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Why F35B for UK?

There has been lots and lots on here, and elsewhere, about F35 and even about F35B (the STOVL version) and why it is a good aircraft for the UK. So, as no doubt Jim will tell you, soon enough, I'm a very silly man -village idiot ect- and I still cannot work out why F35B -the short take off and vertical landing version (or almost in the case of F35B) is the best aircraft for UK.

Now I can totally see why the US Marine Corps wants F35B; in an age of more, and more, defence cuts, even in the USA, F35B will be the only jet that the US Marine Corps can argue they fly and the United States Navy does not. I get that. I am also fairly sure the USMC will come out with a number of, more or less true, reasons why that helps the US Marine Corps and even US defence stance one way or another.

However if we go back to the 1990's when the QE's were designed the thinking then was that STOVL F35B would carry on the Royal Navy experience with STOVL Harriers, although we were told, many times, that the QE's were designed to be converted to cats and traps if need be.

F35B is the shortest ranged of the three F35 aircraft. It is the most complex and has the worst power to weight ratio ( it has to carry a dirty great lift fan that does nothing most of the time) and it can carry less weapons, especially internally, -and non internal weapons on an F35 means it loses its 'stealth'- than any other F35 type. Now I don't think anyone is going to argue with any of those three points? Are you? Go on argue those three things are not true?

So UK, scrapped Harrier far earlier than planned and then, eventually looked at converting the QE's to cats and traps. Surprise, surprise, it would have been vastly expensive. Although, as someone in the warship building business pointed out (on here?) they seem to have made that process as expensive as they could, adding various costs, for assorted political reasons.

Me, if I had to guess, US Marine Corps wants it, difficult to justify just for them. US President suggests to UK PM it might be a really good 'special relationship' idea if UK stuck with F35B... I know I'm a cynic... Me I actually expect the Royal Navy, if need be, to be able to do some stuff the US Marine Corps, on their own, cannot.

None the less what does UK gain by having 65,000 ton aircraft carriers - largest warships the Royal Navy has ever had- with realtively short ranged, jets that can carry less weapons internally than other F35's? And before anyone says it, sure they are much better than the harrier, but then again the Hurricane was much better than the Gladiator, but both were worse than a Spitfire (or sit a 'sea' in front of them and then think Seafire, Corsair or Sea Fury).

This leaves aside a cats and traps carrier can have real carrier borne AEW and not very much inferior helicopter AEW. And before anyone else says it, sure no one much needed carrier borne AEW in Iraq or Afghanistan. Good stuff. old war we did not win, move on...

Of course none of this matters if you are the US Marine Corps, because a USN Carrier will always back you up. Sadly this might not always be true for a British carrier in the Royal Navy (at least unless we really do want to lose our actual independence).

So I ask again why is UK buying a less than best F35 version, that, because it is so complex and so few other people want it. might well be the most expensive F35 version?

I see someone says this is 'old'. Not untrue, but merely 'old'. Fair enough...
 
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Looking at the re-design/over-re-engineering requirements, the excessive budget re-figuring on both hands and feet, with a still hidden "reasonable amount for over-runs and unforseen" hidden behind the back, as well as a big heap of similar but incompatible/differently upgradeable with additional monsterous expense, it does seem the most "UK traditional" non-UK option from this viewpoint.
 
Looking at the re-design/over-re-engineering requirements, the excessive budget re-figuring on both hands and feet, with a still hidden "reasonable amount for over-runs and unforseen" hidden behind the back, as well as a big heap of similar but incompatible/differently upgradeable with additional monsterous expense, it does seem the most "UK traditional" non-UK option from this viewpoint.

You may have a point...
 
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ID,

Every few months you come out of the woodwork and ask the same questions which have been answered before. All the information is already in the extensive F-35 thread.

However...
...non internal weapons on an F35 means it loses its 'stealth'- than any other F35 type. Now I don't think anyone is going to argue with any of those three points? Are you? Go on argue...[if this is]...not true?
I’ll argue.

External weapons carriage does not mean the F-35 loses it’s ‘stealth’ as such qualities (more correctly termed ‘Low Observability’ or LO) are not binary. Rather, external stores will increase the Radar Cross Section (RCS) of any aircraft to varying degrees dependent upon their type; it may be by a lot or the increase may be negligible.

