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UK faces a 'bomber gap'

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posted on May, 2 2006 @ 06:49 PM
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There is a growing concern in the RAF that the UK is set to face a serious capability gap in the next few years as older aircraft are forced to retire long before their replacements are ready.

The RAF's cheif attack platforms are, and have been for many years, the Harrier, the Tornado and the Jaguar. All three aircraft are due for replacement , however when that time comes the replacements are not and will not be ready.

The most pressing case is the Jaguar, the RAF acquired 165 single seat Jaguar GR.1's in the 1970's, the subsequent introduction of the Tornado in the 1980's led to the disbanding of several squadrond who re-equipped with the new type and their still new Jaguars were stored. by the 1990's the RAF had 96 still in service and these were all upgraded to GR.3 standard, however none of the stored aircraft were upgraded and these then became useless and were scrapped.
Of these 96 GR.3's, about 12-16 are still in service with 6Sqn, the RAF's last Jaguar squadron, and this will disband in April 2007, placing a huge burden on the Tornado force as the first Typhoon squadron dedicated to the attack role, supposedly as the Jaguar's replacement, wont stand up until 2009.

The Tornado itself is in a similar position, 220 were bought as GR.1's during the 1980's, however cutbacks meant a huge proportion of this force was stored, along with the Jaguars they had replaced. There are currently about 90 or so upgraded GR.4's in service.

The problem with the Tornado is that its intended replacement, now the F-35 after the FOAS was axed, will not be available to take over from it until at least 2020, with some estimates putting the date at 2025 including full clearance with all RAF A2G weaponry. This puts a massive strain on the Tornado who's fatigue life is expected to expire BEFORE the original 2018 replacement date. This is made worse by the extra demands caused by the loss of the Jaguars. Compounding this stupidity is the fact that over 100 stored airframes with extrmely low hours on the clock are completely incompatible with the current force as they were not included in the GR.4 upgrade.

The obvious answer would be to launch a second GR.4 programme but there are two problems with this, firstly the defence budget is already creaking under the strain of paying for the Typhoon, F-35, new aircraft carriers AND Iraq. Secondly, the incompatibility issue has already led to many low hour airframes being prematurely cut up for scrap. There is even a proposal for the recently retired and stored Tornado F.3's to be converted into a 'GR.5' type attack model.

This is a timebomb which nobody in the MoD or RAF seems to know what to do with.

Neither do I.

[edit on 2-5-2006 by waynos]




posted on May, 2 2006 @ 06:56 PM
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I would imagine, just assuming here, that the Typhoons could be made to pick up the slack of the aging Tornado's till the JSFs came online, waynos?




seekerof



posted on May, 2 2006 @ 07:00 PM
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They are going to have to, but that will cause its own problems as aircraft will have to be redirected from the Air Defence role and in any case, the Typhoon itself will not be fully cleared with all the weapons the RAF wants to use for some time. This was never a problem while the Jaguar GR.3's were going to be in service. It is their removal that is the catalyst and which is having the knock on effect down the line.



posted on May, 2 2006 @ 09:44 PM
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They left the bombing responsibility to the US. Let them get their hands dirty and carry with all the criticism. That seems to be British policy, we are just the little brother...


RAB

posted on May, 3 2006 @ 02:23 AM
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Have we any more info on the Tornado GR5 idea, as I think this could be a winner a loger airframe, more fuel and the GR4 kit off the shelf.

RAB



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 02:34 AM
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Carch,


They left the bombing responsibility to the US. Let them get their hands dirty and carry with all the criticism. That seems to be British policy, we are just the little brother...


That is so utterly and completely wrong my friend. The RAF has been heavily biased towards the bombing role since it was founded in 1918, indeed it was the reason it was founded. This tradition has contined. Look at the OoB;

bombing types - Harrier, Jaguar, Tornado - approx 15 squadrons plus four reserve units with operational capabiliy.

Air defence - Tornado F.3 - three squadrons and one reserve.

Have you forgotten already the low level Tornado ops in the Gulf or even the Harriers that are currently in Afghanistan?

RAB, at the moment it is just a suggestion as to how the Tornado might be eked out a bit longer, but I too think that its better aerodynamics and its greater internal fuel volume would make it a great choice, the RAF already has EF.3's on the SEAD mission.

[edit on 3-5-2006 by waynos]



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 03:10 AM
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Australia has very similar problems with its F-111 fighter-bombers, the JSF program is now aproximately 23 months behind scedule.

Another problems for the UK is it's new aircraft carriers, they are expected to be completed in 2012. The JSF however, will not be delivered on time, so the Navy will than have two empty carriers rusting away...



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 03:13 AM
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Thats almost right but not quite, the JFH Harriers will be deployed on the Carriers initially but you are spot on with the gist of your post.

