Subscribe
Notify of
guest
108 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4thwatch

I read somewhere that the UK would have all the first batch of 48 F35’s acquired by end 2024. No news yet about the rest of the order. Another 48 would be essential to have both carriers with 24 each. What is the next FAA squadron to be numbered?

Cammy

I thought it was taking longer than that to get upto 48.

ATH

When more are ordered I would be surprised if they were delivered at more than 3 or 4 a year.

Trip

They are waiting for Block 4 plus potentially slightly upgraded engines from 2027 (A and possibly C might get better upgrade), so my guess is order in 2024 up to 32 planes and first deliveries of the next batch starting in 2028.

X

Once QE goes into refit we will never have 2 in service again.

Dogs Nads

Timings have changed. The ’48’ will have been delivered by the end of 2025 now. Covid, and Turkey’s exit, has led to re-scheduling of some deliveries.

That means we will have 47 on hand (as 1 has been lost) at the end of 2025. Of those 47, 24 have been delivered to date (with 1 lost). Another 6 are due this year, with 3 likely to arrive in Spring (they’re already flying in the US, pre-delivery) and another 3 at the end of the year. Current plans are for a further 7 in 2023, 4 in 2024 and 7 in 2025. I expect an additional aircraft to be added to the 2024 or 2025 deliveries to make up for the lost aircraft. The last 13 aircraft (and perhaps an additional one for 14) have not in fact been ordered yet….they’re supposed to be ordered when Full Rate Pricing is agreed, this has yet to happen.

But…..its important to remember that although we’ll have 47 aircraft at the end of 2025. 3 of these are non-combat test aircraft, once they have concluded their testing duties they will be retired to museums/Cosford. So the ‘true’ figure is 44 aircraft….this is then further depleted by a number of aircraft that, potentially, may not receive the full Block IV upgrade due to high cost. That number could be anywhere from 1 aircraft (BK-03) to 5 aircraft (including those from LRIP 8 production batch and BK-03). Hopefully only 1 aircraft is affected, and ‘hopefully’ money can be found for the upgrades as we really don’t want fleets within fleets, or aircraft that are only good for training. But even then the need to upgrade the aircraft to Block IV standard (hopefully to the full fat Lot 17 production level that the USMC is aiming for, with additional EW capability, less risk too as the USMC will prove the upgrade path first) will mean aircraft unavailable as they will be in for sustained maintenance. This will of course have some effect on deployments/training.

What this is all means is that realistically we will not have a fully combat capable fleet of 44 F-35B, all at the same production standard with the latest EO/IR, EW and weapon upgrades (including Meteor, Spear, Asraam CSP) until 2028.

If we order additional aircraft, as has been mentioned, it will take c2 years from order for the aircraft to appear. The good news is that they would be Block IV already so would require no upgrades to meet the fleet standard. The bad news is that they would need to be ordered realistically in 2024-28 as any money in the Combat Air budget post 2030 will be pretty much only for Tempest. At most I suspect we’ll get an additional aircraft to replace the lost a/c and between 12 and 18 extra jets. Enough to field 1 extra squadron, and put 24 on QE and PoW in a desperatevFalklands like emergency. We should be happy with anything over 70 a/c, 90 odd would be perfect but is unlikely, because beyond 70ish a/c we run out of space at Marham….and things get really expensive.

heroic

Yeovilton has plenty of space and it still has the ramp !

Dogs Nads

Not set up for F-35B though. The upgrades to get it there would be substantial. You might not need the full package like Marham has but you’d be looking at £200m+.

There’s no HAS there either, probably make more sense to base them at Leeming. Mind you I’d be a big fan of taking Mildenhall over when the US departs or re-activating Woodbridge or Upper Heyford, all well equipped with HAS.

ATH

What is the capacity limit at Marham that would need to be worked on to let say a total buy of 90 F35B work out of it?

Dogs Nads

Realistically you don’t want more than 60 aircraft at one base. Marham only has 24 HAS at the moment. Granted there will be aircraft deployed on exercises, on ships or in for maintenance in the hangars, but you’re running out of space after that. You don’t want all your eggs in one basket.

