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Bad Move For UK Defence  
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13165 posts, RR: 78
Posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 1428 times:

The UK Ministry Of Defence has announced that the Royal Navy Sea Harrier FA.2's are to be phased out between 2004-2006.
In their place will be RAF Harrier GR.7's, taken out of storage and upgraded to GR.9's.
The GR.9 will have a more powerful engine, some avionic upgrades with provision for Brimstone anti-tank missiles and Storm Shadow stand-off weapons, along with the current Maverick missiles and LGB's.
Also, the new ASRAAM will replace the AIM-9 self-defence missiles.
What the GR.9 won't have is a modern radar, like the Sea Harrier's Blue Vixen, along with AMRAAM missiles.
So the RN loses much of it's air-defence capability, no way is even the GR.9 capable is this role.
The Blue Vixen/AMRAAM capability was only introduced in 1994, the last Sea Harrier was completed in 1999, so the 'ageing' arguement does not hold up.
Since the mid-90's, with UK forces almost constantly in action, RAF Harriers have deployed on the RN carriers. They are much better strike aircraft, being based on the AV-8B with it's greater payload/range, and are night/adverse weather capable. So the two are complementry.
Usually a carrier will carry 14-20 Harriers, split between the RN/RAF versions.
The GR.9 will be a formidable attack aircraft, a real improvement in RN strike capability, unless the enemy has a half-decent airforce.
The MoD says it will reduce costs, and that the Sea Harrier needed an upgraded engine for 'hot' conditions. They implied that it was not technically feasible, but some Sea Harriers were already in line for the upgraded engine.
They will reduce costs, the two Harriers are very different:
Harrier FA.2

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Click here for full size photo!

Photo © Colin Norwood


Harrier GR.7

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Click here for full size photo!

Photo © Mark Heywood



The USMC are modifying some of their AV-8B's to carry APG-65 radars, and retaining attack sensors, the Spanish and Italian fleets are doing the same, and introducing AMRAAM capability for their aircraft.
So why not fit at least some of the GR.9's with Blue Vixen radars taken from the FA.2's, if it can fit on a Harrier airframe, should be no problem with a AV-8B derived platform like a GR.9
You'd lose a lot of the short term cost savings of course, but keep an important capability, the GR.9's would not be as nimble as the FA.2's, though they probably have a better turn rate, along with greater endurance.
It seems the hard lessons of the Falklands war have faded from memory, 20 years on.
The future of the AEW modified Sea King helicopters is also called into question, though it could be argued that they'll be even more vital now, with radar-less Harriers to support.
It can be argued that this move reflects the reality of the type of role the RN will be called upon to do nowadays, this has a lot of truth, but it also sounds like planning for the future by only learning from very recent conflicts/operations.
This is a victory for the RAF, but many RN Harrier pilots may resign, they were already unhappy about moving to an RAF base in middle England to be the the RAF Harriers, from their current base in Yeovilton which is in the same part of the country as the main naval bases.
The gap will be filled from 2012, when the first of two big new carriers is due to enter service. They will each carry 24-40 JSF's, almost certainly the STOVL version. From the start the airgroup has planned to be an extension of the current RN/RAF airgroups.
As the USMC will fund AMRAAM integration for their JSF's, no excuse for the UK ones not to have this capabilty, though the UK MoD has taken the gun off the RAF Eurofighters to save, over the life of the aircraft, the cost of half a Eurofighter!
It had been hoped the new Meteor BVRAAM might be adapted for RN JSF's, not now it seems.
The new carriers will also need a new AEW aircraft, probably an EH-101 variant.
Let's hope the RN don't face a competent air to air opponent without US air-defence support between 2006-2012.


18 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineLY744 From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 5536 posts, RR: 10
Reply 1, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 1328 times:

Hate to go a little off topic, but is it true that the British Typhoons are not going to be equipped with a cannon?  Confused

LY744.



