UK MOD in a muddle over F-35C

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Unread post10 May 2012, 12:32

Royal Aeronautical Society wrote:What a carrier-on!

Professor Keith Hayward, RAeS Head of Research, provides expert comment and analysis on the UK Governments ’s decision to revert to the STOVL variant of the F-35 stealth fighter.

UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond’s statement today confirms the rumours of an embarrassing U-turn over the JSF type to be bought by the UK. Declared by Prime Minister Cameron as making good a mistake made by the previous government, the shift to a conventional F-35C was lauded as a means of increasing compatibility with allied naval air power, and increasing the overall capability available to Britain’s air forces. With a screeching of austerity driven brakes, the government has now baulked at the £2billion (and rising) cost converting a VSTOL carrier to “cats and traps”.

As an early exemplar of military indecision, the Grand Old Duke of York marched 10,000 men up and down a hill. When first through Main Gate, the plan was to build two large carriers, but only capable of launching the VSTOL F-35B. A few years and a Strategic Defence and Security Review later, combined with the first dose of financial austerity, the UK decided to park the first ship in mothballs and shift to a conventional flight deck deploying the US Navy’s choice, the F-35C.

The first decision ostensibly saved some money – albeit at the expense of buying a toothless ship (contracted and legally binding) available for training or sale. It also added to overall capability, the F-35C having greater range and payload; and conveniently enough, having the ability to interoperate with US as well as French carrier aircraft. The latter would be politically and operationally important if UK-France were to have something like continuous cover for expeditionary missions under a “European” flag.

So far so good: switching to a “cat and trap” mode immediately implied some expensive modifications, especially as the carrier design required the untried electro-magnetic catapult system. As the design is stuffed to the gunnels with sophisticated integrated kit and features a high level of automation to reduce the size of the crew, this was not a simple case of stripping out bunks and altering the configuration of storage space.

There would also be a further stretch-out in deploying a modern carrier force, although delays in the F-35 programme might have brought some degree of convergence of in-service dates. However, as the UK National Audit Office (NAO) has noted, the untried catapult technology, combined with developing a UK fit of US technology, raised several new and potentially very expensive uncertainties. Rebuilding the core knowledge and skills of a ‘cats and traps cadre’ , last seen in the 1970s would also not have been simple.


Order, counter-order, disorder

So about turn and march the troops down the hill and revert to the original format, albeit with a smaller number of aircraft. New questions now arise: will Britain now seek to deploy both carriers? That’s certainly what the naval lobby is muttering and ‘continuous carrier availability’ was highlighted by Mr. Hammond in his speech today. It is self evident that if we don’t have two carriers, we will be without carrier air power for six months or so in any given year. But would the UK be able to afford to equip and operate two carriers, especially if the MoD is to commit to a Trident nuclear force replacement? What about interoperability? Clearly, the latter is now impossible with France, and limited to US Marine carriers, or perhaps Italian F-35Bs, if that is they survive an Italian defence review.

All of this uncertainty implies a breech in weapons acquision’s golden rule – customers should not change their minds in mid-procurement. This is the largest single cause of programme delay and cost escalation. As ever, this is a bi-partisan mess. The present government will blame their predecessors for the original choice; sometime in the next decade, this regime will be castigated by its successor. British tax payers and the UK armed services will pay the ultimate cost.


In another part of the procurement wood

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic the Pentagon is facing further delays and cost increases in the F-35 programme, already the largest and single most expensive procurement in US history. However, according to the US General Accountability Office (GAO), since 2010 total cost estimates for development and procurement rose by about $15 billion. Order numbers have been reduced, risking a hike in unit costs as the programme loses economies of scale. The GAO reports that about half of current primary objectives have not yet been achieved, as developing three versions concurrently has caused problems. The VSTOL F-35B has shown some progress in solving its particular problems, but it still has some ground to make up. A fully integrated aircraft will not now be available for testing before 2015.

The GAO goes on to consider uncertainties associated with the manufacturing phase, including managing the international supplier network. This is regarded as an especially “critical challenge”. Lockheed Martin is putting a lot of effort into helping some of the less capable partners. But as Boeing found from its 787 experience, a complex overseas network might yet throw spanners into the machinery.

The UK customer can expect to see an increase in unit costs, putting further pressure on its order. The programme has considerable industrial and military support; a large part of the US military aerospace base is tied up in this development (as is for that matter Britain’s). Cancellation is still unlikely, and as that would give the UK a mighty headache, let’s not go there – but historians, remember Skybolt). As we move into the next phase of the US electoral cycle, the balance of support for the F-35 may be less predictable, and deeper cuts in absolute costs may be required to satisfy austerity politics and tax cutting right wingers. This could have the effect of increasing unit costs still further. A little bit of good news: reverting to the F-35B will add to Rolls-Royce’s direct out-take from the programme, and provide the VSTOL variant with a bit more political top cover, pushing the Skybolt scenario a little bit further into left field.

