Does the RAF need a bomber

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Dunc0936, Jul 16, 2007.

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  1. Looking at the RAF as it stands today, and having just finished reading about Vulcan 607 the mission to bomb Stanley during the conflict, we don't have a bomber in the fleet today, Im not going to include the Typhoon in its bomber role.

    so a couple of questions for the group

    a) does the RAF need a bomber today or should just continue relying on the Yanks???

    b) if we should have a bomber fleet, should we buy some from America or could the Nimrod be converted to a bomber????

    comments please
  2. in_the_cheapseats

    in_the_cheapseats LE Moderator

    Simple answer - no. No new shiny (nearly unuseable) toys allowed until they start doing proper CAS.
  3. Not needed. The Royal Navy's hunter killer (SSN) submarines can fire Tommahawk cruise missiles. Best of all, you don't need to pay flying pay (but lets not mention submarine pay!).

    Job done.

    (PS: And unlike Vulcan's the Tommahawks don't tend to miss!)
  4. In truth, they probably do. Given the ability to put down (depending upon munition carried) 30 and 80 PGMs and to loiter for hours on call over friendly forces, and you get an equivalent to the 1944 CABRANK approach, minus the gross inefficencies of having to have masses of aircraft to guarantee an air presence (masses of aircraft we don't have).

    Even though the latest shiny toy (Typhoon) has the potential to be a very good CAS platform, it doesn't have the endurance that a B-1 or B-2 type platform would have.

    For strategic attack, Tomahawk can't do everything. Not going to go into weapons effects for obvious reasons, but it may be that the target you wish to hit with TLAM is impervious to the warhead; on the other hand, it may be that popping a couple of 250lb PGMs (Small Diameter Bomb, for instance) through the roof mitigates the collateral damage estimates that would otherwise prevent striking the target with the big TLAM stick.

    Nimrod could only be used in a permissive air environment, although the potential to use it as a Storm Shadow platform launching out of range of enemy IADS is very there. At the moment, the money for funding the integration isn't, and since there will only be 12 MRA4s, they'd probably be better used for the ISTAR and Maritime Patrol tasking the MR2s conduct.

    That said, while a case can be made for a bomber, there are other more important funding priorities for the RAF - AT & SH, for instance - and more pressing funding priorities for defence as a whole at the moment.
  5. thanks Archimedes, I agree thank any bomber fleet would have to be new money for the MOD not existing money. but thats a political decsion, 12 F111's or some B1's would be very useful for the RAF and unlike the falklands war could actually really support the Army and Navy more and with modern GPS and guided bombs and with air to air refueling could do a lot of damage.

    Strange though that a lot of Asian countries are increasing the size of their navies, (Japan's is now twice the size of ours) many western European countries are cutting back on their defence budgets. It will only take for China to have her first carrier fleet at see wondering the world for all that to change, and that is not that far away either.
  6. Aren't the USAF laying up some nearly new B-1B's? Half a dozen of those (in 617 Sqn Markings) loaded with JDAMs/Paveways would be most useful in the sort of wars we're fighting at the mo. Add a few Storm Shadows and you've got a nice stand off capability to compliment the Sub launched Tomahawks. Does Uncle Sam do sale or return terms for his bezzers? :)

    But we need to fix the AT and SH fleet first.
  7. We have two bombers in service- Harrier GR9 and Tornado GR4. If you are suggesting that we need a strategic bomber I would argue that TLAM and Stormshadow provide a significant strategic strike capability for significantly less than the hassle of operating B52s or B1s. Note that the spams will never commit strat air if they can use a TLAM (or similar) instead.

    In the current environment, the only advantage that B52 and B1 have over GR4 is that they can stay on station for longer - ultimately they are used for the same purpose as GR4, namely the use of precision ordinance on enemy positions and for shows of force to demoralise the enemy.

    Typhoon will not prove to be a highly capable CAS asset, in its GR form it will be a direct replacement for GR4. Our next CAS asset to enter service will be JSF as a replacement for GR9.

    What the RAF needs now is more and reliable AT and SH.
  8. Archie has as usual summarised the main points here well. However if I may add a little more to this argument.

    Firstly, I'd suggest that cheapseats goes and researches a little of what the Harrier GR7/9 and Tornado GR4 crews are up to in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively before he suggests the RAF is not conducting 'proper' CAS.

