Monday, 18 November 2019
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air power

Articles taken from Flight International magazine.

1st October: F-35 grounded to fix new software problem
Lockheed Martin has grounded the F-35 to fix a newly-discovered software problem that can cause a fuel boost pump to shut down in flight.

The manufacturer announced the grounding order only a few hours after releasing a statement saying the F-35 was restricted from operating above 10,000ft (3,050m) because of the same problem.

7th October: F-35s resume flight operations, but problems persist
A software glitch grounded the Lockheed Martin F-35 test fleet for at least four days and the short take-off and vertical landing mode remains barred due to an unresolved mechanical problem.

Lockheed lifted a grounding order on 5 October after installing a software fix that prevents a BAE Systems-supplied fuel boost pump system from potentially failing in flight. The grounding order was announced on 1 October, but F-35s had not flown since 28 September.

The F-35B STOVL fleet has been cleared to resume conventional flights, and Lockheed officials expect the type to resume tests shortly.

7th October: New Dutch government to retain JSF commitment
The Netherlands' new coalition government is expected to maintain the nation's commitment to the test phase of Lockheed Martin's F-35 programme, although a decision on whether the type will replace its Lockheed F-16s will not be made for several more years.

8th October: Israel signs $2.75bn agreement for 20 F-35s
The letter of offer and acceptance for the supply of 20 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters to the Israeli air force was signed in New York on 7 October.

8th October: Lockheed gets funds for UK F-35 landing modification
Lockheed Martin has received a $13 million contract to incorporate a shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL) capability with the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B, with the work to be performed on behalf of the UK.

14th October: Israel's F-35 engine selection in dispute between rival manufacturers
An announced engine selection for Israel's first batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters has sparked a new dispute between both rival manufacturers.

Pratt & Whitney says the company has received a verbal commitment by Israel to buy the F135 engine to power the first batch of 20 F-35s ordered under a $2.75 billion agreement signed last week.

The General Electric/Rolls-Royce team developing the F136 alternate engine claims the selection process remains ongoing. "We fully anticipate we will have an opportunity to compete with the F136" in Israel, GE says.

19th October: P&W details success with F135 engine STOVL tests
Pratt & Whitney has completed a key test in the process to clear the initial service release for the short take-off and vertical landing version of the F135 engine powering the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

 

An Analysis of the Chief of Staff of the United States' Air Force Speech to the 2010 RAF Air Power Conference, 18 June 2010

I E Shields, Cambridge University

The United Kingdom Government's Strategic Defence and Security review ("SDSR") is nearly upon us, and although rightly the Review will be mostly inward-looking, we no longer operate in isolation but in coalitions, primarily with the United States. What might this most important ally be looking for from us? In terms of the RAF we might have some clues. At this year's RAF Air Power Conference, held in London on 17 18 June 2010 under the overall heading "Meeting the Challenge", General "Norty" Schwartz, the present Chief of Staff of the United States' Air Force (CSAF), gave the keynote address under the title "Adaptable Air and Space Power for the 21st Century" . A review of his speech, looking for pointers as to what the USAF might be looking for from the RAF in the future is instructive.

The General's speech contained, in my analysis, three core themes: the character of the present conflict; the need for coalitions; and the roles of Air and Space Power. Before considering each in turn and what it might mean for the RAF, it is worth examining his opening comments. He started by drawing a distinction between what is effectively the nature of Air Power, that which is unchanging ("speed, range, flexibility and versatility") and its present employment, which is subject to the vagaries of the nature of the conflict and the technology of the day ("tailorable, timely and precise effects"). This, Schwartz suggests, requires military strategists to always be attuned to current realities and trends. Herein lies, I suggest, a hint that the view presented of the conflict in Afghanistan will set the template for some time; if that is indeed his intent then this has marked implications for the USAF and (potentially) hence for the RAF. The CSAF then highlighted the present fiscal constraint and suggests that all air forces face a particular challenge at present due to the confluence of complexity, uncertainty and austerity an analysis with which few would disagree.

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has  recently announced the next steps on a number of projects. These announcements build on the package of adjustments to the Defence Programme announced to the House on 15th December 2009. The projects include:

An interim Partnering Agreement with MBDA (UK) Ltd to take forward the Government's strategy for the UK's Complex Weapons sector as originally set out in the Defence Industrial Strategy.  The Agreement builds on the successful Team Complex Weapons Assessment Phase that commenced in July 2008.  The MoD has placed a contract valued at 330 million to demonstrate and manufacture both the Fire Shadow Loitering Munition which will be able to be used in operations by the British Army in Afghanistan and, using a development of the current Brimstone anti-armour weapon, the second element of the Selective Precision Effects at Range (SPEAR) programme for use by the RAF on Harrier GR7 and Tornado GR4 including on current operations.  The contract also includes further work on the Future Local Area Air Defence System and on future components of the SPEAR programme.

