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UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

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eagle driver
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UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by eagle driver » Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:54 am

An interesting read on how the building works are proceeding at Marham and elsewhere.
credit to MSF for this post
04 December 2017

BY: Craig Hoyle
FlightGlobal

Sixteen years after signing up as a Level 1 partner on the U.S. military’s Joint Strike Fighter programme, the U.K. is now just months away from welcoming its first examples of the Lockheed Martin F-35B to home shores.

Thirteen of the short take-off and vertical landing type have now been handed over to the U.K. military, with this total to increase to 14 by year-end.

Ten aircraft are being used in support of pilot and maintainer training at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, with Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel working alongside the U.S. Marine Corps' VMFAT-501 squadron. Three more are assigned to the U.K.'s 17 Sqn operational evaluation unit at Edwards AFB in California, where its pilots are conducting operational testing, and developing tactics, techniques, and procedures for the fifth-generation type.

Meanwhile, infrastructure work at RAF Marham in Norfolk – the future home base for the U.K.’s Lightning IIs – has reached a key stage under an investment worth more than £500 million ($672 million) launched in April 2016. Current work includes a complete resurfacing of the shorter of the base’s two runways in advance of the new aircraft arriving, with the main runway to later undergo the same process. Three vertical-landing pads are at the start of their construction process.

A new maintenance and finishing facility is already built and will be capable of accommodating up to eight F-35Bs simultaneously for in-service support, plus another two in painting. Nearby, the U.K.’s national operating centre has been completed, with Lockheed Martin’s autonomic logistics information system equipment to be installed from late November. The facility will open early next year.

The squadron house for the RAF’s 617 Sqn – the first U.K. frontline unit to introduce the Lightning II – is also in construction, along with another for 207 Sqn’s OCU. An integrated training centre will from the middle of next year receive four full-motion simulators and additional training equipment.

Elsewhere, 1980s-era hardened aircraft shelters built for the Panavia Tornado will be refurbished and about 90% of existing taxiways resurfaced – all without disrupting operations involving the RAF’s remaining Tornado GR4s. To leave use in April 2019, the type has a key role in the U.K.’s Operation Shader activity against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, being flown from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

U.K. Lightning force commander Air Cdre David Bradshaw – who also commands the RAF’s Tornado operations – says the transition between the different generations of aircraft must be a seamless one.

Nine F-35Bs will arrive at RAF Marham in mid-2018 after making a transatlantic crossing accompanied by Airbus A330 Voyager tanker/transports. The STOVL aircraft will support the work-up process for the reformed 617 Sqn, which should achieve initial operational capability next December. Bradshaw says the unit will be cleared to deploy on international operations from early 2019, with its Block 3F software-standard aircraft having a U.K.-specific weapons fit comprising Raytheon Systems Paveway IV precision-guided bombs, plus MBDA ASRAAM and Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. Later, Block 4 additions will include MBDA’s Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and its extended-range Spear ground-attack weapon.

Bradshaw says 2018 “is going to be momentous”, noting that the new type’s introduction will occur during the centenary year of the RAF’s formation. The F-35B will, however, be a shared asset in U.K. service.

“This is a joint enterprise: at every level, every rank, every trade, there will be a mix,” Bradshaw says. The balance is set at 58% RAF personnel and 42% RN, with the senior and deputy command posts to always be held by officers from the services in that order. Frontline squadron leadership posts will, however, alternate between the services on each staff rotation to enforce the joint ethos.

Nowhere will this be more evident than at sea, with the F-35B to combine with two new RN aircraft carriers to reinstate the U.K.’s carrier strike role: lapsed since the early retirement of the Joint Force Harrier-operated BAE Systems Harrier GR9.

The RN’s new flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be commissioned by her namesake in Portsmouth on 7 December. The 65,000-tonne vessel will go on to host the first landings by an F-35B in the second half of 2018, during trials conducted off the U.S. East Coast. Further testing will be conducted in 2019 using HMS Prince of Wales, which will be delivered with a so-called Bedford Array system installed, enabling pilots to employ a shipborne rolling vertical landing technique. This will reduce wear and tear on the F-35’s Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine and LiftFan vertical landing system and enable the aircraft to return to the ship at a heavier weight.

