Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Type 26; the future of the Afghan vehicle fleet, the F35 saga

Type 26 Update: new BAE video

Once again, not very showy and not very good in quality, but there's a new Type 26 video from BAE, released at DSA 2012 in Malaysi,a and it seems to prove some of the good spotters on this blog right: there's a VLS silo in the funnel. This new video shows it well. Its sizes seem to match the main missile silo, which could mean as many as 24 cells. 


Congratulations to the several readers who saw it already in the first video i reported: for how much i tried, i personally struggled to see it, but this new video seems to definitely confirm that something's up there.

Hard to imagine the RN finding the money to put VLS in there when they have difficulties funding the main silo, but we at least know that the design offers this chance. Other highlights: the helicopter hangar door is single (no dog kennel as we all hoped) but, to me, it looks a bit narrow. A single, large hangar is a fundamental requisite for helicopter + UAV operations, so i'm hoping in an hangar at least as large as the Type 45's one. 

A question still to be answered is that of the Flexible Mission Deck. Is it still present? The Royal Navy's Yearbook 2011/12 reports that yes, it is still present. Then again, it still shows the old Type 26 photos. BAE's Global Combat Ship webpage is just about as up-to-date regarding images, though, so it might very well not mean that the info is out of date.
As i wrote in the recent article on the Navy's yearbook, the publication reports, about the Type 26:

The yearbook confirms that the Flex Mission Deck is present. Probably sized, according to BAE data, to take up to 11 standard containers or 4 12m boats.

The yearbook also tells us of the current preferred propulsion option, which is for a CODLOG solution on 4 diesels connected to two large electric motors, generating cruise speed as high as 18 knots, with a direct drive gas turbine for sprints of minimum 26 knots.
Other options have been/are considered, including an integrated all electric solution or a wholly diesel one.

In terms of weapons fit, the yearbook is quite clear about the RN's want to fit the Type 26 with a new medium calibre gun, capable of firing long range, precision guided ammunition. It is very much the identikit of the Oto Melara 127/64 with Vulcano ammunition, especially since the BAE 127/54 rival has been badly damaged by the US cancellation of the guided ammunition meant for it.
Fitting TLAM long range land attack missiles is "subject of further studies" (read: we are trying to get money for it, won't be easy), but regardless of the decision on TLAM it remains the RN's ambition to have the Type 26 fitted at build with a large VLS silo (24 cells) in which land attack missiles and the future anti-ship missile would be carried.  

The Type 26 frigate is to "reverse" the Type 45 situation (20% of technology carried through, 80% new kit) by de-risking most of its mission system thanks to the Type 23 mid-life upgrade program.
Type 26 will inherit from the Dukes the Type 997 radar (Artisan 3D), the Type 2087 towed sonar (8x) and its command system will be a derivation of the current DNA(2)/CMS-1.
The adoption of proven, in-service kit for almost 80% of the ship's systems is meant to keep costs and risks down, as there is no margin for error in this crucial program.

The future of Mastiff

On 19 April Philip Davies made a question i've been waiting for for a long time, and got an interesting answer:

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has to bring all Mastiff, Ridgback and Foxhound vehicles back to the UK after the British role in Afghanistan has been completed. [102414]
Nick Harvey: It is intended to bring all serviceable Mastiff, Ridgback and Foxhound vehicles back from Afghanistan but the specific details, including timing and locations, are still to be determined. It is planned to return the vehicles to a number of sites across the UK and wider Ministry of Defence estate. We expect to make decisions on which vehicles will be retained as part of the core equipment programme during the course of the next year.
Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department plans to keep sections of the Army fully trained in the use of Mastiff, Ridgback and Foxhound vehicles for use in future counter-insurgency operations. [102416]
Nick Harvey: It is not yet known which of these of vehicles will be retained as part of the core equipment programme. However, the Army's training programme will continue to reflect their use for as long as there is a requirement to do so.

