All hail the editor

We should cancel our order for A400M European transport planes, and buy more C-17s and C-130s cheaply from the US.

The Navy should not be allowed its new frigates: instead it should purchase basic ships to act as floating bases for helicopters, Marines and Tomahawk missiles. The Army should likewise move away from tanks and artillery, and towards integrated air support. If the soldiers really feel a need for Apache helicopters once they have F-18s and Reapers, we could replace them: but we should buy straight from Boeing this time, rather than a job-creation scheme in Yeovilton.

If you really don’t want to close down the RAF, then fair enough – we can probably postpone that for a while. But the really important thing is to stop using the defence procurement budget as an industrial subsidy, and start using it for defence.

Reasonably brusque summary, no?

175 thoughts on “All hail the editor”

  1. Unfortunately, too radical for Davie and his mates.

    This is debate stimulating fodder and we need a lot more all round on all sorts of subjects.

    I don’t know if he is right or wrong (although I like what he is saying and it seems to make sense). Somebody needs to put the other side (or sides) and we may reach some sort of radical new vision for our armed forces.

    Shall I hold my breath?

  2. Russian equipment is cheaper. And more effective for fighting shitty little wars in shitty little turd world countries- see every conflict involving Executive Outcomes. And the Russian government is run by normal human beings.

    The claim that “most military aviation could – and should – have been automated long ago” is pretty retarded too. Sure, if all you have is Eurofighters or F-18s or F-35s, yes, then that is true, but if you have planes you can actually afford to use then having a human being with actual insight over the AO counts.

  3. My short time working on the carrier project led me to much the same conclusion. The only reason for not having cats/traps on a carrier of that size is simple because BAE didn’t want the F-35B threatened, and having cats/traps meant the Superbugs were the best value for money by a country mile. Hell, I’m still sure scrapping the whole carrier and building a new one with cats/traps and buying Superbugs would still work out cheaper.

    As for the RAF, well if the USAF’s hatred of the A-10 is any indication, the pilots should have been removed from command decisions decades ago.

  4. The real winner would be to abolish the Army, the RN & the RAF & have a single, integrated defense force. End idiocies like the RAF claiming rights over helicopters in the battlefield role through a different chain of command from the troops they’re servicing.
    Then there’s the defense budget allocations which amazingly seem always to end up as an equal split between the three services, irrespective of overall priorities. A by-product of each service’s main combat adversary being the other two arms.
    Here’s a question: Why do you need a choice of three separate commands to deliver a ton of explosive to any particular map reference? What exactly is the point of the Royal Artillery?

  5. “Integrated air support” won’t replace fighting vehicles, not least because aircraft of whatever stripe cost multiples more to buy and run than something with wheels and tracks that produces equivalent effects.

    Automating an airforce is still not possible. Another couple of decades, perhaps. But the point about the RAF being run by pilots and hence seeing UAV’s as a deeply disruptive and unwelcome innovation is very much true, and there would be savings in not having a separate “flying” service.

    It’s a bit late to cancel the A400: we’ve spent a couple of billion on development and we’ve already signed the production contract and taken delivery of the first one. In an ideal world, when we bought the C130 in 2000, we should have used the money and gap in the budgets to buy more C17’s rather than waste the money on the A400, but it’s too late now since the production line for the C17 is about to shut down 🙁

    I could go on. I wish Lewis would think more carefully before writing Sun type articles…

  6. Bloke in Germany in Bosnia

    Since our last major adventure was to kick-start the second 100-years war (in which, round about the first commercial break, the puritans, having succeeded in slaughtering all the unbelievers have now turned on their former allies and are winning about 7-2), why not just abolish the lot?

  7. “What exactly is the point of the Royal Artillery?” Speed of reaction, and the ability to deliver ordinance in fog and at night.

  8. I suspect the Americans would have a similar view of the costs of defense acquisitions except they have nowhere else to shop if they want to maintain a technological advantage.

  9. The point of the Royal Artillery is specialisation. You could try to train up the infantry but then you would also need to train them up for everything else and at the end of it all you probably end up with soldiers who are not much cop at anything.

    The ability to hit an area half the size of a tennis court from 20 km away in all conditions with a reasonable degree of certainty requires a lot of training and practice.

    Practice (with actual ammunition) is very expensive (which is a big reason why the average squaddie isn’t as good a shot as the average SAS trooper, he shoots perhaps 1% of the rounds on the range per annum because of cost).

    People have wanted a total football army since forever but many of these jobs are probably best kept to the specialists.

  10. Page has been writing this stuff for The Reg for years. If The Telegraph have hired him, that’s a good sign he’s getting through to people.

    Course, Cameron won’t notice. He only reads The Guardian.

  11. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “The real winner would be to abolish the Army, the RN & the RAF & have a single, integrated defense force.”

    It did not work out well for the Canadians.

    “End idiocies like the RAF claiming rights over helicopters in the battlefield role through a different chain of command from the troops they’re servicing.”

    Indeed. But there may be another way to do this – the Soviet way. Reduce the RAF and the Army bureaucracies to providing equipment. Place the aircraft under the operational command of a unified HQ. So the RAF can do the training and provide the spares. The pilots take orders from whomever is in charge – in Europe that should be an Army officer.

    “What exactly is the point of the Royal Artillery?”

    Well traditionally it was to make sure that those officers who could read and do basic sums had a career path ….

  12. Sebastian Weetabix

    Everybody who has served in the RAF knows that the real ancestral enemy of the service is not the Germans or the Russians, or even the pesky Yanks – it’s the fucking Navy. Bastards. So I am not surprised to see a former Naval officer slip the blade between the ribs of Crab Air. It is a longstanding strategic aim of the Admiralty to eliminate competition for the budget. (By the way, this idea you can totally automate aviation is wank of the highest order, on a par with the 50s mania for replacing all aircraft with missiles. Equally – entrusting complex avionics to the Army is asking for it. They can just about cope with horses.)

    That said he does have a *few* good points. Our equipment is largely rubbish because our overlords can’t decide if they are operating a defence budget or running a system of relief for indigent defence manufacturers. The carriers are a complete white elephant; they should have been nuclear powered with cats and traps allowing F18s to wander about pretending to be an airforce. What we have got is a joke. Ditto the A400s. Everybody knows they’re useless. And not having the Nimrods, when we live on an island surrounded by the sea, is incompetence of quite stunning proportions.

    But the real jewel in the turd is the “independent” nuclear deterrent. We lease the missiles from the Yanks and we can’t fire them without their say so. It is really a massive subsidy to the Americans, almost like Tribute to the Romans. But to the Navy it is their preciousssss…..

  13. Planes are great but need to return to base to rearm and can be minutes away. Tanks and artillery can be in the area and fire almost immediately.
    Plus they are a lot more accurate and less vulnerable than aircraft.
    Specialisation works too – the artllery are good at their jobs, engineers good at their and infantry good at theirs.
    Cannot think of any invasion where the aircraft won. They can kill, they can destroy, usually far more than that needed.

    Look at the Taliban – they won with no tanks, no aircraft. By most definitions of ‘won’.

  14. So Much for Subtlety

    Rupert Fiennes – “It’s a bit late to cancel the A400: we’ve spent a couple of billion on development and we’ve already signed the production contract and taken delivery of the first one.”

    That is what the said about the Nimrod. Several decades later ….. The British government seems to be weaselling out of the Eurofighter:

    http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20150531.aspx

    At the same time Britain decided to not take all of its third batch of 88 Typhoon fighters. This cost Britain $2 billion in increased maintenance costs and penalties. Britain did take 40 of the fighters from the third batch and resold another 24 to Saudi Arabia. In effect, Britain was pulling out of the Eurofighter program, and cancelling 16 of the aircraft it was to have received from the third batch. The British government believed that 184 Typhoons would be sufficient and that it could not afford any more than that. That was optimistic and Britain ended up with 125 mew Typhoons and 80 older Tornados that will be retired by the end of the decade. The new American F-35 is supposed to replace the Tornados and some of the older Typhoons. Britain wanted buy 138 F-35s but it looks like 80 is a more realistic, or optimistic number.

    But you have to admire a bureaucracy that works to cancel a piece of crap airplane only to replace it with one that is even worse.

    The next airplanes the British buy should be Harriers.

  15. @ interested
    It’s not an argument against having artillery. Or having blokes to fire it. It’s why have competition between 3 services over who blows up a patch of ground 20 km away? Why does a rocket fired from a MLRS have different chain of command from those fired from an aircraft or a ship?

  16. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “Why does a rocket fired from a MLRS have different chain of command from those fired from an aircraft or a ship?”

    If you are asking someone to drop high explosives anywhere near you, it is important that he does his best. Which means that it is best if you eat dinner with him on a regular basis. That he has met your wife and children. Just as the Apollo astronauts made sure that the people whose job it was to blow up the rocket if it went off course got to known them personally.

    Talk to soldiers. I am sure they would prefer those rockets to be fired by artillery men they know and are attached to their unit, rather than Airforce pilots who call them names. No matter how professional everyone is.

  17. Why does a rocket fired from a MLRS have different chain of command from those fired from an aircraft or a ship?

    A lot will be dependent on what the rounds are intended to do. If they are for infantry support (i.e. tactical), having the approval of the fire mission at regimental or divisional HQ makes a lot more sense (in terms of allocating priorities and response time) than going through the centre which decides on strategic targets (i.e. which city are we going to shock and awe today?).

  18. SW: “But the real jewel in the turd is the “independent” nuclear deterrent. We lease the missiles from the Yanks and we can’t fire them without their say so. It is really a massive subsidy to the Americans, almost like Tribute to the Romans. But to the Navy it is their preciousssss…..”

    So what would happen if we tried to pop one off without asking the Yanks?

  19. By the way, for a description of what life was like for a major in charge of an infantry company in the American army after the Normandy landings, look no further than the brilliant Clay Pigeons of St. Lo by Glover S. Johns. He describes in much detail the roles of the regimental and divisional artillery batteries and the company and regimental mortars.

  20. And if you’re interested (the emotion, not the bloke) Lewis Page wrote a book back in the mid 2000’s on the relationship between the defense industry – effectively BAe – & the military.

  21. So Much for Subtlety

    Dongguan John – “So what would happen if we tried to pop one off without asking the Yanks?”

    It would fly to its target and destroy it. The Guardian likes to deny Britain has any independence, but in the short term it does. All the Americans can really do is reduce the missile’s accuracy. So we can hit New York instead of the fountain in Central Park.

    In the longer term they can deny spare parts.

  22. “Talk to soldiers. I am sure they would prefer those rockets to be fired by artillery men they know and are attached to their unit, rather than Airforce pilots who call them names.”
    That’s the point, SMfS. That airforce pilots are part of an entirely different structure. I could have as easily said “What’s the point of the RAF?”.

  23. One thing I have often wondered is that if we fired a Trident at someone from a submarine out in the middle of the Atlantic would anyone know actually who had done it?

  24. Sebastian Weetabix

    Field Marshal So Much For Subtlety seems to have escaped the loony bin – or at the very least is depriving a village of its idiot.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmdfence/986/986we13.htm

    Do you really think the Yanks would allow anyone other than the President to fire the missiles? Don’t be simple. The moment our missile “independently” popped above the waves it would be destroyed at the press of a button. The whole British deterrent system is nothing more than a useless, expensive virility symbol for fuckwit politicians and Admirals who refuse to recognise that Britain stopped being a true world power some time before 1940.

  25. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “That’s the point, SMfS. That airforce pilots are part of an entirely different structure. I could have as easily said “What’s the point of the RAF?”.”

    I am not actually disagreeing with you that much. But there are two problems. One is that the Air Force does not care about the Army – we have eight pilots training for Ground Support in the Typhoon. But if the Air Force was part of the Army, would it help? Well, the Army cares about its socially exclusive Regiments. The others less so. The artillery even less than that. Just as the Navy cares about its destroyers and frigates and no other ship. The Army is perfectly capable of cutting planes too.

    The problem is how to get the best, or the least worst, of both worlds. Having an Air Force that lobbies for an Air Force is not too bad. But the planes ought to come under the direct control of the Army Commanders – like the guns do. It would be nice if we copied the Marines who make all aspiring pilots do Basic with the grunts.

  26. So Much for Subtlety

    Dongguan John – “One thing I have often wondered is that if we fired a Trident at someone from a submarine out in the middle of the Atlantic would anyone know actually who had done it?”

    There would be bits, not big bits, but bits, left over. Even if it was just radioactive waste from the warhead. You could, in theory, identify it. Besides, how many submarines could launch a Trident? Us and the US.

    Sebastian Weetabix – “Field Marshal So Much For Subtlety seems to have escaped the loony bin – or at the very least is depriving a village of its idiot.”

    If you are going to be a c&nt it is probably a very good idea to be right. Given that you are not right, I hope you are smart.

    “http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmdfence/986/986we13.htm”

    Which is nice. As it said what I said, doesn’t it? Your own source agrees with me.

    The fact that, in theory, the British Prime Minister could give the order to fire Trident missiles without getting prior approval from the White House has allowed the UK to maintain the façade of being a global military power. In practice, though, it is difficult to conceive of any situation in which a Prime Minister would fire Trident without prior US approval.

    Notice what it does not say. It does not say that Britain could not launch a missile if it felt like. It says that it is hard to think of a situation in which Britain would launch without US agreement. I would hope so.

    So what else did I say?

    The fact that the UK is completely technically dependent on the USA for the maintenance of the Trident system means that one way the USA could show its displeasure would be to cut off the technical support needed for the UK to continue to send Trident to sea.

    Yeah, I said that and all. Notice what they don’t say. They don’t say the US has a veto. They don’t say the US can destroy a missile in flight. They don’t say that Britain cannot launch whenever it feels like. Why might that be you think?

    “Do you really think the Yanks would allow anyone other than the President to fire the missiles? Don’t be simple.”

    And yet that is just what they have done. Even better than that, they did not even insist that the British installed PALs. Which means any British submarine commander could have launched them until recently. If he so felt like it.

    “The moment our missile “independently” popped above the waves it would be destroyed at the press of a button.”

    And how do you propose they would do that then?

    “The whole British deterrent system is nothing more than a useless, expensive virility symbol for fuckwit politicians and Admirals who refuse to recognise that Britain stopped being a true world power some time before 1940.”

    I am sure it is a comfort for you to think so. The policy *is* stupid but it is not stupid for that reason. If we wanted to destroy New York we could.

    So you’re being a c*nt and you’re wrong. This is not sustainable.

  27. The issue of who calls in fires is always complicated but it probably should be.

    You actually don’t want artillery shells being fired willy and indeed nilly.

    The problems in that area are usually less to do with who one calls to drop the shell but the fact that the radios won’t allow you to call anyone because there’s a tree in the way or your batteries are forty years old.

    And then, when you do get through, failing to get permission for what is required eg high explosive denied so you resort to dropping fucking smoke on Taliban fighters for fear you might actually kill some of them (true story, ask any JTAC).

    If you can’t talk to anyone and when you finally get through they are paralysed by fear it doesn’t really matter what colour tunic they are wearing.

  28. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “And if you’re interested (the emotion, not the bloke) Lewis Page wrote a book back in the mid 2000’s on the relationship between the defense industry – effectively BAe – & the military.”

    This is clearly not going to be a thread worth my time, but I recommend Page’s book. It is mentioned at the end of that article. He can’t kick BAe hard enough for my liking.

    But what is the alternative? We have two basic models – we can try to source all our own weapons, or we can buy overseas. He seems to be supporting leasing F-18s. Good. I approve of that. But notice that when we do this with Trident missiles, somehow it is a crime against humanity. If we don’t want to try the Trident approach, we need to do deals with people like BAe.

    I think the real problem is that the Armed Forces realised some time in the 1950s that Britain could not survive a real war with the Soviets. So they spent some time thinking about campaigning against the Fuzzy Wuzzies. But mostly they agreed that everything they did in Europe was play acting. So they spent big on things they liked, and not things Britain needed. HQs for instance. Everything about the modern British Armed Forces smacks of Third World tin pot dictators – Armies that have more generals than tanks (if you count brigadiers), Navies that have more Admirals than ships. BAe clued on and has been running a welfare programme for D&D playing nerds ever since.

    We need to be serious. We need to send people to jail. We need to impose and enforce penalty clauses. Instead everyone, politicians, brass, the Unions and industry, treats the Armed Forces as a milch cow and a game.

  29. “we have eight pilots training for Ground Support in the Typhoon.”
    One can’t help but wonder with what success.
    The RAF did train a lot of pilots for the low level role in the Tornado. But the RAF also demonstrated that the Tornado’s survivability in the low level role, against a competent opponent, was approximately zero. The losses were so high against the Iraqi’s In GW1 – the Iraqi’s not being high on anyone’s list for competence – they had to stop doing it.
    Maybe the Typhoon actually works. Who knows?

  30. I venture to suggest that no-one will ever fly conventional jets of any description in the same role as Tornado was employed in GW1 ie attacking targets surrounded by surface to air defences. It was mad then, as far as I can see, and it would probably be madder now. Low level bombing and strafing in support of troops on the ground, yes.

