Wednesday, July 22, 2015

SDSR 2015 - Any chance to keep up fast jet numbers?

SDSR 2015 – Issues, analysis and recommendations going towards the review



Royal Air Force 
Fast jets and squadrons number 
Royal Navy 

It is SDSR time, and it is evident in the news. Suddenly, something that we have know since at least 2011 is making the headlines as newspapers and publications grasp the fact that the UK is running down a steep slope that could bring the total number of fast jets all the way down to a paltry 127 or so by 2020, in as few as 6 squadrons, one of which probably not even fully operational and built up by that date.
The totals are easy made: 107 Tranche 2 and 3 Typhoons in 5 frontline squadrons, plus around 20 F-35Bs in 617 Sqn (plus OCU and OEU). The exact number of F-35Bs by 2020 is not known because government has yet to detail how many british aircraft will be purchased in LRIP 11 and in the Full Rate Production Lot 1. LRIP 11 aircraft would be delivered over the year 2019, with Full Rate 1 jets following during 2020, assuming that the F-35 production ramp-up is successful and there are no delivery delays.
18 F-35Bs should be in british hands by end 2018, according to JPO documents. LRIP 11 will add a yet unknown number. By 2023, some 48 F-35s should be in british hands, which, if confirmed in these terms, would mean spreading the purchase of 30 aircraft over LRIP 11 and Full Rate Lots 1, 2, 3 and 4. An average of 6 aircraft per year.

Anyway, by 2020 the fast jet fleet will indeed count a mere 127 or 130 or 131 aircraft, whatever it might be. The difference is marginal, and would still equate to just 6 squadrons, with a seventh (809 NAS) to follow by 2023. Longer term figures entirely depend on the number of F-35s to be purchased beyond 2023, but there is every reason to be fearful that if the number of jets is allowed to fall so low, it will then be very complex to rebuild.
The fall to such a low number of jets (and squadrons) will be determined by the loss, by 2019, of the 52 surviving Tranche 1 Typhoons (one written off in 2008) and the withdrawal of the remaining Tornado GR4 fleet, planned for March 2019.
Is there any way to put a limit to this dismantling process? 

The Tranche 1 Typhoons are far from out of useful airframe life, but they are extremely limited in their multi-role capability, and increasinly less comparable to Tranche 2s and 3As. The aircraft cannot be upgraded to current standards unless they are vastly rebuilt, in a process which would cost billions.
The Typhoon Tranche 1 is effectively stuck to AMRAAM and Paveway II, and both weapons are on the way out. The latter is being replaced by the lighter, more modern and capable Paveway IV. The AMRAAM will be replaced by the Meteor.
None of the two new weapons can be employed on Tranche 1, nor can the old Typhoons be upgraded to accept them at an acceptable cost.

An indirect help to Tranche 1 comes from the Meteor's and F-35's delays, however. It is to be assumed that the RAF will once more life-extend its (limited) stock of AMRAAM missiles to ensure that the F-35 has an air to air capability at entry in service and into the first five years of 2020. Meteor is expected to be integrated with the F-35 Block IV software (it should be confirmed later this year, hopefully), but it could take out to 2026 before it is operational. It is to be hoped that the RAF will not accept years of gap with the F-35 capable to employ only 2 external ASRAAM missiles.
Indirectly, a life-extension to the AMRAAM stock would benefit the Tranche 1 Typhoons, ensuring that they have at least one operational weapon (again, in addition to ASRAAM).

Thanks to an AMRAAM extension, it is theorically possible to talk about delaying the Tranche 1 OSD, putting the aircraft into one or two "air to air only" squadrons, with the other five employing Tranche 2 and 3 machines in a multi-role fashion, with special focus on air to ground due to Tornado GR4 leaving service in 2019 as currently planned.

The advantages of a Tranche 1 run-on, potentially, are:

- Confirmed elimination of one logistic and training line (Tornado GR4)
- Up to two extra squadrons going into the 2020s, albeit only good for air to air and at a progressively declining level of combat capability due to the rest of the Typhoon fleet moving on to Meteor
- It will be somewhat easier to argue for more F-35s if the number of squadrons is kept up. Replacing the equipment of existing squadrons is one thing. Rebuilding squadrons after losing them entirely is a different story, especially in the Treasury's eye.

