CVF and Carrier Strike thread

Are the RAF now considering scrapping the rest of the F-35 B buy and plumping for more As to Save money? Looks like someone in the Navy has been heavily briefing against their Light Blue counterparts


This is an ongoing story which 'sources' - I suspect the same one - brings up every few months. When he was the RAF lead for the F-35, Air Cdre (now AVM) Linc Taylor was asked a question a few years ago about the possibility of a split F-35B/F-35A buy.

He made the fatal mistake of giving an honest answer to the question (we've not decided yet) with some background to the effect that clearly F-35Bs were required for the carrier, but that it would be silly to state that every one of the intended 138 aircraft to be bought would be the B-model.

The logic here made - and makes - sense because it was underpinned by longer-term questions, such as:

1. How many aircraft are we likely to have aboard a carrier at any one time? If the government sets it at a single carrier, with the other ship being in readiness (apart from when, metaphorically speaking, up on axle stands getting a refit), how many of the B-model are required? If the answer is 'not 138', then should some of that 138 be F-35A to replace the earlier Typhoons, or to increase the front line strength of the RAF, albeit some interesting questions like 'who flies and maintains these extra aeroplanes, then?' have to be asked in that scenario.

2. Does the fact that the F-35A would require either modifications to equip it for probe and drogue refuelling or a contract variation to get a boom onto Voyager mean that it'd be better to stick with the F-35B anyway? Should we be looking at buying more F-35s towards the end of the aircraft's intended production run to replace some of the Typhoon force, and if so, does this mean that (say) a dozen of the 138 we're buying - NB in the same way we were 'buying' 110 TSR2 and then 110, no wait, 50 F-111 - should be F-35A, with an extra order for (say) 30 more coming along later?

Linc Taylor made the point that the 'next SDSR' would be a good time to start asking these questions. The situation was then complicated further by the fact that the new occupant (in 2017) of the CoS Capability post was (and is) well known for not being a fan of carriers. Thus, the immediate willingness on the part of some commentators and sources to see any comment about buying F-35A as being an Evil Crab Plot (ECP) was reinforced.

This isn't to say that an ECP isn't now underway, but as things stand I suspect that this story is an outgrowth of that first set of stories from four years ago. The fact that Linc Taylor is now CoS Cap RAF has probably reinforced the suspicions of those who see the entirety of UK Defence since 1918 as having been influenced by crustacean malevolence, scheming and plotting, and they have a ready outlet in the Torygraph...

The “outdated aircraft” is the F-35A!

From the article:

...which is a daft, nay, stupid argument to run when the PM's Chief of Staff is gunning for the carriers:

'So, Admiral, your argument is that the F-35A is outdated. Now, as I understand it, the F-35B is an F-35A with less range, more weight and smaller bomb bays, so that means it is not only outdated but inferior to the F-35A. I put it to you that we should stop buying this outdated aeroplane immediately, sell the carriers to the United States so they can be used by the USMC, and spend the money gained from this on space, cyber and Artificial Intelligence.'

As well as being a stupid argument it has the further disadvantage of being b*llocks.
 

Mattb

LE
2. Does the fact that the F-35A would require either modifications to equip it for probe and drogue refuelling or a contract variation to get a boom onto Voyager mean that it'd be better to stick with the F-35B anyway? Should we be looking at buying more F-35s towards the end of the aircraft's intended production run to replace some of the Typhoon force, and if so, does this mean that (say) a dozen of the 138 we're buying - NB in the same way we were 'buying' 110 TSR2 and then 110, no wait, 50 F-111 - should be F-35A, with an extra order for (say) 30 more coming along later?
It's an interesting point - I don't know if there's anyone in here well-informed enough to state how hard (and more importantly expensive) fitting the probe/drogue kit of the B on to an A would be.
 
