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Armchair Admiral

I would like to say that although the aircraft is the dogs bo##ocks, the rest of it seems to be the dogs dinner. It does seem incomprehensible in this day and age for such a sophisticated fighter to have a 65% availability. Yes there’s more stuff in it, but this stuff should be in itself reliable.
As for supremely capable, well, not for the UK with no advanced (will probably be 20 year old) weapons to put on it, Spear3 or Meteor.
Will we have the same situation as for Tranche 1 vs Tranche 3 Typhoons whereby the Block IV F35 is a different animal and will only ever have AMRAAM and dumb bombs as it’s too costly to update?.


As for supremely capable, well, not for the UK with no advanced (will probably be 20 year old) weapons to put on it, Spear3 or Meteor”

Not sure what you mean there. When Block IV arrives the UK F-35B will have the most advanced and newest WVR missile in the world, Asraam Block VI, the most advanced BVR missile in the world, Meteor, the most advanced mini-cruise missile, Spear (not Spear 3, thats the Programme name…), and a decent LGB in Paveway IV. With the potential for Spear-EW to also arrive, again a top end capability…we’ll also have brand new Amraam D-3.

Granted the UK’s weapon choices will be limited when it comes to A2G munitions. But so will everyone elses. The only extra munitions the US will field at that time will be JDAM and GBU-12 (which are both unpowered guided bombs like Paveway IV), SDB1, SDB2 Stormbreaker (a Spear like weapon with inferior range) and JSOW, a weapon that the US Navy is beginning to move away from.

The only advantage the US has over the UK, and to be fair I think we should buy some from them, is that both JDAM and SDB1 are dirt cheap…

JASSM may arrive by 2030, but then we’re gettting close to the arrival of the all new FCASW weapon for the UK.

At present it is unknown if JSM will get integrated to F-35B. It won’t arrive before 2027 either way…

Armchair Admiral

…which is my point…until block IV arrives.
Spear is the overall program name, Selective Precision effects at range, this covers several capabilities, one of which is 3, the mini cruise missile everyone calls Spear3. Spear capability 4 is Stormshadow and so on.


You didn’t mention ‘until Block IV arrives’..
What do you think Amraam D-3 is?

No-one calls Storm Shadow ‘Spear 4’ or FCASW ‘Spear 5’ or Paveway IV ‘Spear 1’….so why would you call MBDA Spear…. ‘SPEAR 3’….


Spear-3 is the program name. As of today, it still does not have an official name.


Yes it does.
MBDA name it…


As far as I am aware, if F35A gets JSM, so does the B. Except external only, whereas the A can be internal or external or both. Japan will be one annoyed customer if the B does not get JSM. JSM itself is being funded by Norway & Australia. Add in the UK missiles & diplomatically, things start becoming difficult if LM don’t deliver what it’s supposed to on Block IV.


All drop trials and fit trials to date have been exclusively from the bomb bays, with no news or data suggesting that exterior pylon trials are part of the current funded integration effort.
Japan is mainly using the A variant. Their interest in the B is post their interest in the JSM.
JSM is a US/Norway funded effort. Australia is merely developing a passive RF sensor for it. They have also not ordered the missile yet….


The U.K. bought the latest version of AMRAAM for the F35. This is a very much improved product over the early versions.


The £22m figure to upgrade is only for BK-03, the oldest UK Combat capable F-35B. BK-03 will be15 years old when its time to upgrade. She is 5 years older than any other UK combat capable F-35B.

The remainder of the fleet will not cost £22m per aircraft, so to be polite….. the speculated figure of £1bn is total bollocks…

Every aircraft pre Lot 15 will need the TR3 upgrade. But we do not at present know what standard the fleet will be upgraded to. The hope must be that, like the USMC, we upgrade to Lot 17 standard across the board, which is Block IV with additional EW enhancements including more aerials.


Dont forget the TR3 doesnt include other hardware/software: new Raytheon Distributed Aperture System ADS- which ‘sees’ in 360 deg around aircraft. Also being upgraded is the EOTS, the electro optical targeting system.

The UK is on record for saying that not all the early airframes will be updated, I reckon it could be up to 10 units ( which would cost the most)


The DAS upgrade is already accounted for and funded in MoD budgeting.
The Advanced EOTS upgrade has not been contracted by anyone yet.
Only BK-03 is in the really expensive category for upgrade. That might get it moved to the test fleet alone. The remainder will not be that expensive to do.


I think it’s essential that we fit a proper stand off anti-ship and land attack missile such as the JSM to at least half of the F35 fleet.

Spear has a range of 80 miles and given we have no carrier embarked air-to-air refuelling capability and the F35 has no drop tanks, then it requires the carrier to be dangerously close to a hostile coast or warship to launch a strike.

Indeed, I’m not sure what Spear is other than a job creation scheme. Too large and expensive to be used against low value targets and too short range to be used against high value targets which are protected by area defence SAM systems and/or fighter jets.


Spear has a range of 80 miles”

Spear range is >120nm

“F35 has no drop tanks”

F-35 drop tanks are on the latest USMC roadmap. They’re on the way…

“Too large and expensive to be used against low value targets and too short range to be used against high value targets which are protected by area defence SAM systems and/or fighter jets.”

Too large??? Its one of the smallest air to ground munitions around….
Too short ranged??? Compared to what? 120+nm range is up there in the top 1% of air to ground munitions.


I think you will find that Spear 3 has a range > 120km, not 120nm.


