UK MOD in a muddle over F-35C

Program progress, politics, orders, and speculation
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Unread post09 Sep 2020, 21:40

"HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed from Portsmouth this afternoon [10 Sep 2020] with 820NAS Merlins on deck. Heading for ex #JointWarrior and Carrier Strike #GROUPEX including US and Dutch warships. 15 jets will join the ship, the largest embarkation of F-35s afloat in the world so far". https://twitter.com/NavyLookout/status/ ... 5016630273
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Unread post11 Sep 2020, 04:32

U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs of the “Wake Island Avengers” Land In The UK For Joint Training With British Lightnings
09 Sep 2020 Stefano D'Urso

"...Ten F-35Bs from the US Marine Corps Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 “Wake Island Avengers” landed at RAF Marham on Sept. 3, 2020 to conduct joint training with the Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron “Dambusters”. The aircraft, using radio callsign MAZDA 11/21 ["WIZDOM"], arrived in the UK a day later than planned as they had to delay their departure from MCAS Beaufort, after a first leg from their home base at MCAS Yuma, because of adverse weather on the transatlantic route.

According to local spotters, the F-35s arrived at RAF Marham were reported to wear modex CF-00, CF-01, CF-02, CF-03, CF-04, CF-06, CF-07, CF-08, CF-09, CF-25...."

Source: https://theaviationist.com/2020/09/09/u ... ightnings/
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Unread post12 Sep 2020, 04:49

quicksilver wrote:If an LHA can clear a deck for a launch, they can do so for recoveries that would be the exception rather than the norm.

As spaz pointed out above, the physical confines of the landing area — laterally — combined with much less roll stability (wrt CVF or CVN) will be the limfacs for routine use of those landings aboard LHA/D. Could they do so as an emergency recovery? Perhaps, but that would really sporty stuff.


Given that the development of the SRVL was for the Invincible class, that is both narrower and less stable than an LHA, it is unlikely a major factor. An SRVL for recovery more than doubles the time required to maintain a clear deck, not especially good if you have something like 20 other aircraft that are trying to use the spots. Shoot, it would probably take more time to clear the deck then it would to just land all six F-35Bs on the normal two spots. Also, I don't know the numbers but I suspect the SRVL environmental limits are probably pretty much the same as for take off. So if you can get off the deck, you can probably land back aboard. In other words, stability probably has zero impact.

The US rejected the ski jump because it takes up a deck spot and the gain in payload did not justify giving up said spot. The logical conclusion is that the SRVL is the same.

If the LHA/LHD was a F-35B carrier, it might make sense. You would have a lot of F-35B sorties and a relative few helo/Tiltrotor sorties. And, since your F-35Bs are used for strike and CAP as well as CAS, take-off weight and recovery weight is more important. Especially when EFTs start factoring into the equation. But that isn't normally the case with a LHA/LHD, which has a large number of Helo/Tiltrotor sorties and a relative handful of F-35B sorties.

But what about when an LHA is a Lightning Carrier, then it would be good to use a SRVL wouldn't it? Sure, but it would not be cost effective as you would need to train every single F-35B pilot for, and regularly qualify to do, the SRVL. Forget the mods to the ships and the maintenance for that. For something that you will probably never need to ever do the opportunity cost would be staggering, Unlike the Harrier, the F-35B is so easy to land vertically and can bring back so much weight in a vertical landing, there is no real justification for the SRVL for the US.
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Unread post12 Sep 2020, 05:01

'usnvo' said above: "Given that the development of the SRVL was for the Invincible class, that is both narrower and less stable than an LHA, it is unlikely a major factor....." Where did that idea come from because it is not true. Only ONE rolling EMERGENCY (tail shot up with other damage) landing was carried out (during Falklands War) & it was touch & go OK according to pilot story. This story is repeated at least once in appropriate threads here along with other SRVL info.

MORGAN Damaged Harrier Emergency story: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=20304&p=305042&hilit=Morgan+Falklands#p305042

SRVL = Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing. Harriers carry out RVLs ashore but NOT onboard flat decks especially in the RN.

