Another political aircraft foisted on our Armed Forces

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by muhandis89, Nov 4, 2008.

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  1. Can someone please explain what would be wrong with getting more C-130 (both J&K). Then we have heavy lift (C-17) and the medium/smaller lift.

    Benefit would be we could probably get them now, instead of 2011 ... 12.... 13....14
  2. Nothing wrong with more J-models and a couple more C-17. In theory, the A400M made sense when we signed up for it, since we'd have ended up with a fleet of 25 J-model Hercules and 25 A400M. Given the greater load carrying ability of the A400, the mix of the two types would/should/will [ha!] be good.

    The theory, of course, hasn't translated into practice. Getting the C-17, which proved to be a huge (no pun intended) asset and then deciding to buy the four airframes (a buy since expanded) raised doubts about whether we should be aiming for the A400M, or for more C-130J and a few more C-17.

    Even if we went to Lockheed now, we'd have to wait a bit to get the extra C-130Js, but that could just about do it. AIUI, we lose some more C-130K next year through retirement, while the C-130J is munching though its fatigue index like John Prescott on the contents of a pie shop. Add to that the fact that the FSTA isn't going to be around for a while, as VC10s get more and more tired, and Tristars go in for mods to get them to their out of service date...

    By about 2012/2013, it'll be a case of 'if you thought the AT situation was bad in 2008...

    Add to that, in no particular order:

    1. The fact that the rapid aging of the GR4 fleet means that we will actually need those Typhoons the government is attempting to delay buying (so it can sponsor Newcastle United) so that the overworked GR4 groundcrews aren't faced with the near impossible task of attempting to generate enough serviceable GR4s to meet commitments;

    2. The fact that the Harrier will need some TLC before too long (so again, a need for those Typhoons being syphoned off to the Saudis)

    3. The fact that the Tornado F3 will be on its last legs

    4. The need for a new Nimrod (so we can do maritime and other ahem... assorted recce tasks)

    And we have a fairly major spot of bother - about which Gordon doesn't care, because he probably won't be PM when the storm breaks. All of that without considering the need for more SH, too.

    On the plus side, the opening flypast at the Olympics will take less time through lack of airframes, allowing the opening ceremony to revel in 2 hours of expensive pretension...
  3. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Hi Archi

    I think I am one of the few supporters of the A400, in fact I would buy more and scale down on the C130, perhaps getting a small very short take off an landing transport aircraft to supplement the Chinook fleet.

    I know there are many arguments against the A400 and many of them are entirely valid but the one thing that you simply cannot get away from is the trend, followed by fact, for larger in volume and weight plant and vehicles. Just look at the recent vehicle purchases and you can see this trend in action right before your eyes. The net effect of this is the C130J can shift a decreasing percentage of the Army's kit and the C17 whilst possible is not in reality going to be going to too many rough strips and we only have a handful anyway.

    This puts the A400 right in the frame and I think it is going to do very well in the export market. The A400 design specs have been very carefuly thought through, everything from cost of onwership to cargo compartment dimensions, floor loading, take off/landing distances and even ground pressure (which I understand is less than a C130J)

    Altough the C130J's problems are behind it now many people conveniently forget them when comparing it with the A400. All new pieces of kit have issues.

    So although there is no doubt political forces at play I still can't get away from the issues raised above and would be really interested in your thoughts on this.

    Your other points are very depressing as well.
  4. I have never really been a fan of A400M. I remember the BAe bloke at Filton on a visit telling us that 'yes all aircraft are late into service but A400 won't be... it WILL be in by 2008...!' We said he was talking arrse... and weren't wrong!

    I prefer the 'more C130J / lots more C17' argument but you do make some good points. What you haven't mentioned in the A400's long list of careful design considerations is the Ramp Pin Loading. The maximum loading for C130 was a major design limitation for FRES for some time (as more conventional designs would at some point pivot on the ramp pin thus the vehicle AUM was limited by pin loading... or you used fancy suspension / articulation (Viking?) to spread the load) but then transport in a C130 was dropped; does the A400 ramp pin also artificialy limit what can be loaded?
  5. Originally 4 C-17s were leased from Boeing under a 7-year contract to provide a short-term solution to the airlift problem. The idea was that the A400M would be in service by 2008 and the C-17 would be returned to the US.

    I firmly believe that somebody high-up knew damn-well that the the C-17 would prove too capable to ever be sent back. The short-term lease idea was just a vehicle to get the aircraft into service as quickly as possible, and at the time the deal was done it was the only way the RAF could get the C-17 past the pro-European politicians. As it turns out, it was a crucial tactic because the A400M is heavily delayed and facing further problems whilst the RAF C-17 fleet has been purchased outright and has been increased by 50%, with possibly more to come.

