If you look at the numbers for the buy, the Navy has the fewest (really
few), then the Marines, then the Air Force. I'm speculating that JSF
won't make it at all for a number of reasons - mainly being the lead
time it will take to field it, and the fact that there are several
viable alternatives in the marketplace NOW. And then there's the
growing spectrum of UCAVs...
Not to mention that the project is heavily dependent upon foreign
sales/participation - it was an X program and not a Y program; Y
programs are Congressionally mandated and funded, X programs are far
easier to cancel if required...and that's an indicator. All it would
take is for any of the foreign operators to pull out and choose to spend
their money on Typhoon, Grippen, Super Hornet, Falcon, or F-15E (or
Mig-29, or Su-27...) in order to meet immediate need and that would be that.
...if they build it. It's not that I'm not a fan, it could go either
way, but I just can't see the where the money is going to come from in
the end game. So from a purely business/cost standpoint, I'm skeptical
I can't blame you, and that just strengthens my point - you were the
second largest portion of the buy. But as heavily invested in Typhoon
as the Brits (and their EU partners) are I'd have a hard time seeing the
funds available for buying JSF. It's more than likely time for the
current VSTOL jet fleet to just sunset anyway, just like it was time for
A navalised Typhoon is being touted as an alternative to the F-35,
especially as the forthcoming Queen Elizabeth class carriers are said to be
large enough to operate CATOBAR aircraft. Rather than having the balls to
honestly say that they would prefer to give the work to BAe rather than
Lockheed Martin, the mealy-mouthed MOD is kicking up a fuss about
Personally, I doubt whether the QE carriers will ever be built.
As for the naval VSTOL fleet, its capability has already been badly
degraded. The Harriers in use no longer have any long-range air-to-air
capability as the GR7s and GR9s do not carry radar. The Sea Harrier F/A2s
which were used for air defence were withdrawn and replaced by... er...
well... nothing. The British fleet currently relies on shipboard SAMs and
ground-attack Harriers with Sidewinders. Pathetic.
Yeah - the "technology transfer" argument was used to kill the F-20 on
this side of the pond, re: the engine...Congress said "we'll sell you
the airplane, but we won't sell you the engine". Which makes me laugh,
because that F-20 engine tech is now onboard Gripen under license...
Sounds like the same old story...but with a British accent. I guess
some political games are universal.
I'd been around Harrier operations and training long enough to realize a
long time ago that trying to turn a Harrier into a "fighter" of any
stripe is a complete waste of effort - yeah, it's one of the best close
air support and/or attack aircraft of all time, but it's not a fighter
and never will be...and interceptor, hmmmnnn...maybe. It's advantage is
in-close, and everything in a fighter pilot's approach is NOT to get
in-close...shoot 'em as quickly as possible, or make 'em turn around,
but avoid having to merge.
I hadn't thought about RM and RN Fleet need...yeah, I suppose they do
need something...and right now, as I've pointed out. I'd think a
two-seat, navalized Gripen might make a pretty interesting sort of
interceptor. I'm sort of developing the opinion that VSTOL, like
stealth, is also becoming highly over-rated...
On the contrary... during the Falklands War, the Sea Harrier was used as a
pure interceptor. Old-fashoned dogfights were specifically avoided. The Sea
Harrier may well have been able to prevail against Mirages and Daggers in a
turning fight, but the pilots of these aircraft avoided combat as far as
possible. The Argentine A-4s were a different kettle of fish. They would no
doubt have caused major problems for the Sea Harriers in a turning fight.
Luckily, all the Argentine aircraft were operating at the limits of their
endurance and so their pilots were concentrating on getting in, delivering
their ordnance and getting the hell out.
As far as I'm aware the only non-missile engagement by a Sea Harrier was a
gun kill on a C-130.
Can you back up here Enzo. You and Rufus seem to be making the point
that a VSTOL fleet concept is obsolete right ? Then Rufus states his
" the Harrier in not a fighter " stuff. I point out that the Harrier
kicked ass in the Falklands. And then you seem to poo poo the
Harriers relevance in the Falklands war.
Am I right so far ?
Let's look at the Harriers record in the Falklands.
