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Trip

Link for the previous article about Vixen doesn’t work

Trip

Tnx for fixing it

AdjectiveNoun

I know a lot of the discussion is usually dedicated to the fixed-wing Vixen, but I think the rotary wing Proteus could be very consequential, especially if it is compatible with the escorts. By 2030 the Merlin fleet will be stretched and aged, and the Wildcat fleet is not especially large. But we will have 2 big deck carriers to fill and (according to current plans) another 5 frigates to generate flights for.

Jon

I was thinking of it as something like MQ-8C Fire Scout, which has just started deployment for the USN with a Leonardo radar, so perfect for the search role. The Osprey X-band AESA radar already has a greater (stated) range than Crowsnest Searchwater so hopefully it won’t need too much tweaking. I was wondering, will the platform have to be bigger for ASW?

Jon

To answer my own question it seems that Nothrop Grumman are trialling ASW already. With a Rolls-Royce engine, a Leonardo (UK) radar and an ASW package (sonobuoys and sensors) developed by Ultra, Fire Scout feels half British already and a pretty close precursor to Proteus. Maybe we should buy a couple and get some operational experience.

Dogs Nads

We’ve got to get away from the idea that we have loads of sonobuoys to chuck out at every contact…we don’t. There is a finite supply, and production would not keep up with demand, or even close to that matter.

A small rotary wing UAS, say a little bigger than the Leonardo Hero, could carry and EO/IR system and a modern, active, sonobuoy on a winch. No need for the far more expensive FLASH system. Have a couple working with each Merlin and you have a moving sonobuoy field….constantly relocating, dipping, triangulating… Even one of the larger Malloy quad rotor UAV’s could dip a smaller passive sonar.

Result…no huge amounts of cash spent on a finite supply of sonobuoys (or left for an opponent to recover), but massively increased capacity and capability. A sub captains nightmare.

It’s also worth noting you could use tem closer to a target as sub launched anti-air is increasingly a possiblility. You don’t want a Merlin too close to a sub equipped with something like IDAS.

Dogs Nads

And for those who think that future isn’t coming…look at the USN deploying small, fixed wing UAV’s from subs….

Then look at a Switchblade 300 or 600…

Then ask yourself if you want to be in a noisy ASW helo dipping anywhere near a sub with one of those onboard. Using some AI they could launch it and allow it to search visually for a helo and engage…

Joe16

I was also thinking exactly the same thing. I even think that the T26, T31 and maybe the T45 could fit one and a Wildcat in their hangar- which would be a win. The airframe would also be big enough to take dipping sonar, and the Martlet and Sea Venom- unlike the smaller RWAS mentioned in the article.

Duker

The actual purchase costs from Boeing for the P-8 are a fraction of the claimed £3.2Bn.
US navy published P-8 annual contracts for a fixed number of planes ( incl RAF and other foreign buyers)
This one a bit more than one year back is US$1.6 bill for 11 planes or the $145 mill each mark
https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2021/04/us-navy-orders-11-more-p-8a-poseidon-maritime-patrol-aircraft/

That is roughly £72 million pounds each. Of course entry into service costs and training is expensive for a new type but even if it equalled the purchase costs of 9 planes at £72 mill each the combined total only comes to £1.3 bill area.
MOD ‘purchase price’ claims are more likely for entire cost including weapons, and maintenance ( excluding fuel and crewing) over the expected life of the type ( which can be extended)

Last edited 3 months ago by Duker
Pete

Suspect Capex/ infrastructure at Lossiemouth is also a significant contribution

Duker

large spaceframe hangars are fairly low cost.
Thats why I included an equal amount of the purchase price as EIS service costs.
Still way short of  £3.2 bill.
Only way it works is that it includes EIS AND lifetime service costs ( also under contract to Boeing), plus the Treasury charges for depreciation and asset charges
‘Atlantic Building at RAF LossiemouthThe facility, with a steel structure 19 metres high, 165 metres long and 100 metres wide, is equal to 1.5 times the size of BT Murrayfield Stadium and is large enough to park 280 double decker buses. It can hold three aircraft, as well as maintenance space, planning rooms and office space. There will also be pilot simulators for training. Around 200 Boeing employees will be based at RAF Lossiemouth, focused on maintenance, training and support.
All nine P-8A Poseidon aircraft will operate from the base, where over 400 service and civilian personnel will operate and maintain the aircraft.’
https://www.boeing.co.uk/boeing-in-the-uk/our-sites/raf-lossiemouth.page

David MacDonald

True no doubt. The marginal cost per aircraft of procuring a few more P8s would therefore be significantly less.

