"Boris Johnson to take aim at MoD over wasted cash..."

How much did the Blue Vixen development cost by the way? Do we need a constant drumbeat of things being developed?
Not a clue (I have a vague memory of us delivering a Blue Vixen per month, there or thereabouts, and the duty rumour was that each one resulted in an rough-order-of-a-million quid invoice), and yes - like fitness, it's far easier to keep it than to regain it.

If you're only making radars for a fleet of fifty-odd aircraft (SHAR FA.2), you have to spread years of development cost across fifty-odd sets. If you're making radars for a fleet of six-hundred-odd aircraft (Typhoon), the individual sets can look a lot cheaper. The drumbeat was that engineers moved from Blue Vixen to ECR90 as the projects moved from design, to trials, to acceptance and maintenance. From ECR90/CAPTOR Tranche 1 (with 1991-standard electronics) to Tranche 2 (with 2000-standard electronics) to Tranche 3 (with 2010-standard electronics). Each increase in processor power allowed new radar modes, new radar performance. See now CAPTOR-E / CAESAR, and a range of AESA radars that scales from 20kg and fits in a UAV, to the 250kg monster that sits in front of Biggles.

It's even the same in AFVs. It may be terribly tempting to say "we want a fleet of tanks that are all the same, because training burden and logistics costs", but an MBT is typically in service for 15-20 years (see Centurion, Chieftain, CR2). The "old days" of overlapping Conqueror / Centurion, then Chieftain Mk.3/5 through 13, then Challenger, then Challenger 2, gave a drumbeat of new tank designs, and significant tank upgrades through continuous improvement. We haven't done a new MBT design since, and that capability has left the UK. Our next tank will be designed abroad.
 
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An interesting piece by Hew Strachan on the competing tensions between Sea and Land, wars of necessity and wars of choice, and long-term strategy in a dynamically changing world. Link to the full article at the bottom.

'As the United Kingdom begins another national security review, it needs a realistic conception of the sorts of wars it is prepared to fight. Public perceptions are shaped by the memory of the two world wars, and they are often reinforced by political rhetoric that emphasises that message. But over the last two hundred years, 86 per cent of deaths in inter-state wars have been caused by only 10 per cent of those wars. Most conflicts, including all those fought by Britain since 1945, have been limited in duration or, if protracted, in intensity.

'So Carl von Clausewitz was wrong. A veteran of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Clausewitz concluded that war’s nature was to escalate: conflict is bloody and violent, and killing makes compromise more difficult. However, he also recognised that in practice many wars had proved limited, an oddity he attributed to two factors.


snip

'... while the US and its allies have wanted to fight a limited war, and thus did not use the full range of capabilities at their disposal, their enemies have been engaged in unlimited wars, while lacking the resources to bring them to a conclusion. The post-9/11 wars have been characterised by the lack of equivalence between the warring parties: one side limits them by design, and the other by necessity. Most conspicuously the laws of armed conflict apply to one side only. Even in the Second World War, the Hague conventions and their successors conditioned the behaviour of both sides; today one side (rightly and necessarily) takes prisoners and respects non-combatant immunity, while the other does not.

snip

'The fact that it fought both world wars very differently, twice creating a mass army for use in Europe, shows the limitations of maritime power when used in isolation in the context of major war. But that experience should not blind Britain to the importance of maritime power in more limited forms of war. Today’s debate should not be about aircraft carriers specifically, but about naval strategy more generally. The sea, more than the land, creates opportunities for reciprocal restraint, precisely because, as Corbett observed, man lives on the land, not upon the sea. Naval power remains overwhelmingly a state asset, for all the sea’s use by pirates and drug-runners. Tensions and clashes at sea are, by their nature, limited in their effects. Many levels of “competition” (to use the Ministry of Defence’s current descriptor of choice) below the level of open war are available for use by navies, from the imposition of sanctions to the advanced deployment of assets. The steps in any escalation can therefore be more clearly signalled and demarcated, and their meanings are less likely to be muddled or confused by third parties. There is also a cultural point: land power temperamentally opts for short wars of high intensity, while sea power has become conditioned to long wars of low intensity.