(...) The logic here made - and makes - sense because it was underpinned by longer-term questions, such as:

1. How many aircraft are we likely to have aboard a carrier at any one time? If the government sets it at a single carrier, with the other ship being in readiness (apart from when, metaphorically speaking, up on axle stands getting a refit), how many of the B-model are required? If the answer is 'not 138', then should some of that 138 be F-35A to replace the earlier Typhoons, or to increase the front line strength of the RAF, albeit some interesting questions like 'who flies and maintains these extra aeroplanes, then?' have to be asked in that scenario.
(...)
A requirement to have only one aircraft carrier in service at a time is a peace time policy to save money on manning. It's not rational to base long term equipment policy on short term policy, because policy can change. If 10 years from now the international situation changes such that policy is changed to man both carriers, but you only have enough of the B model for one carrier and the rest are A models, what do you do then, say "oh shit, I guess we bought the wrong aircraft?".

And if you ever get into a war that needs both aircraft carriers you're not going to be able to buy F-35Bs as a UOR either. Even leaving aside issues such as lead time, you don't make them yourself and nobody is going to sell them to you. Trying to buy large military kit in the middle of a major crisis in future is going to be like trying to buy PPE on the international market in the middle of a global pandemic.

A policy to buy only enough F-35Bs for one aircraft carrier pretty soon leads to a policy to only need one aircraft carrier which in turn leads to only having one aircraft carrier.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
Getting it the wrong way round.

A more sensible idea would be to sort ourselves a boom refuelling capability. Look at the recent/current fleet acquisitions.
 
A requirement to have only one aircraft carrier in service at a time is a peace time policy to save money on manning. It's not rational to base long term equipment policy on short term policy, because policy can change. If 10 years from now the international situation changes such that policy is changed to man both carriers, but you only have enough of the B model for one carrier and the rest are A models, what do you do then, say "oh shit, I guess we bought the wrong aircraft?".

And if you ever get into a war that needs both aircraft carriers you're not going to be able to buy F-35Bs as a UOR either. Even leaving aside issues such as lead time, you don't make them yourself and nobody is going to sell them to you. Trying to buy large military kit in the middle of a major crisis in future is going to be like trying to buy PPE on the international market in the middle of a global pandemic.

A policy to buy only enough F-35Bs for one aircraft carrier pretty soon leads to a policy to only need one aircraft carrier which in turn leads to only having one aircraft carrier.
As things stand, I don't think anyone - apart from the Telegraph, its source (and in due course, the usual suspects) and perhaps a few light blue (probably led by the former CoS Cap) - is suggesting that the F-35B purchase should be insufficient to allow both carriers to be able to take to sea simultaneously with an air wing.

The point is that any move to a two carriers at sea, both with F-35s embarked scenario will have implications for the number of F-35Bs required. Not just the sole calculation, but one of several (the options in my last were not even verging on the comprehensive set of questions to be asked) which would have to be considered. For example, if the work with 216 Squadron suggests that from (say) 2032 the air wing should be a mixture of F-35 and swarming technology (or 'Loyal Wingman', Skyborg or similar)

Thus the critical question is whether the assumption that all 138 F-35s currently planned for need to be B-models remains valid, or whether it would be better to rebalance the order so that some - and it would still be the smaller proportion of the order - might be A-models. As things stand, nobody in the capability world I know appears to be entertaining the thought that after the 40th or thereabouts F-35B appears, the order then switches over to the A-model.
 

Mattb

LE
Getting it the wrong way round.

A more sensible idea would be to sort ourselves a boom refuelling capability. Look at the recent/current fleet acquisitions.
Good point, are both of the new 737-based types boom fuellers?
 
The RAF can have F-35A’s with probe refuelling if they want.
work was done for the Canadian F-35A bid.
 
Crabs wasting money ?
Nonsense !

They'll be accusing the Rock Apes of not being SF next.
Theres a few nocking around, painting the new, old boat house.

To be honest all three services have contributed to SFSG, and a good friend of mine commanded that unit. He is leaving the Army as a Major to join the Met.