    Lanky is equally ill informed regarding the capabilities of TLAM. This is a superb weapon in specific circumstances against high value targets but one which in reality is somewhat inflexible. Tomahawk can only be used against a relatively small target set and its reaction time is measured in hours. Once the SSN is shot clean, it is out of the game for a long time. Most significantly, they can only be used against a target you intend to hit. They cannot loiter. They cannot be called off mid course without losing the weapon. They cannot conduct other tasks such as non-kinetic effects or ISTAR. Finally, TLAM most certainly do sometimes miss their targets by spectacular distances.

    In Afghanistan particularly the B-1B and (to a lesser extent) the B-52 in contrast remain one of the most flexible weapons available. They had immense payload (over 80 weapons with the new SDB) and endurance. In the case of the B-1B, this meant we could task them with no notice to provide effects (kinetic or show of force) within minutes of the call wherever they were in Afghanistan. They would kick the burners in and be there in a few moments unlike the smaller types such as F-15Es which would need a tanker after such a sprint. They could stay there for hours with less time spent tanking. Additionally, they could be used for ISR using on board sensors or the Mk 1 eyeball. Most significantly, they provided a presence which could drop or bring back weapons as required or rearmed and brought back to the fight within hours or even minutes (a la GR7 in Afghanistan).

    However, what does such a platform offer that Tornado GR4, Harrier GR9 cannot? Despite Bat Crabs cynicism, Typhoon is already proving an excellent CAS asset and will be deployed operationally in this role from next year. All of these can drop GPS or Laser guided weapons very accurately. Using AR, all of these could technically reach long distances (as has been proved in Kosovo where the Tornados flew from Germany). These smaller jets are also more effective in the 'incremental' use of force in an urban environment. They just lack the unrefuelled endurance and payload of a true 'strategic' bomber. As Archie suggests, Nimrod MRA4 could be used as a 'bomber' in a permissive environment. Given the above, a manned bomber remains only desireable for the RAF, certainly not essential. In a perfect world we could buy a sqn or 2 of B-1Bs from the Boneyard at Davis Monthan. But we don't live in a perfect world and I'd therefore agree with Archie that we should instead use the cash to bolster AT, SH, AR and ISTAR instead.

    For those that wonder if there are sufficient B-1Bs available for sale, see below...


    In reality, we left the bomber game for good in 1984 when the Vulcan was retired. It is interesting to reflect on how useful that asset would have been today had we conducted a life extension similar to that employed on the B-52. A Vulcan with a full load of EPW and an updated mission system would have been a VERY useful asset in the wars we find ourselves in today. The B-52's utility in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq are testament to that fact.

  9. sorry guys, you will have to explain for the common amongst us what the following stands for







    I could go looking for the RAF site or google but better if you explained
  10. MM, I stand corrected (Now that is not something we hear often on this site!).
  11. Dunc,

    AT: Air Transport.
    SH: Support Helicopters.
    AR: Air refuelling (formerly Air-Air Refuelling but now renamed in all the doctrine blah).
    ISTAR: Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Recconnaissance (everything from Signals Intelligence, Airborne Early Warning to tactical recce fast jets).
    TLAM: Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (the sub launched cruise missile, as opposed to Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM)).
    CAS: Close Air Support (generally to land forces).
  12. thanks, I do agree we need to get these sorted first, All three services still have a very big role to play in a modern armed forces, as far as replacing tristar, the non AR versions could tech be replaced with any Boeing or Aribus really, and we could get some AR's of the yanks as we have with the C-17's for the time being at least till the new one's are available. but to have an airforce, army and Navy we really need as a world player that we are and lets face it, lots of developing countries and and some developed countries around the world like having our armed forces around and I would susspect that they would be a bit scared if the the yanks were the only ones around.

    The defence budget instead of being £32 billion needs to be closer to £40 billion if not more
  13. Dunc,
    The Tristars and VC10s are being replaced by Airbus A330s which will be dual transport/AR capable under the long delayed Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) Private Finance Initiative (PFI - ie leased) project. We're also buying the 3 C-17s we currently lease as well as a fourth.

    The only procurement I disagree with is the A400M which is purely based upon supporting European industry. We should buy more C-17 and C-130J instead.

  14. Hi MM thanks for that, that sort of info on the MOD site?? looks like im a bit behind the times with my research.... the A400M is the C130 replacement right???