F-35B UK SRVL info - Updated when new/old info available viewtopic.php?f=22&t=20304
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Unread post12 Sep 2020, 10:27

usnvo wrote:
Given that the development of the SRVL was for the Invincible class, that is both narrower and less stable than an LHA, it is unlikely a major factor.


SRVL wasn’t developed for the Invincible class. The Invincible class carrier HMS Illustrious was merely the test platform and the Harrier merely the test aircraft. The initial tests took place in 2008 and were always intended to develop SRVL specifically for the F-35B and the forthcoming Queen Elizabeth class.
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Unread post12 Sep 2020, 11:54

USNVO, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but it appears you have no experience in these matters. An SRVL is simply an RVL performed aboard a ship; RVLs are common, everyday landings used by both Harrier and F-35B pilots as a matter of routine. I personally have hundreds and hundreds of them in my logbook, many on ‘expeditionary’ sites that included confined, narrow spaces. I’ve flown Harriers (As, Bs and Cs) off of LHA/D class ships on many occasions, including extended deployment. I’ve also lived aboard Invincible class during extended periods which featured routine Harrier ops.

A couple things you should know —

As spaz points out above, SRVL was created for F-35B, not Harrier. RVL is a simple landing, but it is far easier and precise in F-35B due to the technology and mechanization inherent in its integrated flight/propulsion control system. Even so, Harriers have landed on roads much narrower (like, 35-40’) than the space available on the back of an LHA or LHD. So, why have they not made the attempt to do so at sea? Roads don’t move; ships do. And, comparatively speaking, the Invincibles were much more stable, particularly in roll. It doesn’t take much wind and sea swell to make an LHA/D roll enough to create problems in motion for jets recovering with rolling landings without arrestment at touchdown.

Ski-jumps require significant physical alteration of a ship; it not only takes up spots, it has a significant cost component. WRT approach time, SRVL is a faster recovery than a VL, and rollout distance (and the clearing of the entire deck that you pre-suppose) is not required — as evidenced by the apparent rollout distance achieved by F-35B in testing. So, what is the issue for LHA/D? Deck motion and lateral space available in the landing area.
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Unread post12 Sep 2020, 12:05

aussiebloke wrote:
usnvo wrote:Given that the development of the SRVL was for the Invincible class, that is both narrower and less stable than an LHA, it is unlikely a major factor.

SRVL wasn’t developed for the Invincible class. The Invincible class carrier HMS Illustrious was merely the test platform and the Harrier merely the test aircraft. The initial tests took place in 2008 and were always intended to develop SRVL specifically for the F-35B and the forthcoming Queen Elizabeth class.

To clarify good post by AB: The VAAC Harrier was EMULATING the F-35B when conducting SRVL trials not only with RN but also on French CdeG - not touching down but waving off a very low altitude. Harrier U/C not built for SRVL touchdowns.

OLD PDF explaino here (maybe there is a more recent one?): viewtopic.php?f=22&t=20304&p=408173&hilit=VAAC#p408173

F-35B SRVL INFO 30 Dec 2018 PRN pp 222.pdf (11Mb): download/file.php?id=29230

Most of the VAAC Harrier info is from page 194 to 221.
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Unread post12 Sep 2020, 12:55

"Sure, but it would not be cost effective as you would need to train every single F-35B pilot for, and regularly qualify to do, the SRVL."

Oh, you mean like they have to do for tailhook aviators who operate from CVNs?

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Unread post16 Sep 2020, 21:44

A complex Autumn programme for the Royal Navy begins
16 Sep 2020 SaveTheRoyalNavy

"...With a large US Marine Corps contingent and other air group personnel, she [HMS Queen Elizabeth] now has her largest complement yet of around 1,700 people on board....

...The USMC arrives
On 3rd September 10 F35-B jets of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) crossed the Atlantic and arrived at RAF Marham. The squadron had to undergo a quarantine period, during which they conducted synthetic training in the simulators at Marham to familiarise themselves with the local airspace and procedures. On 10th September they participated in Point Blank 04 with around fifty US, UK, Dutch & Italian aircraft of various types in a complex air exercise over the North Sea.