The alternative is, of course, delaying the OSD of Tornado GR4. This is likely to be what the RAF actually hopes to obtain. The GR4 is useless in air to air, but has a complete air to ground capability which is in far higher demand.
It is already deployed on operations against ISIS.
And it has RAPTOR. This point is particularly relevant since the RAF is so far still refusing to seek integration of RAPTOR, or of another recce pod, on Typhoon. The RAPTOR is used constantly, and its contribution is appreciated and praised: with the Prime Minister and top brass voicing their support for ISTAR spending, surely the risk of losing RAPTOR without an immediate replacement in 2019 will add weight to the RAF's calls for a Tornado run-on.

The Tornado GR4 is more immediately useful and better responds to what the UK currently needs and is likely to continue needing in the near future: air to ground capability, including excellent tactical imagery reconnaissance with the RAPTOR system.
The Tranche 1's help would instead consist only of providing an (increasingly sub-standard, but arguably good enough) air defence capability, enabling the rest of the Typhoon fleet to be more swing-role, and to take up the job from the outgoing Tornado.
The Tornado run-on means facing all the costs of a separate fleet with its own logistic and training needs. The availability of a very large sustainment fleet can help somewhat in covering logistic costs, but the financial impact is still likely to be important.
The Tranche 1 eurofighters, albeit increasinly different from later aircraft of the same name, would still fit within the Typhoon pipeline, instead.

In other words: capability wise, the running on of Tornado is more desirable than the running on of Tranche 1. The problem is the added complexity (and cost, presumably) or running a third fleet with a different logistic and training pipeline. The Tornado GR4, unlike Typhoon and F-35, also requires a specific training pipeline for the rear crew.

The signs that the RAF hopes for a longer life for Tornado, in my opinion, are:

- The refusal, voiced by RAF officers at RIAT, to commit to a reconnaissance pod for Typhoon, saying that integrating RAPTOR for now is not on the cards and "leaving the decision for the SDSR"

- The seeking of an Helmet Mounted Cueing Display system for the Tornado GR4. Helmet mounted cueing was already introduced back in 2012 as an Op Herrick UOR, but now the RAF is asking for a fleet-wide installation of a system which must be compatible with all weapons employed by Tornado, including the ASRAAM. It is true that these devices greatly help the crews in conducting their missions, and that if deemed essential they should be made available to the crews even in the imminence of the OSD, since they are engaged in real combat. But the requirement seems a bit excessive, if the assumption is for less than three years of use before the aircraft goes out of service.

- Recent, consistent investment in upgrades for the Radar Frequency self-protection capability, by means of rebuilt Skyshadow pods which also introduce modern Towed Radar Decoys.

- Rumors of a renewed RAF focus on rear-crew training, via exploitation of the Royal Navy's Observers training pipeline at 750 NAS (althouth the entry in service of Rivet Joint, the running-on of Sentinel and the expected purchase of an MPA might be enough of an explanation, admittedly)

It seems pretty certain that the Tornado force will get another temporary boost, with the further extension of the service life of the third squadron, originally planned to disband this year but then extended out to 2016. But another one-year extension will not be enough to alter the long term figures. More will be needed.

As always, the outcome depends on money, and despite some (way excessive, i fear) optimism shown by service chiefs themselves, the 2% of GDP committment has been officially exposed as being made up at least in part by financial gimmicks and inclusion of voices of expenditure which used to be separated.

As with other NATO allies, from time to time we update our approach to ensure we are categorising defence spending fully in accordance with NATO guidelines, seeking to capture all spending contributing to delivering the defence of the United Kingdom. Our 2011-12 NATO return was £36.6 billion. This included the Ministry of Defence budget, the cost of operations, and the Armed Forces Pension Scheme but did not reflect all UK defence spending. Our 2015-16 NATO return of £39 billion also included Ministry of Defence-generated income which directly funds defence activity, elements of the Government's cyber security spending, parts of the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund relating to peacekeeping, war pensions and pension payments to retired MOD civil servants.
House of Lords written answer, 20 July 2015, exposes the new expenditure voices included to secure the 2% target is formally met. 