  31. Surreptitious Evil

    We lease the missiles from the Yanks and we can’t fire them without their say so.

    As others have said, this regularly trotted out claim is bollocks of the first water.

    All the Americans can really do is reduce the missile’s accuracy.

    They can’t even do that. The system designers assumed that GPS would be long gone by the time these things were being launched.

    I’m not sure what is and isn’t public domain therefore I’m not going to say any more. Although I may put up a post about McNeilly a bit later on.

  32. “I venture to suggest that no-one will ever fly conventional jets of any description in the same role as Tornado was employed in GW1 ie attacking targets surrounded by surface to air defences. It was mad then, as far as I can see, and it would probably be madder now. Low level bombing and strafing in support of troops on the ground, yes.”

    At this point the keen observer would ask exactly which potential enemy doesn’t have surface-to-air defenses? And wonder, if the RAF intends restricting its activities to only making as nuisance of itself over those who don’t, why it bothered about upgrading from the DH Mosquito. Speaking on behalf of competent carpenters looking for employment, that is. Or for sail-makers, the Sopwith Camel

  33. One might also wonder why they’re using a hundred million pound plane to muss the paintwork on 500 quid’s worth of Toyota pickup.

  34. So Much For Subtlety said:

    But what is the alternative? We have two basic models – we can try to source all our own weapons, or we can buy overseas.

    Or do what the MoD used to be capable of – writing equipment requirements that encouraged the production of British kit foreigners wanted to buy as well.

    Added to that, having politicians with a clear vision of what they want the MoD to be capable of would help.

  35. @bnis

    ‘At this point the keen observer would ask exactly which potential enemy doesn’t have surface-to-air defenses?’

    I didn’t say there are enemies without SAMs, I said there are targets ringed with batteries of SAMs whose whole job is to sit there waiting for attacks. You don’t want to attack those at low level because they are looking for you with radar, or scouts, have pickets, have defences arranged in rings etc. That’s a lot different than fluid fighting where some of the enemy may have MANPADs or will have a pop with small arms. Still dangerous, just not suicidal.

    ‘One might also wonder why they’re using a hundred million pound plane to muss the paintwork on 500 quid’s worth of Toyota pickup.’

    It really all depends on your perspective. If you are pinned down by a bloke in a ‘technical’ with a dushka you are happy to have him taken out any possible way.

    If he kills a couple fo Royal Marines, how muchy do you think that costs?

    Way more than the fuel and rockets/cannon fire required to destroy him, that;s for sure.

    But yes, if you can take him out with a rifle round better still. It’s just that sometimes you can’t.

  36. Or do what the MoD used to be capable of – writing equipment requirements that encouraged the production of British kit foreigners wanted to buy as well.

    I’m not disagreeing here, but what kit did we ever make that foreigners wanted to buy? I’m struggling to think of anything.

  37. “I’m not disagreeing here, but what kit did we ever make that foreigners wanted to buy? I’m struggling to think of anything.”

    There’s loads. Harrier. Spitfire. The old 25 pdr. The L115A3. Lee Enfield .303. Any number of types of hand grenade. Body armour. Tanks (Chieftain, Challenger 1 and 2) blah blah blah.

    We sell billions of quids worth of stuff each year, someone must be buying it.

  38. I agree with SMFS and SE: the UK can launch & accurately target its Tridents without US political or technical authorisation from the US and there’s nothing the yanks can do about it at the time. They do maintain the weapons, so (assuming we hadn’t fired off the lot) they could retaliate by stopping maintenance.
    The big problem with Trident is its vulnerability while crossing the Continental Shelf, where it’s visible to spy sats which can vector hunter killer subs or attack planes onto it. That’s why cancelling Nimrod was an act of treason.

  39. Tim Newman – “what kit did we ever make that foreigners wanted to buy? I’m struggling to think of anything.”

    Starting post war – The English Electric Lightning – Wanted by the Germans, wrecked by the British government and the 1957 whitepaper that proposed getting rid of manned aircraft entirely and replacing them with unmanned systems like the Bloodhound missile.

    The English Electric Canberra – Bought by the United States, no less, but built in their country by the Martin corporation.

    The Harrier Jump jet – Bought by the US Marines, and license built by McDonnell-Douglas in St. Louis. Bought by numerous smaller navies following it’s Falklands success, such as those of Thailand and India. Dismissed by many in the Royal Navy as a “pedestrian and not very useful aeroplane, ” in 1981 no less, because they didn’t want to sell off their full size carrier to the Indians.

    The Folland Gnat – Bought by India in the 50’s as a light attack plane for beating up the Pakistanis with. Built under license in Bangalore because of UK government bungling. A second version of the Gnat called the Ajit was built by the Indians in the 70’s – They even came back for seconds, as it were – These days Hindustan Aeronautics is bidding for some of the work for the Indian order for the Dassault Rafale, although the French, being people who get it, won’t give to them.

    The descendant of the Gnat – The BAE systems Hawk, was finished under license in the US as the T-45 Goshawk, from fuselages built in the UK as a training jet.

    So, lots of aviation related stuff that people categorically DID want to buy in the past, but see a pattern here? Local production – These people get it and this country doesn’t. Presumably national defense can be handled by G4S and Serco. Porterbrook leasing to handle maritime surveillance anyone? Maybe Michael O’Leary can let us use his 737 maintenance facilities if we ever get around to buying the P-8 maritime patrol planes that the Nimrods got binned for.

    Even this guy’s proposals that we lease the F/A-18 is daft because of the simple issue of what aircraft? The production facility is scheduled to close at the end of the US Navy’s order next year. The last C-17 is scheduled to be finished this year, and C-130J – the latest version of the vehicle, is a wretched boondoggle of a project that is only “cheap” because it is smeared around so many congressional districts that cancellation is impossible and they have to flog those things to anyone to keep production going.

    Factor in electroshock batons, air traffic control systems that African nations don’t need and the whole issue of Saudi Arabia and it is true to say we have plenty of weapons that the world wants to buy, and ideally then make themselves, because they get it and this country doesn’t.

  40. They do maintain the weapons, so (assuming we hadn’t fired off the lot) they could retaliate by stopping maintenance.

    Out of interest, what does the USA provide in this context that we can’t reproduce? Fissile materials, components, skillsets?

    Seems odd on the face of it to rely on them.

  41. I recall reading the view that the British nuclear weapons programme, compared to the US one, was “like a cottage industry”. It’s a bit like the space programme; they’ve got the GDP to do it as a State project, Britain hasn’t.

  42. Page is either a bloody idiot, or deliberately saying things he knows aren’t true in order to make his case. Anyone on this side of the Atlantic who bemoans the amount the US is spending on the F35 _to meet our requirements_ is just fucking stupid. We’re getting an unbelievably good deal there.

    The criticism of the F35 programme from the US perspective is also invalid, but somewhat more subtly so than the ridiculously idiotic criticism of it from our perspective.

    Page has zero credibility, which is fortunate because if anyone listened to him it would cost lives.

  43. ASM>

    Don’t forget the various bits of kit that other countries would have loved to buy, but which we weren’t selling – the V Bombers being a prime example.

  44. Why have the artillery got it in for tennis courts?

    I’m staying away from Wimbledon this year.

  45. Stay away also from football pitches, Olympic sized swimming pools, and any “area the size of Belgium”.

  46. Tim Newman said:

    I’m not disagreeing here, but what kit did we ever make that foreigners wanted to buy? I’m struggling to think of anything.

    Aside from the things already mentioned, mostly aircraft, there is the once fairly ubiquitous Land Rover.

    In microcosm it’s a good example of where things are going wrong imo. The MoD will need new vehicles to replace existing Defenders eventually. It should or could have been talking to Land Rover (or at least someone) about what the military requirements are and if it can be leveraged into a civilian workhorse as well – to spread the development costs across a much bigger production run.

  47. @Gareth

    They have been talking to people. (I think they’re going for Husky variants from the US. Comparative advantage!)

  48. I once did a thought experiment in which a terrorist organization floated a crude nuclear device up the Seine on a barge and detonated it by the Parlement Francais, thus knocking out the entire French government and devolving the nuclear chain of command to an ex Para FN Mayor in the picturesque village of D’Oyly Carte.

    Even if only one submarine of the Force De Frappe was at sea at the time, with it’s sixteen missiles, each with three independently targeted warheads, I concluded that I wouldn’t like to be in any North African or Middle Eastern city.

  49. I wonder what the author has been smoking when he wrote that UK should not use Eurofighters but F-18s which are, according to him, “capable and inexpensive to run”.

    Capable, yes, but as far as I know, F-18 is the most expensive thing around to operate, with the exception of F-35 Reaper. Rafale is cheaper than F-18, Eurofighter is cheaper to run than Rafale, F-16 is cheaper to run than Eurofighter (though quite old by now). JAS Gripen is cheapest of the modern fighters, and remember, Lars Rådeström is the closest thing to an ace you have with modern fighters (he has downed two planes, both unfortunately his own).

  50. JeremyT

    “That’s why cancelling Nimrod was an act of treason.”

    If it was such a critical system that cancelling it was an act of treason, why was it acceptable to be well over a decade late and billions over budget? Was that not the act of treason? Shouldn’t everyone involved have been arrested and thrown in jail for gross incompetence?

  51. pjt

    “I wonder what the author has been smoking when he wrote that UK should not use Eurofighters but F-18s which are, according to him, “capable and inexpensive to run”.

    Capable, yes, but as far as I know, F-18 is the most expensive thing around to operate, with the exception of F-35 Reaper. Rafale is cheaper than F-18, Eurofighter is cheaper to run than Rafale, F-16 is cheaper to run than Eurofighter ”

    You can’t fly Eurofighter off a flattop. Rafale is actually quite a good option, there was talk of a UK/French deal where the UK buys Rafale, and France buys the PoW.

  52. Dave

    “Page is either a bloody idiot, or deliberately saying things he knows aren’t true in order to make his case. Anyone on this side of the Atlantic who bemoans the amount the US is spending on the F35 _to meet our requirements_ is just fucking stupid. We’re getting an unbelievably good deal there.”

    It’s an unbelievably good deal the UK can’t afford. Your getting 40 F-35B’s, maybe. Given it’s inherently limited nature, do you really think that is an unbelievably good deal?

  53. So Much for Subtlety

    Dave – “Anyone on this side of the Atlantic who bemoans the amount the US is spending on the F35 _to meet our requirements_ is just fucking stupid. We’re getting an unbelievably good deal there.”

    No we are not. The F-35 is a spectacularly crap piece of kit. Even by the standards of the Welfare Queens of the US aviation industry. The best deal we could have with the F-35 is if the US killed it off. It may be like the F-111 – a totally useless piece of crap for which, eventually, some use was found. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    “The criticism of the F35 programme from the US perspective is also invalid, but somewhat more subtly so than the ridiculously idiotic criticism of it from our perspective.”

    It doesn’t fly well, it can’t use its weapon systems, it is incredibly expensive, it has trouble lifting off vertically. By all means, tell us why criticism of this piece of junk is invalid?

    ASM – “The English Electric Canberra – Bought by the United States, no less, but built in their country by the Martin corporation.”

    I believe the Americans are still flying some of theirs.

  54. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “And wonder, if the RAF intends restricting its activities to only making as nuisance of itself over those who don’t, why it bothered about upgrading from the DH Mosquito.”

    That is a very good question. Recruitment? Pilots want to think they are flying sexy bits of kit?

    The French have thought more about this and decided they want an Army that can intervene in its former colonies. They only pretend to build tanks. They mainly focus on operations in Africa. Which they are quite good at. They have the nuclear weapons to deter the Soviets, and if that fails, and the Germans can’t hold them, well they don’t have a lot left.

    There is quite a lot to be said for this approach. It meant that the Americans did not trust the French Army against even the Iraqis, which is a bit embarrassing, but it has given the French what they want and need – influence in a whole range of places. (In passing Britain did take tanks seriously. For a while. They ended WW2 with some very competent people. But the British government has never been willing to pay for a proper production run.)

    With the air force, much of the flying we have done since 1945 and much we will be doing in the near future, is not going to be against people with Soviet-levels of air defense. We are talking about, basically, small-scale colonial campaigns. So the Mosquito option is not a bad one.

    A sensible Air Force policy would be to build short production runs of planes from the past. Cheap and they can do most jobs. We do not need a Eurofighter to drop bombs on Afghans. A Embraer EMB 312 Tucano would do fine. We insisted on providing welfare to Shorts and they built some, but we should buy direct from Brazil. If we need a plane to warn off those former Soviet bombers, we should build a short run of EE Lightnings – proven design with two off-the-shelf engines. No more design work needed. The same with the Buccaneer if the Navy wanted a plane again. Or an American Harrier.

    As a policy it is unfortunate, to say the least, but it gives the Armed Forces most of what they need at a plausible cost. And neither the Armed Forces nor BAe have shown that they can be trusted designing anything. They can have nicer kit when they behave in a responsible adult-like way.

    But the Mosquito would not be a bad option. I bet it is a bugger to shoot down with a MANPAD. Might have come in handy in the Falklands if we had a runway near by.

  55. ukliberty: Out of interest, what does the USA provide in this context that we can’t reproduce? Fissile materials, components, skillsets?
    The warheads (nukes and multiple entry vehicles) are all UK designed & sourced. The guidance systems (inertial and star-guided) and booster are US designed and sourced. It was just cheaper to do it that way.
    David in NZ: if (Nimrod) was such a critical system that cancelling it was an act of treason, why was it acceptable to be well over a decade late and billions over budget?
    Poorly managed subcontractors always run over budget and late. Wrecking our nuclear deterrent solely in order to punish one is treason.

  56. Sebastian Weetabix

    @SMFS: Build Lightnings? Now? 40+ years after the tooling was smashed to bits? With lots of 1950s avionics? Are you completely fucking brain dead, or what?

    You might be a Field Marshal, but you are no aerospace engineer.

  57. From experience take it from me the navys frigates are fucked,calling them rust buckets is an insult to rust buckets and the MOD want another 10 years out of them.

  58. So Much for Subtlety

    JeremyT – “Poorly managed subcontractors always run over budget and late. Wrecking our nuclear deterrent solely in order to punish one is treason.”

    Poorly managed is the euphemism of the century. The Nimrod started out as a subsidy to airline manufacturers – the Comet failed in commercial service and was obsolete before its time, so the sensible solution was to sell it to the Armed Forces. Which is what they did. It was an abortion from the start.

    If there is the slightest risk of someone tracking a British submarine as it breaks out from Scotland – and it is hard to think of anyone who might even try these days – the sensible solution is to move the submarines. Ascension looks good. The Scots don’t want them after all.

  59. So Much for Subtlety

    Sebastian Weetabix – “Build Lightnings? Now? 40+ years after the tooling was smashed to bits? With lots of 1950s avionics? Are you completely fucking brain dead, or what?”

    You just don’t learn do you? Yes, we would have to re-tool. Worse we would have to get someone to re-tool who was not BAe. But that is true of any new plane unless we buy one off the shelf from someone else.

    The choice is between avionics which are cheap and well understood or something new that is neither. Which do you think will turn out the more expensive? There are tens of thousands of engineers and workers in Britain who understand 50s electronics. The number of people who will be able to understand and repair the F-35’s electronics is very small.

    There is no easy option here. But this is the easiest.

  60. Sebastian Weetabix – “Build Lightnings? Now? 40+ years after the tooling was smashed to bits? With lots of 1950s avionics?”

    It’s hard to see what the problem would be. They didn’t use much in the way of special tooling. Few assembly jigs, press tools. It was mostly turning, machining in those days. No tricky composites. These days with CAD & computer driven tooling we’d be quicker & with much better precision.
    And is it obligatory to use valves in the avionics? Couple of Rasberry Pi’s from RS Components – £50 + VAT – would take you most the way to an autopilot.

  61. “Social Justice Warrior

    >There are tens of thousands of engineers and workers in Britain who understand 50s electronics.<
    "Really? What sort of electronic devices were used in 1950s avionics?"

    Similar to the electronics went in Lancaster bombers. Or Vickers Vimy's for that matter. Or do you not understand what the word "electronics" means?

  62. So Much for Subtlety

    Social Justice Warrior – “Really? What sort of electronic devices were used in 1950s avionics?”

    The sort that can often be repaired by aircraft technicians in field and are not all that bothered by things like dust and sand.

    All good things if all we want to do is bomb the Taliban.

  63. You’re wrong there SMfS. 1950s electronics were hell in dust & sand. Metal leaf varicaps. Valve sockets. It’s the modern solid state that’s bombproof

  64. Oh & voltages. Most of it wanted 400 volts. Tricky stuff, high voltages in a dusty environment.

  65. “Really? What sort of electronic devices were used in 1950s avionics?”

    Similar to the electronics went in Lancaster bombers. Or Vickers Vimy’s for that matter. Or do you not understand what the word “electronics” means?

    I was asking a question. I don’t know what went in Lancaster bombers either. But I do know a lot about electronic devices, and the 1950s were a long time ago in their history.

