Thursday, 14 April 2011

One Nation,One Air Force?

This blog has never suggested abolishing the Royal Air Force*.

However,there are those who suggest that it would be cheaper to consolidate all aviation in a single organisation (usually the Royal Air Force).

This is called the "one nation,one air force" approach.

Here we shall consider if there are any savings to be had from this approach.

The cost of maintaining the means of delivering air power is defined by the following factors:

The number of sorties and/or hours on station required in theatre;

The number of aircraft required in theatre to generate that capability;

The number of aircraft required in the fleet to generate the required number of aircraft in theatre;

The cost of operating each of those aircraft;

Overhead costs.

For example,during the Falklands War in 1982,the Royal Navy required a total fleet of 31 Sea Harriers to deploy 28 aircraft in to theatre in order to generate about 30 sorties per day - 1.03 aircraft required per sortie per day.

In contrast,today the Royal Air Force requires a fleet of 136 Tornados to deploy just 20 aircraft in to theatre for operations over Afghanistan and Libya where they are probably (there are only limited figures available for Libya) generating about 10 sorties per day in total - about 13.6 aircraft required per sortie per day.

In addition,the Royal Navy's Sea Harriers cost far less than the Royal Air Force Tornados and had very little in the way of overhead costs as the Fleet Air Arm is an integral part of the Royal Navy rather than an independent air service with it's own "head office".

By factoring in costs for each aircraft type and overheads we could compare cost effectiveness.

Though it should be noted that we should be comparing aircraft which can do the same jobs,a Tornado is not much use at air defence and would be better compared to a Harrier G.R.9a.

Capability Requirement

This is the required number of daily sorties and/or hours on station,depending on the type of misson being flown.

First we must consider the number of sorties required for major war fighting operations.

Major War Fighting Operations:

The peak of British air power since the Second World War was the Suez crisis in 1956 when hundreds of combat sorties were flown each day,2 thirds of them from aircraft carriers.

Since then however,there have been significant changes in technology with the result that a modern combat aircraft can do in a single sortie what would have taken dozens of sorties by an entire wing of aircraft back in 1956.

Suez then is not a good guide for future requirements.

The next highest example of sortie generation was the liberation of Kuwait,Operation Granby,in 1990 - 1991.

Precision guided weapons were in the minority during this conflict and consequently fewer sorties would be required to perform the same tasks today.

Then there is the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

This was well within the modern era of precision guided weapons and is highly likely to be representative of future medium scale operations.

Below that is the Falklands War of 1982.

The number of sorties in the Falklands War was restricted by the limited number of available carrier capable aircraft and proved to be less than was needed.

Had larger aircraft carriers been available with more aircraft the average number of daily sorties would certainly have been far higher.

Lastly there is the Korean War of 1950 to 1953.

This was something of a mix of major war fighting operation and long term low level commitment.

British,American and Australian aircraft carriers took turns on station off the Korean coast,consequently the average number of sorties flown during the war is far less than the average number generated in the course of a patrol.

Up to 126 sorties were flown in a day by British aircraft carriers (with air wings of similar size to the new Queen Elizabeth class) which often averaged over 80 sorties a day during their patrols.

Low Intensity Sustained Conflicts:

All other operations since 1945 averaged so few combat aircraft sorties per day (often none) that they cannot be considered major war fighting operations.

These sustained long term low level commitments often involve no more than a single squadron of combat aircraft.

Typical is the deployment of 8 Tornados to Afghanistan where they generate 5 or 6 sorties a day.

These sustained low intensity operations rarely exceed an average of 12 sorties per day.

On recent sustained operations in Afghanistan and Iraq the requirement could be expressed as 24 flying hours per day.

The Tornado fleet is probably generating a similar number of daily flying hours in operations against the Libyan government.


50 sorties per day is highly likely to satisfy demand during a medium scale major war fighting operation.

This is within the capability of a single Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier.

24 hours on station a day is likely to satisfy demand during most sustained low intensity operations.

Capability Generation

This determines the number of aircraft which must be deployed to generate the required number of daily sorties/hours on station.

The greater the number of daily sorties/hours on station which each aircraft generates,the smaller the number of aircraft which must be deployed in to theatre.

The land based combat aircraft of the Royal Air Force have taken part in only 4 of the 7 major air wars the United Kingdom Has been involved in since 1945.

In every case they generated far fewer sorties per aircraft per day than carrier based naval aircraft which took part in those same conflicts.

We may consider sortie generation in terms of major war fighting operations which generally require a maximum effort and long term low intensity sustained conflicts where sortie generation is more demand based and generally lower.