Unfortunately Davies did not include Warthog and Jackal in his question, and Harvey accurately avoided expanding on the matter himself.
On Foxhound, we pretty much already knew: Foxhound is already considered part of the Core Budget (the second order for 100 vehicles has also been already funded from Core, and not under UOR method), while it is interesting to hear that Mastiff and Ridgback are coming back to the UK.
Somewhat sensibly, the long term future of both will be decided in Planning Round 2013, it seems, after this year's Planning Round gives (hopefully) a clear indication of the force structure that the Army has to develop.

Using a Voyager for VIP transport role?  

It is not a bad proposal. One of the 5 "on-call" Voyagers could well fill this need. And you have to admit that the press and industry do make a good point: if you go abroad to advertise the Airbus products but show up in a chartered Boeing, you don't look very smart.

The Voyager is also an obvious candidate for the UK's eventual participation in the currently tri-national Air Tanker initiative launched within NATO by France, Germany and the Netherlands in order to provide, by 2020, a greater european air tanker capability, based on the Airbus 330 platform, of which France plans a fleet of 14, with orders for the first 5/7 to come next year.

F35 saga

We are still dealing with an unjustified, unspecified inflated carrier conversion cost figure having ballooned from a NAO estimate of 800 million and a MOD allocation of 950 millions to 1.8 billion or even 2 billions, depending on the newspaper talking of it. 
According to the US Navy, the EMALS and AAG cost has not changed, and the modifications to the carrier itself and additional worktime are not worth more than 400 million pounds, meaning that the 950 million allocation is actually still more than valid and also has a margin for cost overgrowth. 

So, from where does the 1.8 billion figure come? 
My personl opinion is that the press got it wrong and it is reporting the figure in an absolutely misleading way. The conversion cost of the single carrier has not increased 8not that much at least!), with 1.8 / 2 billion being the cost of conversion for both hulls. Which would more than fit the only official cost estimations we have, coming from the NAO, the MOD and the US Navy, 3 sources that, in my book, matter a lot more than the Daily Mail. 
This is of course still a cost increase because, as we know, the original 2010 plan was to convert only Prince of Wales and rely on carrier sharing with the french to put the british planes on Charles De Gaulle when the carrier was not available. 
The key point is that Charles de Gaulle is unsuitable for operations with the heavy F35C, as its deck is not adequate. This was first reported in a Parliamentary Defence Committee report, and when i first signaled it, i was ridiculed by many. I stand vindicated now, as the CdG unsuitability is confirmed. 
However, you will agree with me that a lot of things change between being fed with the story that fitting two catapults and 3 wires costs almost as much as building the vessel whole and having that pricetag covering two conversions.  
It would be very important to have clarity on this point.

In absence of an adequate second deck provided by France, converting the second CVF becomes indispensable, and there appears the 1.8 / 2 billion cost figure, with the new, magic question being: is it still worth the price? 
Question which is followed by an even less comfortable: "if it is still worth the price, where the hell do we find all that money in the short term?"

Answering these two questions is the key. 

According to US DoD figures, the F35B will cost 25% more than the C through-life to support.
In terms of acquisition costs, the 2012 figures for the expected Recurring Flyaway Unit Cost (the pricetag of a complete F35 airframe ready to go, but excluding spares, training and support) are: 

F35C - 87 USD million
F35B - 106.5 USD million 

From these figures comes the "600 million pounds" saving that has been reported by the Press several times when the subject is the F35C. The 600 million pounds savings is calculated on an  initial order for 50 airframes.

A Telegraph article reporting of a leaked "top secret" OPEVAL exercise internal at the MOD reports, however, that the F35B limitations in terms of range, payload and availability would require an order of 135 to match the same requirements met by 97 F35C.