  66. I’m presuming here valves, wound components (transformers, inductors), carbon resistors, wax and paper capacitors, etc. And vulcanised rubber insulated wiring.

  67. JeremyT

    “Poorly managed subcontractors always run over budget and late. Wrecking our nuclear deterrent solely in order to punish one is treason.”

    There is overbudget and late and then there is Nimrod MRA4. The original program was called Nimrod 2000 don’t forget and it was also meant to deliver 21 aircraft. Just before it was scrapped it was going to get 9 aircraft into the air at 4bn pounds, and even then they were almost certainly not fit for service.

    If you really think there is a claim for treason, everyone involved in that program should have been arrested.

  68. So Much for Subtlety

    The NZ airforce still has a few Skyhawks lying around, they are just the job as bomb trucks for killing your average militant that the UK loves to beat up on.

    They even fly off carriers.

  69. Sebastian Weetabix

    Someone who thinks bringing back a 1950s design because it will be cheap and “proven” really does need mental help.

    As for the “tens of thousands”… etc, let’s hope they can work unsupervised, since the designer has been dead since 1968. Assuming they’re not all pissing themselves with laughter in the old folk’s home. I suppose for safety’s sake we should exclude those who don’t know how to work the Sky remote or can’t remember to wipe their arses.

    Meanwhile, in other news, Maclaren – outraged at the rising costs of Formula 1 – are building Bentley Blowers, if they can find suppliers of Bakelite and Walnut.

    I must thank SMFS for giving me the very best belly laugh I’ve had since I left Cranditz. Comedy gold. Count Arthur Strong’s nostalgia for music hall has got nothing on him.

  70. SMFS is sort of a bit right in one sense. If all we need to do is bomb goatherds then a Mosquito will do the job. A bomb’s a bomb. (There are more accurate methods, but that’s another story.)

    Those goatherds who aren’t armed with heat seeking SAMs – the designers of the Mossie didn’t worry too much about the heat sig of the engines.

    Or anti aircraft weapons/machine guns which didn’t exist in 1943 and which put a lot more lead in the air more accurately than WW2 weapons.

    Good luck finding the pilots!

    However, it’s probably sensible to have planes and pilots and ordnance that can bomb BOTH goatherds AND main battle tanks.

    So I think the Mossie is out.

    The Lightning? Well, it was quick. But it was fuel inefficient, with limited patrol time, it was designed as an interceptor (so no good vs goatherds), and would not win against modern fighters (according to people who fly modern fighters).

    Question for SMFS: what have you got against the Sopwith Camel?

  71. Bloke in North Dorset

    Using 50’s technology may have the advantage of being simple , cheap(ish) and have more EMP resilience but does mean it limits the electronics to a couple of simple radios for in air and air to ground communications.

    If they want all the modern gizmos, and SMFS I’m not making the case for them just pointing out limitations, such as IFF, air to air and air to ground radar, radar sensors and the ability to detect incoming missiles as well as sat nav, sat phones and data links for command systems, and which military commanders let alone PMs want to be kept in the dark nowadays, then you’ve no chance using old electronics. Not because it couldn’t be done but because the power and space requirements, weight and heat generated means that the plane would need to be massive need bigger engines and carry even more fuel.

  72. PS the French have more tanks than we do.

    With their history of a large standing army, there have been very few periods of time where the French didn’t have more of “insert current beast of battlefield” than us. It has rarely done them any good.

  73. So Much for Subtlety

    David in NZ – “Just before it was scrapped it was going to get 9 aircraft into the air at 4bn pounds, and even then they were almost certainly not fit for service.”

    Keeping in mind you can have an off-the-shelf P-3 Orion, ready to fly, tomorrow, for $36 million a pop.

    “If you really think there is a claim for treason, everyone involved in that program should have been arrested.”

    Indeed.

  74. So Much for Subtlety

    Sebastian Weetabix – “As for the “tens of thousands”… etc, let’s hope they can work unsupervised, since the designer has been dead since 1968.”

    You really have no idea do you? Are you seriously suggesting that no one in this country can read or work from a blue print?

    “if they can find suppliers of Bakelite and Walnut.”

    Neither walnut or bakelite have gone out of production. The nicest shotguns still use walnut – from Turkey I believe – and I am rather fond of bakelite.

    Interested – “(There are more accurate methods, but that’s another story.)”

    Accuracy is mainly an issue of speed. Which is why when the US Army got rid of its propeller-driven planes, they had to bring in laser-designators and the like. Which means the Mosquito would probably be more accurate. A Hurricane would be even more accurate still.

    “Those goatherds who aren’t armed with heat seeking SAMs – the designers of the Mossie didn’t worry too much about the heat sig of the engines.”

    Yeah but the great thing is that the engines are so small. There are also two of them. And they are on the wings. Suppose one got hit by SA-7 Soviet-made missile. It contains 370 grams of high explosives. We can all agree we would not like to be hit by 370 grams of anything. It is about the same as a 50 mm AA shell if I guess about right. But planes do survive such hits. Especially if they have a spare engine and the missile hit a long away from the crew.

    The other thing is that we have not even begun to do something about the engine’s heat signature. It ought to be possible to do a lot – because the plane is not driven by it.

    “Or anti aircraft weapons/machine guns which didn’t exist in 1943 and which put a lot more lead in the air more accurately than WW2 weapons.”

    Really? Which machine gun is capable of putting more lead into the air more accurately than in WW2? Most of the AA gun designs out there are older than WW2 anyway. I agree that it would be unfortunate if one came across a ZSU-23-4 “Shilka”. But I am not sure the Taliban have a lot of those.

    “However, it’s probably sensible to have planes and pilots and ordnance that can bomb BOTH goatherds AND main battle tanks.”

    In an ideal world I would agree with you. But is that the option? We have more or less opted out of fighting other people with tanks. As we have stopped building them.

    “it was designed as an interceptor (so no good vs goatherds), and would not win against modern fighters (according to people who fly modern fighters).”

    I said it would only be worthwhile if we wanted to warn off Russian bombers.

    “what have you got against the Sopwith Camel?”

    By all means. The problem is their pay load is too small. But it would work fine against most of our present day enemies.

    Bloke in North Dorset – “If they want all the modern gizmos, and SMFS I’m not making the case for them just pointing out limitations, such as IFF, air to air and air to ground radar, radar sensors and the ability to detect incoming missiles as well as sat nav, sat phones and data links for command systems, and which military commanders let alone PMs want to be kept in the dark nowadays, then you’ve no chance using old electronics.”

    I think keeping the PM off the pilots’ backs is a plus not a negative. But they had enough power for IFF back in the day. Even a little air-to-air radar. But yes, the modern electronic suite would be limited. How much of that do we need? If we want to fly into anywhere with a serious AA system, then we would have to think about American help. But how many serious AA systems are left? We won’t be fighting the Russians or the Chinese or even the North Koreans. We can probably rule Vietnam out too. Even Syria looks too serious for us. We have just destroyed Iraq’s and Libya’s. That leaves Cuba. And who else?

    For a fraction of the cost we won’t get 100% but we could get 80%. Even Argentina did not have a proper AA system.

  75. The P-3 Orion production line closed in 1990; you could have bought one for $36 million in 1987, but that doesn’t mean there are new ones coming off the line with a modern mission system for that price today. (And yes, submarines have got quieter and operate in more difficult areas now – the P-3 was designed for hunting noisy Soviet SSNs in the North Atlantic, not quiet SSCs and SSKs in the Gulf of Oman). Any Orions you see today are at least a quarter-century old.

    Why did Nimrod go so wrong? One reason was politics and buying votes, another the assumption that updating an old airframe would be cheaper, easier and lower-risk than new build. Oddly enough, a lot of those “simpler” 1950s airframes were coach-built with every one unique, and were only kept flying by huge amounts of manpower, which was cheaper back then – keeping the National Servicemen busy was seen as a benefit, not a cost – and as Nimrod found out, don’t meet modern safety standards. (It was acceptable to lose half your fleet in peacetime accidents back then, it’s frowned upon now)

    Anyone nostalgic for the days of discrete components, wire-wrapped connectors and analogue circuitry is welcome to fault-find and repair some of it, and then compare it to even 1990s tech (which breaks much less often, and is fixed much faster). It sounds horribly like the managers of Triumph, being told that Japanese motorcycles were far more reliable than theirs: replying blandly that bikers loved nothing more than changing the valve seats on a Sunday morning.

  76. Sebastian Weetabix

    Just to be clear, Jason is bang on the money, and SMFS is the (really) stupid cunt.

  77. There is no need to rebuild the Lightning or Mosquito. The RAF already have a variety of aircraft it’s just that the way they manage their resources is focused on the expensive fast jets doing almost everything, with the other aircraft for training and support roles.

    In Afghanistan there was generally a few fast jets available at any given time in a cab rank system. They could get to where they were needed quickly. With slower aircraft you would need more of them to cover the same area which I guess is why, although other nations have used Hawks or Tucanos for ground attack roles, the UK doesn’t. It hasn’t got enough pilots and isn’t prepared to work up to it.

    You can also factor in there the fact the Army has Apaches. With both Eurofighter/F35 and Apaches you have the procurement and operational plans aligned – load up the responsibilities on the expensive stuff to ensure there is a case for buying it. But then they cut purchase numbers and become less effective anyway. And that is with expensive kit they would like other nations to buy too.

  78. One of the very significant (of many) problems with the Nimrod update was the far-too-late realisation that the wings had been originally craft-fitted to the fuselage. Therefore, unlike a more modern design, you couldn’t “just”* take a damaged wing off and fit a new one from stores.

    * This is a very dubious use of the word. There is little “just” in aeronautical engineering.

  79. Jason Lynch

    “The P-3 Orion production line closed in 1990; you could have bought one for $36 million in 1987”

    The Nimrod MRA project started in 1988.

  80. So Much for Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “The P-3 Orion production line closed in 1990; you could have bought one for $36 million in 1987”

    Damn! Too late.

    “but that doesn’t mean there are new ones coming off the line with a modern mission system for that price today.”

    Yeah. BAe is involved in building the P-8 replacement. Which is presently advertised as $250 million a plane. Which is still cheaper than the Nimrod. But not by much. BAe has already been caught once supplying fake parts. As it did with Britain’s submarines. They should never ever get another contract.

    “(And yes, submarines have got quieter and operate in more difficult areas now – the P-3 was designed for hunting noisy Soviet SSNs in the North Atlantic, not quiet SSCs and SSKs in the Gulf of Oman).”

    So the solution is a bigger plane that flies higher? The logic of the defence industry is often hard to follow. Especially as it flies too high to have a MAD. The submarine’s noise has little relation to the airframe. It is a question of the sonobouys that it drops.

    “It sounds horribly like the managers of Triumph, being told that Japanese motorcycles were far more reliable than theirs: replying blandly that bikers loved nothing more than changing the valve seats on a Sunday morning.”

    Well that is true. But the sensible solution is to get the Japanese to build the electronics. This sounds odd, but given the track record of Britain’s shipyards, for instance, South Korea ought to build every single hull we need from now on. The whole ship even. There is no reason why not. We can’t control the unions or BAe. They do better.

    Sebastian Weetabix – “Just to be clear, Jason is bang on the money, and SMFS is the (really) stupid cunt.”

    So you can’t win an argument, but having started being rude for no reason, you are still smarting enough to try to gloat? What a weird little post.

    Gareth – “In Afghanistan there was generally a few fast jets available at any given time in a cab rank system. They could get to where they were needed quickly.”

    They have eight Typhoon pilots trained to provide ground support.

    “With slower aircraft you would need more of them to cover the same area which I guess is why, although other nations have used Hawks or Tucanos for ground attack roles, the UK doesn’t. It hasn’t got enough pilots and isn’t prepared to work up to it.”

    The theatre of operation is hardly enormous. The Air Force loves to make the argument that they need a fast plane to get to the fight on time. I think the more sensible option is to base the pilots closer to the fighting. In tents. Which the RAF is notably not keen on doing. If everyone else in the world uses a different sort of plane, then there is a good argument that we should too.

  81. David,

    The US had also begun their LRAACA (Long Range Air ASW Capable Aircraft) project in 1988, and indeed that was one of the competitors for the UK requirement (the third was a relifed P-3 airframe with the same mission system that was going into the Nimrod bid).

    It was rejected because (a) not enough UK workshare and (b) concern that Lockheed had low-balled the bid and underestimated the risk of developing an updated, improved P-3. Also, the P-3 is a decent airframe but the Nimrod had a speed advantage, which was seen as significant (of course, nobody ever set up the assessment criteria to pick their preferred candidate)

    While Nimrod MRA.4 fell into exactly the same trap, it worked on everyone; the P-7 immediately ran over cost and time, the difference being that instead of staggering on for decades, the US cancelled their project within a year when it clearly went off the rails.

    There wasn’t a cheap, easy, effective solution that offered any capability beyond “run on the system that’s already going obsolescent” to hand, and all the options had risks. (Still doesn’t excuse the weapons-grade stupidity that permeated the Nimrod project, though)

    The eventual US solution was to put the Nimrod mission system into a Boeing 737 and produce the P-8, but that wasn’t on the table or even a concept in 1988 (the nearest was a modified 757 as a losing P-7 bid) – first flight was around the time we bit the bullet and scrapped the MRA.4s.

  82. So Much for Subtlety

    Just so that everyone can understand the scale of the RAF/BAE’s usual f**k ups here:

    The Eurofighter unit cost is about £125 million. That is, per plane.

    In 1981 Britain bought some planes from Brazil. Well, they got Shorts a licence to build them. They did the usual re-design work to keep the bureaucrats in work – a slightly different engine and some changes to the air frame. They bought 130 of them. For £120 million in 1981 pounds.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_Tucano

    Which do you think your average Squaddie in Afghanistan would prefer – one Eurofighter which will speed in, possibly miss, and be back having a gin and tonic in no time, or 130 planes which were designed for loitering and providing CAS?

  83. Jason Lynch

    “the difference being that instead of staggering on for decades, the US cancelled their project within a year when it clearly went off the rails.”

    This is key. Complex defence projects with new tech are going to fail, it’s simply a question of how the risk is managed. With MoD/BAe, projects mother along with very little hard review, and that leads to decade plus delays and massive spending on doomed projects,

  84. Well’ he’s always good for a laugh, but SMfS does have a good point. If the UK wants to be able to engage with a “state of the art” enemy it does need state of the art kit.
    But it hasn’t actually done that very much since….Korea?
    For the Falklands it was an improvised Task Force. The UK didn’t really have the capability to independently mount an operation of that nature. It lost several ships because the carriers couldn’t operate an AEW aircraft. If they’d had decent radar cover the Argentine aircraft would have been intercepted long before they’d got withing range to launch anti-shipping missiles. (A carrier that could operate an AEW could presumably also operate an air-superiority fighter. Which the Harrier isn’t.) And because it lost the Atlantic Conveyor it lost a large portion of it’s helicopter lift capability, effectively rolling back the land war “state of the art ” to early C20th foot-slogging.
    Gulf Wars 1&2, the UK was operating in a more familiar NATO type role, supporting the US & benefiting from US capabilities. Nevertheless, it’s air contribution was little short of pathetic. 10% of the aircraft were shot down. The sort of casualty rates Bomber Command was suffering in the dark days of WW2. Five were lost performing exactly the low level strikes the GR1 was supposed to have flown in a European ground war, scenario. Against a very capable Warsaw Pact defense. To be ruthlessly honest, the RAF went down there with its expensive toys, because it had them & needed to justify having them. And failed miserably. Tornado’s a piece of shit.
    Maybe it’s worth asking what the RAF’s actually for? Maybe it does need a mega-expensive air superiority fighter like the Typhoon. On the basis that if you have them your less likely to actually need & use them. The Trident argument. But the wars the RAF are actually going to fight are the sort of things it’s been doing in Afghanistan. Is flying a hundred million’s worth of aircraft, low level up a valley the best way to bomb goats? So let’s go back to the Mosquito concept.
    No, Interested, you won’t shoot down a Mossie with a heatseeker. It’s not hot enough. It’s radiators are cooler than the Afghanistan hillside it’s flying over. You could mask the tiny emissions from its exhaust pipes by simply injecting water into the exhaust gasses as you do your low level pass. They’d now be the coldest thing in the sky. It’s radar signature would be tiny, even in a 1945 configuration. Start using carbon fibre props & composites in other parts of the airframe & it’d almost vanish. With engines built to current specs it’s performance would be startling. Much faster & far longer range. A full avionics suite would likely mass less than a 1945 valve radio. And mostly be off the shelf purchase from any light aircraft accessory shop.
    It would, actually, be the perfect aircraft for bombing goats. And dirt cheap.

  85. Never mind the Mossie, what about the Russian Ilya Muromet? 4 engined bomber, only 1 of which was ever lost to enemy action. Top speed of 68 mph. 68 miles in just one hour! Amazing. And could carry 500kg of bombs…..

    Of course, that was WWI. Things may have changed since then.

    Although my understanding is that goats are pretty much the same as they always were.

  86. There’s a classic error being made here. You can’t replace an architect with any number of unskilled labourers. You can’t replace one F35 with any number of lightweight bombers.

