Author: Sharkey Ward
1.0 Executive Summary
Inter-Service rivalry is probably as old as any armed service unit. It can often be good for morale and efficiency, especially if it sharpens up teams to train and fight better together. The rivalry can, of course, take many forms. However, for the good of the Realm, it is often best played out on the rugger field at Twickenham and not in the media or MoD. Sadly, this is their only level playing field.
When the rivalry becomes a fight for funds, equipment and/or the maintenance of historical roles at the cost of an agreed strategy for the defence of the Realm’s interests, then it is extremely dangerous and inappropriate. The Nation and its citizens become the losers both in strategic defence capability and in international prestige. Unfortunately, history shows that this has happened all too often, especially at a time of financial crisis with a Treasury-led demand for reductions such as currently exists.
The situation is made worse in that each service operates under different ‘Harmony Rules’ and each has a very different ethos.
This paper attempts, in particular, to highlight certain major mistakes that have occurred because of such rivalry between the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy (RN). Since its inception in 1918, the RAF appears to have felt insecure relative to its older sister Services. It was very early days in aviation experience by either the Army or RN and its birth was not welcomed unanimously. The new service, the RAF, believed that it needed to convince the nation that it was not just a supporting arm to the Army or RN, but that air power was indivisible and could win a war on its own. As evidenced in the case studies that follow, this led the RAF on occasion to focus upon elements of air power, from concepts through procurement to operations that would enable it to function as independently as possible from its sister services.
There is little doubt that the Royal Air Force will attempt to impugn the contents of this paper. However, the facts presented have been carefully researched and drawn from several sources, including the following:
- Official Government websites and Royal Air Force websites (for example, the cost figures for the Typhoon project).
- Commander of the Falklands Carrier Battle Group, 1982.
- Senior officers that served in MoD Directorates since 1967 including:
- Directorate of Naval Plans.
- Directorate of Naval Air Warfare.
- Directorate of Naval Warfare.
- Deputy Chief of Defence Staff [Commitments].
- The Naval Attaché, Saudi Arabia during the Kuwait crisis.
- Royal Air Force Officers – names not openly disclosed for obvious reasons.
- 899 Naval Air Headquarters Squadron archives (Sea Harrier FA2).
Many facts such as the overall cost of the JP 233 runway denial weapon system can also be substantiated by reference to associated papers within Ministry of Defence archives.
The RAF has often treated each of the other services’ air elements as if they were its most direct threat, to the detriment of a coherent and overarching national defence strategy. To protect their own position against this ‘perceived threat’, the RAF and the Air Ministry before it often resorted to emphasising their own ‘requirements, capabilities and achievements’ above all others. This has been backed by a powerful Public Relations Department separate from that in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which jointly concerns itself with all three services. Nor have they excluded misleading Parliament and the country. Now that there is no direct air threat to the UK, advancing technology has made their situation even more uncomfortable if not untenable. Missiles have largely overtaken the need for long-range bombers, for example.
One specific ‘factor’ in protecting their own position has been the RAF encouragement of a large research student base funded by their museums and trusts. This wholly legal approach provides a degree of research and academic influence that is not available to either of the other two Services. Another is that their Harmony Rules are the most gentle of all three services and their manning allows for considerable over-staffing.
A major threat to their ‘position’ is the operational requirement for a robust, integral, carrier-borne aviation element for the Fleet. Carrier-borne aviation provides a core element of flexible military superiority and worldwide application. Under this umbrella a range of operations can be conducted. This will often provide a strategic facility superior to land-based options, as exemplified by the UK and the United States’ use of aircraft carrier groups and associated amphibious forces to create influence at global points of choice since WWII.
Carrier-borne aviation is needed especially, for instance, to support amphibious and land force operations within the current strategy of ‘Expeditionary Warfare’. To any maritime or land force commander, on-site control of the combat airspace above and around him is vital. Embarked aircraft, possibly supported by unmanned carrier air vehicles (UCAVs), provide the long-range detection of missiles or attackers and a robust outer ring of defence.
Aircraft, manned or unmanned, need bases with command and control functions, and, as in all military operations, logistic support. For deployments away from the UK or dependencies, these can be either ashore or afloat and different circumstances and tasks call for a mix of each. A calculus of strategic aims, political realities, geography, force requirements, robustness, flexibility and, not least, costs governs practicalities.
Such discussion underpins the content of this paper. It considers some of the propositions put forward by the RAF in recent years. The paper attempts to ascertain whether the RAF was always offering aviation advice in the best interest of the overall military strategy, government and nation; or whether advice was offered in the interest of the RAF’s more inward-looking agenda. Lord Balfour demonstrated concern about this in 1916:
“The Admiralty would view with the greatest misgiving a system under which they would have to use aeroplanes and seaplanes whose numbers and design were determined for them by an independent and (I suppose I must now add) a hostile department – a department which would have the right to criticise, the power to embarrass, but no direct responsibility for military or naval action”.
The material starts (page 10) with the first post-World War II confrontation in 1967, thus not considering proceedings of the previous 49 years which are well documented.
“Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies”
Prior to addressing individual misrepresentations, a brief look at some of the current ‘propaganda’ within the media would be productive.
Inter-Service rivalry can take many forms including the misrepresentation of current capabilities and/or the attempted rewriting of history. For example, there is currently an Army recruiting article asking if recruits wish to experience amphibious operations. If so, they are invited to join the Army. This is, of course, wholly misleading. It shows two soldiers jumping out of a small raiding craft and mentions the two small but ocean-going Ramp Logistic Craft (RCLs) that the Army continue to own and man. They are largely employed to support the Army in Germany or take stores to Canada. They never operate with NATO navies or take part in amphibious exercises. This hardly equates to an amphibious assault capability, something regularly practiced by the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Marines Commandos (RM). It is indeed laughable. Nevertheless, it is there to mislead and draw recruits away from the RMs and RN.
Concerning history, there are claims by individual services who almost certainly do not understand ‘the full picture’ or care not to remember the same. The following demonstrates this point:
- The Battle of Britain, glorious as it is now deemed, is presented each year as the salvation of Britain during World War II. It was, of course, a success partially because of the stalwart efforts of our fighter pilots (both Naval, foreign, Commonwealth and RAF) but more significantly because Goering switched the emphasis of his airborne offensive to bombing London. If a sea-based invasion had been attempted by Germany with the ‘rag tag’ collection of barges the Germans proposed using, it would have been rapidly thwarted by the Royal Navy. The German army was still so dependent on horse-drawn transport that they required 4,500 horses to be lifted in the first wave of landing barges. Even the under-equipped British Army would have had little difficulty in repelling the remnants that survived the Channel crossing battle. It would have been Gallipoli all over again, when on one beach a platoon of Turks armed with nothing more than rifles and machine guns stopped a brigade landing from barges in its tracks. De facto, the Germans neither had the will nor the equipment to mount a successful cross channel invasion. However, what they did achieve was the establishment of air supremacy – something that the RAF was never able to counter (vis. the huge losses suffered during the bombing offensive over Germany).
- The Battle of the Atlantic was a far greater threat to our survival in both world wars than Goering’s air offensive. It was vastly more expensive in terms of human life and shipping – quite extraordinary losses being suffered by our Merchant Navy – than the Battle of Britain. It lasted for years rather than a few months and it was our success in this battle as well as our land forces’ accomplishments that finally secured victory and the preservation of our national life blood.
- In spite of this, the massive Royal Air Force publicity machine shamelessly continues to try to persuade the public and the government that “they won World War II” and even “they won the Falklands conflict”. In the former, they made a significant contribution: no more, no less. In the latter, they hardly took part in the battle to retake the Islands. Success here was the direct result of a magnificent effort by the Royal Marines and the Army on the ground and by the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the air and on the sea. These forces amounted to 20,000 arguably ill-equipped but dedicated personnel. Only a handful of RAF officers and men were directly involved in action for part of the war. Just prior to the Falklands conflict, our Conservative government was in the process of selling off some of our most important naval warship assets, the Harrier carriers. If Galtieri had waited a year we would have been unable to take back the Falklands because our surface fleet would have been at the mercy of 200 Argentinian military aircraft. It was a handful of carrier borne Fleet Air Arm fighter aircraft that obviated this risk. By the skin of our teeth, with very little help from the RAF and not by any foresight on the part of the government, we avoided ignominy and defeat.
It behoves us now to remember these facts and the huge sacrifices made by our Merchant Navy and our military personnel so that those who did contribute and die in the service of our nation might be properly remembered, honoured and not forgotten. And in properly remembering all of them and the history of their sacrifices we shall be better able to establish the correct balance of forces needed in the modern world.
3.1 Land bases or Mobile Bases
When looking at the requirement for military aircraft, manned or unmanned, it should be remembered that they need bases with command and control functions, and – as with all military operations – logistic support.
Land bases require host-nation welcome and protection and will probably attract additional costs to establish and run. Many factors, for instance
- composition of the required air-group,
- pre-existing host-nation arrangements or lack of them,
- theatre command and control facilities,
- supporting logistic requirements and their availability,
- together with associated over-flying rights and shipping support facilities and access, and the
- extent of additional defences required,
will affect the time to deploy and sustainability. Once established, a base can become vulnerable to ground and air attacks and will require protection. Should this occur it may be necessary to relocate the aircraft out of the threat area. Consequent remoteness from the theatre of operations will carry penalties, proportionate to distance, in capabilities that can be deployed and on-task times. Air operations from the base will also be bound by diplomatic and political constraints. Examples are to be found in recent and current Middle East operations. A further significant penalty arises from such bases leaving an indelible political footprint behind after combat operations have ceased (rumblings of neo-colonialism).
Large aviation ships, as opposed to the generality of warships with indigenous aircraft as part of their integral weapons systems, are ‘big-ticket’ items. Once deployed they are largely self-sufficient, have no political footprint and when on the high seas can disappear into the vastness of the oceans, detected only by those with access to high-performance space sensors or nuclear-powered submarines that can make and sustain contact. They are capable of reaching wherever needed within a week or so – up to a month to almost any part of the world. Deployment with a suitable air-group can signal resolve, and this presence –accompanied by poised amphibious forces if required – can provide both a deterrent and an active, stabilising force and control within an oceanic region and extending well inland. The utility of US and UK aircraft carrier battle and amphibious groups over many decades illustrate both the process and the political utility. Such a battle-group can be sustained in the theatre of operations for an extended period, semi-permanent if force levels are sufficient to sustain necessary roulement. (Naval harmony rules differ from the other two services enabling longer deployment without roulement, less associated cost and a lower overall number of established personnel – see Annex A.) A battle group requires fuel and logistic ships to sustain big ships on task, and ammunition replenishment in a ‘shooting’ situation. In a hostile environment large aviation platforms may require protection from air, ballistic, surface and sub-surface attack. Depending upon the threat level, this may require a sizeable escort group usually drawn from other less pressing operational commitments. There is flexibility to fine-tune distance from threats and this mobility is also part of the threat management equation. The 1982 Falklands campaign provided a classic example of this calculus.
Both land and maritime platforms require air support from Air Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), Air-to-Air refuelling (AAR) and Reconnaissance systems.
The agreed prime threats to our Fleet surface units are asymmetric swarm attack and the proliferation of sophisticated high speed anti-ship missiles. Most of the latter are sea skimmers, and increasing numbers of small and developing nations are now acquiring sophisticated aircraft or coastal vessels that can deliver such missiles. Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and other weapon systems are also proliferating. Robust defence normally demands a First Echelon, integral fixed wing umbrella of air defence of the fleet/task force units as well as inner levels of defence provided by escorts for all but the most benign of maritime operations.
To counter the range of threat weapon systems effectively and at long range, the First Echelon needs to comprise modern, stealthy fighter aircraft and Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicles (UCAVs) with state-of-the-art sensors and capable “look down radars” with associated high performance air to air missiles such as the AMRAAM. This fighter/missile/UCAV weapon system combination cannot effectively be brought to bear under the control of a different operational authority, for instance deployed from a land base. A carrier-based fighter/UCAV air defence weapon system can also simultaneously provide long range radar surveillance (contributing as an ISTAR [Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting, Acquisition and Reconnaissance] asset to the Recognised Air / Maritime Picture) around a fleet and over ground forces ashore; detecting enemy aircraft and missile movements out to more than 200 nm (or in the case of UCAVs, 3,000 nm). It is particularly important to note that the extremely long range and endurance of aircraft such as the Su-30 ensures that it can attack Fleet units (using the Kh-59MK anti-shipping missile) or ground forces from any direction at more than 1,000nm from its home base, whether land or carrier – without air to air refuelling.