snip

'Since 1945, Western states have consistently favoured limited forms of war in terms of capability and intensity, and whether defined politically or geographically. In some respects, however, those limitations have prevented them from waging war effectively. In particular, limited war has created a divergence between war in practice and the more open-ended aspirations of policy statements. Donald Trump’s presidency reflects this tension. The policies on which he was elected rejected the long wars of low intensity in which the US was then engaged. In office, his rhetoric has threatened major war, but his actions—even against Iran in January 2020—have avoided all forms of general conflict. As Britain withdraws from the EU and plans another national security review, it must prioritise how, where and with whom it is likely to fight. This will be difficult when its capabilities depend ever-more closely on a power whose worries lie more in the Pacific than in the Atlantic, and whose relationship with Nato is transactional, not unconditional.

'The combination of Brexit and the uncertain direction of US foreign policy requires Britain to clarify choices whose implications it has glossed over for too long. Recognising the realities of limited war is vital in establishing the strategic coherence which should be the first step in any review of national security.'


 

Yokel

LE
One question that many of us have posed for years is whether defence planning should be based on current and emerging threats such as a resurgent Russia or Iran making trouble, or on known vulnerabilities such as seaborne lines of communication or our geopolitical location?

That seems to be overlooked by commentators like Sir Max Hastings, and is a better question that which of Land, Air, or Maritime should have primacy.
 
One question that many of us have posed for years is whether defence planning should be based on current and emerging threats such as a resurgent Russia or Iran making trouble, or on known vulnerabilities such as seaborne lines of communication or our geopolitical location?

That seems to be overlooked by commentators like Sir Max Hastings, and is a better question that which of Land, Air, or Maritime should have primacy.
Interesting that (for primarily political reasons; we can't afford to offend Russia when they supply so much of our energy) NATO has for years done Defence Planning on a capability basis. (All nations are given development targets, though some, including the Tier 1 nations, generally give them a stiff ignoring). In the last couple of years, given resurgent Russia, there is much more open discussion on returning to a threat-based scheme, but one of the problems with that is building for one threat (eg, Russian heavy metal) and end up facing a global terrorist group (eg, AQ).
 
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One question that many of us have posed for years is whether defence planning should be based on current and emerging threats such as a resurgent Russia or Iran making trouble, or on known vulnerabilities such as seaborne lines of communication or our geopolitical location?

That seems to be overlooked by commentators like Sir Max Hastings, and is a better question that which of Land, Air, or Maritime should have primacy.
[Rubs hands]

That sounds like Corbett vs Mahan, with a dose of rebalanced Mackinder added in.....
Mackinders-Concept-of-the-World-Island.png.jpg
 
And is likely to end in tears for everyone, as the Army tries to take on the RN, whilst the RAF look on in glee. The result will be a house divided, and cuts for all.

Who'll offer me a £5 against that scenario?
 

Bob65

Old-Salt
And is likely to end in tears for everyone, as the Army tries to take on the RN, whilst the RAF look on in glee. The result will be a house divided, and cuts for all.

Who'll offer me a £5 against that scenario?
If Cummings is being truly dispassionate and data-driven he’ll scrap the RAF and distribute its assets between the Navy and Army. It’s time to acknowledge that the experiment has failed. Helicopters and Hercules to the AAC, jets to the FAA. The savings would be “astra”-nomical
 
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If Cummings is being truly dispassionate and data-driven he’ll scrap the RAF and distribute its assets between the Navy and Army. It’s time to acknowledge that the experiment has failed. Helicopters and Hercules to the AAC, jets to the FAA.
A prime example of the type of internecine fighting I was talking about.
 
If Cummings is being truly dispassionate and data-driven he’ll scrap the RAF and distribute its assets between the Navy and Army. It’s time to acknowledge that the experiment has failed. Helicopters and Hercules to the AAC, jets to the FAA.
If, and I doubt it is likely, that a re-distribution of air assets is to happen, it's much more likely to be helicopters to the Army & Navy with fixed wing of all sizes to the RAF. I'd like to see all drones go to the RAF too.
 