    The reality is that the F35 is so much more capable that once you factor in things like serviceability, loiter times, speed, range, and, crucially, weapons load, the single F35 can provide more support than (or take out) a whole host of light aircraft.

    Just as standard, an F35 can carry more than 4x as much weight of weaponry as a Mossie could, and it also has the electronics on board to make use of modern guided micro-bombs, so it can hit dozens of times as many small targets with the same weight of bombs.

  87. “Although my understanding is that goats are pretty much the same as they always were.”

    You haven’t had to deal with the C21st, state of the art, fully weaponised, tactical goat. Enormous strides have been made in the caprine world. Pure evil on hooves.

  88. And Dave,; your making the common mistake – To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
    The F35 will be a very capable aircraft. if you need a very capable aircraft. If it works.
    But for the cost of one F35 & pilot you could probably put around a hundred Mark 2015 Mossies into the air. Including the trained pilots.

  89. The US used to fly the A-1 Skyraider, a robust, cheap aircraft that excelled at the low & slow close-support mission. Until the North Vietnamese started fielding SA-7 missiles, which led to heavy losses and its urgent retirement.

    The Argentines had the Pucara, a robust cheap aircraft that excelled at the low and slow support mission… except that in combat, several were shot down by small-arms and shoulder-launched missiles, and the actual effect was minimal.

    The cheap aircraft still needs a pilot, who needs to be trained and sustained to CAS-quality target identification and weapons delivery. It needs radio gear and a ROVER terminal to co-ordinate with the forces it’s supporting. It needs at least an IRCM suite to survive the MANPADS threat, and being slow and hot it’s harder to protect than a jet so the IRCM costs more, not less.

    Add those costs up, and multiply by 130 aircraft, and suddenly your cheap option is no longer cheap: and as the Pucaras found in 1982, if the enemy’s got any combat aviation at all their only options are “hide” or “die”.

    The notion of lots of cheap aircraft comes around every so often, and sometimes even makes it to service (see the A-10 for an example) but then the need to actually survive and achieve the mission kicks in. It’s really notable that the A-10 – supposedly an invincible tank-killer and meant to be the perfect CAS aircraft – was repeatedly rejected by the Israeli Air Force, who had painful recent experience of battlefield CAS and considered it completely ineffective for the role. (But Yom Kippur wasn’t a ‘real war’ and didn’t count to the A-10’s proponents)

  90. Come to think of it, what an incredible bonus for all those blue suited desk aviators at Northolt to find their oft voiced desire to do some “real flying” was realised. You should be able to detect the smell of soiled underwear from Marble Arch.

  91. The A-10 is perfect for most of the fighting the air force actually does, CAS against low tech militants.

  92. BiS,

    When you’ve got two 1,500hp Merlins generating about five megawatts of heat each, and each a solid mass of metal with lots of associated pipework, your heat signature is more than high enough for even a SA-7B to lock onto easily and your radar signature is enough for even 1940s kit to detect and track (as, indeed, the Germans did – they didn’t have many aircraft that could catch a Mosquito but they scored some successes).

    Water injection? Congratulations, now you’re trailing steam. If you’re hot enough to be boiling off water, a second-generation seeker (the sort we stopped using in 1970 or so) will track and hold you easily. You don’t want to be low and slow in a propeller aircraft when there’s a MANPADS threat, which is why nobody with any choice does so. (Look at the Soviet solution – the Su-25 was their new Sturmovik, still around today, but it’s got a decent turn of speed, a solid sensor fit and good countermeasures. No return to the Il-2 even for the Russians)

    When you’re costing air capability, the airframes are a surprisingly small proportion of the cost: while pilot training is generally the biggest single element over the aircraft’s life. Hence, the pressure for fewer, more capable airframes to reduce that cost, and an emphasis on survivability to conserve that expensive resource.

  93. Sebastian Weetabix

    @SMFS: OK, I’ll bite, since you seem too daft to understand why you’re an idiot. It seems as good way of faffing through my lunch hour as any other.

    You’re frothing at the mouth over the Nimrod MRA4 project and you think all those involved should be shot for treason or whatever (Declaration of interest: I used to work on the MR2s.) It was an absolutely wonderful aircraft; fast transit to the patrol area, then shut down 2 engines and cruise about for hours just a few hundred feet up, full of decent submarine hunting kit. Now the 35 MR2s were all modified MR1s delivered at the latest by 1979; the airframes were already old then as they were modifed Comet 4Cs. They spent many years flying over salty water at low level with a lot of strain on the airframe. After many years of this type of operation they weren’t safe anymore due to fatigue and corrosion and the (extremely) dodgy in-flight refuelling installation and the airframes were approaching their limit. So they had to go. What to replace them with? Let’s not waste money on an unproven new design that’ll be subject to cost overruns and failures, blah-de-blah… Let’s stick with the proven 1950s design! Let’s take the Nimrod fuselage and just stick new wings and engines and avionics on (intelligent people will see where this is going). So that’s what was attempted. Do you know, every single Comet 4/Nimrod was coach built, and no two alike? We can’t do that today; leaving aside the fact the skills no longer exist, even if we tried it, no sane pilot would get in it & you’d never get flight safety certification. There are reasons modern aircraft are safer (I exclude the A400M, which has software capable of shooting itself down) and abandoning the coachbuilding approach is just one of many.

    Now those idiosyncracies made them an absolute fucking bitch to maintain; as they got older, for every hour on patrol you’d be looking at 40+ hours on the ground keeping them going (not including major services and engine refurb). It also meant that trying to stick new wings and engines and avionics etc etc was actually quite difficult, because every single airframe was a sui generis project all on its own – VERY expensive. Then the fabulous MoD changed the spec and renegotiated multiple times. Imagine camels designed by a committee with wings instead of a saddle and a bunch of people trying to put new intestines in without damaging the skin or the skeleton. I think we can all agree that the project was an unmitigated pile of shit.

    And your solution to escalating aerospace defence costs? Bring back a 1950s design! Don’t worry, there are blueprints!

    It is thinking like this, perpetrated by the useless classics & PPE graduates that infest the higher echelons of public life in this country, that led DIRECTLY to the MRA4 disaster. I don’t know how you make your living, but I doubt it is in engineering. You need a serious capacity for magical thinking to simultaneously abhor the MRA4 project as treason and recommend using – ahem – “tried and tested designs” from the 1950s. A career in the highest echelons of Civil Service project management surely beckons!

  94. BiS>

    “But for the cost of one F35 & pilot you could probably put around a hundred Mark 2015 Mossies into the air. Including the trained pilots.”

    Not at all. The ratio would be more like five or ten to one, at most. The cost of training 100 pilots is more than the cost of an F35, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg – you also have to have ground crews, you have to maintain and fuel the planes, etc. The total weapons load carried by the Mossies would be roughly the same as that carried by a single F35.

    And, as I said, even if you have a hundred of the things, a single F35 will be more effective, able to hit more targets of more types.

    Seriously, you might as well be arguing that horses are so much cheaper than tanks that we ought to bring back cavalry. The problem is that short of creating such a vast pile of corpses that the tank can’t cross it, there’s no amount of cavalry which can stop a single modern tank.

  95. Jason>

    “It’s really notable that the A-10 – supposedly an invincible tank-killer and meant to be the perfect CAS aircraft – was repeatedly rejected by the Israeli Air Force, who had painful recent experience of battlefield CAS and considered it completely ineffective for the role. ”

    That’s rather unfair on the A-10. It’s not suitable for operations in the north of Israel due to the terrain, and it’s not needed to take out tanks rolling across the desert from the south.

    Interestingly, though, the Israelis like multi-role planes. In that sense, the F-35 is a lesson learnt from the world’s most combat-experienced air force.

  96. Like… wow ….. 4 times as many comments at Tim’s place than on the original article.

    Assume you’ve all read LP’s Lions Donkeys & Dinosaurs?

    If not – stop now – and go grab a copy – you will not be disappointed (in the book …)

  97. @Surreptitious Evil

    I was simply addressing that particular lunatic claim, that the French have no (or few) vehicles.

    @Bloke in Spain

    “Well’ he’s always good for a laugh, but SMfS does have a good point. If the UK wants to be able to engage with a “state of the art” enemy it does need state of the art kit.

    But it hasn’t actually done that very much since….Korea?”

    Fucking hell, you’re as mad as he is. Maybe other people haven’t taken a keen interest in invading us because we’re not tooling around in WW2 aircraft and our Army isn’t armed with .303 bolt action rifles? I mean, it’s just a fucking theory.

    We all know that defence procurement is difficult and also full of vested interests.

    But seriously anyone who thinks we should be rebuilding the Mosquito to fight modern wars, whether against guerrillas or regulars, wants their head fucking examining.

    SMFS there are dozens of s2a capable weapons which have been developed since 1945. Arrogant and clever is ok. Modest and stupid is ok. You’re arrogant and stupid. Sometimes knowing when you’re wrong and when you don’t know stuff is a good thing.

  98. @BiS>

    “But for the cost of one F35 & pilot you could probably put around a hundred Mark 2015 Mossies into the air. Including the trained pilots.”

    Ha ha ha. Good luck finding the pilots. I would suggest trawling suicide chatrooms, people with terminal cancer and eejits who grew up reading Commando comics and think real life is like that. Banzai!

  99. @BiS

    “The UK didn’t really have the capability to independently mount an operation of that nature. It lost several ships because the carriers couldn’t operate an AEW aircraft. If they’d had decent radar cover the Argentine aircraft would have been intercepted long before they’d got withing range to launch anti-shipping missiles”

    Sorry – this is an argument in support of SMFS’s idea that we should go back to a time when we had Furys flying off the old Ark Royal?

  100. “anyone who thinks we should be rebuilding the Mosquito to fight modern wars, whether against guerrillas or regulars, wants their head fucking examining.”

    To be fair, we have actually rebuilt the Mosquito, in one sense. We’ve taken the lessons learned, and built drones and a2s missiles.

    So it’s not wrong as such to point to modern multi-role jets and say that they’re overkill for smaller targets, weak enemies. It’s true. The point being missed is that they’re not primarily for that, because we have lighter, cheaper weapons systems. The F-35s are there to let the cheap stuff do the job – they’re the apex of the pyramid.

  101. > You’re arrogant and stupid. Sometimes knowing when you’re wrong and when you don’t know stuff is a good thing.

    You’re just noticing now? Why should he be any different on this topic than any other?

    Personally, I’m half-convinced SMFS is an algorithm.

  102. TomO,

    I read LDD when it first came out. Page points to some genuine problems, fails to notice some of them are externally caused, and is utterly bonkers on others (converted merchant ships instead of frigates, for instance).

    Like Sharkey Ward (who wrote an informative and enjoyable book that was only a little bit “How I Won The Falklands Campaign Single-Handed, And Kept My Beard Throughout”) Page tends to be lying on his press-to-talk switch, which means his occasional good points get swamped by the flow of not-so-good; thus reducing his impact. (St Sharkey also subsequently lost the plot a little, to the point of the FoI Commissioner declaring him a ‘vexatious questioner’ – Page has so far avoided that fate)

  103. @S2 “You’re just noticing now? Why should he be any different on this topic than any other?”

    I actually like his writing, mostly in the sense that he doesn’t qualify what he thinks, and doesn’t bow to PC squish. I might think he’s wrong about stuff then, but it’s at least arguable.

    There are lots of other times when I don’t know whether he’s wrong.

    However, on this issue he’s not only wrong, he’s completely out of his gourd.

  104. The problem, aside from MoD incompetence and feather-bedding, is that our enemies are forever looking for new ways to cause trouble. Our procurement cannot keep up with this.

    The Nazis were rotters, but were at least from the right side of the Hajnal line. They kept things conventional, and allowed for weapons a chap could understand; tanks, big guns, fighter planes. The Japs, from the wrong side of the line were up to all sorts (suicide missions, slave labour, over-enthusiasm, you name it), and required nukes to finish things off.

    This gives us our solution: pick fights only with the right sort, and with clearly understood rules.

  105. Jason Lynch

    re: LDD – I suspect that a dry tome would have sunk without trace – as I suspect many have. There is a point where any prospective author with competence in this field has to be looking at career suicide and wondering if it’s worth it.

    I think I prefer LP’s style to say Lord Dannatt and others. There are problems – but the monumental hubris of the military establishment and their conniving chums in BAe is something to behold in avoiding failure and under-performance until it’s glaringly obvious…. and some junior has to take the blame…

    Petty politicking abounds – ’twas ever thus – but in times past the crud was let go and success was rewarded. We now it seems have quite the reverse….

  106. Sebastian Weetabix

    “Hey Guys – why waste time on the Mosquito? 2 engines, very expensive. If we’re only bombing unarmed goatherders, why not cut to the chase and resurrect the Fairey Battle? What’s not to like?”

    Ah… I did enjoy that.

  107. So Much for Subtlety

    Interested – “I was simply addressing that particular lunatic claim, that the French have no (or few) vehicles.”

    I can’t be ar$ed to go back up thread and look but I don’t think that is what I said.

    “Maybe other people haven’t taken a keen interest in invading us because we’re not tooling around in WW2 aircraft and our Army isn’t armed with .303 bolt action rifles? I mean, it’s just a fucking theory.”

    I am not sure that it is the Armed Forces that are protecting the UK from being invaded. I tend to think it is Trident and the fact we get on so much better with the Germans. But if the Soviets had tried, then we can all agree, a Mosquito would not have been a solution. But then the Tornado was not a solution either. And the Eurofighter does not look like it is going to be one either.

    “But seriously anyone who thinks we should be rebuilding the Mosquito to fight modern wars, whether against guerrillas or regulars, wants their head fucking examining.”

    Why?

    “there are dozens of s2a capable weapons which have been developed since 1945.”

    That is not what I asked is it? When your anger depends on repeatedly lying about what I said, you need to re-think why it is you are p!ssed.

  108. So Much for Subtlety

    Sebastian Weetabix – “(Declaration of interest: I used to work on the MR2s.)”

    Well that explains a lot.

    “It was an absolutely wonderful aircraft”

    And I am sure the Comet was a lovely airplane too. That is not the point. Some planes are pieces of junk – like the F-35. Some planes turned out OK despite everything but were so badly mismanaged that they should have been canceled. The Nimrod did not kill that many aircrew – not as many as you might expect. But it was so woefully and poorly managed that it should have been canceled a long time ago.

    “Let’s not waste money on an unproven new design that’ll be subject to cost overruns and failures, blah-de-blah… Let’s stick with the proven 1950s design!”

    The point is that the Nimrod was not a proven design. It was a badly managed project based on an airplane that had failed as a airliner. It was corporate welfare from the start. Hence it was bound to fail. And fail it did.

    “as they got older, for every hour on patrol you’d be looking at 40+ hours on the ground keeping them going (not including major services and engine refurb).”

    Sorry you are arguing for the people who decided to forgo the P-3 and keep throwing cash at the Nimrod? Because it does not sound like it.

    “I think we can all agree that the project was an unmitigated pile of shit.”

    So you are angry because I agree with you?

    “And your solution to escalating aerospace defence costs? Bring back a 1950s design! Don’t worry, there are blueprints!”

    Actually you have to hang a few people too.

    “It is thinking like this, perpetrated by the useless classics & PPE graduates that infest the higher echelons of public life in this country, that led DIRECTLY to the MRA4 disaster.”

    No it isn’t. It is precisely the opposite. The MRA4 disaster was caused by people who insisted on vapour-ware that never arrived. Who insisted on supporting cutting edge research. And who kept funnelling pork to the right marginal constituencies and corporations. Every time the MoD does this. They don’t care about the soldiers, they only care about the bureaucracies and their post-Civil service careers.

    What we need is less vapour-ware and corporate welfare and more proven designs. If that means buying from overseas, we should buy from overseas. If that means using older designs, we should use older designs. What the MoD and BAe have proven is that they cannot be trusted with the most simple and basic project management. So they should not be allowed near another one until they have shown they have improved.

  109. So Much for Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “When you’ve got two 1,500hp Merlins generating about five megawatts of heat each, and each a solid mass of metal with lots of associated pipework, your heat signature is more than high enough for even a SA-7B to lock onto easily and your radar signature is enough for even 1940s kit to detect and track”

    If anyone we will be fighting any time soon has radar, we will have a whole host of problems. Although I have my doubts about how well radar would work against a plane mainly made of wood – and there are certainly a lot of things that can be done to reduce that even further. But this is absurd. I am sure that an SA-7 is capable of locking on to a lot of things, although not very well. The bottom line is that they are vastly more capable of locking on to the two massive afterburning turbojets on the Eurofighter. The Mosquito would be putting out, what?, two orders of magnitude less heat than a Eurofighter?

    And that is before we have done anything about reducing the heat signature. Like, for instance. putting a simple shroud around the engine. Jets can’t do much to hide their heat signature because they rely on it for thrust. A prop plane does not. There are any number of simple and cheap solutions to diffusing the heat signature.

    On top of which, the skin of the Mosquito is vastly less hot than the skin of a modern jet.