Lets be clear once more: to even achieve 2% without gimmicks, it would still mean decline in percentual terms. We are forced to take the 2% as a good news only because the alternative was even worse, and by far.
The pressure on the forces' budget is not going away, and expecting miracles will only result in disappointment and tears. However, if we believe to the words of Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS

We had entered into the intense bargaining that surrounded SDSR 2010 with a request for twelve squadron. It was believed that we would in the end get nine and yet that belief ended up being just seven on an accepted basis that this would grow to nine.

Nine squadrons would cohincide with the up to 96 aicraft, 4-squadron F-35 force which was aired as long term target at the time of the switch to the F-35C.
Around 80 F-35Bs in four squadrons would be a good force, and they would be numbers which would give value to the investment made in the aircraft carriers. A fast jet count of some 187 would be nothing extraordinary: keep in mind that France is aiming for 225 in the long run, with quite a few more than that in service in 2020 (247, according to the documents). Even the Italian air force is planning for some 165 aircraft in the long term (with some 75 Typhoons after much of the Tranche 1s are withdrawn, and 90 F-35s). 127 is quite dramatically low.

Nine squadrons should be the magic number to aim to. But there are currently only 8 squadrons, so that adding one would already count as "neat growth", hard to fit into the budget, into the manpower, into the Treasury's vision.
If the number of squadrons is allowed to fall even further, arguining for additional F-35 squadrons will become harder and harder. Don't destroy with the hope of rebuilding later: "ham tomorrow" too often ends in tears.
It is important, for many reasons, that the number of fast jets is kept at decent levels. 127 is not a decent level. And assuming that there will be a recovery after such a sharp fall risks being terribly naive.

Immediate operational needs and long term considerations both impose that the number of aircraft and squadrons is kept up. Temporary running on of Typhoon Tranche 1, or better still of Tornado GR4, as a ramp leading to an acceptable number of F-35s, is something that should feature prominently in the SDSR.
The news we see in these days, even the (rather obscene, if you ask me) comparisons of the current anti-ISIS efforts to the battle of Britain, are hopefully part of the RAF's attempts to obtain a better settlement.


  1. Aren't you afraid those LRIP F-35s will be of the Tranche 1 Typhoons "quality"?

    1. As of today, there is no indication of it being the case.

    2. I almost forgot: "and we feel by about 2017, 2018 we will be out of this rut in which we are building airplanes that now have to be retrofitted because of a new discovery.”

    3. Yes, there will be a few retrofits required. But we are talking about 8 / 10 aircraft, for the UK. And, differently from Tranche 1 which has no retrofit plan and, moreover, not an affordable chance to be brought up to common standard with Tranche 2, the F-35 already has a plan for retrofits. The USMC is already working on a two-phases retrofit plan which will fix its own 47 or so early F-35Bs and bring them to Block 3F standard by 2020.

      Completely different situation.

    4. before declaring F-35B "combat-ready": Crews on the ground found the Autonomic Logistics Operating Unit could not handle the 400 to 800 megabyte data downloads quickly enough to meet the timeline. For purposes of comparison, that’s 3 to 6.5 hours of YouTube videos. After trying to transfer the files through several military computer networks both aboard ship and at military facilities ashore technicians finally resorted to driving off base and using commercial Wi-Fi. They had to burn the data to CDs, and then manually upload it to the Wasp squadron operating units to move the necessary files. Once those files were uploaded, they found “numerous errors” including missing files and inconsistencies between home station and deployed files that had to be corrected remotely by Lockheed Martin database administrators in Orlando and Fort Worth.

  2. Or: cut the Tornado, wait for the predictably short-termist politicians to want to do air-to-ground and recon, remind them that they cut the capability, and get UOR's to fund the completion of Typhoon with the full swing-role A2G capabilities.