Pacifism only works if EVERYBODY practices it
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13165 posts, RR: 78
Reply 2, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 1318 times:

It's true, they'll have to put ballast in it's place, it was a half-baked 'cost saving' measure, to reduce support costs.
They tried to dress it up as reflecting the primacy of missiles now, they got statistics from the Gulf War and Serbia showing no gun kills.
But now, what if warning shots are needed against a suspected hi-jacked airliner, or something similar?
They took guns off the Lightning F3 in the mid 60's, only to reinstall them on Lightning F6's from 1970.
You can bet the RAF are not happy, still the MoD have to cut costs like this when their grand HQ building in London is having an expensive restoration.
Partly though, these savings reflect a number of big spending programmes occuring or pending, Eurofighter production, the two big carriers, Type 45 Destroyers, ASTOR aircraft, Nimrod MRA.4, Meteor, ASRAAM, Storm Shadow and Brimstone missiles.
But the biggest cost strain is the almost constant deployment of large percentages of the armed forces to a wide variety of places.
The UK is the highest spending on defence in Europe, with 2.7% GDP, the next being France at 2.5%, then a big drop for the rest.


User currently offlineG-KIRAN From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2000, 736 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 1311 times:

I have heard that HMS Invincible,the aircraft carrier of Falklands fame will be sold off along with the sea harriers in 2006.I have also heard that HMS Fearless,the assualt ship and HMS Coventry,type 23 frigate will be gone be the end of the year.

HMS Ark Royal,HMS Illustrious will follow HMS Invincible when the new full size CVS carriers arrive in around 2010.These new carriers will have the JSF on them,so for once the Fleet Air Arm will have full size carriers and supersonic aircraft after that awful white paper in 1978 which scraped the old HMS Ark royal and the RN F-4s.



Also new the new Astute class submarines and trh Tritons,which will replace hte type 22 frigates will be coming into service within the next few years.




I cant understand why Blair came up with a stupid idea to save money.What happens if a EF2000 runs out of missiles in combat and is unable to defend itself?By eliminating cannons on the EF2000 they will save about $30million at the most.What is that to the 4th largest economy in the world?Nothing!And how much does the Britsh government spend on the dole, bogus asylum seekers and the civil list?

Overall this really makes me sick.Here we are fighting wars in places that most of our population have never heard of and we cant even afford to give our armed forces the best equipment.


User currently offlineLY744 From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 5536 posts, RR: 10
Reply 4, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 1305 times:

I guess people never learn, their argument (regarding the lack of cannons on EF2000's) is identical to that the US military used before the Vietnam war...  Insane

LY744.



Pacifism only works if EVERYBODY practices it
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13165 posts, RR: 78
Reply 5, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 1302 times:

Plans for new big conventional carriers, the CVA project, was cancelled in 1966.
The RAF 'proved' they could defend the fleet even in the Far East, to prove it they even moved Australia 500 miles north!
HMS Ark Royal, the last conventional carrier, went in 1978, it was on it's last legs, had lots of mechanical problems, and was regarded as a giant floating slum by crews.
In the cold war, Invincible class carriers, used mainly for ASW with Sea King helicopters, with a number of Sea Harriers to keep away Soviet maritime patrol/missile targeting aircraft, seemed appropriate.
As the UK no longer had big worldwide commitments, and Europe was the focus, big conventional carriers appeared to be not needed, as well as very expensive and difficult to man.
Now we are back to needing big carriers again, and before the CVF carriers come along they are trying to maximise the Invincible class carriers strike ability, as well as buying Tomahawks for RN subs.
This goverment launched the CVF programme, are buying new assault ships and addressing the RAF's transport needs.
But they need to get a grip on the Ministry Of Defence, and stop the 'salami slicing' cuts.
It the little things that get you, after the Falklands Sea King's adapted for AEW entered service, they had been quickly developed following the loss of HMS Sheffield to an Exocet missile.
The reason the programme was so quick was that Westland and EMI had proposed this AEW conversion in 1980, but there was no room in the budget for this moderately-priced project.
Had it gone ahead. there would be probably a couple of airframes in development, they could have been rushed into service in time for the fighting.
They would have made a hell of a difference, the Sea Harriers, which performed so well, would have done even better, probably even intercepting Exocet carrying Super Etendards.
I'd hate to see us caught out like that again.
Blair is apprently pushing Chancellor Gordon Brown to increase defence spending slightly in the next budget.