    “Water injection? Congratulations, now you’re trailing steam. If you’re hot enough to be boiling off water, a second-generation seeker (the sort we stopped using in 1970 or so) will track and hold you easily.”

    You will trail steam anyway. I don’t see water injection being the best solution but you would be trailing steam at a much lower temperature than before. I have some serious doubts about whether a second-generation seeker would be able to track that.

    “You don’t want to be low and slow in a propeller aircraft when there’s a MANPADS threat, which is why nobody with any choice does so.”

    Most people don’t build their planes for insurgency work. Most people think about the Soviet Airforce or the US Air Force at least loitering in the general area. Those that do concentrate on insurgencies do build turbo-props. The Tucano is an astonishingly successful airplane in terms of overseas sales.

    “(Look at the Soviet solution – the Su-25 was their new Sturmovik, still around today, but it’s got a decent turn of speed, a solid sensor fit and good countermeasures. No return to the Il-2 even for the Russians)”

    Because they have to keep F-16s in mind.

    “When you’re costing air capability, the airframes are a surprisingly small proportion of the cost”

    And yet this is an area the Eurofighter manages to f**k up too! It is the gift that keeps on giving:

    The Typhoon features lightweight construction (82% composites consisting of 70% carbon fibre composite materials and 12% glass fibre reinforced composites)[74] with an estimated lifespan of 6,000 flying hours.[75] The permitted lifespan, as opposed to the estimated lifespan, was 3,000 hours; then the discovery in October 2014 of a construction flaw in the aft fuselage assembly reduced the permitted lifespan to 1,500 hours.

    “while pilot training is generally the biggest single element over the aircraft’s life. Hence, the pressure for fewer, more capable airframes to reduce that cost, and an emphasis on survivability to conserve that expensive resource.”

    When the airplane costs $125 million the pilot is not the most expensive cost. Pilot training clearly works, up to a point. But some degree of it is the Air Force trying to maintain social standards. Just as every since WW2 they have liked people to have university degrees. There is no evidence this produces better pilots and the Air Forces of the world are remarkably unconcerned about what makes a good pilot.

  110. So Much for Subtlety

    Interested – “this is an argument in support of SMFS’s idea that we should go back to a time when we had Furys flying off the old Ark Royal?”

    Notice that in fact that is pretty much what we are doing. Except we have got good enough electronics that we do not need a pilot. Why the concentration on drones? Well one thing is that the Americans are very intolerant of casualties – that is, their pro-treason Left exploits every single death and their military doesn’t have the balls to stand up and make a case. But the other is that their airplanes are too expensive to use. The chance that they will get shot down means that no one will risk them. So they are turning to the drones instead.

    Battleships went the same way. Aircraft carriers are more or less there. When we only have 100 or so planes and they cost $125 million each, we cannot risk them bombing goats. So out come the string bags with the robot pilots.

  111. SMFS

    “The point is that the Nimrod was not a proven design. It was a badly managed project based on an airplane that had failed as a airliner. It was corporate welfare from the start. Hence it was bound to fail. And fail it did.”

    Indeed, once it was apparent it was at risk of failure, the corporate welfare nature of the project overruled any attempt to either cancel it at an early stage, or at least revise approach to one that would yield a better outcome.

  112. @SMFS

    “Interested – “I was simply addressing that particular lunatic claim, that the French have no (or few) vehicles.”
    I can’t be ar$ed to go back up thread and look but I don’t think that is what I said.”

    You said:

    “The French have thought more about this and decided they want an Army that can intervene in its former colonies. They only pretend to build tanks.”

    Are you quibbling over the use of ‘build’ versus ‘have’? (In either case, you’re wrong, they both have and build tanks).

    ““there are dozens of s2a capable weapons which have been developed since 1945.”
    That is not what I asked is it? When your anger depends on repeatedly lying about what I said, you need to re-think why it is you are p!ssed.”

    You said:

    “Really? Which machine gun is capable of putting more lead into the air more accurately than in WW2? ”

    Did I used the phrase ‘machine gun’? No I don’t think I did, I think I said ‘weapons’.

    Actually, macghine guns have developed since 1945, but in terms of general weapons there are loads, as I said. If you want to know which ones, do some research?

    I wasn’t ‘pissed’, if you mean drunk.

    If you meant ‘angry’ – I always assumed you were British; are you one of those weird Brits who uses American locutions to make himself more interesting, or something? Do you ‘get’ a beer? – I was laughing at you.

  113. Regarding a Mosquito or similar – with the lower heat they put out, missile countermeasures should be more effective at fooling a heat seeker I guess.

    With air support in general it is an artificial argument that many people fall into that says you either do it with a fast jet dropping precision guided weapons from high up or you go low and slow. With guidance pods/cameras and a belly full of Brimstone missiles a Mosquito equivalent could stay high above the battlefield.

    The USA found their A-10s were getting shot up in the first Gulf War when they encountered a competent target armed with anti-aircraft guns. The solution was to have them fire guided missiles from high up rather than strafing.

    The MoD tend to do CAS with expensive fast jets because they need to justify having them. And CAS that they don’t do with fast jets is covered by expensive Apaches. Neither of which the MoD was prepared to buy in sufficient numbers to make them cost effective and to cover the operations they have blundered through.

  114. SMFS,

    The avionics and mission suite in Nimrod MRA.4 were successful. So successful, that they’re flying and working very well in the US P-8 Poseidon (one was over for JOINT WARRIOR last year, we’ve got RAF crews flying them on exchange tour, it’s a successful aircraft and the kit works). Integration into the fuselage went pretty well too. Apart from some contractual cockups (mandating a particular FLIR that looked good in 1995 but was long out of production by 2010, for instance, instead of just stating a requirement and fitting whichever model of WESCAM met it) the mission systems were a success story. (The operation was going well… until the patient died…)

    The “vapourware” was the notion that it would be easy, cheap and risk-free to put new wings and new engines on a 1950s airframe, that 1950s designs and safety standards were acceptable today, and that technical problems and airworthiness were too trivial to worry about and there was no need to worry that the experienced engineers and scientists who could do it had all died, retired, or gone to work for Airbus for more money.

  115. So Much for Subtlety

    David Moore – “Indeed, once it was apparent it was at risk of failure, the corporate welfare nature of the project overruled any attempt to either cancel it at an early stage, or at least revise approach to one that would yield a better outcome.”

    And so we come back to the basic problem – the British government is crap at managing big projects. The MoD is especially poor. BAe is openly criminal. I mean, come on, what sort of idiot provides sub-standard and illegal parts for Britain’s frickin’ nuclear submarines? So what is to be done? We have had a lot of heat and light but no other solution except mine – don’t let them near another weapons programme until they have proven they can manage one.

    Interested – “Are you quibbling over the use of ‘build’ versus ‘have’? (In either case, you’re wrong, they both have and build tanks).”

    That is not quite what I meant. Nor is it a quibble. You could have asked what I meant but clearly I did not mean that the French did not have any. I mean they are not serious about designing and building them. Which they are not. The AMX-30 had to be as light as possible so it could be deployed to Africa. A bit unfortunate if you suddenly have the Soviet Army driving through Germany. Their replacement, a much better tank, did not use Chobham armour because, supposedly, they did not want to ask the British for help.

    “Did I used the phrase ‘machine gun’? No I don’t think I did, I think I said ‘weapons’.”

    Specifically you said:

    Or anti aircraft weapons/machine guns which didn’t exist in 1943 and which put a lot more lead in the air more accurately than WW2 weapons.

    So I am still waiting to hear about these post-WW2 weapons that did not exist in 1943 and are capable of putting a lot more lead into the air more accurately etc etc. I assume you are not claiming that missiles put lead into the air. So which machine guns did you have in mind?

    “Actually, macghine guns have developed since 1945, but in terms of general weapons there are loads, as I said. If you want to know which ones, do some research?”

    I have no idea what you are talking about. You made a claim, why should *I* be responsible for defending it? There have been machine guns developed since 1945. Which ones were you referring to?

  116. So I am still waiting to hear about these post-WW2 weapons that did not exist in 1943 and are capable of putting a lot more lead into the air more accurately etc etc. I assume you are not claiming that missiles put lead into the air. So which machine guns did you have in mind?

    From the Russians, Zhilka & Tunguska.
    From the Germans, Flakpanzer Gepard.
    From the Americans, M163 VADS (we’ll skip over the “Sgt York”) and Phalanx.

    Obviously, we invested in Rapier rather than radar guided cannon, although the RN use Phalanx (and Goalkeeper, the Dutch 30mm version) and we had Phalanx static PDS in Basra.

  117. SMFS,
    If anyone we will be fighting any time soon has radar, we will have a whole host of problems.

    Air defences at Stanley. The Iraqi integrated air defence system (in 1991, 1998 and 2003). Serbia/Kosovo in 1999 (and before that, though we deterred their use politically rather than militarily). Afghanistan had radar-guided SAMs in 2001 that needed removing. Libya still had working RF-SAMs in 2011 until they were hunted down. In fact, the only opponent we’ve fought in my lifetime who didn’t have radar were the RUF in Sierra Leone.

    Although I have my doubts about how well radar would work against a plane mainly made of wood – and there are certainly a lot of things that can be done to reduce that even further.

    The engine blocks, armament, fuel tanks and piping, hydraulics, radiators, electrical systems, control panels, even the crew’s seats, are metal with lots of angles and facets; it’s a flying mass of radar reflectors inside a radar-translucent wooden structure.

    I don’t become invisible by wrapping myself in clingfilm, even though the film is transparent to light… and believe me, if you’re trying to build a low-RCS aircraft a 1940s piston aircraft is one of the worst places possible to start.

    But this is absurd. I am sure that an SA-7 is capable of locking on to a lot of things, although not very well. The bottom line is that they are vastly more capable of locking on to the two massive afterburning turbojets on the Eurofighter. The Mosquito would be putting out, what?, two orders of magnitude less heat than a Eurofighter?

    But the missile isn’t being asked to choose between them – it just has to hit what it’s aimed at. It’s easily able to lock onto a piston-engined aircraft at strafing altitude (around 1000 feet and 250 knots, for a typical profile), and has plenty of energy available to chase it, follow it through an evasive turn and hit it.

    To hit the Eurofighter, it’s looking for the heat plume of turbofan engines (which helpfully wrap the hot exhaust from the combustor, in the cool bypass air from the compressor) – and the Typhoon is at ten thousand feet, using its Lightning pod to find and designate targets. So, it’s a weaker signature merely by virtue of being ten times further away.

    The missile then has to climb to ten thousand feet and follow the Typhoon through any evasive manoeuvres it makes, which it has far more time to do; the Typhoon’s also got much more engine power, so can accelerate away from the threat.

    Recall that a MANPADS is man-portable: it’s five feet of three-inch pipe and that’s all the rocket power it’s got. It can barely reach 10,000ft AGL, let alone chase an evading target when it gets there: that’s one reason why we don’t do low-and-slow CAS any more (along with much better situational awareness)

    And that is before we have done anything about reducing the heat signature. Like, for instance. putting a simple shroud around the engine.

    If you look at a Mosquito, you’ll notice the nice aerodynamic fairings over the Merlins. They don’t hide either the radar or infrared signatures, though – that heat still has to be dumped to the atmosphere. By the time you’ve built enough shielding and diffusion onto the engine to hide its IR signature, you’ve added too much weight and drag for it to fly.

    Most people don’t build their planes for insurgency work. Most people think about the Soviet Airforce or the US Air Force at least loitering in the general area.

    Or even a few ancient MiG-15s, which will happily chew your propeller planes to pieces (see Korea).

    We had to compete for air superiority in every campaign except Sierra Leone and Afghanistan; that we did so successfully seems to lead some to believe there’s actually no need to do so.

    Even bloody Eritrea flies modern fast jet fighters (their MiG-29s had a few barneys with Ethiopian Su-27s) these days: they don’t have to be very good at all if they’re hunting 1940s target drones without opposition.

    When the airplane costs $125 million the pilot is not the most expensive cost.

    It currently costs about $6 million pounds a year to train one pilot and keep them current and skilled. (USAF figures, assume one pilot flying full-time for simplicity, reality’s messier and more expensive). Over the thirty-year life of the aircraft, that’s $180 million for the pilot compared to $125 million for the aircraft: $305 million total.

    The pilot *is* the most expensive part of the system, a point too often missed.

    If you build a hundred $1 million bugsmashers, you still need a hundred pilots. Assume you can train them for a tenth the cost on simpler aircraft and cheaper weapons (and who cares about a few blue-on-blues?) that’s $1,800 million for the pilots alone. Nice saving there, Chief.

  118. So I am still waiting to hear about these post-WW2 weapons that did not exist in 1943 and are capable of putting a lot more lead into the air more accurately etc etc. I assume you are not claiming that missiles put lead into the air. So which machine guns did you have in mind?

    The one I like is the Millenium: a thousand rounds a minute at a thousand metres a second, firing time-fuzed prefragmented ammunition with a very effective fire-control system. A predecessor system shot down a Sea Harrier at Stanley in 1982 and kept us at standoff range thereafter (high altitude or loft bombing only) – we swiped it for our own use after the ceasefire.

    The ever-helpful Soviets produced the ZPU heavy machine gun (massively proliferated in single, twin and quadruple variants) which was a step up from the 12.7mm predecessors, and their 23mm cannon is excellent either on twin towed mounts or the ever-popular ZSU-23-4 Shilka.

    Even the simple 20mm cannon evolved massively. The WW2 Oerlikon fired at 450rpm cyclic and threw shells at 820 metres a second of muzzle velocity, aimed by a simple spider sight. The 20mm GAMBO the Royal Navy replaced it with post-Falklands fires over twice as fast (1,000rpm), with higher muzzle velocity (1150m/s) and used a predictor sight for much better accuracy.

    And of course if you just want big dakka-dakka then everyone loves Gatlings like the M134 Minigun.

  119. So Much for Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “Air defences at Stanley. The Iraqi integrated air defence system (in 1991, 1998 and 2003). Serbia/Kosovo in 1999 (and before that, though we deterred their use politically rather than militarily).”

    Luckily the Argentinians had nothing particularly serious. Or the Task Force would have been in trouble. The rest, the RAF’s contribution was a little embarrassing and we could not have coped with Iraq without the US.

    “and believe me, if you’re trying to build a low-RCS aircraft a 1940s piston aircraft is one of the worst places possible to start.”

    Well the propeller don’t help.

    “But the missile isn’t being asked to choose between them – it just has to hit what it’s aimed at. It’s easily able to lock onto a piston-engined aircraft at strafing altitude (around 1000 feet and 250 knots, for a typical profile), and has plenty of energy available to chase it, follow it through an evasive turn and hit it.”

    No it isn’t as easy to lock on to a piston-engined plane. It is harder. The first generation of SAMs could not even lock on to the front of a jet airplane. They needed something that was literally red hot. Reducing the heat output of jets is well worth doing, and everyone does it these days even though manpads are now all aspect.

    “To hit the Eurofighter, … and the Typhoon is at ten thousand feet, using its Lightning pod to find and designate targets. So, it’s a weaker signature merely by virtue of being ten times further away.”

    I am not sure it would be a weaker signal – it is a lot more than ten times bigger isn’t? The advantage of height is that it is harder to hear and see them. But if SAMs are going to prevent you flying low, there is no reason to require any other plane to fly low. A Mosquito can tool along at 10,000 feet too. Good luck even knowing it is there.

    “If you look at a Mosquito, you’ll notice the nice aerodynamic fairings over the Merlins. They don’t hide either the radar or infrared signatures, though – that heat still has to be dumped to the atmosphere. By the time you’ve built enough shielding and diffusion onto the engine to hide its IR signature, you’ve added too much weight and drag for it to fly.”

    And yet mixing cool air with the exhaust on the Typhoon works just fine. All that heat has to be dumped into the atmosphere in the end. It is a lot easier to dump two orders of magnitude less (I guess anyway) when it is not actually used to push the plane forward. A shroud is nothing in terms of weight – and might even add thrust given the right shape. Nor would piping it along the entire length of the wing add that much.

    “Or even a few ancient MiG-15s, which will happily chew your propeller planes to pieces (see Korea).”

    We might want to consider a few MIG-15s then. We are unlikely to be fighting anyone with MIG-15s. The Taliban and ISIS don’t have them.

    “We had to compete for air superiority in every campaign except Sierra Leone and Afghanistan; that we did so successfully seems to lead some to believe there’s actually no need to do so.”

    No we did not. We rode on the coat tails of the Americans in all of those but the Falklands. We spend all this money and we have remarkably limited capabilities.

    “It currently costs about $6 million pounds a year to train one pilot and keep them current and skilled. (USAF figures, assume one pilot flying full-time for simplicity, reality’s messier and more expensive).”

    Two thirds of the costs of the training is in things like fuel and the odd plane being written off. A third is personnel costs – you can see a general figure here:

    http://usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/blafaircrewcost.htm

    But it varies according to the type of plane. Obviously if you have a plane that eats fuel like a Eurofighter, the costs are high. If you have a smaller, cheaper plane, it isn’t. That is why trainers tend to be small and cheap. We are not asking for the flight skills of a F-16 pilot here. More like a KC-135 pilot which is a lot cheaper.