The US are moving out of nearby Mildenhall which is colossal, although it doesn’t have HAS it does have massive dispersal areas and hangarage. But another possibility could be to reactivate Wattisham fully (currently used by the AAC for Apache). Its still in use and has 24 HAS on site. Woodbridge is also still MoD owned, has a massive runway and 20 odd HAS as well (from when the USAF used it for A-10 in the Cold War). MoD also still owns Cottesmore which is a very well equipped base (no HAS though). Sadly Coltishall has gone, very popular station (unlike Marham).

ATH

Interesting thanks. I guess the big costs are in duplicating some of the support facilities. Is Marham unpopular just because it’s in the middle of nowhere, or are there deeper problems?

Dogs Nads

Modernising a base to take F-35 would be costly, you wouldn’t need to have all the facilities that Marham has, but you may need to increase the facilities at Marham to accommodate a larger fleet size (more simulators for example).
Marham has never been a popular posting, called Marhell in some places, not great for families and it is in the middle of nowhere with few local amenities. Other airfields not too far away have been popular though, Coltishall and Cottesmore were always very popular.

Jon

Any chance of sharing Lakenheath?

Dogs Nads

With the US F-35B Wing and F-15 at Lakenheath, as well as activities moving from Mildenhall I suspect Lakenheath will be full to the brim.

Sunmack

Excellent and very informative post mate. Thanks for that.

Bob

Given that the ship is heading a “Response Group” do we know what mix of aircraft are scheduled to be available for deployment aboard it?

ATH

As the article says there will be a mix of U.K. and possibly NATO members assets on board. The U.K. assets are likely at least in the first part of the year to be mainly helicopters of all sorts.

Bob

Yes, I was thinking more of the UK component; how many F35s, Wildcats or Apache’s etc?
Given the recent QE deployment, how many F35s would we have available assuming some downtime for maintenance and crew R&R?

Meirion X

Article mentions PoW being deployed in the Baltic as well, is this not a big risk at the moment, with heightened tensions with Russia?

Last edited 12 days ago by Meirion X
heroic

To not deploy with the very Aircraft they are designed for (other than the chaff) speaks volumes.

Michael

Fully agree. For her maiden deployment to be bereft of the aircraft she was primarily designed to carry seems rather hollow and symbolic. I understand that the F-35 compliment is far from complete, but nevertheless..

ATH

Given that the U.K. gave up on carrier aviation a few years ago and the cash flow limits the MOD operates under why are you surprised it’s taking a long time to rebuild the capability?

heroic

They gave up more than a few years ago, but the QE Class have been in the pipe for two decades and who say’s I’m Surprised ? Do you think it’s OK ?

ATH

Much better than doing nothing.
Given that the F35B was very late I don’t see how we could be much further ahead today. We could grow faster now, but only by cutting other parts of the budget. The MoD got a decent deal in this spending round but like the rest of HMG money is tight and choices have to be made.

Joe16

It does seem a bit strange to “deploy” without aircraft, but bear in mind that its role with the NRF is to be available anywhere in the world in 30 days. Given that a threat requiring a carrier deployment wouldn’t come entirely out of the blue, we’d likely have longer than that to start running up the aircraft, getting the crew sorted, etc. The aircraft could even fly out to meet up with the carrier en route. The requirement isn’t for a fully-stocked carrier to sail around the north Atlantic in circles on the offchance that it’s required next-day. There are some very high-readiness forces, but they’re the Standing NATO Maritime groups (SNMGs), paras and stuff like that, and even then they’re on 5 days’ notice. HMS PoW will do a load of NATO and other exercises, with air wing changing for each, and maybe at some point do some kind of cruise or two with the SNMGs, but it won’t be with them all the time, from what I understand.
Also, Carrier Strike Group, which is the formal name for the RN’s capability to deploy the CSG on a rolling basis, is only at Initial Operating Capability (IOC) at the moment. FOC isn’t expected until end of 2023, and I expect that will stretch a little to match the delivery of the final aircraft from the first batch of F-35Bs.
It takes time to re-develop a capability (especially one that will be better than the original that we dropped), especially one as complex as carrier ops. The USN makes it look easy because they’ve been continuously deployed and doing it since WW2, and never canned the resources.