( following quotes from a Falklands war site )
...had the British not had aircraft with the capabilities of the
Harrier (V/STOL, high reliability, and high availability)
and the two small ships to operate them, it is unlikely the United
Kingdom would have committed itself to hostilities in the South
Atlantic. The Harrier aircraft performed a variety of missions in the
South Atlantic, but the interceptor role gained the aircraft its
acclaim. Accounts of the number of enemy aircraft destroyed vary
between 20 and 31 but equally importantis the large number of enemy
sorties broken up before they reached British forces. It is safe to
say the aircraft played a significant role in reducing the Argentine
air threat to the battle group.
The British had reason to be confident in their aircraft. In simulated
combat, kill ratios of 2:1 had been claimed by 899 squadron against
the U.S. Air Force F-5E and ratios above 1:1 over the F-15 and F-16.
The 28 Sea Harriers flew more than 1,200 sorties in 44 days and
achieved an exceptionally high availability rate -- almost 90
percent. In air-to-air combat the Sea Harriers destroyed at least
twenty aircraft (16 with the Sidewinder
air-to-air missile), four with ADEN 30mm cannon.
I don't believe the VSTOL fleet concept was *ever* relevant. I have been
around Harriers long enough to know that although vertical tak-poff looks
good at air shows, it is absolutely useless for operations. STOVL is a
different kettle of fish, however. The short take-off roll, combined with a
ski-jump allows a decent payload to be carried. The STOVL concept still has
a lot of relevance in a fleet role.
Sadly, the only operational aircraft that currently operate in this role -
Harriers - are obsolete. In my opinion Harriers were only ever marginally
suitable for operations in the first place. The Harrier is effectively a
test-bed with military equipment strapped on to the outside. If anything
ever goes wrong with it, some item of armament equipment (usually gun pods,
centreline pylon and ehection seat) has to be removed to afford access.
That's not a good design for a military aircraft.
The Harrier airframe was/is not a good fighter. It bleeds off energy far too
quickly. During the 1980s, RAF tactics in Germany were to put up a four-ship
package of Harrier GR3s. Three of the aircraft would carry a warload
suitable for the mission. The fourth was known as the "Stinger". This jet
would carry a single Winder on one outboard pylon with a Phimat chaff pod on
the other. The Stinger would be placed in a random position in the
formation. His job was to "protect" the others, but he was really only there
as deterrence - any attacking aircraft could never be sure which jet had the
The Stinger was always flown by an experienced pilot and the intention was
not for him to actually engage any threatening aircraft, but for him to put
himself into a threatening posture whenever an enemy fighter approached one
of his formation. This required a lot of discipline and so the job was given
to the more older, more experienced jockeys. This was explained to me once
by a very experienced Squadron Leader. "The Jet isn't a fighter," he said.
"But you can't tell these kids that. Give 'em a Winder and strap a bang seat
to their arse and they all think they're bloody Maverick. God forbid it
should ever come to the real thing, 'cos they'll try mixing it with a Mig
and they'll die. I wouldn't even mix it with a bloody Alpha Jet."
I asked him about VIFFing - Vectoring In Forward Flight, where the pilot
vectors the nozzles to allow the jet to stand still in the skies. He said
"Viffing is only good for airshows." His argument was that in air combat
the way to survive is to keep your energy high. If you have low energy you
should always unload the aircraft (dive at a shallow angle which reduces the
load on the wings and allows speed to be regained) and disengage. He said
that viffing instantly gave the aircraft *zero* energy. It may get you out
of a tight spot with a single attacking fighter, but they always hunt in
pairs. After the viff, you would be stationary and his wingman would waltz
right in and kill you. He was of the opinion that the wingman wouldn't even
need to use any weapons for the kill - a fast pass in afterburner would
produce enough turbulence to knock the Harrier off its exhaust column. There
was also a concern that viffing at high speed might actually tear some of
the older jets apart.
The Harrier's best survival methods were low-level concealment and
avoidance. This was practiced all the time. Three times a year we used to go
to "Deci" in Sardinia. Once was for Armament Practice Camp (APC) which
allowed extensive bombing and gunnery practice on the Capo Frasca range. The
other two times were for ACMI - air combat training on the Air Combat
Maneuvering Instrumentation range. The intention here was to let the kids
loose with a Harrier that had been stripped down to its lightest
configuration (no guns), fitted with a acquisition Winder and ACMI pod and
put them up against F-15s. After four days of continually getting creamed
by real fighters, they learned that there was no way they would ever survive
such an encounter. They could then learn the real tactics of fighter
avoidance. At the start of the ACMI they considered a "kill" by one of their
side as a successful sortie. At the end of the detachment they considered a
sortie where none of their own was killed to be successful.