If, and I doubt it is likely, that a re-distribution of air assets is to happen, it's much more likely to be helicopters to the Army & Navy with fixed wing of all sizes to the RAF. I'd like to see all drones go to the RAF too.
So the fixed wing aircraft that the RAF would be operating off of QE/PoW, would the RAF also provide the personnel who maintain and handle them? Would those airmen have to also be seamen? Would there be a need to develop an Air Fleet Arm?
 
So the fixed wing aircraft that the RAF would be operating off of QE/PoW, would the RAF also provide the personnel who maintain and handle them? Would those airmen have to also be seamen? Would there be a need to develop an Air Fleet Arm?
The long-standing plan for F35 is that the RAF squadrons, I assume including their techies, would do sea time. RAF Harrier squadrons were embarked for quite a few years too.
 
So the fixed wing aircraft that the RAF would be operating off of QE/PoW, would the RAF also provide the personnel who maintain and handle them? Would those airmen have to also be seamen? Would there be a need to develop an Air Fleet Arm?
Wider argument, but transfers of affected trades would be an option I suppose just like amalgamations in the army that happen (seemingly) after all Defence Reviews.
 
If, and I doubt it is likely, that a re-distribution of air assets is to happen, it's much more likely to be helicopters to the Army & Navy with fixed wing of all sizes to the RAF. I'd like to see all drones go to the RAF too.
Maybe a focus on protecting the UK base. Expand the RAF Regiment, resurrect the RAF maritime branch and take on all air assets, with an expansion into cyber and space. Disband army and navy. Barrier up/down at Dover. Only slightly tongue in cheek.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
And is likely to end in tears for everyone, as the Army tries to take on the RN, whilst the RAF look on in glee. The result will be a house divided, and cuts for all.

Who'll offer me a £5 against that scenario?
The RAF have a few weak spots, but overall I'd tend to agree with you: most likely outcome is another round of salami-slicing where everything except the most sacred bovines gets chiselled at a bit, and any hard decisions get deferred until 2025..

I'm also wondering about a small bet on longish odds, of a 1957-style "anything that's not stealth, space or cyber is sooo last-century, dahling" Review of the Long Knives.


After all, some of us remember when we had a serious, painful look at commitments, tasking, available funding and future plans... and how well it turned out when "we can't afford to do everything we're trying to do, so we need to focus on the top priorities" blew up in everyone's face a year later.
 
The rotor diameter is a simple function of shipboard limits. You don't design a cab that can't actually fit on your ships (although to be fair, they did try with Merlin, but that's another story). In terms of lifting capacity, the rotor loading is actually comparable to most contemporaries (SH60, NH90, Chinook even) and substantially less than something like a CH53E. So there's nothing actually that unusual about the basic design of the thing.

The real issue is and always has been the gearbox. It really should have been the subject of a complete redesign and replacement as part of MCSP, but as with most things RN-aviation wise this century, there was no money. A classic example of spoiling the ship for (a bit more than) a ha'porth of tar.

The RN hasn't ordered more because they have enough trouble funding anything else apart from the submarine programme and new helos were always way down the list. Commando SK replacement was always planned as being some form of Merlin, as far back as the 90s and going forward into FASH/SABR etc. Fell foul of the indestructible SK4 and other pressures.

Nothing else out there does what Merlin does. Its GB is a major issue and its serviceability is poor, but could almost certainly be improved by better ILS contract funding.

The gearbox as originally planed was well up to the job, its when you decide to graft own the need to carry 30 troops in a much bigger hull and add an extra engine to lift all that is when it fell over.

The obvious answer early on was increase the lift with a bigger fan, but that's fixed by the small size of a T23's deck, (see all flight decks are now Chinook sized), but, that wasn't an option one an already set design. So it was add another engine and drive the too small fan faster.

Is Merlin good? The helicopter? Yes, when it works, the ASW suite? World leading, but it could have done the same job in a much smaller hull than it ended up with. So now, they beat themselves up with a permanently maximum stressed transmission.