The interesting bit is that the "about 100 airframes" target reported by RAF sources would convert to a rather accurate (and very interesting) planned number of 97 F35C. That would be a very excellent number to work with, because it could sustain a good 5 frontline squadrons plus OCU, or Fleet Replacement Squadron in US terms. In economic terms:
cost of 97 F35C = 8439 US million [5241 million pounds, roughly, in today's pounds, so it would fit within the rumored "5 billion budget"]
cost of 97 F35B = 10330.5 US million [6415.2 million pounds]

Difference: 1174.2 million pounds.

Number of F35B theorically achievable with 8439 US million [the budget is more than likely to stay the same, after all] = 79 vs 97 F35C

Difference in million pounds if 135 F35B were to be ordered (will never happen, but if we are to believe the Telegraph this is the number of B it takes to meet the requirements covered by 97 C)

8929 million pounds [135 F35B]
6415.2 million pounds [97 F35C]

2513.2 million pounds of difference.

[135 F35C would cost 7293,6 million pounds, again over 1.6 billion saved]

There is who has already suggested that this report is a "Navy trick" aiming to provide the government with a cost figure that justifies spending for the conversion of the carriers. What can i say, perhaps. Or maybe no. 
The first who argued for the F35C, and we know thanks to Lockheed Martin sources, was the RAF, who's been wanting the C as a Tornado replacement since at least 2005. They might have changed their mind and now want the B very badly, but i do not exactly think so.
Launching accuses of "Navy tricks", though, stinks. And it clashes against a reality which from many years now sees the Navy quite regularly screwed and outplayed, and which is all but denounced by Liam Fox himself, who after the SDSR period at a conference had to bitterly note
“Sometimes I get the impression that the Navy is less successful, even less willing, at selling itself than the other services.”


“I was accused by some of being the only dark blue suit in the SDSR apart from the First Sea Lord.”
The Navy playing tricks within the MOD? Would be kind of about time they started, but it is unlikely that they have gained any real foothold in the right positions in order to do so, since the still recent past.

I want the best decision to be made. I want two carriers available, and the planes to fly off them also available. My preference goes to the C, for a number of reasons, from its better and smoother progress in the testing and development to the much better weight growth margin which gives it much more helpful breath space to evolve, fix eventual issues yet to be discovered, and reach entry in service as an effective airplane, to the fact that the only "hard" cost figures we have all point to it being a much cheaper and cost-effective choice. 
I also value the flexibility and future-proof nature of a big CATOBAR carrier: future UCAV? It can go aboard. CATOBAR plane? It can go aboard. STOVL plane? It can go aboard. US Navy, USMC, French, Italian airplane? They all can use a big CATOBAR CVF.
Name it, and the big CATOBAR ship almost certainly can do it. 

The bit about UCAV is likely to be particularly important in future. I've talked with B supporters who say that we'll just fit EMCATs from Converteam or, guess it, EMALS, in future, when the drones make up more and more of the UK's airpower (the RAF itself expects that one third of its force will be made up by UAVs in 20 years time!), but to me this sounds absolutely ridiculous. If we are expecting to need catapults in a few years time, then it is absolutely clear that we should get them now, not buy the most expensive and less capable airplane, be constrained by it for 30 years or more will also paying for catapults and wires soon after. 

I recognize, however, that it is not a decision to be taken in isolation. 
The F35B should come with a lower requirement in terms of training for carrier qualification, which is very important to ensure that the RAF can embark with minimum notice. If a genuine assessment of the pros and cons suggests going with the B, i'll be the first wishing the F35B well, for it to work and work well.

However, i want it to be a genuine assessment of all pros and cons. And ideally, since carrier strike is what we want to achieve, we should finally detach the requirement from the RAF desire of spending the most of the time on land, in a comfortable airfield such as Marham, and only bother to go at sea when it really can't be avoided, unless they can provide genuine financial and operational justifications for the arrangement, for example explaining what is a second land-based jet fleet going to add to the defence capability of the UK other than numeric consistency.   
This is the original sin of the whole matter, to me. This (wrong) way of approaching carrier strike, by trying to present CVF as a floating, mobile RAF airport over which the Navy has just 40% of the say.

