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19 avril 2013 5 19 /04 /avril /2013 07:50
BAe 146-200QC Aircraft - photo baesystems.com

BAe 146-200QC Aircraft - photo baesystems.com


Apr. 18, 2013 - By ANDREW CHUTER – Defense News


LONDON — Britain has added two converted BAE 146-200QC regional jets to the Royal Air Force’s airlifter fleet ahead of the rundown of military personnel and equipment in Afghanistan.


The two aircraft have been converted by BAE Systems from their normal commercial airliner role to a military configuration under a 15.5 million pound ($18.1 million) urgent operational requirement for additional tactical airlift to augment the work of the RAF’s Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft.


The aircraft features a large cargo door allowing the 146-200QC to be configured for passenger or cargo roles.


Modifications to the aircraft include a defensive aids systems, a Successor Identification Friend or Foe systems, and an armored flight deck.

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13 février 2013 3 13 /02 /février /2013 08:50


Photograph by Geoffrey Lee, Planefocus Ltd


Feb. 11, 2013 - By BRIAN EVERSTINE  - Defense News


JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. — Residents in Hampton Roads are more used to the winds from hurricanes, but for the past two weeks, the skies above Hampton have been churning due to Typhoons — the Eurofighter FGR4s, that is.


Eight Typhoons from the U.K. Royal Air Force’s XI Squadron joined the 1st Fighter Wing in a training exercise called Western Zephyr to familiarize pilots and maintainers from both countries on how to better integrate during a joint mission.


Distinguished by their prominent canards, Europe’s most advanced fighters have been training alongside a variety of F-16 Falcons, F-22 Raptors, T-38 Talons and Navy F/A-18 Hornets.


The pilots and ground crews will then participate in Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., this month.


On one recent afternoon, three of the Typhoons flew alongside two Raptors to escort F-15E Strike Eagles from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., on an air interdiction training mission where they were up against an F-16 and a pair each of T-38s and F/A-18s from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.


“The early impressions, across the board, the training we’re getting here is the best I’ve had on the Typhoon,” said XI Squadron Wing Commander Rich Wells, who flew from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, England, to the southern Virginia base.

Bridging the gap

The pilots in the training on both sides say they are the envy of other fliers in their respective services, able to take their countries’ most vaunted aircraft side-by-side and against each other in training.


“It’s a pretty cool opportunity,” said Capt. Austin Skelley, an F-22 pilot with the 27th Fighter Squadron who helped plan the joint exercise, called Western Zephyr. “People are really excited and eager to fight with and against Typhoon.”


The Typhoon is a unique airframe from the F-22 pilot’s perspective, offering advanced avionics, improved situational awareness and plenty of power in thrust and speed that pilots don’t encounter when going head-to-head against F-15s, F-16s and F/A-18s, Langley pilots said.


“The Typhoon offers the F-22 a unique capability that sort of bridges the gap between the fourth and fifth generation,” Skelley said.


For the pilots of the XI Squadron, the training is a chance for them to test their abilities against all of the U.S. jets.

“We’re pretty much the envy of all the Typhoon pilots back home at the moment,” Typhoon pilot Flight Lt. Alex Thorne said. “A lot of people are excited to see what the Typhoon can do, but are really excited to see what our jet can do alongside and against some of the platforms here.”

Red air

Planning for the operation began last spring. Pilots began arriving in mid-January, delayed by snow in Britain. Crews have been flying two to three flights per day since late January, beginning with basic orientation flights and essential flight formations, said Lt. Col. Geoffrey Lohmiller, the director of operations for the 27th Fighter Squadron.


The pilots moved on to practicing intercepts, close-in visual range maneuvers and basic fighter maneuvers.

Eventually, the Typhoons and Raptors began flying side-by-side, escorting F-15Es on strike missions outnumbered by red (enemy) aircraft, primarily the Navy F/A-18s from Oceana.


“It is more red air than we’re generally used to at home, and we’re taking it to the limit of what the jet can offer,” Thorne said. “And when we start to get comfortable, we take it a bit further.”


While U.S. pilots get opportunities to fly alongside allied pilots in various large-scale exercises, Western Zephyr is different because the pilots are flying side-by-side multiple times per day, for weeks on end, and debriefing together. This has led to crews becoming more familiar with each other more quickly and able to go over missions in more depth than before.


“When we’re able to operate from the same location and within quite small numbers, you are really able to share lessons and take time out to debrief in much greater detail than we’re able to back home,” Wells said.


RAF Typhoon flight and evaluation pilots have flown in the U.S. with Raptors, but now advanced F-22 training is making its way to the conventional war fighter.


“This is an opportunity to bring the Typhoon into that fold and take it to the next level of training and determine how we work together because the reality is there’s not enough fifth-generation fighters out there,” Lohmiller said.

Lessons learned in theater

While the fighters are the most advanced from their respective countries, they have different abilities and advantages. The agility of the F-22 is what first jumped out to Wells, he said.


“Raptor has vector thrust: Typhoon doesn’t,” he said. “What the aircraft can do, it’s incredible. The Typhoon just doesn’t do that.”


The Typhoon’s strength, however, is in both carrying weapons and deploying them. With its two Eurojet EJ200 turbojet engines producing 20,000 pounds of thrust each and the distinctive wing and canard layout, the jet is strong in both its air-to-ground and air-to-air formats no matter what it’s carrying. In its air-to-ground role, the jet flies with four beyond-visual-range missiles, a Lightning 3 designation pod, extra fuel tanks, 4,000-pound bombs and two short-range missiles. These can be aimed by the pilot looking in the direction of an adversary and targeting through a helmet-mounted system, Wells said.


“As we bolt things to the jet … it still flies like a Typhoon,” he said. “High and fast, and that’s where she loves to be. She loves being at 40,000 feet and supersonic. It’s brilliant in terms of performance and getting places.”


These characteristics contributed to the XI Squadron’s involvement in Operation Unified Protector, enforcing a no-fly zone and destroying targets in Libya during summer 2011, experiences the RAF pilots can share with the F-22 pilots who haven’t tested the Raptor in combat yet.


“One of the awesome things about being with these guys is learning some of those real-world lessons they’ve experienced recently,” Lohmiller said. “On a coalition level, we can learn lessons learned about missions that we did not participate in and get those lessons combatwise from these guys.”


On the ground, maintainers from the XI Squadron and Langley’s 27th Fighter Squadron have been able to shadow each other. More than 150 maintainers and support personnel from the RAF are at Langley working on the Typhoons and shadowing American maintainers to “practice and develop together,” said Squadron Leader Pieter Severein, XI Squadron maintenance commander.

Integrating on the ground

The RAF pilots will head to Nellis and begin orientation flights before the Feb. 25 launch of Red Flag.


“U.S. tankers are taking us there, which I hope really shows integration is really significant in what we’re doing,” Wells said.