The USMC aircraft will exercise with their 617 Squadron counterparts before they join HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea. Both squadrons will initially conduct carrier qualification serials to ensure all pilots are proficient to operate from the carrier during both day and night.

The carrier air group will include at least 5 UK and 10 USMC jets, plus 6 Merlin helicopters. With 15 jets on board, this will be the largest embarkation of F-35s afloat in the world so far. With deck qualification and familiarisation complete, the jets will participate in ex Joint Warrior which will bring together multiple elements of the Carrier Strike Group to train collaboratively. Aircraft will participate in live and inert weapons training sorties. Merlin Mk 4s of 845 Naval Air Squadron are likely to operate from RFA Fort Victoria and the carrier, while the Type 45s will embark Wildcats of 815 NAS.

There has been some complaint that US jets will outnumber the UK for this Groupex, and potentially for the May 2021 operational deployment. Numbers for next year may be subject to change but COMUKCSG told us in July he expects to deploy with 8 UK and 6 USMC jets. USMC aircraft have been factored into planning for the introduction of the QEC carriers at least as far back as 2014 and Britain should be grateful the USN is helping rebuild carrier aviation skills after a long gap. Access to the USMC accumulated specialist experience in operating F-35B at sea is especially valuable.

For the air group, Joint Warrior will be followed by exercise Crimson Warrior, a flying exercise based at RAF Marham which will see USMC and UK Lightning jets conduct further synthetic and live combat training together. RN helicopters will also participate in this land-based exercise as the ‘CV Wing’ works up more complex flying scenarios...."

Source: https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/a-comp ... vy-begins/
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Unread post17 Sep 2020, 03:11

Storm Clouds Gather Over F-35B Lightning As United Kingdom Prepares Defense Review

A reduced force of F-35Bs looks increasingly likely and could free up funds for the Tempest future fighter.

By Thomas Newdick September 16, 2020

As the United Kingdom prepares its next defense review — the Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy — experts close to the program are increasingly talking about a significant cut in the country’s orders for F-35B Lightning jet fighters.

Reports in the British media last month suggested that the United Kingdom may only buy 70 F-35Bs, rather than the 138 aircraft originally planned. Although a reduction in numbers had been long rumored, the story in The Times cited sources close to the government’s defense review — details of which are planned for release later this year. Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defense has steadfastly held to the 138-aircraft figure in its communications.

Yesterday, September 15, 2020, a group of experts provided the Defence Committee with an update on the progress made by the UK’s F-35 and Carrier Strike programs, with an eye on how they could impact the ongoing Integrated Review.

To date, the United Kingdom has committed to buying 48 Lightnings by the end of 2025, at a cost of £10.5 billion, according to the National Audit Office, the body that scrutinizes public spending.

The target of 138 aircraft purchased across the lifespan of the program was included in the UK government’s last Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2015. However, the Commons Defence Select Committee later admitted that the figure of 138 was taken “following some hesitation.”

The UK is purchasing the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which is operated by mixed-personnel Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm squadrons. The F-35B variant was selected to operate from the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, although exactly how many jets will regularly deploy onboard is unclear.


While the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers are designed to operate a maximum of 36 F-35Bs (equivalent to three squadrons), officials have said that 24 Lightnings are a “credible complement” for the Carrier Strike role. The 2015 SDSR included plans to have 24 F-35Bs available on the carriers by 2023. To date, 18 aircraft have been handed over to the United Kingdom, of which 15 are based at RAF Marham, Norfolk. The remaining jets are used for test and evaluation work at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The figure of 70 F-35Bs has been suggested as a “credible minimum,” reflecting concerns about the costs of the program as the government looks at its future plans across foreign policy, defense and security ahead of the integrated review that’s scheduled to be completed in November.

Speaking to the Defence Committee yesterday, Nick Childs, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he considered a number “significantly higher” than 48 F-35Bs would be required to meet the ambition of 24 jets available for Carrier Strike. Taking into account training and other demands, a figure of 60-70 jets would be reasonable, Childs contended.