Without the integral fixed wing air defence and the associated early detection of an incoming threat, our First Echelon surface units and ground forces will normally be limited to horizon-range detection of that threat, leaving too little time for effective and reliable response from ship-launched / ground-launched self-defence weapon systems.
Carrier aircraft on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) expend very little fuel getting to their CAP station and can therefore maintain a presence there for long periods. If one attempts to maintain these CAP stations with fighter aircraft launched from a distant land base, the fighter aircraft will use up most if not all of its fuel in transit and, without expensive tanker support, will therefore have little if any time to remain on CAP defending the fleet.
Dependent upon the perceived level of asymmetric swarm or air threat over land and sea, more than one CAP station may be required to be filled continuously (and it is proven in naval air warfare experience that any less than two aircraft on each CAP station when the threat level is high is just not enough). When an attack is deemed imminent by intelligence, further fighter aircraft are launched from the carrier and/or brought to immediate alert on deck. This allows for ultra-rapid reaction to an inbound threat which cannot under any circumstances be achieved by fighter aircraft stationed hundreds of miles away on land and under the operational control of a different service.
In sum, air defence of the fleet or a task force in a high threat environment, as existed during the Cold War period and continues to exist in modern littoral conflicts – whether swarm attack or missiles – is a 24/7 task that demands having air defence fighter aircraft on task on CAP over the fleet/task force units and in the direction of the threat continuously. This can only be provided efficiently and effectively from a carrier deck within the naval task force.
Along with the Offensive Strike capability, this summarises the critical justification for requiring a robust maritime Fixed Wing aviation capability.
The future UK large aviation platform is the Queen Elizabeth carrier, proposedly allied to the naval Joint Strike Fighter F-35 Lightning II project. If these are to proceed effectively into service, the Royal Navy (RN) would do well to consider the lessons of the past concerning the attitude, initiatives and convictions of the RAF concerning any form of RN fixed wing aviation capability in the Fleet. This reference paper seeks to remind those involved in the current defence debate of recent history and some of the results of the related RAF convictions in pertinent detail.
4.0 The 1967 Carrier Decision
The decision in 1967 by the government to withdraw Royal Navy fixed wing aircraft carriers from service was taken on the strict understanding, as given directly by the Air Staff in the Ministry of Defence (MOD) that “the Royal Air Force could and would be able to provide fixed wing air defence of the fleet throughout the oceans of the world“. The Air Staff convinced Ministers that, by using air to air refuelling (AAR) tankers, the RAF could place one fighter aircraft over the fleet for a couple of minutes anywhere within the Atlantic and Indian Ocean theatre of operations. Amongst other unsound data to support this claim, the RAF tabled an adjusted map of the Indian Ocean in which Australia was displaced 1500 nautical miles to the West of its real position. There was no explanation as to how the Royal Air Force could keep several fully armed fighters on CAP over the fleet on a 24/7 basis – the level of air defence normally required when the Fleet is operating in a high threat environment.
In order to provide even a partial littoral air defence capability for Fleet units on a global basis, the Royal Air Force would:
- have to establish numerous properly defended host-nation airfields around the world for pre-positioning – scarcely a practical proposition when considering sovereign rights and other political implications – as well as the costs of building and logistics, both mainly resourced by sea, and then
- procure a very large fleet of AAR tankers and air defence fighters for deployment to those airfields and to defend them as well as the Fleet.
In contrast, for maritime operations an aircraft carrier deploys air power that is an integral part of any naval or joint Expeditionary Task Force Operation. It is able to move with and maintain air defence for all associated surface and ground units en route to and at the theatre of operations. As such it is a cost-effective and flexible solution to the operational need.
The actuality then and now is that it is physically impracticable for the RAF to provide any realistic or effective air defence of the fleet even at moderate distances, say 400 nautical miles, from the United Kingdom or an airfield offshore. The reliance on land-based tankers is just one example of the impracticability. Plainly they themselves become the major target; without them the fighter patrols cannot be maintained, and the tankers are not capable of defending themselves.
One upshot of the 1967 decision was the invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982. Britain had nearly destroyed one key means of deterrence.
5.0 The Harrier and the Sea Harrier
“Without the Sea Harrier there could have been no Falklands victory!”
Admiral Sir Henry Leach, First Sea Lord, 1982
5.1 Limiting Investment in Sea Harrier Mk 1.
As the Cold War progressed it became increasingly evident that the RAF was only able to provide an unacceptably minimal fighter presence in the North-East Atlantic and the northern approaches to the North Sea – from where it was expected that Warsaw Pact forces would launch massive air strikes against the United Kingdom and the fleet at sea. At the same time there was a requirement for the Royal Navy as the ‘local’ NATO navy to create sanitised anti-submarine (ASW) corridors early in a time of tension so that the USN Strike Fleet with its Strike carriers and amphibious forces could cross and operate in the North East Atlantic with a reasonable assurance against Soviet submarines. There was therefore a tactical requirement for the fleet to be able to provide a substantial Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability. This task demanded, first, the birth of the Invincible Class ‘through-deck cruiser’ for helicopter-borne ASW. Further, the threat from a shadowing Soviet Bear D identifying and monitoring the position of these fleet units and then reporting them to Soviet air and submarine bases was unacceptable. Land based air proved unable to deter this. These factors defined a clear requirement for the task group to operate its own carrier-borne fighter interceptor, paving the way for the conversion of the RAF Harrier into the Sea Harrier FRS Mk1.
The introduction of Sea Harrier was opposed by the Air Staff. Whilst unable to ‘adjust’ the operational intelligence of a clear threat, the Air Staff continued to argue relentlessly against its introduction. This resulted in a very limited number of aircraft being approved and procured. The total initial cost of this aircraft development and production program was less than £120 million. It proved to be the only British jet aircraft project in history that was delivered on cost and on time. It also had the best flight safety record of any jet aircraft in history during its first years of service – demonstrating beyond any doubt that the Royal Navy was entirely capable of managing such a project, contrary to the stated RAF view. In its later years, when successfully upgraded to carry AMRAAM, the Sea Harrier FA2 became the top performing all-weather beyond-visual-range (BVR) interceptor in Western Europe, eclipsing the fruitless Royal Air Force attempts to make the Tornado F3 equally capable.
5.2 Joint Force Harrier.
Joint Force Harrier was conceived in the year 2000 to provide integral air support to UK Expeditionary Task Force Operations. It was agreed between the Air Staff and the Naval Staff that it should consist of Naval Sea Harrier FA2 Squadrons for fighter air defence, surface search, probe and strike, and RAF Harrier GR 7/9 Squadrons for offensive air support of ground forces ashore. Part of the arrangement was that ‘in the name of joint efficiency’ the naval squadrons should move from Royal Naval air Station Yeovilton to RAF Cottesmore and the RAF helicopter squadrons would move to Yeovilton from RAF Odiham. Both sets of aircraft squadrons would continue to be administered by and remain under the operational control of the originating single service.
These plans were changed in very quick time with very little opposition from the Naval Staff. The move of the RAF helicopter squadrons to Yeovilton was cancelled. This was a precursor for a vigorous attack by the Air Staff on the continued existence in service of the Sea Harrier FA2 squadrons; in spite of the fact that the FA2 was the only operational BVR fighter in the UK inventory – recognised by our NATO allies as the most capable area interceptor fighter in Europe.
Single service interest rather than ‘jointery’ was evident.
5.3 Early withdrawal of Sea Harrier FA2 (SHAR) from service.
In 2001, the Naval Staff/Air Staff announced that the Helicopter move to Yeovilton had been cancelled, but that the decision to base Naval Harrier Squadrons at Cottesmore would go ahead as planned. No reasons for this failure to keep an inter-Service agreement were presented but it would appear to have been part of a RAF ‘plan’ to retain full control of their own assets including helicopters whilst taking control of Joint Force Harrier (JFH).
In late 2001, SHAR front line squadrons were directed by signal from MoD to submit a comprehensive list of equipment upgrades that would benefit the SHAR’s operational capability. They were told that there is “money to spend” and “we need to spend it now”. In other words, MoD was asking for a ’nice to have List’.
The lists were forwarded to MoD where Jointery-specific Committees (staffed predominantly by RAF officers) were considering ways of saving money (rather than spending an excess – as they had intimated directly to SHAR front line squadrons). The ’nice to have List’ was purposefully taken out of context and was reviewed by the Committees as a ’Must have if Operational Capability is to be sustained List’. Some of the ’nice to have List’ items, notably the need for a more powerful engine, were then used as justification for the withdrawal of the SHAR ‘based on cost constraints’.
Meanwhile, in MoD, First Sea Lord was persuaded by the RAF under the heading of Joint Operations that the ground attack variant, the GR7 Harrier, was the most important element of Joint Force Harrier and that, as a result of ’financial imperatives’, the SHAR must be discontinued prior to the expected In Service Date of the Joint Strike Fighter (JFS)/Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA) – the F-35.
This would leave a gap in the First Line of Air Defence of the Fleet/JTF of not less than six years (2006 to 2012) and probably more – the JSF programme would undoubtedly slide to the right, as usual.
It was already well established that the Type 42 Sea Dart MSAM destroyer would be non-operational by 2006 and its replacement, the Type 45 PAAMS MSAM destroyer would not yet be in service. (Three Type 45’s were expected to be operational by 2010.) This meant that the Fleet/JTF would also be without a second line of air defence during the ‘SHAR Gap’ years.
It appeared that ’logic’, ’operational imperatives’ and DP 2001 Statement had played no part in the decision making process and the staffs remained adamant that the decision must stand.
A Joint First Sea Lord / Chief of the Air Staff statement released at the time of the decision was made public, along with statements by James Ingram, Minister for the Armed Forces. A MOD Question & Answer news brief was also issued on the decision. (See Appendices I & II).
These, together with the answers in the Newsbrief release, reinforce the strong impression that the Sea Harrier withdrawal decision was flawed. Later, in the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on Procurement dated 8 May 2002, the following statements were made:
The Rt. Hon. Gerald Howarth MP: So the truth is we are not going to have an air defence capability, as Sir Jock (Stirrup) accepted last week, and there will be a reduced capability when the Type-45 comes in. Why not keep the Sea Harriers, some of which air frames are relatively new, being only three years old? Why not keep the existing Sea Harrier, even with its reduced capability in hot weather conditions in force in order to provide that defence capability to enable us to mount independent offensive operations?
Lord Bach (Minister for Defence Procurement): Sir Jock was saying last week ……that the role of the Royal Navy carriers is not primarily now to defend the fleet, but it is in line with the expeditionary doctrine that underpins our defence policy, much more about the ability to project power a distance, precisely the point Sir Jock made. The Sea Harrier makes little contribution to this frankly. The GR7 makes a much more substantial one and will make an even greater one when it is upgraded to GR9. That is the first point.
Lord Bach: Clearly Sea Harrier provided a useful defence against attacking aircraft, but in general terms it offers no protection against sea-skimming missiles launched from ships, from submarines, from land or from aircraft standing off from distance and that is something that those who attack this decision have never tried to answer. The real issue here is that Sea Harrier does not help against sea-skimming missiles from wherever they are launched. Now, that sea-skimming missile is now assessed to be the primary threat to maritime assets.
These statements clearly showed that neither Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, KCB, AFC, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) representing MoD, but advised presumably by RAF officers, nor Lord Bach had an operational understanding of naval air warfare in the Fleet and in the expeditionary task force operation arena. Nor did they speak honestly about the Sea Harrier operational capability. It was incorrect to say that “… in general terms it offers no protection against sea-skimming missiles… The real issue here is that Sea Harrier does not help against sea-skimming missiles from wherever they are launched.”
Facts rather than convictions had already demonstrated that the Sea Harrier with AMRAAM represented the only Fleet/UK weapon system that was specifically designed to counter the sea-skimming missile threat; and it was very capable of doing so with a probability of kill expected of close to 100%.