Integration has taken place outside of operations as well. The U.K. crews have made it a point to thank the local pubs in the Hampton Roads area for their hospitality.


One of the first orders of business for Lohmiller was inviting the RAF crews to his house to introduce them to American football for the Super Bowl.


“Fighter pilots are fighter pilots,” he said. “We get along great.”

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4 février 2013 1 04 /02 /février /2013 15:45


Senior Aircraftman William Wambiru (right) stands guard with a member of the French Air Force at Bamako Airport in Mali [Picture: Wing Commander Dylan Eklund, Crown Copyright/MOD 2013]


1 February 2013 Ministry of Defence


UK operations in support of the French military in Mali are continuing from Evreux Air Base near Paris.


Since the short notice commencement of Operation Newcombe, C-17 Globemaster aircraft operated by the RAF’s 99 Squadron have been flying 5,000-mile round-trip missions on a near daily basis, transporting armoured vehicles, freight and personnel.


Two days after the announcement by the Prime Minister that the UK would provide logistical support to French military operations in the West African state, 50 tons of military equipment were delivered to the capital Bamako, equivalent to a week’s worth of freight delivered to Afghanistan.


Wing Commander Simon Bellamy, the RAF liaison officer at the French military headquarters, said:

The deployment demonstrates the decisive contribution that air power can make to any emerging operation. The pace of our response to the formal French request for logistical support illustrates not only the professionalism of our personnel but also the increasingly strong and operationally-focused links we have generated with the French Air Force since the Libya campaign.

For Squadron Leader Spence Wild, a flight commander on 99 Squadron, the C-17 is tailor-made for the operation. He said:

The type of tasking we’re undertaking here is what the C-17 was designed and brought into service for. Being involved in a multinational, fast-paced build-up of forces over a great distance demonstrates the benefit of the C-17 and what it brings to our current inventory of air transport assets.

Detachment commander at Evreux Air Base is Squadron Leader Tom Walker who said:

We’re helping the French because they don’t have the capability that we do to lift large vehicles and heavy loads in one aircraft and transport them long distances at speed. Every single aircraft which has left here for Mali has done so with either a maximum payload or a maximum bulk against the priorities the French have given us.

Three French Army armoured personnel carriers on board a Royal Air Force C-17 aircraft bound for Mali
Three French Army armoured personnel carriers on board a Royal Air Force C-17 aircraft bound for Mali [Picture: Wing Commander Dylan Eklund, Crown Copyright/MOD 2013]

As the commander, Squadron Leader Walker is responsible for a small team which includes movement personnel, signallers, aircrew, and force protection and security personnel, all of whom work from office accommodation nicknamed ‘The Bungalow’. He said:

These disparate branches have come together to deliver the output and each one brings something vital to the task. They have had to work very closely with their French counterparts at every level in order to get the job done.

And with unfamiliar vehicles and equipment to transport, another RAF Brize Norton-based unit has been deployed to assist.


Today, Friday 1 February, also saw Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton and his French Air Force counterpart, General Denis Mercier, renew the annual agreement to advance military co-operation between their respective air forces. Air Chief Marshal Dalton said:

From demanding missions in Afghanistan to our rapid response to the Libya crisis, the RAF continues to provide the nation’s air power wherever it is needed around the world.


Today, we are assisting our French ally with important counter-terrorist operations in Mali with both our C-17 transport and Sentinel surveillance aircraft, demonstrating the Royal Air Force’s agility, capability and global reach.

The agreement, known as the Directive of Objectives, is a direct result of the Security and Defence Cooperation Treaty signed in November 2010 by the governments of the UK and the French Republic.

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25 janvier 2013 5 25 /01 /janvier /2013 17:45



22 janv. 2013 BritishForcesNews


British support of the French military campaign in Mali is continuing with the RAF ferrying troops and supplies to the African country.

Forces News cameras joined one of the C-17 aircraft, based at Brize Norton, for the fourth sortie of the operation codenamed Op Newcombe.





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17 janvier 2013 4 17 /01 /janvier /2013 08:45



January 16th, 2013 By UK Ministry of Defence - defencetalk.com


Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that the UK will provide logistical military assistance in support of French military operations in Mali, a second Royal Air Force C-17 strategic transport aircraft has arrived in France.


At Evreux Airbase near Paris the aircraft will be loaded with armoured vehicles and other military equipment for transport to the Malian capital Bamako. French forces are assisting the Malian Government to contain rebel and extremist groups in the North of the country.


Officer Commanding 99 Squadron, Wing Commander Stu Lindsell said:


“We started doing some contingency planning on Saturday and we had the green light to go yesterday and so the first aircraft left within 24 hours of our initial scoping.


“We will be providing the C-17 logistical support as part of the UK commitment to supporting the French operations in Mali. We’ll be operating from France to provide support to the region.


“I have been very impressed by how everyone on the squadron and the station has risen to meet the task. We often plan for contingency operations on 99 Squadron; we’re fairly used to that as part of our day-to-day operations, but everyone has been incredibly keen and enthusiastic and we couldn’t have done it any quicker.”


This view was echoed by Flight Lieutenant David Blakemore, Flight Commander Training on 99 Squadron:


“There’s a real buzz on the squadron. This is something different, somewhere different and people really want to get involved.


“The fact another nation is coming to the UK to ask for its outsize lift capability is testament to the C-17’s reputation forged over the past decade.”


The RAF’s fleet of C-17 Globemasters give the ability to move equipment and personnel swiftly around the World for both military and humanitarian operations. The huge payload and long range of the C-17 make the aircraft, operated by 99 Squadron, ideally placed to enable the UK Government to respond to worldwide challenges.

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17 janvier 2013 4 17 /01 /janvier /2013 08:45



16 January 2013 UK MoD


A French Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé or 'Armoured Vanguard Vehicle' is unloaded from an RAF C-17 at Bamako Airport, Mali, in support of Operation Newcombe. Two C-17 aircraft first flew from RAF Brize Norton to the French air base of Évreux-Fauville near Paris to assist the French military with the movement of equipment to Mali in West Africa. Click here to read more. [Picture: Senior Aircraftman Dek Traylor, Crown Copyright/MOD 2013]
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16 janvier 2013 3 16 /01 /janvier /2013 16:50


Computer-generated image of Dual Mode Seeker

Brimstone missiles fitted to an aircraft


16 January 2013 Ministry of Defence / Defence Equipment and Support


A new £14 million contract will deliver hundreds of precision attack weapons to the RAF.


Brimstone missiles are carried by RAF Tornado aircraft in Afghanistan and were also used on operations over Libya. Defence Equipment Minister Philip Dunne agreed the contract and has just returned from a visit to Helmand where he met RAF personnel who use the weapon.


This contract with MBDA will increase UK stocks by replenishing weapons used so effectively in Afghanistan and Libya.