Major War Fighting Operations:


No Royal Air Force combat aircraft took part in the Korean War of 1950 to 1953.

Aircraft of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm provided all British combat air power during that conflict.

The small British carriers were regularly generating over 80 sorties per day and on occasions as many as 123 sorties per day,with just 31 aircraft.

The Fleet Air Arm's air wings routinely generated more than 2 sorties per aircraft per day and occasionally as many as 4 sorties per aircraft per day.


Land based combat aircraft of the Royal Air Force operated alongside carrier based aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm during the Suez Crisis of 1956.

During the 6 day air war,the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm generated twice as many sorties per aircraft per day as the Royal Air Force.


During the Falklands War of 1982,Royal Navy Sea Harriers geneated 1.4 sorties per aircraft per day.

Royal Air Force Harriers based on the same ships generated just 0.9 sorties per aircraft per day.

Land based Vulcan bombers of the Royal Air Force generated just 0.03 sorties per aircraft per day - one of the worst examples of sortie generation in the history of air warfare.


During the liberation of Kuwait in 1990 - 1991,Aircraft flying from American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf generated 40% more sorties per aircraft per day than land based aircraft of the Royal Air Force. 


During the bombing of Kosovo in 1999,American carrier based aircraft generated more than twice as many sorties per aircraft per day as the land based aircraft of the Royal Air Force.


During the Invasion of Afghanistan in 2001,land based Tornados of the Royal Air Force flew no combat sorties at all,despite being based in the Persian Gulf near American F16s and F15s which did take part in that operation.

British aircraft carriers operated helicopters in the air assault role.

American carrier based F18s flying from ships in the Arabian Sea generated 4 times as many sorties per aircraft per day as the American land based F15s flying from bases in the Persian Gulf.


During the invasion of Iraq in 2003 carrier based aircraft on U.S.S. Kittyhawk generated twice as many sorties per aircraft per day as land based aircraft of the Royal Air Force.

In major war fighting operations over the last 66 years,sortie generation by British combat aircraft has ranged from a peak of 4 sorties per aircraft in a single day by the Fleet Air Arm's carrier based aircraft in the Falklands and Korean wars and an average of 2.8 sorties per aircraft per day by carrier aircraft throughout the Suez conflict to just 0.03 sorties per aircraft per day by the Royal Air Force's Vulcan bombers during the Falklands War.

These figures can be translated into a requirement for the number of deployed aircraft required to generate a single sortie.

For example,during the Suez crisis it required just 0.36 Royal Navy carrier based aircraft to generate a sortie per day.

During the same conflict it required 0.71 Royal Air Force land based aircraft to generate a single sortie per day.

During the Falklands War it required just 0.71 Royal Navy carrier based Sea Harriers to generate a sortie per day.

During the Falklands War it required just 1.11 Royal Air Force carrier based Harriers to generate a sortie per day.

During the same conflict it would have required a massive 36 Royal Air Force land based Vulcan bombers to generate a single sortie per day.

Low Intensity Sustained Conflicts:

Sortie generation is also more demand based during these operations.

However,British and American aircraft carriers routinely sustain higher sortie rates than land based aircraft of the Royal Air Force in long term low intensity operations.


In every major war fighting operation over the 66 years since 1945,carrier based aircraft have generated more sorties per day than land based combat aircraft of the Royal Air Force.

During low level,long term sustained conflicts sortie generation is of less economic importance as the number of aircraft required is only a small proportion of the fleet required to satisfy the sortie generation requirement for major war fighting operations.

The critical economic factor is the number of aircraft required to satisfy demand during major warfighting operations.

Force Generation

The percentage of the combat aircraft fleet which may be surged in to theatre for a major war fighting operation or sustained in theatre for a sustained low intensity conflict defines the size and cost of the combat aircraft fleet which the taxpayer must pay to maintain.

Major War Fighting Operations:

During the Falklands War of 1982 the Royal Navy deployed 90% of it's Sea Harrier fleet on combat operations.

This was one of the finest examples of force generation in the history of air warfare.

The Royal Air Force has never deployed more than 15% of it's combat aircraft fleet to any war in the 66 years since 1945.

Just under 15% of the 136 strong Royal Air Force Tornado fleet will be on operations (12 over Libya and 8 in Afghanistan) when 4 additional aircraft deploy to Italy.

This is despite despite the Tornados having no other commitments.

