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UK prepares for major F-35 decision

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posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 11:02 AM
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The UK MoD is preparing for the "Main Gate 4" decision, which will purchase their first squadron of F-35Bs. The Main Gate 4 decision is understood to cover around 14 aircraft. It's believed the MoD will ultimate purchase between 48 and 138 aircraft. The current commitment is for 48 aircraft, the final decision, or Main Gate 5, probably won't occur until 2017, after the Strategic Defense and Security Review scheduled for 2015.

Main Gate 4 will lead to the purchase, and operation of the first squadron, which will return to the UK in 2018, when they will receive land base clearance to operate. Interestingly, the RAF is taking a large role in the operations, with the Royal Navy, even though the aircraft will be operated off the Queen Elizabeth class carriers being built for the RN. The first aircraft will operate out of RAF Marham in Norfolk. As it stands now, 17 Squadron will reform in 2015 as a Operational Evaluation Unit at Edwards AFB, and 617 Squadron will reform as the first operational unit. Both will be joint RN and RAF personnel. The second operational squadron will be the first RN squadron.

Currently 3 F-35Bs belonging to the UK are operating at Eglin AFB, flown by both US and UK pilots. There are two UK pilots being trained as instructors (1 RN, 1 RAF), and 20 maintenance personnel there. Sometime next year (2014), the aircraft will move to Edwards for an operational evaluation. There are already UK personnel there waiting for them. New pilots will be trained in SC at the Marine flight training center in Beaufort SC.


The U.K. defense ministry is making the final preparations for purchasing its first squadron of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

After the £74 million ($114 million) government flip-flop, changing to the F-35C conventional carrier-borne version in 2010 and then reverting to the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant F-35B in 2012, officials are looking toward “Main Gate 4,” a procurement contract milestone that will not only buy the U.K.'s first squadron but also begin the transition toward operations. It is understood the order will be for around 14 F-35Bs.

Speaking at the Professional Engineering Institution's (PEI) annual defense lecture in July, Royal Navy Commo. Rick Thompson, the head of the Lightning II project team in the U.K.'s Defense Equipment & Support organization, said the first squadron of British aircraft should move back to the U.K. in 2018. At that time, they would begin trials with the first Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier with the aim of achieving an initial land-based operating capability in late 2018.

When the U.K. entered the program, it announced it would buy as many as 138 aircraft, although the commitment so far is for 48. A Main Gate 5 decision—due around 2017—is expected to approve the remaining balance of the first tranche of F-35 procurement. Thompson says no decisions would be taken before the next Strategic Defense and Security Review in 2015, in which officials are expected to firm up the final number of JSFs the U.K. will buy. He would not comment on whether the U.K. would purchase more than 48.

Source




posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 11:16 AM
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The MOD has had its head repeatedly up its own nether regions about these bloody planes for ages. At the moment we don't have anything that can fly off a carrier, other than helicopters. The men of the FAA who bombed the Italians at Taranto must be spinning in their graves right now...



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 11:22 AM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


I'm curious, is there any plane out there, that a NON-Nato country has that matches the f-35's capabilities?

My meaning being is there a need for the jet or is this trying to out pace non-existent competition?

Just saying in the day and age where "terror" is the enemy, or "rouge" nations like Syria or Iran... Is this the case of a jack hammer being used when a good ole hammer like f-18 could suit?
edit on 12-8-2013 by benrl because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 11:38 AM
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reply to post by benrl
 


Well that depends. If you're talking about the stealth aspects of it, then it's a flat out no. If you're talking about some of the other aspects of the mission, then there are aircraft out there that could perform them. One of the biggest things the F-35 has as an advantage over other aircraft that could do the mission is the sensor integration. The F-35 will have the most advanced sensors and sensor integration as any aircraft ever built.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 11:52 AM
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Originally posted by Zaphod58
reply to post by benrl
 


Well that depends. If you're talking about the stealth aspects of it, then it's a flat out no. If you're talking about some of the other aspects of the mission, then there are aircraft out there that could perform them. One of the biggest things the F-35 has as an advantage over other aircraft that could do the mission is the sensor integration. The F-35 will have the most advanced sensors and sensor integration as any aircraft ever built.


From a technology aspect I love all this stuff, the better these jets get the more crazy the future seems.