Reasons for his leaving are not being able to be proactive in the field, it’s like the army promotes or leave.

The RN and RAF do it differently, I am off to USA to see the PJ school, try the swimming test, which I will die many times on.
 

Mattb

LE
Theres a few nocking around, painting the new, old boat house.

To be honest all three services have contributed to SFSG, and a good friend of mine commanded that unit. He is leaving the Army as a Major to join the Met.

Reasons for his leaving are not being able to be proactive in the field, it’s like the army promotes or leave.

The RN and RAF do it differently, I am off to USA to see the PJ school, try the swimming test, which I will die many times on.
The boss of SFSG a major? :???:
 

Flight

LE
Book Reviewer
Out of interest where will Lizzie be visiting on her way out to and back from the Far East next year?

Will be useful for impressing the natives I think.
 
Out of interest where will Lizzie be visiting on her way out to and back from the Far East next year?

Will be useful for impressing the natives I think.
You mean visiting future trade partners in SE Asia? I imagine that doing that is 99% of the reason for going there. Trade is a major part of the UK agenda for the next while and the UK are putting a big push on joining the CPTPP. That includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The CPTPP with the UK added would have a GDP of approximately 90% of the size of the EU without the UK. It's the biggest existing trade treaty the UK could join outside of the EU, which makes it the UK's top priority aside from the existing EU talks.

So, don't be surprised to see visits to CPTPP members while the UK lines up support for joining the treaty and makes business connections.
 

Flight

LE
Book Reviewer
Only 99%?

Park one of those in someone's port and you'd be able to sell them Photex as a global security expert consultant....

I'd assume the other 4 members of the 5 powers were a given... Not sure what priority the TPP has as I think it was May's lovechild. The bilateral deal talks with Australia suggests it is an important step towards, though the fact that a bilateral deal will come first suggests that membership of the TPP is a longer term aspiration.

Suspect we are going to relearn the power of gunship diplomacy and that the cost of them will quickly appear trivial...
 
Only 99%?

Park one of those in someone's port and you'd be able to sell them Photex as a global security expert consultant....

I'd assume the other 4 members of the 5 powers were a given... Not sure what priority the TPP has as I think it was May's lovechild. The bilateral deal talks with Australia suggests it is an important step towards, though the fact that a bilateral deal will come first suggests that membership of the TPP is a longer term aspiration.

Suspect we are going to relearn the power of gunship diplomacy and that the cost of them will quickly appear trivial...
Here's the UK's position on the CPTPP (it hasn't been known as the TPP since the US dropped out, following which major revisions were made to drop US-only bits). It was published a month ago, so it's certainly current government policy.

It's a key part of the UK's trade agenda.
The UK intends to pursue accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as a key part of our trade negotiations programme.
This is to be on top of bilateral agreements with some members.
CPTPP membership will complement the bilateral FTAs we hold with CPTPP members, including deals we hope to strike with Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and existing EU agreements with Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. This underlies our strong commitment to the Asia Pacific and Americas and the opportunities these regions offer UK businesses.
The UK has been conducting talks with all 11 members for 2 years now.
Since July 2018, we have engaged with all 11 member countries at both ministerial and official level to explore UK accession to CPTPP. All CPTPP members have welcomed the UK’s interest in accession. This approach aligns with the accession process as outlined by the CPTPP Commission in early 2019, which encourages countries to engage informally with every CPTPP member, addressing any concerns and questions before formally applying.
I believe the 3 largest economies in the CPTPP (Japan, Canada, Australia) have all publicly said they will support the UK joining.

The process for joining involves holding private talks with all the existing members and ironing out any details in advance, and only then making a formal application to join. The process is deliberately low key.

So, sending a carrier around for a visit will likely be seen as a good way to build ties with countries in the region.
 

Mattb

LE
The bottom of the South China Sea according to the PRC press.
Call me superstitious, but if we ever need to send a carrier to help Singapore out we should send the first in class, just to be on the safe side...
 

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