Either way, tactics and factors such as EA support can mitigate partially or wholly.
...what does UK gain by having 65,000 ton aircraft carriers…with realtively short ranged, jets that can carry less weapons internally than other F35's?
The UK F-35 procurement is not just about what flies off the QEs.

Nevertheless, it gains significant interoperability with other nations who have already – or are likely to in the future – operate the F-35B, other STOVL types and even larger LHAs. That allows us to support and/or cross deck with a greater number of nations in coalition operations and broader Defence Engagement activity. Indeed, I suspect that the USMC will be extremely keen to deploy F-35Bs to the QEs for extended periods as the RN carriers are far better suited to STOVL ops than the former's new America Class LHAs.
…This leaves aside a cats and traps carrier can have real carrier borne AEW and not very much inferior helicopter AEW. And before anyone else says it, sure no one much needed carrier borne AEW in Iraq or Afghanistan. Good stuff. old war we did not win, move on...
Why is SKASaC and Crowsnest ‘very much inferior’ for the UK's requirements than ‘real carrier borne AEW’ (by which I assume you mean E-2D)?

Crowsnest provides the UK with a far more versatile asset than the E-2D capable of ground surveillance as well as more traditional AEW&C/AAW and maritime surveillance/ASuW. Moreover, it can, was and is routinely deployed with minimal support to austere locations as well as RFA and even DDG. It is this latter capability which is arguably of most use to the RN as it effectively enhances UK ISR capacity. USN crews have even described the SKASaC (let alone Crowsnest) mission system architecture as far more flexible than their own (especially the ‘WTFIGO’ button!).

In contrast, while the E-2D has overcome many of the significant limitations of previous variants, it offers nothing above what can be offered by E-3 and E-7s which have remained the C2 asset of choice for every single coalition operation of consequence for the past 35 years.
…why is UK buying a less than best F35 version, that, because it is so complex and so few other people want it. might well be the most expensive F35 version?
As stated, the UK’s F-35 purchase is not just about what flies from the QEs. STOVL has proved useful in the past and will doubtless prove useful in the future as discussed in the F-35 thread (see my post 3584).

Therefore, while you may believe it to be ‘less than best’, others better qualified disagree and it needs to be considered alongside other capabilities such as Typhoon and TLAM. Most importantly from a RN perspective, STOVL assures a continuous CV capability for the next 40 years. Moving to cats and traps would have allowed only a single QE to be converted and placed us in the same position as France who are denied a carrier capability whenever CdG is undergoing maintenance or refuelling.

Finally, as discussed earlier, the USMC, UK (RN and RAF) and Italy (MM and AMI) have already committed to F-35B. Singapore is likely to be the next nation to buy the variant and I strongly suspect that Japan, Spain and Australia will follow suit in the next decade. Even Israel have looked at the B although I suspect they’ll stick with the F-35I derivative of the F-35A.

Regards,
MM
 
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It is the most complex and has the worst power to weight ratio ( it has to carry a dirty great lift fan that does nothing most of the time)
Just to add to MM's points. The C actually has the worst published thrust to weight ratio of the 3 types and is arguably just as complex as the B, Since the C has more unique parts in comparison to the other two variants. The lift fan isnt really an issue when the jet that doesn't have it is significantly larger and heavier anyway.

And also the C is by far and away the most expensive version available.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
One issue is that STOVL gets you much more flexibility and much lower cost than CATOBAR.

To repeat an earlier post on the costs and difficulties of qualifying pilots for arrested landings...

Some big broad handfuls, using dollars because I'm swiping numbers from the USN's experience; it'll drop short because it's mostly just looking at flying hours, no other costs. The following is almost certainly wrong, but it's wrong as an underestimate...