As for the Harrier's relevance in the Falklands, it was simply the only
aircraft that was available. The Harrier GR3s did a very good job because
they were carrying out the role for which they were designed, close air
support. The Sea Harriers also did a good job which was down to using
correct tactics. As I've mentioned before, they were employed as
interceptors, not fighters. The SHAR pilots were under strict orders *not*
to get involved in dogfights. In the event the Argentine pilots weren't
interested in mixing it either, as they were at the limits of their
endurance. However, if a couple of the A-4 pilots *had* decided to have a
go, I think that the SHAR pilots would have found themselves in trouble very
Don't believe everything you read. The Harriers used in the Falklands were
*not* reliable. The strange thing about a Harrier is that once you get it
flying, if you keep it flying it stays serviceable. Once they put their
wheels on the deck, if you get the thing airborne again within half an hour,
you can keep running that cycle all day and the jet will stay serviceable.
However, let the jet settle and it all goes pear shaped. The GR3s were
flying two missions a day and so they suffered some immense reliability
After the Falklands War there was a major modification programme instituted
throughout the RAF Harrier fleet. Known as "Phase 6" it was in part an
attempt to address the reliability problems of the aircraft. By the time
GR3s were withdrawn in the early 90s, they had become far more reliable than
they had been ten years before, but they still had the highest maintenance
manhour rate of any combat aircraft in the RAF.
My sources tell me that Typhoon is currently approaching similar manhour
rates as the Harrier GR3 - almost 25% higher than that of the Jaguar which
it replaced. So much for progress..
That's really all that needed to be said on the subject Enzo. 1982
was along time ago. Maybe if the British had kept the Ark Royal and
conventional fixed-wing aircraft operations, the Falklands war might
have gone a bit better for them.
How this all ties in with the JSF I really don't know.
Care to elaborate ?
I personally could care less if the UK buys the JSF ... or Joint
Combat Aircraft as they are calling it.
I've read four very good books about the Falklands War, Max Hasting's book is
one, another the name of which escapes at the moment plus 2 of the Osprey
books Air and Sea. I have a fair amount of interest in this action, it was
probably the last WWII style battle we will see. I have great love and
admiration for the British Bulldog and the courage and determination of all
involved. I even have respect for the Argentine pilots, they performed very
well under the circumstances and bravely even if thier leadership was corrupt
and stupid - misjudging Thatcher and though I can't remember details just now
there seems a number of military missteps that nade the Brits job easier.
It has also inspired my Falklands collection - a large box of Falklands
themed models - Harriers, helos, Argentine aircraft, british ships and some
That said, the loss of the Atlantic Conveyor with embarked equipment and
aircraft (I'd love to do a diorama of the flight deck with the containers
stacked around it) was a very serious setback. It could be argued that had
there been a "big deck" carrier with Phantoms providing a continuous CAP with
their improved radars the Mirage would never have gotten that close. The
Brits were fortunate in that the Exocet was spoofed sufficiently to not
engage the carrier, that loss might been crippling, certainly worse than AC's
loss, from a morale perspective.
Just my opinion,
My recall of the sea conditions around that time is that they were
atrocious, certainly beyond the limits required for operations of F-4s.
Standard practice for recovery of the Harriers had them alighting at the
stern of the carrier. In view of the sea conditions that was changed to have
them alight amidships where the deck movement was minimised. .
I don't think so. The Argentine leadership badly needed a propaganda victory
to bolster their position at home. The occupation of the Falklands could
have supplied just that. The Argentines were convinced that Britain didn't
have the resolve to fight a war so far out of area and also thought that the
US would put pressure on the UK to stop any military response.
The leadership had badly misjudged the British resolve to defend their
territory and also the support of the British allies. They rightly surmised
that the formation of a fleet to liberate the Falklands would have taken a
lot of assets away from NATO at a time when they were badly needed, but they
hadn't counted on the NATO allies to pull out all the stops to fill the
places left by British forces deployed Down South. Even non-NATO allies
helped. The RAF C-130s which were allocated to transport duties within the
NATO area were replaced by Australian and New Zealand C-130s and crews!
It wouldn't have mattered Enzo. The mere existence of a fixed-wing carrier
would have deterred the Argies from invading in the first place. When the
Argentine carrier visited Portsmouth a few years earlier their tob brass
scoffed at a flight demonstration by Harrier pilots. It was a plane they
never took seriously before the war.
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