Sorry, this is just the wrong way of doing things. We are trying to put a land force on a ship, meeting the inexorable issues that this implies, and potentially choosing the "wrong" aircraft in order to make it possible, instead of having a naval force, which can with zero issues (other than, possibly, losing carrier currency is the ops go on and on and on for years, but this is another matter and the Harrier GR9 is there to demonstrate that, in this particular case, the B would not do any better) go on land when necessary.
And we are having to deal with this as a consequence of a dubiously wise maneuver in the SDSR 1998. Time to look into it again, and make an honest analysis of what is really needed and what must be achieved. 

The benefits of re-established naval aviation are clear: 

- Air Cover for the Fleet 
- Independent capability of deploying airpower in a place and time of UK's choosing
- More effective use of available resources thanks to the possibility of going closer to the target

Given that the airplane and weaponry employed would be the same, primarily-focus the fleet on land negates and reduces the benefits, if anything.

As to the (not very relevant, but very annoying on the other hand) war of words about who-is-lobbying for what, it is worth remembering that in 2006 Tom Burbage, LM director of the F35 program, said that the UK planned a buy of 138 F35, of which 80 would be B, forming 4 Squadrons and an OCU as a replacement for the Joint Force Harrier and to provide the airwing of CVF, with the remaining airplanes forming two more (smaller) squadrons plus an OCU as Tornado replacement for land based deep strike.
It was reported that this entailed a split buy, with the F35B for the carriers and the long-range, higher-payload F35C for the RAF deep strike.
Later on, in 2007, talk for a single type order of 80/85 F35C started to emerge, and it is evident that things evolved from there up to the surprise decision in the SDSR 2010.

Better to be careful when you accuse the "evil" Navy of plotting to support the F35C: for what we know, it appears more likely that the Navy is now scared of having to shoulder a much greater expense than hoped for CVF conversion due to the clear need for two hulls as CdG won't do, and is thus arguing for the B, with at least part of the RAF pressing for the C.
Which makes far more sense when you think that:

A - The Navy pays for CVF - so converting both hulls means, for them, finding more money
B - The RAF pays for the F35 - so C for them means paying a lot less and getting more

Do you really think that the RAF is arguing for a plane that would cost them more and do less, while the Navy eagerly calls for a greater cost to face in the build program?
You might be seeing this upside-down.

It is a very complex and very embarrassing story, in any case, caused first of all by the lack of a clear strategy, by the never-successful mixture of RAF and RN on the naval aviation front, and especially by a lack of understanding of the need for and of the workings of carrier aviation.
I hope the decision which eventually is taken proves to be the correct one, but so far the premises are far from reassuring.

USMC and USN TACAIR agreement and F35 plans

Up to 2011, the USMC was still planning a buy of 420 F35B, for a sole STOVL force. This was, in part, son of the 2001-old prediction (later proved false by a good margin) that the C variant would be the most expensive of the 3.
By 14 March 2011, things had changed, and time was mature for a new Tactical Airpower integration agreement between the US Navy and the USMC, which brought forwards, along with other adjustments, the well-known change from a 420 B order to a 340 B, 80 C USMC order.

The future US Navy air component is to line 35 Strike squadrons, of which 20, out to at least 2030, will fly on the Super Hornet (half on the two-seat F/A-18F and half on the single seat E), with 15 squadrons flying the F35C thanks to an order for 260 airplanes.
The US Navy is standing up a first Fleet Replacement Squadron, with 15 F35C, based on the F35 Integrated Training Center on Eglin air force base, and is finalizing the program for the transition of the legacy F/A-18C fleet to the F35C.
In particular, the transition will start on the West Coast, where, from 2015, the active squadrons on the 18C will start changing airplane. A total of 7 active squadrons will convert to the C on the West Coast, and each squadron will have 10 F35C.
In 2017 they will be joined by the Fleet Replacement Squadron responsible for the West Coast, which will have 30 airplanes.
109 F/A-18C are thus being replaced by 100 F35C, to be all based, almost certainly, on the Leemore air base.