    “Over the thirty-year life of the aircraft, that’s $180 million for the pilot compared to $125 million for the aircraft: $305 million total.”

    Initial training is usually more expensive that annual costs. Pilots only fly 300 or so hours a year. And given those nice Eurofighters have air frames with life expectancies of 1500 hours, they are unlikely to survive 30 years.

    What these prices mean is that, like the Battleships before them, no one will ever risk a Eurofighter where they have a real risk of being shot down. Why spend so much for a piece of crap that can’t be used?

  120. Welcome, traveller!

    You are in: a deep hole. You don’t know quite where you are, or why you are here, but the way your head aches suggests it may have been something you had to drink last night, or maybe smoked. You have a nagging memory about something to do with mosquitoes.

    You can see: it is very dark, and you can see nothing clearly. Even the shadows are indistinct and blurred. It is much like a bottomless pit, except you seem to have found the bottom. Or have you?

    In the far corner you can make out the faint glint of a piece of metal.

    Inventory: a rope ladder, an unlit torch, a box of matches, a pistol, a bullet, a can of WD40, a wooden stick, a wrench

    >Look at piece of metal

    It is too dark to see clearly. Perhaps you should create some light, or use one of your other senses to investigate it.

    >Use torch on hole

    You wave the torch in the air in a futile gesture. The torch is unlit so sheds no light. Nothing is any clearer to you than before. Maybe there was a problem with this idea?

    While you use the unlit torch, you can hear the indistinct buzz of a frail and elderly mosquito.

    >Inspect piece of metal

    You do not have the piece of metal.

    >Take piece of metal

    You pull hard at the metal, and it separates from the mud at the bottom of the hole with a satisfying squelch.

    Inventory: a rope ladder, an unlit torch, a box of matches, a pistol, a bullet, a can of WD40, a wooden stick, a wrench, a piece of metal

    >Inspect piece of metal

    The metal is cold and damp to the touch, and still covered in mud, but surprisingly it does not feel rusty yet. Somebody must have dropped it in the hole quite recently. Judging from its outline and curvature, it was the blade from a spade, but it must have fallen off as the shaft is missing, and an empty slot is left where it used to fit.

    While you inspect the piece of metal, you can hear the infuriating buzz of a hungry mosquito.

    Inventory: a rope ladder, an unlit torch, a box of matches, a pistol, a bullet, a can of WD40, a wooden stick, a wrench, a blade for a spade

    >Use stick on blade

    You push the wooden stick into the slot of the blade, and coincidentally they have precisely the same diameter! The new shaft fits in with a satisfying crunch.

    Inventory: a rope ladder, an unlit torch, a box of matches, a pistol, a bullet, a can of WD40, a wrench, a spade

    >Use stick on blade

    You already did that, are you paying attention at the back?

    You do not have the wooden stick.

    You do not have the blade for a spade.

    Inventory: a rope ladder, an unlit torch, a box of matches, a pistol, a bullet, a can of WD40, a wrench, a spade

    >Use spade on hole

  121. So Much for Subtlety

    Jason Lynch
    June 3, 2015 at 11:30 am

    In the end, no one is going to listen to BiS’s suggestion and bring back the Mosquito. But neither will they be burned by the Eurofighter again. What we will do is build something a lot like a Mosquito, but keep the pilot at home. It will, like the American drones, phone home and so the “pilot” will sit in a hut in Slough to bomb someone in Sudan.

    And it will be like a Mosquito. As with the Predator. A small four stroke engine. A propeller. Cheap. Slow.

    The F-35 and the Eurofighter are what Martin van Creveld calls too EFIBUP. Where the E stands for expensive. They don’t even work so well. The F-22 is clearly a piece of crap given it is being side lined. This is an argument that you will not win.

    Jason Lynch – “The one I like is the Millenium”

    In fairness I did not ask you or SE. I asked the person who was flaming me – and was rude from the start – with no obvious reason and clearly no idea what he was talking about.

    “and their 23mm cannon is excellent either on twin towed mounts or the ever-popular ZSU-23-4 Shilka.”

    Personally I like their shotgun version. No, I am serious, a 23 mm shotgun:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KS-23

  122. I must say, batting the other end from Latin disser, SMfS, is a novel experience. But nevertheless:
    There’s rubbishing of his suggestion of cheaper, simpler aircraft on the basis expensive complex planes do better on a binary argument. And if you want to make binary arguments, it’s entirely true. For most roles you’d be mad sending in something like a 2015 Mossie rehash. But there are a very few mission profiles it could handle. Point being, it’s those very few mission profiles are almost all of what the RAF are being required to do. Supporting ground troops against very low tech opponents.
    If you take the time to read Lewis page’s book there’s something he keeps coming back to. With all three services, the tiny number of individuals there are at the sharp end. The “men with guns” he calls them. Pretty well all of the armed service’s personnel are in support roles. So it is with the Typhoon. To get one plane with one pilot over a squad of soldiers requires a traveling circus of hundreds, maybe thousands of people.The aircraft needs a runway capable of taking it & a horde of technicians to maintain & arm it. That takes either a very friendly & well organised host country or a security need of a considerable force to protect it. And all of this has to be shipped thousands of miles.
    So lets think practical, for a moment. If the government wants to intervene in some shit-hole in Africa, say – something that they’re repeatedly being demanded to do by bleeding hearts all – British troops will be going in without a sign of Typhoon support. The planes will be staying in their hangers in the UK. Unless the situation cares to hang around for six months or so whilst a major portion of the UK’s military capability gets its arse in gear.
    But we could have planes operating out of improvised airfields, need minimal support, most of which could be flown in in one fair sized logistical support aircraft. Legacy aircraft are a lot lower maintainance. With current technology to bring them up-to-date, very low maintenance indeed. There’s no particular reason they couldn’t be adapted to carry most current weapons systems, avionics & undertake similar mission profiles. Most modern kit’s orders of magnitude lighter & more compact than vintage ’45 stuff.
    I thought of the Mossie because it was a particularly successful aircraft in this sort of role. Any you should be able to build them straight off the plans & they’ll fly. There’s no necessity for a half billion pound development program by BAe, taking 10 years, for an aircraft doesn’t work. Hell, I’ve got the tools & knowledge to build my own Mossie airframe in the back garden Anyone any good with engines? And in the mission role, there’s not much difference between the flight profile & a modern fast jet. It travels at about the same speed as a jet doing ground attack, give or take 50-100mph. Mostly the mph’s the jet needs, not to stall out.
    Maybe not the Mossie. Maybe the Skyhawk or something else. But if you’re a soldier under fire, what would you rather have? Something over the top of you, kicking ass? Or a letter from Northolt inviting you to a Mess social, if you should happen to get back with your legs still on?
    It’s not a binary argument. Not argument for phasing out the RAF’s strike jets in favour of bi-planes. Although maybe it should be. It’s hard to see what they achieve apart from continue the traditions of Bomber Command. As Page points out in his book. Most of the deep penetration strike missions in the Gulf were simply the RAF playing with its bombers. Their tactical value was marginal. He reckons they were fighting on the Iraqi side. Saving the Iraqis the trouble of blowing up their own bridges to impede the coalition advance. Oh, and giving the military engineers the job of building new bridges. Or is this conspiracy theory stuff?

    For Interested & masking of exhaust thermal emissions: Try having a look at your exhaust pipe next time you fire up the car. Condensation, no? When you start a piston engine, the exhaust gas temperatures are much the same as when it’s been running for an hour. Give or take choke effects. But the temperature of what’s coming out of the exhaust pipe takes time to heat. That’s the heat-sink of the exhaust system, needing to be filled. The steel doesn’t have a great deal of thermal capacity. Metals don’t. Why they’re good conductors. But the egg-cup full of water condensed from when the car was last running, does. You see condensation because the exhaust gasses are exiting below 100degC. Later it’s above, they exit transparent.
    You can eliminate the thermal load of exhaust gasses simply by spraying water droplets into them. The thermal capacity of water is very high. Essentially you’re doing the opposite of what’s being done in the cylinders. Binding the heat of the combustion process. And you don’t need a lot of water to do this because you only need it when there’s a threat. Much the same as releasing thermal decoys when needed.
    Seeing as a water cooled piston engine, even with system pressurisation, isn’t emitting at much over 100C, apart from the exhaust system. And you can mask what you can’t suppress. the thermal signature of the aircraft isn’t much over 100C at it’s hot-spots. In a lot of countries – particularly the countries where our forces seem to be required to operate – the sky temperature isn’t much lower than that. So what’s your heat-seeker to target?
    There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about water cooling exhaust gasses. The more lunatic fringe of the drag racing fraternity have been doing this for years, for kicks. Looks good, disappearing up the strip, leaving a great big con-trail. They leave it off if they’re trying to run a decent bracket, coz the weight. And I’ve got a thermal masking system installed on a car. Although that’s not its purpose. Sprays water over the rad core, to reduce overheating whilst doing long ascents at altitude. Bit of a cludge to avoid having to uprate the entirety of a car’s cooling system to cope with one stretch of road, occasionally. Uses about half a liter a minute. Run it on the flat & it’ll knock the engine temperature back, almost to ambient. Evaporative cooling. Again, hat-tip to the drag racing community.

  123. BiS>

    “Point being, it’s those very few mission profiles are almost all of what the RAF are being required to do. Supporting ground troops against very low tech opponents.”

    Point being, it isn’t, not even close.

    And you seem rather confused about water injection.

    “There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about water cooling exhaust gasses. The more lunatic fringe of the drag racing fraternity have been doing this for years, for kicks. Looks good, disappearing up the strip, leaving a great big con-trail. They leave it off if they’re trying to run a decent bracket, coz the weight. ”

    Water injection is done to provide more power, and it’s injected into the cylinders along with the fuel and air. They most certainly do not leave it off, it’s a vital component of race runs in certain classes.

    I suggest having a quick read of this to refresh your memory:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_injection_%28engine%29

    It most certainly does not provide any sort of stealth capability. The exact opposite, in fact.

  124. “I suggest having a quick read of this to refresh your memory:”

    I don’t need my memory refreshed on water injection into internal combustion engines. It’s done to increase the working fluid – if directly into the cylinders. It may also be done to increase the intake density in the air/fuel mix. In both cases the expansion of water vapour in the cylinder adds to the power produced by the combustion process. Often used on nitro-fueled motors, which can’t maximise power on nitrogen alone. Atmospheric nitrogen (& other trace gasses – plus combustion products) being the main working fluid in internal combustion engines. As the exhaust is at high temperatures & the volume of water injected relatively small, it makes very little difference to exhaust gas temperatures. Although it can do all sorts of evils to exhaust valves. If you’re not careful.

    Water injection, into exhaust manifolds, is simply a stunt to produce large volumes of visible exhaust. Has no effect on engine power whatsoever. Does look cool though.

  125. Sebastian Weetabix

    I see So Much Fucking Stupidity is at it again. Nimrod was not a failure. MRA4 project was. Those of us who are actual chartered engineers and worked on the plane may actually know something, you see.

    Nimrod MR1, when introduced in 1969, was the absolute cutting edge of technology. It did things no other MPA could do. The Yanks were jealous, I can tell you. The MR2 upgrade in 1979 was brilliant too; no one buggered about with the airframe or engines, you see. The AEW3, our version of AWACS, based on some old MR1 airframes was on the other hand a disaster; fundamentally the airframe wasn’t big enough to house the kit so it was cancelled in 1986 – a hard decision, but a good outcome, because you shouldn’t keep polishing a turd.

    The need hasn’t really changed all that much. We need a jet propelled MPA with fast transit to the patrol area and a long loiter time. We need to detect and destroy subs, command & control ASW forces, conduct real time surveillance over wide areas of land and sea, ELINT, search and rescue, all that good stuff. Really we need a new aircraft. But that’s expensive so Government won’t sanction it. So MoD cook up a Nimrod rebuild. You could argue it might have been a sensible measure to leave the airframes, wings and engines alone and just put new avionics in. That *might* have worked and we *might* have squeezed another 15 years out of the airframe if we didn’t let the pilots fly it too hard.

    You see, the basic choice is you build something new, or you don’t do it. Resuscitating old aircraft with new wings and engines is risky turd polishing. Once the production line shuts & the factory is a housing estate and the staff are dispersed, or dead, or in old people’s homes pissing their pants with laughter every time they hear SMFS wanting to bring back the Vickers Vimy, you’re done.

    MRA4 was a disaster because MoD wouldn’t face up to the reality that they needed a new MPA aircraft and you just have to spend the money to do it, if you are a maritime nation.

  126. No, sorry, that’s just incorrect. Water injection is for cooling the cylinders/pistons/valves. The increased expansion is a small side-benefit.

    Pumping water into the exhaust manifold would just be for show – ignoring second order effects – but what does that have to do with anything? As you state, it leads to a huge contrail that’s even easier to spot than a heat signature.

  127. Dave.
    “Water injection is for cooling the cylinders/pistons/valves.”
    You got that from Wiki didn’t you? It’s complete bollocks in a drag racing context. Why the hell would they build an engine that’s running too hot? They’re aiming for optimum.

    It’s actually the other way round. You try & get the maximum amount of fuel/oxidiser mix into the cylinder as possible. But that’s not going to provide much power because all it’s going to do is get very hot. And you can’t get power out of heat directly. So you need a working fluid. Something to expand. In your cooking model car engine, that’s the nitrogen in the air. The combustion heats & expands the nitrogen (you’ve burnt the oxygen, remember) drives the piston down. In a fueler you’re pushing in extra oxidant & extra fuel. But you’d still have the same amount of nitrogen. It expands a little bit more but most of that very expensively created energy comes out through the exhaust port like an ox-aceteline torch. Nice if you want to do a spot of welding but don’t shift metal down tracks. The water injection’s to capture that energy. Turns to steam with a lovely great expansion ratio. It’s a working fluid, not a coolant. It’s capturing the heat energy & doing something useful with it.

    “Pumping water into the exhaust manifold would just be for show – ignoring second order effects – but what does that have to do with anything? As you state, it leads to a huge contrail that’s even easier to spot than a heat signature.”

    But heat-seekers don’t spot contrails. They see heat. And what’s the temperature of that contrail? It must be below 100C or you wouldn’t be able to see it. Live steam is transparent. In a turbulent airstream, behind a plane, the temperature will plummet. Seen the vortex streams airliner wingtips drag around? Some conditions it’ll be crystalising as ice. To a heat-seaking missile in a tail chase that’s a big black empty hole in the sky. Anything looks more interesting.

  128. No it isn’t as easy to lock on to a piston-engined plane. It is harder. The first generation of SAMs could not even lock on to the front of a jet airplane. They needed something that was literally red hot.

    Yes, and the first generation of firearms were smoothbored muzzle-loaders, but technology moves on. By the second generation (replacing uncooled lead-sulphide seekers with cooled indium antimonide) IR seekers had no problems locking up piston aircraft, as A-1 pilots discovered to their discomfort over South Vietnam.

    But if SAMs are going to prevent you flying low, there is no reason to require any other plane to fly low. A Mosquito can tool along at 10,000 feet too. Good luck even knowing it is there.

    And its accuracy, with its inexpensive 20mm cannon, bombs and rockets, from that height is…? Or are you now depending on the pricey targeting pods and precision-guided munitions that the Typhoon uses? (And you need a hundred times as many pods, and a hundred times the trained pilots…) That cost saving is disappearing quite quickly…

    Even with both airframes at 10,000 feet, the Mosquito’s more vulnerable: less turn rate and less acceleration, and it’ll struggle to know there’s a missile coming unless it’s got MAWS gear (Typhoon does… but are you buying a hundred sets of MAWS gear as well?) so it’s unlikely to be dodging. Advantage, still Typhoon (which is no more conspicuous at that height either)

    And yet mixing cool air with the exhaust on the Typhoon works just fine. All that heat has to be dumped into the atmosphere in the end. It is a lot easier to dump two orders of magnitude less (I guess anyway) when it is not actually used to push the plane forward. A shroud is nothing in terms of weight – and might even add thrust given the right shape. Nor would piping it along the entire length of the wing add that much.

    Well, get your patents filed and get your designs airworthy – if it’s so simple and straightforward it’s amazing nobody’s done it already, better hurry before your idea gets stolen.

    We might want to consider a few MIG-15s then. We are unlikely to be fighting anyone with MIG-15s. The Taliban and ISIS don’t have them.

    There was absolutely no way we were going to be fighting Argentina… until we were.

    There was absolutely no way we were going to fight Iraq (Iran, possibly, but not Iraq) until a few months before we were, either time (Desert Fox was the one we saw coming)

    There was absolutely no way we were going to be overthrowing the Afghan government… until we did. (Even they had the remnants of an air force until it was bombed on the ground)

    There was no possibility of us fighting in Libya… until we found ourselves doing so.

    In fact, there’s a grim trend that when some armchair warrior declares a capability obsolete and irrelevant because “we will never need to…”, we find ourselves suddenly and urgently needing it (amphibious sealift for the Falklands being merely one example)

    What these prices mean is that, like the Battleships before them, no one will ever risk a Eurofighter where they have a real risk of being shot down. Why spend so much for a piece of crap that can’t be used?