That is another reason why the UK's threat to pull out of JSF has to be taken seriously, the Harriers also face the same fatigue life problems due to the F-35's delays, however unpalateable it may be politically, the Rafale could be in service with the Royal Navy much much sooner.

[edit on 3-5-2006 by waynos]



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 07:44 AM
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Originally posted by waynos
Carch,


They left the bombing responsibility to the US. Let them get their hands dirty and carry with all the criticism. That seems to be British policy, we are just the little brother...


That is so utterly and completely wrong my friend. The RAF has been heavily biased towards the bombing role since it was founded in 1918, indeed it was the reason it was founded. This tradition has contined. Look at the OoB;

bombing types - Harrier, Jaguar, Tornado - approx 15 squadrons plus four reserve units with operational capabiliy.

Air defence - Tornado F.3 - three squadrons and one reserve.

Have you forgotten already the low level Tornado ops in the Gulf or even the Harriers that are currently in Afghanistan?

RAB, at the moment it is just a suggestion as to how the Tornado might be eked out a bit longer, but I too think that its better aerodynamics and its greater internal fuel volume would make it a great choice, the RAF already has EF.3's on the SEAD mission.

[edit on 3-5-2006 by waynos]


Sure Briton has some tactical bomb capability, any country with a few spare fighters can do that. But what strategic bombing capability do they have?

That would be none. As carcharodon said that role, along with protecting the world’s sea lanes has been abrogated to America. Euros just sit on the sidelines and criticize.



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 07:57 AM
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Perhaps we need to ask the boys at Bruntingthorpe nicely if we can borrow their Buccaneers. Or maybe its time to dust off the TSR2 plans again...

Joking aside, the RAFs capability continues to be further crippled by poor planning and budget cuts.



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 09:28 AM
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Sure Briton has some tactical bomb capability, any country with a few spare fighters can do that. But what strategic bombing capability do they have?


They are not 'spare fighters' they are specialised aircraft and the lack of enough of them is what my post is about.

You are right about strategic capability, at least in conventional terms as the Trident offers us strategic nuclear capability. But it is our tactical bombing capability that is the issue here.




hat would be none. As carcharodon said that role, along with protecting the world’s sea lanes has been abrogated to America. Euros just sit on the sidelines and criticize.


No, the lad said 'bombing' not 'strategic bombing'. You were the one who brought that up.

Is it a hobby of yours to take threads off topic or are you stalking me?

If you wish to debate strategic bombing, start a new thread about it.



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 09:31 AM
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Originally posted by Experimental
Perhaps we need to ask the boys at Bruntingthorpe nicely if we can borrow their Buccaneers. Or maybe its time to dust off the TSR2 plans again...

Joking aside, the RAFs capability continues to be further crippled by poor planning and budget cuts.


Ha, you're not far off there


The Govt looked a relaunching the TSR 2 in the wake of the Falklands War, but I'm not sure it was serious about it. the aircrafts greater payload and internal fuel offered some advantages over the Tornado, that was then justy entering service. Shame someone didn't point that out in 1965!



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 09:47 AM
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Originally posted by waynos
That is another reason why the UK's threat to pull out of JSF has to be taken seriously, the Harriers also face the same fatigue life problems due to the F-35's delays, however unpalateable it may be politically, the Rafale could be in service with the Royal Navy much much sooner.

Or F/A-18s.


By mid-2002 the Royal Navy increasingly saw the CV version as being cheaper, flying further and carrying more. "The requirement is value for money," said Commander Ron Finlayson, in charge of the Royal Navy's surface ship capabilities. "We plan to run these ships for 50 years and in cooperation with other navies. We wouldn't expect to regularly run U.S. Navy F/A-18s or French Rafale's off them, but do we want to be locked into a configuration that only STOVL aircraft can use?".


Or "Plan B": A navalised (CV) version of the Typhoon.


The STOVL F-35B remains the most likely choice but other options include a move to the CTOL F-35C or a split buy. Even a navalised variant of the Eurofighter Typhoon is now being seriously re-considered as "Plan B" if the UK pulled out of the JSF project at the end of 2006, something that would have been unthinkable in 2003 or 2004.

Both above quotes from here:
Navy Matters: Future Aircraft Carrier - CVF: Queen Elizabeth Class

More here:
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program: UK Update






seekerof

[edit on 3-5-2006 by Seekerof]



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 09:57 AM
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Actually, a handful of second hand F-117s or even better, second hand/leased Gripens would be a good option.



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 10:04 AM
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Originally posted by Zion Mainframe
Australia has very similar problems with its F-111 fighter-bombers, the JSF program is now aproximately 23 months behind scedule.