Meanwhile, Capt Royal Navy (Rtd) Dan Stembridge, Deputy Chair, Air Power Group at the Royal Aeronautical Society, said the F-35B fleet needed “in the order of 70-80” aircraft, but that this total would also depend on the speed at which they were bought. Buying aircraft too slowly means the initial examples show signs of wear and tear first, and then require replacement themselves. Capt Stembridge added that he considered four squadrons of 12 aircraft each to be the requirement for continuous high readiness, able to put 24 on a carrier, with the option to “surge” to 36.

Justin Bronk, Research Fellow in Combat Airpower and Technology at the Royal United Services Institute, had a slightly more pessimistic take on these calculations. He pointed out that the RAF Typhoon fleet of 145 provides a “force element at readiness” of around 40 jets only. This can be increased to “70-80 at a push” with the risk of “breaking the whole system.” Bronk said he thought at least 60 F-35Bs would be required to provide a surge capacity of 18-24 jets on the carrier, but the total would likely have to increase to 70 aircraft in the longer term, based on the need for attrition replacements.

Furthermore, Bronk warned, the fleet would have to be increased “significantly beyond 70” if the F-35B was also required to conduct missions over and above Carrier Strike. This is another point that it is hoped the Integrated Review will clarify. While the F-35B numbers game has focused on the demands of Carrier Strike, the wider Armed Forces enterprise is hoping the stealth fighter can fulfill other high-end warfighting roles too, including penetrating defended airspace from land bases.


F-35Bs from the Royal Air Force (top) and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) over the east coast during the first visit by the type to England in July 2016.

Lightning versus Tempest

A decision on the future size of the overall British Lightning fleet comes at a time when increasing focus is being directed towards the next-generation Tempest fighter program, which is being led by the UK with the aim of fielding a Typhoon replacement from around 2035.

The Tempest project was formally launched under the country’s new Combat Air Strategy at the Farnborough International Airshow in July 2018. It’s being pursued as part of the wider Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI), which aims to bring together the Ministry of Defence and industry partners to deliver more than £2 billion of technology investment by 2027.

Bronk said he thought the 138-aircraft target was an “aspiration unlikely to be funded,” and argued that the United Kingdom needs to decide whether or not more than 100 F-35Bs are required to meet all requirements. If yes, Bronk contended, then serious cuts would have to be made elsewhere. If the decision favors the Tempest — as a replacement for the current Typhoon and a means to stimulate the defense industry — then equivalent cuts would need to be made. Above all, UK defense planners will have to make a choice between prioritizing the F-35B or the Tempest.


On the industry side, Team Tempest brings together British companies including BAE Systems (responsible for advanced combat air systems and integration), Leonardo (sensors, electronics, and avionics), MBDA (weapon systems), and Rolls-Royce (power and propulsion systems), under the leadership of the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office.

Of course, the United Kingdom’s defense industry sector has a stake in the Joint Strike Fighter program too, but, Bronk argued yesterday, the country’s Tier 1 status ̦— the result of a £2-billion buy-in — is “no longer really a factor,” since it covered the research and development and initial production phases. On the other hand, buying 48-60 Lightnings would knock the United Kingdom down from being the second-largest export customer to “somewhere pretty far down,” among the ranks of small to medium air forces. “There would be consequences,” with such a move, Bronk noted. These could perhaps affect future Lockheed Martin production decisions, affecting UK industry and jobs.

While the Tempest will be a manned fighter it will operate as a “system of systems” alongside unmanned loyal wingman-type drones, as The War Zone discussed here.

Exactly how the launch of the Tempest might affect the United Kingdom’s F-35 program has long been unclear, officials only reiterating that the country still planned to buy 138 Lightnings over the life of the program. But the latest developments suggest this may now have changed and the emphasis is now being put on Tempest — an all-new fighter that offers complete national control.

One Ministry of Defence official told the author: “The work on deciding the timelines and numbers of F-35 to be purchased after [the initial 48 aircraft] will be considered as part of the wider Combat Air Strategy to ensure that the UK has the optimum mix of combat aircraft.”

Another likely factor in determining eventual F-35B numbers is the plan to upgrade a significant proportion of the RAF’s existing Typhoon fleet, including advanced radar. The United Kingdom recently made it clear that it wants to integrate a unique active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar on its Typhoons, as The War Zone discussed in detail here.

