UK MOD in a muddle over F-35C

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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 07:47

Well the CVFs were designed to maximise F-35B ops. If any CVF now becomes a helo only carrier then that is a product of the SDSR but still unlikely if the changeover to F-35C goes according to recent reports where it has been pointed out on this forum that the two CVFs will eventually be modified for the F-35C. All these things have a degree of uncertainty however which suits the MoD as they play accounting games.

Go to the beedall.com website to find out why the CVF is not the size of the Cavour or go to the 'very long thread' perhaps where much the same information is to be gleaned. Calling the CVF a 'super carrier' is just wrong. It is not.
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 09:21

The F-35C could do excellently for RN's Expeditionary op requirement as part of a coalition. It would enable superior endurance and reach (arguably more valuable as a future asset than was perhaps being assessed 10 yrs ago) as well as arm a heavier internal load.

Nobody is saying CVF should be a Super Carrier performing Sea-lane control Carrier Battle Group deployments for the Queen, I agree with u Spazs. That mission requirement is an impractical and completely unsustainable notion to envision. But an F-35C in future coalition Exp ops would be arguably superior to the STOVL and as a force multiplier could joint operate from other future Coalition carriers (be they US, French, or Chinese(?) wtf, etc!). Alternatively, as others have suggested for that matter, a RN super Hornet and Rafale could suffice as well in exp ops, and at a discount.

One way of mitigating the the 'recovery disruption' risk, could conceivably be to restrict sortie radius of the F-35C (when operating away from friendly land bases or when independent of other fleet coalition Carriers) to a radius similar to the STOVL e.g.. That way there would be significant Reserve fuel in case of need to circle while the disruption was cleared. When operating with coalition Carriers in area, the range could then be extended (borrowing buddy-tankers in emergenices) and in case of disruption, the obvious option of a diverted deck landing could also be made at sea.
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 09:44

geogen said: "...One way of mitigating the the 'recovery disruption' risk, could conceivably be to restrict sortie radius of the F-35C (when operating away from friendly land bases or when independent of other fleet coalition Carriers) to a radius similar to the STOVL e.g.. That way there would be significant Reserve fuel in case of need to circle while the disruption was cleared...."

Fundamentally geogen misunderstands the problem. A naval aircraft will return with the maximum amount of fuel possible (plus any unexpended stores) to trap at the maximum allowable landing/arrest weight. So there are variables in this equation with the limit being the max. arrest weight - a limit usually of the arresting gear and not always to the aircraft. Whatever - it is a limit.

If the USN have regular airborne carrier tankers then there is a reason for this. No? There are many variables in recovering a carrier aircraft, often unforseen until the aircraft bolters, is waved off due foul deck or deck motion excessive during approach and on and on; especially if night time recovery from a long approach at high power setting (albeit from a high altitude where fuel can be 'saved'). If there is no divert field then the 'bingo' requirements can be irrelevant and it comes down to a barricade arrest final approach perhaps or eject alongside the carrier with no fuel. It happens (or has happened in the past).

I myself have had to miss a landing cycle south of Hawaii unable to reach it in an A4G but thankfully at high altitude when told to wait - circling - for about an hour until able to land ('charlie' time disrupted due arrestor gear problems). Jet aircraft can 'loiter' at high altitude using minimum fuel but of course if the deck problem had not been solved it would have been as indicated - and it was daytime thank goodness. No tanker available and landed with plenty of fuel for at least another try if bolter. Many variables in carrier aviation that are never solved by simplistic plans such as 'carry more fuel'. Carrier pilots carry as much fuel as possible at all times to cater for contingencies as described.

Yes it would be nice to have carriers over the horizon but unlikely given there are so few to begin with. However if these same F-35Cs were actually F-35Bs then immediately there are many more flat decks available. No? :D
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 10:31

Shame tweren't Harriers on through deck cruisers to do it in a less over the top manner but youse knew that....

RAF Tornados In Long-Range Libya Mission 15 August 2011

http://www.raf.mod.uk/news/archive/long ... n-15082011

"On Wednesday night (10 Aug) RAF Tornado aircraft launched from RAF Marham in East Anglia to conduct 8-hour round-trip missions over Libya. Armed with state-of-the-art Storm Shadow missiles, the six GR4 aircraft flew long distance sorties from the Norfolk base to target elements of Colonel Qadhafi’s military command and control facilities and air defence infrastructure.

The jets, some from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and some from Marham, were playing a crucial role in protecting Libyan civilians as authorised under United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973.

The involvement of the Tornados, together with the Typhoon fighters forward located in Italy, means that the UK can strike both air and ground targets as required by NATO.

The Tornado Squadrons have played a leading role in the military operations in Libya since operations began in March, carrying out precision strikes, making use of the GR4’s high-tech Litening 3 targeting pods and a variety of highly precise guided munitions.