A big commitment

Taken together, the carrier force and its equipment is one of the largest and mostly costly procurements taken on by the UK. Managing the time scales of ships and aircraft will imply a degree of good fortune as much as good judgement. Shifting back to the F-35B and committing the UK to just one aircraft option may save money, but it does leave the MoD rather exposed. In retrospect, developing a conventional carrier from the outset may have been better value for money, and a safer option. However, the F-35B is still a very advanced aeroplane, and while not as capable as its conventional cousins, it is a huge improvement on the generation it replaces offering greater operational flexibility. It also ensures that years of VSTOL experience are not thrown out of the window.

source: http://media.aerosociety.com/aerospace- ... r-on/6788/
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Unread post10 May 2012, 12:54

Clearly, the latter is now impossible with France, and limited to US Marine carriers, or perhaps Italian F-35Bs, if that is they survive an Italian defence review.



Operating off the CdG is and probably always will be impossible for the F-35C, their cat isn't up to it. However, the F-35B can and its can operate off all the US carriers. USN and USMC.
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Unread post10 May 2012, 13:13

@Spaz,

Have you any idea how much added bring back weight a SRVL allows over the KPP i.e. fully loaded intrrnal,weapons bay plus appropriate fuel reserves?
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Unread post10 May 2012, 13:34

'popcorn' said: "Obviously, being "East of Suez" negates all that Spaz.. might be some sort of Bermuda Triangle phenomena where aircraft suddenly lose the ability to operate as designed LOL"

:D Now why did I not think of that?! :D And good ole boy SharkeyWard is now domiciled somewhere near dat TRIANGLE!
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Unread post10 May 2012, 13:40

'popcorn' asked about SRVL bringback. I guess because not much work has been done on SRVLs once the UK changed to F-35C back in late 2010 that the investigation into SRVL became less important, although a contract was issued for such purposes. I'll guess that instead of being on the backburner this investigation into SRVL (especially for CVFs) will come to the fore again. All I know are some initial parameters but no indication of what this might mean for 'bringback weight'. Maybe the answer is out there in the intertroubles? :D
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Unread post10 May 2012, 13:57

The 'very long thread' has a lot of jabba about SRVL and here is onesuch:

http://www.f-16.net/index.php?name=PNph ... c&p=183985 [scrill din] :D

JSF To Develop Landing Technique For U.K. Carriers Oct 15, 2010 By Graham Warwick

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/ ... adline=JSF [NO LONGER WORKS]

"While the future of the U.K. Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers is uncertain, Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $13 million contract to incorporate shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL) capability into the F-35B for the U.K.

SRVL will increase the payload that the F-35B can bring back to the carrier by 2,000-4,000 lb. above what is possible with a Harrier-style vertical landing, reducing the need to dump unused weapons or fuel before recovery.

The maneuver involves landing at a slow forward speed so that some wing lift is available to supplement lift provided by the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) propulsion system...."
__________________

Contracts NAVY 06 Oct 2010

http://www.defense.gov/contracts/contra ... actid=4382

"Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Ft. Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $13,035,539 modif-ication to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee con-tract (N00019-02-C-3002) to incorporate the shipborne rolling vertical landing capability into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the United Kingdom. Work will be performed at Fort Worth, Texas (54 percent); Warton, United King-dom (35 percent); El Segundo, Calif. (7 percent); & Orlan-do, Fla. (4 percent). Work is expected to be completed in October 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity."
_____________________

Date Posted: 11-Dec-2008 International Defence Review:

http://militarynuts.com/index.php?showtopic=1507&st=120

Preparing for take-off: UK ramps up F-35 carrier integration effort [EDITED]
“A range of simulation, modelling, risk-reduction and technology-demonstration activities are under way to optimise the safety and operability of the ship/air interface between the UK's new aircraft carriers and the F-35B Joint Strike Fighters that will operate from them. Richard Scott reports....