Manufactured and assembled at MBDA facilities in Henlow, Bedfordshire, and Lostock, Bolton, the Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone missile is used by RAF crews to engage moving or static targets during the day or at night with pinpoint accuracy. The weapon’s precision guidance capability means that the pilot is able to engage fleeting targets with extreme accuracy.


During his visit to Afghanistan, Mr Dunne met with British personnel working for Joint Force Support, based in Camp Bastion, who are responsible for co-ordinating air operations in Helmand.

Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone missiles fitted to a Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft
Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone missiles fitted to a Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft [Picture: Copyright MBDA Systems]

After meeting with the RAF and discussing their operations, Mr Dunne said:

Brimstone is an extremely effective and reliable weapons system for RAF crews and ISAF commanders. This investment to replenish supplies used in Afghanistan and in Libya will ensure this capability continues to be available whilst also giving a boost to the UK defence industry.

Wing Commander Andy Turk led the initial Tornado operations over Libya and is now Officer Commanding IX (Bomber) Squadron, currently deployed in Afghanistan. He said:

Brimstone is being used to great effect by the RAF’s Tornado Force in Afghanistan and was also invaluable during the successful air campaign in Libya. It is very popular with our air crews because of its flexibility, accuracy and reliability - they have real confidence that the weapon will deliver the effects required.


Brimstone has become a vital part of our modern and sophisticated arsenal of precision strike weapons.

Computer-generated image of a Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone missile
Computer-generated image of a Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone missile [Picture: Copyright MBDA Systems]

The contract for more Brimstone missiles comes just weeks after plans were announced to buy more Paveway IV bombs as part of a £60 million contract, securing 450 jobs at Raytheon UK.

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15 janvier 2013 2 15 /01 /janvier /2013 16:50



14 January 2013 Ministry of Defence


2 Royal Air Force C-17 transport aircraft have arrived in France as part of the UK's logistical support to French military operations in Mali.


At Évreux-Fauville Air Base near Paris the aircraft will be loaded with armoured vehicles and other military equipment for transport to the Malian capital, Bamako. French forces are assisting the Malian government to contain rebel and extremist groups in the north of the country.


Officer Commanding 99 Squadron, Wing Commander Stu Lindsell, said:

We started doing some contingency planning on Saturday and we had the green light to go yesterday and so the first aircraft left within 24 hours of our initial scoping.


We will be providing the C-17 logistical support as part of the UK commitment to supporting the French operations in Mali. We’ll be operating from France to provide support to the region.


I have been very impressed by how everyone on the squadron and the station has risen to meet the task. We often plan for contingency operations on 99 Squadron; we’re fairly used to that as part of our day-to-day operations, but everyone has been incredibly keen and enthusiastic and we couldn’t have done it any quicker.

French military equipment in the cargo hold of a Royal Air Force C-17 transport aircraft
At Évreux-Fauville Air Base, near Paris, one of the RAF C-17 aircraft is loaded with armoured vehicles and other military equipment for transport to the Malian capital, Bamako [Picture: Senior Aircraftman Dek Traylor, Crown Copyright/MOD 2013]
French military equipment in the cargo hold of a Royal Air Force C-17 transport aircraft
French military equipment in the cargo hold of a Royal Air Force C-17 transport aircraft at Évreux, France [Picture: Senior Aircraftman Dek Traylor, Crown Copyright/MOD 2013]

This view was echoed by Squadron Leader David Blakemore, Flight Commander Training on 99 Squadron, who said:

There’s a real buzz on the squadron. This is something different, somewhere different and people really want to get involved.


The fact another nation is coming to the UK to ask for its outsize lift capability is testament to the C-17’s reputation forged over the past decade.

The RAF’s fleet of C-17 Globemasters give the ability to move equipment and personnel swiftly around the world for both military and humanitarian operations. The huge payload and long range of the C-17 make the aircraft, operated by 99 Squadron, ideally placed to enable the UK Government to respond to worldwide challenges.

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14 janvier 2013 1 14 /01 /janvier /2013 14:15



14 January 2013 Ministry of Defence


The UK is to provide logistical military assistance to Mali in order to help control rebel and extremist groups in the north of the country.


On Saturday, 12 January, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, spoke to President François Hollande of France about how the UK can support French military assistance being provided to the Malian government to contain rebel and extremist groups in the north of the country.


As a result of this, the UK has offered, at French request, 2 transport aircraft to help quickly transport foreign troops and equipment to the West African country.


The UK Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, have confirmed that no British forces will be involved in a combat role at all.

An RAF C-17 in flight
An RAF C-17 in flight (stock image) [Picture: Sergeant Jack Pritchard, Crown Copyright/MOD 2002]

Speaking over the weekend, UK Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds said that the UK has been concerned, alongside the international community, about the situation in northern Mali for some time. He explained that the northern part of Mali is controlled by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, and that potentially poses a direct threat to the UK and regional stability.


Mr Simmonds said:

We’re working with the United Nations, where there have been 2 resolutions, and the African Union and ECOWAS, which is the African regional organisation, to provide both an immediate and a long term sustainable solution to the challenge that is faced in Mali.

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10 juillet 2012 2 10 /07 /juillet /2012 07:55
The F-35 decision: Disastrous implications for UK airpower



07/09/2012 James Bosbotinis - defenceiq.com


The May 2012 announcement by the Secretary of State for Defence that the variant of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (or Joint Combat Aircraft in UK parlance) to be acquired for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force was again being changed marks the third iteration in a decade-long process.


The decision to revert to the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant instead of the F-35C carrier variant, justified on the basis of the supposed cost of configuring the Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) for catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery operations (CATOBAR), has significant long-term implications for UK airpower.


The F-35B constitutes a substantially less capable asset than the F-35C, in particular with regard to range, persistence and internal payload, has a higher unit acquisition cost and greater through life costs and does not meet the UK’s deep persistent offensive capability (DPOC) requirement. This will require either the acceptance of a significant capability gap or the acquisition of another aircraft, that is, most likely the F-35A, to address the DPOC requirement. Moreover, the F-35B is projected to have an out of service date of 2042, whereas the QEC are expected to remain in service until 2070; follow-on systems (such as sixth generation optionally manned/unmanned maritime combat air systems) are projected to be configured for CATOBAR operations. The selection of the F-35B is thus neither cost effective nor the optimum long-term solution to UK airpower requirements.


This paper examines the implications of the F-35 variant decision for UK airpower, with a particular focus on the difference in capability between the F-35B and C, the DPOC requirement and the potential acquisition of the F-35A to fulfil it, and the loss of the strategic flexibility provided by CATOBAR. The paper will argue that the decision to acquire the F-35B is not cost effective and will leave the UK with a sub-optimal airpower capability.