Group Captain Pete ‘Rocky’ Rochelle, Station Commander RAF Marham, said:

“This mission has, once again, proved the GR4’s capability at long range. The engineers and crews comprised of personnel from Marham and Lossiemouth. I feel great pride in having the opportunity to command such an adaptable and capable Tornado force that proves its agility time and time again.”
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 20:08

And as indicated on another neptune thread go here and here if youse wanna refuel your buds....

U.K. Audit on JSF: Concerns But No Calamities Scroll down for COBHAM

http://www.f-16.net/index.php?name=PNph ... 89e#199838
____________________

F-35 Aerial Refuelling and landing/take off questions

http://www.f-16.net/index.php?name=PNph ... 89e#190292
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 21:16

Spazs i gotta hand it to ya, you are much more enlightening and interesting to read when you are articulating your deeper personal views and backing them up with experience and perspective. A good post there. I have high respects for you sir.

OK... based on your input, greater consideration and what I've gleaned on this point, I will concede the point that a RN F-35C should have a buddy-tanker on board.

My 'FUNDAMENTAL' intent was to press the issue whether or not certain flight rules or modified Carrier op methods could be employed - not relying on buddy-tanking capabilities - when a CVF was operating independently from Coalition Carriers in the area. While I think there will still be more flexibility with an F-35C compared to Super Hornets in terms of organic endurance (allowing for that extra hour of solo circling, in which a Super might otherwise require a buddy-tanker), it could indeed be determined that even F-35C will require buddy tanking capabilities on board for emergencies. Yes? ;)

But, this where the assessments and decision making can get tricky and diverse imho: Forinstance, can there be creative buddy tanking alternatives? Say, could 6-8 USN Super Hrnet tankers be based in UK and jointly operated and trained with RN crews? And when CVF makes a 3 mos deployment, could 4 Supers be 'leased' by RN for duty aboard CVF under RN crews? This way, one isn't tying down 3-4 $200m 5th gen assets as fuel mules!? Now what would be cool would be to have N-UCAS buddy-tanking F-35s as part of the mix, but dont think there's enough fuel on board for more than a quick sip? Just saying there might be some optional solutions. It's not like the RN will have a carrier at sea 12 months a year half way around the world.

Anyway, it's still 8 yrs away, so who knows maybe the USN will shift it's tactical review by then also (assuming things stay to course i.e. a costly and substantially shrunk F-35 force) and decide it wants a stealth-ier buddy-tanking capability afterall for future F-35 doctrine.

But again, the value of the F-35C + buddy tanker would enable a supreme strategic advantage over the STOVL variant (providing sheer Tornado-like reach (a la your 8 hr round-trip, etc)) something which MoD is apparently now requiring in capability in expanding the 'Carrier Strike' capability of the CVF. (a capability worth having if you're going to spend so many billions on it in the first place). So in this case, where 'Tankers' are much more than simple emergency buddy tankers... as they enable/force-multiply the actual 'strike capability' and other long-range ISR/CAP/relay node capabilities one might need to have to satisfy requirements, unlke a stand-alone STOVL making a 275-300nm radius sortie returning to carrier with max reserve fuel(?)... then the STOVL would ALSO REQUIRE a Buddy-Tanker! imho..
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 21:24

geogen I guess you did not grasp the sarcasm in the post about the 8 hour 'heavily refuelled' (of course not mentioned in the press release by RAF - they know how to make virtues out of vices for sure) Tornado voyagee (bugs bunny pronunciation). :D

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... chine.html

Here is a snippet from a previous mission explanation: "Shortly after 8pm on Saturday, at least three Tornados – capable of maximum speeds at sea level of Mach 1.3 or 980mph – roared into the skies of East Anglia.

The two crew members would usually carry a fearsome array of weapons capable of destroying enemy defences. On this occasion it was the Storm Shadow missile.

But the huge distances between the jet fighters’ bases and their targets in North Africa meant fuel was a considerable issue. And they were accompanied by two huge VC10 and Tristar air-to-air refuelling planes, to ensure that the fighters did not run out.

Three times in the darkness above Europe,
the Tornados performed the hazardous task of connecting to the air tankers using snake-like fuel lines."
&
"After releasing the missiles, the Tornados turned around and headed back to RAF Marham. They refuelled once more on the return leg, although they needed less fuel after firing their missiles. In total, some 60 tons of fuel were used."

You can rattle on about tankers being used in other scenarios but the post was about carrier based tankers for reasons described. Of course tanker assets are useful. Most airfarces have them by now or plan to have them. However if you have a big flat deck youse can go to 60% of earth surface as youse please and be close to the action. OK?