Last month The Times quoted an unnamed defense source who confirmed that no final decisions in the review have been taken. “The guiding principle of the [Integrated Review] is to ask ourselves what the threat is, and whether we have the capability to meet it,” the source explained.



If consideration is being given to a reduced fleet of F-35Bs, it may finally lay to rest the idea of a split buy of STOVL variants and conventional take-off and landing F-35A models. There are long-standing rumors that this is the long-term option preferred by the RAF, although it would reduce the number of jets that could deploy onboard the aircraft carriers, which are equipped with a ski jump to help launch the F-35Bs, that then recover via vertical landing or a short rolling landing. With a force of just 70 Lightnings, the case for a split buy would likely become redundant.

In the past, an argument was made for purchasing land-based F-35As after the initial 48 carrier-capable F-35Bs. The F-35A is cheaper to purchase and operate, offers a longer range, greater agility, and increased payload (including 2,000-pound-class weapons), as well as a much larger international user base. However, for these advantages to pay off, it would require F-35As to be purchased in significant numbers, which currently seems an almost impossible prospect.


A report from the National Audit Office in June entitled Carrier Strike – Preparing for deployment pointed out the potential pitfalls in the United Kingdom’s aim to reinstate its Carrier Strike capability. It pointed to the lack of funding for enough Lightning jets to sustain Carrier Strike operations over its lifespan into the 2060s. It also noted that the UK will receive seven of its confirmed 48 F-35Bs in 2025, a year later than planned, “in response to wider financial pressures.”

According to National Audit Office figures, the cost of the UK’s Lightning program has risen by 15% since 2017, from £9.1 billion to the current £10.5 billion. This increase was attributed to “capability upgrades, integration of UK weapons and sustainment costs.” The report stated that costs will continue to grow as the fleet is upgraded with new software and weapons.

The United Kingdom joined the Joint Strike Fighter program as a formal partner in 1995, initially with a view to replacing the Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier on the Invincible-class carriers. The UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and agreed to pay $200 million, amounting to 10% of the concept demonstration phase.

Another MoU followed in 2001, committing the UK to invest $2 billion towards development costs as a Tier One partner status during the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. A year later, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that the Royal Navy and RAF would operate the F-35B variant, with a tentative plan to acquire 150 aircraft.

UK Lightning’s path to service

The first F-35B operations aboard the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth were recorded in September 2018, involving instrumented test jets belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps, and you can read more about this operation here.

The F-35B achieved initial operational capability in January 2019 and in June that year the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced that RAF F-35Bs had begun been flying combat patrols over Iraq and Syria, flying from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea. The United Kingdom became the third country to deploy its F-35s for combat, after Israel and the United States.

In October 2019 the first British jets operated from the carrier, during the Operational Testing (OT-1) campaign off the US east coast. These tests included mission planning, arming the aircraft with inert Paveway laser-guided bombs, and ASRAAM missiles using the ship’s Highly Automated Weapon Handling System, flying missions, and debriefing.

A decision on the future size of the overall British Lightning fleet comes at a time when increasing focus is being directed towards the next-generation Tempest fighter program, which is being led by the UK with the aim of fielding a Typhoon replacement from around 2035.

The Tempest project was formally launched under the country’s new Combat Air Strategy at the Farnborough International Airshow in July 2018. It’s being pursued as part of the wider Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI), which aims to bring together the Ministry of Defense and industry partners to deliver more than £2 billion of technology investment by 2027.

Bronk said he thought the 138-aircraft target was an “aspiration unlikely to be funded,” and argued that the United Kingdom needs to decide whether or not more than 100 F-35Bs are required to meet all requirements. If yes, Bronk contended, then serious cuts would have to be made elsewhere. If the decision favors the Tempest — as a replacement for the current Typhoon and a means to stimulate the defense industry — then equivalent cuts would need to be made. Above all, UK defense planners will have to make a choice between prioritizing the F-35B or the Tempest.