6.0 The JP233 Runway Denial Weapon System
(Although not directly relevant to Naval Air Power interests, this section demonstrates further misrepresentation and lack of air warfare expertise – all leading to the nugatory expenditure of defence funds.)
At the same time that the Air Staff were opposing the acquisition of the Sea Harrier, they were justifying the continued development and procurement of the JP 233 Runway Denial Weapon System for carriage by the Tornado GR1.
This weapon was to be deployed at high speed and at very low level along enemy runways within the Warsaw Pact target area, with the aim of denying the enemy the use of those runways. The UK Naval Air Staff (as opposed to the Naval Staff as a whole) formally opposed this project on the grounds that:
- If the Tornado did penetrate the heavily defended front successfully (there were enough effective air defence systems that if they had been lined along the front there would have been at least one for every 50 yards), it would then face even more concentrated ground to air fire at the target airfield – as well as the threat from enemy fighters.
- The low level range of the Tornado in its JP233 configuration would not enable it to reach most of the required targets and return to base without Air to Air Refuelling (e.g. targets in Poland and beyond were well beyond reach even for Tornados based in West Germany).
- It was deliberately misleading of the Air Staff to suggest that a Tanker Aircraft could refuel a Tornado flying over Soviet held territory by night, at low level in war and survive (tanking operations take place at speeds of less than 280 knots on a steady course for several minutes – the simplest possible target for ground to air weapon systems – even Russian helicopters such as the Hind could have attempted to engage them).
- The operational argument justifying the JP233 weapon system was basically flawed.
The Navy’s comments could not be challenged directly with sound operational argument. Consequently the Air Force refutation relied on the simple assertion that “the Air Force is the only expert on air warfare. What the Air Force says on air tactics or capability is not up for argument by any less knowledgeable authority”. A Senior Air Staff Officer assured Ministers that the Navy was completely wrong and that the RAF Tornado could safely penetrate well defended Soviet Bloc lines whilst plugged into a Tanker – furthermore they could do it at low level, by night and in bad weather. Their expressed opinion ‘as the only reliable expert in air warfare’ was not based on operational experience. RN aviators had flown in every confrontation since World War II. The RAF had not.
It is understood that the JP233 programme (research, development and production) had cost the UK in excess of £10 billion by 1979 (this could later have bought more than 400 Sea Harrier FA2 aircraft). Fortunately for the plainly expendable but ineffective Tornado GR1/4 aircrew and Tanker crews, the cold war ended and the weapon was not used in anger against the Soviet Bloc. Unfortunately for the Tornado GR1/4 aircrew, they were never allowed to carry out live practice weapon deliveries with the JP233. The weapon was deemed too expensive for practice use. This failure to conduct realistic trials was to cost them dear when they were sent in to attack Iraqi airfields.
After the runway-cratering bomblets have been fully dispensed from the JP233 pod under the Tornado during an attack run, the pod is automatically ejected from the aircraft. When this occurs at very high speed and low level as in a live attack, the aircraft is subjected to an involuntary and substantial upward force of at least 4g. Having no previous experience, the Tornado pilots who delivered JP233 against Iraqi airfields during the Kuwait crisis were not prepared for this. They also attacked at night. When the pod released, the nose of their aircraft was thrown sharply upwards and they were rapidly disoriented; subsequently losing control of their aircraft. Three Tornado crews ejected as a result of this – some presuming that they had been hit by enemy fire. Had the crews been able to experience the release characteristics of the JP233 in practice and by day, they should have survived and returned to base with their expensive aircraft.
These incidents and others reflect a lack of Air Warfare expertise and good management within the RAF system. It is understood from a privileged source that of the eight Tornado GR1/4s lost over Iraq, only one was lost to enemy fire. One of the other losses was the result of a stick of VT fused bombs exploding under the delivery aircraft following release. This is known as the ’laddering effect’ and occurs when too short a ‘safe-arm timer setting’ is set on the bomb arming system. When the first bomb arms too early and the VT Fuse detects the following bomb, it thinks it is close to its target and it explodes. This explosion sets the other bombs off one by one all the way back up to the delivery aircraft. It is a phenomenon well known to Naval Air Warfare Instructors – the benefit of long term Fleet Air Arm air warfare knowledge and combat experience.
Following Kuwait, it was surprising that these unnecessary losses were not brought to the attention of Ministers. Instead, the Royal Air Force PR organisation misrepresented what actually happened and made heroes of the aircrew who went down.
7.0 Tornado ADV/F2/F3 Project.
It is a chilling fact that during the Cold War period of the eighties, when Britain was susceptible to massive air attack from regiments of Soviet Badgers and Blinders , the Royal Air Force did not have a capable All Weather Fighter/Interceptor with a working BVR Weapon System to counter this air threat. Britain was devoid of effective land-based air defence and the government and the public was deliberately kept ignorant of this perilous situation.
The fighter version of the Tornado has been one of the most serious examples of poor project management, lack of achievement and minimal operational capability from inception. The Air Staff has worked hard to conceal these failures from the government and the public, and justified extra expenditure of many billion pounds on the project; unsuccessfully trying to rectify the aircraft’s operational deficiencies. Its radar, when finally made to work, remained incapable of directing its AMRAAM BVR weapon system. If a BVR attack was launched by a Tornado F3, it would present only low probability of success on a broadside-salvo basis with no control of the missile whilst in flight towards the target. This would present a serious risk of the missiles destroying friendly aircraft.
A properly conducted enquiry should have convinced all involved that the RAF Tornado could not do the job either of air defence of the UK mainland or replace the Fixed Wing Fleet Air Arm in defending the Fleet at sea from air attack.
It is apparent that Ministers were too ready to take the word of the Air Force at face value and failed to be sufficiently sceptical of their claims. The consequences could have been dire. There has been a serious lack of any effective Air Defence of the UK Mainland Base from 1979. Even now and after recent moderately effective upgrades to its weapon system, the Tornado F3 is not a state-of-the-art BVR all weather interceptor. Further, in a war configuration it cannot climb high enough to engage most modern threat aircraft without jettisoning tanks (one of the many reasons for its lack of deployment over Afghanistan’s 14,000 ft. mountains). The F3 is a fighter that has no role capability in Afghanistan.
The Tornado F3 was deployed to Saudi Arabia during the Kuwait crisis and was offered to the Coalition Force Commander as an additional fighter resource. The Force Commander knew that the Tornado F3 did not have a fully functioning BVR weapon system, that it could not operate satisfactorily at high-level in the area and that it would need regular air to air refuelling if it was to be able to venture anywhere near the combat zone. The Tornado F3 was therefore discarded as “an inadequate weapon system” and spent its time during the confrontation flying pointless Combat Air Patrols over the Arabian Gulf at some distance from Iraq.
In spite of the above, during the 80’s and 90’s and well before the weapon system became ‘fully functional’, the Air Staff continued to assert in Parliament that the Tornado F3 was “fully operational” as an All Weather Fighter/Interceptor. The F3 aircrew continued to claim BVR kills against exercise targets. These ’kill’ claims were recognised as fictitious in NATO circles, they did a positive disservice to our reputation with the UK’s Nato Allies, and were seen for what they were by the US and other NATO nations who engage in Multi-National Fighter Weapons Meets. Despite the impossibility of this aircraft and its weapon system achieving any BVR kills except perhaps by accident, ’successful’ reports of BVR F3 Fighter Meet missions appear to have been filed within the UK Air Staff and then used to convince Ministers that the F3 was a viable weapon system.
8.0 Antisubmarine aircraft.
8.1 The Nimrod (MRA)
An Air Staff initiative was made during the late 70s and early 80s for the Nimrod MRA to replace the Fleet’s Anti-Submarine Warfare frigates and helicopters in defending the Fleet from submarine attack. It was claimed that the Nimrod was at least as effective as the organic Fleet Units (ASW warships, submarines & helicopters) in detecting, prosecuting and destroying submarines.
Although the small UK Nimrod force could indeed fly in the sky above Fleet Units when they were close to the UK and maintain a reasonable presence on task, longer distances and continuous support world-wide were not possible.
When the Task Force sailed south to the Falklands in 1982, the Nimrod MRA was conspicuous by its absence in an ASW capacity. It would in any case have been ineffective against the one small coastal submarine deployed by the Argentines in shallow waters close to Port Stanley. In its surface reconnaissance role it filed seriously inaccurate reports of surface ship radar contacts. One group of innocent fishing vessels was reported to the Battle Group Commander as ‘an Argentine surface group’, one group of our frigates and destroyers was reported ‘as fishing vessels’ and a large neutral container ship was reported as ‘an aircraft carrier’. The misreporting of surface contacts was caused by the Nimrod’s reluctance to probe any of its radar contacts visually for fear of being shot down. Its much-vaunted radar, though excellent at detection, was dangerously misleading in target classification. At Ascension Island, there were no Nimrods available to sanitize the sea areas until well after the Task Force had proceeded south. When they did arrive, they carried out missions around Ascension but on only two occasions did they venture up to 600nms south of the Island. That was well short of the 3,800 nm to the Falklands Exclusion Zone. The Nimrods refused to enter areas where there was any chance of being detected and attacked by Argentine fighter aircraft. This effectively reduced their value to our surface and submarine commanders to zero and occasionally continued to work to Argentine advantage through misclassification of radar contacts.
Post the Falklands in early 1983, a report was circulated under the auspices of MOD(UK)Air claiming that the Nimrod MRA had regularly patrolled the coast of Argentina to within 60 nm of the shore looking for enemy submarines. Intelligence told us very early on that there were only two Argentine submarines at sea. One was captured in South Georgia early on. The other was known from GCHQ intercept and signal decrypts to have patrolled in a 20 mile radius circle just off Berkeley bay. There would have been no sense tasking Nimrods on ASW anywhere else. It should be noted that the Royal Air Force would not allow Vulcans to fly close to the outer limits of the Falkland Islands without Sea Harrier protection and without a Task Force ’Weapons Tight’ policy. Was the RAF prepared to deploy Nimrods without any protection at all into the jaws of the Argentine Air Force? It is difficult to conclude that RAF Nimrods ever ventured anywhere near Argentina or the combat zone.
Disturbing facts concerning the Nimrod MRA’s ability (or lack of it) to find and destroy submarines were revealed in the early eighties. Statistics divulged in 1982 by a reliable source, a Nimrod Captain from RAF St Mawgan, indicated that when patrolling over the Fleet during exercises and when submarines were definitely present as a ‘threat’ to that Fleet, the Nimrod had autonomously achieved only one ’possible submarine contact’ for every 5,000 hours flown – and it had never carried out a successful autonomous prosecution and ‘kill’ of a submarine on exercise. Discussions between the UK Naval Staff Desk Officer and the Nimrod Captain (at an exercise debrief at Rosyth) revealed further disturbing facts:
- Nimrod Crews were not allowed to discuss the track record of the Nimrod in its primary ASW role with third parties.
- During National and NATO antisubmarine exercises (with enemy ’orange’ submarines on site), the RAF Nimrod would inevitably be unable to autonomously locate or detect the ‘orange’ submarine. In order to retrieve some training value from its deployment other than fruitlessly searching for a submarine contact, the Nimrod would signal to the submarine to launch a green grenade – the smoke from which would rise to the surface indicating the precise position of the Orange submarine. The submariners involved had become used to this request from Nimrods (which indicated that the Nimrod was unable to detect and locate the submarine) and would release the smoke grenade so that the aircraft could then attempt to precisely locate and attack the submarine. Using this green smoke beacon as a datum, the Nimrod crew would carry out set procedures for locating and prosecuting the submarine. Even with this help from the target, the Nimrod was seldom if ever, able to detect, much less prosecute the submarine. Nonetheless, the Nimrod crew would then file a post exercise report with its administrative authority detailing the patterns flown over and the sono-buoys dropped in the target area. It would be claimed as a successful prosecution.
It is likely that this supposed successful prosecution would then go to the UK Ministry of Defence for use by the Air Staff in supporting claims of the operational effectiveness of the Nimrod as an ASW vehicle. By hiding the true lack of effectiveness of the Nimrod ASW and promoting it as a viable ASW defence for the Fleet at Sea, the Air Staff was:
- At best, maintaining some limited familiarity with maritime operations.
- At worst, wasting scarce resources.