Less capability at greater cost


The difference in capability between the F-35B and F-35C is significant. Due to the STOVL requirement, the F-35B has a shaft-driven lift fan integrated with its engine thus restricting the aircraft’s internal fuel capacity to 13,500 lbs; in contrast, the internal fuel load of the F-35C is 19,145 lbs. The difference in internal fuel is highlighted by the range and combat persistence of the respective aircraft; the F-35B has a mission radius of approximately 463 nautical miles and a time over target of fifteen minutes; for the F-35C, the figures are 613 nautical miles and thirty-six minutes respectively. These figures are based on a standard low observable configuration and internal payload of two 500 lb. bombs and two advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) for the F-35B and two 2000 lb. bombs and two AMRAAM for the F-35C. The preceding figures highlight a second key difference in capability; the reduced internal payload of the F-35B, which again is due to the aircraft’s STOVL configuration. The F-35A and C are both capable of accommodating 2000 lb. class munitions in their internal bays, whereas the F-35B has smaller weapons bays which are limited to 1000 lb. class munitions. In UK service, the F-35B will carry the Paveway IV 500 lb. precision guided bomb, thus creating a capability gap with regard to the prosecution of targets requiring 2000 lb. class penetrating weapons (for example, bridges and aircraft bunkers). This capability gap could be overcome via the carriage of weapons externally, for example, the Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missile, albeit at the cost of the F-35’s low observability.


The difference in capability between the F-35B and C is compounded by the former’s greater cost – both in terms of unit acquisition and through life. The F-35B will have a unit cost of approximately $138 million compared to $117 million for the F-35C; according to figures in the latest US Department of Defense Selected Acquisition Report, the F-35B engine alone is projected to cost $27.7 million compared to $10.9 million for that of the F-35C. Projected through life costs for the F-35B in UK Service are estimated to be £1 billion higher than for the F-35C. If, as will be discussed below, it is necessary to also acquire the F-35A, the through life costs of operating a mixed F-35A/B fleet will be £2 billion above that of operating a single F-35C fleet. In addition, due to the superior capability of the F-35C vis-à-vis the F-35B, fewer of the former would need to be acquired thus generating additional savings. In this regard, the Telegraph in April 2012 cited a classified Ministry of Defence document which suggested that 97 F-35Cs could provide the same capability that would otherwise require 136 F-35Bs. The implications in cost terms are stark; 97 F-35Cs would cost approximately £6.8 billion, whereas 136 F-35Bs would cost approximately £11.26 billion: a difference of £4.46 billion.


The cost of converting the QEC for CATOBAR operations – the justification for reverting to the F-35B - although stated to be in the region of £2 billion for HMS Prince of Wales and substantially more for HMS Queen Elizabeth (whilst noting that each ship is projected to cost approximately £2.5 billion) is also subject to much debate. In March 2012, the Telegraph reported that the Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, Sean J. Stackley had written to Peter Luff, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, informing him that the CATOBAR conversion would only cost half what the Ministry of Defence were projecting. The possibility that tensions within the Ministry of Defence regarding Carrier Strike, impinged on the CATOBAR conversion cost analysis, resulting in flawed risk assumptions (for example, pertaining to the installation of the electromagnetic aircraft launch system) and thus inflated cost projections, cannot be ruled out. Taken together with the above F-35 cost data, the debate regarding the CATOBAR conversion cost and the reduced capability of the F-35B, the argument that the decision to revert to the STOVL solution for Carrier Strike constitutes the most cost effective option for the UK appears to be fundamentally flawed.


The DPOC Requirement


Since the demise of the Royal Air Force’s Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) programme (the intended replacement for the Tornado GR 4) in 2005, the JCA has been expected to fulfil the post-FOAS requirement. This requirement, the deep and persistent offensive capability (DPOC), cannot be met by the F-35B. The decision to acquire the F-35B will either require the acceptance of a capability gap or the acquisition of a second F-35 variant, most likely the F-35A. The acquisition of a mixed JCA fleet has been considered previously and has also been considered as part of the 2012 variant debate. This would involve significant extra cost because of the need to integrate UK weapons into the F-35A, the additional cost of maintaining a mixed fleet and ensuring the compatibility of the aircraft with Royal Air Force air-to-air refuelling (AAR) assets. The latter would involve either the configuring of UK AAR aircraft – the new Voyager A330-200 – for boom AAR operations (Airbus Military has developed an Aerial Boom Refuelling System for the A-330-200) or adapting the F-35A for hose and drogue refuelling. Lockheed Martin reports that provision has been made for the fitting of the necessary equipment for hose and drogue refuelling within the airframe, albeit at additional cost.


The DPOC requirement is of central importance to the future of UK airpower. The Tornado is due out of service by the end of this decade whilst the Typhoon does not meet the DPOC requirement and needs investment to attain a full multi-role capability. The limited range, persistence and internal payload of the F-35B, especially with regard to the lack of an internal 2000 lb. penetrating munition capability, will not provide the level of strike capability that is required, in particular for initial operations against an adversary’s strategic targets defended by a still-intact integrated air defence system. The reach of the F-35B can be extended via external carriage of the Storm Shadow cruise missile. This would enable the F-35B to engage targets at ranges of up to approximately 713 nautical miles (based on an F-35B radius of 463 nautical miles and a potential Storm Shadow range of up to 250 nautical miles) with the stand-off range of Storm Shadow keeping the launching aircraft outside of the range of air defence systems (excepting perhaps the Russian-made 40N6-equipped S-400 or Chinese-made HQ-19). However, the F-35B/Storm Shadow combination would only be effective in the context of not having to penetrate deep into an adversary’s airspace due to the F-35B’s low observability being compromised via the external carriage of ordnance. In contrast, the F-35C may potentially be capable of engaging targets at ranges similar to or exceeding that of the F-35B/Storm Shadow combination whilst only carrying internal ordnance. The National Audit Office in its 2011 report on Carrier Strike gave the combat radius of the F-35C as 650 nautical miles whilst other sources have stated this figure to be in excess of 700 nautical miles. Most notably, a 2002 conference paper prepared by a member of the JSF Program Office gave the F-35C’s radius as 799 nautical miles (the same source attributes the F-35A with a 703 nautical mile radius and the F-35B a radius of 496 nautical miles).


The strategic implications of the F-35B’s limited range and internal payload are significant. The limited range of the aircraft will increase the requirement for AAR support for both sea and land-based operations; this is especially significant for early operations in a crisis or conflict where the provision of land-based support assets may be restricted or not yet available or vulnerable to attack. With regard to Carrier Strike, the core rationale for carrier airpower is the provision of independent airpower – a dependence on land-based support assets impinges on this critical aspect. The relative value of a British contribution to a coalition’s combat airpower will also diminish due to the selection of the F-35B. This is because other likely coalition partners, for example, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Norway and The Netherlands will be operating the F-35A which can engage a broader range of targets at greater range than the F-35B. In addition, the loss of interoperability with the US Navy will compound the relative decline in the importance and utility of British combat airpower in a coalition setting. In this regard, it is important to note that in order to enhance integration with the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps will acquire the F-35C in addition to the F-35B. This marks a significant departure from previous plans to transition to an all-STOVL force with the F-35B replacing STOVL AV-8Bs and conventional F/A-18C/Ds and EA-6Bs.