I’ll think you’ll find that if you look at the specific fuel consumption of the chosen turbo fan and fuel volume available within Spear that 120nm range is actually at the lower end of the range estimates….

Ask yourself this rather obvious question…

The Raytheon Stormbreaker (SDB2) is exactly the same size and shape as MBDA Spear, but has a warhead at least twice as large, but with no propulsion, its glide only….and yet its range is 110km+….

Now ask yourself if you really believe Spear has a range of only 10km more…then go and do the maths…


Western arms manufactures and militaries never give the actual range or capability…it’s always going to be greater than publishes. Some other nations aways over egg their weapons capability..


Thats launched at maximum height and favourable higher altitude winds and direct flight not a changing flight path.
‘Useful range’ is likely to be a lot less from lower altitudes – to avoid possible missile search radars


Go and look at the SFC of the turbofan selected and the fuel volume available…it tells you all you need to know…


that will be SFC , likely from on ground test cell. Can be less when used an actual airframe
For SPEAR Cap 3
The propulsion is also fundamental in order to achieve the range of at least 100 km that the British MOD wants. SDB is a 45 nautical miles glide weapon, while the UK MOD and MBDA believe they can achieve north of 62 nautical miles for SPEAR.’


Well they have achieved north of 62 miles….by around double that…


Any source for that , other than using SFC figures from ground test of the little turbofan?


Let’s sat that your 120 mile range is correct. That’s still around 200 miles shorter than the range for the JSM. That means that the carrier has to be 200 miles closer to the target (a potentially hostile ship or shoreline) to use Spear than to use JSM. The closer the carrier to hostile forces the greater the risk to it which was my original point.

John Hartley

Between the carriers & the F-35B, the UK has spent many billions, yet can only put a few weapons on target. This combo only becomes potent when the F-35B gets an anti ship missile & a heavy stand off weapon, probably under the wings. The limited range of the F-35B also needs drop tanks. A few CMV-22B to keep contact with friendly bases when far out to sea, would be good.


Excellent points


The drop tanks and cruise missiles will come but the CMV-22 is way way to much money for a bit of utility.

Supportive Bloke

The drop tanks are only any use where there is AAR?

Otherwise the planes exceed MTOW and can’t take off. How does that help?

The Osprey thing has been gone over endless times on here. It look like a wonderful idea until you look at the safety record and the running costs. Drone trucks are not far off being able to fulfil some of those roles.


Are you sure? With use of the full deck length (which does slow operations) I thought they could get to MTOW.


F-35B can take off from a QE Class at full MTOW.

Supportive Bloke

Yes, indeed it can.

However, if you put drop tanks on MTOW won’t magically increase? So you can’t fill the drop tanks except by AAR or by having less payload to keep in the MTOW limit.


Buddy refuelling is the answer. This F35B from an F18 but clearly at some stage another F35B


MTOW is MTOW, it cannot increase with different payloads because it is the maximum, the carriers are that long for a reason.


Slightly different way of counting it . MTOW at launch may be topped up with fuel later to be a higher weight in flight than MTOW – maximum takeoff weight is only that.

Supportive Bloke

I really agree that MTOW and MFW / MCW are not the same at all.

So, absolutely it can be topped up to a much higher flight weight.


TOW with full internal fuel tank and two full 600 gallon (US) droptanks (about 8000lb), still won’t exceed F-35B MTOW for UK use. Our missiles are pretty lightweight.

Supportive Bloke

But that then stops a full load out in the bay or on the pylons for a non stealthy mission profile.


People seem to be oblivious to the fact that QE is designed to be able to launch an F-35B at max internal fuel and max external load…


That would be rare that internal max fuel and the heaviest payload of armament could be carried at same time, maybe because the F35B is only internal payload at the moment that it easily does this . Having wing stores, as is proposed, may change the arrangements.

Supportive Bloke

I know that?

That is what I said……my fault if I was not clear.


MTOW for F-35B is max internal fuel and max external load i.e. the pylon limit..

QE is designed to launch F-35B at the maximum. Full external fuel tanks will not be an issue.

Supportive Bloke

At the max internal fuel and pylon loads yes for MTOW.

MTOW does not include the external tanks or contents? Please correct me if I am wrong and there is another source.

Of course payload can be sacrificed for fuel. But the aerodynamic trade off for a part filled conformal tank might make the extra fuel pointless.


Of course it does, plus we will never reach MTOW for weapons as the weapons we have aren’t heavy enough. Even 2500 litre drop tank weighs around 4500lbs but the pylons that can carry them can take 5000lbs. No weapon we have weighs 5000lbs so that is already 1000lbs that will never be used. Similarly the two wingtip hardpoints can take 300lbs but can only carry short range AAM and ASRAAM weighs around 200lbs, so that’s another 200lbs that won’t be used unless we replace ASRAAM with a heavier missile.

Supportive Bloke

Golly so RAF / RN would never add a bigger LGB to inventory?

Or an AShM that might be a bit heavier?

Or a long range cruise missile that had a bigger warhead and some decent amount of fuel on board for range…….?

There are loads of weapons that are cleared for use in the international F35 program that MOD could clear very quickly for UK use from a common stockpile, and indeed may have already, just as there is a P8 common stockpile.

As we have fortunately discovered: re Ukraine, MOD has kept a few things secret…..!!!


The maximum take off weight for the f35 is 60,000lbs. The empty weight is 32,000lbs, the max internal fuel is 13,500, and the maximum weapons payload is 15,000lb.
Two of the external hardpoints can carry 5000lbs. To save 500lbs, the max can just be 4750lbs on these. I doubt there is any munitions that cannot be carried due to the weight change.