As originally designed, WG31 SKR (Sea King Replacement), what would morph into Merlin' was 24,000lbs, Merlin is now a rather more hefty 32,000lbs thanks to grafting on the Italian requirement mid sentence.
NH90 ended up much the same size and weight as WG31
An object lessons in the perils of politically driven design drift
 
The gearbox as originally planed was well up to the job, its when you decide to graft own the need to carry 30 troops in a much bigger hull and add an extra engine to lift all that is when it fell over.
That's not how you design an aircraft - let alone a gearbox. The original 1978 RN SR always included three engines. The IT requirement - and the joint UK/IT decision to pursue ASW/troop lift and civil versions took place in 1980-81, at which time (since you ask), Tarzan had nothing to do with helicopters and was busy being SoS Environment.

A project definition phase was signed off by UK / IT in 1981 - which is when you do things like define the AUM, size of rotors (allowing for constraints) etc etc, before you design the gearbox and transmission. Development and design approved in 1984, during which the design decisions on GB would have been made and as we know, made badly. But nowt to do with clagging on Italian requirements out of left field.

The limiting factor on rotor size was at that time the T22B2 which were supposed to carry ASW cabs to exploit the 2031Z. T23 was at that time, just undergoing the transformation from a cheap sonar tug to what it is today. Clearance abeam the island on CVS was likely also a factor.
 
That's not how you design an aircraft - let alone a gearbox. The original 1978 RN SR always included three engines. The IT requirement - and the joint UK/IT decision to pursue ASW/troop lift and civil versions took place in 1980-81, at which time (since you ask), Tarzan had nothing to do with helicopters and was busy being SoS Environment.

A project definition phase was signed off by UK / IT in 1981 - which is when you do things like define the AUM, size of rotors (allowing for constraints) etc etc, before you design the gearbox and transmission. Development and design approved in 1984, during which the design decisions on GB would have been made and as we know, made badly. But nowt to do with clagging on Italian requirements out of left field.

The limiting factor on rotor size was at that time the T22B2 which were supposed to carry ASW cabs to exploit the 2031Z. T23 was at that time, just undergoing the transformation from a cheap sonar tug to what it is today. Clearance abeam the island on CVS was likely also a factor.
Westlands ‘Sea King Replacement’ as it was known, the WG31, was a twin engined helicopter, @ 10’ shorter than what we ended up with via the assorted WG34/EH101. Rewires of the programme.

WG31 was much the same size and configuration as Sikorskis S-90 series and the NH90 that have kicked. Merlin into touch..
but that’s what happens when technical requirements drive the design, not political ones.
Merlin was and still is an object lesson in how not to design a helicopter.

913B5FE4-0909-4126-A44D-E0D9A96B1309.jpeg
 
The "S*cret projects" website isn't a particularly authoritative source, but hey-ho.

WG 31 didn't get taken up and that had nothing to do with Heseltinian shenanigans, or Romans appearing late at night wanting to add 30 troops. Nor is Merlin a like for like SK replacement.

Don't forget, NH90 doesn't do what Merlin does. It's similar, but not the same.
 
Say it not true - @PhotEx telling porkies again?
 
One question that many of us have posed for years is whether defence planning should be based on current and emerging threats such as a resurgent Russia or Iran making trouble, or on known vulnerabilities such as seaborne lines of communication or our geopolitical location?
Seems you missed the emerging threat of resurgent France. That'll be job jobbed on the Strategic Defence review then. Stand by for endless reruns of 'Hornblower' to get us all in the right mindset.o_O

'The government's fishing minister has warned the EU that the UK has taken “sufficient” steps to protect its waters after Brexit, as fears grow of a French blockade. The Royal Navy boasts three extra vessels, the Home Office will provide a further four and the government can call in help from the private sector, George Eustice said. A new control centre has been launched, 50 extra fishery protection officers have been recruited and there will be “aerial surveillance”, a House of Lords inquiry was told. “We have significantly increased our enforcement capability,” Mr Eustice said, adding: “We think that is sufficient.”

 

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