On the same token, I am sure the US mil/industry tech is so far out pacing actual threats its almost silly.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 11:53 AM
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reply to post by benrl
 


Oh, what you can imagine isn't even close to just the "not quite so classified" stuff that I've learned about. It's impressive how far ahead black projects are to what you and I use every day.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 12:01 PM
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Originally posted by Zaphod58
reply to post by benrl
 


Oh, what you can imagine isn't even close to just the "not quite so classified" stuff that I've learned about. It's impressive how far ahead black projects are to what you and I use every day.


Yep I can Imagine a lot, I was raised making models of "black projects" from testors, and reading Pop-sci field reports sighting at Area-51.

Every time I see a new jet, and how ridiculous its capabilities IE: shoot beyond the horizon, hell even a vtol craft faster than sound... I can't wait to see whats next.

But as I said, seems like we are preparing for an enemy that doesn't exist.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 12:16 PM
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reply to post by benrl
 


Well, one of the problems is that you have to look at the current status of the military. I can't speak for the UK, or other countries, but speaking for the US, thank god we have numbers on our side. If you look at the actual, honest to god status of forces, the US military is rapidly approaching the whole "What if you gave a war and only one side came" question again.

At one point earlier this year, there were three or four (of ten) carrier groups either deployed or ready to deploy. The rest were in for maintenance or refit. They could pull several out early, or get them done quickly, but that's sad that there was a 30-40% readiness rate.

The average age of aircraft in the Air Force is insane as well. With the exception of a few airframes, like the C-17, the C-130J, and the F-22, the planes flying are at least as old as their crews, and in some cases two or three times as old. The youngest B-52 is 60 years old.

Now there's talk about retiring the entire B-1 fleet to save money under sequestration. That would give us 20 bombers (20!!!!) capable of penetrating into opposing airspace. The F-15 is limited to around Mach 1, and 6Gs or so, the F-16 had at one point 25% with cracks between the wings and bulkheads, etc.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 12:27 PM
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Originally posted by Zaphod58
reply to post by benrl
 


Well, one of the problems is that you have to look at the current status of the military. I can't speak for the UK, or other countries, but speaking for the US, thank god we have numbers on our side. If you look at the actual, honest to god status of forces, the US military is rapidly approaching the whole "What if you gave a war and only one side came" question again.

At one point earlier this year, there were three or four (of ten) carrier groups either deployed or ready to deploy. The rest were in for maintenance or refit. They could pull several out early, or get them done quickly, but that's sad that there was a 30-40% readiness rate.

The average age of aircraft in the Air Force is insane as well. With the exception of a few airframes, like the C-17, the C-130J, and the F-22, the planes flying are at least as old as their crews, and in some cases two or three times as old. The youngest B-52 is 60 years old.

Now there's talk about retiring the entire B-1 fleet to save money under sequestration. That would give us 20 bombers (20!!!!) capable of penetrating into opposing airspace. The F-15 is limited to around Mach 1, and 6Gs or so, the F-16 had at one point 25% with cracks between the wings and bulkheads, etc.


Well the above is part of the reason for moving toward drone air craft, they are already testing next gen fighter drones, once those are up and operational you lose the squishy little 200 pounds that limit existing crafts flight characteristics.

Don't even get into drone A.I. they are taking steps toward an autonomous flight system.

We aren't there yet but we are well on the way to being there.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 12:30 PM
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reply to post by benrl
 


From what I've heard, a truly capable Air to Air UAV is many years away. The closest we are to autonomous flight is being able to detect and identify ground threats and avoid them. And even that's another 10 years away.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 12:42 PM
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Originally posted by Zaphod58
reply to post by benrl
 


From what I've heard, a truly capable Air to Air UAV is many years away. The closest we are to autonomous flight is being able to detect and identify ground threats and avoid them. And even that's another 10 years away.


Honestly, I highly doubt that, from a Civilian perspective being a hobbyist quad copter guy, and having programed arduno devices. I am pretty sure the leap is not as much as they'd like you to think, going back to the what they show verses what they have type of thing just extrapolating from what is ready available to civilian hands.

For things like interdiction and reconnaissance are probably well in the ability of "software", Id say we would have the abilities now, Fighter to fighter, not so much.