The East Cost squadrons will begin transition to the C in 2019. There should be 8 more active squadrons and another large Fleet Replacement Squadron, even if the plan has yet to be announced. There should also be at least one Reserve Component squadron on the F35C.

A possible utilization of the Navy F35C would thus be:

160 assigned to frontline squadrons (16 squadrons including one reserve sqn - plan still evolving)
75 in Fleet Replacement Squadrons [15 on the ITC, 30 in the West Coast FRS and probably 30 in an East Coast FRS]
25 OEU/Attrition

The USMC will have 21 Active and 3 Reserve squadrons: 5 squadrons (10 airplanes each) will be on the F35C.
The 420 USMC F35s will be used in the following way:

282 airplanes assigned to Active and Reserve squadrons
64 airplanes committed to Training
6 in OEU
68 attrition reserve

The 80 F35C of the Marines will form squadrons on "10 plus" airplanes each, leaving up to 30 for training and attrition.

The 340 F35B are to be assigned to 9 Expeditionary Squadrons, each with 10 airplanes, with the task of supplying airplanes to the 7 Marine Expeditionary Units, for employment on the LHDs and LHA ships.
A normal LHA/LHD detachment will have 6 F35B and 9 pilots. There is thus plenty of airplanes to put machines on each deck.

A further 7 Squadrons, larger, will stand up for land deployment, each with 16 airplanes. Four of these squadrons will be based on Yuma AB.
These squadrons will rotate and one will at all times be located in Japan, on Iwakuni AB: prior to the 2011 TACAIR agreement with the US Navy, this task was covered by F/A-18 squadrons of the Navy on behalf of the Marines.
Last, there will be 3 Reserve Squadrons, all on F35B.

Prior to the 2011 TACAIR deal, the Marines planned, as said earlier, for an all B fleet, which would have lined 3 Fleet Replacement Squadrons, each with at least 20 airplanes.
There is not yet a detailed plan for the FRSs now that the F35C is part of the picture, but a share of the 64 airframes assigned to training will no doubt be made up by the C.
A 20-airplanes Fleet Replacement Squadron on the F35B is part of the Eglin ITC, and two more F35B FRS were planned: i guess that there might still be, but line, perhaps, 15 F35B each instead of 20, with another FRS having the F35C.
The FY2012 Marines Aviation Plan, once published, should explain this: normally, their documents are wonderfully detailed. FY2011 Plan sure is, and it is immensely interesting even though the F35 part is clearly outdated as it is still an all-B plan.

The Naval Aviation Vision 2012, released in January, describes the future of the 10 Carrier Air Wings of the US Navy:

44 Strike Fighers [2x Super Hornet sqn, 12 airplanes each, one two-seat and one single seat]
                            [2x F35C sqn, 10 airplanes each]
5 AEW&C            [1x E2D Hawkeye sqn with 4/5 airplanes]
11 helicopters      [+8 distributed within the battlegroup, all of the MH60R type]
2/3 Carrier On-board Delivery [Greyhound and then future replacement]
4/6 UCAVs           [from 2018 or, more likely, 2020]
5 Electronic Warfare [1x EA-18G Growler squadron with 5 airplanes]

556 Super Hornet are available/on order so to sustain a 20 Squadron force up to 2030.
75 E2D Hawkeye are being purchased for 10 squadrons plus Fleet Replacement Squadron, 1 Reserve Squadron (will continue to use the E2C).
114 EA-18G Growler on order, to sustain 14 Squadrons [10 for the Carrier Air Wings, 4 "Expeditionary", needed also to fill a big hole in EW capability since the termination of the USAF B52 Standoff Jammer Capability], one Fleet Replacement Squadron with 12 airplanes.