The max UK weapon load at present is c4,300lb’s at present (2 x Asraam, 2 x Amraam and 6 x Paveway IV). No gun is being procured.

Max load when Block IV weapons are integrated will be c5,100lb (2 x Asraam, 2 x Meteor, 4 x Paveway IV and 8 x Spear).

Short of the arrival of FCASW around 2035 that is as big as its going to get.

Supportive Bloke

If you put the tanks on pylons and therefore say stealth is not an issue. Yes, it fits into the envelope.

However, if you are using conformals, which are not on the pylons, then you cannot use some of the pylons to keep within MTOW.

The argument that the present UK inventory is of lighter weapons therefore MTOW cannot be exceeded emits an odd aroma.

Anything like this is tradeoff central.


There is no such thing as F-35 Conformals.

Nor will there ever be for UK F-35.

No F-35 have been built with attachment points for conformals, nor has there been any design demonstrated, flight tested or released for sale.

All UK deliveries will be complete by 2030. There is zero chance of any aircraft getting conformal fittings cut into production in the next 8 years.

Supportive Bloke

I am not suggested they could or should exist in UK service.

I’m saying that, although often floated, they are a silly idea.

John Hartley

CMV-22B cost $105m each including initial spares package. We would only need five or six.
If the West has to intervene in Afghanistan in some years time, then the targets are a long way inland for F-35B, unless it has drop tanks &/or a stand off weapon.


Or tankers. The A330 can pass a lot of fuel a long way from home.


Plus both an initial and recurrent training system (air and ground crews) and an engineering support system. Maybe you could pay to get some of these services from the US. But it wouldn’t be cheap. Unfortunately small fleets a massively disproportionately expensive to support.

John Hartley

Well of course we would have to piggyback with the USN to keep costs reasonable.


The amount of fuel that a MV-22 can actually pass from the installation trialed to date is really not worth the candle. Particularly as the fuel consumed by the receiver as it has to formate at low level and low speed with the MV-22 rises enormously.

It’s just not worth the candle I’m afraid. Ultimately we can put an A330 anywhere we need it with vastly more fuel offload capability at a higher speed and altitude.

John Hartley

I am more interested in CMV-22B for the RN to stay connected to shore when 1100 miles out to sea.
You may not be able to use A330 everywhere. It is a big target. Some nations may turn a blind eye to fighter overflight, but object to air refuelling by a large tanker.


‘Out to sea’ means its international waters not under any ones jurisdiction.
While the CMV-22B is very capable –
‘The CMV-22B ……. transporting up to 6,000 pounds of cargo/personnel to a 1,150 NM range.’ – which is 1320 miles

It still requires a ‘safe’ base to operate that distance and most supplies that arent on the carrier come via supply ship. remember too the USN standard ship helicopter is the quite small MH60 type. The Merlin is much bigger and greater range

John Hartley

Which version of Merlin? The latest, built after the Presidential helicopter bid, can have a range of 900+ miles. The stillborn increment 2 presidential helicopter, would have even more improvements including 3000 hp engines. Shame the UK gov does not sponsor a demonstrator, as it would be perfect to replace early RN Merlin from 2030 onwards.


For me the failure of the whole ‘system’ is Crowsnest not the bomb truck pe se.

stephen ball

If you look at some news agency’s they say a halt in production.

Pentagon suspends F-35 deliveries over Chinese alloy in magnet (

How much of an impact would this have?

Last edited 1 year ago by stephen ball

Looks like it will get a waver for the parts and material in stock. A new metal supplier will have to be found and likely there will be a lot of work for lawyers as everyone in the production chain blames everyone else.


It’ll take them 5 minutes to work out that an alloy isn’t a security risk, three or four weeks to argue about it, then production will restart.


We should buy some drones for each carrier to have a permanent air wing when deployed around the world mix of sky guardian, Mojave, and possibly the Turkish bayatar. I know the last 2 are carrier capable Bute sky guardian does not mention take off distances. At least they can be used for stand off missions, asw, Ew , survelance, etc and they are loads cheaper than f35. And the bayatar is that cheap it’s almost expendable.


Which ones are carrier capable? As in actuality tested and certified not just shown on a sales promotion CGI.

Last edited 1 year ago by ATH

On the Mojave site they say it can be used off a carrier, tb3 was tested off a the Turkish carrier, I would expect RN could fast track the testing and certification of said drones sooner they get on with it the sooner we can have a carrier wing.


Exactly ATH point. All sales puffery, just because computer graphics makes everything look easy ( seen Top Gun?) doenst mean it can happen


Mm, the challenge of only one aircraft type, I wonder if the carriers went to a Stoborough configuration and 48 Gripen were ordered?


I have been watching video of Boeing launching FA18 of a ski ramp as proof of concept for the Indian navy. And carrying useful loads too.


Dare I say it, but the Russians used ski jump ramps for ages for their ‘ordinary’ naval fighters, so its hardly a ‘proof of concept’ anymore for fighters without vectored nozzles. More like a validation of exactly the capability


It’s proof for FA18. It’s still a concept.


Theres some weird ideas out there about what the existing ski jumps do- keep the water off the deck!. Also some believe as the slope gives a vertical component of velocity which reduces the horizontal component it might stall the plane .
Have these people never seen a plane take off from a land runway- the tail is pushed down so that the nose rises and it leaves the runway Thats what takeoff does ( I think the B52 was a very flat take-off by gradually rising as it used tandem undercarriage). Same principle.
That standard naval fighters do take off without a catapult on a ski jump seems to be ignored, the concept was proved decades back. Testing is required to fine tune the flap settings and the maximum load


I have seen enough STOBAR launches thank you.

