Solid arrows indicate which radius is centred on each base.
Dashed arrows indicate the need for aerial refueling in order to reach the area which is the main focus of combat operations.
Click on each image to see it full size.
Click on each image to see it full size.
The Korean War 1950 to 1953.
The Guf War 1990 to 1991.
The Invasion of Afghanistan 2001.
The Invasion of Iraq 2003.
The closer the operational area is to the centre of the tactical radius the better.
This permits aircraft to generate more sorties,spend more time on station or have more fuel margin for manoeuvre.
Thus allowing combat power to be delivered at a lower cost by a smaller number of combat aircraft.
Beyond the aircraft's tactical radius aerial refueling becomes essential.
Within the tactical radius the need for aerial refueling diminishes if the operational area is closer to the base area.
The cost of aerial refueling is substantial and money spent on tankers is money which cannot be spent on combat assets.
The vertical landing capability of the F35B gives it more basing options within the area of it's tactical radius.
However,the greater tactical radius of the F35C gives it a 60% greater area in which it may find basing options.
For the sea base,greater tactical radius increases the sea area in which the aircraft carrier may conceal itself.
It can be seen from these illustrations that the sea base,the aircraft carrier,is almost always closer to the operational area than the land base.
This permits significant financial savings by allowing substantial reductions in the number of combat aircraft and tanker aircraft required to generate a given level of combat power.
The longer combat radius of the F35C permits a further substantial reduction in the aerial refueling requirement.
This will more than pay for the additional cost of equipping aircraft carriers with catapults and arrestor wires.
The F35C is also said to be considerably cheaper than the F35B,one recent article claimed the F35C cost £15 Million less than the F35B which,if true,would equate to a saving of £945 Million on the 63 aircraft required to field a 36 strong carrier wing.
The F35B has advantages over the F35C in terms of being able to disperse away from airfields known to the enemy and being able to operate from a wider range of ships.
However these advantages come at a high cost both financially and operationally.
The F35B will cost more to buy and will require more expensive aerial refueling support.
In addition,it is less capable than the F35C in terms of range,payload and endurance.
There is an additional advantage which comes from using catapult equipped aircraft carriers as a sea base.
Helicopter based Airborne Early Warning (A.E.W.) aircraft are limited in terms of range,endurance,speed and altitude (and hence radar horizon).
They are incapable of supporting combat aircraft operating far from the sea base.
Consequently they must be supplemented by land based fixed wing A.E.W. aircraft.
These large aircraft operating far from their land bases have a substantial requirement for aerial refueling.
The cost of operating two A.E.W. fleets and providing the additional air tanker support for the land based aircraft is significant.
However,a carrier equipped with catapults would permit both of these fleets to be replaced with a smaller number of carrier capable fixed wing A.E.W. aircraft at a far lower cost.
In conclusion,the sea based F35C appears to be the most cost effective means for the United Kingdom to deliver air power.
Combined with fixed wing carrier capable A.E.W. aircraft,this option may offer cost savings of close to £2,000 Million a year combined with an enhanced ability to deploy air power globally.
These cost savings would derive from the following:
The ability to reduce the combat aircraft fleet from 330 aircraft at present to around 210 aircraft needed to maintain a front line strength of 124 aircraft with no loss of combat power due to the aircraft carrier's higher sortie generating capability.
The replacement of the Future Strategic Tanker Private Finance Initiative with a more economical outright purchase of 6 tanker aircraft with no lack of tanker capacity due to the much reduced aerial refueling demand.
The replacement of 7 Sentry and 13 Seaking A.E.W. aircraft with 10 E2D Hawkeye A.E.W. aircraft.