As the US reorients its force structure and doctrine toward the Asia-Pacific and Air Sea Battle, the UK, in order to maintain its desired position vis-à-vis the US, should seek to ensure that its force developments are relevant. The shift from the F-35C to B and away from a CATOBAR configuration for the QEC runs counter to this.


Moreover, unless the UK opts for a mixed JCA fleet, that is, acquires the F-35A with the additional cost of running such a fleet, the UK’s land-based airpower capability will also be sub-optimal. This again highlights the flawed nature of the decision to shift from acquiring the F-35C to the F-35B. The F-35C is the most capable version of the F-35, could fulfil the UK’s DPOC requirement from both land and sea, and would ensure that the UK possesses a robust and credible offensive air capability.


The Implications of a STOVL QEC


The most significant implication of the shift from a CATOBAR to STOVL configuration for the QEC is the loss of strategic flexibility and long-term growth potential afforded by CATOBAR. This goes beyond the F-35 variant debate and encompasses issues such as embarked intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, the resilience of Carrier Strike in the event of the F-35 programme being delayed or failing and the long-term viability of Carrier Strike.


The latter is far more uncertain following the shift to STOVL. This is because the F-35B has a projected out of service date of circa 2042, whereas the QEC are intended to remain in service until around 2070; unless the ships are then refitted for CATOBAR operations, Carrier Strike capability would be lost by default.


The UK has also foreclosed potential future cooperation with the US in the development of next generation systems such as the F/A-XX (the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler replacement), unmanned air systems such as the X-47B and unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike system and follow-on sixth generation systems.


In operational terms, the ship-air interface in a STOVL environment is no less complex than for CATOBAR operations. STOVL operations require more deck space than CATOBAR to enable the short take-off run and due to deficiencies in the F-35B’s performance, in particular the aircraft’s vertical landing bring back capability (the weight of payload permitted for a vertical recovery), ship-borne rolling vertical landings (SRVL) will be required (alternatively, any munitions being carried could be dumped prior to landing – an expensive approach considering the cost of precision guided munitions). A SRVL recovery will require as much deck space as a traditional CATOBAR recovery and can be expected to become routine due to F-35B performance shortfalls, through life technical risk and increasingly expensive weapons. The requirement for sustained investment in embarked training at sea for both aircrew and support personnel and the regular, sustained embarkation of the air group to ensure basic operational proficiency remains for STOVL as it would for CATOBAR operations. 


The F-35B’s performance limitations will also impinge on the effectiveness and credibility of UK Carrier Strike. The British government has not revised its policy regarding the size of the QEC air group, which will remain centred on just twelve F-35s. Based on the figures given in the aforementioned Telegraph article, 40% more F-35Bs are required to deliver the same effect as a force of F-35Cs. In essence, to deliver the same effect as twelve F-35Cs, the QEC should embark sixteen or seventeen F-35Bs. Therefore, the currently envisaged number of F-35s will need to be increased in order to provide the required capability. In addition, as discussed above, the F-35B has a reduced reach and punch compared to the F-35C, in particular with regard to the prosecution of hardened targets. The shift therefore from the F-35C to the F-35B will substantially reduce the capability of UK Carrier Strike and have a concomitant impact on its credibility in terms of constituting a force for influence and deterrence.




The decision to switch from the F-35C to the F-35B, and with it from a CATOBAR to STOVL configuration for the QEC, holds significant implications for the future of UK airpower. The limited range, persistence and internal payload of the F-35B reduce its military utility, in particular with regard to the prosecution of hardened high value targets and its increased dependence on AAR support, thus impinging on the capability and credibility of British airpower and its relative value to coalition operations.


Moreover, the variant switch does not constitute a more affordable option for the UK. The F-35B has a higher unit acquisition cost, greater through life costs and does not fulfil the UK’s DPOC requirement which will either necessitate acceptance of a serious capability gap or investment in other systems (such as the F-35A at considerably greater through life cost of a mixed fleet) to address the requirement.


In addition, the configuring of the QEC for STOVL operations generates uncertainty with regard to the long-term viability of UK Carrier Strike beyond the service life of the F-35B, and is however likely to necessitate fitting CATOBAR equipment in the long-term. The shift to a STOVL configuration for the QEC also imposes a substantial limitation on the long-term growth potential for UK Carrier Strike. This is especially with regard to possible UK involvement in US programmes developing future maritime aviation capabilities, in particular those relating to unmanned air systems which would offer substantial improvements in persistence, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike capabilities (especially satisfying DPOC requirements) compared to current systems and that offered by the F-35. This also applies at the level of UK airpower. Any future combat air system (manned or unmanned) the UK seeks to acquire will either have to be STOVL (to ensure compatibility with the QEC) or restricted to land basing, thus removing the potential for the UK to minimise the number of fast jet types it operates. The acquisition of the F-35C would enable the UK to acquire future air systems, designed for CATOBAR, which do not suffer the performance limitations imposed by STOVL, and are equally capable of operations from land or sea. This would at least ensure commonality (the development of and requirements for an interoperable force are beyond the scope of this paper) between Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force types and contribute to maximising the flexibility of UK airpower.


Simply, the contention that the F-35B constitutes the most cost effective option for the UK and the ‘right decision for the long-term’ does not stand up to scrutiny. The decision to acquire the F-35B requires greater expenditure at a time when the defence budget and wider economy is under significant pressure. The decision will deliver a sub-optimal capability and will reduce the flexibility, long-term growth potential and, ultimately, the strategic credibility of UK airpower. 

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21 mai 2012 1 21 /05 /mai /2012 06:56
Boeing Delivers RAF's 8th C-17 Globemaster III


May 20, 2012 ASDNews Source : The Boeing Company


Boeing delivered the United Kingdom's eighth C-17 Globemaster III to the Royal Air Force (RAF) today during a ceremony at the company's final assembly facility in Long Beach.


"I'm honored and delighted to deliver the Royal Air Force's newest C-17 to join the fleet at Number 99 Squadron, where our seven C-17s are in constant demand flying missions in support of Defence and other government agencies' requirements," said RAF Wing Cmdr. David Manning, Officer Commanding 99 Squadron. "It's a great feeling to know that we have the capability to deliver crucial supplies to the front lines with little notice, or to transport injured troops home with a better chance of survival because of the capability and flexibility of the C-17. This newest C-17 will be a welcome addition to the Air Force fleet."


The RAF C-17s are operated by 99 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton. The first RAF C-17s entered service in 2001 and have surpassed 74,000 flight hours -- 15 percent above the projected rate. The UK Ministry of Defence, citing ongoing demand, ordered additional airlifters for delivery in 2008 and 2010 and contracted for its eighth C-17 in March.