The USMC is not getting any Growler: they will use to exhaustion the remaining Prowler, [22 in 4 Squadrons] decommissioning one squadron per year from 2016 onwards. The replacement will be the stealthy Next Generation Jammer, mounted on the F35B (the Navy will use it on the Growler and possibly on the C), and a UAV with an Electronic Warfare payload.


  1. Re: Type 26 propulsion options -

    I am trying to wrap my head round what this means in term of shafts / props "

    "which is for a CODLOG solution on 4 diesels connected to two large electric motors, generating cruise speed as high as 18 knots, with a direct drive gas turbine for sprints of minimum 26 knots"

    2 azi-pods for cruise / manouvre driven by the electrics and a single shaft for the GT ? I.e. 3 props ? Or are the electric motors turning shafts rather than providing power to propulsors, in which case GT can be clutched in by gearing to one, or both of these shafts (seems a little complicated) - what do you think ???

  2. OK, sorry, looking at the video again, it looks like 2 shafts !

  3. The electric motors turn the shafts, definitely. And the gas turbine direct-drives both shaft when engaged, with the electric motors rotated by the shafts and thus working as generators to cover the electric needs of the ship's systems.

    Like on the french FREMM.
    An effective and not at all complicated propulsion arrangement, quite damn efficient (and silent!) when only the diesels are on.
    Excellent to allow the frigate to cruise silently and make the best use of its sonar.

  4. Hi Gabriele,

    Thanks for that information.

    Pity we are hearing nothing about the planning round or army structure, which are both now well overdue. I think this is due to politcal reasons. Also, I was dissapointed to hear that departments have to keep 5% back just in case, this makes the 1% increase is MoD funding look unlikly.

    As you know I favour the F35B option, as I think it’s the only affordable one. I don’t know who why or how the costs are worked out. My fear is that with most MoD BAE projects, there will be an overspend on the carrier conversion. I suspect that BAE has a clause in the contract that for every bolt or panel changed it gets 100 million compensation! I would much prefer to have two new carriers, with 24 operational F35B. As we have both said before, keeping a tranche 1 typhoon squadron operational would give the RAF an extra Typhoon tranche 3 squadron which it could use to fulfil a strike role.

    I am not saying the F35B is perfect, or that option is, but it’s affordable, and still gives the RN options, and a versatile aircraft. I look at it as an upgraded Sea harrier Ark Royal option.

    I see the F35C option ending up over budget. Only one carrier being converted, so leaving us with a capability gap when this ship is not a sea. The RAF ending up using the 24 F35C (Like you, I can’t see us getting anything like 98 aircraft, which ever variant) as a Tornado replacement more the RN using it as a navel strike aircraft.

    In my humble opinion, having a one carrier, with maybe 6 F35C on it, (when it could operate up to 36), the huge cost and sacrifice that has been made to achieve that was not worth making.


  5. Gabriele, I much enjoy your articles and comments. You would make a great advisor to Mr Hammond!!
    With regard to the Type 26. With one 'boat' launching opening forward of the hanger on the port side and two starboard could the mission bay now be forward of the hanger with extensions aft on either side of the hanger? (you mention the narrow hanger door). 'Boats' could be moved/launched from undercover by use of gantries on either side of the ship (perhaps better than from a stern ramp as the ship could form a lee of calm water as I have seen in the distant past. The forward of the two on the starboard side could perhaps be an opening for RAS operations? I am, like you, eagerly awaiting the final design.

  6. The mission bay moved up to the helicopter hangar is a possibility. I've seen it suggested here and there, and Navy Matters has graphics of exactly this concept, dating back to earlier times of the Future Surface Combatant.
    So it might very well be a possibility, even if the benefit of a large mission deck under the flight deck, with a boat ramp, are perhaps more desirable.

    The image is here, on this page of Navy Matters (how i miss the time of regular updates on that wonderful website!):


    This might be the sort of modularity available with the latest design: it does fit in quite nicely, if you think about it and consider the side-openings visible in the videos.