I suppose that Australia will look to buying the Rafale, as well, since of course, the UK may be considering such a move, Zion Mainframe?




seekerof



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 10:10 AM
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Or F/A-18s.


I try not to think about that too much
No real reason, just a personal irrational bias which I hold my hands up to. Speaking purely as a modeller however I think the F/A-18E would look rather nifty in medium sea grey and with B type roundels ands the words 'ROYAL NAVY' stencilled on the fins


Planeman, love the pic!
Actually the Nimrod MRA 4 is scheduled to adopt a bit of a 'strategic bomber' type role. Is that RAF Airbus bomber dropping live Dolphins


Speaking of the F-117, the RAF turned down the chance to operate this a few years ago as I remember as it is too operationally limited for a small force like the RAF. Its alright for the USAF because there are planty of alternative aircraft to choose from.

[edit on 3-5-2006 by waynos]



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 10:56 AM
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On a serious note, I think that what the RAF is looking for is two separate aircraft; a close support and interdiction fighter-bomber to support legacy systems like the Tornado and Harrier, and a stand-off bomber to launch cruise missiles and similar weapons, with a secondary bombing function for when we next invade an undefended airspace.

For the first role, leasing (/buying) second hand aircraft is the quickest solution. Gripens are the optimum solution IMO. The Gripen would more than replace the Jaguar AND is swing role to air-superiority, but the key advantage is that with our industrial partner Sweden now downsizing its Gripen force, they are a bargain waiting to happen. Other types on the open market include FA-18A/Cs, F-117As, F-16A/Cs, F-16MLUs (Netherlands) and possibly even F-15Es.

But the real trump for the tactical role is minimal upgrades of the Tornado F-3 to SEAD and limited bomber role, such as incorporation of Paveway4, JDAM and Storm Shadow. On the weapons front, I think that it is unfortunate that Britain has spent so much developing the Paveway4. There are cheaper and longer ranged alternatives out there, particularly if we bought from Israel (SPICE etc) or better still South Africa (Umbani bomb kit gives a snake-eye bomb into a multiple guidance-option PGM with 120km range).

There is also the hope that BAE Systems can get the RAF production UCAVs in double quick time and we can jump ahead of the evolutionary curve, but I somehow doubt that the MOD has the savvy to go for that.


For the stand-off bomber role, basically a cruise missile launcher, the MR-4 will be the official solution. But really we should hang them off C-130s and A-400s.

And from a holistic perspective, I think we should fit massive Tomahawk banks onto RN warships to make a Frigate or even ex-fisheries protection vessel into an “arsenal ship”:

(River class patrol vessel refitted with CIWS and bank of Tomahawk LACMs on aft deck).


[edit on 3-5-2006 by planeman]



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 11:23 AM
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Seekerof

the RN won`t buy the Hornet ; IMO they will go for more Typhoons (RAF) and Rafale for the navy - a navalised Typhoon is just too much of a change for the airframe.



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 11:50 AM
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Originally posted by Seekerof
I suppose that Australia will look to buying the Rafale, as well, since of course, the UK may be considering such a move, Zion Mainframe?

seekerof

Well Australia recently decided to outsource maintainance of the F-111, but they still want to retire it, dispite heavy criticism from the air force.

I don't see the Brits modify the Typhoon into a carrier based version, as has been pointed out in other threads and by Harlequin, it's next to impossible with the tyhoon's airframe. Also even if they give it a try, they won't be able to put them into service before the JSF can, so dupming the JSF for navalised tyhoons is out of the question if you ask me.

The MoD does have a plan B, which accoring to official statements involves buying the Rafale. France's aircraft carriers are identical to the British ones so nothing about either the Rafale or Britains new carriers would have to be modified.

If the UK pulls out of the JSF program, you can bet other countries will do so too. The Aussies have been criticising the Americans over the program's delays and protectionism about sharing technical information, last couple of months. I haven't read any reports on indications Australia is interested in the Rafale, though and I'm sure there are more interesting fighters for them to buy, to replace the F-111's. The UK has no choise and much either buy the JSF or the Rafale



posted on May, 3 2006 @ 01:19 PM
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The reports of the UK being offered the Rafale were denied a little while after they came out.

Personally I'm in favour a "GR5" SLEP of the GR4s and increased momentum towards getting a UCAV platform into service. There's already some in the RAF in favour of getting a UCAV into service within the next decade, a little optimistic but the original FOAS ISD could still be achieved if the recently announced UCAV TDP is taken further into an operational system after it completes demonstration activity in 2010/2011.

I can’t see the RAF taking any F3s out of storage, or any other aircraft for that matter. I mean if we could afford to bring airframes out of storage and convert them to a new standard then we could have afforded to keep the GR3s in service. We just don’t have the money. It’s case of finding more money or cutting our losses and planning for the future.



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