"RAF C-17s are ever-present when there's a need for humanitarian relief or peacekeeping around the world," said Bob Ciesla, Boeing Airlift vice president and C-17 program manager. "We're proud to support the Royal Air Force in providing for the mobility needs of their great nation, and we are grateful for the partnership with the UK Ministry of Defence and U.S. Air Force that made this delivery possible in such a short time."


"The RAF fleet's airlift capacity, increased by this latest delivery, is backed by a comprehensive sustainment services program," said Boeing Defence UK Managing Director Mike Kurth. "As part of the worldwide C-17 'virtual fleet,' RAF C-17s are supported through the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program (GISP), a Performance-Based Logistics agreement. The support provided to the RAF under the GISP arrangement results in an excellent mission-capable rate at one of the lowest costs per flying hour."


Boeing has delivered 242 C-17s worldwide, including 216 to the U.S. Air Force active duty, Guard and Reserve units. A total of 26 C-17s have been delivered to Australia, Canada, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the 12-member Strategic Airlift Capability initiative of NATO and Partnership for Peace nations. India has 10 C-17s on order for delivery in 2013 and 2014.

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29 mars 2012 4 29 /03 /mars /2012 07:20



LONG BEACH, Calif., March 28 (UPI)


An eighth C-17 Globemaster III will be delivered to the British air force this year under a new contract to Boeing from the country's Ministry of Defense.


The British C-17s are used primarily to support Operation Herrick, the transport of equipment and troops to Afghanistan but also participate in humanitarian missions around the world, such as the delivery of relief supplies following natural disasters.


"The tremendous teamwork of Boeing and U.S. government officials has made it possible to announce this acquisition so quickly after we determined the need for this additional C-17," said Ministry of Defense Head of Commercial for Air Support Robin Philip. "This C-17 will be a welcome addition to the (air force) fleet."


The British air force was Boeing's first international customer for the heavy lift aircraft, and its fleet has logged more than 74,000 flight hours – about 15 percent more than had been anticipated.


The last C-17 purchased was delivered in November 2010.


"We understand the need to move quickly to bring this contract to completion," said Liz Pace, Boeing C-17 UK program manager. "This additional order is a testament to our strong relationship with the U.K. as well as to the aircraft's advanced capability, flexibility and reliability."

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9 mars 2012 5 09 /03 /mars /2012 08:50



March 8, 2012 Official Blog of the UK Ministry of Defence - defpro.com


The Daily Telegraph has published a comment piece by James Blunt criticising the Royal Air Force (RAF) air bridge following his and Katherine Jenkins' aborted trip to Afghanistan. He says 'our [the United Kingdom's] deployment of manpower is inefficient and costly'.


Due to some technical problems with our aircraft, the visit suffered a number of delays resulting in its cancellation. However, it should be noted that our air bridge aircraft work exceptionally hard and operate in tough environments which, unfortunately, can sometimes lead to unavoidable delays.


The air bridge as a whole is highly reliable, serving our operational theatres on a daily basis. We are due to take delivery of a new C-17 later this year which will boost our ability to move troops and equipment between Afghanistan and the UK. In addition, our new Voyager transport aircraft is due to come into service in 2014.

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8 février 2012 3 08 /02 /février /2012 18:50
UK to buy eighth C-17 transport

The RAF's C-17s play a vital role in supporting UK operations in Afghanistan – photo UK MoD


Feb 08, 2012 by Craig Hoyle- Flight Global


London - The UK is to order another Boeing C-17 strategic transport, with the acquisition to boost the Royal Air Force's fleet of the type to eight aircraft.


Announced by prime minister David Cameron on 8 February, the purchase represents the potentially final addition to the UK's C-17 fleet, which plays a vital role in sustaining its "airbridge" with Afghanistan. Seven are flown by the service's 99 Sqn from its air transport super base at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.


Writing on his Twitter account, minister for defence equipment, support and technology Peter Luff described the decision as "really good news for Defence and for [the] RAF".


Further details about the acquisition will be announced by the UK Ministry of Defence later today, with Boeing declining to comment in advance of its customer's statement.


In May 2011, the RAF marked the completion of its first decade of operations with the C-17, an initial four of which were flown under a lease agreement with the USA. These were subsequently purchased outright, with orders later placed for two and one aircraft respectively.


The UK operates the second-largest fleet of C-17s, behind the US Air Force, although India recently completed the process of ordering a fleet of 10 to enter use from later this decade.

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16 octobre 2011 7 16 /10 /octobre /2011 17:55
Tornado Goes Out Fighting

photo UK MoD


October 16, 2011: STRATEGY PAGE


Libya has been a major combat effort for the British Royal Air Force (RAF), which sent over fifty aircraft. These included Tornado and Typhoon fighter-bombers plus several types of support aircraft. The small force of British Tornado fighter-bombers flew over 1,400 sorties (out of 19,000 flown by all aircraft from all nations) and spent over 7,000 hours in the air. Up to 16 Tornados, flying out of Italian air bases, carried out recon and combat missions over Libya, day and night. This was a major contribution for a 30 year old aircraft nearing the end of its service life.


Recon proved to be a more important mission that first anticipated. Back in July, four additional Tornadoes were sent to serve mainly for reconnaissance missions, to keep a better eye on the complex Libyan battlefield. The four additional Tornados were equipped with four of the eight RAPTOR digital photo recon pods the RAF. RAPTOR can spot targets at 72 kilometers in daylight and at 36 kilometers at night using infrared sensors. The digital images can be seen by the pilot, and transmitted to other aircraft, ground units or ships, in real time.


Four more Tornados are not needed for bombing largely because Britain has a small guided missile (Brimstone) that enables fighters to carry a dozen of them, and hit a dozen individual targets with high accuracy. Originally developed as an upgraded version of the American Hellfire, Brimstone ended up as a Hellfire in general shape only. Weighing the same as the Hellfire (48.5 kg/107 pounds), Brimstone was designed to be fired by fighter-bombers, not just (as with Hellfire) from helicopters and UAVs. Aircraft can carry more of these lightweight missiles. These are perfect for small targets, including vehicles that need to be hit, without causing injuries to nearby civilians or friendly troops.


Not all missions were flown out of Italy. On August 10th, six Tornado GR4 fighter bombers took off from an air base in southern Britain, flew 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) to Libya, and launched a dozen Storm Shadow stealth cruise missiles at key targets. The round-trip mission from Britain took eight hours, with aerial refueling aircraft available over the Mediterranean to provide sufficient fuel to get back to Britain. This was the first RAF combat mission launched from Britain since World War II.


The Storm Shadow air launched stealthy cruise missile got its first combat experience over Iraq eight years ago. The 5.2 meter (16 foot) long, 1.3 ton missile has a 250 kilometer range and carries a penetrating warhead. The missile is a British modified version of the French Apache missile and entered service in late 2002, costing about $1.2 million each.