User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 53
Reply 6, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 2 days ago) and read 1282 times:

At some point, the government is going to have to address the contradiction in the current policy. Britain's overseas role is increasing year on year, with UK forces being the army of choice for troublespots around the world. A navy presence is equally important. Yet there is continual pressure to reduce the defence budget, and as a result the armed forces are more stretched than at any point since world war II. Even in the Falklands there were considerable forces left behind.

Ultimately, it comes down to this. If we continue the way we are, then the defence budget must be substantially increased. If not, then Britain must reduce its military exposure. Currently, Britain is attempting to act as a military mini-superpower whilst refusing to give the armed forces what they require.



She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13165 posts, RR: 78
Reply 7, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 1277 times:

I totally agree, the irony is that the goverments longer term planning and procurement are sensible and appropriate.
The review in 1998 was just that, a proper review of the UK forces mission, rather than just an excuse for more cuts which happened previously under the last goverment.
But now some of the mimium force levels from that review are not being met.
They did in 1998 what should have been done in 1990.
But how to solve manning problems in an era of low unemployment?
A reduction in the amount of extended deployments would help a lot, so either reduce these or make proper use of reserve forces, like the US does.
This would need new leglislation to protect reserve forces civillan employment when they are called up.
I'd go as far as forming some flying RAF reserve units, plenty of airline pilots would do it, even if just transport squadrons, though combat units too if a sufficent number of ex military pilots now flying commercially could be found.
The USAF, US Army, USN and USMC all mangage to run similar units, why not us too?


User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 53
Reply 8, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 1262 times:

The assumption there of course is that the government will stick to it. I am afraid that when it comes to coughing up for a couple of aircrat carriers the government of the day may decide instead to "refit" (again!) the three (by then) rather elderly through-deck cruisers we have now instead.


She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13165 posts, RR: 78
Reply 9, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 23 hours ago) and read 1259 times:

In the CVF's programmes favour is that the construction work, followed by supporting them in service, will greatly benefit some areas important politically for the goverment, not least a certain Gordon Brown. He was up at the post-refit ceremonies of HMS Ark Royal in his Rosyth consituency late last year, and made his support for CVF plain.
Also, it would now be a high profile retreat to cancel it, pics and info on the CVF are all over offical MoD websites, as well as being much discussed in the press.
Of course three CVF's would be desirable, but two CVF's are better than one Charles DeGaulle, the new, trouble-prone French aircraft carrier.
The Invincible class could not, even with extensive refits, operate JSF's, that aircraft will require blast-deflectors for a start, as well as being bigger and much heavier than Harriers.
Though maybe HMS Ark Royal, the newest 'Invincible class' carrier, could have it's life extended post CVF, as a helicopter carrier to back up HMS Ocean, and/or carry the Naval UCAV's that should be in service by 2015.
HMS Invincible goes into reserve in 2006, with HMS Illustrious it will be replaced by CVF-01 in 2011-12.
Contracts for CVF development are due in 2003. The configuration, (almost certainly for VSTOL), is to be finalised this year.
BAE Systems, who own shipyards, are the front runners, though the other bidder Thales, could get some of the electronic systems work.



User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 53
Reply 10, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 23 hours ago) and read 1258 times:

Tell me, GDB; HMS Fearless must be 40 years old by now, and Intrepid doesn't look like she'll ever sail again. Are there any plans in the works for new amphibious vessels beyond the slightly different HMS Ocean?


She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13165 posts, RR: 78
Reply 11, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 22 hours ago) and read 1257 times:

Yes, HMS Albion and Bulwark are two big new assault vessels, one should be in service late this year/early next year.
The other one by 2004.



User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 53
Reply 12, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 1 hour ago) and read 1245 times:

Good God! FIVE capital ships in the Royal Navy! When was the last time that happened?