All I said I was watching FA18 launching from a ski-ramp. You just went off on one of your safaris.

Last edited 1 year ago by X

Wasn’t referring to you but calling some others weird.


The take off ramp ‘concept’ to boost the load is older than people think. Was first used on HMS Furious to allow over weight barracudas to take off for attack on Tirpitz in WW2


F14 has also done it and the Rafale.
Its taken for granted that a naval fighter can do it


But I resemble that remark!

It’s a poor commenting system.

I would prefer it to use Disqus.


That would be a ridiculous idea.

• Extra OPEX costs from maintaining and training for a new aircraft type.
• No navalised version of the Gripen currently exists.
• Customisation required for compatibility with U.K. weapons.

Supportive Bloke

Also that ship sailed long, long ago.

Gripen isn’t even vaguely of the level of Typhoon or F35B.

So what would it add to the party. I can only see costs and no benefits TBH.

However, that idea pops up like……periodically….


When the negotiation for a follow on order of 26 was announced it was also stated that the plan is now for 3 squadrons of 12-16 aircraft.

36 F35B’s in front line use out of a grand total of 74 seems like a pretty bad ratio.

Here’s hoping that they go for larger squadrons – QE or PoW embarking 16 UK jets would be a modest uplift from the rather sad prospect of 12, but better than nothing!


I think they are now looking at 4 deployable squadrons.


They’re not.

73 aircraft allows the following:

17 TES – 3 a/c – non combat capable
207 Sqn – 12 a/c – OCU
617 Sqn – 12 a/c – Operational
809 NAS – 12 a/c – Operational
TBA Sqn – 12 a/c – Operational

Add in an attrition and maintenance reserve of 22 a/c (remember we’ve already lost an a/c), with the potential for a couple in a UK based trials format and thats your lot. The good news is that the reserve pool should mean that the 3 operational squadrons operate continually at 12 operational aircraft.

If we want 4 operational squadrons we’d need to purchase at least another 20 a/c (12 a/c, additional a/c for the OCU and more for the ‘pool’).


I think it depends if your talking about definite what is now agreed, vs what they are actually look trying for in the future.

the first sea Lord was very clear on what he was looking for.

“The UK intends to purchase ‘around 60’ F-35B jets and then ‘maybe more up to around 80’ for four deployable squadrons the First Sea Lord said on Mar. 23, 2021.”

The RAF are planning to have 60 operational airframes from the present planned 74. which can give you 4 operational squadrons, depending on how many airframes you are giving each squadron ( which is indicative anyway as it’s going to go up and down).

they have also been clear that 74 is the present plan, but they are still hoping for more, with final decisions later in the decade ( although we will still be able to buy more as long as the lines are open…so we have decades).

to be honest the biggest challenge for 4 squadrons in the future is not future airframe numbers ( as that’s just a matter of purchasing) it’s having the pilots and that’s the more difficult but. We may end up with 60 available airframes in four squadrons but would be be able to train and maintain the pilots needed.


If we don’t buy them and have them delivered by 2030 there is zero chance for any more F-35. After that the combat air budget is sucked dry by Typhoon upgrades and Tempest.


Neither do we have the infrastructure in place at Marham to support airframes 25-48 (Anvil 2), which hasn’t even started construction yet! Lots of things need to come together quickly.


Just send the Tornado GR4 planes away elsewhere.

The complete rebuild of the base is almost complete


Well, perhaps the base rebuild is, but Anvil 2 – second part of upgrade to facilities for more F35 numbers hasn’t even started yet! So, where are we putting/maintaining g the next 24 airframes then?
Lack of pilots, no facilities, it’s all a bit lacking isn’t it!


Which GR4s would these be? Given the type left service two years ago?


Yes. The Engineering company blurb about the major upgrades I was reading was from around 2018.
But having 3 squadrons of 12 each at a base doesnt seem to be a burden as the infrastructure upgrade is mainly the base facilities like runways , electrical systems etc which date back to WW2


I’d have a think about some of the things F35 needs that GR4 didn’t. The airframe workshops dealing with some spooky materials – as opposed to bits of ally. There’s an awful lot more sim and data stuff – again which requires sigh levels of classification – which also incur cost for things like networks etc.

I’d also have a google maps look at Marham for example. There’s only two squadron complexes there.


Might be the case for 15-20 yr old airframes.
Im not sure on this but ALIS forced the non US users to adopt US military maintenance system which is to just replace time expired or faulty ‘modules’. The head of their maintenance squadrons are always pilots not degree qualified engineers like UK uses and US squadron heads are just pen pushers who rely on trained mechanics who merely remove and replace stuff.

Anyway the procurement is so slow and the pilot blockage means not that many hours are being flown, not helped by the PoW and its F-35Bs not going on its deployment


Not sure what any of that has to do with the lack of squadron complexes at Marham.

Incidentally, replacement of life-expired / faulty “modules” has been standard practice for decades. LRU (line replaceable units) are what we have called them.

As for qualifications etc, I’m pretty sure the USN equivalent of the AEO is the AMDO – and they aren’t aircrew. Your characterisation of how the US supports its aircraft doesn’t tally with the ones I’ve met over the years

Supportive Bloke

17 Frames for TES seems a lot.

I agree the three orange wired ones will always be OCU or TES.