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27 août 2011 6 27 /08 /août /2011 08:05


Photo SAC Simon Armstrong/Crown Copyright


26/08/11 By Craig Hoyle SOURCE:Flightglobal.com


The UK Royal Air Force’s Panavia Tornado GR4-equipped 2 Sqn has completed its contribution to the NATO mission in Libya, after achieving a notable first using a Raytheon Systems Paveway IV precision-guided bomb.


On 18 August, a GR4 operating from Gioia del Colle air base in Italy dropped a 226kg (500lb) Paveway IV to engage a moving patrol craft which was being operated by pro-Gaddafi forces near the Az Zawiyah oil refinery.


“This was the first time a Tornado crew had used a Paveway IV bomb to take out a moving target of this nature,” the UK Ministry of Defence said, adding that the target had posed a threat to Libyan civilians.


RAF Tornado strike aircraft have again used their Storm Shadow missiles during long-range missions flown from the UK


Separately, a package of GR4s flying from RAF Marham in Norfolk attacked a headquarters bunker in the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte overnight on 25-26 August using an undisclosed number of MBDA Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles. Tornado aircraft from Gioia del Colle also destroyed a surface-to-air missile system located near Al Watiyah on 25 August.


The RAF’s Tornado force has accumulated more than 5,400 flying hours in support of the UK’s Operation Ellamy since March. Its contribution is now being provided by the RAF’s 9 Sqn.

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19 juillet 2011 2 19 /07 /juillet /2011 05:45


image © Craig Hoyle/Flightglobal


18/07/11 By Craig Hoyle SOURCE:Flightglobal.com


The UK Royal Air Force marked the 10th anniversary of its introduction of Boeing’s C-17 strategic transport by sending one of its aircraft to the Royal International Air Tattoo for the first time in several years.


ZZ177, the seventh and currently last planned C-17 to enter service with the RAF’s 99 Sqn, arrived at the show early on 17 July, before being opened to the public while on static display.


But highlighting the C-17 fleet’s continued heavy commitment to the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan, it was held at short readiness to leave the show if required to perform medical evacuation duties in support of the UK’s deployed armed forces.



image © Craig Hoyle/Flightglobal


The UK took delivery of its first C-17 under an initially four-aircraft lease deal with Boeing in May 2001, one year after signing a deal with the company. Now purchased outright and joined by a further three of the airlifters, these deliver a key part of the UK’s “airbridge” with the Afghan theatre of operations.


ZZ177 entered operational use with 99 Sqn at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire during February, by which point the unit's other aircraft had flown more than a combined 65,000 flight hours.


RIAT’s organisers estimate that around 138,000 visitors attended this year’s show at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

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17 juillet 2011 7 17 /07 /juillet /2011 19:00



Jul 15, 2011 London (UPI) spacewar.com


Britain is sending four more Tornado warplanes over Libya to support NATO military operations as an international contact group explores ways of ending the stalemate pitting the U.N.-backed armed rebels against loyalist forces of Moammar Gadhafi.


The military measures were announced amid intensive mediation at different levels on securing an end to five months of an inconclusive campaign in support of the rebels' Transitional National Council.


The council received formal support from the contact group of NATO and Arab diplomats meeting in Istanbul but China and Russia stayed away.


The rebels are receiving weapons and ammunition from France, logistical and medical support from Britain and substantial quantities of unspecified weapons and backup operations from Qatar and other Arab countries.


British military experts are helping rebels in and around Benghazi and other British teams of mostly undercover special agents are reportedly on the ground but not acknowledged in official reports.


The dispatch of the additional four British air force Tornado warplanes takes to 16 the total number of the attack and surveillance aircraft active over Libya. British officials have said the Tornado's 3,000-mile missions to carry out attacks on Libyan military sites were the longest range bombing missions conducted by the air force since the Falkland Islands conflict with Argentina in 1982.


British air support for the Libyan rebels has also included laser-guided bombs, deployed with the LITENING targeting pod, and Brimstone missiles.


British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said the aircraft were well-equipped for surveillance and reconnaissance.


"It is important to have this capability available," he said.


The British announcement followed a plea from NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen for more aircraft to support operations protecting Libyan civilians against government forces' assaults on rebel-held communities.


NATO warplanes have conducted more than 5,000 air missions since the action began in March, officials said.


European concerns over the escalating costs of the military operations in Libya resurfaced at the Istanbul meeting. However, diplomatic analysts suggest some of the costs could be defrayed by NATO accessing Libyan state funds frozen at the start of the crisis.


Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at least $3 billion could be released to cover the cost of humanitarian assistance to tens of thousands of Libyans displaced by the conflict or trapped in battle zones.


The actual NATO costs in Libya are mired in mystery amid conflicting statements, some designed to deflect public criticism of the campaign.


British Prime Minister David Cameron, frequently queried over the British spending, has yet to give any updated total after early reports that about $40 million-$50 million was spent. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said British operational costs in Libya were "tens rather than hundreds of millions" of dollars.


NATO Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis told the U.S. Senate "hundreds of millions" could already have been spent in the NATO operation.


U.S. officials said the military intervention cost the Pentagon alone at least $608 million in bombs, missiles and logistics. Pentagon estimates set the monthly cost of the air campaign to the United States alone at $40 million.


French military costs in Libya were estimated by Parisian defense analysts at more than $600 million.

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2 juillet 2011 6 02 /07 /juillet /2011 06:55
U.K., France Fine-tune Libyan Air Ops

Jul 1, 2011 By Bill Sweetman, Angus Batey, Christina Mackenzie-  defense technology international


Washington, London, Paris


Initial lessons learned from air operations over Libya have been both encouraging and embarrassing for European air forces. The Royal Air Force has found itself dependent on capabilities that the U.K. government plans to cancel, and France found itself with the wrong weapons.


While the RAF believes it is too soon to talk about lessons learned from the ongoing Libya operation, it is clear from April speeches by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, the chief of air staff, and his deputy, Air Vice Marshal Barry North, that platforms scheduled for termination have been of vital importance. Dalton told the Royal Aeronautical Society that Britain’s support of the NATO no-fly zone, known as Operation Ellamy by the U.K. Defense Ministry, “has proved further validation of the Combat Istar (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) concept, with a layering of—and cross-cueing between—dedicated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and Combat Istar assets and capabilities achieving a synergy that is greater than the sum of their parts.”


That synergy is provided by three Istar platforms—E-3D Sentry, Sentinel R1 and Nimrod R1—of which only E-3D remains part of the RAF’s long-term future. The electronic intelligence-gathering Nimrod R1 was due to leave service at the end of March. The capability is to be replaced by the acquisition of three RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft, which the RAF will call Air Seekers. The first of these is still undergoing conversion work in the U.S., and the platform is not due to be operational until 2014. The Nimrod’s out-of-service date was postponed because it was needed over Libya. DTI understands that the two aircraft will go out of service on June 28, but any capability gap will be short. Joint RAF and U.S. Air Force crews will co-crew USAF-owned Rivet Joint aircraft ahead of delivery of the U.K.-owned airframes. British aircrew have been training with their American counterparts at Offutt AFB, Neb., since early this year. Co-crewed operations will begin in the summer.