...SRVL manoeuvre
As currently conceptualised, an aircraft executing an SRVL approach will follow a constant glidepath (five to six degrees) to the deck. This angle is about twice that of a normal CV approach, offering increased clearance over the stern and less touchdown scatter. The touchdown position on the axial flight deck is about 150 ft from the stern, similar to that of a conventional carrier. No arrestor gear is required. Instead, the aircraft brakes are used to bring the aircraft to a stop. Low-key studies to investigate the SRVL technique were initiated by the MoD in the late 1990s, but the work has latterly taken on a much higher profile after the MoD’s Investments Approvals Board (IAB) in July 2006 directed that SRVL should be included in future development of the JCA design to mitigate the risk to KUR 4. Accordingly, the JCA IPT amended the CVF integration contract in mid-2008 to include this requirement. Addressing IPLC 2008, Martin Rosa, F-35 technical coordinator in Dstl’s air and weapon systems department, said the SRVL studies to date had shown “a way forward exists to achieving operationally useful increases in bring-back, compared to a vertical landing, on board CVF with an appropriate level of safety”.

Dstl began early work to examine the feasibility of employing the SRVL manoeuvre in 1999. According to Rosa, an initial pre-feasibility investigation demonstrated the potential payoff of the manoeuvre in terms of increased bring back, but also threw up four key areas demanding further examination: performance (as affected by variables such as deck run, wind over deck, aerodynamic lift and thrust margin); carrier design; operational issues (such as sortie generation rate); and safety.

Further feasibility investigations were conducted in 2000-01 using generic aircraft and ship models. Dstl also ran a two-day safety workshop in late 2001. This showed that there were no “showstoppers, and no SRVL-specific safety critical systems were identified”, said Rosa. “Also, the ability to ditch weapons and carry out a vertical landing instead of an SRVL in the event of a failure was seen as a powerful safety mitigation.”

During 2002, more representative F-35B information became available which altered assumptions with respect to aircraft ‘bring back’ angle of attack (from 16 degrees to about 12 degrees, so reducing the lift co-efficient); wing area (revised downwards from 500 ft2 to 460 ft2, reducing lift available on approach at a given speed by 8 per cent); and jet effects in the SRVL speed range (which were significantly greater than those in the hover).

Aggregated, these revised assumptions significantly reduced predicted bring back performance. Even so, the improvement offered by an SRVL recovery was still substantial and MoD interest continued. In the 2003-04 timeframe, Lockheed Martin became formally engaged in the investigation of SRVL recovery, with the JPO contracting with Team F-35 for a study into methods for Enhanced Vertical Landing Bring Back. Once again, safety and performance characteristics were considered broadly encouraging. “However,” pointed out Rosa, “at this stage work on the adaptable CVF design was progressing rapidly.... Consequently the obvious next step was to consider the detailed impacts that SRVL might have on the CVF design.”
___________________

FARNBOROUGH: BAE to ramp up work on JSF production - By Craig Hoyle - 13/07/10 - Flight International

http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/20 ... ction.html

“...Considerable work has already been conducted to prepare for the UK’s future operation of the F-35B. Qinetiq’s VAAC Harrier test aircraft supported the development of its flight control laws, & also tested a shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL) technique. This will enable the STOVL type to return to the carrier’s deck at a greater landing weight [than mandated KPP described earlier], allowing unused stores to be kept on the wing, rather than jettisoned before landing. [However there would be permutations and combinations of stores both internal and external that would require NATOPS advice about how to proceed - and if all else fails - jettison the stores and there would be a 'fail safe' mechanism to do this as well.]

Developed for the UK as an alternative to making a vertical landing, the concept also has the backing of the USMC, which plans to adopt the procedure when operating its F-35Bs from the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. Now installed at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, Qinetiq’s simulator for the VAAC Harrier – being adapted for additional use by the Empire Test Pilots’ School – perfectly demonstrates the generational advance brought by the F-35B.

Flying an approach to the RN’s new aircraft carrier in sea state six should be a daunting prospect for a novice pilot. But a single button press slows the aircraft to 60kt (110km/h) and automatically configures its flaps and nozzle deflection, making it a matter of merely flying an approach angle of 6-7° towards a series of white lights on the deck. Such design traits go to showcase the F-35B’s attraction for military user and industry alike. Each of the Royal Navy’s ski jump-equipped Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will be able to carry up to 36 F-35Bs...."
______________

F-35B starts critical tests in comeback attempt Stephen Trimble 05 Oct 2011

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articl ... pt-362941/

"...Meanwhile, programme officials also appear to have resolved a 90.7kg performance shortfall in the vertical lift bring-back weight of the F-35B in hover while returning to a ship. Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney has confirmed the solution includes raising the output of the propulsion system by about 100lb-thrust (0.4kN)...."
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Unread post10 May 2012, 15:20

Some detail at last...

UK switches to F-35B over £5bn carrier cost 10 May 2012 by Joel Shenton

http://www.defencemanagement.com/news_s ... p?id=19704

"The UK has cancelled plans to operate the F-35C, the carrier variant of the F-35 joint strike fighter, due to the estimated £5bn cost of converting both Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers to operate the 'cat and trap' launch system, it can be revealed.