“By the end of 2020, the F-35B will be operational off the aircraft carriers,” Bradshaw says. “It is at the very heart of the Lightning force to operate from land or sea – we will pick what is most appropriate at the time.”
Capt Adam Clink, deputy Lightning force commander, notes that the use of SRVL will restore a “big-deck” carrier capability not seen since HMS Ark Royal left service in 1979. “It is a significant change from a ship safety point of view,” he notes.

The U.K. has so far committed to acquiring 48 F-35Bs for delivery by 2024, under an allocation totalling £9.1 billion. However, the nation’s formal requirement over the life of the programme remains for 138 aircraft.

In addition to the 14 aircraft in its fleet by year-end, its firm backlog totals another three examples, ordered last year as part of the U.S. programme’s tenth lot of low-rate initial production.

In written evidence submitted to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in mid-November, Lockheed Martin said the unit recurring flyaway cost for the U.K.’s early F-35Bs has dropped from $161 million during LRIP-3 in 2009 to just over $122 million in LRIP-10: a fall of 24%. Its target is to reduce this to $105 million by the time of an LRIP-14 award.

Lockheed Martin and several international customers – including the U.K. – are in favour of the U.S. Department of Defense agreeing to a multiple-year contract for a total of 440 aircraft through LRIP lots 12 to 14, to benefit from cost savings ahead of the programme entering full-rate production. The proposed three-year deal remains the subject of discussion between Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Programme Office.

The U.K. currently plans to order 17 aircraft through this period, after a single unit during LRIP-11. Another 13 would be added through a proposed second multiple-year arrangement covering orders in 2021–2022.

About 150 U.K. Lightning force personnel are currently in the USA, including pilots, engineers, and mission support specialists. At MCAS Beaufort, the detachment represents “the kernel of what will become 617 Squadron,” Bradshaw notes.

The U.K.’s F-35 pilots hail from the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado GR4 communities and the former Joint Force Harrier organisation. Clink notes that the RN has maintained skills following the Harrier GR9’s retirement via a long-lead specialist skills programme which saw its pilots take exchange posts flying Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets with the U.S. Navy.

In a significant milestone, the first of four ab initio pilots – two RAF and two RN – was expected to perform a debut flight in the F-35B around late November. The first U.K. aircraft to receive Block 3F software has already been flown from Edwards AFB and ski-jump testing has been completed at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland, where the U.K. has four test pilots assigned to an integrated test force.

Development of a training syllabus has established a 50:50 split between live and synthetic flying – a shift which Bradshaw describes as “a completely different approach”.

“In the past, all of our training would have been airborne, with emergencies in the simulator,” he notes. “We are trying to make sure that we get the absolute most out of this aircraft.”

The Lightning force OCU will move to RAF Marham in mid-2019, followed by a second frontline unit – 809 NAS – in 2023. Longer term, a third combat squadron could potentially be accommodated at the Norfolk base.

With the U.K. planning to operate F-35s until at least 2048, Bradshaw says it is likely to also consider acquiring the Lightning II in its conventional take-off and landing variant. This has increased range and payload capability, increased manoeuvrability and a lower unit cost than the STOVL type.

“I’d be really surprised if the A is not part of our future force mix,” he notes.

filmman
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by filmman » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:31 pm

Looking at the new "carrier" deck layout today it looked similar to a normal carrier with the exception of the singe ski jump on the half nearest the bridge. Is it therefore possible to install a catapult on the other half? Allowing non VTOL planes to launch and land? If so the best of both worlds; on shore deployment of VTOL not needing airfields and ability to launch from stationary ships, and cheaper, increased range and payload non VTOL F35s.
Filmman

martmpf
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by martmpf » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:57 pm

Not possible apparently. I believe the MOD spent a fortune proving this when they tried to change all F-35's to "A"s. Ships not big enough and the conventional engines could not produce the steam to operate cat & trap.
Last edited by martmpf on Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

Vulcanone
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by Vulcanone » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:37 pm

The original plan by the Con/Lib Dem 2010 government was to go for F-35C martmpf.

However, I seem to recall they had already built the front end for the carriers, and it would prove too expensive to go change it....

So the idea was binned, much to amusement of the (Experts/Idiots)* from the other bunch of Muppets house... Oh sorry I mean Parliament


* Delete where applicable....

:huh:

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Blackcat1
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by Blackcat1 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:35 pm

Nah its not gonna happen!! :-)
Gareth

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martmpf
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by martmpf » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:50 am

Vulcanone wrote:The original plan by the Con/Lib Dem 2010 government was to go for F-35C martmpf.

