F35 - Money well spent.

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
They may be but none really explain why we went from B to C and back again or why the carriers are fitted for catapult just not with catapult.
Back in 2002 there were significant risks associated with what was still then JSF (JCA in UK-speak) and the STOVL version of the programme was not a guaranteed success: so, the carrier design kept the option of including the catapults - probably the US EMALS (electromagnetic launch system) - and arrester wires in case what's now F-35B, or indeed the whole F-35 programme, went mammaries-uppermost during development.

By about 2007, decisions needed to be made about how much "fit to receive" hardware should be included as the carriers were being put together and QNLZ in particular was going to need to either have the very serious cabling for EMALS (which uses a lot of electrons and needs big wires) installed, or whether she should be left with "space, weight and power" available but not all the supporting hardware that a catapult fit could just plug into. Since the cost of fitting the cabling would be pretty substantial, and F-35B by then was past its worst worries, the funding to fit that hardware wasn't stripped off other projects (the money wasn't attached to the carrier project and would have had to be found from wider Defence, at a point where we were frantically funding all manner of UORs for Afghanistan)

In 2010, during discussions about the Strategic Defence and Security Review, Cameron allegedly declared himself "bored" with the process. In an unminuted fifteen-minute meeting, he chose an option which involved binning Harrier, scrapping Illustrious and Ark Royal, converting POWL to CTOL, and probably selling or scrapping QNLZ. Most of the SDSR10 options had been thoroughly evaluated, compared, and passed by D Scrutiny as valid: this particular set of choices was diplomatically described as "lacking supporting evidence" by the scrutineer concerned. (Meaning, it was made up on the hoof). Nobody since has been willing to admit to any input to it.

As often happens with Senior Officers' Really Clever Ideas, the details that were "too boring" to look at turned out to be significant and problematic. Fitting catapults to POWL turned out to be less straightforward, given how advanced her build was, than had been handwaved. Meanwhile the cost and difficulty of maintaining enough CTOL-qualified pilots for the sort of surge capability the carriers were designed to achieve, turned out to be eyewatering, and various folk started a game of pass-the-parcel over whose budget they should land in: the Navy mulishly pointed out they'd costed for the pre-SDSR10 plans, hadn't seen any uplift and hadn't asked for this change, so couldn't fund it themselves; the RAF declared that learning to land on carriers wasn't in their job description or anything they should pay for, with an undertone of how the longer-range -C or -A versions made the carriers entirely unnecessary anyway; the only agreeements were that it would be painfully expensive and nobody had the money to pay for it.

As it started to look as if we'd end up with one 70,000-ton carrier with a usable air wing of half-a-dozen planes (cf. Russian experience with the Kuznetsov) and that helpful Treasury wonks were asking why we couldn't save a fortune by only flying second-hand F-18s rather than embarking expensive F-35s (so would hit 2020 with a tiny capability of 1990s aircraft), we decided the whole sorry saga had been a horrible mistake and went back to the original plan of F-35B flying STOVL.
 
I don't disagree with you, the point I was attempting to make earlier was, by dint of some pretty poor political decisions we have been pushed down the road of having large Carriers capable of flying the C variant whereas for all intents and purposes we could have followed the USMC model with smaller and cheaper vessels and had the same result.
This is a complete misconception. From the very start of the programme - the operational analyses conducted from the mid to late 90s - it was clear that delivering carrier strike meant delivering more (and more complex) sorties than the Invincible class. You have to remember that CVS was not designed to operate fixed-wing aircraft, but was able to do so by nature of having a through-deck. The capability those ships offered in the aircraft carrier role was largely token - without any intention to denigrate those who operated off the ship and squeezed the most out of it, you got what you could. But - if you are going to replace the capability, you replace it with real capability that meets a requirement, rather than making do.

The initial concept studies by MoD were based on aircraft numbers rather than real sorties and flypros and that is where the 1997 40000 tonner came from. Once you factored in package size, force protection requirements and - importantly - lean manning deck practices, you ended up with a significantly bigger ship. From memory, people were already at 60000+ te by 2000 or thereabouts. That was largely irrespective of whether the aircraft were STOVL or CTOL (as cat n'trap is properly known) - contrary to prior perceptions. So, at that point, you're already much bigger than the USMC ships, driven by deck parking arrangements among other things.

At that point, you have to consider where the various aircraft options were at the time. STOVL had always been the (probably unspoken) preferred option, although much of this was down to the incorrect assumption that a STOVL ship would be much smaller than a CTOL ship. True if you're buying a token capability, very much untrue when you get into sortie counts and package sizes. For clarity, no procurement case for a token capability would have passed the value for money test, so the "small ship" argument is moot at that point anyway. Nor would it have been cheap, but I digress.

There was still considerable uncertainty at this point (2002) as to whether the STOVL aircraft would meet UK requirements and there was a risk it might be canned, but the realisation that the ship would have to be big enough to handle CTOL aircraft meant that there was a mitigation route, which is where the "adaptable" design originated from. It didn't massively change the size or price (at that point) of the ship and offered lots of risk mitigation against the cancellation of the STOVL jet. The reason the adaptable design CTOL option became much expensive later was essentially because the MoD had never contracted to take the detail design for the CTOL option further. In essence, the ship was (and remains) capable of being converted to CTOL, but the point in the build it was at made it prohibitively expensive.