heroic

Well OK but I’m still not and never will be convinced that the best use of an Aircraft Carrier capable of embarking 40 F35B’s plus other assets is to send it to sea without the very Aircraft it was, and is designed for. Or put another way, Are they having a bloody Laugh ? How many front line Aircraft and ships were retired/cancelled in the last 40 years ? How unstable is the World today ? Sending a Carrier to sea without Fixed wing assets begs the question why we just didn’t buy replacement Hellicopter carriers.

X

If the balloon goes up the USMC will fill the hangar. Don’t panic dear!

heroic

Can I have that in writing please love. !

X

As time goes on I become more convinced that we went STOVL to accommodate the USMC more than any benefit to us in anyway.

Supportive Bloke

Nope.

Because we could not afford to carrier qualify pilots that would only be FAA.

Converting RAF pilots to STOVL is relatively quick In a crisis

Duker

No . It was because they have had the Harrier in various forms since the 1960s. The USMC has ..cough, copied the RAF/RN

Jon

I think that’s the wrong ay around. We nearly went cats and traps to accommodate the USN/MN. USMC also have F-35Cs and are okay either way.

ATH

Because the best training for the air wing isn’t necessarily at sea with the carrier. People and aircraft can joint a carrier in a few days almost anyware.

heroic

But only F35 B’s which are the only option and which we have way too few of. I’m not convinced that a 70 thousand ton aircraft carrier sailing as a Nato flagship can be taken seriously without Fixed wing aircraft onboard.

Duker

The reality is that the operational numbers are too low, and they have just come back from a long deployment on QE.
But otherwise it would be another 8 or so on this ship

DavidB

That keeps on being repeated! However, what can not join the carrier in days is the air wing engineers, equipment, bomb trucks, bombs, other munitions and most important of all, experience in making it all work – that takes time.

Jon

It’s going as a flagship, not a strike carrier. Its primary task will be to coordinate the group. Why does it matter if it’s also functioning as a helicopter carrier rather than fixed wing? Or not even as a carrier at all? This is a good opportunity to test out the new ship’s NATO interoperability.

It’ll be doing the job for 200 days throughout the year, so it will probably host a different set of military assets depending on crcumstances, and you can bet F-35s will be on there some of the time.

heroic

But it’s a Strike Carrier and that’s it’s primary task, the basic fact is that we do not even have the assets to properly embark for such a flag waiving task, might as well send the gosport Ferry and save millions. Am I the only one on this site that worries about our lack of assets and the painfully slow procurement time line ? Am I the only one who see’s all the cuts yet also see’s all the potential threats ?

Jon

Does the Gosport ferry have NATO command and control facilities?

No of course you aren’t the only one to see all the cuts. This site was founded to flag up the effect of the cuts on an ever shrinking navy. I imagine most of us here are worried; that’s why we are here.

The procurement process of the FSSS is the most worrying. Even MoD bureaucrats are starting to comment that replacing an aging single point of failure for a sovereign carrier group shouldn’t need 15 years to identify a supplier.

X

I know more than a few ex-Andrew who accrued most of their seatime aboard the Gosport ferry. 🙂

That’s the true measure of a big navy. Not how many hulls. More how many uniformed personnel dodge sea service. 😉

Last edited 11 days ago by X
heroic

We called him Randy Andy at the time ! not sure why though. lol.

Duker

Wasnt Andrew the former A class submarine ?

heroic

Well he’s soon to be the former Duke !

Duker

Dukedom cant be taken from him, unless theres a Bill of Attainder passed by parliament.
Thats why theres various german princes to this day are Dukes of Albany

heroic

Well it has Facilities and as many F35B’s too so I still think we could have saved Billions !

