Monday, April 16, 2012

The first UK F35 has flown; CATOBAR training penalty; SCOTS battalions to disband

Friday the 13, the F35B named BK-1, first of the three F35s that the UK has ordered (3 B variants, but the third is to be swapped for a USMC F35C, probably to be known as CK-1) has enjoyed its first flight piloted by Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti, staying airborne for some 45 minutes and undergoing the first in a series of functional flight tests before the jet is handed over to the Ministry of Defence.

The MoD will then begin training and further testing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida later this year, possibly standing up a squadron as F35 OCU and fleet replacement squadron. Previous plans envisaged a 6-jets strong UK presence in the Eglin F35 Integrated Training Centre. Now, of course, there's uncertainty.

Meanwhile, today the Treasury-led review into the costing of CATOBAR and F35 switch is expected to report, and tomorrow the National Security Council should look into the matter. According to the press, the wind is blowing the F35B's way, but prudence is a must in this case.

Regarding the infamous "training penalty" of CATOBAR ops, an immensely helpful document, to which i was linked by Grand Logistics (god bless you my friend!) is the US Navy Landing Signal Officer's manual. 

The "tremendous" training penalty is here broken down in good detail. For the US pilots, Initial Carrier Qualification comes with 12 Day landings (10 of which arrested) and 8 Night landings (6 arrested). The first night flight should last a minimum of 20 minutes. Carrier Qualification is to be achieved during a period of no longer than 30 days.
After achieving currency, the pilot is ready for service, and needs to keep current by refreshing his qualification by, of course, operating from a carrier.

Depending on the time that passes since he's last been qualified, he has to carry on some training to renew his currency.
If 12 months or more pass from he's last been current, he has to face once more the whole 20 landings ICQ, while if he's last been current 60 days to 6 months earlier, the pilot needs facing a Field Landing Carrier Practice (in this video you can see French naval pilots doing their FLCP - needs a runway, one carrier landing lights aid system, the Landing Signal Officer and, for night FLCP with more than two airplanes in the air, one LSO assistant ), followed by 4 day landings (2 to 3 of them arrested) and 2 night landings. No longer than 5 days should pass between FLCP and the first landing on the aircraft carrier.

A whole table of the time periods and associated training needs is available in the manual in chapter 6.2.

The manual also contain an interesting "harmony guideline" figure for the aircrew day: the pilot can't be asked to exceed

a. Ten arrested landings
b. Four night arrested landings
c. Six and one-half hours in the cockpit

per day.

For the Hawkeye and Greyhound crew, the limit is for 3 sorties per day, but there is no maximum hours value. Each Hawkeye sortie is, of course, longer than that of a fast jet.

In the meanwhile, as we wait for the Army restructuring announcements as well, the Mail on Sunday reports that, as long anticipated by many, we will have to kiss goodbye to both 4th SCOTS battalion "The Highlanders" and 5th SCOTS "Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders".


  1. Hi Gabriele,

    If 2 battalions are cut from the Scottish regiment, which Scottish battalion will be the 4th battalion in the Scottish MRB? Scots Guards?
    Maybe they mean these two battalions will merge?

    I have a different opinion to you on the carrier option. I favour the F35B. 12 operational aircraft, one carrier maybe buy 2025, just not a strike capability to me, and I fear the costs will just snowball as they always do.


  2. I have no idea what the battalions assignment will be like. I wonder if the Army itself knows. They might not have reached that stage yet themselves, for how things are going.

    As to the costs, the issue is that the F35B is still very much at risk of simply not working, and it is very much the most expensive plane to buy and run, while being the one that delivers the less.
    I hope they do their calculations well.

  3. Hi Gabriele,

    As I understand the situation, the MRB based in Scotland, was to be made up of Scottish units.
    4 Battalions from the SCOTS, and Scottish RAC, RA, RE, and Sigs Regiments. The reason for this was the possible risk of Scottish independence, and to avoid the cost of moving units to and from Scotland should this happen during and post army restructuring.


  4. In the case, the Scots Guards are the most likely assigned unit. It is unfortunately certain, anyway, that with 25 battalions in the force, the MRBs will normally have 3 battalions of maneuver, with their fourth battalion detached on other duties (public role, Cyprus, Brunei if things do not change etc).

    Your point rises a question with me, too. It would seem right for such Scottish MRB to take on the 51 Brigade name, with the current regional brigade bearing the title getting another instead, perhaps that of the current brigade before it morphs into MRB.

  5. There's also another reason to say the Scots guards will be part of the MRB: all three battalions left in the Scotland regiment are currently Light Role.
    4 Scots is on Warrior, 5 Scots is airmobile within 16AA brigade.

    The Scots Guards are armoured infantry, so they fit the slot perfectly.
    One of the Light Role battalions in theory should be mechanized at some point, though, unless the MRB plan changes (which can very well happen).

  6. Gabriele,

    Yes, that would make sense. As I also understand there are public duties to do in Scotland.
    51 Brigade would be a nice touch.


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