    On paper the A400M is a fantastic aircraft when compared with the C-130; carrying much more, much further and significantly faster. However, despite what Airbus salesmen try to say, it is much less capable in all important criteria than the C-17, which would be fine if it were much cheaper and more could be bought. Which brings us to what is really the nub of the A400M programme - how many C-17s could you buy instead for the same money. When the contracts were signed the ratio was 2:1 ie the A400M was half the price of a C-17, which made it look like quite good value. However, as everyone (except those involved) predicted, the A400M is late as a result of technical difficulties. This is no surprise as nearly all airlifters have suffered similar problems. Every time a company builds one they have to re-learn the lesson that these aircraft are more complex than airliners and are not easy to develop. The last I heard, we could have got around 17 C-17s for the same cost as our 25 A400Ms. As delays mount the ratio will worsen, making the aircraft look like a bad buy.

    It is no surprise that in the USAF the C-17 is called Buddha, because is big, fat and worshipped by everyone.
  6. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    The reason for the delay on the A400 is the engine, a totally new design that will be the most powerful of its type in the world so it breaking ground. I seem to recall that this was the riskiest option but one which kept it European against the common sense one of another country.

    Floor loading, I believe the RAF has requested a modification to the standard spec to enable greater loading so it can specifically carry the Royal Engineers Terrier which by the way cant be carried by the C130

    The original FRES concepts were built around C130J until common sense and physics intervened then it was designed around A400. Although FRES may be in danger as the recent vehicle purchasing contracts work their way through the system but even if it remains as is it simply will not be able to be shifted by C130J, if the A400 were cancelled then the principal medium weight combat vehicle in our inventory will only be able to be shifted by our half dozen C17's. Of course its not all about vehicles and plant, pallets of ammunition and rations etc are probably a more common cargo but you cant have your air transport fleet unable to shift in numbers huge swathes of your inventory.

    We should stop comparing the C17 and A400, they are in completely different classes. The A400 is simply a better C130. Much like the Land Rover is at the twilight of its usefulness so is the C130. Asking how many C17's you could get for the price of a few A400 is irrelevant, they are not comparable. Talk about how many C130J's you could get for the price of an A400 and you will be suprised. Of course it is not as capable as the C17 but then its half the price. Although the C17 can fly in the rough stuff its not really the done thing as it fcuks them up big style.

    The A400 is on a fixed price, so any delays cost EADS not us although I concede some play may be involved when it comes to fitting extras like DAS, pallets handling etc the fundamental cost is fixed.

    Whatever the arguments for and against you simply cannot get away from the trend in volume and weight of current and future plant and vehicles. Everything is getting bigger and heavier especially when you consider the theatre entry spec vehicles now in use.

    Taking this as a given you are faced with the prospect of the C130 being left behind and the C17 not being that good or desirable to use in the rough stuff and you are left with the only sensible option, the A400

    I am not an air expert by any stretch but the world is changing and the C130 is at the end of its evolution.

    We should be bold and bin the C130 when the A400 starts coming into service, buy a few more C17's, crack on FSTA (preferably not in PFI) and buy a handful of very small extreme short take off and landing transports

    Would be really interested if others share this view or am I talking rubbish :D
  7. When it starts coming into service.... :p
  8. Meridian. in your fervour for A400M do you realise that it has been reported that only 9 out of 25 airframes have been procured with DAS?

    Just wondered how useful that will be as we will most certainly be plugged into Afg when A400M arrives with a possibility of war with Iran to come.
  9. I've heard that stated a few times, I do wonder if it's a tactic we should use to get other bits of decent kit into service - or will the purse string holders be wise to it now?
  10. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Yes I had heard that, i believe it is in the NAO major projects summaries but realistically can you see the rest not being equipped as they come into service.
  11. It worked for Osprey and proper armoured vehicles like Bulldog. The MOD can't exactly refuse to supply any more of those now.
  12. Meridian,

    You are NOT the only supporter of the A400M. It will be a fantastic aircraft when in service. You are absolutely right about the engine being the main delay. With hindsight they probably should have gone to ethe P&W Canada engine option, but they will fix the problems and as I say will be s superb asset to the RAF. I would like to see more than 25 ordered and I understand that more C17 will be purchased. A total of 12 has been mentioned by those in the know! I think we also need something smaller than the C130 for intra-theatre operations.

  13. I couldn't agree more Meridian and I'm sure the A400M will be fantastic when we eventually see it in service. My concern is with airdrop, we're using it day in day out and to great effect at the moment but it seems to be a bit of an after thought on the A400M project. We can't lose the Herc until airdrop on the A400M is sorted in that role, and from what I've seen that could be a while after it arrives.
  14. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    I did read somewhere that airdrop was quite low on the priorities list for A400 but again, its a tactical transport so airdropping is a must have and like many things will evolve into the aircraft. Don't forget the C130 first flew over 50 years ago.

    I wasnt advocating dropping the C130 until the A400 is well in service but more of a strategic direction to follow