Mr C Lewell

I don’t think it was a coincidence that only 8 British F35’s formed a squadron on QE’s world tour. I suspect the peacetime deployment will be 16 with a surge to 24 if needed, with the rest of the ‘buy’ being replacement airframes over the lifespan with bulk coming from UAV’s. Probably why the 1stSL was coy at the defence committee over numbers.

Last edited 12 days ago by Mr C Lewell
David MacDonald

809 Naval Air Squadron was expected to be formed early next year. Is this still so and where are its F35s going to come from?

Challenger

It’s gone from 2023 to TBC, probably around 2025 when the last of 48 F35’s on order as due to be delivered.

Even at that point it’s hard to see how a routine air-group of 24 jets will be achievable. Chances are it’ll be a one off proof of concept and the rest of the time 12-16 F35’s will be the norm.

Cammy

12-16…what a joke. Yes it saves on huge costs and still delivers F35s globaly but Jesus. Awfully big ships for 12.

ATH

12 when on a routine deployment. Aircraft, crew and maintainers can be flown in very quickly if the situation warrants it.
Things have moved on from carriers having a dedicated air wing that always does the whole trip on board. Now part of the air wing does what’s best for air wing training and part is on the ship to help train the crew.

heroic

Sorry but I’m just not with you at all on this, We only have 23(?) F35B’s so far and only managed to embark 8 on QE which is fine for peacetime but where the hell do we get them if things take a turn ? I’m no expert here (apparently) but I do know that War is a game of numbers just like it was in 1939. The 138 initially quoted sounds way better to me than the 23 we have now given that both Carriers are in service.

Steven Alfred Rake

I do believe that the people at the top of the food chain in the forces and CS do not understand the word attrition. We (the RN) have no reserve, minimal spears, minimal crews an very few aircraft so the loss of just one aircraft is felt across the fleet. I think I can say without contradiction that the Americans are now the masters of the Carrier strike group and when they put to sea they have a full compliment of escorts both above and below the surface also they have a full airwing so that they can respond to any and all situations and demands made on them during their deployment.
We have made the commitment to re-build our carrier capability but that commitment seems to be falling short now as the carriers have very little offensive capability due to the lack of aircraft our escort fleet needs a least an extra 10 hulls to play and our submarine fleet needs at least 8 SSNs along with 6 SSKs. When you add into this that the QE class was designed to carry 70+ airframes so should be carrying at least 20 to 30 F35s per deployment it make you wonder what is going on at the top of the tree. May-be the Chinese spy that has been advising the Labour party is also advising the MoD!!

Dogs Nads

The QE Class was NEVER designed for 70+ airframes.

It was designed for a maximum airgroup of 36 x F-35B and supporting helicopters up to a maximum of c50 a/c.

Yes, people have said it could ‘fit’ 70+ aircraft onboard, but those aircraft would be unable to operate effectively or efficiently. You actually get more sorties from a smaller air wing. And it was not designed to operate that number, there simply isn’t the berthing capability onboard for the personnel required.

US Navy CVN’s, which are much larger (30,000 tonnes larger), currently operate with airgroups of 65 aircraft. And that includes helicopters…which are smaller than the UK’s Merlin. They are working to get the number up to 70 with the MQ-25, and some shuffling around, by 2030, but that number is pretty much a hard limit. There are no more small A-4’s to fill the deck up with…

RobB

Things have moved on from carriers having a dedicated air wing that always does the whole trip on board’ Maybe you should tell that to the USN.

heroic

We couldn’t even keep all 8 of ours on board, just sayin !

Duker

It was just ‘late getting home ‘ !

ATH

The USN is a very conservative organisation. Plus its big carriers are cat and trap which does need a lot more on ship training time than STOVOL.

Cammy

Our carriers are more like the US marine carriers..

X

Odd is not that that all sorts was deleted but a hangar tall enough for MV-22 wasn’t…..

Last edited 11 days ago by X
Duker

very different . US Navy amphib ships have much more space for troops, landing craft and heavy equipment than aviation

X

which does need a lot more on ship training time than STOVOL.

