Saturday, 22 July 2017
logo
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.
        



dv-header-dday
     |      View our Twitter page at twitter.com/defenceredbox     |     

defencenews

Feedback from tests at Boscombe Down recently confirms that from a handling perspective at least, the F-35B is simpler to fly than the Sea Harrier. A while back, the RN test pilot took the ex-skipper of Illustrious (a submariner) for a ride, even he could land it on the ship! The Ďhands-on throttle and stickí control is a delight. The software works!

Two pilots (one an ex-RAN A4 / RN transfer Sea Harrier pilot was at RAE Farnborough during the 90s comparative aircraft performance & assessment phase; the other an ex-Vixen, F4, Top Gun exchange instructor í77-Ď78 and Sea Harrier air warfare instructor in the 80s, inc. Falklands air defence planner/strategy on Hermes was JSF Proj Mgr at Boscombe Down until retirement in 2008) summarised the F-18E/F vs F-35B argument as: ¬¬¬†All the right issues re. combat/strike capability, endurance, self-defence, weapons bring-back, avionics, datalinks, comms, etc., etc. were investigated in great depth, but the real differentiator was its Ďyou canít see meí capability.


The argument for early F-18 lease, followed by F-35B buy has merit on several grounds, e.g. skills retention, cost and UK budget re-allocation from GR4 & Typhoon support. Such an approach would also have enabled cross-deck operations with USN and French carriers from the outset and a retained capability once F-35B is at sea. This would be a useful asset.


The biggest gripe is the lack of MoD grip on the whole CVF project and the absence of any real competitive alternative to BAE Systems, to "keep them honest". From a workshare perspective, Thales designed the ship and Lockheed Martin have the ship/air interface solutions, but it wasnít enough.

¬¬†

The high cost, software & engine reliability, among many other issues remain to be resolved before we can say with any certainty that we have the right aircraft for the job, if itís not too late, i.e. Europe/NATO hasnít already been found wanting in the face of expansionist ambitions from the East.

¬¬†

All of which raises the much broader question of a coherent UK foreign and defence policy/strategy and the essential industrial strategy to support it. Right now, there seems to be little evidence of anything that would resemble such a description, at a time when we need it most. SDSR may be around the corner, but show me any mature serviceman who believes that current wrongs will be put right and the UK will maintain 2% GDP defence spending from 2016, I'll eat another hat!


David Brocklebank is a former Royal Navy air traffic controller

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Cookies
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Defence Viewpoints website. However, if you would like to, you can modify your browser so that it notifies you when cookies are sent to it or you can refuse cookies altogether. You can also delete cookies that have already been set. You may wish to visit www.aboutcookies.org which contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of desktop browsers. Please note that you will lose some features and functionality on this website if you choose to disable cookies. For example, you may not be able to link into our Twitter feed, which gives up to the minute perspectives on defence and security matters.