In addition 10 (originally,now 8) Typhoons were deployed to Italy which,combined with the 20 Tornados on operations in Libya and Afghanistan account for less than 15% of the 207 strong combined Tornado and Typhoon fleet.

Low Intensity Sustained Conflicts:

Harmony guidelines are the overriding factor in determining the size of force which may be sustained in theatre.

These are split into "Individual Separated Service" guidelines which cover individuals and "Unit Tour Intervals" which cover complete units (e.g. a fighter squadron):

"Army harmony guidelines are that individuals should not exceed 415 days of separated service in any period of 30 months.
 At unit level,tour intervals (a tour being 6 months) should be no less than 24 months.
The decision on who should deploy is made by Joint Commitments in consultation with Headquarters Land Command,ratified by the chain of command.
Royal Navy harmony guidelines are that no individual should exceed 660 days of separated service in a three-year rolling period.
 Over a similar time span, ships or other units should not be deployed for more than 60 per cent. of their time.
Harmony Guidelines for the RAF are based on formed unit tour intervals rather than individual personnel,whereby formed units,or sub-elements within them should spend four months on deployed operations followed by 16 months at base.
The RAF Individual Separated Service assumption is that an individual should spend no more than 140 days of duty detached away from home in a rolling 12-month period.
 This allows for a four-month operational tour followed by three weeks of separated service due to routine tasks,unestablished commitments,unit assistance,pre-detachment training etc."

These guidelines can be summarised as follows:

Percentage of Individuals who may be away from home at any one time:

Royal Navy/Royal Marines 60%

Army 45%

Royal Air Force 38%

Percentage of units which may be deployed at any one time:

Royal Navy/Royal Marines 60% 

Army 20%

Royal Air Force 20%

As these figures include time spent training away from home,in practice the proportion of each service which may be deployed on operations differs from these numbers.

The Army and Royal Air Force will conduct more of their training at home than the Royal Navy which has to go to sea for much of it's training.

The Royal Navy will routinely have 33% of it's units deployed on operations,even in "peacetime".

Rear Admiral Simon Charlier said the following in evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee on the 2nd of june 2009:

 "The Navy is configured against a set of parameters that it has used for many years that usually rotate round a six-month average deployment cycle at sea.

 We try to give the teams 12 months off after that.

 That means that 660 days over a three-year rolling period is the maximum time we can have people away.

Those are the terms and conditions of service in which people join the Navy. They are very clear and we understand them.

 In a normal cycle of deployment at sea—in surge operations we are content to go outside those parameters and give more time when they come back—that works adequately."

A real World example is the helicopter fleet in Afghanistan in 2009,according to Rear Admiral Johnstone-Burt:

 "Our average deployment cycle is about three months, so that gives us a 12-month gap between tours.

 That is the rule of thumb we are using and it is working well in the Chinook, Puma, Merlin and Lynx communities,so I am confident that the points you make are covered in those crews."

 "For the reasons I mentioned earlier,the Harmony rate for the Apache air crew, ground crew and engineers is about a rule of four,so one on three off,which is taking its toll."

 "Sea King crews are worse than that; they have a rule of between three and four,so they are doing one on two and a half off." 

 This can be summed up as follows:

Royal Air Force Chinooks,Merlins and Pumas,20% deployed;

Army Air Corps Lynx,20% deployed;

Army Air Corps Apache 25% deployed;

Royal Navy Sea King 28% deployed.

It can be seen both from the Harmony guidelines and from actual operations in Afghanistan that the Royal Navy deploys a much larger percentage of it's units and men.


The Royal Air Force requires a much larger and more expensive combat aircraft fleet than the Royal Navy to surge the required number of aircraft for major combat operations.

It also requires a larger number squadrons to sustain a squadron on long term operations.

The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm would require 3 squadrons to keep a single squadron deployed on operations.

The Royal Air Force would require 5 squadrons to keep a single squadron deployed on operations.

If all fast jet and support helicopters were transferred to the Royal Navy it could sustain operations in theatre with a 40% fewer units.

Transferring all combat aircraft and support helicopters to the Royal Navy will result in significant cost savings.


The Royal Navy,Royal Air Force and British Army all have their "back office" - senior officers,training facilities,headquarters and other elements which add "overhead" costs.

If all military aviation were to be transferred to the Royal Air Force,there would be no significant saving on "overheads" as the Royal Navy and British Army would still require their "back offices" to support the sea and land elements of those services.

If all military aviation were to be transferred to the Royal Navy and/or British Army there would be no need for the Royal Air Force "back office" allowing the elimination of large numbers of senior officer's posts,head quarters,training facilities and other expenses resulting in substantial cost savings.