The price of converting both carriers, which were designed with 'ski jump' angled decks to launch the F-35B, would have reached the astronomical figure, equivalent to doubling the cost of the aircraft carrier programme, due to the need for intrusive work to fit the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System.

A senior Ministry of Defence source told DefenceManagement.com that while HMS Prince of Wales, the second carrier, could have been converted for some £2bn, allowing the use of the F-35C, the cost of retrofitting the system to HMS Queen Elizabeth would then have cost a further £3bn due to a need to conduct major alterations to some 290 of the carrier's compartments and minor work to a further 250. At the time of the SDSR it was believed conversion could be carried out with adjustments to just 80 compartments at a cost of less than £1bn per carrier.

The conversion work would also have led to a three-year delay in the carrier programme, with full capability from one carrier not available until 2023, something Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he was "not prepared to tolerate".

"The whole process itself was going to take longer than we initially thought and that time itself costs us money," the Ministry of Defence source said, adding that the complex catapult system also brought high running costs, which mitigated the decision to switch back to F-35B.

"Running costs of the catapult system are over half of the additional cost of the STOVL aircraft. This decision means we will have two carrier decks we can use for operations and availability will be potentially 100 per cent, as opposed to 60 per cent with the catapults."

The source also said that much-discussed differences in payload and range were effectively negligible for the MoD's practical uses. "The effective payload is essentially unchanged. Our current plans would not see us wish to stock weapons internally that we can't store on other aircraft."...

...The MoD source confirmed that some £40m had been spent on conversion investigation, but that no work except the 'negligible' removal of components for the angled deck of one carrier had been undertaken. The build process had not been delayed by the investigation, the source said...."

Not much more at the jump really.
Last edited by spazsinbad on 10 May 2012, 23:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post10 May 2012, 16:45

OFFICIAL MUMBO JUMBO here: (may as well post all of it)

MOD announces change of Joint Striker Fighter jet 10 May 2012

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/Defen ... terJet.htm

"Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced that plans to deliver Carrier Strike capability will now be executed using a different type of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jet than was planned.

The MOD will move away from the Carrier Variant (CV) JSF and our Armed Forces will instead operate the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant.

Even with this change in JSF jet type, the MOD's plan to deliver Carrier Strike in 2020, as a key part of Future Force 2020, is still on schedule.

Speaking at the House of Commons this morning, Mr Hammond outlined the reasons this decision has been made. They included:

• sticking with the Carrier Variant would delay Carrier Strike by at least three years to 2023 at the earliest;

• the cost of fitting catapults and arrestor gear ('cats and traps') to the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers to operate CV aircraft has doubled from around £1bn to £2bn; and

• the STOVL aircraft offers the UK the ability to have an aircraft carrier available continuously. Although no decision on budgeting for crew and support costs will be taken until the next Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2015, the second carrier would be able to provide capability while the first vessel is in maintenance.

See Related Links to read Mr Hammond's statement in full. [Does not work for me]
http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/About ... ay2012.htm

The STOVL aircraft has made significant progress since the SDSR was published over 18 months ago and the US Marine Corps has conducted successful STOVL flights from their ships.

The UK will receive the first STOVL aircraft this summer and, as HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to arrive for sea trials in early 2017, UK STOVL flight trials will begin off the carrier from 2018.

The SDSR stated that we wanted to develop joint maritime task groups with our allies. Through the adoption of the STOVL aircraft, the UK will benefit from full interoperability with the US Marine Corps and the Italian Navy - both of which operate the STOVL aircraft.

Mr Hammond said:

"The 2010 SDSR decision on carriers was right at the time, but the facts have changed and therefore so too must our approach. This government will not blindly pursue projects and ignore cost growth and delays.

"Carrier Strike with 'cats and traps' using the Carrier Variant jet no longer represents the best way of delivering Carrier Strike and I am not prepared to tolerate a three-year further delay to reintroducing our Carrier Strike capability.

"This announcement means we remain on course to deliver Carrier Strike in 2020 as a key part of our Future Force 2020."

Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, said:

"Our Armed Forces have a successful history of operating short take-off and vertical landing aircraft and our pilots are already flying trials in this variant of the Joint Strike Fighter alongside our US allies.

"These stealth aircraft will be the most advanced fast jets our Armed Forces have ever operated and I know they will do so with the greatest skill and professionalism."
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Unread post10 May 2012, 17:18

Government in £100m U-turn over F35-B fighter planes

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18008171#

"The government has changed its mind over the type of fighter planes it is ordering for the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the F35-C had hit development problems and it would be cheaper in the long term to order F35-B jump jets, as originally planned by Labour.