  3. Besides the platform issue, I heard RAF has a severe shortage of qualified fighter jet pilots.
    Tornado is a fighter bomber optimized for ground attack, if I remember it correctly. Its utility is limited to permissive battle space.

    1. Tornado GR4 is a deep strike platform originally conceived to fly very low, and fast, to exploit terrain masking to penetrate deep into soviet held territory. It is not a fighter in any way, it just carries a couple of ASRAAMs for self defence. The rest is air to ground equipment, from Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Paveway IV. And no, it is most definitely not limited to permissive battle space, although as it ages it does become less survivable in the face of improving enemy air defences.

  4. You're correct in saying that even with the political will and extra money neither alternative to keep the fast-jet force above 6 squadrons and roughly 127 air-frames by 2020 is ideal.

    I'd love to see the T1 Typhoon's kept around for a few years, and frankly if it were up-to me we'd be going the whole hog by replacing them with a trickle buy of around 30-40 extra T3 into the early 2020's in order to maximize our investment and retain a 7 squadron force in addition to however many F35 materialize.

    A force of 9 squadrons would indeed be ideal. However, putting my sensible hat on i reckon keeping 8 squadrons going by retaining Tornado for another 4 or so years and then accepting a slight dip down to 7 until a hypothetical 3rd F35 squadron can stand-up after 809 NAS is probably the best that can currently be hoped for, and even that will be a struggle.

    The RAF could piggyback onto the German's upgrade and support frame-work for Tornado. It's the training system that i'm guessing would be the real issue. Despite the very faint hints you suggested about bolstering rear crew training the pipeline for fast-jet navigators has (at least officially) all but dried up.

  5. I am curious about some costs.

    Cost of upgrading tranche 1 Typhoons to later tranche equivalency.
    Cost of replacing tranche 1 with new Tranche 3A aircraft.
    Cost of replacing tranche 1 aircraft with F-35B when that becomes available.

    The first two would of course make the other Eurofighter nations very happy as it means their factories that are part of the project keep running. The F-35 option would please the US very much as it means a big order for the aircraft.

    Keeping Tornado however is just a short term solution that will cost a lot of money and then come next election and the next SDSR, the problem will need to be addressed again. Which is why I think they will go for it. Let the next government deal with these difficult and expensive questions.

    1. The MOD tried to get Eurofighter to upgrade the Tranche 1 instead of buying Tranche 3A. But the costs were absolutely insane. Even without the 900 million pounds penalty payment that Eurofighter required if Tranche 3 was cancelled completely, the upgrade to Tranche 2 standard was expected to cost some 3 billion pounds for 53 aicraft. And that's why all the partner nations are looking at dumping the Tranche 1...

      Keeping Tornado is a short term solution, of course. So is keeping Tranche 1. If you read what i'm saying, you'll see that i fear that if the number of squadrons falls down to 6 before additional F-35 orders are placed, it will be almost impossible to rebuild. It is important that, either by Tranche 1 or by Tornado, the number of fast jets is kept up at reasonable levels, avoiding a monstrous gap between today and an eventual future with more F-35s.

  6. Good piece, and your right the timing is amazing.

    oh btw,
    "F-35 capable to employ only 2 external ASRAAM missiles."
    Did you mean internal ?

    Thorny decision, could go either way. I suspect they will slow the departure of both airframes, it will just be a matter of how long they delay out of service.

    Defence for the moment seem to have some political value, and your everyday Brit is gaining a tiny bit of knowledge, enough to know they don't like what they hear. How long would we have to delay out of service before we gained an extra squadron ?

    Its going to be a while I think before Meteor is on the F35, so I think we are going to continue with AMRAAM for a while yet. Its duel stocking but I don't think we have any choice.

    1. No, no. I mean external. The requirement to integrate ASRAAM internally has been dropped a while ago.

    2. Gaaar sorry I made the classic ASRAAM \ AMRAAM blunder.

      What's Italy's position on this, they are operating Tornado as well ? ( and of course F35A and B too )

    3. Italian Tornados will stay around out to 2025 according to current plans, as the F-35 will begin by replacing AMX first. Italian Tornadoes are not very numerous and are far less hard worked than RAF ones, but they do have important roles, including the delivery of tactical B-61 nukes. A role which will go to the F-35A in the 2020s.