Eliminating the Royal Air Force will result in substantial reductions in overhead costs.


We recommend that the Secretary of State for Defence should consider creating internal competion to decide which service delivers aviation capabilities.

The division of air assets should be decided by which service can deliver capability most cost effectively and not by history or inter service politics.

Competitive tendering as part of an internal defence market may be the solution.

Rather than the usual black propaganda and backstabbing,inter-service rivalry may be channelled in to positive competition to provide combat services to the taxpayer.

Services should be asked to submit fixed price tenders for the provision of a defined capability,for example the ability to surge a number of daily sorties/hours on station for short term major warfighting operations or sustained low intensity operations.

On the metrics we have studied here,it appears that the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm has a significant competitive advantage.

Any financial shortfalls resulting from under bidding should be taken from the budget of the provider which fails to deliver the service on cost.

Alternatively,Harmony guidelines could be standardised across the armed forces as per Royal Navy practice.

This would result in significant cost savings across the armed forces.

*Because people join the army and navy to see the world,not to see Norfolk.

**Official sources give figures which range from an average of 70-74 sorties per day.


The Duke of Deepwell said...

Hear hear.

TheRagingTory said...

I'm afraid I cant agree.
Its easy to say the RAF is useless, but the RAF is only force to exist on a wartime footing.
Mounting the QRAs

The FAA might be better at surging effects, but thats simply because it wasnt required to do anything after Musketeer but before Corporate.
The RAF maintained constant coverage in that period.

The FAA is a force designed to surge high levels of airpower for a very short period of time.
The RAF is a force designed to apply a lower level of airpower for a much longer period of time.

Saying the FAA is better because it has a higher sortie rate sort of misses the point.

Yes, the FAA deployed 28 of its 31 aircraft to the falklands, and in doing so, it deserted its post over the North Sea. We'd have been fucked if the Ruskies started anything.
Except the proper fliers in the RAF would have covered gallantly covered the gap left by the FAA and saved our arses.

Nor does the RAF require 136 Tornadoes to deploy 20 to Afghanistan, there is no room for more than 20 aircraft, NATO commanders have catagoricaly stated on many occaisions, they dont need any more fast jets. Nor is Afghanistan all the RAF does.
We would be in trouble if the FAA was the only airforce, and everything we had was in Afghanistan, and Libya kicked off.

Even if you got your wish and the RAF was abolished, the FAA would have to cover its less sexy roles, and suffer a huge drop in statistical effectiveness.

Can the FAA generate massive short term sortie rates. Yes, as Korea proved, at 126 a day off a carrier.
Can it maintain those rates.
No it cannot, as the average tails off to 20 a day.
That basicaly means for every day operating, the FAA took 6 days off to repair recuperate....

GrandLogistics said...

Hello The Duke of Deepwell,

thankyou and welcome to GrandLogistics.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

I have never said the Royal Air Force is useless,some parts of it perform well,but some parts don't.
There appears to be an obsession with inefficient long range bombing in some quarters which dates back to the inter war years.

Nor have I ever suggested getting rid of the Royal Air Force or cutting our combat aircraft fleet to just those needed in Afghanistan.
I have long said that we should have 3 wings,one for air defence,one carrier wing and an "amphibious wing".

I believe that land and sea based air power are complimentary.
Sometimes aircraft carriers are the best option,in every major war fighting operation since 1945 for example.
Sometimes land basing might be all that is needed,if you only require 5 sorties a day in Afghanistan,you don't need a carrier.

But there are extremists who want to deliver air power exclusively from land bases even when it is the most expensive and least capable option.

Then there are those like ThinkDefence who say it would be cheaper if all aircraft belonged to the Royal Air Force.

The purpose of this post was to look in to that suggestion.

The Typhoon fleet does maintain 2 Quick Reaction alerts and the Falklands detachment of 4 aircraft as well as covering the Libyan operations with another 10/8 aircraft.
That is not bad for a fleet of just 3 squadrons,well done them.

On the other hand,the much larger Tornado fleet is struggling sustain 20 aircraft in Afghanistan and Italy - it's only missions.
Which is why the planned reduction from 7 squadrons to 5 is being put on hold.
That could be down to the generous Harmony guidelines which the Royal Air Force works to or it could be a specific problem with the Tornado fleet.

The Fleet Air Arm could easily sustain 20 aircraft on operations with 5 squadrons of 12 aircraft.

Joint Force Harrier also sustained the Afghan commitment for years with just 3 small squadrons.