However, I seem to recall they had already built the front end for the carriers, and it would prove too expensive to go change it....

So the idea was binned, much to amusement of the (Experts/Idiots)* from the other bunch of Muppets house... Oh sorry I mean Parliament


* Delete where applicable....

:huh:
I believe purchase decisions for all hardware is made by the MOD, not indivual elected MP's, who generally do not get asked. But MOD decisions become Goverment decisions because in a vote they can't loose. So it becomes the will of parliment, approved by our elected representatives. So the electorates fault :S
Last edited by martmpf on Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:53 am, edited 2 times in total.

Drinkmat
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by Drinkmat » Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:18 am

I was on a visit to RAF Marham a few months ago. During the tour, it was mentioned from a serviceman that all the buildings being erected in connection with Dave are to be constructed to American plans and specification, with no deviation. The same applies to other nations operating the jet also. Identical buildings across the board!

Vulcanone
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by Vulcanone » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:43 am

Martmpf.

I know that, but I was pointing out the usual case when one shower in power, makes a mistake the others claim oh we know better than you and would never make that mistake...

baz1
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by baz1 » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:08 pm

typical yanks do as we say.

Stroudy
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by Stroudy » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:13 pm

One day we will claim our souls back from the Americans and do things our way.. and properly.

Agent K
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by Agent K » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:52 pm

Drinkmat wrote:I was on a visit to RAF Marham a few months ago. During the tour, it was mentioned from a serviceman that all the buildings being erected in connection with Dave are to be constructed to American plans and specification, with no deviation. The same applies to other nations operating the jet also. Identical buildings across the board!
Whilst I wouldn't always believe hearsay/rumour from a serviceman (of course it depends on who was saying it, what rank and how close to the programme is) it would make sense to have common operational building that will have been designed accordingly and passed a review as suitable for purpose. Doesn't make sense to reinvent the wheel.

martmpf
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by martmpf » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:59 pm

Most of us have our own souls, i'm happy with mine!
A government the population elected made the decision to spend billions on the wrong ships for the wrong aircraft. Principly in order to reduce the price. So saving us all money. :Oops:

filmman
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by filmman » Fri Dec 08, 2017 1:14 pm

As the carrier size was originally basically designed so they could either opt for VTOL or Cat/trap and it's design speed has to be high enough to keep up with others, I would not be surprised at the usual brilliant navy improvisation to allow conventional T/O and landing. At least for Long ranged COD, AEW and possibly emergency landing of Other navies fixed wing. Hawkeye would be a big force multiplier. Was BAe not interested in Cats/Traps because it was both shipbuilder and contractor for the F35B. As a BAe shareholder I would expect their decisions to be solely in the commercial interests of the shareholder! However, once the RN own it things might change, the first long term not short term decision is AEW.
Filmman

martmpf
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by martmpf » Fri Dec 08, 2017 1:36 pm

I believe you will find the MOD issues a specifcation for what they want, probably multiple options. Cat & trap almost certainly being one.
Prices are obtained.
If elected Goverment picks the cheapest (non-nuclear power), you don't get the offset deck (for "conventional" carrier takeoff/landing) on the smaller ship, or cat and trap ....... so fixed to F-35B only.

Malcolm
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by Malcolm » Fri Dec 08, 2017 2:19 pm

My view is that it's a systemic failure between the MOD and HMG to look far enough forwards at future requirements.

It was a given from day 1 that sooner or later the RAF were going to want a conventional take off and landing version, and they will no doubt start pushing hard for the F-35A. However, the F-35A is boom refuelling only, and our Voyagers will be hose/drogue only for the foreseeable future unless mega bucks are spent to get Airtanker to re-negotiate the contract and add the capability.

The original carrier spec was originally for STOVL, but with the provision to fit cat and trap in the future. The cat would have to be an EMALS system like on the USS Gerald Ford because there is insufficient steam generation for a steam cat.

Back in 2010 the Cameron govt decided to change from the F-35B to the F-35C (the naval conventional take off and landing version) and re-add cat-n-traps to the spec. To me this was and still is the sensible solution. It would allow us to equip the carrier with the same stuff the USN will be using, and accept USN/USMC and FrN aircraft onto the deck. We could add extra capability should the requirement and money be available (E2, COD, Buddy-Buddy etc). And the RAF would be able to order the same F-35C in the future without having to worry about Voyager. And we'd be operating a single type for both the RN and RAF which would save on maintainance, training and just about everything else. The RAF might prefer the A, but history shows that the RAF operating RN jets tends to work better than t'other way around.