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By Andrew Mok

The latest round of cost increases and delays for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme brings further ill tidings for the UK's replacement for the carrier-based Harrier: the F-35B. Last week, a report from the Pentagon to the Congress officially declared a critical "Nunn-McCurdy breach," which means that the average unit costs have grown more than 50% since 2002. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates told the Congress on March 30 that despite previous "overly rosy" cost estimates, he was confident the latest set of cost increases will also be the final ones. In the UK, the Chief of Defence Materiel, General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue, told the Commons Defence Committee that after 2015, F-35 deliveries "will come off quickly" in line with the completion of the new Queen Elizabeth class carriers. These assurances, however, seem very optimistic as well because of a high risk of further delays and cost overruns. Along with uncertainty about when the fighter will actually become operational, the rising costs mean the UK's MoD may wind up with less carrier-based fighters than originally planned. Or perhaps it may wind up with a different plane than the F-35B. And that could be quite a wise decision.

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The following is a brief overview of notable developments over the last year regarding the assembly of the Royal Navy's biggest ships.

7 JULY 2009
Ceremonial steel cutting.
A major milestone was achieved when the Princess Royal performed the first cutting of steel on HMS Queen Elizabeth. The ceremony took place at BAES' facility in Govan and was attended by hundreds of dignitaries from the Armed Forces, politicians from Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, members and employees of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, industry stakeholders as well as employees and some apprentices from BAE and Babcock.

AUGUST 2009
First shipment from Babcock's shipyard in Appledore.

The first sponson units were successfully delivered from Appledore to Rosyth, this being the first shipment for the Queen Elizabeth Class from Appledore. The sponson units make up the overhanging upper hull structure.

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Today (15 Sept), two Tupolev TU 160 bombers (NATO codename Blackjack) are expected to overfly Cuba.

They are taking part in a training exercise which saw the aircraft's first-ever transatlantic flight and first-ever landing outside the former Soviet Union.

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On the 23rd February Parliament set the maximum numbers of personnel to be maintained for service with the Armed Forces during the year ending 31st March 2011. The figures break down accordingly:

Service Regular Reserves Total
Royal Navy/Marines 42,550 19,205 61,755
Army 124,030 97,355 221,385
Royal Air Force 47,400 13,680 61,080



The total combined number of Armed Forces personnel expected to be in service during the financial year ending 2011 stands at 344,020.

A number of observations can be made from these figures. In terms of the regular Armed Forces, the combined total represents an extremely modest increase in personnel compared to the previous year. By 2011, it is anticipated that 213,980 regular personnel will be serving in the Armed Forces, compared with 212,430 in 2010.

By comparison, the number of reserves anticipated to be serving with the Armed Forces is much more alarming. The combined total of reserves anticipated to be in service for the year ending 2011 is 130,240. This figure represents a continuation of the decline of reserves since the beginning of the 21st Century. According to The Military Balance, the number of reserves within the Armed Forces throughout the decade was:

Year Total
2000 302,850
2001 247,100
2002 256,750
2003 272,550
2004 272,550
2005 272,550
2006 241,520
2007 199,280
2008 199,280
2009 199, 280

One of the key messages of Andrew Murrison MP's Sixty Second Soundbite is that the reserves have played a significant part in operations in the not-so-distant and will continue to do so in the future. Whilst the Ministry of Defence may dispute The Military Balance's figures, the declining number of reserves is likely to impact on the scope of all future operations, including the regular Armed Forces.

Andrew Murrison MP on the changing role for reservists and the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.

 

By Thomas French

As the wrangling begins in the Britain's new coalition government over the depth and breadth of the necessary cuts to the troubled public purse, amongst the 'big ticket items' often cited as a possible victims are the two new UK aircraft carriers.

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Almost from the beginning, the elephant on the flight deck has been the aircraft. And this commentator has been muttering for years to anyone who will listen get the hulls in the water, whatever. And nothing much has changed, except the growing certainty that something will have to give under the Treasury's financial cosh.

So maybe a little recapitulation is in order. The vast proportion of the world's population lives within 200 miles of the littoral. So the application of airpower in the absence of friendly bases, available at the point of need, continues to require the aircraft carrier.