Dogs Nads

What £ to $ exchange rate are you using? 1985’s?

$145m is £108.75m at current exchange rates.

A mere 50% more than £72m…

Duker

Just rechecked now US145 mill is around UK£74 million ( western union) thats for retail customers. Govts get better rates

And what difference does that really make in the overall gap between contract prices and the £3.2 bill claimed cost

Dogs Nads

All I can say change who you get foreign exchange from…retail customers get close to forex rates in the UK…

Current forex rate (which governments and banks use) is $1 for £0.75….

It makes 50% difference…which is huge.

sophie

The first 48 on order for the UK will have been delivered by 2027
why not 2025?

Dogs Nads

You’re thinking of F-35, he’s talking about P-8

Pete

Great to hear wildcat datalink may be progressing. Adding dipping sonar would be a great multiplier. Assume datalinks would allow Wildcat to work with UAS systems such as Alvina.

John Hartley

I still think it was a mistake not to give Wildcat, the foot longer cabin of the Lynx 3 prototype. Would help when you try to stuff more things in there.

X

Yes. Wildcat is an odd beast. Without toys it is a big taxi, too big for the Army that is a certainty. But if you want to get the best out of it it needs more volume.

Dogs Nads

It was a mistake to build it at all.

We’ve got Merlin sized decks and hangars everywhere. Wildcat should have been based on the AW139 rather than Lynx. Huge uplift in capability, particularly with moving personnel and stores, and a vast hinterland of civilian users to keep costs down. Wildcat doesn’t have a folding tail boom so the difference in size when parked up with folded rotors is miniscule (AW139 is longer by 4 ft but lower in height).

ATH

It’s clear that Wildcat was a political decision to support helicopter design skills at Yeovil. I agree it was a mistake, you can’t fun every skill set from the MoD budget.
The money would have bought upgrades for all the Merlin fleet and paid for a utility helicopter based on any of the competing off the shelf designs. Wildcats not a bad helicopter in any way, it’s just a very poor VFM helicopter. It’s high cost is reflected in its abysmal export record.

Jack65

Too much emphasis on UAVs and not enough on F35B numbers. The goalposts are continually changing as the UK armed forces grow weaker. The original purchase number of 138 should be adhered to, we have managed to build two very modern carriers but are unable to put one to sea with a full airgroup! As for ‘surge’ capability, this is non-existent, we have no assets to ‘surge’ with!

Craig M

Is there still talk about a reducing the number of F35Bs and purchasing F35As for the RAF. Or was that just a rumour that has gone away?

David MacDonald

That would seem to be the sensible thing to do if we procured something like the originally intended numbers of f35s. Say, three or four operational squadrons plus an OCU of F35As for the RAF and three, preferably four 800 plus one 700 Naval Air Squadrons of F35Bs.

I’ll place that with the 12 Type 45s and 16 type 26s originally intended.

Last edited 3 months ago by David MacDonald
Nigel Collins

Now scheduled for 2029, around the same time 6th gen aircraft will start to appear including drones.

No Meteor integration or Spear Cap 3 until then.

“The GAO report found that the current 2027 goal for finalizing the Block 4 modernization is “not achievable,” GAO said that costs of the effort had ballooned by $1.9 billion between 2019 and 2020, bringing the overall cost to about $14.4 billion. Software development has been the primary driver of the problems, the report said — including the fact that about a quarter of the software being delivered by prime contractor Lockheed Martin was found to have defects after it had already been integrated into the aircraft.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2021/03/block-4-software-issues-could-cause-f-35-capability-delays-costly-retrofits/

Jon

What do they expect if they’ve decided Agile is the right software development methodology? They based their methods on a report called “Software is Never Done”, and they still can’t fathom why they never finish the software.