But the cost of the re-engineering on the carriers was now being quoted at £2 Bn, because at some point some (expletive deleted) one had allowed the requirement for upgradeability to cat and traps to be deleted from the spec. HMS QE was too far along to re-equip without major rebuild, although it would be mush easier on HMS PoW. Eventually the govt decided that £2Bn was too much and switched back to the F-35B. Disaster.

So now we're likely to be operating two types of Dave (F-35B and F-35A), have the largest carriers the RN have ever owned, but operating only short range and payload limited 'jump jets' off them, and have to pay to modify the Voyagers. All that is going to cost a shed load more than the £2 Bn it would have cost to stick with cat-n-trap and F-35C.

Madness, Madness, Wibble, Wibble.

martmpf
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by martmpf » Fri Dec 08, 2017 2:49 pm

Exactly the point I was trying to to make, but explained much better. Thanks :thumb:
Another subject would be PM Camerons election bribe over an EU referendum. Look where that got us!

The honerable thing would have been the pearl handled revolver in a room by yourself, instead, he packed his bags.

The fact is these decisions are all politically motivated, not what is best for the Nation.
Last edited by martmpf on Fri Dec 08, 2017 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

filmman
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by filmman » Fri Dec 08, 2017 3:02 pm

Perhaps a referendum on carrier design, and many other decisions might be better. Juries generally do a better job, would you like to be judged by politicians/establishment. There is a plaque in The Old Bailey commemorating a juror which successfully refused to carry out "Orders" to convict.
Filmman

Malcolm
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by Malcolm » Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:21 pm

filmman wrote:Perhaps a referendum on carrier design, and many other decisions might be better. Juries generally do a better job, would you like to be judged by politicians/establishment. There is a plaque in The Old Bailey commemorating a juror which successfully refused to carry out "Orders" to convict.
Filmman
Off topic but....

Referenda are a universally bad idea, and I sincerely hope and expect it'll be a very long time before we have another one. They are just about acceptable when its a simple yes/no question where everyone understands all the pros and cons - something like redesigning the national flag. However, as recent experience has shown, few if any of the public actually do understand all the pros and cons on anything but the simplest of topics. So we elect the politicians, and it is their job to understand all the topics and then decide on them.

Same with juries - the people are locked in a courtroom and sit through the entire case so they should understand all the pros and cons of the case. Therefore they should be suitably equipped and informed to come to a (hopefully correct)verdict. However, trial by newspaper/press - no thanks.

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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by nickowen » Sat Dec 16, 2017 11:49 pm

Quite apart from the design see-sawing between Cat & Trap and STOVL, it was a very canny move by a previous government (of what political hue I cannot recall) to overrule the Ships' Names and Badges Committee and change the names to ensure that any hint of cancellation would be met by howls of protest in the tabloid press (the names originally chosen by the SN&BC had a sound aircraft carrier pedigree). They may have the wrong propulsion machinery, the wrong launch system, the wrong aeroplanes and the wrong names but one is, against all the odds, in commission with the second soon to follow.

filmman
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Re: UK, Preparing the ground for F-35s

Post by filmman » Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:09 am

Good news, well almost better than good news. Exciting new build/expansion of the, wai for it, Fishery squadron. Are the five new ships armed in case poaching trawlers get upset. No. I know better, there the close in defence for our new "carriers" which have no real defence from defence cuts other than their names. They also have larger broadband capacity so they can deploy Gamers armed with the latest Star Wars cloaking technology. Now you see it, now you don't, making it impossible to pin down the actual costs of carrier borne F35s. With Frigates disappearing and the the few Destroyers unable to produce enough ice for drinks in the Gulf the Carriers future was threatened. This was an unacceptable loss of face. The multi function ships can also trawl for pesky subs which they will do until the Carriers complete their 4 year Trials/Work Up and plumbing repair. This will allow the P8s to be cancelled, getting one back on the RAF which doesn't know its place behind the Senior Service. After all once it's small enough the Army might allow it to revert to its Flying Corp, it was a mistake to prefix it with Royal - gave them ideas.
Filmman

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