  7. Gabriel as usual a well-researched and thought through piece. However I think it does miss out the one other commitment that British FJ’s will also have to perform and that is of filling QE and PoW.
    If DC lives up to his promises that both ships will be commissioned and will regularly sail with at least 12 or 9 Aircraft that is effectively both F35B Squadrons tied up with yearly deployments with the 2 ships. When looking at commitments made by the Government you have
    1. UK QRA.
    2. Falkland Island Defence.
    3. Baltic Air patrol.
    4. Anti-Isis Activity or other long term deployments.
    5. Activities in other locations, such as 1 or 2 Aircraft deployments to Nigeria etc.
    6. 12 or 9 Aircraft Deployment every Year to QE & PoW.
    Now my understanding of the numbers is 1 through 3 needs 4 Squadrons. 4 & 5 take up another 4 Squadrons hence why we are maintaining 3 Tornado Squadrons at the moment, plus Tanche 3 conversion to Ground Attack. 2 Squadrons with the ability to surge to 3 for item 6. Now I cannot see any of 1 to 6 going away anytime soon. So if you do the maths you need for 1 to 3 4 Sq’s, 4 & 5 4 Sq’s, 6 2 Sq’s (supported by 48 F35B Buy) gives you a total of 9 Sq’s (really 10 but you might just get away with 9) which is what the RAF planners said was the minimum in 2010. The maths doesn’t change. That is the bear minimum numbers to do the Job.
    So either you have to cut some of the requirements or increase the resources to balance the equation. In simple terms I would comment.
    1. Keep Typhoon Trance 1 with minimal upgrades, as the AMRAMM will have to be in service to 2025 anyway and a Tranche 1 Typhoon when working with Awacs planes is a fine air defence fighter, ultimately it was what it was designed to do. That’s 2 of your Squadrons tied to UK QRA.
    2. 5 Frontline Typhoon Tranche 3 Squadrons. 2 for items 1 to 3 in the Falklands, Baltic and UK, and 3 for “expeditionary” activity in 4 & 5.
    3. 3 Tornado Squadrons stretched to 2028 to provide a total of 1 extra Squadron (allowing for Tornado’s ageing fleet reliability Problems) giving a total of the needed 4 Sq’s for items 4 & 5.
    4. F35’s to work up with QE and PoW up to 2023 when they are fully in service.
    At which point in 2023 you can decide to 1 Scrap Tornado and hope you can stick an Aircraft Carrier with all it resulting protection from T23/26’s, T45’s Astutes etc to deploy 12 Aircraft, you stretch Tornado out to 2028 and drip feed in another 48 F35’s to replace them with 3 Sq’s (no OCU etc to come out of the numbers) or you extend Tornado and buy more Trance 3 Typhoons and convert Raptor and all the other ordinance on to Typhoon between now and 2028.
    The only question you have to ask is what is affordable
    1. Another 48 F35’s in the Mid 2020’s.
    2. Another 30/40 Typhoons or upgrading the existing Trance 1 Typhoons early 2020’s.
    3. The cost of life extending Tornado.
    The only other point I would throw out there, is it worth looking at Second Hand Typhoon Tranche 1’s, is that cheaper than Tornado extension ? Tto fill your QRA commitments until 2030 when AMRAMM is likely to definitely die, allowing 2 Squadrons of already Purchased Tranche 3’s to swap to expeditionary multi role arena to replace Tornados. If purchased quickly say by 2020 it would then give you 4 Sq’s for Air to Air, 5 Tranche 3’s for expeditionary Work (with Raptor Pods and other ordinance integrated) which means you can OSD Tornado in 2019 giving 4 Trance 1’s, 5 Tranche 3’s and 2 F35B Sq. But the RAF might be a little miffed buying 2nd hand aircraft from the Italians etc.
    The fact is on numbers at the moment we are with Tornado and Typhoon Trance 1’s going by 2019 about 2 or 3 Sqn’s light of the number needed to do what the politicians have asked for.