However that doesn’t mean that Meteor/Spear integration needs to wait that long. Block 4 is a catch-all term for a number of software mods and improvements. Block 3 was released in stages, and I’m sure Block 4 will be too.

Dogs Nads

Meteor and Spear is more like 2027 at present.

X

Why would it have been sensible? Save a bit here and there and yet waste the ability to be used on the carriers? Sensible?

Grant

That goes for the Merlin numbers too; they are the worlds premier ASW helicopter and are a force multiplier, so considering the ASW challenge more would be very welcome. Introducing F35 and Merlins into service was expensive: each additional airframe is as a result cheaper then the last. We built the QE class entirely around the F35B and it is a world class capability so the idea of not getting the mass in return for promises about UAVs in the future is a huge waste of money.

d.petrie

Agree with you Jack65, I believe we’ve gone beyond ‘down to the bone’. We’re built for only peacetime ‘token show of force’ capability right across the forces. Slightly off topic (as it relates to RN surface combatants) but did anyone hear the Northumberland skipper, on Ch5’s Warship (Episode 4 this past week), say “the RN is stretched …. trying to keep up with Russian activities”. If it’s stretched now God help us if we need to support even a small surface force for an extended period, away from CSG activity. I can see basic but essential patrol duties will suffer elsewhere, we’ll see more mission creep and shore leave cut further …. morale will suffer and our ability to meet commitments with it. Just thinking of the intensified activity the Russians are showing …. usual UK water encroachments and, now, missile testing in the Western Approaches, just one example.

Jon

I may have misread it, but wasn’t Vampire for six drones (plus up to ten more), not four? I thought it was four this year 22/23, one each in the following two years, and the option for ten was over and above.

Last edited 3 months ago by Jon
SwindonSteve

I think you’re correct more or less – 16 was a total number over the course of the contract if recall, roughly as you describe.

dabohl

Wasn’t Vixen also supposed to have some possible AEW functionality, to take up the role of a proper dedicated aircraft such as an E2-D?

Cammy

Now that would be great, could it take the heavy gear… E2-D is huge.

Jon

E2-D has multiple sensors and in-situ command and control with five people working it all. Vixen will be unmanned. A new generation of sensors will be used, smaller and more sensitive, and presumably most of the command functions will be located elswhere. Finally, it doesn’t need to be as good as the E2-D. As long as it’s better than Crowsnest, it’ll be a step up.

Mellons X

I’m no expert but can all these actually land on and launch from the carriers ?

Cammy

If we spent the money to make sure they can then yes. Even a trap and small cat could work but can’t see it, looks like we are going for cheap ass carriers, well compared to yanks.

John Hartley

I would add a few CMV-22 for keeping the link between shore & QE/PoW. The US plans to have 2 per carrier, so we would only need to buy 4 at $105 m each, with initial spares. Such a small number would only be viable, if we used USN training & logistics.

John Hartley

Also interesting, General Atomics Mojave. Based on the MQ-9 Reaper, but with STOL capabilities. Can carry up to 16 Hellfire missiles, or similar up to 3600 lbs. They think it could work from aircraft carriers. Probably would not need (could not use) cats & traps, so might be suitable from QE/PoW. Probably greater combat radius/loiter time than an F-35B.

Duker

Too silly for words

John Hartley

The Thai navy has been operating a UAV from their pocket carrier, earlier this month.

Dogs Nads

Why? It uses the same control architecture that the UK has had in use for over 10 years, we have the compatible weapons in stock and personnel trained in using them in flight (same as MQ-9B). It’s designed for short take off and landing, it could easily get aboard a QE. Using the ski jump would need trials however. A UAV with 24hr endurance and serios weapons capability woul dbe a huge bonus.

And if Protector can carry and deploy radar and sonobuoys…Mojave can…

Dogs Nads

It could definitely operate from the carrier with wind over the deck and its head into wind (like all launches) but they’d need to test its ability on a ski jump…

Jon

It’s a 450 hp turboprop. I can’t see it using a ramp launch unless it starts from the top of the ramp, rolling downward to gain speed.