On the industry side, Team Tempest brings together British companies including BAE Systems (responsible for advanced combat air systems and integration), Leonardo (sensors, electronics, and avionics), MBDA (weapon systems), and Rolls-Royce (power and propulsion systems), under the leadership of the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office.

Of course, the United Kingdom’s defense industry sector has a stake in the Joint Strike Fighter program too, but, Bronk argued yesterday, the country’s Tier 1 status ̦— the result of a £2-billion buy-in — is “no longer really a factor,” since it covered the research and development and initial production phases. On the other hand, buying 48-60 Lightnings would knock the United Kingdom down from being the second-largest export customer to “somewhere pretty far down,” among the ranks of small to medium air forces. “There would be consequences,” with such a move, Bronk noted. These could perhaps affect future Lockheed Martin production decisions, affecting UK industry and jobs.

While the Tempest will be a manned fighter it will operate as a “system of systems” alongside unmanned loyal wingman-type drones, as The War Zone discussed here.

Exactly how the launch of the Tempest might affect the United Kingdom’s F-35 program has long been unclear, officials only reiterating that the country still planned to buy 138 Lightnings over the life of the program. But the latest developments suggest this may now have changed and the emphasis is now being put on Tempest — an all-new fighter that offers complete national control.

One Ministry of Defence official told the author: “The work on deciding the timelines and numbers of F-35 to be purchased after [the initial 48 aircraft] will be considered as part of the wider Combat Air Strategy to ensure that the UK has the optimum mix of combat aircraft.”

Another likely factor in determining eventual F-35B numbers is the plan to upgrade a significant proportion of the RAF’s existing Typhoon fleet, including advanced radar. The United Kingdom recently made it clear that it wants to integrate a unique active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar on its Typhoons, as The War Zone discussed in detail here.

Last month The Times quoted an unnamed defense source who confirmed that no final decisions in the review have been taken. “The guiding principle of the [Integrated Review] is to ask ourselves what the threat is, and whether we have the capability to meet it,” the source explained.



If consideration is being given to a reduced fleet of F-35Bs, it may finally lay to rest the idea of a split buy of STOVL variants and conventional take-off and landing F-35A models. There are long-standing rumors that this is the long-term option preferred by the RAF, although it would reduce the number of jets that could deploy onboard the aircraft carriers, which are equipped with a ski jump to help launch the F-35Bs, that then recover via vertical landing or a short rolling landing. With a force of just 70 Lightnings, the case for a split buy would likely become redundant.

In the past, an argument was made for purchasing land-based F-35As after the initial 48 carrier-capable F-35Bs. The F-35A is cheaper to purchase and operate, offers a longer range, greater agility, and increased payload (including 2,000-pound-class weapons), as well as a much larger international user base. However, for these advantages to pay off, it would require F-35As to be purchased in significant numbers, which currently seems an almost impossible prospect.


A report from the National Audit Office in June entitled Carrier Strike – Preparing for deployment pointed out the potential pitfalls in the United Kingdom’s aim to reinstate its Carrier Strike capability. It pointed to the lack of funding for enough Lightning jets to sustain Carrier Strike operations over its lifespan into the 2060s. It also noted that the UK will receive seven of its confirmed 48 F-35Bs in 2025, a year later than planned, “in response to wider financial pressures.”

According to National Audit Office figures, the cost of the UK’s Lightning program has risen by 15% since 2017, from £9.1 billion to the current £10.5 billion. This increase was attributed to “capability upgrades, integration of UK weapons and sustainment costs.” The report stated that costs will continue to grow as the fleet is upgraded with new software and weapons.

The United Kingdom joined the Joint Strike Fighter program as a formal partner in 1995, initially with a view to replacing the Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier on the Invincible-class carriers. The UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and agreed to pay $200 million, amounting to 10% of the concept demonstration phase.

Another MoU followed in 2001, committing the UK to invest $2 billion towards development costs as a Tier One partner status during the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. A year later, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that the Royal Navy and RAF would operate the F-35B variant, with a tentative plan to acquire 150 aircraft.

UK Lightning’s path to service

The first F-35B operations aboard the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth were recorded in September 2018, involving instrumented test jets belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps, and you can read more about this operation here.