    1. There is a basic misunderstanding at the heart of your post. Both ships coming into service does not mean what you think it does. That announcement just means that the RN will keep one aviation platform in commission at any one time (as it is now) and will thus rotate the two ships between commission and dockyard/mothball rather than selling one of them as was considered in 2010.

  8. Hi Gabriele

    Another interesting article, although i assume the number of F-35Bs in 2020 will be the 18 as previously stated in line with our reserved production lots. I do get the feeling they are dragging their feet on the F-35B orders is possibly more frustration with wanting defect free full production aircraft rather than flawed LRIP ones, rather than cash flow

  9. I remember coming across the estimated cost of upgrading tranche 1 Typhoons to tranche 3 in an NAO report as £1.35 billion or approximately £26 million each. Obviously way too much for a cash strapped MoD.

    However, what has not been considered (to my knowledge) is a much simpler straightforward upgrade aimed at the air-to-air capability alone. This could include a more basic standard AESA radar such as Northrop's SABR or Raytheon's RACR which would put much less strain on the Typhoon's cooling and electronics than the more powerful Captor-E. Combined with integration of Meteor BVRAAM this might be achievable for a fraction of the cost and thus keep a couple of tranche 1 Typhoon squadrons going up to 2030 in a specialist QRA/air defence role.

    1. Interesting idea. I'd be very interested to see how much that would cost.

    2. Why would you use SABR or RACR? Selex could put you together a Vixen derivative easily.

  10. Gabriele,

    Just a few points:

    1) 2% of GDP now includes the Intelligence Services budget and the the new "Joint Security Fund" that is to be shared, on a bid basis, between the MoD and the intelligence services. The 2% announcement was a complete stitch-up and the ineptitude of the British press means the treasury has gotten away with it.

    2) There has been lots of talk of the new toys SDSR 2015 might bring, further extension of Sentinel, P-8s, extra fast jet squadrons; I just don't see the money available in the budget to support this, in fact for any one of them to happen something else is probably going to have to give somewhere else, especially with the political commitment to troop numbers. There seems to be a lack of realism on the part of the commentariat.

    3) The real fast jet shortage has been in aircraft equipped with a full A2G capability (including Paveway IV and Brimstone); the Typhoon upgrades are slowly rectifying this potentially alleviating some of the pressure on the service

    4) ISTAR is where the real questions lie for this review; something needs to be done about the E-3, Scavenger seems to be in a hole, a decision about Raptor needs to be made, if an MPA is to be acquired funding for that will be needed and there is the outstanding question around Sentinel

  11. Three or four times recently (including a Flight Global story yesterday) I've seen senior RAF Officers being quoted as saying that there will be a 75% Typhoon: 25% Lightning fast jet fleet.

    Looking at the numbers this only makes any real sense if it's 48 F-35Bs and about 150 Typhoons.

    This implies 2 Lightning squadrons and 6 Typhoon with the tranche 1's being retained rather than the Tornado..

    What are the chances that 12(B) will stick around and then become a sixth Typhoon squadron. Politically it would also be compelling as 12(B) is the first combat squadron to have a female CO.

  12. Anonymous.

    I am not certain that the Single Intelligence Account is included in the new 2% budget. I read that this is what the chancellor tried to do but NATO's rules are that intelligence spending must be for "military" intelligence, which rules out most of the spending on the SS, SIS and GCHQ. MoD already has in house military intelligence in the DIS.

    On the other items spot on they have scraped together other spending to get to the 2% which is underhand.

    1. The summer budget statement was clear, it includes intelligence spending.

    2. It includes the part of Intelligence spending which is "military intelligence" by NATO definition. Not all of it.

  13. hi! what do you think about the Indians claiming 12-0 win of their Su-30 MKIs against RAF Typhoons and what do you think about the RAF "rebuttal"

    1. We will probably never know for sure what exactly happened, but i don't trust the indians much. They have a record of triumphant claims whenever they go around with their Su-30. Just before the article came out, i was just wondering why this year they were so late with their tales of awesomeness...