Dogs Nads

With a high lift wing…it won’t have a problem. Christ a loaded Britten Norman Islander could land and take off from Hermes back in the day

Jon

I agree that without weapons and limited fuel, it could take off and land on the QE. I’m saying it’ll gain nothing from the ramp. The question in my mind is, is it cost effective to buy a plane and run it so below its maximum capability? Better to build something lighter and with less capacity, designed for a carrier. Protector costs £15m a pop for additional UAVs, the first tranche costing much more. I can’t see Mojave coming in for substantially less than that.

I do like the Islander. I thought we should have bought Hermes back from the Indians a few years ago when it was for sale and parked it off Pitcairn to give them an Islander service to French Polynesia (and many more facilities beside).

X

I have wondered about biplanes as lifting bodies. Imagine a ‘modern’ AN-2-esque something for Crowsnest. AN-2 has apparently no discernible stall speed.

Dogs Nads

How about a triplane…

Faradair BEHA…

They even briefed the REN on it…and it will land and takeoff on QE Class…with 3 standard cargo containers…

They even mocked one up on QE’s deck…

https://imgur.com/vx2vRHN

X

YES! It’s the only way we will loft anything off QE economically.

I still think (despite known problems) missing a trick by not choosing to take an amphibian route for UAV.

Dogs Nads

There’s a whole lot of stuff coming in the eVTOL space as well in the near future…

Dogs Nads

It’s 3x CMV-22 per carrier on current plans.

ATH

When you add the cost of paying to use USN facilities you end up with a very small fleet that cost much more per hull than the F35. All for a bit more capability than you get from Chinook. Very poor VFM in my opinion.

Dogs Nads

Absolutely.
For the cost of it we could buy half an additional FSS.

Nigel Collins

“Elbit Systems UK has formed and will lead a British industrial team of suppliers to compete for emerging unmanned aircraft system (UAS) programmes, the company announced on 20 January.”

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/industry-headlines/latest/elbit-systems-uk-builds-british-team-to-compete-for-domestic-uas-projects

Paul Bestwick

In this day and age is it possible to go radio silent? Given that a lot of the options listed here are remotely piloted and not autonomous, that’s a significant electronic signature. How do you keep your task group hidden?

Dogs Nads

EMCON is still a thing, LOS satellite links provide little electronic signature.

But in a world of cheap remote sensing satellites the utility of EMCON is falling in the naval arena.

Mark

You would have thought by now they could have stripped a Chinook chassis so just leave cockpit and rotas and move the fuel tanks to the roof so it could pick up and drop off iso containers and make it unmanned using targeted lazers and floor marking on deck to enable pick up and drop off of stores. This will then can be used for mission pods and a troop carrier facility. I’m sure it was done with the ch54 skyhook in the 60s so why not revisit the idea.

John the other John

Spell checker is your friend.

David Broome

For all the hype of UAVs and USVs, they can only operate in permissive environments. Introduce electronic warfare and jamming and they will fall from the sky or go around in circles. To Treasury they are attractive but in a hot war without autonomy, useless. Go on BJ and place a firm order for 90 F35Bs, 1 x Astute, 2 x Type 26s and 10 Type-32s. Make Global Britain real.

dick van dyke

Wouldn’t that be great news !

John Hartley

There are reports, that the artificial islands, China has built in the South China Sea, have heavy electronic warfare capabilities, to try to counter the US tech advantage.

ATH

The Astue line is closing asap to make way for the very much needed new SSBN’s. The first opportunity for extra SSN’s isn’t before the mid 2030’s.

David Broome

My idea is to swing the RAN SSN deal our way, is to build the lead vessel downunder for the RN.

Grant

Couldn’t agree more. Would settle for the F35Bs and the 2x T26 which should be eminently affordable in the scheme of things (as the big sunk costs for both programmes will have been paid). Plus some more choppers…

Sunmack

You could have those T26 and F35’s for the cost of Ajax. Which should be the priority for an island nation?

X

Uncrewed? So they service themselves and are purely autonomous in every way?

anon82

The word unmanned is apparently sexist/uninclusive

X

🙂

Cammy

Is WOMAN sexist too?