What about Automatic Carrier Landing System? And what about with or without autopilot? What about when this system improves?

I think too many here trot out rhubarb to support F35b because it was we have bought and not through any understanding of the CTOL world.

You have made too many sweeping statements. We are where we are because of budget not choice.

Jon

Everything is about the budget and no choices are free. But if we had double the budget, I’d have still seriously considered hybrid, with F-35Bs and cat-launched AEW and tanking, which it looks like what we’ll end up with.

F-35C was the last variant to reach IOC (2019 with steam catapults) and it’s costing the US $300m extra to make sure USS Kennedy can handle it. Adding in the problems that Ford had with its cats and traps (still not certified for F-35C I believe), would have mean that had we selected that system we’d have been landed with all the teething issues of planes, launch and recovery. As it was, the USMC blazed our trail in all but ramp launching.

Given the unfortunate timing – it wasn’t a bad choice to go F-35B.

X

Apart from it cuts us from the mainstram of carrier aviation development. We can’t even back it up with proper investment in subsidiary systems.

Whose interested in F35C? The USN aren’t for a certainty.

Jon

Nancy Sinatra’s boots were made for walking, Twiggy wore a minidress and I was still in short trousers. In 1966 Harold Wilson cut us from the mainstream of carrier aviation development with the cancellation of the CVA programme. For over a decade Buccaneers and Phantoms flew on borrowed life, then it was jump jets for the foreseable future.

I don’t blame the F-35B for that. Yes, there was an opportunity and there still is; we need to breathe life into the EMCAT programme or its equivalent. We can’t buy off-the-shelf for our needs, and will otherwise have to stump up for full blown EMALS. It will also give us a route back into CATOBAR at half life of the carriers — if we want it.

X

>larf<

Honestly is that the best argument you can come up with? We did something 50 years ago. We stop doing it. And now 50 years later we are doing it again but that break 50 years ago is the reason for not do something today? Really? >larf<

Jon

It’s not an argument and we aren’t doing it again – we are still doing it. You stop doing, it all that happens is you end up with no carriers at all. I gave the arguments for not going with F35C earlier.

X

And it is CTOL not CATOBAR……

Jon

CTOL, an acronym also applying land-based runways. You want to use less-specific terminology, go ahead, but don’t correct mine. I meant CATOBAR; we already have CTOL planes.

X

That banner photo. Sheer size of ’em.

heroic

Yup, 8th from left must be all of 9 ft tall.

X

🙂

Andrew

I thought PWLS was going to trial SRVL. Will that still happen to help reduce operational stress on the F35B fleet?

X

SRVL could do. It will help. But it won’t be a huge help.

It’s PoW not PWLS. 🙂

Dogs Nads

It may well do on the Westland deployment scheduled for this year.
But SRVL is not really as big a deal as people think…truth is the F-35B can recover onboard with maximum UK weapon load already. With the cancellation of Storm Shadow integration years ago the max load we can fit on 1 a/c is less than 6,000lb.

X

6800kg which is 15,000 lbs I think.

No way is everything going to be carried internally.

4thwatch

Wow yes well purchasing F35’s really is going glacially slow. I think looking ahead we should be planning to have all the F35’s FAA because when Tempest arrives the RAF will have lost interest in F35. Just saying.

Also see Type 45 HMS Defender is the escort. Time methinks plan to SLEP the whole Type 45 class which are underused due to poor engines and availability. Give them another 15 years Fit With everything they should have had and push back the proposed Type 83 10 years. Everything about the T45 has been so piecemeal and spoiled for a hap’worth of tar. No Urgency seems to be the watchword or perhaps the FFBNW class soon to be joined by the T31’s.

Sometimes we waste so much money.

ATH

A few problems with your plan.

  1. The FAA doesn’t have anything like the personnel number to “take over” the F35. Getting the numbers and experience would take years. The RAF has often had more than one combat type in service.
  2. Delaying the T83 build and leaving a gap after the end of T26 build would just re create the problems experienced after the end of carrier structural build. The plan is very sensibly to create a steady stream of build work.
Duker

Wouldnt they just change the uniform for the RN to take over the F-35B. Some might stay with RAF.
Wasnt that what happened when the RAF controlled the Fleet Air Arm in the middle 30s?