Less clear is the future of the capability provided by the RAF’s Astor (airborne stand-off radar) platform, Sentinel R1. Sentinel’s ability to switch between synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and ground-moving target indicator (GMTI) modes makes it the fulcrum of the “scan, cue, focus” methodology the RAF practices. In their speeches, Dalton and North outlined how, on a hypothetical “typical” Ellamy mission, Sentinel performs initial assessment of both wide and specific areas of interest to inform further investigation by other platforms, as well as pointing out possible targets when in GMTI mode.


The coalition government’s Strategic Defense and Security Review of 2010 opted to retire the Sentinel force (comprising five Raytheon-modified Bombardier Global Express business jets and associated systems) once operations in Afghanistan end. While this date is not yet known, neither is the route by which the capability will be replaced. The Defense Ministry has a requirement for a future unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), called Scavenger, which is expected to include key elements of the Sentinel capability, but no preferred solution is due to be identified until 2012, so an operational system is some years away.


Reaper and the soon-to-be-fielded British Army Watchkeeper UAV offer SAR, and both Reaper and Sea King 7 have a GMTI capability; but neither Reaper nor Sea King is likely to be risked in contested airspace, and neither has been deployed to Libya.


The unexpected Libyan conflict has pointed to crew management challenges in the RAF’s fast-jet fleet. The need for ground-attack-capable Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft and crew forced a reordering of operational priorities for the force, which had been concentrating on transitioning Britain’s air defenses from Panavia Tornado F3s to Typhoons (the last F3s were retired from service on March 31). Result: When the Libya operation was stood up, the RAF had—as planned for that timeframe—only eight pilots trained and current in the ground-attack role.


DTI understands that several of these were instructors on the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), and this meant that OCU activities were wound down for some days as qualified crew deployed to Italy, the staging area. OCU activity has since restarted, with training priorities realigned in light of the changed operational need. The RAF now has 20 Typhoon pilots combat-ready for ground-attack missions.


Tactics initially adopted partly to take account of the crewing situation have become established best practice. The most challenging part of single-seat, fast-jet operations is laser-target designation, and in Typhoon’s first combat missions, the aircraft flew with a GR4 to “buddy lase.” Deployed Typhoon crews are now able to self-designate, but most missions are still flown in Typhoon/Tornado pairs.


This enables commanders to use the most appropriate munitions, conserving higher-cost precision weapons for missions where low-collateral strikes are needed. And crew tours are being kept relatively short—aircrews typically spend 6-8 weeks in Italy—to ensure that skill fade is reduced. This is a lesson learned with Harrier crews in Afghanistan. The RAF found that due to mission demands, skill sets such as night-flying or aerial refueling were not being used in-theater and had to be regenerated once crews returned home from six-month deployments.


For the French air force, the principal lesson learned from operations in Libya is that it needs smaller and more precise air-to-ground missiles. The Sagem AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire), in the 250-kg (550-lb.) version in service, is too big. It’s like using a brick instead of a fly swatter to kill that pesky fly on the window.


“Everyone has precise, expensive, complex armaments which carry a heavy military charge,” French observers, who spoke on condition they not be named, told DTI. “We need to be able to use our air forces to very precisely destroy targets with low value and we are missing small effectors to do it with,” they say. “What we need, and nobody, not even the Americans have it, is something much smaller, such as a multiple missile-launcher. Everyone wants weapons that can do everything but the result is that we end up with things that are over-dimensioned for the job.”


In the absence of the Brimstone missile used by the RAF, which is smaller and more accurate than the AASM and can take out targets embedded in towns, the French air force decided to use inert AASMs in some situations. These weigh the same as live AASMs, but rubber or concrete replace the explosive. RAF Tornados destroyed Iraqi tanks with similar concrete bombs in 2003.


The inert bombs are equipped with the same GPS navigation systems as the real ones and are also accurate to within 1 meter (3.3 ft.). Dropped from a Rafale, they hit their target at a speed of 300 meters/sec. and do a good job of destroying a tank without causing collateral damage in a 200-meter-dia. circle around the point of impact.


The live AASM has two modes—programmed ahead of the mission if the target is a building or ammunition depot, for example; or programmed by the aircraft crew during the mission in Time Sensitive Targeting (TST) mode. Laser and infrared (IR)-guided versions of modes are in development and are not being used in Libya, a spokesman for manufacturer Sagem tells DTI.


The French air force was first to strike, on March 19, when it used AASMs to destroy a column of armored vehicles near Benghazi in eastern Libya. AASMs were also used to destroy a Russian-made S-125 (SA-3 Goa) surface-to-air missile system base from beyond its effective range, and, on March 24, to destroy a Yugoslav-built Soko Galeb jet trainer that had broken the no-fly embargo and was detected by an AWACS. The decision was made to destroy it once it had landed.


There is also an agenda that lies just below that of actual operations over Libya, one that has been brought into sharp focus over the past month: export sales. India’s decision to eliminate the Lockheed Martin F-16IN, Boeing F/A-18E/F and JAS 39 Gripen means that the aircraft downselected—the Typhoon and Dassault Rafale—are in their first head-to-head sales battle to date (see related story on p. 38). One of the ways each side will try to differentiate itself is by showing that its aircraft is truly “proven in combat.”


Dassault, backed by Thales and Snecma, will automatically say its product has been tested in battle already—Rafale first flew sorties over Afghanistan in 2002, although initial flights were limited to refueling Super Etendards involved with air-to-ground activities, and combat air patrols.


Once fully integrated into the NATO air-to-ground strike infrastructure, the Rafale has been included in close-air-support activities over Afghanistan. The first reported missions were in 2007, with Rafales flying from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. However, little was made of these missions at the time, and the news tended to seep out through conference papers and the Internet, rather than being exploited for marketing purposes.


The trend of information arriving in the public domain about Rafale on operations, almost as if by osmosis, has continued with Libyan operations. French Rafales were seen from Day One armed with the Safran/MBDA AASM multi-seeker guided-bomb system, including the INS/GPS/imaging-IR version, apparently being carried for the first time. But one would be hard-pressed to know this from the downbeat French defense ministry press releases.


The U.K., on the other hand, has been far more upfront in trumpeting the multirole claims of the Typhoons deployed to Gioia del Colle, Italy. An April 13 press release announced the first operational drop of an Enhanced Paveway II (1,000‑lb.) laser/GPS-guided bomb by an RAF Typhoon, although its impact was reduced by the dispute about whether the RAF had enough qualified air-to-ground pilots.


—With Francis Tusa in London.

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18 mars 2011 5 18 /03 /mars /2011 18:00
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