    I remember the same thing being said about the B-2 Spirit; it’s been quite active despite its high price tag.

    For that matter, our battleships had quite lively wars – Hood wasn’t hiding in port, Repulse and Prince of Wales weren’t fleeing for home, Barham was a long way from home, Valiant and Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t have been sunk (they were salvageable) by Italian divers if they’d been kept safe(ish) in Scapa. You can argue the merits of using battleships for coastal bombardment, but we and the US had ships lobbing heavy shell into Japan by the end of the war – hardly “not being risked”, as the famous photo of the kamikaze about to hit the USS COLORADO demonstrates.

    “A warship in port is safe, but that’s not what we build them for” as the redoubtable Admiral Hopper liked to say.

  129. Jason Lynch said:

    In fact, there’s a grim trend that when some armchair warrior declares a capability obsolete and irrelevant because “we will never need to…”, we find ourselves suddenly and urgently needing it (amphibious sealift for the Falklands being merely one example)

    There is no need for turbo-prop CAS to be at the exclusion of fast jets though. All you do is have one of the training aircraft for fast jets also be the same aircraft a fleet of CAS pilots use. This gves you at least three things that can be beneficial – a constant and dedicated CAS force with a light footprint so interventions can be more rapid, a surge capacity in CAS airframes from the training pool and better economies of scale.

    As an example, the UK could operate Super Tucanos or Air Tractors for both pilot training and CAS. An aircraft that is simple, predictable and robust would be ideal for both roles. Forgiving in the hands of a trainee and relatively cheap to operate, while also being cost and combat effective in the hands of a front line pilot.

    In addition to that you would also have a instructors on hand and a plane to sell for nation building as you vainly try to restore order in the shit hole you’ve bombed back to the stone age.

  130. Gareth,

    This got looked at for both Afghanistan and Iraq; the trouble is that while the Hawk training fleet is wired for weapons (indeed in the 1980s we used to tool them up with Sidewinders and cannon and use them as missile sponges for UK air defence) and could be made available, it isn’t fitted with the communications and countermeasures equipment that allow a pilot to put weapons on (only) the enemy and avoid the occasional MANPADS; and by the time you’ve fitted that, and paid to integrate Paveway IV and dual-mode Brimstone, you’ve spent a lot of money and it would have been cheaper to use the Tornadoes and Typhoons we were already employing.

    If you don’t invest in the comms gear and precision weapons… well, we used to take a lot of casualties from blue-on-blue when air support had trouble working out who was who from altitude, it’s now rare, newsworthy and gets Boards of Enquiry rather than a shrug and a “that’s life”, there isn’t much enthusiasm to go back to those good old days.

    And the “light footprint” is a chimera – either you’re in a main base like Kandahar or Bagram, in which case the protected real estate is available and the maintenance det isn’t a big overhead – you’d need maintainers for the airframes regardless – or you push your armed trainers out into Forward Operating Bases to… which now need force protection, resupply, counter-IDF and all the other overheads, and again the saving proves elusive.

  131. BiS,

    They had the budget for one-trick ponies (though the AC-130 is very constrained by air defences – one was shot down in Desert Storm, all aboard killed, when they stayed on station after daybreak and won a MANPADS for their courage) but even the USAF is having to rationalise and cut back: see the howling about the plans to cut the A-10 for an example.

    The issue with the AC-130 is that it’s another aircraft with a fair bit of capability, but it needs air supremacy and fully suppressed air defences to survive; a happy situation that’s hard to get to; and it’s a niche airframe we’d afford two or three of, and struggle to use (especially if we can only support them with restored Mosquitos)

  132. The Ac130 is indeed a one trick pony. But it’s done that trick in a lot of places to general audience approval. And one’s been lost.
    Remind me of the blinding success the RAF Tornados were in the low level role. The one time it was ever used.

  133. BiS,

    The US lost one in Desert Storm, and six in Vietnam (despite only beating up insurgents with it, never going North, and facing a very limited threat). It’s a very vulnerable asset; the US can devote the support to it to protect it, we can’t (in part because of folk insisting that enemies with more air defence than an AK-47 will never happen again and therefore we need no means to counter them, in part because they spend so much more than we do)

    I was also amused by the AC-130 friendly fire incident that crossed my desk while I was in Iraq: a Spectre shot up a company of British troops on a known, marked, secured firing range during their night firing exercise. Whether the fact that it inflicted no casualties despite expending a fair amount of 40mm and a few 105mm at them, that it claimed to be dozens of miles from where it actually was when it opened fire, or that it “had seen a handful of insurgents who had engaged it with SAF so fire was returned, ten to twelve insurgents KIA” (seeing no range huts, no dozen or two vehicles, no hundred troops waiting their turn for the lanes – and the jocks took cover and no casualties) but it dented my confidence in the tales of Spectre’s amazing ability to correctly detect, identify and lethally engage the enemy. But, if you believe the crew report, they killed a dozen jihadi terrorists, no problem… score another AC-130 success.

    Tornado in DS had a 2% loss rate – better than most US types in Vietnam – because they were going in low, under the RF-SAMs that were still not suppressed, and targetting some of the best-defended targets (the airfields). The US was losing F-111s at the same rate against the same targets for less effect (JP-233 was much better than BLU-107), but not many folk blamed the Aardvark for being useless. It’s worth remembering that GW1 was a surprise at the time in that loss rates ended up so low…

    Out of interest, how many runways were closed or hardened aircraft shelters destroyed by AC-130s? The answer ends with ‘all’… but that’s the job the Tornados achieved. Easy to look good if you’re not doing the difficult jobs… the Spectre never even went into Iraqi or occupied Kuwaiti airspace (the one shot down, was over Khafji in Saudi)

    The US can afford niche aircraft. We might want them, but unless George Osborne finds a few spare billion down the back of a Treasury sofa we’re going to be continued to be pushed towards consolidation and simplification; fewer types to cover all the missions, and that drives you to keep the high-end kit because it’s easier to get a F-35 to do basic CAS than it is to have a Tucano fly into a S-300 range ring (which we nearly found ourselves doing over Syria recently)

  134. I’m curious, yes these planes are expensive at present but we’re basically at peace time. But if we have to go up against one of the big boys, say our muppet politicos decode decide we could actually stand a chance against Russia for example, and we suddenly need a thousand of the things – then the price is going to fall surely? (unless the supplier hikes the price due to sudden demand spike)
    Or do we build a load of tornados / hawks and hope the weight of numbers means they run out of pilots or money first (either not likely…) ?

  135. 2%? Is that the losses/sortie rate? They lost 5 out of 60 trying to do their counter-Warsaw Pact mission role. For what was described as indeterminate results. Not putting airfields out of action.
    Eventually the Typhoon is going to be up against a proper adversary.
    Are we going to be adding to ” It can’t be a war, the French haven’t surrendered yet” & “Italian tanks, one forward gear & four reverse” ” If it’s crater there must be an RAF plane at bottom of it”?
    I’d reckon evens on past performance.

  136. Bis,

    The Typhoon will never face a real enemy, SMSF has guaranteed it, so no problem at all there.

    Tornado in Granby did as well as expected; ((2% losses per sortie against heavy defences was very good until then) but one difference is that the US fielded lots of specialist SEAD airframes, with capable weapons from Day 1, our government had decided we didn’t need jammers or ARMs and low-and-fast was adequate. (we rushed ALARM into theatre once we saw that was failing to agree with reality and fired a hundred or so, too late for the early losses). We also weren’t meant to need laser guided bombs, until we rushed Pave Spike and then TIALD in.

    The planners need to identify the requirements and the government decides whether to fund them. We did better than we should have in Granby because we adapted; we could adapt because ‘too expensive, make it cheaper’ was recognised as likely to cause pain in a fight and back then, we still had a defence industry doing speculative product development.

    Now we don’t and not many people understand the risk we’re carrying as a result There isn’t a surge capability any more for when predictions (Options for Change, Ten Year Rule, SMFS’s confidence that there will be no enemy but ISIS for a half-century) turn out to be wrong.

  137. So Much for Subtlety

    Sebastian Weetabix – “Nimrod was not a failure. MRA4 project was. Those of us who are actual chartered engineers and worked on the plane may actually know something, you see.”

    The Nimrod was first delivered in 1969. I am not sure when production of the Comet ended but it was 1964 I think. So it had failed as an airliner when the government threw it a life line. Any number of people have come here and pointed out just what was wrong with the Nimrod – even before the 70s.

    “Nimrod MR1, when introduced in 1969, was the absolute cutting edge of technology.”

    I am sure the electronics were top notch. But this role was the most forgiving that anyone could find. We never got into a fighting war with the USSR and so really it never got tested in combat. However, jets are not commonly used on ASW planes for a reason – they need range and they need to loiter. Which is why most people go for turboprops.

    “The AEW3, our version of AWACS, based on some old MR1 airframes was on the other hand a disaster; fundamentally the airframe wasn’t big enough to house the kit so it was cancelled in 1986 – a hard decision, but a good outcome, because you shouldn’t keep polishing a turd.”

    Indeed. And yet the corporate welfare approach was tried anyway. You would think people would notice that the plane was not big enough before they started throwing money at it. But no. As I said, the MoD is incapable of managing a project. Throwing a billion pounds away and spending ten years before actually realising how small the plane was is classic even for the MoD.

    “We need a jet propelled MPA with fast transit to the patrol area and a long loiter time.”

    No we don’t. The P-3 Orion would have suited us perfectly.

    “You see, the basic choice is you build something new, or you don’t do it.”

    Actually there is a third option – you spend billions of pounds on something that promises to be new and then you get nothing or worse, something that kills its crew. As I keep saying the MoD is capable of producing something new and worth having. So they should not be allowed to do so ever again. Or at least until they learn.

    “MRA4 was a disaster because MoD wouldn’t face up to the reality that they needed a new MPA aircraft and you just have to spend the money to do it, if you are a maritime nation.”

    But the point is we could have had a new MPA aircraft for a fraction of the price. We spent a billion pounds over the contract for the MRA4 and ended up with nothing. We could have had 60 Orions, roughly, for that price.

    As I keep saying, BAe and the MoD have a proven track record of utter incompetence. They should not be allowed near any project ever again.

    It would be nice if we could design and build new planes. But we can’t. So there you have it. We need to accept that and move on. Some other solution needs to be found.

  138. So Much for Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “By the second generation (replacing uncooled lead-sulphide seekers with cooled indium antimonide) IR seekers had no problems locking up piston aircraft, as A-1 pilots discovered to their discomfort over South Vietnam.”

    Sure. But that is not the issue. It is still two orders of magnitude, or so, easier to lock on to a jet. A lot of the early losses of A-1s seem to be because they were new and no one had thought about tactics.

    “And its accuracy, with its inexpensive 20mm cannon, bombs and rockets, from that height is…? Or are you now depending on the pricey targeting pods and precision-guided munitions that the Typhoon uses?”

    There has been a very nice move towards cheaper GPS guided bombs. And those targeting pods are both cheaper – and getting cheaper – than airframes. So sure.

    “Even with both airframes at 10,000 feet, the Mosquito’s more vulnerable: less turn rate and less acceleration, and it’ll struggle to know there’s a missile coming unless it’s got MAWS gear”

    And yet it is still much harder to get a lock on.

    “Well, get your patents filed and get your designs airworthy – if it’s so simple and straightforward it’s amazing nobody’s done it already, better hurry before your idea gets stolen.”

    Actually that is precisely what the US drones seem to be doing.

    “In fact, there’s a grim trend that when some armchair warrior declares a capability obsolete and irrelevant because “we will never need to…”, we find ourselves suddenly and urgently needing it (amphibious sealift for the Falklands being merely one example)”

    Indeed. And I am a strong critic of this. We need more capability and have focused too long on Europe. But what to do? This is not a matter of choice – it is forced on us by the incompetence of the MoD and the frankly criminal behaviour of BAe. But that is the point about the cheap option. It is more capable. We will have so few planes and pilots, and those planes will be so expensive, that we can do virtually nothing with them.

    “I remember the same thing being said about the B-2 Spirit; it’s been quite active despite its high price tag.”

    Has it? It looks to me as if it hasn’t. The US Air Force likes to talk about it, but it has mainly relied on the B-52. What is it about the B-52? Apart from being old, proven, slow and relatively cheap?

    Jason Lynch – “and by the time you’ve fitted that, and paid to integrate Paveway IV and dual-mode Brimstone, you’ve spent a lot of money and it would have been cheaper to use the Tornadoes and Typhoons we were already employing.”

    Or to put it another way, the RAF wants it super sexy fast jets and nothing will convince them otherwise.

    “well, we used to take a lot of casualties from blue-on-blue when air support had trouble working out who was who from altitude”

    Because someone might mistake a Hawk for the Taliban’s Air Force?

    Jason Lynch – “but even the USAF is having to rationalise and cut back: see the howling about the plans to cut the A-10 for an example.”

    Or to put it another way, the USAF wants its super sexy Fast jets and is not going to let anything get in their way. They want to cut the A-10 because they have always hated CAS and they don’t want to do it. They want the F-35.

    Jason Lynch – “and targetting some of the best-defended targets (the airfields).”

    Why do you think the airfields were some of the best defended targets? As opposed to Ba’ath Party HQ?

    “but not many folk blamed the Aardvark for being useless.”

    Actually everyone has always said the F-111 was useless. An early pre-warning of how not to do the F-35 project. But they did it anyway. Another tri-Service project designed to save money and pioneer new technology. Notice that in fact in this role, in the end the F-111’s technology led them back to the Mosquito option – the low-penetration swing wing terrain following aircraft became the disposable cruise missile.

    “We might want them, but unless George Osborne finds a few spare billion down the back of a Treasury sofa we’re going to be continued to be pushed towards consolidation and simplification; fewer types to cover all the missions, and that drives you to keep the high-end kit because it’s easier to get a F-35 to do basic CAS than it is to have a Tucano fly into a S-300 range ring (which we nearly found ourselves doing over Syria recently)”

    We won’t be going into Syria because they have a real AA defence system. It is next to impossible to get the RAF to do CAS because they don’t want to. So the F-35, if it ever flies, will not be doing much. Assuming we have enough of them to begin with.

    The problem is that you are looking at the wrong end of the stick. We are forced to take fewer aircraft because they cost more, often much more, per airplane. At some point this is not sustainable. Especially as that extra money is not giving better performance. it is simply going on incompetent management and chaotic development.

    The fact is we will go down the unmanned Mosquito route. These planes simply cost too much to do anything else.

  139. So Much for Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “The Typhoon will never face a real enemy, SMSF has guaranteed it, so no problem at all there.”

    I don’t think I have but it is extremely unlikely that they will. We will see.

    “Tornado in Granby did as well as expected; ((2% losses per sortie against heavy defences was very good until then)”

    As well as expected? You mean after such losses they were pulled from the mission and the Tornado slated for retirement soon after? This is what you think people expected?

    “our government had decided we didn’t need jammers or ARMs and low-and-fast was adequate”

    Of course not. All that money got p!ssed away on the Nimrod and the Eurofighter. That is the problem with a small number of expensive airframes. You have no cash left over for anything else.

    “The planners need to identify the requirements and the government decides whether to fund them.”

    I agree. But that is not how it works. As I said upthread it looks like the Armed Forces have decided that what they do is play acting. So the Navy needs its big destroyers and gets them regardless of requirements. The Air Force wants its sexy fast jets and so it gets them. Everyone wants to play ball with the Europeans and BAe so they will have nice jobs after public service and so BAe gets what it wants. No where are people taking our requirements seriously.

    What are our requirements? Well we cannot hope to fight the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans. So we won’t be doing that. We probably won’t be fighting any Western Europeans. We may go back into the Middle East but only with the Americans. We may have some colonial campaigning to do. Does anyone dispute that? With this in mind the Eurofighter is the wrong plane.

    “There isn’t a surge capability any more for when predictions (Options for Change, Ten Year Rule, SMFS’s confidence that there will be no enemy but ISIS for a half-century) turn out to be wrong.”

    Let’s assume all our predictions turn out to be wrong. Not least because by predicting and adapting, we deter. We do not, almost by definition, deter the people we cannot predict. So what do we need? We cannot have 100% of everything. We need to be more modest. That suggests more aircraft at lower cost. That means no more throwing money at BAe. 30 P-3 Orions would have been better than no Nimrods. 130 Tucanos are better than 1 Eurofighter. Because they can be used in a wider range of places and potential wars.

  140. The fundamental problem seems to be the same one the UK has faced for decades: rather than look at the real defense threats, the government keeps trying to pretend it’s still living in the height of the Empire, and needs to be able to bomb any third-world goatherder that takes its fancy, while beating off the Frogs or Boche if they get uppity again.

    Who’s really going to attack the UK any time soon?

    Putin? Well, it’ll be nuclear by tea-time, and those expensive F-35s will probably be craters even before that.