X

We all womans now if we want to be. Apparently.

Cammy

Yep, it’s crazy, iits a dam mental illness.

X

Occasionally I identified as a pot plant.

John Hartley

I want to identify as a 21 year old. Sadly, reality refuses to have anything to do with it.

Cammy

I occasionally smoke pot plants…

X

Naughty! 🙂

Bloke down the pub

Spear 3, having first flown on a Typhoon in 2016, is still years from entering service, despite the obviuos need for it. I’m afraid I don’t hold out much hope for the early introduction of any of these projects and instead I expect that come 2030 we’ll still be talking about how they’re nearly ready for service.

Dogs Nads

Spear was test flown in 2016, it was an early development missile without its full capabilities. Not a fully finished weapon.

Sunmack

A few points:

1) Fitting a stand off heavy ASM to the F35 should be a far higher priority than fitting that capability to the P8. It doesn’t need to be on every F35; a third of the fleet would probably do

2) Wildcat can’t be directed onto a submarine target by a Type 31 (no sonar) or a Type 45 (poor sonar reportedly no longer operated). Both of these classes are effectively defenceless against submarines when carrying Wildcat.

3) Wildcat with Martlet is not a potent small ship swarm counter weapon. Astonishingly we have not built Martlet as a fire and forget system which puts the Wildcat as risk of MANPADS while directing the missile and (presumably) limits the number of simultaneous engagements. It’s hard to think of a less fit for purpose weapon than an anti-swarm missile that isn’t fire and forget.

4) The F35 needs a stand off land attack missile (Spear 3 does not have the range). The lack of that means the F35 having to go into the engagement envelope of the many types of ground based SAM that Russia will sell to anyone. Unless stealth works exactly as advertised and none of its advantages are eroded over the coming decades, that’s a huge risk.

5) The lack of a long range land attack missile on the F35 coupled with no drop tanks and no carrier based air to air refueling requires the carrier to operate closer to shore to prosecute land based targets. This puts it at risk from attack by land based SSM’s and aircraft.

Dogs Nads

1) – There is no heavyweight AShM for F-35 at present available. In fact there won’t be one until 2028 when LRASM is integrated. FCASW should arrive in the early 2030’s so no point buying US. Until then there will be 1 AShM available from c2023/24, the Norwegian/US JSM. But its not a heavyweight. There won’t be anything else integrated until after the Block IV weapons are added.

2) – Not unusual in the naval world, but the RN is not using them for ASW.

3) – What better weapon is out there? It’s range is 8km+ which is well outside the range of a MANPAD on a fast attack craft. Each Martlet engagement at max range takes less than 20 seconds…how fast do you think a fast attack craft can actually travel?

4) – Spear (not Spear 3, thats the programme name) has a range in excess of 120 miles. That puts it well outside Russian SAM’s that are designed to engage fighters. They won’t be able to get a track on an F-35 anywhere close to that range either…

5) – Drop tanks are being developed, FCASW will arrive in due course.

Sunmack

1) I’d take JSM over something that might be available in the 2030’s if it’s the only missile system to come in on time ever. JSM is available sooner, does the job and doesn’t require development costs for a new missile so will be cheaper.
2) It’s totally unusual for frigates and destroyers in every first world navy not to have effective sonar. Primarily AAW assets in other navies such as the US, Italy, France, Australia, Spain etc. all have effective sonar and ship launched torpedoes. We are replacing GP frigates that have an effective sonar with frigates that don’t.
3) I didn’t say there was a better weapon. I said we should have developed a fire and forget missile of its primary purpose is anti-swarm
4) The range of Spear puts the F35 well within S400 and S500 range. As I said if stealth prevents aircraft tracking for the decades ahead that’s fine. If all the money being spent by China and Russia on radars that degrade stealth pay dividends then there’s a problem.
5) Unless and until we have those then my comment remains valid.

Last edited 3 months ago by Sunmack
X

Spear is slow, big, and has a tiny warhead.

SeaWolf was knocking smaller and much faster targets in the late 70’s.

Why anybody thinks it is worth carrying on £100 million platform for use in the naval sphere is beyond me.