There isn’t anything to stop the OCU frames being deployed if there are enough pilots.


TES is 17 Sqn…with 3 a/c


USMC squadrons and numbers and bases on East coast only

‘The F-35B East Coast basing proposal would take approximately 11 years to implement and would begin in 2012. The proposal would base up to 216 aircraft (i.e., 10 active-duty and 1 reserve squadrons of up to 16 aircraft each and 2 Pilot Training Center (PTC) squadrons at 20 aircraft each) at MCAS Beaufort and MCAS Cherry Point.’

I think the squadrons will be down from 16 each now
But back then it was 11 operational/reserve squadrons of 16 each and 2 OCU of 20 each ( at Beaufort along side operational squadrons)
[this is East coast only, the total requirement which includes West Coast plus Japan is still 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs]

The UK seems to want 1 OCU of 12 for maybe 3 squadrons of 12 for 33% ratio
The USMC seems to have planed for training ratio of 22%


Let’s not dress this up as anything other than a dog’s dinner and frankly it’s just not good enough. Everyone is quick to dismiss “aircraft carriers without aircraft” and whilst technically correct that we have enough aircraft on paper to equip an aircraft carrier, the reality right now appears somewhat more challenging. An aircraft carrier is only the ultimate expression of hard power when it has a powerful and impressive air wing; without it’s a cruise ship.


Thats what happens when the RAF runs things .
It never worked just before WW2, which is why they changed it have the FAA design and own its aircraft.
For goodness sake, even Italy with its small fleet of F35B has them run by the Marina Militare


The problem is the Invincibles supported the Fleet. The QE’s are the asset the fleet is built around. We could barely afford to do the former.

Crowsnest is as problematic as F35b and probably more so.

Supportive Bloke

I’d be fascinated to know what the issue with Crowsnest actually is: I don’t suppose we ever will, until it is fixed, as it is far too sensitive.

It has got to be something to do with creating the overall synthetic situational mapping.

Reading between the lines it is a lot more sophisticated than a Sea King Bagger#2.

I’m struggling to believe that getting the radar itself to work can be the issue given the level of UK radar knowledge available to the MOD. Unless someone has tried to be too clever?


The bean counters tried to be too clever. Thales tried to be too clever. Building a new radar out of the front end of an old radar and a new backend that hasn’t previously existed and tying all together with a combination of old and new software will get you a high risk radar with a lousy front end. That it arrived late and still has issues should be no surprise.

Derisking by buying either the LM or the Elbit radars that would have started out as a tested design would probably have also ended up cheaper in the long run. Do it right or you’ll do it twice.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon

This ^^^.


The Elbit radars did not actually meet the spec.

And the LM installation actually hospitalised a trials crew….


Interesting. Do you have any links to that?

Do you recall in what way the ELTA’s ELM-2052 AESA radar with the additional IFF and ESM failed to meet the spec?

The core of L-M’s Vigilance system is the AN/APG-81LM radar (originally Northrop Grumman I think), the same radar in the F-35s. As understand it, it was to go in 4 pods two either side of the helicopter. How did it hospitalise the trials crew?

Supportive Bloke

There is a lot more to these systems than a simple radar.

It is also a EW, SIGINT / relay platform.

So there is a lot going on.


The program is a commercial success, an industrial failure, a political success, a strategic failure and a programmatic failure.

For example FCAS have a clear boost because US is very restrictive with what kind of weapons and authority UK and other countries can modify and adapt it.

35 years to have combat aircraft is a clear failure that can be forgotten because there are no actual competitors.

It is commercial/political success because a lot of countries are buying even if only to get as Uncle Sam “payment protection”.


A couple of issues here. The TR3 upgrade won’t cost £22 million each as they have been inserting new hardware in the latest lots and a significant number of the UK’s F-35s will come off the production line with TR3 hardware installed, once the hardware is there the Block IV upgrade is just a software update, or really a series of software updates as it’s being released incrementally.

According to the latest GAO report ODIN as originally envisaged isn’t going ahead, ALIS is being incrementally fixed, addressing issues with program data access etc and being renamed to ODIN, it’s also being upgraded with some new, much lighter and more modern hardware.


ALIS is as much a failure as the rest of the on board software blocks. ODIN is the new system essentially starting from scratch, which will again take forever. They have learned nothing


I still believe that our government made a mistake in making a bespoke aircraft carrier for a bespoke aircraft, no room to for changes due to let’s say DELAYS!

What choice do we have but to wait for this jet. I really do not understand why our government simply did not create a carrier with a angled deck!

We could have bought some interim aircraft whilst waiting for the f-35 “C” numbers to increase if we really wanted to go with the plane.

Heck we could then maybe add a carrier variant of The Tempest whilst we are developing it.

Or am I just wishful thinking lol


UK hasnt had an angled deck carrier for 50 years . They werent going back to that system, just weren’t. ( the electromagnetic launch was an even bigger problem, and no steam for the standard catapults from gas turbine ships)
If the F35B wasnt available it was goodbye fast jet carriers.


The cost of CATBAR is just way to much, you have to maintain a constant air wing to keep pilots carrier qualified. We just could not have maintained the carrier qualified airwings.

Not going CATBAR was one of the most pragmatically sensible decisions in modern RN procurement. If we had gone CATBAR we would be sitting around with one carrier that was not deployable as EMALS is still not working and has a massive failure rate that takes out the carriers ability to launch aircraft every 180 or so launches. So we would have no carrier qualified air wing and no working carrier….