Central Committees and Ministers remained ignorant of the ineffectiveness of Nimrod as an ASW aircraft, evidenced by their agreeing to a $2.6 billion upgrade programme for the Nimrod in 1996.
8.2 P3 Orion and P8 Poseidon
Unlike the Nimrod, the equivalent United States Maritime Support aircraft, the P3 Orion and the P8 Poseidon, have had considerable operational success. They are fully integrated within the US Navy ASW community and receive a high level of respect because their capabilities really do free up the naval escorts to serve abroad; rather than is the case in Britain where naval warships escort the Trident submarines – rather than aircraft being trusted to sanitize a wide area. It is reasonable to suggest that this success is in part due to the aircraft being administered and controlled by the US Navy – and not by a land-based authority with little experience of maritime warfare.
9.0 The Falklands.
The clearest possible, irrefutable demonstration that the Royal Air Force is/was incapable of providing fighter air defence of the fleet at sea throughout the Atlantic and Indian Oceans came in 1982. During Operation Corporate not a single RAF fighter was deployed to provide any form of air defence for the Task Force, either during its transit south or during combat operations. The fallacy that the RAF could achieve this was demonstrated for what it was. Indeed, no RAF fighter aircraft or Nimrod aircraft ventured far enough south of the Ascension Islands to be of any operational use.
Today, the Falklands remain extremely vulnerable to another invasion by Argentina forces. It is arguable that the latter are currently deterred by our SSN hunter-killer submarine force which, if they did invade, would pose a severe threat to the Argentine sea lines of communication with the Islands. Whether the UK government would now take the political risk of international outrage over the sinking of Argentinean warships and supply vessels in a disputed ‘Exclusion Zone’ is a matter for consideration.
Further deterrence is supplied by a flight of Typhoon fighter aircraft stationed at RAF Mount Pleasant airfield. Having the Typhoon aircraft on site provides for a ‘military air presence’ over the island with a professed air-to-air fighter defence capability. However, it is understood that the Typhoon weapon system is undergoing/has undergone significant problems and if these problems have not been resolved the efficacy of its current air defence capability may be in doubt (see Tornado F3 Cold War limitations). Further, the Typhoon is unable to attack either ships or land targets and could therefore do little to dissuade the advance of an Argentinean amphibious attack force.
Arguably, even with the increased garrison which now exists on the island compared with 1982, the only credible deterrence against attack on the Falkland Islands that could be economically mounted by Britain is ‘the clear capability to take them back following a further invasion’. Without integral naval fighter air defence and an air strike, suppression and assault capability within our current expeditionary task force inventory, we would be unable to do this again. The Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier and its air group would if properly constituted endow us once more with the first three of these aviation capabilities; the 4th coming from Ocean or her successor.
10.0 Typhoon Project Costs.
The savings postulated by the MOD/RAF study group into Joint Force Harrier rationalisation concerning the precipitous withdrawal of the Sea Harrier from service were given broadly as a figure of about £1 billion. (This figure included the various “nice to have” upgrades to the aircraft – see Section 5.3.)
At the same time, many billions of pounds were being expended on the Typhoon project and in 2007 the true cost was exposed on the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) website. (These formal government figures were rapidly removed from the website presumably to keep them from the public and the Naval Staff.) The DPA figures showed that the lifetime cost of each Typhoon aircraft would be £269 million; giving a total project cost of £68.5 billion or £3.425 billion per year for 20 years – plus the cost of any modifications required when in service (and modifications are already being requested).
This aircraft type was already obsolete in terms of the SDR 98 policy statement (and subsequent papers), which clearly indicated that the air threat to the United Kingdom following the end of the Cold War was negligible. The aircraft project and its associated massive cost is not therefore contributing to the approved strategic defence effort in any substantial way; plainly it should have been minimised or scrapped in order to ensure that defence funds were available to satisfy the SDR 98 firm need for an air supremacy/airspace denial capability for Offensive Expeditionary Task Force Operations: that is to say, First Echelon naval fixed wing air defence.
10.1 Why two RAF fleets of fast jets for the air defence of the UK Mainland?
The entry into service of the Typhoon air defence fighter should have but did not herald the withdrawal from service of the Tornado F3; both of which are essentially single role, Second Echelon resources (devoted to the air defence of UK airspace – against which there is no perceived threat). Neither type is combat-proven or carrier-capable, and both are incapable of conducting swing role missions such as ground attack and surface attack. The continuation in service of the Tornado F3 in parallel with the Typhoon arguably represents a significant and unaffordable waste of defence budget funding.
In June 2009, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy (a Tornado Pilot), told The Sunday Telegraph that “There is no other aircraft better than the Typhoon except for a US F22 Raptor and an F22 is significantly more expensive. Typhoon is truly multi-role, it is a world class aeroplane. It is absolute rubbish to call it a cold war relic and that just demonstrates that people do not understand what the aircraft does.” This is a supreme example of RAF spin – misrepresenting the truth in order to support unfounded convictions. There are three untruths in this short statement:
- “An F22 is significantly more expensive”. Government Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) figures in 2007 gave the lifetime cost of each Typhoon aircraft at £269 million (or roughly US$538 million – at 2007 exchange rates). The initial procurement cost of each of 232 aircraft including development was £92 million (approximately $180 million) and with a reduced number being procured of 132 aircraft the amortisation of UK development cost (£4.9 billion) brings the unit price up to £158 million (approximately $320 million). But this is without the cost of new aircraft support facilities. The unit cost of the F-22 Raptor is $339 million and this includes the required new aircraft support facilities. The Raptor is not just a better stealth-fitted fighter; it costs no more and arguably less than the Typhoon.
- “Typhoon is truly multi-role”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Its weapons system is entirely centred upon the air-to-air role; to a degree where its radar is unable to provide a surveillance capability against sea surface or ground targets – and it does not have the weapons system capability to detect, interrogate or destroy these targets. It is therefore without question a single-role, air-defence fighter. The F-22, has significant capabilities in the other roles of air warfare; as well as being a supreme fighter aircraft.
- “A Cold War relic”. It is indeed a Cold War relic that was procured specifically to defend the United Kingdom from Soviet and Warsaw Pact air attack. With no perceived air threat against the UK (SDR 98 and subsequent papers), this aircraft role is now obsolete, and the aircraft itself may best be described as a Second Echelon resource that has little if any relevance to Offensive Expeditionary Task Force Operations.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy’s statement must either be seen as a reflection of his own convictions or as an attempt to mislead the public and the government. In the same article, he told The Sunday Telegraph that “rationalisation in the armed forces would lead to the RAF running all combat jet operations. The move would effectively neuter the Royal Navy’s maritime air force, the Fleet Air Arm, leaving the service with just a small complement of helicopters”. His wishful and publicly stated thinking clearly demonstrates the will and intent of the Royal Air Force to:
- Hide the shortfalls of and excessive expenditure by the Royal Air Force on obsolete weapons systems, and
- Attack without any operational justification the very existence of the Royal Navy fixed wing Fleet Air Arm.
11.0 The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Project
Reading between the lines and bearing in mind the SDSR, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Air Staff will go to any lengths to preserve their own “Empire” at the expense of much needed First Echelon Task Force air defence resources. To that end and as a result of their disproportionate representation within MoD, they have already “taken charge” of the Joint Strike Fighter procurement programme.
It is more than likely that they will endeavour to ensure that the choice of Lightning II F-35 variant will fit with their own single service need rather than the tri-service interest and the need for effective Joint Task Force air defence (as well as offensive air support and ground attack).
The F-35 variant that the Royal Air Force prefers is the ASTOVL F-35B which has been especially designed to cater for the operational requirements of the United States Marine Corps and their affinity for operating from Forward Operating Bases within a combat theatre. In itself, it does not therefore fit well with the needs of a land-based air force, particularly when its vertical landing capability significantly detracts from the overall air defence capability of the aircraft. Further, the development of the F-35B’s required ASTOVL characteristics has resulted in many problems and deficiencies.
It is probable that the F-35B will not be as versatile as its VSTOL Harrier predecessors and is unlikely to be able to operate from roads without melting the tarmac. Further, it would appear that the F-35B design team has been so obsessed with vertical landing capability that they have neglected certain operational fundamentals. These include maintaining a fixed power to weight ratio that would allow weapons and external stores to be recovered on board in tropical climates. As a result it is developing into an ‘over engineered’ aircraft that is very complicated, very labour intensive and overweight.
It is arguable that the above deficiencies in the F-35B make it an inappropriate choice for embarkation in the Queen Elizabeth class carrier. Fortunately, the latter was designed with this contingency in mind and the carrier can now be built with the conventional deck landing and take-off system, ‘Catapult Assisted Take Off/Barrier Assisted Recovery (CATOBAR)’. This will enable it to operate the F-35C. This would also enable the new carrier to operate Unmanned Combat Aviation Vehicles (UCAVs) such as the X-47B which is now in preproduction for the United States Navy and would be entirely suited to Royal Navy Task Force operational requirements – providing a major increase in cost-efficient air group ‘hitting power’ and multi-role capability – exceeding the capability demonstrated by the successful intervention of the Buccaneer aircraft of the old HMS Ark Royal in the Belize crisis.
From their track record, the cost effective and practical advantages of the F-35C (and the X-47B) will be seen by the Royal Air Force as compelling operational justification for the carriers and for the fixed wing Fleet Air Arm. In keeping with their practise over many decades, they are likely to fight this way ahead with all their vigour and with their now-common misrepresentations and single service convictions.
Stop Press. 18 October 2010.
On the eve of SDSR publication, there are indications that the RAF ‘Tornado Mafia’ within the Ministry of Defence may have convinced the National Security Council that it would be sensible to now withdraw the Harrier GR9 from service and to continue to “keep alive” some Tornado GR4 squadrons. The lack of wisdom in such a decision is discussed in detail in the Phoenix Think Tank paper, “Britain’s Fast Jet Forces – National Interest versus Vested Interest”.
There is more at stake here than the absurd decision to opt for the continuation in service of an aircraft that is twice as expensive to run as the Harrier. This clearly smacks of the same MoD politics that led to the misguided withdrawal of the Sea Harrier FA 2 (please see Section 5.3). The withdrawal of the Harrier from service would leave the United Kingdom without any carrier borne fighter aircraft capability for the first time in more than 70 years – and, simply put, represents a disgracefully short-sighted understanding of the nation’s enduring maritime policy and needs.
The clear intent behind withdrawal of the Harrier is to deny the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm any fixed wing carrier capability and it is arguable/obvious that the further hidden intent behind such a decision is to allow the naval air warfare expertise of the Royal Navy to wither and die prior to the entry into service of the Joint Strike Fighter. Following 100 years of extremely successful naval air combat experience throughout the world and the hard won accumulated knowledge from that experience, this could be no less than a national military disaster.
It is fortunate, indeed, therefore that:
- The development of the F 35 Joint Strike Fighter has resulted in spiralling costs that the UK cannot afford within the present environment of fiscal constraint;
- A robust carrier-borne alternative to the Joint Strike Fighter is readily available at significantly lower cost whilst being able to deliver equivalent defensive and offensive airpower;
- Royal Naval pilots have entered into an exchange program with the United States Navy and are already being converted to fly this alternative aircraft, the F-18 Super Hornet. They are embarking in United States Navy carriers for operations off Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.
This cost-effective fighter aircraft could be available and in service with the Royal Navy prior to the commissioning of the new Queen Elizabeth class carriers. Such a way ahead would result in significant long-term cost reductions for the planned carrier air group and, provided that the existing naval exchange program is continued, it would ensure the preservation of the expertise and knowledge that this nation can ill afford to lose.
Please see section 12.1 below for more discussion of the F-18 option.
12.0 The F35/Queen Elizabeth Carrier Project.
There is a powerful case for continuing the on-going Queen Elizabeth carrier project and its associated air defence and offensive air support aircraft (please also see introduction to this paper).
At this time of severe fiscal constraint and the coming/associated critical defence review, there has been strident opposition to the project from a variety of sources, most of whom do not appear to understand the requirements of ‘Expeditionary Warfare’ or have a clear and proven understanding of naval air warfare or of the firm requirement for a robust 24/7 fleet air defence capability.