QUOTE from first post on this thread:
"For instance, the move to the carrier version (CV) has caused the Defense Ministry to explore air-to-air refueling capabilities in case of a disruption on the flight deck during recovery operations. The U.K. has asked Lockheed Martin to assess the feasibility of using the F-35C in a buddy-buddy refueling mode. Under rules of the JSF program, countries must themselves fund studies into unique capabilities they want for an aircraft. Since the U.S. can rely on F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as carrier-based refuelers, the U.K. has to finance the engineering assessment on its own."

Naval Aviation has a long tradition of 'buddy tanking' starting with the Skyhawk for reasons that have become obvious in this thread. However the Harrier and the F-35B do not need 'buddy tanking' for ordinary carrier operations. Any other benefit of 'tanking' is incidental and acknowledged.
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 21:49

YOu may downplay a buddy-tanked F-35C or Super hornet/Rafale for that matter (topped off out-bound and return-trip) as being 'incidental', but the reality is that you've just massively force-multiplied the capability of your multi-billion flat deck+ fighter investment in more than doubling the endurance and range.

This is something the MoD appears to be further 'exploring' as part of a greater Carrier capability. Without buddy-tanking, the STOVL F-35B will have significantly reduced mission parameters compared to buddy-tanked F-35C given reserve fuel requirements. Add to that a quick reaction Strategic Ferry capacity far greater than the STOVL - requiring fewer Strategic Tanker sorties - and the argument for a naval F-35C instead of STOVL is sound. imho.

BTW, what was the reserve fuel requirement for RN Harriers (or USMC harriers?) when operating from sea?? I'm just curious.
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 21:59

geogen, as far as I'm concerned you are going around in circles. Yes having a carrier based tanker asset is useful. No argument. However originally the CVF with F-35Bs was not deemed to require such a carrier based asset. I hope that is clear. Yes having any kind of tanker asset either carrier based or land based is extremely useful. No argument from me. BTW 'sharkeyward' has some comments about RAF Libyan ops, here is onesuch: http://www.sharkeysworld.com/2011/07/jo ... angle.html

The Harrier reserve fuel has been covered in 'the very long thread' I believe. The amount of fuel from memory is roughly enough to carry out the first and only approach with enough fuel for 'a very quick circuit to land vertically with no fuel' if for some obscure reason the first attempt is botched by pilot. Otherwise a vertical landing from an astern approach in case of the RN or a circuit apparently in the USMC case is the way it is done. Landing guaranteed. No foul deck issues - not much fuel needed before final landing approach but what that is in hundreds of pounds my memory fails me. Why? Because it is "not me Chief".

Compared to a conventional carrier landing aircraft the amount of fuel a Harrier lands with is horrifying, much the same as for example the old RAAF Mirages (Miracles) would land on the smell of an oily rag - often flaming out whilst taxiing back to the line. :D However they did this with full knowledge the runway was not moving in time and space. :cheers:
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 22:50

Another comment on the WALL comment [start of this thread] (is this another brick in the wall?)...

UK to study F-35C ‘buddy’ refueling By Philip Ewing Monday, August 15th, 2011

http://www.dodbuzz.com/2011/08/15/uk-to ... refueling/

"Although U.S. Navy officials love to extol the wisdom of “necking down” to the fewest types of airframes possible, the introduction of the F-35C Lightning II may be a welcome exception: Rather than needing to use its brand-new, frontline fighters as stand-in tankers, as it must do with its F/A-18Es and Fs, the Navy will be able to use older Super Hornets to refuel new Lightning IIs, the way its retirement-age A-6 Intruders and S-3 Vikings once refueled newer fighters. Today, the Navy must use new and existing Super Hornets to refuel each other, meaning that for a given mission, some of the latest combat jets aren’t actually available for combat — and taxpayers are buying a full-up warplane but actually getting a part-time fuel mule.

The Royal Navy, however, effectively will be building its carrier aviation capabilities from scratch when it gets its Cs. It won’t have any existing 4th generation fighters that it can use as tankers. So, as Robert Wall reports in AvWeek, this is one of the may things the Brits have to figure out as they get closer to actually fielding these ships and aircraft:


"The Defense Ministry has since tried to address some of those uncertainties, although it may take another year to define future plans completely.

For instance, the move to the carrier version (CV) has caused the Defense Ministry to explore air-to-air refueling capabilities in case of a disruption on the flight deck during recovery operations. The U.K. has asked Lockheed Martin to assess the feasibility of using the F-35C in a buddy-buddy refueling mode. Under rules of the JSF program, countries must themselves fund studies into unique capabilities they want for an aircraft. Since the U.S. can rely on F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as carrier-based refuelers, the U.K. has to finance the engineering assessment on its own.

A U.S. military official says the engineering details and cost estimate of the upgrade should be ready “later this year.” But the U.K. may take longer to decide on its course of action. Peter Luff, the U.K.’s minister for defense equipment, support and technology, tells legislators that the assessment of how to provide “the most cost-effective means of providing an embarked air-to-air refueling capability in support of the department’s future Carrier Strike capability” should emerge around March 2012.


