So, with a statement that openly contradicts the official declarations of the US Navy and of the UK government itself, which barely days ago said in Parliament that there was no reported problem with the conversion of the Queen Elizabeth class carriers for the use of EMALS, now we are told that:
Because Britain’s carriers will have all electric propulsion, and therefore do not generate steam like nuclear powered vessels, the catapult system would need to be the innovative Electromagnetic version (EMALS), being developed for the US Navy. Fitting this new system to a UK carrier has presented greater design challenges than were anticipated.
Either you were lying a week ago, or you are lying now. Somehow i think it's the second.
Anyway, the statement also says that:
Secondly, and partly as a result of the delayed timetable, the estimated cost of fitting this equipment to the Prince of Wales has more than doubled in the last 17 months, rising from an estimated £950M to around £2Bn, with no guarantee that it will not rise further.
Again, i just cannot believe it. But i suspect that, just like a promised but never published NAO report into the economic factors of keeping Harrier over Tornado, we will never be told the truth nor we will ever hear them justify this absurd figure.
There won't be a NAO investigation on this particular claim, want to bet with me?
Another lie is a few lines down the statement:
Thirdly, at the time of the SDSR, there was judged to be a very significant technical risk around the STOVL version of JSF and some commentators were speculating that it could even be cancelled. Indeed, the STOVL programme was subsequently placed on probation by the Pentagon However, over the last year, the STOVL programme has made excellent progress and in the last few months has been removed from probation. The aircraft has completed over 900 hours of flying, including flights from the USS Wasp and the US Marine Corp has a high degree of confidence in the in-service date for the aircraft.
While the USMC aims for a 2015 IOC, the reality is that production F35B are restricted from doing what they are meant to, going STOVL, as a clutch overheating problem preventing the engagement of STOVL mode in hot weather is still without a solution.
Additionally, the USMC will declare IOC with the software Block 2 and Block 3I, which are to include basic weapon release capability [it is very likely that none of the british weapons will be cleared in Block 2 and 3I], but be otherwise largely incomplete and in need for upgrade ASAP.
The USAF and US Navy are willing to wait until 2018, in order to declare IOC with the Block 3F software.
The UK can aim for IOC whenever it wants, provided that it pays for it: early IOC means placing orders early, getting early production planes, paying more for them, and then paying more money to retrofit them with the missing pieces.
And oh, we should anticipate integration of ASRAAM and Paveway IV, too, which is planned for Block 3F, otherwise the F35B entering service "early" with the RAF will only be able to use AMRAAM, since the other weapons which will be cleared (JDAM and GBU-12) are not in UK use.
But we are used to this practice, aren't we? The last Typhoon Tranche 1 of the RAF went to Warton this month to begin its R2 retrofit which will bring it to Block 5 standard.
Years after the plane entered service and dragged on with mutilated capabilities that have arguably badly affected the Typhoon's export potential as well.
The early in service date is a lie. It entirely depends on force buildup, and it is not at all as dependent on the US's own IOC as they want to have us believe.
At most, it is in theory possible to achieve earlier at-sea IOC since Queen Elizabeth is (expected to be) compatible with STOVL ops, so that air operations at sea could begin in 2018 instead of 2020. There's no certainty that this will be possible, however, especially since the airplanes and crews available in 2018 are likely to be very few unless orders are speeded up, and it is, to say the least, unlikely.
It will also depend on decisions yet to be taken. So far, Queen Elizabeth was planned to go in mothball in 2018/19 as Prince of Wales comes online. This is likely to change in SDSR 2015, or indeed much earlier than that.
Prince of Wales might enter service, or go from shipyard to mothball immediately, without making a day of service.
It's all to be seen still.
If Hammond is not lying and the UK gets its first production F35B in 2016, the order will be placed no later than 2014, with long-lead contracts signed next year. That would mean LRIP 8 and, barring further delays, Block 3F software. In the case, it would work well. All would depend, at that point, on the number of airplanes ordered.
Next in line, ladies and gentlemen:
The balance of risk has changed and there is now judged to be no greater risk in STOVL than in other variants of JSF.
The highlighted affirmation are patently, utterly untrue. It clashes with reality and with any and every document and statement you'll ever get from the US DoD.
As always, the US DoD real words are:
[...] significant work and flight tests remain to verify and incorporate modifications to STOVL aircraft required to correct known STOVL deficiencies and prepare the system for operational use.
By the end of November 2011, overall test point progress against planned
baseline productivity was slightly behind (9 percent). [F35A 11% behind schedule, F35C is 32% ahead of schedule]
The endless list of unresolved issues and risks tied to the F35B completes the picture.
Then, the next pill of awesome:
So, I can announce today that the National Security Council has agreed not to proceed with the “cats and traps” conversion, but to complete both carriers in STOVL configuration. This will give us the ability to use both carriers to provide continuous carrier availability - at a net additional operating cost averaging about £60M per year. As we set out in the SDSR, a final decision on the use of the second carrier will be taken as part of SDSR 2015.
So, hold on tight: both carriers will be capable to work with the fixed wing jets to be bought, but we could still only get one.
The only interesting / reassuring bit of info is the 60 million average annual cost for running a carrier. Adjusted for inflation, i think it matches the 2003 value of 44 millions per year, so the ship's running cost is stable and - relatively - low. An Albion class LPD costs between 20 and 30 millions a year, a Bay costs 12 million a year.
A CVF at 60 millions is more than fair.
Lies aside, the lesson of the day is: pray that the F35B works. And wait for 2015.