The cost of the U-turn is likely to be about £100m, he told BBC News.

Labour said it was an "omnishambles" which risked "international ridicule"....

Don't bother with the rest it is all being repeated endlessly now but good details in above posts although this sidebar from article is useful....

"Why did costs escalate?
The F-35C was seen as an attractive option for the UK's non-nuclear carriers as it does not need steam from reactors to power its launch catapult or "cat"

Its Electromagnetic Arrestor Launch System (EMALS) works on land but there were problems with its arrestor gear in testing

The F-35C can fail to catch the wire or "trap" on landing due to the design of its hook

The US is paying for modifications

But any delays to new American carriers meant the UK could have been the first country to install EMALS on a ship

The expected technical problems led in part to the costs of fitting "cats and traps" spiralling from £950m to £2bn

The F35-B does not need "cats and traps" as it uses a short take-off "ski jump" ramp and can land vertically

But it also experienced testing problems and has only recently escaped the threat of cancellation"
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Unread post10 May 2012, 17:55

spazsinbad wrote:http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120506/DEFREG01/305060001/Britain-Turns-Annual-Budget-Planning?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

"...costs of converting one of the two 65,000-ton carriers (the other one could be sold or mothballed) to carry the catapults and arrestor gear..."
Why not one ship carrying Cs and one carrying Bs?
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Unread post10 May 2012, 17:58

Here's a highly critical article: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/04/17 ... e_and_raf/

Personally, I think this is a massively shortsighted decision. Essentially, the MoD has decided that it will be reduced to buying a single fighter from a single manufacturer. A fighter class which will not be added to in any short period of time. To make it worse, they have ignored the big lesson from the Falklands: get airborne radars for the battle groups. The MoD won't be able to upgrade their carrier's airwing at all! until the Marine Corps decides that it wants a new airplane. As the article above puts it, the MoD has chosen a route which puts their carriers in a permanent state of disadvantage compared to an equivalent land based opponent. The F-35B makes sense if its your only option, a la the Italian situation, it doesn't make sense when you could buy catapult airframes.

Think of it this way: the British will have to fund their own special modification of a V-22 or similar airframe to get a substandard AEW capability. Had they gone with the catapult, they could have bought the F-35C, growler, and Hawkeye. That would give the carriers a full spectrum attack ability.
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Unread post10 May 2012, 19:44

I'm with delvo on this one.

Outfit the QE for B's and the PoW for C's. That way the USS Ford will already have deployed EMALS and the UK can barrow that technology for the PoW and get the QE in the water and ready for thier B's to arrive, then later the C's can come on over and maybe eventually the RAF will want some A's.

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Unread post10 May 2012, 21:00

sufa / delvo - That is a pretty good idea. I think this decision essentially boiled down to minimizing short term costs (EMALS). If they agree to outfit the PoW with EMALs in the future, they can do that at a lower cost / longer development and lead time. Later on, if the need arises, then can go back and redo the QE with EMALs.

In terms of battle group, the PoW with EMALS, giving it AEW and longer range strike can cover the QE with F-35B's and helicopters doing short ranged attacks near the shore.

The problem with forgoing EMALS is that the MoD has locked themselves out of a global development cycle.
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Unread post10 May 2012, 23:28

Lack of funds and non-practicality of conversion (the dream did not match the reality) as described above has proscribed conversion to EMALS. The Brits will become experts at 'expeditionary F-35B ops' - just like their natural partners the USMC and any other countries requiring F-35Bs for their flat tops (Spain & Italy) and perhaps inspiring to other real or potential flat top users.

"UK switches to F-35B over £5bn carrier cost 10 May 2012 by Joel Shenton

"...A senior Ministry of Defence source told DefenceManagement.com that while HMS Prince of Wales, the second carrier, could have been converted for some £2bn, allowing the use of the F-35C, the cost of retrofitting the system to HMS Queen Elizabeth would then have cost a further £3bn due to a need to conduct major alterations to some 290 of the carrier's compartments and minor work to a further 250. At the time of the SDSR it was believed conversion could be carried out with adjustments to just 80 compartments at a cost of less than £1bn per carrier...."

The above quote answers this recent 'Register Rave Against BAE Systems':

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/05/10 ... page2.html
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Unread post11 May 2012, 00:00

The un-asked question in all of this is about EMALS technical maturity. As suggested by the article at the link below, as recently as December, there were many 'ifs' about how it's going. The consequential uncertainty of EMALS viability may have been a contributor to the decision to reverse course.

http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/EMA ... ers-05220/
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