The reason why that detail was never progressed was partly because the STOVL design began to become more mature and overcome its problems and partly because the UK "Air" programmes had by this time started to contract in scope. Essentially, the overall force size of JCA was to shrink, which meant that being able to rapidly augment the baseline carrier wing became more important and a judgement was made that it was a lower training burden - and hence impact on JCA force structure - to do that with STOVL than with CTOL. Thus the presumption of STOVL strengthened and continued over the following few years, extending to the (much delayed by Gordon Brown) contract signature - at which point the design and build proceeded as a STOVL ship.

It was only when the B programme had a bit of a wobble in 2009 that the decision was seriously questioned. The exact machinations leading to the SDSR10 switch to a single CTOL carrier remain a matter of conjecture. What is clear is that once the B programme came out of it's special measures the cost-benefit pendulum swung firmly back in favour of the B. I personally would have been happy to have seen the CTOL option progress, but only because it offered a potentially superior ASaC option and knowing that much more money would have needed to be found eventually, because a one-carrier force - as the French are finding - is a part-time capability. All the arguments about cross-decking deployed by some at the time were and are sprurious - and it would have required a larger JCA force dedicated to carrier strike, although by how much remains open to debate. Incidentally, to answer your point as to why the USMC have a "C" component and why the B does not operate from a USN CVN, it's because the B does not easily integrate into the deck management cycle of a CTOL ship. It needs space in places that a CTOL airwing needs to park its cabs, so would ruin deck ops for a CTOL ship. The C variant fits in nicely on a CVN deck - but of course cannot operate from the LHA/LHD so unable to provide the local air support that the USMC prizes. Horses for courses.

So, we have a big carrier because the requirement (in terms of strike package and sortie rate) needed a big carrier almost from the start. A "small" carrier could not meet the sortie rate and would not have been appreciably cheaper, so would fail the cost-benefit test. The F35B has already been to sea with the USMC and is now deployed at sea. The SRVL is to satisfy a particular UK requirement in a limited part of the operating envelope and while as yet unproven at full scale is as de-risked as it can possibly be at this stage. Even in the unlikely event that it should fail, that does not negate the ship aircraft combination which will be significantly in excess of anything outside the USN in capability. It will also allow the UK to contribute strategically to NATO and other alliances in a way that other nations cannot, which brings significant influence, which is ultimately what foreign and defence policy is all about.

Apologies for essay, but the how did we get here is not a simple story. However, it's not a tale of political or military incompetence either. It's what happens when a programme of this scale meets funding challenges, technical challenges and unforeseen world events.
 
How so? Until the unprovoked Ad Hom assault from A2 I have been perfectly civil.
Apparently he didn’t think so. To be honest, I kind of agree with him, unless this:
Despite their dogmatic approaches A2 and MM have answered 90% without issue.
is supposed to count as “perfectly civil”? I, personally, don’t think it does.

Oh, and if simulation didn’t work, these fly-by-wire aircraft wouldn’t fly very well, if at all.
 
Apparently he didn’t think so. To be honest, I kind of agree with him, unless this:
is supposed to count as “perfectly civil”? I, personally, don’t think it does.

Oh, and if simulation didn’t work, these fly-by-wire aircraft wouldn’t fly very well, if at all.
I suggest you look up the meaning of dogmatic it is not in the least insulting or critical, unless of course you are particularly hypersensitive and misconstrue the meaning.

A2s barrage of invective was nothing more than mildly amusing.
 
And wake up the guttersnipe in you. You do come across as the RN version of a Russian propaganda engine refusing to deviate from the party line. It's almost that is your purpose on here.
I suspect that @A2_Matelot is similar to me: very proud of his service and with an innate interest in operational matters. I too have been accused of peddling propaganda although we both sometimes deviate from the party line (eg A400M in my case).

However, quite a few party lines have been established by very experienced and highly qualified personnel.

Shall we move on?

It’s been 10 years since the ‘official’ retirement of the first LO combat aircraft, the F-117. How time flies!

Regards,
MM
 
I suggest you look up the meaning of dogmatic it is not in the least insulting or critical, unless of course you are particularly hypersensitive and misconstrue the meaning.
In the context (that of debate) it absolutely is. Out of that context, it’s still at least critical and often pejorative. Might I invite you to check the definitions yourself?
A2s barrage of invective was nothing more than mildly amusing.
And yet you start claiming to be an injured party?
 
They may be but none really explain why we went from B to C and back again or why the carriers are fitted for catapult just not with catapult.

I am not 'doing this to death' merely distracting myself on the internet. Despite their dogmatic approaches A2 and MM have answered 90% without issue.
Genuine question - are you able to accept that some people (RN/RAF/MOD/BAES or people with backgrounds in things such as Engineering or Systems Integration) might have a better understanding of the issues than you?

I remember you insisting that the Wildcat AH1 crew would have all the skills needed to operate Wildcat HM2 from a frigate. Then when anyone tried to explain you simply accused them of being dogmatic.
 

Guns

ADC
Moderator
Book Reviewer
@twentyfirstoffoot - this is a gentle moderator suggestion that you might want to consider your position. If everyone disagrees with you there is a fair chance you are wrong.
 

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