Have to remember Drones are controversial as is, imagine how bad it would be with an autonomous one, you even have the UN trying to ban the use of such. So from a political perspective its best to understate those capabilities, but now we are getting well off topic and I do not want to derail.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 12:50 PM
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reply to post by benrl
 


There's "autonomous" and there's "Autonomous". Right now we have UAVs that can fly to a set point, turn on a camera, turn it off at a set point, and fly back to a set point without intervention. But they require intervention to take off and land. For a UAV to be truly useful, and have a true combat capability, you need an Autonomous capability, where you can put a set number of targets, have the UAV define its own course to a target area, identify a target based on the images it has stored, and attack said target, without intervention. That capability is years away still. The Navy wants a helicopter UAV capable of identifying possible ground threats, and avoiding them, but they won't even start development of that capability until 2020 or later.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 03:53 PM
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Well it will certainly be interesting to see what their final say is on the purchase, but from what I've read they've basically promised to buy 'some'. Interesting thread, even more interested to see how the sales go through.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 04:29 PM
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Originally posted by benrl

Originally posted by Zaphod58
reply to post by benrl
 


Well that depends. If you're talking about the stealth aspects of it, then it's a flat out no. If you're talking about some of the other aspects of the mission, then there are aircraft out there that could perform them. One of the biggest things the F-35 has as an advantage over other aircraft that could do the mission is the sensor integration. The F-35 will have the most advanced sensors and sensor integration as any aircraft ever built.


From a technology aspect I love all this stuff, the better these jets get the more crazy the future seems.

On the same token, I am sure the US mil/industry tech is so far out pacing actual threats its almost silly.


The problem is if you stop you end up like the Russians having to restart its advanced weapons building from scratch. When the industry went dry all the skilled workes went on to other things and nobody new learned. They can design stuff but not build quality units of it in any numbers.



posted on Aug, 12 2013 @ 04:31 PM
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reply to post by Theprimevoyager
 


They've pretty much committed to 48 to date. The final numbers will be decided in a couple years after Theo defense review.



posted on Aug, 13 2013 @ 05:57 AM
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The RAF is currently lookingto retire the Tornado completely by 2019 and 617Sqn standing down in April next year will the start of this process, as Zap mentioned, they will become the first operational UK Lightning FG1/FGR1 squadron (we won't call it the F-35B).

We were looking at operating 5 Typhoon squadrons, but has recently been changed to 7 with the decision not to sell off our early build Typhoons but to upgrade them to Tranche 3 standard with full swing role capability,and keep them, this will represent the de facto Tornado replacement and under current plans I am aware of, we will purchase, or commit to purchase, only the 48 Lightnings currently being talked about.

It is said that this will allow the UK to maintain 12 'Frontline Elements At Readiness' which is a squadrons worth, but that these will carry two squadron number plates, 617 and 800. This is a sop to RN squadron identity and mirrors the RAF's current Sentry AEW1's flying as both 8 and 23 Sqn's.

Longer term there is speculation about further purchases of the F-35B, both to achieve the RAF's stated necessary minimum capability of 12 fast jet squadrons (we are currently at 8) or in replacing some or all of the Typhoons, but the RAF is being extremely resistant to this as it would render them with a single-type fast jet force, something they are openly against.
edit on 13-8-2013 by waynos because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 14 2013 @ 03:31 PM
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Originally posted by AngryCymraeg
The MOD has had its head repeatedly up its own nether regions about these bloody planes for ages. At the moment we don't have anything that can fly off a carrier, other than helicopters. The men of the FAA who bombed the Italians at Taranto must be spinning in their graves right now...


The longer the MOD put off the purchase, the better the idea they have of the IOC capability each plane will have - at the moment, it's still up in the air as to which avionics version will be shipped on delivery, as well as manouevering limitations.

The UK has guaranteed, negotiable reserved production slots, so we don't have to place orders early - whether we ordered them 4 years ago or if we order them in two years, we get them when we want them rather than slotting in around other people.

Aside from that, there is no version of reality where we would have a carrier or carrier capable aircraft beyond 2014 anyway - the Harriers were never to have been flown off the new carriers, nor the F-35s off the old carriers. There was always going to be a 5 to 10 year capability gap, that's not new.



posted on Sep, 12 2013 @ 08:54 PM
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The MoD has said they are sticking firm to plans to acquire the F-35. The plan to sign an order for their first operational squadron shortly, and are considering adding a fourth test aircraft to the three that are at Eglin AFB. The price per unit has dropped 55% since they ordered their first aircraft.

The second squadron, after 617 Squadron will be Fleet Air Arm 809 Naval Air Squadron, also based at Marham.

www.flightglobal.com...



posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 02:22 PM
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Some interesting comments from both the pilot and maintenance side of the UK group.




posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 02:22 PM
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Some interesting comments from both the pilot and maintenance side of the UK group.






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