  7. Without AEW, what use is the carrier? Really.

  8. Who said that there's no AEW? Crowsnest is still on. At worst, there will be AEW radars on the Merlin helos.

  9. Ah, its been re-branded as Crows Nest has it?
    The Sea Kings are coming to the end of the life, and were supposed to be replaced by a new 'AEW Platform' for the new carriers, last I heard.
    E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is by far the best option! OTS + proven track record. Merlin will require yet more investment and won't be as effective as E-2D.

    I firmly believe the carrier(s) must be CATOBAR. Short term increase in cost, for massive gain in long term operational effectiveness.
    Also the £1.8B conversion is a load of balls! If BAE,have indeed quoted that as the sum, it's obviously down to 'contractual arrangements'. And perhaps BAE have inflated the costs on purpose, no?
    Could always send the Carrier(s) to the USA for conversion afterwards if they offer?

  10. Yes, from 2010.
    The plan is to modify the Merlin HM2 in order to allow it to carry either 2 APG-80 AESA radar pods on the torpedo hardpoints [Vigilance pod, Lochkeed Martin proposal] or add rails on the fuselage that allow the deployment of the well-known Searchwater bag as used currently.

    There is not enough money to buy additional Merlin for the sole AEW role.
    And yes, Hawkeye would be much better, but, again, lack of money means that E2D's got no chances.

    As to the 1.8 billion conversion cost, i've expressed my thought: there is no apparent reason why it could ever cost that much to convert ONE carrier, while it is a very realistic figure if it is the pricetag of converting BOTH.

  11. Good Article again, if you add the three UK F-35 already in the program you get the magic numbers of 138 F-35B or 100 F-35C :-).

    I think your right about the preference for the F-35C and going with CATOBAR, despite the youtube video of F-35B trials on Wasp, its got a hell of a long way to go yet and must resolve its own issues before it can become a viable warfighter. My fear is we do the dumb move on the B before its really proven itself in operational sea trials not due for a couple of years.

    Just a couple of pointers, the F-35 stand up plans for the USN & USMC both predate the Feb 2012 deferral of F-35 production. This is what spooked the Navy as those 6 F-35C due onboard in 2020 may not be certified for sea duty by the USN till after 2020.
    C or B we were only due 18 F-35s by 2020 as that was our production slots, this may well be effected by the US deferral too so even if we had the B we still wouldn't see a naval wing of 12 aircraft till 2023 for just 1 carrier.

    Earlier in the year it was indicated that the MOD may have been willing to take an AEW Capability break and bring the program into line with the Catobar Carrier going operational. I would guess they were holding their options open and waiting for the SDSR 2015 to sure it up. I doubt we could afford a straight purchase of a Hawkeye squadron but i bet they are considering something akin to Airseeker with buying in aircraft and pooling the resources to keep maintenance and training costs down.

    Actually thats the great unknown at the moment and could have quite an impact on the Carrier Strike program - The Carrier Cooperation deals with the USN & MN.


  12. There's a possibility that Crowsnest will only enter service in 2022 according to some, indeed, but i think and hope that the Navy will fight its corner and remind everyone of what happens to a task force without AEW.
    They must also use the success of the baggers in Libya and Afghanistan to argue their case with the utmost decision. This is very much a capability NOT to gap.

  13. As you note, the arguments for F-35B over C don't seem to make much sense, regarding the costs.

    However, it occurs to me that the cost arguments in the Mail are a simplified spin for public consumption.

    So, what are the time issues for C v.s B?
    The C option seems to involve waiting for the PoW to finish acceptance, before naval aviation can be called upon.
    With the B option, would a limited capability be available sooner, e.g. off the Ocean or Illustrious? Or the QE at the very least?
    Or do the delivery schedules of the F-35 make that impossible in any case?