Firstly, you've got the flying hours for deck training; take a qualified fast jet pilot who can land on concrete, put them in something like a T-45 Goshawk, and teach them to land on a moving carrier. That's about two or three hundred flying hours (40 weeks, 125 hops) for the USN; $1,500,000 immediately just in T-45 flying hours, plus you actually need the T-45s to fly (about $30 million per airframe at last rough check; the USN gets about 60 hours per aircraft per month out of them, considered excellent, but that ends up needing half an airframe per trainee in the pipeline). Consider that the USN's washout rate hovers at around 50%; if you want to sustain 48 trained pilots on an eight-year service commitment, you'll need to train about fifteen a year, so eight T-45s up front ($240 million) and $22.5 million per year steady state. (Just in airframes and flying hours, no salaries or other costs)

At that point you've built a force of 48 pilots who can land a T-45 on a carrier: transition training to F-35 will need more hours on a very expensive-per-hour Lightning ($32,000 per hour or so), and then the skills need to be maintained; the USN estimates their pilots, aboard a carrier in home waters during workup, are flying 30-32 hours a month to build and sustain their skills (about 50% more than their land-based contemporaries; all the usual requirements, plus staying current on carrier operations). Handwave away conversion courses (land-based F-35B pilots will need to transition too) but it still gets very expensive.

Ten hours, per pilot, per month, for an air wing of twelve Lightnings in normal jogging to stay carrier-competent; that's pushing fifty million dollars a year just to keep the embarked pilots current. If you want to surge to a larger air wing, you'll need warning time and some serious workup (and the capacity to conduct it, which will otherwise be sitting around idle annoying the Treasury) because a lot of your force are out of practice and will need to refresh; the USN reckon on having to requalify after each shore tour.

See where the costs start coming from? We're not looking at instructors and simulators, nor are we considering the cost of having an aircraft carrier steaming around in the SCXAs chasing the wind, plane guard helo aloft, while a succession of nuggets do touch-and-goes or arrested landings on her deck, and there's the risk of accidental losses; the US Navy and USMC's aviators suffer 20-odd Class A mishaps (loss of life or more than a million dollars' worth of damage) per year, with about ten aircraft lost and about ten dead, each year. Even assuming we're operating one carrier to their eleven, that's an aircraft and pilot a year gone; even if it's a (relatively) cheap T-45 that's an extra thirty million a year and a hole in the ORBAT.

So to qualify forty-eight for a surge, and keep twelve pilots up and skilled, we're looking at $240 million up front and a bit over seventy million a year in running costs, even assuming no accidents. Over a thirty year life, that's more than two billion dollars in extra costs, in order to save $800 million on the airframes because the -C is cheaper than the -B. (Lose one T-45 a year in landing accidents, which is in line with USN experience, and the cost goes up by another billion)

See why the numbers simply don't add up for CATOBAR, and why it actually becomes a very inflexible asset when all the realities of trying to surge the embarked airwing to 30-odd F-35Cs hits the rocks of "just give us a year and a shedload of cash to get all our pilots back in date for night landings..."?



Another lesser issue is that, given that we're unlikely to be using the QECVs as pure carriers but as hybrid CV/LPH, STOVL trades off some range and payload on the Lightnings (which are still awesomely better than SHar regardless of version) but sterilises less deck space and needs less time to recover F-35Bs at the sort of high-stress "too many landings in not enough time" moments that high-intensity warfighting generates.

But, the main point is that it's difficult and expensive enough to qualify pilots for CATOBAR ops that even the USN struggles with it over eleven carriers and their relatively bottomless budget, and nations with one or two CVs find it very difficult (cruel comments that the reason the recent Kusnetsov cruise only ever had one Flanker airborne, was because they were down to one pilot who was deck-qualified, are unverified but funny)
 
On paper, the F-35B has a whole 50nm shorter range than an F-35A
In practice, it's nothing like as much and entirely moot with A2A refueling.
 
And as for the USMC?

They will also have F/A-18E and F-35C

They are however fascinated at the mixed air groups we operated on our invincible class and the bigger version we will on Queen Elizabeth and busy emulating and learning from us.
 
So are we agreed? You will all meet again in the next ironduke F-35 thread in 3 months and do it all again?
 
And as for the USMC?

They will also have F/A-18E and F-35C...

Although they're already flying the F-35C, the USMC are not and will not be operating FA-18E/F.

So are we agreed? You will all meet again in the next ironduke F-35 thread in 3 months and do it all again?

There is indeed a very clear trend with ID99 of several months blessed silence followed by a few weeks of him bombarding the threads with muppetry. I can only assume that it's when his care in the community nurse takes holiday and neglects to secure the hospital lap tops and head wands.

Thankfully this time, she only appeared to take a few days off!

Regards,
MM
 

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