It is clear from the many public utterances that such opposition, for the most part, pays scant regard to the military need; concentrating more on vested interests. The Royal Air Force in particular is attempting to secure full control of the fixed wing assets embarked in the new carriers, against the lessons of historical precedent and operational logic. It is therefore considered likely/arguable that the Royal Air Force will use their own influence in the Joint Strike Fighter Project to attempt to define a variant of the F35 that is not entirely suited to the future needs of the Royal Navy for Offensive Expeditionary Task Force Operations.
Procurement of the F35C (rather than the F-35B) would save nearly US$8 billion in lifetime costs and would enable the United Kingdom to take full advantage of the exciting and rapidly developing UCAV concept; a concept which would extend the carrier’s standard operational reach to well over 3000nm with no outside assistance required, and provide an exceptional strategic reach of over 5000nm – again able to be generated from its own embarked air group. This would mean that HMS Queen Elizabeth or her sister HMS Prince of Wales could mount an air strike or reconnaissance mission from one side of the Atlantic to the other or reconnoitre and interdict targets in Iran from the Southern Indian Ocean. In another scenario it could engage targets in the Falklands and/or gain valuable photographic/electronic intelligence from as far away as Ascension.
It is fortunate therefore that the Queen Elizabeth carrier design team got it right. The carriers are being built with the capability to take the F-35C’s and the cost of changing to the ready and specified French CATOBAR design would be minimised. Any such cost would be considerably offset by the cheaper procurement cost and in life cost of the F-35C.
Normal combat missions for the UCAV (for example when operating close to a beachhead or in transit) would include sophisticated ELINT, area surface reconnaissance out to long range, surface or ground attack interdiction missions and the AAR of F-35C missions. It is now probable that the X-47B UCAV will also be developed to encompass the AEW role.
It is for consideration that a principal reason for the F-35B variant being of prime interest to the RAF is that :
- it would deny the use and operational advantage of fixed wing UCAVs on-board our carriers and
- it indirectly makes the Eurofighter appear more ‘acceptable’.
The F-35B has a full multirole capability whereas the Eurofighter does not; but apart from its stealth capability, one could try to make a case that the F-35B will not be as good in the strict UK air defence role as the Eurofighter (whereas the F-35C will more than likely equal the Eurofighter in this regard, and excel in cost comparisons). It is on this convoluted logic that the Royal Air Force may wish to make a stand against the F-35C.
The envisaged fixed wing component of the Queen Elizabeth carrier air group (F-35C, UCAV X-47 and Merlin helicopters) strongly supports the ethos of Deterrence, Protection of our Sea Lines of Communication and the Offensive Expeditionary Operations that are the likely roles of our armed forces for the foreseeable future. Operational support and security for the Fleet, Royal Marines and Army would be vastly improved. The advantages of joint operations with the US Navy (our major NATO partner) are also clear. We would have common aircraft types (F-35C, UCAV X-47) with common weapon systems (e.g. missiles and bombs) and common engineering support requirements/logistics. (This has been a long-term aim within the NATO alliance.).
This Fleet Weapons System is therefore a national strategic enhancement that must not be seen as benefiting purely naval interests. It provides state-of-the-art air defence for all forces within a combat zone and a hitherto unmatched stealth capability for the cost-effective, First Echelon interdiction of ground and surface targets.
This is what the Royal Air Force is fighting against.
12.1 options of Catobar: F-18 Hornet/E-2 Hawkeye
Financial stringency and common sense both indicate a need to look at the procurement of the F-18 Hornet as a realistic option for satisfying the Navy’s Fighter requirement instead of the F-35C Lightning stealth fighter. The F-18 is a highly capable and integral part of the United States Navy Carrier Battle Group weapons system. It is a combat proven and reliable, true multirole fighter and we already have Fleet Air Arm pilots (both Royal Navy and Royal Marine) on exchange tours with the U.S. Navy familiarising themselves with the aircraft and keeping current with conventional carrier operations.
There would be three principal advantages in following this procurement route:
- A considerable saving in unit aircraft cost and therefore overall program cost;
- An assurance that the aircraft would be available at a time to suit the Royal Navy rather than relying upon the F 35C to complete its development flying on time;
- A nucleus of Fleet Air Arm pilots will already have qualified in carrier operations in the aircraft and will provide a sound base for effective early operation from our new carriers.
The principal ‘disadvantage’ would be the lack of a comparable stealth capability. However, where such capability is deemed essential in the future, Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicles (UCAVs) such as the X 47B could be made available for appropriate short and extended long-range tasks. The lower program costs of the F-18 would be beneficial in supporting the procurement and additional capability that the UCAV would bring.
It is also for consideration that procurement of the E2 Hawkeye AEW aircraft could be a part of a F-18 procurement deal and in doing so would satisfy an urgent and outstanding fleet weapon system requirement.
The above way ahead would be entirely consistent with a global maritime strategy for the defence of UK offshore interests. It is for this reason and this reason alone that the RAF would attempt to mount intensive opposition against this procurement route. They do not have the experience or proven expertise to control or conduct carrier borne multirole fighter operations and a dedicated F-18 procurement program for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm would prevent any amateur interference in this important Carrier Battle Group weapon system capability.
- The 1967 carrier decision was made by Ministers on the false assumption expressly stated by the Air Staff that the Royal Air Force could provide air defence for the Fleet throughout the oceans of the world. There was a mistaken belief within the Government that if the Royal Air Force said they could do something/anything relating to ’airpower’ then the Government and the Nation could depend on it being so.
- Since that time this ’myth’ has continued and has paved the way for major expenditure on weapons systems for the Royal Air Force that have proved to be operationally ineffective. At the same time, the Air Staff has regularly misinformed Ministers and the public as to the efficacy of these weapons systems. The most chilling example of this is item 5, the Tornado F3, which did not have a working, beyond visual range, air to air weapon system until after the end of the Cold War – leaving the United Kingdom devoid of air defence against the very real Soviet threat for more than a decade. During this period, Parliament was advised on many occasions that the Tornado F3 was fully operational.
- In parallel with deceiving Ministers and the Nation on several fronts concerning the true capability of their aircraft weapons systems, the Air Staff have continued to deny the need for and to denigrate the Royal Navy Fixed Wing Fleet Air Arm at the highest level. When the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on Procurement convened to discuss the withdrawal of the Sea Harrier FA2 from service in May, 2002, Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup and Lord Bach gave the Committee information regarding the capability of the FA2 against the prime threat, sea-skimming missiles, that is not in accordance with proven aircraft and weapon system performance. This inaccurate testimony resulted in the loss of the vital outer layer of air defence of the fleet which, despite many earlier assurances, could not be provided by the Royal Air Force.
- Since 2007, the exorbitant cost of the Typhoon (Eurofighter) project which has no operational justification under SDR 98 and subsequent papers has been purposefully hidden from the public and, indeed, even hidden from Military Staff College students. Arguably this is because the massive total project cost of more than £68 billion cannot be justified.
- The RAF currently retains in service two air defence fighter aircraft, the Typhoon and the Tornado F3; both of which are essentially single role, Second Echelon resources (devoted to the air defence of UK airspace – against which there is no perceived threat). Neither is combat proven nor capable of conducting swing role missions such as ground attack and surface attack. In order to attempt to justify the extraordinary expenditure on the Typhoon aircraft against its limited air defence role, it is likely that the Royal Air Force will attempt to steer the procurement of the F-35 (JSF) towards the F-35B (ASTOVL) variant as opposed to the F-35C (US Navy preferred) carrier version or indeed the F-18 Hornet. There are two reasons for this. First, the much cheaper stealth fitted F-35C has at least as good as if not greater overall air defence capability than the Typhoon and may therefore outshine the latter (thereby raising more questions concerning the Typhoon’s further procurement and retention in service). Second, the Royal Air Force will be fully aware of the serious development problems and associated probable operational limitations of the F-35B when operated from the deck in warmer climes. They will therefore attempt to minimise/hide these problems and limitations until it is too late for the Royal Navy to change course and opt for the far more capable F-35C. They could then use the operational deficiencies of the F-35B to denigrate and cast doubt upon the efficacy of the Queen Elizabeth Carrier programme.
14.1. It is arguable that in the main the Royal Air Force now constitutes a Second Echelon force (please see the formal definition of this at Appendix III) that has little part to play in the First Echelon Expeditionary Task Force capability that now forms the basis for National Defence Policy. It is also for consideration that the Air Staff have realised this and are once more attempting to mislead the government and the nation with strident claims that their large inventory of land-based aircraft are indeed First Echelon resources: which they are not. Further, they are now using their disproportionately high number of staff officers in MoD to attempt to ‘take control’ of the naval Joint Strike Fighter establishment destined for operation from the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers (in spite of their almost complete lack of proven expertise in naval air warfare).
14.2. The envisaged cost-effective fixed wing component of the Queen Elizabeth carrier air group (F-35C Lightning II swing role fighter aircraft (or F-18), X-47B UCAVs, Merlin helicopters) strongly supports:
- The ethos of Deterrence,
- Protection of our Sea Lines of Communication and Global Interests,
- The efficient conduct of the Offensive Expeditionary Task Force Operations that are the likely roles of our armed forces for the foreseeable future.
The Air Defence, Offensive Operational Support and Security of the Fleet, the Royal Marines and the Army in combat theatres throughout the world will be assured. The advantages of joint operations with the US Navy (with common aircraft types, common ordnance, common maintenance and a cross-decking capability) are also clear. This is a national strategic enhancement that must not be seen as benefiting purely naval interests. It provides state-of-the-art air defence for all forces within a combat zone and a hitherto unmatched stealth capability for the cost-effective, First Echelon interdiction of ground and surface ship targets.
14.3. Adoption of the F-35C/F-18 ‘opens the door’ for the embarkation of Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles and the resulting ability to conduct very long range, sophisticated, Airborne Early Warning, Electronic Intelligence, Surveillance and attack missions. X-47B strike aircraft could also be pulsed forward to provide:
- First Echelon interdiction of hard land targets and air defence missile systems using, for example, Tomahawk or its successor and
- Long term air support and fire suppression for troops deployed in the field (who might otherwise not have access to what would amount to life saving air support).
This far reaching capability would significantly increase the already established deterrence value of the Carrier Battle Group. Our ‘prospective enemies’ would understand that we have a carrier-based, First Echelon, stealth capability that allows us to strike targets thousands of miles away from the Task Force and conduct reconnaissance and intelligence gathering missions from the same great range (using the X-47B UACV). For a very cost-effective outlay, therefore, the UK would have a Fleet Weapons System that would allow her to ‘punch well above her weight’ and arguably help prevent wars and conflicts through the visible on-site presence of its impressive war fighting capability throughout the oceans of the world.
14.4. In order for Britain to achieve and sustain this very significant military capability, National Military Air Resources need to be rationalised in order to reduce and prevent continued wasteful expenditure (particularly within the domain of Second Echelon forces) and to make available funding for those predominantly First Echelon resources that directly underpin the UK’s National Defence Policy. Furthermore these forces would be self-sustaining: they would not need convoys of trucks winding through Pakistan or Afghanistan (requiring heavy military escort) for the construction and support of large air bases – the outlay on which can never be recouped; instead they, the carriers, would be built and upgraded in Britain, using British workers and creating jobs for British voters while making a far greater contribution to the defence of the realm’s interests and responsibilities worldwide.
15.0 Recommended Further Reading
Cable, J. (1983). Britain’s Naval Future. London: Macmillan Press.
Friedman, N. (1988). British Carrier Aviation. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Hill, J. R. (1988). Air Defence at Sea. Shepperton: Ian Allan Ltd.
Hill, J. R. (2002). The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hobbs, D. (2005). Naval Aviation, 1930-2000. In R. Harding (Ed.), The Royal Navy, 1930 – 2000, Innovation and Defence. Oxon: Frank Cass.
SPG Media Limited. (2009). Type 45 Daring Class Anti-Air Warfare Destroyers, United Kingdom . Retrieved May 18, 2009, from Naval Technology: http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/horizon/
White, R. (2009). Phoenix Squadron: HMS Ark Royal, Britain’s last top guns and the untold story of their most dramatic mission. London: Bantam Press.
Wragg, D. (2009). Naval Aviation: 1909-2009. Barnesly: Pen & Sword Maritime.