  14. "With the B option, would a limited capability be available sooner, e.g. off the Ocean or Illustrious? Or the QE at the very least?"

    In theory, it would be possible to start carrier ops trials by 2018 or earlier with QE and ski jump (assuming up to 2 years for ship validation trials, acceptance in service, Commando-carrier trials, helicopter trials and all other work before we get to the fixed wing business) but it is to be seen if the F35B would be:

    A - Ready
    B - Acquired in time

    As of end 2011/start 2012, the F35B is 9% behind test schedule, has a minimum of 1500 test flights still to go and nearly 15.000 test points yet to demonstrate.

    The F35C is 32% ahead of schedule, with 1200 test flights still to go and 12.000 test points to validate.

    The F35B test fleet has more airframes than the C's, but for the look of things it is not at all crazy to assume that the C might actually be ready before the B all the same.

  15. Hi Gabriele

    Great website - I've posted a link to it over on my own site (www.thinpinstripedline@blogspot.com) - perhaps you'd like to cross link to my own site?
    I've written a bit on both MARS and UK shipbuilding at present, and this may be of some interest to your readers.

  16. ooops - meant to say thinpinstripedline.blogspot.co.uk!

  17. I'll be glad to put up a link to your own blog. I'll do it right now. Thank you!

  18. Mike

    I dont think its the acceptance trials of PoW but rather the ready to go to sea date of the F-35C as that must follow the USN program so with the the production being deferred their plans have been put back somewhat from what Gabriele posted earlier. The trouble is we have to await on them being published before we know to what extent this may effect UK aircraft going to sea.

    I suspec t we will be reliant on Super Hornets to do the Sea Trials and qualificatiions for PoW, now if these will be in USN markings or not we will have to wait and see.

    Of course we could end up back with STOVL but we'll still be luckyt to see anything but development and training aircraft n-board QE before 2020


  19. 1. Nice to see the type 26 firm up though would be better with a 155mm gun.
    2. The Mastiff and foxhound how useful would they be patroling the most likley COIN enviroment the army will have to deploy into the streets of Belfast they are to big and to mission specfic.
    3. F35 the RAF may bleat about it being their money however the money the RAF gets comes from the MoD so it is tthe MoD's money being spent and the minister should get CAS in and tell him in no uncertain terms that this is the case and that the RAF will follow government policy and give 100% to the navy's requirement for carrier avation. Personally the F35 program funding should be taken off the airforce budget and given to the Fleet air Arm

  20. @ Mark

    Regarding F35 funding and carrier requirements, that's how things SHOULD be, but sadly not how they effectively are.

    The worst part is that, if you do read the press, the F35 is invariably presented as a messed up Navy project.

    A monumental case of insult added to injury.

  21. Another good article Gabriele :) I've always been glad to sit and read through your commentaries as they are very well presented and informative, unlike most of the stuff that people write all over the internet.

    I'm certainly liking the latest 2012 design for the type 26; the previous 2011 design just looked wrong to me, whereas this new one looks much more purposeful. Hopefully they will make the hanger wider, preferably about the size of the type 45's.

    One possibility is that the hanger and the mission deck (if the latter is now located at the same level) are conjoined and so if needed, the mission deck could be used for the storage of an extra helicopter of Lynx Wildcat size.

  22. It appears very likely that in this revised design the mission bay is indeed adjacent to the hangar, and located amidship, similarly to the arrangement first proposed in a 2006/07 Thales design for Future Surface Combatant.
    I will write an article about this sometime soon, when i can.

    It seems that the downsizing, from well over 6000 tons and possibly 150 meters to 5500 tons and 141 meters, has made the hull "crowded" and the mission bay would be hard to fit, and it would give a flight deck higher over the waves than desirable, so the mission bay went up into the superstructure, as the 3 boat doors suggested from the first time the video was shown.
    Might not be too bad since the re-configurable space might indeed mean a capability for more helos, and, of course, drones.

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