RAF turned down chance to buy F117 Stealth Fighters

#1
A really interesting pair of articles here, showing how the US offered the RAF Stealth Fighters in the 80s and 90s as a GR4 replacement. Presumably the answer 'no' came about because the realisation was that to do so would kill the UK aerospace industry, and Typhoon and actually do more long term damage to UK interests than would be gained. But a fascinating bit of work (and a good reason why I do rather like the Guardian when its not in self righteous morally preachy and never wrong (or as I like to call it JohnG) mode).

Keep the French in the dark: Thatcher's secret push for US military technology

In 1986 U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Britain the F-117 stealth jet
 
#2
Is that 'offered' in the same vein that killed off the TSR-2 project?

Once bitten and all that...
 
#3
I wonder if the beneficial friends relationship between heads of state will ever exist like that again.
Perhaps it's partially the cause of more recent PMs snivelling around their US counterparts?
 
#4
I wonder if the beneficial friends relationship between heads of state will ever exist like that again.
Perhaps it's partially the cause of more recent PMs snivelling around their US counterparts?
Do you honestly believe that Heads of State being friends would get in the way of American business interests :eek:
 
#6
Do you honestly believe that Heads of State being friends would get in the way of American business interests :eek:
Do I think deals like the above would have happened as readily without the relationship that MT and RR had you mean?

ETA after all, we aren't talking about a bit of kit like F35, entwined to business.
 
#8
There have been stories going around for some years that the MoD was offered AH-64s in the 80s, but the Army in its wisdom decided that thick soldiers would be unable to cope with the complexities of the machine.

There ensued a 20+ year battle between the Army and the RAF over who could operate such machines.
 
#9
The F117 was a very niche product. I'm not be surprised the RAF didn't see the value in dedicating scarce money on a handful of them when that money could be more productively used elsewhere.
 

A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
#12
A really interesting pair of articles here, showing how the US offered the RAF Stealth Fighters in the 80s and 90s as a GR4 replacement. Presumably the answer 'no' came about because the realisation was that to do so would kill the UK aerospace industry, and Typhoon and actually do more long term damage to UK interests than would be gained. In 1986 U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Britain the F-117 stealth jet
I've not read the article but I'd say that the RAF would have looked at the requirements the US would have undoubtedly insisted upon for F117 operation, plus the additional operating and logistical requirements/costs and decided that more conventional airframes would have sufficed, and been more affordable. The F117 was operational in the USAF inventory for years before Joe Bloggs realised it was there, not sure we could have kept that level of OPSEC.
 
#13
A really interesting pair of articles here, showing how the US offered the RAF Stealth Fighters in the 80s and 90s as a GR4 replacement. Presumably the answer 'no' came about because the realisation was that to do so would kill the UK aerospace industry, and Typhoon and actually do more long term damage to UK interests than would be gained. But a fascinating bit of work (and a good reason why I do rather like the Guardian when its not in self righteous morally preachy and never wrong (or as I like to call it JohnG) mode).

Keep the French in the dark: Thatcher's secret push for US military technology

In 1986 U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Britain the F-117 stealth jet

There was method in the apparent madness.
Buying into F-117 would have gotten us a stealth aircraft, but they would have been supplied on a very short US leash with no technology transfer.

The game was to sit at the top table as partners, not the Minime.

And so begat REPLICA to demonstrate to the cousins we knew as much as them and that ended up with us as design partners on the F-35.

FWIW: we were also offered the F-22 back in the day.
 
#14
The Yanks can afford highly specialised aircraft for single role - SEAD, EW etc, we can't. Buy into F-117 and go without x, what would we have been expected to bin first?
 
#15
The F-117 had such a short life in service it seems it was almost obsolete as it went into service (I think it was effectively more of a demonstration aircraft an "advanced prototype" for stealth technology) it would have been a poor investment for the UK.
 
#16
Another news story from journo's who miss the little details that make the story a non-story. As said, we can't afford the concept of single role a/c at the cost of losing something more flexible.
 
#17
It also wasn't invisible to radar, despite what they'd have you believe - and that arrogance cost them one to a SAM trap during Kosovo
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
#18
It also wasn't invisible to radar, despite what they'd have you believe - and that arrogance cost them one to a SAM trap during Kosovo
Key issue with the F-117 was that it needed a great deal of mission planning and routing (including the "Elvira" emitter database) and heavy support including standoff jammers like the EA-6B or EF-111 to be effective. With those, as seen in the Gulf in 1991, it worked well: without them fully deployed, rather less so (Serbia).

The UK might have had a few F-117s, but we didn't have the jammer support and probably wouldn't have had Elvira (and the trained operators) - so we'd have been left with a small force of aircraft with very limited payload, whose main selling point (low observability) was compromised by lack of support. Good for headlines, poor for utility.

One of the F-117 lessons was that "Stealth" was very useful indeed but needed to be more flexible. Without actually knowing, I wonder if the F-117 entered service on a basis of "you know we're making a dozen or two of these Have Blue demonstrators,it wouldn't cost that much more to build them tooled up to drop a couple of LGBs and you could have an operational aircraft as well as a test & evaluation platform while we put the lessons into the next, proper warplanes..." - stranger things happened under Reagan and Weinburger.
 

DaManBugs

LE
Book Reviewer
#19
The F-117 had such a short life in service it seems it was almost obsolete as it went into service (I think it was effectively more of a demonstration aircraft an "advanced prototype" for stealth technology) it would have been a poor investment for the UK.
[My bold in your post] Since when has that particular point ever been important to the War Ministry or politicians?

MsG
 
#20
The F-117 had such a short life in service it seems it was almost obsolete as it went into service (I think it was effectively more of a demonstration aircraft an "advanced prototype" for stealth technology) it would have been a poor investment for the UK.

It was obsolete before it went into service, but it should be seen as what it was, an operationally capable technology demonstrator. No one believed it would work as advertised.
Cue Pyotr Ufimtsev, and his work: Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction

The 'Holy Grail' was continuous curvature. Once the maths to do that had been cracked and computers got powerful enough, you got proper planes that actually wanted to fly, unlike the hopelessly unaerodynamic 'faceted stealth' jet that spent all its time trying to crash.
 
Last edited:

Similar threads


New Posts

Latest Threads

Top