    ISIS? If they’ve reached the Channel, a few F-35s, a handful of frigates and a couple of regiments of squaddies won’t do much. And that’s assuming they don’t just climb onto ferries and come over as ‘migrants’.

    Argentina? You’ve got to decide whether the Falklands are worth the billions of pounds required to defend them.

    Can anyone think of any other options?

  141. What I’ve gleaned from this thread is that *if* you have air superiority *and* the enemy doesn’t have a sophisticated air defence system, then a hot air balloon with a GPMG mounted on the basket will suffice for an Air Force. But otherwise, you need something new, fast, and expensive.

  142. You’ve got to decide whether the Falklands are worth the billions of pounds required to defend them.

    I’m not sure it’s very expensive any more, is it? Yes, it’s billions, but the problem with the Falklands is everyone thinks Argentina will be able to invade as they did before: basically turn up, walk in, and take over. They were able to do this then because nobody in their wildest dreams thought Argentina would invade the Falklands and so the place was practically undefended (like Crimea was when Putin sent his soldiers in). Since then, I am pretty sure the defences have been beefed up with anti-ship and anti-aircraft capabilities meaning the Argies would have to mount a full-scale invasion which would result in lots of media attention, lots of bad publicity and lots of casualties all mounting up to a horrendous cost. I doubt the Argies have the stomach for this, either politically or within their military ranks.

    The Argies have been a bit dumb, actually. If they’d wanted the Falklands they should have STFU for a couple of decades, fully recognised the UK’s sovereign right to the islands, and then walked in one morning as they did in 1982. Obama, Merkel, and Hollande would wring their hands and then mumble something about “colonialism” and “everybody wants peace” and “we hope both sides can resolve this” before accepting that Argentina now holds de facto rule down there. Instead they’ve been gobbing off about invading since they got their arses kicked in 1982, meaning the islands have been populated by small but prickly British armed forces ever since. Which makes me think that’s all it is: gobbing off.

  143. What I’ve gleaned from this thread is that *if* you have air superiority

    Supremacy, not just superiority.

    It’s a bit like the distinction between resources and reserves.

  144. So Much for Subtlety

    Edward M. Grant – “The fundamental problem seems to be the same one the UK has faced for decades: rather than look at the real defense threats, the government keeps trying to pretend it’s still living in the height of the Empire, and needs to be able to bomb any third-world goatherder that takes its fancy, while beating off the Frogs or Boche if they get uppity again.”

    If only. The real problem is that the British government is not willing to consider what it would cost to deal with a real threat. The only one we have faced since 1945 has been the Soviet/Russians. The only thing that has kept them out of Western Europe has been American (and to a lesser extent, British and French) nuclear weapons. The cost of attempting to put up a serious fight to the Soviet Army was simply unthinkable. So we have been treating this with less and less seriousness since the 1960s.

    Beating up on goat herders is much smarter. But since the 1990s or so we have not been willing to spend the money to do that either.

    “Argentina? You’ve got to decide whether the Falklands are worth the billions of pounds required to defend them.”

    Well, yes they are.

    “Can anyone think of any other options?”

    We have allies and influence all over the world. We depend on that world for trade and the necessities of life. We need to think seriously about whether we want to defend our allies, and hence our own economy, or not. I think we should.

    Tim Newman – “What I’ve gleaned from this thread is that *if* you have air superiority *and* the enemy doesn’t have a sophisticated air defence system, then a hot air balloon with a GPMG mounted on the basket will suffice for an Air Force. But otherwise, you need something new, fast, and expensive.”

    Actually it is worse than that. Because if the enemy has a sophisticated air defence syndrome, then nothing you have makes any difference. We are not willing to pay for the sort of air force that could deal even with Syria’s air defence system. It is beyond us. As Iraq’s was. I have my doubts that Britain and France could have dealt with Libya’s pathetic system without American help either.

    So all those shiny, new and expensive planes are lovely. We can’t use them against people with a real air defence system. There is no point using them against people without.

    The Americans have been down this road before. They built the B-2 to show off their stealth technology. Well worth doing. And the F-111 was such a dog, that they had to build an even bigger version in the B-1:

    Despite upgrades, the B-1 has repair and cost issues resulting from its age. For every flight hour it needs 48.4 hours of repair.

    So the USAF continues to rely on the B-52. A plane that first flew in 1952. A plane about the same age as the grand-fathers of the pilots that fly them:

    The USAF continues to rely on the B-52 because it remains an effective and economical heavy bomber, particularly in the type of missions that have been conducted since the end of the Cold War against nations that have limited air defense capabilities. The B-52 has the capacity to “loiter” for extended periods over (or even well outside) the battlefield, and deliver precision standoff and direct fire munitions. It has been a valuable asset in supporting ground operations during conflicts such as Operation Iraqi Freedom.[198] The B-52 had the highest mission capable rate of the three types of heavy bombers operated by the USAF in 2001. The B-1 averaged a 53.7% ready rate and the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit achieved 30.3%, while the B-52 averaged 80.5% during the 2000–2001 period.

    So when it comes to bombing the USAF, which does not like the B-52 and has tried to get them pensioned off any number of times, does precisely what I suggested – rely on older, proven, slower, less sexy technology. From the 1950s.

    But, hey, what would the USAF know about airplanes?

    Tim Newman – “The Argies have been a bit dumb, actually. ”

    Well feckless Latins will be feckless Latins. In this case, surely the need to invade was driven by domestic politics? They did not bother thinking about external factors because what mattered was their problems with their own people and their fellow military officers. Whether that is dumb or not I cannot say. But a lot of Argentinians, especially the pilots, were very brave. They really deserved better leaders.

  145. Sebastian Weetabix

    @SMFS: you really are a silly cunt. The P3 Orion is obsolete. You could have a thousand of them and they would be NO FUCKING GOOD.

    How do you earn a living?

  146. Sebastian Weetabix

    And by the way: the Nimrod entered service in 1969. They didn’t build them all on the previous monday, you stupid twat. The Comet 4C production line stayed in business throughout the 60s and early 70s to build the 50-odd airframes.

  147. So Much for Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “What I’ve gleaned from this thread is that *if* you have air superiority *and* the enemy doesn’t have a sophisticated air defence system, then a hot air balloon with a GPMG mounted on the basket will suffice for an Air Force. But otherwise, you need something new, fast, and expensive.”

    OK. Ten minutes googling – for what it is worth and it is not worth much – the Libyan Air Force consisted of:

    With Soviet assistance, the Libyan Arab Republic Air Force was organized into one medium bomber squadron with Tupolev Tu-22s, three fighter interceptor squadrons, five forward ground attack squadrons, one counter-insurgency squadron, nine helicopter squadrons, and three air defense brigades deploying SA-2, SA-3, and Crotale missiles.[10] Of the combat aircraft, the United States Department of State estimated in 1983 that 50 percent remained in storage, including most of the MiG fighters and Tu-22 bombers.

    Most of Libya’s Air Force was in fact not working or retired before the Civil War – they sold most of their Mirages to Pakistan for scrap by the looks of it. They had at least two working Mirages because France fixed them up and gave them back when their pilots defected. But basically their air defence system consisted of those three brigades:

    The SA-2 was first deployed in 1957. The Soviets usually deploy them in regiments of three batteries. Each battery has six rocket launchers. The SA-3 was first deployed in 1961. The Soviets usually had four rocket launchers per battery. Even if the Libyans had three batteries of each launcher per brigade, for a total of six, this is not a particularly sophisticated or complex air defence system.

    Yet how did the air war start?

    Two days later, the UN Security Council adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 which legitimised the operation. U.S. and British warships launched more than 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Jamahiriya air defences and four U.S. B-2 stealth bombers attacked several airfields

    Well it was nice that the Americans let us fire some Tomahawk cruise missiles. But the French and Royal Air Forces were not willing to take on an air defence system that was small in size and dated back to the early 1960s. The Americans had to do it for us. This is shameful!

    On 23 March 2011, British Air Vice-Marshal Greg Bagwell was quoted by the BBC saying that the Libyan People’s Air Force “no longer exists as a fighting force” and that Libyan air defenses had been damaged to the extent that NATO forces could now operate over Libyan airspace “with impunity”.

    Took 120 Tomahawks and two days of fighting to destroy the Libyan Air Force and make it safe for those nice new shiny and very expensive Eurofighters. How did they do?

    On 18 March 2011, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the UK would deploy Typhoons, alongside Panavia Tornados, to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya.[165] On 20 March 10 Typhoons from RAF Coningsby and RAF Leuchars arrived at the Gioia del Colle airbase in southern Italy.[166] On 21 March RAF Typhoons flew their first ever combat mission while patrolling the no-fly Zone.[167] On 29 March, it was revealed that the RAF were short of pilots to fly the required number of sorties over Libya and were having to divert personnel from Typhoon training to meet the shortfall.[168]

    On 12 April 2011, a mixed pair of RAF Typhoon and Tornado GR4[169] dropped precision-guided bombs on ground vehicles operated by Gaddafi forces that were parked in an abandoned tank park.[170] …. Target designation was provided by the Tornados with their Litening III targeting pods due to the lack of Typhoon pilots trained in air-to-ground missions.[172]

    The UK’s then Defence Secretary Liam Fox admitted on 14 April 2011 that Britain’s Eurofighter Typhoon jets were grounded in 2010 due to shortage of spare parts. The RAF has been “cannibalising” aircraft for spare parts in a bid to keep the maximum number of Typhoons operational on any given day. The Ministry of Defence had warned the problems were likely to continue until 2015.

    So the RAF struggled to keep 10, ten, Eurofighters in the air. Even then they needed another plane to light up the targets for them. And they had virtually no pilots actually trained in air-to-ground attacks. They could not maintain ten, ten!, planes without “diverting” pilots from training. Hang on, who graduates pilots early before they have finished training? Britain had deployed the Eurofighter in 2007. Four years earlier. Still not had time to find enough pilots?

    How this does not result in resignations and criminal charges I don’t know. How ordinary British people are not killing themselves in despair I don’t know either. We need some other solution.

  148. So Much for Subtlety

    Sebastian Weetabix – “The P3 Orion is obsolete. You could have a thousand of them and they would be NO FUCKING GOOD.”

    Obsolete in what sense? If they were still building them, could they fly? Do people in fact still fly them? According to a quick check on Wikipedia the following countries are still using their Orions: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Greece, Iran (WTF?), Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam has entered negotiations to buy some – and the US.

    That’s pretty popular for an obsolete plane. But perhaps there has been some breakthrough in submarine technology that means submarines that could be detected in 2000 cannot be now? I don’t know. Can you explain to me why you think it is obsolete?

    Also I will point to the use of the past tense. I said we could have bought 60 of them. Not that we can. Although it seems Vietnam can. If we had scrapped the Nimrod earlier we could have had a reputable ASW capability.

    “How do you earn a living?”

    Well not by taking BAe’s thirty pieces of silver for one thing.

    Sebastian Weetabix – “And by the way: the Nimrod entered service in 1969.”

    Sure. As you might have noticed when I said:

    The Nimrod was first delivered in 1969. I am not sure when production of the Comet ended but it was 1964 I think. So it had failed as an airliner when the government threw it a life line.

    It is always a pleasure talking to you old bean.

    “The Comet 4C production line stayed in business throughout the 60s and early 70s to build the 50-odd airframes.”

    That is interesting.

  149. Jason Lynch said:

    This got looked at for both Afghanistan and Iraq; the trouble is that while the Hawk training fleet is wired for weapons (indeed in the 1980s we used to tool them up with Sidewinders and cannon and use them as missile sponges for UK air defence) and could be made available, it isn’t fitted with the communications and countermeasures equipment that allow a pilot to put weapons on (only) the enemy and avoid the occasional MANPADS; and by the time you’ve fitted that, and paid to integrate Paveway IV and dual-mode Brimstone, you’ve spent a lot of money and it would have been cheaper to use the Tornadoes and Typhoons we were already employing.

    It is a chicken and egg situation. If you only envisage using the expensive jets on the front line then you don’t buy training aircraft that can be used on the front line, and it becomes costly to upgrade them if you change your mind.

    If you start from the position that your training aircraft will also have some limited front line duties you make a different choice in training aircraft.

    And the “light footprint” is a chimera – either you’re in a main base like Kandahar or Bagram, in which case the protected real estate is available and the maintenance det isn’t a big overhead

    Is it safe to assume that maintenance of expensive fast jets will generally be a bigger overhead than maintenance of smaller, cheaper, simpler aircraft? If so then you can perhaps have the same number of people and same weight of logistics maintaining many more of the cheaper, simpler aircraft.

    Ever more costly planes, as with ships, are sold on being able to do the same jobs as more of the older units they replace. Delivering the same weight of bombs and take on the same number of targets as 2 or 3 predecessors or whatever. But, crucially, it doesn’t matter how good the expensive kit is it still cannot be in 3 places at once.

  150. BiS and SMFS

    The trouble is all this talk of low-tech hundreds of planes.vs.high-tech a few planes is not taking account of reality. The prime example in modern times is the Bekaa Valley in 1982, where cutting edge Israeli fighters totally obliterated the Syrian fighters that were only a generation behind them – not the four generation a Mozzie would be. A slight advantage in technology – of all sorts – gives you an overwhelming advantage on the battlefield.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mole_Cricket_19

  151. Is it safe to assume that maintenance of expensive fast jets will generally be a bigger overhead than maintenance of smaller, cheaper, simpler aircraft?

    As always, “it depends” and a great deal depends on the kit fitted. A Hawk trainer needs a lot less maintenance than a Typhoon fighter-bomber, but a significant part of that is because the Hawk doesn’t have the sensors, comms gear, weapons and countermeasures – it’s just a high-subsonic, forgiving, two-seat training aircraft.

    Once you put the gear into it to make it effective at providing troops-in-contact, danger-close CAS the way a Typhoon can and does do… you’re needing to support and maintain all that gear, and the saving evaporates. In fact, if you’re bringing more airframes, you need more maintainers, and you lose the somewhat marginal savings on maintaining the airframes.

    The other issue, is that “going back to the good old days” discovers that they weren’t good days. Typhoon takes about seven man-hours of maintenance per hour flown, Hawk about four from memory: but go back to that stalwart the English Electric Lightining and you needed twelve to fifteen hours of work for every hour flown. Older systems, rotten design, and National Service meant labour was free so that (for instance) removing the ejection seat to change a fuze in the radio gear was perfectly acceptable back then.

    Ever more costly planes, as with ships, are sold on being able to do the same jobs as more of the older units they replace.

    From direct personal experience, no, they aren’t. There was a brief that was given to at least two First Sea Lords about the difference between a Type 42 and a Type 45, under attack by eight supersonic sea-skimming missiles like the SS-N-22 Sunburn (in-service date 1983 or so). The Type 42 was hit six or seven times, the Type 45 slotted all eight without effort. (And even Syria now operates not that missile, but its successor – they’re proliferated to a worrying extent).

    Sometimes the world moves on and threats get better, and we either address that threat, pretend it doesn’t exist, or accept we can no longer go anywhere near where it exists in potentially hostile hands.

    But, crucially, it doesn’t matter how good the expensive kit is it still cannot be in 3 places at once.

    Painfully true, but then you have to ask whether having many units that are helpless, being in place to get sunk or shot down, is actually a net advantage. If the aim is merely to push targets into the enemy’s sights to be bravely massacred, we can do that very cheaply indeed; if the goal is to have a decent chance of surviving attack, then you either buy fewer platforms or spend more money.

  152. As well as expected? You mean after such losses they were pulled from the mission and the Tornado slated for retirement soon after? This is what you think people expected?

    This was 1991, and Tornado is still flying now and its OSD is still some years ahead. A very curious definition of “slated for retirement soon after”.

    The low-level attack role was changed because Iraq’s RF-SAMs and fighters had been taken out of play, and since fast-and-low turned out to be as dangerous as expected there was no reason to keep doing it once medium altitudes had gone from “suicidal” to “safe”. Losses of up to 5% (one aircraft lost per twenty sorties) were predicted; Tornado GR.1 did rather better than that. The real surprise was how brittle the Iraqi IADS turned out to be; which caught NATO out over Serbia in 1999, when the Serbs refused to just shut down their radars and hide.

  153. 130 Tucanos are better than 1 Eurofighter.

    Four thousand Zulu warriors are better than a hundred British soldiers? Michael Caine, Stanley Baker and Nigel Green would beg to differ.

    There is a point where, if the technologies are near enough, numbers matter more than exact relative capability; especially if the important issue is not a gladiatorial combat. (Sherman vs. Tiger, for instance; it doesn’t really matter that the Tiger could beat the Sherman in a tank-on-tank duel, Allied troops had tank support and Germans didn’t and that was decisive).

    There are other times where, if the disparity in capability is significant enough, all providing extra numbers does is give the enemy a higher score and leave them wondering if they brought enough ammunition. At sea, the Israeli Navy’s efficient annihilation of the Syrian and Egyptian forces at Baltim and Latakia applies, especially after they had discovered the hard way that a thirty-year-old destroyer was just a target barge to ten-year-old missiles (with fifty killed and a hundred dead, but hey, it was a cheap ship)

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