Sea Skua was bigger and didn’t stop anything much over several 100 tons. Mission kill-ish…….perhaps-ish……..

Dogs Nads

This makes no sense…

Spear is not big…its a 100kg weapon. It’s not slow…its high subsonic. Tiny warhead…perhaps but its not a heavyweight weapon…

SeaWolf was designed to defeat supersonic sea skimmers in the 70’s…which for some reason everyone seems to think are the bees knees now….But if you fire 16 Spear from 2 F-35B at a ship target there aren’t many ships that could defend against it. It’s a lot easier to shoot down 2 larger AShM’s than 16 small targets…if a couple hit its a mission kill for most vessels. Add in Spear-EW producing false tracks and barrage jamming on the raid and it probably has greater survivability than most AShM’s…8 Spear cost a similar amount as 1 heavyweight AShM as well…

Robert

Shame that there’s no mention of the E7 Wedgetail, given the limitations of helicopter AEW.

Cammy

Why we are reducing numbers is beyond me…

Cammy

Is there any plans to have unscrewed F35s? Wouldn’t seem that hard with today’s tech.

Joe16

For me, the RN are missing a trick if they’re not making PROTEUS a fixed-wing asset- potentially based upon the Mosquito/Vixen airframe, or the AAR airframe if it’s different. Rotary wing AEW is limited in endurance and altitude, and threats are getting stealhtier and faster. By 2040 I imagine hypersonics are going to actually be the threat that they’re made out to be today, and I’d want to know they’re coming as early as possible.
Also, if the RN aren’t considering Firescout M/Q8C for FTUAS, then they’re crazy. DOn’t bother with something too small to carry a reasonable payload. All of our newest escorts have hangars big enough to take more than one helo anyway, why are we trying to get something so small?
I remain sceptical of thebreadth of the F-35B’s weapon fit, but none of the operators are in a much better place prior to the early 2030s anyway.

heroic

You should email Mr Ben Wallace, I’m sure he’ll listen to you.

Joe16

Haha, for most of the above I think it’s more a case of budget rather than capability. If I’m going to write an email to anyone, it’d have to be Sunack!
Do you disagree with any of the above? I don’t think I’m saying anything particularly ground breaking or uninformed… Although I do have to apologise for the awful spelling errors, I was typing at speed.

heroic

I don’t disagree at all, it’s the way we should be heading but for some reason no-one is really listening, which is folly in my book.

Jon

I read that Fire Scout prices are around $10-11m a unit, which is peanuts to the USN, but still an item to us. There also has to be a place for something S-100 sized on OPVs and GP frigates.

The advantage of going Fire Scout is that the US pays for the comms and integration research and irons out any bugs. For the number we’d be buying, at least initially, it’s nuts not to buy off the shelf.

I think the next generation of Leonardo radars could change everything for a decade. they say the Eurofighter’s Mk 2 radar will be leading edge, but it looks like there’ll be a step change after that. The replacement for the Osprey 30 in the Fire Scout could turn them into a huge force multiplier in a few year’s time — and we need to get ready for that now.

Jon

I’m with you on Fire Scout (C) . It’s shaping up to be a very nice platform.

Joe16

Yes, pretty cool that they’re just beginning deployments too!

captain p wash

Morning, Flightradar showng a bunch of F15’s and other aircraft heading to Lackenheath…. they just flew over my part of the World.

WJColton

This is a bit of hindsight, but the RN would have an easier time going forward had it built two CTOL carriers. That would have allowed for more interoperability with the US Navy and fielding a proper AEW aircraft like the E-2D.

Dogs Nads

‘Fielding’ E-2D would have cost c$10bn. Thats more than the 2 QE Class carriers cost…

$250m per aircraft, with 12 needed (5 per carrier and 2 spare). $3bn right there..

Add in EMALS and AAG for 2 ships and a shore set and you’ve added another $3bn…

Add in extra personnel to operate the EMALS and AAG, lifetime support and spares for that and E-2D and you’ve added an additional $4bn easily….

And it hasn’t even covered the training aircraft necessary to procure for deck landings, their personnel and operational cost either…

sophie

what’s standoff weapon