    2. thanks, and your take on (it's in the second link above): "The RAF source also stressed that the Typhoons had effectively been fighting “with one arm behind their backs” as they did not make full use of their more advanced weapons systems." ? no excuses in it?

    3. for comparison, the British statement from 2011 reads 'Nothing that India has got is anything anywhere near this (the Typhoon). I would say that absolutely. This airplane is phenomenally different in both performance and technology in anything they (IAF) got right now,' he said. And who's he ... let me see: Britain's air chief ... all according to

    4. You've got to be careful around what they say in those occasions. Hyperbole abunds, and to make sense of the reports you'd have to know which rules where being used, which restrictions and which scenarios.

    5. I'm just wondering if that "The RAF source" would have talked about fighting “with one arm behind their backs” if Typhoons had won :)

  14. Gabby, great article good discussion!

    I would like to see UK take no more than the minimum F35B as it sheer expense means it is no cost effective _ but we must have something to fly from the carriers!

    Typhoon Tranche 1 over Tornado is preferable to me. Buy more AIM120C now, life extending them as required and then pickup Italian and German Tranche 1 as they are divested as a source of airframes and spares. Two large squadrons for AD with north and south QRA, Baltic air policing and FI seems quite sensible as others have noted. Do they even need an upgraded radar in this role ?

    As the Germans have a major Tornado update underway due to not integrating any A2G on their Typhoons, our Tornados wou!d become a valuable source of spares for them.

    Finally why not integrate Meteor on Typhoon T1 ? All the current radar cannot provide is mid flight datalink for target updates, as far as I know. Doesn't mean you could not use it, just not to its greatest capability.


    1. It is not just the radar. Tranche 2 is not getting the AESA either, but can and will use Meteor. Tranche 1, no. The T1s are lagging in both avionics and structural strenght compared to later production Typhoons. They will just keep growing more obsolescent and less common with the rest of the fleet going on.

      I also do not agree on F-35 "sheer cost". It is not much unlike Typhoon. Part of the cost now is due to building up the training and support infrastructure in Marham. Once that is done, and production has gone into the over 150 F-35s per year in by 2018 or so, F-35 is going to look increasinly more financially attractive.

  15. OK all fair points. I think the obsolescence thing is trotted of as an excuse by Air Marshalls playing politics. Is the Tornados avionics obsolescent, was the Harrier GR9 , the Jag when it went out of service ? I am in IT so I am well aware of the fact that nothing is truly "plug and play" but we carried out significant upgrades to all the above aircraft types, all of which started as analogue systems ........ I have never read any articles stating the T1 has less structural strength, can you cite a reference ?

    If the Tranche 2 are not getting AESA, at some point, then that too is a travesty !!


  16. Details on the extent of the structural differences are sketchy, but multiple references exist. They are also mentioned here, which by the way is an excellent source of Typhoon info:

    Structural strenght and fuel system, as well as avionics, is where the differences are. It is possible to bring a Tranche 1 to a 2 avionics standard, but it took almost two years to do so on one of the development aircraft, and when the MOD asked Eurofighter for a pricetag, it was 3 billion pounds for 53 aircraft. Insane.

    AESA is only planned for Tranche 3. In future it might be retrofitted to the 2, but i won't be holding my breath on that one.

    1. By the way, even on Tranche 3 we are talking about a retrofit when it comes to the AESA. But Tranche 3 is supposedly AESA ready. Tranche 2, no.
      Tranche 3 also introduces fuel dump and Conformal Fuel Tanks connection points.

  17. Yep, roger that ref conformals etc, I thought Tranche 2 nose structure was always "AESA" ready, but your right, re-fit is allllllll about the budget....

    Still, I think if German and Italy get their Tranche 1 out of service, RAF should pick them up for spares and fly the Tranche 1's on AD duty until their airframe life expires, at least to keep down the airframe hours a bit on the T2 / T3A. Also when it comes down to it, I would rather buy 40 T3B as "FOAS" Tornado replacement than anymore F35 !! :-)

    Oh, and thanks for the link n you response.



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