and so the RAF were then able to tell the PM what a wonderful job the aircraft were doing over there and that they should stay.

From any perspective, its a RAF stitch-up to get rid of RN fixed wing flying for ever (could the RAF be after the role of conducting all aircraft operations for UK military? (Does the ghost of Trenchard still live on?). It seems ironic that the RAF then got rid of all the Harriers, with the US Marine Corps buying the majority of them and have declared that they will continue to operate them until 2030. So much for being obsolete and knackered.

With no fixed wing aircraft left the CVS's were phased out (withdrawn from service early). Had we kept the Harriers we would have been able to participate in a far more effective manner in Libya and against ISIS. Its only the RAF's misguided self importance and blustering that's got us into this mess, but it's unfortunate that they have the ear of the senior politicians.

Had the carriers been fitted with the cats & traps events may have turned out differently but not totally regarding the F18's. Instead of buying them we should have leased some until the F35's were fully mature - why? well every back-end of every F35 is made in the UK. A huge amount of other equipment for the aircraft is also made in the UK. If we had decided not to buy any then we would have lost all manufacturing opportunities for the UK, a vast loss of revenue for both companies and the inland revenue. It is possible that by making so much of the F35 the country's purchase almost becomes nothing i.e. the tax revenue from making all F35's is balanced by the purchase price of our little fleet this may not now be true due to the escalating price).

Regarding the RAF and the battle of Britain, you only need to go down to the embankment to see what squadrons participated; there were approximately 70 participating squadrons made up from many nations of the 'free world'. Free French, Americans, Chech, Poles etc - in fact there were something like 3 squadrons of Poles, some Czech and Canadian, not to mention 804 & 808 of the FAA. In fact the poles accounted for 20% of all downed aircraft.

At a social gathering in Cyprus an RAF Navigator who happened to be on holiday recounted his time in the RAF. He had flown several missions bombing ISIL targets and supporting the ground forces. He retired because over the year his operational flying had effectively written off his domestic life. The turn around between missions was only a few days. This according to him was due to a lack of experienced crews - and aircraft availability!!?? His whole mission would start in the UK tank out, Cyprus, tank back. Not surprisingly with a short turn around he was knackered. Unfortunately, as it was a social occasion a deeper Conversation was impossible. However, when the topic of the Invincible Class carriers with Sea Harrier's and the GR 7/9's would have been more advantages was mentioned - the navigator immediately agreed that getting rid of them was a cock up!

So back to the F35. I still remain unconvinced as to the full value of that aircraft. I do recollect watching a early Harrier land on the Flight deck, in the 60's. We had Vixens and Buccaneers in those days. The consensus from above was that as they had a limited payload capability and short 'legs' for operations, it was totally unsuitable for the FAA.

Years later we finished up with the Sea Harrier, despite what we did on it to stretch its capabilities to the limit - it still had the same limitations. Sticking my head above the parapet, the FAA did what it always seems to have to do from the early days of Naval aviation, make do and mend with our lot. The heady days of the Buccaneer, Sea Vixen and Phantom in modern times did not last long. So, the F35, though far more sophisticated, to me is much the same as the Harrier. It has a payload, endurance and 'legs' problems; plus operational problems.

Finally, IFR, In Flight Refuelling. Forgive my over simplistic view, but to coin a modern expression"it is a no brainier". In all my previous carrier lives we always had tankers. On my first MK 1 Buccaneer Squadron it was the Scimitars, then Sea Vixens and Buccaneers. I remember striking RAF bases in Singapore regularly from way out in the Indian Ocean. Tanking to accomplish the mission and for the Vixens to extend CAP and escort. Just think what a massive boon it would have been down South in 82'.

The F35 cannot IFR. On the modern Carriers the same principles and requirements apply as they did in my day. The F35 has the same limitations as the Harrier, more in some situations. For our new carriers in this dangerous day and age, we need aircraft fit for purpose. The F18 has it, the F35 does not.

To ease the 'domestic politics' re Tax, employment, British contributions. A simple solution. Each carrier has a Squadron of F18's say 15. A squadron of F35's say 4 or 6. AEW - Drones. It will entail the Crabs losing Typhoons, however; The Crabs want to run the FAA, let them, they may see the advantage of the F18 /F35 combination and give up some Typhoons. It will not take long - as it did - not long after the start of the 2nd World War - for them to realise that life at Sea is not really very nice - as you cannot get home every night for Tea and nuptials!!! Plus, and a huge Plus, where are they going to mess their enormously huge manpower requirements on board. Balanced against our smaller trade structure manpower requirements. The Crabs, after a short time, I am sure would be delighted to hand things back to the RN!!

An oversimplification perhaps. I was just so P. O. (annoyed) when I saw how the French reacted to the atrocities - in that within hours they had mobilised their Carrier and dispatched it. Whilst, as I previously mentioned, our politicians in UK uttered platitudes, dispatched sympathy, and wrung their hands in debate over whether to bomb Syria". The RAF meanwhile launching four sorties a day with the very old Tornados, and the Typhoons doing what??!?!#*.

Researching on the internet. The results were depressingly familiar. Even the government has come to the conclusion that the Typhoon and by implication the RAF is not fit for purpose ie it is not capable of fulfilling its intended role. Worryingly, other Typhoon operators have come to the same conclusion. So, it is little suprise tht BAE did not get the UAE contract. Our inability to act effectively is not doing our image to the world much good.

Here is analogy: You are Sherrif Cameron of Tombstone City. You have a wonderful, new pistol- much better than your old Colt 45. Deadly accurate and in no time at all you have cleared the town of all the baddies-particularly the troublesome Cowboy Gang. You are so impressed with the gun that you buy some special, silver bullets for it to be prepared for those pesky Indian raids. These work even better so you think, if I bought golden bullets for it, it would be a wonder weapon. You could kill all the Indians AND the baddies at the same time. It will need some modification to fire the golden bullets but it still works really well with the old ones. It will be expensive but you think it's worth it.

Meanwhile, a shiny new gun appears on the market. You think, it will really do justice to your silver and gold bullets but it will need some rather expensive mods to make it fire them and it will be some time before your new gun is ready. You decide to buy the new gun anyway and some extra special platinum bullets to go with it. The gunsmith tells you that the new gun has problems so it'll be a while before it is ready for your magic bullets. In the meantime, you decide to sell your old gun but keep the silver, gold and platinum bullets for the new one.

But your the Sherrif and you need to look the part so you spend all your money, buy the new gun anyway, even though it wont fire your bullets and slip it into your holster. Now you look the part as you and your Deputy Sherrif Doc Hollande are patrolling the OK Corral. Doc is an old fashoned type so he stuck with his trusty Winchester Rafale loaded with lead bullets. A cloud of dust appears- its the Cowboy Gang looking for revenge and a showdown. Putin the Kid leaps from his horse, Assad, and tells you to draw. Whilst you are deciding whether to throw a handfull of your shiny, expensive bullets at him or the gun and hope it brains him, your deputy, Doc Hollande has pumped him and his horse full of lead. No wonder Doc Hollande is the hero of the gunfight at OK Corral!

PS There is another possible version of the story which has Sherrif Cameron riding out on his horse to meet the baddies. The problem with that one is, he had to sell his horse to pay for the new gun......... PPS Radio 4 has just announced that the UK government has requested help from the French and the Canadians to track down a Russian Submarine as we 'do not have any Nimrods'. You just couldn't make it up..........