In the 1960's CVA, a new generation UK aircraft carrier, was spiked by the dark arts of the RAF (some talk of them shifting Australia 1000 miles closer to Britain) and H M Treasury. Nevertheless, some smart thinking by the Royal Navy and British aeronautical inventiveness saw the "through deck cruiser" for "anti submarine operations in the North Atlantic" turning into a fleet of 3 mini-carriers bearing harriers. Still in service, they enabled the Falklands to be reclaimed by the longest distance ever amphibious operation almost entirely unsupported by land based aircraft.

Fast forward to the nineties. Carrier based air power having proven itself repeatedly, the Strategic Defence Review of the then-new Labour government came down firmly for expeditionary warfare capability and a new generation of carriers. These were to be of an adaptable design capable of accommodating cats and traps if needs be. There was a brief flowering of interest by the French in the design, and real money even changed hands.

The Iraq War and Afghanistan reinforced the carrier case. The CVF rumbled onwards. A Thales design was put into an arranged marriage with BAE Systems' manufacturing colossus. 2 billion was given to the cousins for a place at the top table of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. For which a goodly divided may be received in good time. It is said that the aircraft options are reviewed annually. But those on the sideline still raise an eyebrow at the STOVL version, yoked to the U S Marines Corps. Their lobbying power is legendary but in terms of the mission and possibly the unit cost the US Navy version is surely superior.

Then there is this observer's hobbyhorse. Those 232 Eurofighters. Second best dogfighter in the world to be sure, fearsome with BVRAAM Meteor. But 232. Come on. We understand all about treaties and tying down the Germans. So what about a bit of lateral thinking? We're stuck with tem. We're even looking at mud moving. How much would BAE Systems have to be bunged to marinise them? Probably a lot less than JSF as yet unpaid for, and in pounds rather than dollars too.

A previous UK Defence Forum paper has shown that the power to weight ratio exceeds that of the Harrier. So taking off across a ski jump, especially one at the end of the flight deck as long as the Palace of Westminster sounds feasible. Indeed, there are rumours of trials of just such a concept at a private northern airfield. And Eurofighter has a vestigial tail hook already. Sure it wouldn't be cheap in absolute terms within the treaty Class of 232 rather than something new is surely worth sacrificing a notional first day of the war capability for. Especially when we could only conceivably fight an enemy where such capabilities were required in concert with the USA. And where our submarine launched stand off missiles have already shown we can do our bit in that regard during previous unpleasantness's.

Mr Darling, Mr Osborne and even in his dreams Dr Cable are no doubt whetting their knives for the carrier programme. But there are fringe benefits they shouldn't neglect. There's a huge amount of manufacturing work - already more than 700 million of contracts have been flagged - and none of it is subject to European competition rules. It's a mini-quantitative easing that helps the regions but pales into insignificance in the face of 200 billion of bond purchases to boost the City of London.

Some would say the Royal Navy has acted like a chump in sacrificing swathes of the surface fleet to keep the carriers in the programme - with still no guarantee that they'll get them. Surely the hit to have taken was always on their cost, and hence the details of the spec. What's wrong with a couple of "bird farms" when you have a brace of T45 cruisers in each task group? The battle can be commanded from there rather than from the biggest target in the pack (their control centre being bigger and more capable than the existing carriers), and if the unthinkable were to happen a chopper could pop the admiral onto a carbon copy within minutes.

The Prince of Wales as a replacement for HMS Ocean? In extremis, go for it. They can work miracles in the UK's refit yards when the dosh is available and better sense prevails.

Ah for the good old days. We want eight and we won't wait. The two we were promised would be a start. Then a couple more T45s and a decent class of FSCs. Britannia might not rule the waves unaided any more, but we should be able to put on a decent show of flying the flag!

Editor's Note : the opinions expressed in the article are not those of Willie Rennie MP

{qtube vid:=kj0VPCtaBIs w:=280 h:=233 b:=0 ap:=0 rel:=0}
Willie Rennie MP on the need for Carriers

 

by Mike Burleson

If you thought the recent knife fights over the F-22 Raptor fighter cancellation was tough, you haven't seen anything comparable as the massive Joint Strike Fighter program implodes under the weight of immense costs in the next decade. At least, that is yours truly's prediction, as all the signs of disaster on a colossal scale, dare I say Biblical proportions, of this likely the most costly and important international weapons venture in all history. Listen to Winslow Wheeler's take in the Huffington Post:

"A financial disaster? How can that be? Visiting the F-35 plant in Fort Worth, Texas last August, Secretary of D Robert Gates assured us that the F-35 will be "less than half the price ... of the F-22." In a narrow sense, Gates is right. At a breathtaking $65 billion for 187 aircraft, the F-22 consumes $350 million for each plane. At $299 billion for 2,456, the F-35 would seem a bargain at just $122 million each.

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