The F-35B achieved initial operational capability in January 2019 and in June that year the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced that RAF F-35Bs had begun been flying combat patrols over Iraq and Syria, flying from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea. The United Kingdom became the third country to deploy its F-35s for combat, after Israel and the United States.

In October 2019 the first British jets operated from the carrier, during the Operational Testing (OT-1) campaign off the US east coast. These tests included mission planning, arming the aircraft with inert Paveway laser-guided bombs, and ASRAAM missiles using the ship’s Highly Automated Weapon Handling System, flying missions, and debriefing.

Operations by British Lightnings in home waters commenced in January 2020, when jets from the Marham-based No 207 Squadron, the operational conversion unit, went to sea on board HMS Queen Elizabeth under Exercise Lightning Fury. This involved carrier qualifications for six Royal Navy and RAF pilots.

The Ministry of Defence plans to declare initial Carrier Strike capability in December 2020, followed by full operating capability in December 2023.

The next major milestone for the UK Lightning Force and HMS Queen Elizabeth will be the first operational cruise — Carrier Strike Group 21, or CSG21. Planned for the fall of 2021, this will take the carrier and its jets to the Far East and will also involve F-35Bs from the U.S. Marine Corps’ Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 “Wake Island Avengers.”

While the National Audit Office has warned that the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike capability will be “constrained” if it has fewer jets than the planned 138, it seems that leading analysts see a reduction in Lightning numbers as very possible.

As such, the UK Armed Forces may once again be asked to do more with less.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/3 ... NP_ol5Ws90
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Corsair1963

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Unread post17 Sep 2020, 03:12

Totally unacceptable........ :?
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mixelflick

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Unread post17 Sep 2020, 12:50

Disappointing...

Imagine just how effective the RN and RAF could be, if properly funded/equipped?! You know where this is going... USMC F-35B's will be "semi-permanent" guests. Chasing the Tempest mirage is going to be the death of them, and I fear a LOT of pounds being spent, with nothing to show for it after it too is "cancelled, due to budgetary constraints".

Pick a fighter and build enough of them, Jeez...
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Unread post18 Sep 2020, 03:16

More crew on HMS Queen Elizabeth test positive for Covid-19 ahead of planned Friday sailing
17 Sep 2020 Ben Fishwick

"The 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier is currently in Portsmouth after her scheduled departure yesterday was postponed. It comes after ‘fewer than 10’ sailors tested positive on September 7. That delayed her departure from Portsmouth Naval Base until two days later. She then returned to her homeport on Sunday to collect supplies for F-35B fighter jet trials.

Now the Royal Navy has confirmed ‘additional positive cases’ onboard the £3.1bn warship. Her remaining 1,000-strong crew are following Public Health England guidelines. Some who tested positive last week have since been cleared to return to work having tested negative.... [then details]

...The ship is listed as being due to sail from Portsmouth on Friday at around 1pm-2pm. She is set to conduct test embarkation of both US and British F-35B jets. Navy bosses hope she will be operational by 2021...." [then PPE details]

Source: https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/defen ... ng-2974985
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Unread post22 Sep 2020, 09:12

Well HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed yesterday, and I imagine the F-35Bs have arrived for deck qualifications by now. Maybe a few choice pictures by the weekend?
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Unread post22 Sep 2020, 12:38

spazsinbad wrote:
More crew on HMS Queen Elizabeth test positive for Covid-19 ahead of planned Friday sailing
17 Sep 2020 Ben Fishwick

"The 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier is currently in Portsmouth after her scheduled departure yesterday was postponed. It comes after ‘fewer than 10’ sailors tested positive on September 7.


That is an awfully alarmist reaction by the journalist. The decision 'might be' because of a potential risk of corona, or not, but its all speculation. Nothing like peddling fear to get reads. I get the fear of an outbreak requires extreme measures, but there isn't a single test that doesn't have a false positive above a 1% rate. This is an insignificant number of crew and there are a hundred other ailments out there that I'd be more worried about. Try Delhi belly hitting a cruise ship. It will run through the whole crew in a week and can kill just as easily as corona if untreated.
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