This isn’t only something you need in case of emergencies: On U.S. Navy carriers, the first aircraft to go off as part of flight operations is usually the tanker, loaded down with external tanks so that it can top off jets after they launch but before they actually set off on their missions. Fighter jets drink fuel like teenagers drink Mtn Dew.

This isn’t the F-35’s first international mid-air refueling confusion. Up in Canada, where the F-35 is consistently controversial, there was a kerfuffle back in February when somebody added 2 and 2 and came up with 4: Canada plans to buy A-model fighters, which are designed for U.S. Air Force-style boom refueling, but Canada’s tankers are set up for probe-and-drogue style refueling, to accommodate it existing fleet of CF-18 Hornets. So Canada will either have to modify its CC-150 Polaris tankers, or ask for its CF-35s to be modified for probe-and-drogue operations. Last we checked, the jury was still out on that."
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Unread post15 Aug 2011, 23:03

Yes Spazs, I'm aware the original CVF plan did not require a buddy-tanker for the originally envisioned STOVL requirement. 'Tanks' for the reminder though :)

However, it seems that MoD has slightly altered and expanded the Carrier mission requirement to now require something more than the original STOVL plan would envision. That seems pretty clear and very straight to the point, Spazs...

So to clear the muddle, it would appear logical, valid and safe to say that at some point over the next few years there will surface a finalized plan on how to enable buddy-tanking to task such 'expanded Carrier requirements' and what the final Carrier force structure will in fact comprise. UK/MoD has some time to decide.

True though, there will surely be more muddle to de bungle before that time... cheers
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Unread post16 Aug 2011, 14:06

It can´t be a real problem, worst case scenario they realize they need buddy tankers aboard their carriers.

They can seek co-operation with the USN, as Geogen suggested, to base a few F/A-18´s in the UK.
They can seek to lease the same aircraft from the US.
They can buy a few outright, surely some Growlers would be useful aboard any carrier even if all the other aircraft are stealth ones? Though I am unsure about whether the Growler works as a tanker?
When the carriers are accepted into the RN somewhere in the 2020´s the Aussies will have 24 Superbugs they´ll be looking to offload assuming the F-35 works out as planned and they buy the projected 100 units of those, barring a stark need for larger numbers of aircraft. A transfer to the UK must be fairly uncontroversial.
The French might be interested in basing Rafeles on UK carriers while they wait for their second carrier to come online, if they ever get round to ordering one that is, which would at least by time for the MOD/RN to sort out other options.

Sure most of these options will cost money but it seems an even worse waste of money to buy carriers, fill them with air wings and then be in a situation where you can barely use them..
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Unread post19 Aug 2011, 20:51

geogen wrote:YOu may downplay a buddy-tanked F-35C or Super hornet/Rafale for that matter (topped off out-bound and return-trip) as being 'incidental', but the reality is that you've just massively force-multiplied the capability of your multi-billion flat deck+ fighter investment in more than doubling the endurance and range.

This is something the MoD appears to be further 'exploring' as part of a greater Carrier capability. Without buddy-tanking, the STOVL F-35B will have significantly reduced mission parameters compared to buddy-tanked F-35C given reserve fuel requirements. Add to that a quick reaction Strategic Ferry capacity far greater than the STOVL - requiring fewer Strategic Tanker sorties - and the argument for a naval F-35C instead of STOVL is sound. imho.

BTW, what was the reserve fuel requirement for RN Harriers (or USMC harriers?) when operating from sea?? I'm just curious.


Fuel reserves? Depends on day or night ops and the 'allowable risk' for any given operation. Many RN SHAR alums have vivid memories of flashers in the hover (which come on at 250# a side). They had so little VL performance near the end of the aircraft's active service that those kinds of margins were not unusual. But, there certainly have been occasions where the fuel was spent on a little extra range or TOS and thus similar margins were used as a matter of operational necessity. Rigorous pilot selection criteria and training allowed them to routinely work to these kind of margins with success.

IIRC, peacetime SOP for Marines typically "on deck with no less than 800#" but they have certainly stretched that on occasion.

Harrier burns roughly 200#/minute in jetborne flight. If one has the ship in sight, there is rarely a reason to wave off.
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Unread post20 Aug 2011, 18:20

muir wrote:.. somewhere in the 2020´s the Aussies will have 24 Superbugs they´ll be looking to offload .. A transfer to the UK must be fairly uncontroversial.....


By that time they should be quite good at "Buddy" tanking. Perhaps they can get better return on the investment by leasing crews (TDY) and a/c out as tankers/ Growlers (pretty awesome combination). That S.B. purchase is looking better every day.
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Unread post20 Aug 2011, 22:50

Quicksilver -

Thanks sir, for that reply and very interesting info.
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