The ‘Harmony Guidelines’ for the British Armed Forces
Impact on Operations and Structure
‘Harmony’ is important to the British service man or woman, because the term is shorthand for a key issue within his or her service terms and conditions (TCOS): how long he or she might routinely expect to spend away from home.
But the curious thing is that, notwithstanding there is now a strong push to adopt joint TCOS, for ‘harmony’ the RN, RM, Army, and RAF still take different approaches:
- RN and RM – in a 3 year period a sailor or marine should expect to spend no longer than 60% of the time deployed. The RN shorthand for this is ‘660-over-3.’
- Army – a soldier should expect to undertake a 6 months operational tour, and then have a 24 months ‘tour interval’ before the next deployment. Characteristically, the interval between operational tours is spent initially at home, then preparing for deployment. The Army short hand for this is the ‘1-in-5-rule.’
- RAF – an airman should expect to do a maximum of 4 months on an operational tour, followed by a 16 month ‘tour interval’, predominantly on his or her home base – There is no RAF shorthand for this approach but, for simplicity, we will use the term the ‘4-in-20-rule.’
These rules matter for the individual, but they also have a huge impact for defence planners, both at the operational and strategic levels.
The main operational impact occurs when the British Armed forces are engaged in enduring operations, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq – the key contrast is between the RN, RM and the Army on the one hand, and the RAF on the other. Whereas a sailor, marine or soldier is able routinely to conduct a 6 month operational tour, an airman will need to rotate at the 4 month moment to stay within his harmony guidelines.
By way of example, the Tornado aircrew deployed to Afghanistan rotate every 3 months, resulting in additional churn, greater use of the air bridge, and less continuity in theatre. There will be operational impacts in the future, too. A typical deployment period for an aircraft carrier – American, French, or British – is between 6 and 9 months. With their harmony rules, RAF squadrons deployed to RN carriers would need to rotate at the 4 month period, with the associated repatriation expenses as well as the loss of cohesion when a new Squadron arrives on the carrier and needs to be worked up. Fleet Air Arm squadrons, by contrast, sail and return with the ship without ‘breaking harmony.’
The strategic impact is more profound. This is because the harmony guidelines are one of the key drivers in the overall size of each service. Here, the key contrast is between the RAF and Army on the one hand, and the RN and RM on the other.
To conduct an enduring operational deployment, such as Afghanistan, the Army and RAF will need to employ 5 times as many people as those deployed (based on the Army’s ‘1-in-5 rule’ and the RAF’s ‘4-and-20’ rule). Whereas for the RN and RM, the overall figure is between 3 and 4 times as many people, for those deployed. In other words, for enduring operations, the Army and RAF need 25% more people in the force structure than the RN and RM.
The strategic impact for aircraft carriers is also significant. When compared to the Fleet Air Arm, because RAF squadrons need to rotate at the 4 month point, twice as many RAF squadrons will be needed to man an RN aircraft carrier on a routine 6-to-9 month deployment.
(Some brief but pertinent editorial comment is provided in italics.)
Appendix I: JOINT FORCE HARRIER – MIGRATION TO FUTURE JOINT COMBAT AIRCRAFT
PERSONAL FROM FIRST SEA LORD (Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh) AND CHIEF OF THE AIR STAFF, (Air Chief Marshall Sir Peter Squire)
(Statement issued early 2002)
1. The Secretary of State (The Rt. Hon James Ingram MP) will this afternoon announce some significant news concerning Joint Force Harrier (JFH) and the power projection capability vested in the joint force and the Invincible Class aircraft carriers. Following extensive study work, he will announce our intention to migrate JFH to an upgraded all Harrier GR9 force manned 50/50 by RN and Royal Air Force personnel by 2007. To that end the Sea Harrier FA2 will be withdrawn from service early by 2006. This signal presents the background to this important decision and should be used to ensure all of those in both services closely involved in this unique force are fully aware of the changes ahead which have our strong support.
2. A strong theme throughout the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) was the importance of joint operations in the delivery of war-fighting capability. One of the initiatives announced was the intention to create Joint Force 2000 (JF2000) which would operate a single, common aircraft type from land and sea. The SDR acknowledged that this aspiration would not be realised fully under current plans until the Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA) was in full frontline service. It was noted during SDR that total integration of the Joint Force would be impracticable as the Sea Harrier (the FA2) and the RAF Harrier (the GR7) share less than 10% of their airframe and avionics, and they have quite different primary operational roles. Notwithstanding this, it was considered that closer harmonisation between the existing Harrier forces would certainly pave the way for a truly joint force for the future.
3. As a first step towards this goal, the formation of a new organisation entitled Joint Force Harrier (JFH) was announced in Feb 1999. Its purpose being further to develop the joint operational culture with the longer term aim of facilitating the migration path to CVF and FJCA. JFH was formed on 1 Apr 2000 commanded by AOC 3 Group, a 2 star naval officer based at HQ STC, RAF High Wycombe. From the outset, the staff of the JFH set out to expand on the success of Joint Harrier operations and gradually to merge the two service’s culture and practices towards a properly joint force. It was announced in Feb 99 that the RN FA2 force and its personnel would relocate from their base at Yeovilton to the two RAF Harrier bases, Cottesmore and Wittering (Cott/Witt). This move, planned for the second half of 2003, would create an environment where the two services would work effectively as an integrated force.
4. In the longer term, the successful introduction to service of FJCA is key to the future of the UK’s expeditionary offensive air power capability and our colleagues in the equipment area of the MOD are working hard to deliver the aircraft and associated systems into service on time. The services, too, need to prepare to accept the aircraft by its in service date of 2012. Last year a study team formed to examine how best to migrate the current capability of the JFH to the era of FJCA and the future carriers (CVF). This study included a detailed assessment of the capability the force delivers now, and how this needs to be developed to facilitate the transition to a common land based and carrier-borne attack aircraft. The study team was tasked to develop a series of options for migration to FJCA/CVF. In doing so the team was to ensure that each proposed migration path was coherent, deliverable and designed to ensure that the JFH retained a credible expeditionary military capability until the introduction to service of FJCA. In addition, the team would take full account of key SDR conclusions germane to carrier operations and the JFH. The most significant of these was:
“The Invincible Class carriers were designed for cold-war anti-submarine operations with helicopters and a limited air defence capability provided by a small number of embarked Sea Harriers. This is no longer the main requirement. The emphasis is now on increased offensive air-power”.
(1SL and CAS appear to have forgotten that SDR 98 emphasised the need for an effective “air supremacy” and “airspace denial” capability that can only be provided by the Sea Harrier FA2.)
5. The study work drew extensively on advice and expertise from key stakeholders such as front line commands, industry, IPTs, and from those within MOD itself. The main outcome of the JFH study work has been to recommend an investment strategy reflecting the guidance above. The principal findings of the study work are summarised below:
- Both FA2 and GR7 would require significant investment over the next few years to maintain and upgrade their individual capabilities to ensure that both types retain a credible expeditionary capability to their respective out of service dates.
- b. In accordance with the outcome of SDR, maintenance of an offensive attack capability through to FJCA and CVF was considered of overriding importance. (SDR 98 did not say this. It did not suggest in any way that the offensive attack capability overrode the need for effective air defence and air supremacy.)
- c. The FA2’s embarked capability in hot climates will remain critically limited for a substantial proportion of the year by its poor engine performance because it cannot easily be retrofitted to take the more powerful mk107 engine currently being fitted to the Harrier GR7. (The study completely ignored the operation of fixed wing assets from Forward Operating Bases. The US Marine Corps AV8B Harrier flew nearly 4000 missions over Iraq from such operating bases – because they had the same engine problems as the Sea Harrier. That did not dissuade them from doing their job. It should be noted that CTOL fighters operating from United States carriers were also limited on operations by heat induced engine performance reduction. And so it was entirely wrong to isolate this problem as an insuperable problem for Sea Harrier.)
- The ability to operate world-wide by both day and night was required to ensure a robust expeditionary capability.
- e. It would be possible to migrate to an all Harrier GR force whilst maintaining a credible expeditionary capability until the introduction to service of FJCA/CVF, albeit this would exacerbate the acknowledged capability gap in the air defence of the fleet until the introduction to service of a significant number of Type 45 destroyers equipped with the Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) and later, FJCA. (Even with the Type 45, a major air defence capability gap will exist without the FA2.)
- Migration to a single aircraft type would require modifications to the Harrier GR7 to ensure a credible expeditionary capability was maintained (until FJCA/CVF ISD) including the ability to employ smart/precision weapons such as the precision guided bomb and the brimstone anti-armour weapon. The Harrier GR7 will therefore be upgraded to gr9 standard.
6. The study team recommended that the JFH investment strategy should be based on early migration to a single aircraft type, maximising investment in Harrier GR. The next step was to consider when would be the appropriate date to withdraw FA2 from service. A number of options were examined which would begin the withdrawal on dates between 2003 and 2007. Many factors were considered in this phase of the work, including: the potential size of the fleet air defence capability gap; the funding profiles required for the GR7-9 upgrade programme; the impact on RN and Royal Air Force personnel; and, the convergence of RN and RAF air engineering practices. After considerable debate we agreed a date of 1 April 2004 as a planning assumption for the commencement of the FA2 draw down with the caveat that this should be revisited if necessary once implementation work is underway.
7. It is intended that JFH migrates to an all Harrier GR9 force based at Cott/Witt commencing in April 2004 completing by about April 2007. Shortly after this date 50/50 RN/RAF manning will be achieved across the joint force. The precise timing will be dependent on the implementation of air engineering convergence, which will be brought forward from 2008 to ensure that fully joint engineering operations are possible. A small number of Sea Harrier pilots will convert to the Harrier GR7 during 2003, ahead of the main transition, to establish a core of RN experience within the Harrier GR force. Planned collocation of the force will be modified in that FA2 personnel will relocate to Cott/Witt to operate the Harrier GR7/9 as FA2 squadrons disband between 2004 and 2006. The FA2 and ac-specific supporting infrastructure will remain at Yeovilton until withdrawn from service.
8. The precise structure of the re-brigaded JFH, which will remain a STC formation, has yet to be confirmed but it is assumed that, post migration, there will be four front line squadrons. Within two of the squadrons, the establishment will comprise a majority of Royal Air Force personnel, within the other two squadrons the RAF/RN balance will be reversed with RN personnel in the majority. The operational conversion unit will be manned 50/50 by RAF/RN aircrew and ground crew. In parallel with the reconfiguration of the Harrier Force, the Invincible Class carriers will be modified to operate GR9 aircraft and will be provisioned to sustain the force elements declared. The Joint Force aircraft will be double-earmarked for operations from land or sea. The Harrier GR9 will be maintained in service until 2015.
9. This significant change announced by the Secretary of State today will allow us to deliver a greater offensive strike capability from the CVS than even SDR envisaged would be possible ahead of FJCA. The new structure for the Joint Force which we have agreed will allow us coherently to migrate to FJCA whilst operating a common aircraft and taking advantage of best single-service practice. These advantages will more than outweigh the impact on air defence of the fleet caused by the withdrawal of the FA2 until the new Type 45 destroyer and PAAMS enter service from 2007 (and FJCA enters service from 2012). (This last sentence is totally wrong in its operational judgement. When you are attacked by air to surface missiles at sea, it does not matter how many bombs you have on board. This is a good example of the severe lack of naval air warfare expertise within the Royal Air Force.)
10. CINC STC will shortly provide further details for those in JFH.
Appendix II: The MOD(UK) Q & A Newsbrief .
(Submitted in support of the statement by First Sea Lord [Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh] and Chief of the Air Staff [Air Chief Marshall Sir Peter Squire] giving details of the planned withdrawal from service of the Sea Harrier FA2 by the year 2006. [Submission date, early 2002])
Editorial note: Comments below concerning appropriate Q & A’s present the real truth of the matter and call into question whether Defence policy 2001 Statement was indeed a serious document. The latter stated that “we will be maintaining the emphasis on deployability and the ability to survive and fight in an expeditionary environment”.
1. Q. Is this move just another cost saving measure?
A. No. It is the entirely logical conclusion to work that has sought to establish a smooth transition to FCJA. It will see the enhancement of our expeditionary offensive air capability and, with the Type 45 Destroyers, establish a route map to the Navy of 2010 and beyond.