X

Time for the FAA to merge with the RAF under RN control……….;)

Duker

The RN would have to give up something to get its own fixed wing F-35 group – as is the ways of Whitehall- so they might lose the RM ??

X

Do you know what 😉 means?

Back in the early 60’s an idea was floated in the paper to merge the FAA and RM a la USMC. There are some RM pilots still out there I think……

zavve

T83 does not only represent a replacement from the T45 but also an upgrade. The RN needs more capable escorts to be ready for a fight in the SCS in the early 2030’s

X

If a fight is coming in the SCS it will be later this decade. China has to achieve sea control, the USN only has to achieve sea denial. The USN is still the superior navy. And the the shortcomings have been identified. The US has the muscle to correct those quickly. The window for PLAN is closing.

I am still interested in how well the USAF have got their guided bomb against moving target tech working. They have huge stockpiles of dumb bombs for those kits and the planes to carry them.

Duker

I though those small diameter bomb glide kits were their choice for moving targets. Thats all you need when its a direct hit.

zavve

Even if their guided bombs can hit ship they will never be as good as a true ASM

X

What are the US stocks of convertible dumb bombs at the moment?

Jon

Why, if we could (and should) delay taking the T45s out of service, would we also delay the T83s? Increasing the number of escorts would be a really good thing, providing we have the budget to crew them.

ATH

And people of suitable experience. RN recruitment and retention has been a long ongoing issue.

X

I would sign up to the Italian DDX program instead of T83.

And put some architects onto designing a AAW variant of T26.

And I would continue to build T26 past the 8 we are getting.

T45 has been a disaster. We would have been far better off with the Italian variant of Horizon. Simpler ship. Better armed.

Duker

It was a 3 ring circus during procurement/build. But fine now the extra diesel being slotted in.
Wise heads should have said this innovative integrated intercooled GT and electric system is great idea, but lets put an extra diesel in to reduce running hours/maintenance on those units and just in case.

X

No. It is a weapons grade cock-up.

Rob

If we could build another 8 aircraft carriers we could have 1 plane on each carrier.

heroic

7

Bob

Given heightened tension with the Putin Crime Family are they really inviting Russian observers?

Jon

They’ll be watching anyway. Might as well watch them watching us.

ATH

There may well be an obligation to invite them under some of the European Security treaties.

X

Putin Crime Family?

Really?

Grown ups don’t get their news from the BBC or Daily Mail.

Duker

Yes. Britain ran an Empire dealing with corrupt local satraps and deceitful self governing colonies and such. The world doesnt change much and nor does looking past the inglorious bastards to see where your own interest lie.

Bob

Bill Browder isn’t wrong..it’s not entirely about money for Vlad but his fortune isn’t held in roubles now is it?

Oh dear

Sending to sea an empty carrier…..
What message does that send to Russia?
”We are broke and cant afford the jets to fly from it. East eastern Europe is all yours Mr Putin. Perhaps sooner in 2024 when the USA goes to war against itself and the supply of F35Bs (and Trident SLBMs) dry up.”

Duker

Hardly a state secret that RN is operating on the string of one shoe. Russians are the same and virtually impossible for them to invade part of Ukraine let alone all of eastern Europe- many of those countries were depopulated by 20% after joining EU.

X

So where does all that money go from the sales of hydrocarbons go then?

X

Why does Russia want Eastern Europe?

You lot live in a fantasy world conjured up by the mainstream media.

If there is a naval issue with Russia it is our lack of submarines and ASW assets.

Deep32

Don’t think Russia wants Eastern Europe per se, they just want a buffer against further NATO expansion Eastwards.

X

Well if the US and EU stop playing silly beggars then Russia can have that surely? Are we in Western Europe nothing more than a buffer for the US?

heroic

Putin wants his Empire back, simples.

X

>larf<

You are right you are a hero……..

Would you be 77th?