The MOD has recently said we will only have 3 F35B frontline squadrons which likely means 2 RAF- when a typhoon squadron converts when the tranche 1 typhoons are withdrawn- and 1 FAA squadron.
It would be very hard to keep RAF pilots carrier trained as the RAF doesn’t want them for that. So it would turn out that the maximum number of aircraft on the carriers would be one F35C squadron of 12-16 aircraft. But at least they have a longer range and we could operate 2-3 e2 which are going to be replaced by drones that can launch of off STOVL carriers!


There is no such thing as an RAF or FAA F35 squadron. The F35 is a completely joint enterprise. That’s why 617 a historically RAF number currently has an FAA boss.
All of the parts of the enterprise are crewed by both FAA and RAF people.

Last edited 1 year ago by ATH

Cdr Sparrow has been promoted to Captain and become the Air Group Commander, no longer 617 Sq boss


Excellent news for him.


I wonder if his nickname is ‘jack’


For now since there is no FAA number squadron yet. The original plan was for two RAF squadrons and two FAA squadrons with a 60:40 split in personnel per squadron.
If you read my comment properly it was a rebuttal to F35C and it would be much less likely that had F35C been bought, a Joint lightning force would have been created.


‘The US, UK and Israel have already employed the jet on combat missions’
Where and when did this happen with UK jets?

About a year back
Plus in 2019 they launched from Cyprus for a combat air patrol mission over Syria

Last edited 1 year ago by Duker

I think honestly its more of an issue for the RAF.

For the RN, we were truly lucky that the US Marines have so much political clout to get the ‘B variant built (which added tens of billions to the programme). If they hadn’t we would not have carrier aviation (CATOBAR is totally unaffordable, STOBAR is nonsense). As a result of the F35B we are in the carrier game, with a 5th generation stealth jet which whilst expensive and has issues is still a world beater.

Crabfat on the other hand have 24 tranche 1 typhoons which can only be used for QRA (to be retired without replacement in 2024) and less than 100 later tranche typhoons. A pitiful force. Their only hope for the future is ‘Tempest’ an aircraft which currently no more than a powerpoint presentation. While the RN is not where we would want it to be, it is on an upward trajectory: the RAF is still declining.

IMO the RAF need more modern Typhoons (Germany and Spain have ordered more) which will keep skills until Tempest arrives (which they should accelerate and keep simple: a big F35A with better engines and far better combat persistence and domestically controlled software: thereby fixing the issues with the F35)


Typhoon is a microcosm of our entire security situation and indeed our relationship with Europe. Typhoon was based on British tech. Yet the Germans and Spanish walked away with a bigger workshare than us by far. The RAF pushes the type as much as they can and more than the other partners. Yet our planes lag behind the Spanish and German variants. And if push comes to shove who will they turn to be the foundation of European efforts? The RAF……….

I would say CTOL is another example of don’t want to pay more than can’t pay.

Last edited 1 year ago by X
Supportive Bloke

How do you mean our planes lag behind the Spanish and German variants?

The Spanish new order isn’t a full fat Radar2 effort with EW etc? It is sort of Tranche3.5(ish).

If there is one thing we have leaned from Ukraine it is that massive technological superiority counts in spades.

Mad Vlad made the mistake of looking at Iraq and Afghanistan where asymmetrical conflict, limited political stomach to go in hard and limiting rules of engagement prevented the outcome desired.

It is totally different targeting an S300 or a tank from a Bloke running across a field in traditional garb. The fact that the tank/S300 is there at all makes it a legitimate target.


I thought the Spanish were getting them too. The Spanish will have more fighters if the decline in RAF numbers continue.

I will ignore the rest of the comment. Too much cheese before bed……….


Yet the Germans and Spanish walked away with a bigger workshare than us by far.”

Categorically untrue.

UK had 45% workshare…thats more than Germany and Spain combined.

Yet our planes lag behind the Spanish and German variants.”


Utter Cobblers…

UK Typhoon are dramatically more advanced than German or Spanish Typhoon. German Typhoon’s lack PIRATE, and both nations have missed out on the Project Centurion upgrades that the UK has implemented. Add in the additional weapons that the UK has integrated.


Essentially you are right but the production workshare numbers are slightly different
BAE 37.5%
Airbus Germany 30%
Airbus Spain 13%
Leonardo Italy 19.5%


I have thought about two seater Typhoons with conformal tanks and a heavy anti-ship missile…………I will have to stop eating cheese before bed……….

Supportive Bloke

Ha, ha, ha.

Is that the conformal tanks that when filled don’t increase MTOW? I know the F35 is a very special plane but zero mass adding certainly caught me by surprise……

Now a decent AShM would be very nice.

But as I’ve stated before I **suspect** that other missiles, in inventory, can be re-tasked to do a pretty good job.


We need a ship killer……….


Apparently when the conformal tanks went in the wind tunnel they were found to be a big no no.

Supportive Bloke

That is very little surprise.

The shape of the conformal will have been dictated by RCS and so it’s aerodynamic interference effects will have been awful.


It depends doesn’t it? The IDF have no problems. I would say if there are problems it would be as much to do with weight and CofG (both real and meta of course).

comment image


See that aerial refuelling receiver on the upper fuselage. They would refuel to max weight ( which maybe higher than MTOW) while in air


You are obsessed with MTOW young man. 🙂

But yes that is a consideration.


Not an obsession. Some confuse take off , which is a variable number dependent on temperature and wind over deck etc, with what weight a plane already in the air can manage


As I noted further up.


