Saturday, 21 November 2009

British Combat Aircraft Procurement

The British Royal Air Force may be dramatically reduced in size as it cannot afford to buy and operate all the aircraft it had been planning to acquire.

The problems the Royal Air Force is having are nothing to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Funding for those conflicts is in addition to the rest of the defence budget.

The Royal Air Force’s problems have been caused by the Royal Air Force itself and it’s incompetent aircraft procurement dating back many decades (and that does not just apply to fast jets either).

Twenty years ago when the Royal Air Force began planning the current aircraft procurements,British fast jet strength was over 800 aircraft.

A number more than sufficient to justify the rapid and cost effective domestic development and manufacture of a new combat aircraft type to replace the whole fast jet fleet.

However,as usual the paroquial interests of elements of the armed forces got in the way of what was best for the armed forces and the nation as a whole.

The result being that the Royal Air Force decided to replace it’s fast jet fleet with three seperate aircraft types:Agile Combat Aircraft (now the Typhoon);what eventually became Future Joint Combat Aircraft (now the F-35 Lightning II) and what was to have been Future Offensive Air System (F.O.A.S.).

Future Offensive Air Systems was likely to be a bomber,now cancelled due to cost growth on the other two aircraft projects.

Note how those three aircraft types mirror the old Bomber Command,Fighter Command,Tactical Air Force structure of the Second World War.

This structure of the Royal Air Force was perpetuated till recent times through Strike Command,Royal Air Force Germany and Number 1 Group,Number 2 Group and Number 11 Group.

The decision to buy three different fast jet aircraft meant that domestic design and manufacture was not economically viable due to the small numbers of each type required.

Agile Combat Aircraft became the multinational European Combat Aircraft,later Typhoon,resulting in massive time delays and cost increases.

Future Joint Combat Aircraft became the F-35,a cheap mass produced American aircraft,expected to cost half as much as the Typhoon.

Which due to being one of the worst thought out aircraft programmes in history and due to exchange rate fluctuations may cost twice as much as the “expensive” Typhoon.

With all the money wasted on those two (at least £5,000 Million wasted),the third aircraft had to be cancelled.

The many thousands of millions of pounds poured down the drain due to the Royal Air Force’s complete disregard of the basic industrial factors inherent in designing and manufacturing aircraft are the real reason the Royal Air Force cannot now afford to buy the aircraft it wants.

One of the great ironies of this sorry saga is that at the time the Royal Air Force decided it needed seperate fast jet fleets for use on land and sea,it was operating three carrier capable aircraft (Harrier,Phantom and Buccaneer) and a fourth (Jaguar) which was originally intended for carrier use but was not up to the task (you will never guess whose fault that was!).

Lest the above be seen as an anti Royal Air Force rant,I should point out that the British Army (note not the Royal Army!) and the Royal Navy are also afflicted by the “Why buy one platform when you can buy three?” attitude.

Both also suffer the consequences of that appproach.


Des Edwards said...

Would aquisition of the B1B bomber be feasible to perform the long range strike role? Phase out Tornado to make way for the B1B. Massive payload, and proven in combat. Just a thought.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Des Edwards,

the B1B Lancer is no longer in production and not available second hand either.