She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineJwenting From Netherlands, joined Apr 2001, 10213 posts, RR: 19
Reply 13, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 1 hour ago) and read 1246 times:

I thought the CVF had been shelved by the Blairy bunch?
What they're really after is the dismantling of the RN carrier force. Scrap the Sea Harriers now and in a few years they'll just say the RAF aircraft can operate just as effectively from landbased forward bases (how they get there is not important, probably on chartered An-124s...) so the carriers can be scrapped without replacement.



I wish I were flying
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13165 posts, RR: 78
Reply 14, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week 1 hour ago) and read 1242 times:

No, this goverment started the CVF programme.
I think what has happened to the Sea Harriers is a trade off, the RAF did not really want the Sea Harriers integrated into their force, the RN thought the same about the RAF.
But standardising with the GR.7/9's was probably to keep the RAF from opposing the CVF programme.
As I said before, if some of the GR.9's were refitted with Blue Vixen/AMRAAM, it would make sense.
The RN squardrons will operate the GR.9's with the RAF, but the RAF will lose two Harrier squadrons to support this move and allow for long-term attrition etc.
If the RAF are smart, they'll look back on their success in cancelling CVA-01 in 1966, then reflect on how it did nothing to help them. They also lost TSR.2, it's F-111K replacement, the P.1154 and a reduced buy of F-4's.
They got the Harrier, which they didn't really want at first, then the Buccanner, to them an 'inferior' naval aircraft, which they soon fell in love with.




User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 53
Reply 15, posted (12 years 4 months 1 week ago) and read 1237 times:

GDB, were you working in the MOD beforehand or something? One of my areas of "expertise" is naval history but I know relatively little about the technical aspects, and you clearly do.

Can you enlighten me?



She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13165 posts, RR: 78
Reply 16, posted (12 years 4 months 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 1232 times:

Had some relatives in the RN in the past, been on HMS Hermes (why wasn't that modernised and retained, the Indians can still use it), plus Invincible, Illustrious, Fearless, Intrepid and various others in the 1980's.
Got some friends at the MoD now.
Also, if you look into how UK airpower got to where it is today, it's helpful to understand the political factors, and the defence reviews of the mid 1960's were the biggest event.
(And I work with some people who were on the TSR.2 project, they are still pissed off!).
But not the most damaging, that was the Conservatives 1957 review which proclaimed that all manned aircraft would soon be obselete and replaced by missiles.
For all the shortcomings with the loss of the Sea Harriers, it's still encouraging that the RN is getting back into the big carrier game, and the project is moving towards the difficult and expensive to cancel stage. And the UK's very lucrative stake in the JSF project is totally tied in with CVF.
Like so much else with this goverment, we've little choice but to hope that the long-term goals will be achieved.



User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 53
Reply 17, posted (12 years 4 months 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 1227 times:

It is interesting that you mention the current aircraft carriers because I recall (I can't remember who it was, sorry) an MP on the Defence select committee saying that it would be a good idea to extend the lives of at least two of the current carriers (with Harriers) to serve alongside the new CVF's, allowing naval air power to be spread much wider across the world. The idea then would be to build more in about 2025. Nice idea, but I can't see it happening.


She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineJwenting From Netherlands, joined Apr 2001, 10213 posts, RR: 19
Reply 18, posted (12 years 4 months 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 1215 times:

(And I work with some people who were on the TSR.2 project, they are still pissed off!).
But not the most damaging, that was the Conservatives 1957 review which proclaimed that all manned aircraft would soon be obselete and replaced by missiles.


TSR.2 was indeed the biggest mistake ever made in UK military aviation (the cancelling of the project of course).
The statement that manned aircraft would be obsolete soon was at the time common. It was not made only in the UK but in the USA and USSR as well. It was thought that the new ballistic missiles would take over the role of ground attack aircraft. That would lead to there being no more targets for air defense fighters (which are incapable of intercepting IRBMs and ICBMs). Focus would shift completely to missile batteries designed to intercept ICBMs (and later the supersonic cruise missiles the US and USSR were starting to field).

Vietnam did one good thing, it showed that there was still a need for a man in an aircraft to support ground forces, thus saving military combat aviation.



I wish I were flying
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