Comment: This may be “entirely logical” to financial mandarins but it is entirely illogical when considered from an operational point of view. Lessons learned from operations over the past thirty years show that the combatant with the better air-to-air AND air-to-ground capability is the one that wins the day. One has to “kill off” or deter the enemy air capability before it is safe for air-to-ground operations to take place. Further, the modern, accepted air-to-ground doctrine is for the delivery of smart weapons from altitude (out of reach of small arms and short range surface-to-air missiles). Slow ground attack aircraft (GR7 & GR9) with weapon systems designed for low level, over-the-target direct delivery are too vulnerable to enemy ground fire.
2. Q. Will this plan save money? If so how much?
A. There will obviously be savings from the withdrawal of the FA2 from service earlier than previously planned. However, the vast majority of the benefit from this will be realised in a later timeframe, beyond 2006, after the last FA2 squadron is disbanded.
Comment: Much more money could be saved by discontinuing some or all “non-essential” and less than efficient operational aircraft such as the Tornado F3 (soon to be replaced by Euro-fighter), the Jaguar, the Tornado GR4 low-level attack aircraft and the Nimrod MRA. For example, an ideal candidate for immediate savings is the Jaguar – why does the RAF need three different types of shore-based ground attack aircraft (Jaguar, Tornado GR4 and Harrier GR7/9)? This clearly does not fit with an expeditionary force policy.
3. Q. How will the money saved be used?
A. In part it will be used to upgrade the Harrier GR7 to GR9.
Comment: How can this be so when the Harrier GR9 upgrade is already approved and needs to be complete before Sea Harrier finishes service?
1. Q. Will this leave a gap in the RN’s air-defence capabilities?
A. While there will be temporary degradation in the outer layer of air defence until FCJA is operational, this will be adequately compensated for by the introduction of the Type 45 Destroyer, and other elements of our layered maritime air defence system. Also, with the increasing emphasis on coalition operations in the littoral and the much reduced requirement to conduct blue water operations, there are few, if any scenarios which in the interim will require FA2 aircraft to ensure operational success.
Comment: This is not so! In small numbers (only 3 by 2010), the Type 45/PAAMS cannot provide flexible air defence over large threat sectors. Nor can it engage low level threats below the radar horizon. It will be much more capable than the Type 42/Sea Dart system inshore but it cannot compensate for the complete lack of an outer layer of fleet air defence. If faced with, for example, the uprated, supersonic Chinese sea-skimming missile, SS-N-22 Sunburn (now being sold to third world and developing nations), it will be no more capable than Sea Dart against Exocet. Further, the Type 45 will not be available in sufficient numbers until after FJCA is promised in service. It does NOT therefore compensate. The “other elements of our layered maritime air defence system” are only chaff plus Point Defence Missile Systems and guns. All these are “last resort” measures and, lacking the early attrition by the outer layers, will be easily saturated by co-ordinated air-to-surface attacks.
Finally, the most likely UK specific scenario that could arise after the removal of Sea Harrier from service is for the Argentine to retake the Falklands. Britain would be unable to intervene to protect her interests there.
2. Q. How do you justify the withdrawal of the FA2?
A. It is a logical step in the progression to a single aircraft type. The end result will be vastly increased offensive capability from the Invincible Class carriers.
Comment: Embarked operational experience to date with Harrier GR7 is limited to the Sierra Leone experience, where:
a. The RAF Harriers did not fly armed recce missions ashore in support of own forces. They did not feel confident in being able to “find the ship” during recovery. So the Sea Harrier FA2 carried out all the day and night armed recce missions instead.
b. The GR7 did not have a clearance to fire its gun and would therefore have been less effective than the FA2 when on task.
Low level Harrier attack missions are no longer a viable proposition against any modern surface-to-air threat.
3. Q Surely the FA2 is no older than the GR7?
A. The FA2 is essentially a modified Harrier GR3, an all-metal aircraft that was withdrawn from RAF service in the late 80s. The GR7 is of a more modern design, is largely constructed of composite materials and designed to accept the more powerful Pegasus 11-61 engine similar to the one used by the US Marine Corps.
Comment: This reply does not answer the question – it is intended to mislead.
The FA2 is no older than the GR7. It is specially fitted with hardware that does not corrode in the maritime environment and is therefore better able to cope with the rigours of this environment. Expensive modifications will have to be made to prepare GR7/9 for these maritime conditions.
4. Q. Is the air-defence capability of the GR7 as good as that of the FA2?
A. No. The GR7 is optimised for offensive support operations, although it has a limited air defence capability using Sidewinder Air to Air missiles.
Comment: The real answer is that the GR7 has a very limited self defence capability even when fitted with Sidewinder missiles. Without an air-to-air radar, the GR7 has no fleet air defence capability and with its slow speed compared to the FA2, it is very vulnerable to any modern air-to-air fighter.
5. Q. Is the air-defence capability of the GR9 as good as that of the FA2?
A. No. The GR9 will be optimised for offensive support operations and be capable of employing the latest smart weapons such as the Brimstone anti-armour weapon. It will be a more capable platform in the offensive role than the GR7. Like the GR7 it will be able to utilise Sidewinder Air to Air missiles.
Comment: See comment to answer 4, above.
6. Q. What are the operational advantages of the GR9 over the GR7?
A. In essence, the capability to employ the latest generation of smart weapons such as Brimstone. There are other advantages too, but these are classified.
7. Q. At what range did the FA2 operate to provide air defence to the Fleet?
A. Not prepared to comment on specific operational detail, but in some climates its operational performance is constrained.
Comment: Combat Air Patrol stations are typically held at ranges of 100 nm or more from the centre of a task force. Although operational performance is constrained in the hottest environments, it can still provide a carrier based effective outer layer of air defence (or police “no fly” zones) up to ambient temperatures of about 34ºC. When operating from a Forward Operating Base in support of beach head operations it is unconstrained.
1. Q. What is the timescale for the migration?
A. By 1 April 2007, JFH will operate an all Harrier GR9 fleet.
2. Q. When will the first FA2 squadron disband?
A. During the first half of 2004 so that personnel can begin their conversion to the Harrier GR.
3. Q. When will the last FA2 squadron disband?
A. During 2006, at about the same time as the last part of the Sea Harrier Force is withdrawn from service.
4. Q. Why are you taking the FA2 out of service before the Type 45 comes into service.
A. The FA2 is not the only system that contributes to the overall defence of the fleet. This is especially true for coalition operations and operations in the littoral. In addition the aircraft lacks performance in certain areas and this can constrain operations. The aircraft’s systems would also require significant investment for it to remain credible in the air defence role beyond 2006. Overall, the cost of keeping the Sea Harrier in service from this date until the entry to service of the Type 45 is judged to represent poor value for the taxpayer. We assess the risk is manageable considering other air defence capabilities available in the intervening period.
Comment: This is more of the same misleading information. The FA2 aircraft systems actually required no significant investment for it to remain credible in the air defence role beyond 2006. Some limited investment would have provided valuable operational advantages; such as the fitting of the JTIDS system.
What other air defence capabilities are available in the intervening period? None beyond ‘last ditch’ Point Defence systems and certainly not the Type 45 even if they became available in adequate numbers. This answer is nonsense.
1. Q. Will the arrival of the Type 45 and PAAMS provide an air defence capability for the Fleet that meets that provided by the FA2?
A. It’s a different and superior capability in the context of today’s operational requirements. It will be better suited to the protection of maritime assets operating close to shore.
Comment: It is neither superior nor capable against long range air threat targets, below the radar horizon threats or against threat aircraft with modern stand-off missiles. When operating close to shore, the FA2 is invaluable with its positioning flexibility and its Blue Vixen/AMRAAM look-down/shoot-down capability. It can deter a threat from attack or engage attack aircraft well before fleet radars can detect their presence and before they are in a position to threaten the fleet or ground forces.
2. Q. What is the plan for the introduction to service of the Type 45?
A. The first of class will enter service in 2007, with 3 in service by 2010.
Comment: This is far too late to “fill the gap”.
3. Q. What is the range of PAAMS?
A. Not prepared to comment on operational detail. But it represents a quantum leap in capability over its successor, Sea Dart, and thus offsets the loss of the FA2 outer layer.
Comment: Although still unproven, it may well be much superior to Sea Dart but it is still limited by radar horizon and by the Type 45’s relative immobility. Without the outer layer of fighters, it may easily be saturated by a multi threat attack from different directions.
1. Q. When will the first FJCA enter service?
2. Q. When is the first FJCA squadron expected to be operational?
A. The timing has not yet been set in concrete. A lot will depend on which aircraft is eventually chosen. Current planning assumes that FJCA will be capable of operational tasking shortly after entering service.
3. Q. Has the MoD chosen the FJCA?
A. No. The MOD has identified that the Joint Strike Fighter offers the potential to meet the FJCA requirement.
4. Q. Do you have a fallback position if JSF does not go forward – could this mean a delay?
A. It is highly unlikely that the JSF programme will not produce at least one variant that would meet the UK’s requirement. Nevertheless, there are fallback options available to meet our required timescales.
Comment: What are these so-called fallback options? If the Naval and Air Staff have done their planning job efficiently, these options (if any) should now be available and should be made public. This would prevent Air Staff mischief.
5. Q. How will Joint Force Harrier be structured once the FA2 has been withdrawn from service?
A. We are planning four front line squadrons and an Operational Conversion Unit. Two of the squadrons will be manned predominantly by RAF personnel. In the other 2 squadrons the manning balance will be reversed with RN personnel in the majority. The Operational Conversion Unit will be manned 50/50 RAF/RN.
1. Q. Is this just one step on the road to ‘disbanding’ the Fleet air Arm?
A. There is no hidden agenda to “march off” the Fleet Air Arm. SDR envisaged that there would be a joint RN/RAF shareholding in both JFH and FJCA and this has been agreed by the service chiefs. Moreover, Joint RN/RAF carrier-based deployments are now very much the norm, as was seen recently in Sierra Leone.
Comment: But the RAF Harriers did not/would not fly missions over the land in Sierra Leone – they were afraid of not getting back to the ship. The RAF Harriers rarely embark and then only for a few weeks at most. This can hardly be called a “norm”.
2. Q. With the demise of the FA2 Squadrons, Will the RAF be responsible for carrier-
A. No, the GR7/9 will be manned and maintained by both the RN and RAF and both services will take an equitable share of the land based and sea based operational and training commitment.
3. Q. What are the pilot requirements for the RN / RAF after migration has taken place?
A. For the RN, there will be little change to the current requirement for fixed wing pilots. For the RAF, there will be a small reduction but given the relative size of the RAF the impact will be positive but small.
4. Q. What will be the net increase / decrease of military / civilian personnel at RNAS
Yeovilton and Wittering / Cottesmore?
· Approximately 565 RN personnel will relocate, principally from RNAS Yeovilton to RAF Cottesmore/Wittering over the period 2004-2006, between one and three years later than original planned.
· Through a combination of substitution of RN and RAF personnel and withdrawal of Sea Harriers from service some 380 RAF Air Engineers, 105 RAF support posts and 32 RAF aircrew posts will be disestablished with individuals released for redeployment elsewhere.
· Of the 235 civilian posts currently at RNAS Yeovilton, some 20 non-mobile civilian posts will be extended beyond 2003 to be disestablished over the period 2005-2006. These posts will not now be transferred to RAF Cottesmore/Wittering. The remaining civilian posts at RNAS Yeovilton will be unaffected.
· In addition, 26 new civilian posts that were to have been created at RAF Cottesmore/Wittering, currently unfilled, will now no longer be required.
5. Q. Will there be any redundancies amongst civilian personnel?
A. It is difficult at this stage to predict whether any redundancies will be necessary. However, in the event that some personnel were to be made redundant, every effort would be made to find alternative employment and careful and sympathetic consideration would be given to each individual’s preference. In these circumstances staff made redundant would be compensated under the terms of the appropriate regulations. In addition, the MOD Outplacement Service (MODOPS) would be available to help those made redundant to identify new opportunities.
6. Q. Will there be any redundancies amongst military personnel?
A. No. There will be no redundancies amongst Military Personnel. Displaced RAF personnel will be re-employed elsewhere within their specialist areas. Such postings are routine.