I know. It’s the cheese. 🙂

I hadn’t heard about the tests. But who knows?

Like I said it’s the cheese……… 😉

Last edited 1 year ago by X

Finally found some info on what you said.

Last edited 1 year ago by X

Were the RN lucky… Do you think the marines would have definitely got the B model if the uk had not signed on with a sufficiently large order to make it more viable and prove it had export potential?


Probably. They use the Harrier on their landing ships . Without a change in operating philosophy and a lot more cat&trap carriers the landing forces would lack air support.


True. But Bravo is perhaps too much plane for the USMC. They have gone from an aged motorbike to a modern estate car. We win. But do the USMC? I am not so sure.


The USMC also is replacing their F18 with the F35, it will be their only fast jet (, plus some F35C to operate with carrier air wings.)
It’s also quite a jump from the USAF dated single seater the F16, which of course has been updated over the years , remember the USMC AV8B was much more capable than the UK versions.


It is a different matter basing Charlies on CVN to basing Bravos on LHx.

It isn’t as big a jump as from Harrier to Bravo. Nowhere near. I suppose you could say AV8x in terms of systems is close to F16 if not dynamics. But we never operated AV8x. GR9 lagged.

As somebody once said the mistake the UK made was building GR9 sans radar and then building more SHAR with radio instead of just building / buying / obtaining AV8x. AV8x would have been worth retaining as bridge to Bravo’s with the QE’s.


The Blue Vixen radar and aim-120 AMRAAM missile is hardly just ‘a radio’

bacon burger and fries

All good

Iain Sanders

Sol not much chance of passing any on to Ukraine then. ‘For the foreseeable future’..


Utterly pointless doing so.
The plane that Ukraine is hankering for is F16. Available in large numbers, easier to maintain, and despite its age still superior to what it would be facing.

Mike BB

If the US government is dragging its heals on full production the UK should step in.
We should build up a capacity to build part or all of our F35 B’s in the UK.
I’m sure the USMC will get all their aircraft on time.


There’s over 120 per year being built. It’s full production. There is an assembly line in Italy
And maybe another somewhere but only final assembly from parts and major assembly’s made elsewhere. The UK makes the rear fuselage section. There is no chance of of there being a UK full final assembly line and any delay in procurement comes from the UK government financial pressures


The assembly lines are in Forth Worth and Cameri . These are also the overhaul level maintenance factories.
It would take years and huge investment to make and assembly line in UK. Cameri took more than 8 years until a plane was produced and the planning was probably 12-15 years -.including plan to teach/adapt the highly qualified work force.It is basically a copy of Fort Worth.
There is also an assembly line in Japan for their own F-35 fleet but is not at moment designed to produce aircraft for other countries.


It’s amazing how the US let the Japanese do that but not us. You would think being, what is it, the only Tier 1 Partner with Sprinkles the only other production line would have been here in the UK. But once again we are shafted.


Making an F-35 assembly line is hugely expensive. I am not sure that money was not the real issue here. Italians invested more than 1B$
That said it is also possible Americans wanted only 1 production line per theater.

Keep in mind that F-35 was also a ugly duck not far ago, only recently it got significant orders.


I think it is possible that US got a bit cold feet since the British orders and investment did not appeared as they were agreed.


Not so. Other buyers of F35B outside the original 2 have filled the gap . [Italy, Spain, South Korea?, Singapore, Japan] The smallest production orders are for the US Navy carrier version F-35C

The U.S. Marine Corps operates F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft and plans to purchase 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35C carrier variant aircraft. Together with the Marines, the U.S. Navy is bringing 5th Generation capability to the sea with plans to procure 260 F-35C aircraft.’
As any ( expensive) developments are done for the whole program, there is nothing to get cold feet over.


It may be expensive. Armaments manufacture for high end platforms is always expensive.

But is it out of all reason to think that being the main partner we should have had a share of the build? I don’t think so. For me it as another instance of the UK losing out to so called allies. Let’s not forget Typhoon was essentially a BAE design. Who ends up with a major share of the work? The UK? Of course not.

I think there is evidence to suggest that Bravo may turn out to be the most successful variant. But as you say it was touch and go.


Not a ‘production line’
Its merely a final assembly a very low value process, which is supplied all the parts from other production facilities
The UK has an actual production facility for all F-35 rear fuselage as part of its work share.
Rolls of course developed and builds the F35B lift fan system, but that maybe be done mostly in its US subsidiary
for the Typhoon it had 4 FAL doing the same assembly and fitout of parts and airframe sections plus engines ( made completely elsewhere)


F-35 wings are made in Cameri. It is also the Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul, and Upgrade facility (MROU) in Europe.


Plus at Fort Worth , not soley in Italy , plus wing skins and outer wing boxes also come from IAI in Israel


See above. 🙂


See below, airframe assemblies link shows the myriad ‘production plants’

in Europe its BAE of course plus GKN and GKN Fokker, Terma AS ( Denmark), Alenia the wings as mentioned ( but the wing ‘parts’ may be made elsewhere as the box section has spars and skins and the flaps are added during final assembly)


One big problem seems to be not enough pilots…… another outsourcing project that’s let the military down


This details how bad it is from those who were part of the former military system
Includes fast jet, multi engine and helicopters for all 3 services


Over two years waiting for helicopter training? We complain when the B2 Rivers have no hangars. But it turns out, not only don’t we have the helicopters to put in them, even if we bought more, we couldn’t train the pilots. What a omni-shambles!