Comment: There may well be massive RN Fleet Air Arm voluntary redundancies. And if the surface Navy realises that it is going to remain relatively defenceless against air attack, ship’s company personnel may also leave the service in droves. No one wants to fight if one’s masters do not provide the means for adequate defence and survival.
7. Q. Is this decision based at all on the shortage of aircrew?
A. No. This is driven by operational imperatives and the need for the UK to focus on expeditionary offensive capability.
Comment: The greatest operational imperative is to deter the enemy from proceeding with his malign intentions. To do that requires a sensible balance between offensive systems (GR9/JSF and FA2/JSF) and defensive systems (FA2/JSF only).
Appendix III: SDR 98 definition of First and Second Echelon Forces.
THE FIRST ECHELON
First echelon forces will be available at very high readiness. The most readily available elements of the first echelon will be ‘Spearhead Forces’. The pool will include:
– Special Forces;
– an attack submarine, surface warships and a support ship;
– a spearhead battle group based on a light infantry battalion or commando group, drawn from 3 Commando Brigade, 3(UK) Mechanised Division’s ‘ready brigade’ or 24 Airmobile Brigade; and
– a mix of offensive and defensive combat aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters, short-range air defence units and supporting tactical air transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft.
The balance of first echelon forces could be drawn from:
– additional Special Forces;
– shipping to generate a maritime task group centred on an aircraft carrier or helicopter assault ship, and including amphibious shipping if necessary to support the lead Commando battle group;
– lead battle groups, to provide a broad choice of capabilities, including:
- a lead Commando battle group equipped with Lynx anti-tank helicopters (Longbow Apache when in service), support helicopters and all-terrain vehicles;
- a lead parachute battle group, based on a parachute battalion;
- a lead aviation/armoured reconnaissance battle group, with Lynx anti-tank helicopters (Longbow Apache when in service), armoured reconnaissance and infantry sub-units;
- a lead armoured battle group with Challenger tanks and Warrior armoured infantry vehicles;
- combat support and logistic support groups with artillery, air defence, engineer and other assets;
– a range of high capability air assets, including additional offensive and defensive combat aircraft, helicopters and support aircraft.
THE SECOND ECHELON
The second echelon of forces will be available at high readiness to provide more substantial capabilities should the first echelon require strengthening or to conduct subsequent operations. These forces would probably use a combination of MOD and commercially contracted transport assets to deploy. The pool would comprise:
– additional maritime forces to form a second or larger, more capable maritime task group, including an amphibious capability if necessary to support 3 Commando Brigade;
– a choice of ground force brigades drawn from:
- 3 Commando Brigade, including specialist capabilities for amphibious, mountain and cold weather operations;
- a mechanised ‘ready brigade’ from 3 (UK) Mechanised Division;
- an armoured ‘ready brigade’ from 1 (UK) Armoured Division; and
- 24 Airmobile Brigade, providing an aviation, parachuting or tactical air-landed capability;
– substantial additional air assets to enable operations across the full spectrum of airpower roles to provide a robust air contribution to the Joint Task Force.
16. The pool of forces available for the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces will vary from time-to-time but its approximate size and shape will include:
– around 20 major warships (aircraft carriers, attack submarines, amphibious ships, destroyers or frigates);
– about 22 other vessels (mine warfare and support ships);
– four ground force brigades;
– about 110 combat aircraft;
– over 160 other aircraft.
17. Setting up the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces is a major undertaking, but we believe that this initiative is right for defence and that the logic underpinning it will command widespread agreement. Taken together, the measures we propose will provide Britain with a step-change in our ability to undertake short- notice force projection operations.
18. It will take time to put all of the capabilities in place. We are, however, giving priority to this aspect of implementation of the Strategic Defence Review, and our aim is for the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces to be operational in 2001.
 Annex A: The Harmony Guidelines for the British Armed Services.
 “Naval Aviation – a Historical Perspective.” Phoenix Think Tank paper.
 Annex A: The Harmony Guidelines for the British Armed Services.
 “Mobile Bases versus Static Bases.” Phoenix Think Tank paper.
 “Naval Aviation – a Historical Perspective”. Phoenix Think Tank paper.
“ Ever wondered what it’s like to assault a beachhead? Ever thought how difficult it must be to get men and vital supplies from sea to shore? The Army has its own fleet of ships and landing craft to deliver troops, equipment and supplies ‘over the beach’. Smaller boats are used to patrol harbours, rivers and lakes and help bridge-building and ferrying operations.” http://www.army.mod.uk/equipment/boats/default.aspx
 For further information please read: The place of the Royal Marines in UK armed forces.
 See Appendix III for SDR 98 definition of First and Second Echelon Forces.
 The Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) was designed to seek out and destroy very small, hard manoeuvring, very fast targets at very low to medium altitudes and at very long range. The Probability of Kill (PK) of the total system is almost 100% when launched with initial radar data. The AMRAAM has 9 kills for 9 launches in combat against near supersonic fighter aircraft threats with pilots ardently trying to stay alive. A cruise missile has no such personal escape incentive.
 The Sukhoi Su-30 (NATO reporting name Flanker-C) is a twin-engine, multi-role military aircraft developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a two-seat, dual-role fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions. The Su-30 was introduced into operational service in 1996.
Performance: Max speed: Mach 2.0. Radius of action: 1,620 nm at altitude.
Armament: The Su-30MK’s combat load is mounted on 12 hard-points: 2 wingtip AAM launch rails, 3 pylons under each wing, 1 pylon under each engine nacelle, and 2 pylons in tandem in the “arch” between the engines. All versions can carry up to 8 tonnes of external stores.
 The Kh-59MK is a long-range, air-to-surface, high subsonic, anti-ship missile featuring a maximum range of 285 kilometres. It is equipped with ARGS-59E active radar homing head. Maximum launch altitude: 11,000 meters. It is capable of engaging surface targets in adverse weather conditions, day/night at Sea States up to 6. The Kh-59MK missile flies at altitudes between 10 to 15 meters and between 4 and 7 meters during the terminal phase of the flight. Its warhead is a 320 kg penetrator. The Kh-59MK weapon system was designed for the Su-30 fighter aircraft.
 “Royal Naval Fixed Wing Fighter Aircraft – a Brief.” Phoenix think tank paper.
 “The Case for the new Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers.” Phoenix think tank paper.
 With the task force at 400 nautical miles from the land-based air support, each CAP fighter aircraft would have a total “in transit” flight time of up to 2 hours. It would therefore need AAR tanking to a. Allow it to remain on task for a realistic period (say, one hour 30 minutes) and b. Provide it with a combat allowance for engaging threat aircraft/missiles. Where the high-level threat is multidirectional, 4 or more CAP aircraft would be required on CAP 24/7. In a 24-hour period this would require 64 x 3 1/2 hour land-based fighter missions to be flown supported by at least 16 AAR tanker missions. Such operations are extremely susceptible to weather conditions at the airfield on land and to the susceptibility of that airfield and its aircraft to attack (either when still on the ground or when in transit to the CAP station). This fact alone mitigates against the use of land-based CAP aircraft. Providing equivalent CAP support from the carrier ensures the availability of CAP air defence to the command, markedly reduces the number of fighter missions flown and prevents the need for continuous and vulnerable shore-based AAR tanker support.
 FJCA was the planned STOVL version of the US/UK Staff Requirement.
 The MI-24 Hind A Gunship came into service in the Soviet Military in 1976. Its introduction caused consternation amongst NATO forces as they had no comparable system in their arsenal. The AH-64A Apache gunship’s development was a direct consequence of the Hind’s appearance in the Soviet order of battle. State of the art modern versions of this aircraft and other attack helicopters are a threat to amphibious operations; reinforcing the need for integral CAP air defence fighters.
 “Naval Aviation – a Historical Perspective.” Phoenix Think Tank paper
 ‘Iron’ bombs generally have three fusing options: Direct Action – exploding on contact; Delayed Action – exploding a set time after initial contact; VT or Variable Time. “Variable Time” is actually a misnomer. VT fuses sense the bombs proximity to another object, e.g. the ground. If set at 50 feet, the bomb will detonate 50 feet above the ground. If it detects any other object within 50 feet during its armed flight (such as another bomb) it will detonate prematurely.
 The initial 1979 procurement cost of each Tornado F3 was £43 million (total initial cost approximately £6.32 billion or US$10.1 billion): a truly excessive price when compared to the 1979 procurement cost of the F-18 fighter (less than US$30 million) which has proven to be an extremely effective ‘swing role’ fighter.
 The Nimrod MR2, based at RAF Kinloss in Scotland, is a maritime patrol aircraft ‘used primarily in the roles of maritime surface surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue’. Internal bay for up to nine torpedoes, bombs and depth charges; Sidewinder AAMs can be carried on under-wing pylons for self-defence. The Nimrod MRA.4 shown at figure 9 was introduced as the Nimrod 2000 following the update program approved in 1996.
 “Mobile Bases versus Static Bases”. Phoenix Think Tank paper – Peter Unwin.
 This report was circulated in early 1983 in the Ministry by a Group Captain Ball who was a Qualified Flying Instructor with no front-line or Falklands experience who was Head of the Air Warfare faculty at the RAF Staff College, Bracknell. The report was condemned as fiction by the Naval Staff who insisted on its withdrawal. In the same vein, the Royal Air Force was promoting propaganda within its own ranks each year holding RAF Regiment dinners to commemorate “up to 30 kills achieved by RAF Rapier surface-to-air missile squadrons in the Falklands”. Formal MOD analysis of aircraft shot down by the Rapier missile credited half of one kill in San Carlos to the Army T33 Battery and “no kills” to the RAF Regiment.
 The naval battle group under the command of Rear Adml Sandy Woodward was ordered by signal that no surface unit or aircraft was permitted to engage any target for a two hour period around the time that any of the Vulcan raids from Ascension were in theatre. This is called a “Weapons Tight” policy and leaves friendly forces defenceless for the duration of the period.
 The UK had a legal and moral commitment commitment to Protectorates in these areas.
 Please see page 5 of “The Falkland Islands – Our Most Vulnerable and Threatened Dependency.” Phoenix Think Tank Paper.
 If they have not already done so, the British Government should take serious note of the major military air procurement program now underway in Argentina. An order for up to 128 F-15C and F-15E Strike Eagle fighters has been made from the USA with delivery due to begin in the 2017/18 timeframe. A further order for Landing Craft Air Cushion Vehicles (LCACs) – better known as hovercraft – has been made. These LCACs are seagoing vehicles with the capacity to deliver stores and ammunition to the islands from the mainland at high speed. The latest version of the Mirage F1 air to air fighter aircraft has also been ordered from France and it is further understood that there are also Hind gunships in the pipeline from Russia (the latter being proven against light surface vehicles of both sea and land form; and very capable against open landing craft). It is for consideration that such a major military air resources ‘build-up’ can have but one aim in mind: retaking the Falklands. (The purchase of the LCACs in particular is a very good indicator of this.)
 £1 billion taken from an obsolete project costing £68.5 billion (to support the Sea Harrier FA2 in service) would have been a small price to pay for the safety and security of our combat troops and surface forces deployed in war zones around the world.
 Government figures at the turn of the century showed that the initial unit procurement cost of each Typhoon aircraft was £92 million (includes development and production but not in-service costs).
 CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) is a system used for the launch and recovery of aircraft from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Under this technique, aircraft launch using a catapult assisted take off and land on the ship (the recovery phase) using arrester wires. Although this system is more costly initially than alternative methods, it provides greater flexibility for offensive power projection in carrier operations, since it allows the vessel to support conventional aircraft and UCAVs.
 “Flying from our new Carriers – The RN or the RAF Ethos.” Phoenix Think Tank paper.
 “Naval Aviation – a Historical Perspective.” Phoenix Think Tank paper.
 “The Case for the new Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers.” Phoenix Think Tank paper. http://www.phoenixthinktank.org/?cat=7
 “Flying from our new Carriers – The RN or the RAF Ethos” Phoenix Think Tank paper.
 “Flying from our new Carriers – The RN or the RAF Ethos.” Phoenix Think Tank paper.
 “A Review of National Military Air Resources.” Phoenix Think Tank paper.
 Interestingly, notwithstanding that they are deployed for short times, airmen qualify for the same amount of post-operational tour leave as their RN, RM, and Army colleagues.
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