It’s the “peace dividend”.


That was in the 1990s. This happened much later, its the Conservative party still doing the Thatcherite privatisation after 2010


Ah yes. The peace dividend.

  • 1950s. Korean War is over. Let’s cut a few billion off the military budget.
  • 1960s. We aren’t an Empire any more. If we withdraw from East of Suez, we can cut a few billion off the military budget.
  • 1970s. We’re in NATO and the EEC. No need to go it alone. Let’s cut a few billion off the military budget.
  • 1980s. Let’s sell off our carriers to Australia, that way — oh shit, the Argies have done what? Glad that’s all over now. Let’s cut a few billion off the military budget.
  • 1990s. The Cold War is over! Let’s cut a few billion off the military budget.
  • 2000s. New World Order. Let’s cut a few billion off the military budget.
  • 2010s. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason for him to invade Georgia. let’s not worry. Let’s cut a few billion off the military budget.
  • 2020s. Okay, he invaded Georgia, he invaded Crimea, he’s launched an attack on the Ukraine. China has built carriers and is threatening Taiwan where all the best semiconductor manufacturing happens. But despite that, you know what I think we should do?

It was the Peace Dividend.


2010 cuts never mentioned the ‘peace dividend’, but did mention budget deficit. Police budgets were slashed too, was that falling crime dividend.
Government failed to mention it was a deficit because of a major recession


A part solution could be coming to an arrangement with the USMC and F35B RN pilots trained through that stream, that may enable an uplift in numbers


Its the training between the intial entry ( initial officer training) and before they enter the qualification for the F35B type conversion ( which is still done by the RAF/RN).
These courses for fast jets:
1)Elementary Flying Training, flying the Tutor ( Grob with piston engine) or Prefect ( Grob 120TP) aircraft.
2) fly the Texan (Beechcraft T6) at RAF Valley, after which you will be awarded your Pilot flying badge – known as ‘wings’.
3)You will then go on to fly the Hawk T2 at RAF Valley and, after successful completion of the tactical weapons phase,
4) you will go to an Operational Conversion Unit OCU- ( F35 or Tornado) which is still run by military

I dont think the USMC courses for elementary, basic and then fast jet trainer will be what the UK is after.
Grob shown in picture with RR turboprop


Lack of Government investment, followed by outsourcing to ‘fix’ the problem they themselves created…

Classic Conservative tactics.

The Military Flight Training System was already broken when they outsourced it, deliberately underinvested (see the order for Hawk T.2 and missing orders for other trainers…).

A shameful state of affairs.


It’s not a “Tory” thing per se. It’s actually a Treasury / accounting thing. There is an innate assumption within government (with a little g) that resource budgets (ie staff) are a bad thing in government because they attract all sorts of additional costs in overhead terms (recruitment, career mgmt, H&S, welfare, pensions etc). What that means in reality is that all departments are under pressure to reduce headcount and the MoD/services are no different.

There is always some officer pushing for a stellar OJAR rating, who following these precepts will devise a new and “cheaper” way of delivering the same output. The pollies just get to approve the recommended option.


With Labour we’d have a first rate strike force, no ‘training’ and little else.


Well, if aircraft delivery delays continue we could always have the USMC fill out the flight decks again.


It doesnt seem to be too much ‘delays in delivery’ Simply the UK isnt ordering enough at the moment – financial reasons


Would be great to have a short article reviewing the progress against the timeline in 2017 what’s been achieved, what’s been delayed, what is come in the next 5 years.
Great reporting though guys I really appreciate the detail

Gavin Gordon

Eventual application of the proposed Ceramic Stealth Coating should improve durability and delimit the apparent performance parameters on F35, if capable of retrofit and not subject to hype, evidently.


Essentially the problem is the standard one. The Treasury forces the MoD not to procure for a major war, and works on the assumption that what you made do with yesterday will do for tomorrow too. The F35 IOC was pegged at a level that reflected what we had on the old Invincibles and the intent may have been to stop there. And the Treasury may still dream of the good old days when ee only intended to have one carrier operational .The lack of strike ability caused by wholesale removal of the Sea Harrier, GR5, Jaguar, and Tornado. and associated antiship and stand off air to ground capability, was deemed unimportant when the threat was small groups of guerillas and terrorists . If you just needed a few fighters dropping bombs from overhead, thats what the Treasury assumed would do. We now have a very slow ramp up in numbers which has been overtaken by the threat – which requires a lot more F35s, probably a force of 72 , plus an attrition reserve , and probably a couple of dozen more Typhoons to fulfill both the air defence and strike roles at the same time. And we also need more short medium and long ranged, air to ground missiles, plus anti ship and anti radar missiles – with some holes needing filling faster than on current plans

This is part of a general problem where the UK manages somehow to not get much bang for what bucks it does spend. Our F35 numbers delivered , or on order, compare poorly with countries like Israel , or even Italy. Israel’s airforce has far more combat power on a vastly smaller economic and population base plus $3 billion in US assistance a year. . And our army now has less capability than Italy or France . The Treasury has achieved the dual success of spending more money , while succeeding in its aim to provide less capability….


Bring out the Swordfish TSR.


24 F35
2 jets delivered a year?
90 million each?
65% reliability?
£20 million each to update software?
£7billion on 2 huge carriers with no planes.
Wow what a shambles.


I’ sure we have 30 odd planes so can easily stick 15 on each carrier along with helicopters. So no planes ?

Last edited 5 months ago by Dylan