Why does the Tornado force need so many squadrons to do so little?

N.A.T.O. commanders have been calling for more countries to send more aircraft:

There is plenty of space for more aircraft with the Americans drawing down.

The Korean War lasted for 3 years,British American and Australian carriers took turns on station,usually doing a week long patrol then putting in to port in Sasebo,which is very close to Korea:

They would generate very high sortie rates on station,often over 80 sorties a day,126 was the record shared by 2 British carriers.
On one occasion a single British carrier generated more daily sorties than an entire American Air Force.

A modern carrier group routinely goes to sea for about 6 months with only the odd port call to break the monotony.
One American carrier did a 10 month cruise a few years back and averaged over 1 sortie per aircraft per day during those 10 months.
Royal Air Force Tornados generate about 0.7 sorties per aircraft per day in a 4(?) month tour of Afghanistan.

But there are times when you just don't need a full carrier wing.
Land basing makes sense on those occasions.


TheRagingTory said...

"The Korean War lasted for 3 years,British American and Australian carriers took turns on station,usually doing a week long patrol then putting in to port in Sasebo

They would generate very high sortie rates on station,often over 80 sorties a day"

But only for one week out of three.
So they only actualy generated 25 Sorties a day, out of 35 aircraft, which is actualy lower than the RAF manages.
Thats my point. Its very food, in the short term, but once its been very good for a week, it needs two weeks to catch up on all its maintenance and repair the damage to wrecked carriers (remmeber after the falklands, Hermes and Vincie were in serious need of repair, Lusty was commisioned en route to get Vincie into a shipyard)

The RAF doesnt have the option of withdrawing so cant run hot for a week till burnout, then go home for two weeks.

The 120 strong Tornado Fleet is managing to operate in Ghanners, Libya and maintain a Strategic Reserve.

I really dont see how the FAA could do significantly better.
The reason it was cut was that Ghanners was *all* it could do, there wasnt slack for "emergencies" like Libya.
Yes, its harmony guidelines are a bit less, generous, shall we say?
But thats a few % more sorties.

As I said, in a very real sense, the FAA could have been disolved after Suez and as long as it was reformed for Falklands, who would have noticed?
The RAF was still intercepting Russian bombers on a daily basis, if not more frequently.

Dont get me wrong, I dont think the RAF could do the FAA job any better either.

"One American carrier did a 10 month cruise a few years back and averaged over 1 sortie per aircraft per day during those 10 months."

Which isnt substantialy different to what an airforce manages.
"Typical is the deployment of 8 Tornados to Afghanistan where they generate 5 or 6 sorties a day."

The Tornado manages 273 sorties a year, the FA-18 manages 303 sorties a year.

Considering the Tornado is a maintenance pig ready for the scrapyard, that aint bad.
And of course, a fleet of 60 is less at the mercy of random failure than a fleet of 8.

I fully agree with you that the best way to provide extreme levels of short term airpower is a carrier.
But thats pretty much all it does.

If you want multi year sustainment, a carrier isnt going to cut it.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

during the Korean War the Royal Air Force flew no combat aircraft sorties at all.
There were some United Nations land based aircraft based in Korea but most of their bases were overrun by first the North Koreans and later the Chinese.
Only a handful of bases around Pusan remained in friendly hands throughout the war.

Map of the air bases:

Map of the enemy advance:

Most allied combat aircraft had to fly from Japan.

The average for the carriers may not look impressive but it covers the whole war including times when almost the entire 5th Air Force was grounded due to bad weather.
I have no idea how many days they spent on station versus in port.
You really need to compare those figures to land based aircraft from the same war.
I once tried to get some statistics on the land based aircraft for the Korean War but was never able to find enough information.
Aircraft numbers would vary widely from day to day with combat and accidental losses being very high back then.
It would be nice to have some figures to compare directly to the carriers.

During the Falklands,Invincible was at sea for 166 days.
Which is longer than all but one major war fighting operation Britain has been involved in since 1945 (Korea).
The Queen Elizabeths are designed for far greater endurance,the Falklands being the benchmark.

Carriers can and do sustain high sorie rates during long cruises,I mentioned earlier the carrier which sustained an average over 1 sortie per aircraft per day over a 10 month cruise.
Royal Air Force combat aircraft have not averaged more than 0.9 sorties per aircraft per day since Suez in 1956.
Over 10 months that carrier sustained a higher sortie rate than the Royal Air Force surges for major war fighting operations.

The simplest way to look at the effect of different harmony guidelines is to consider a fleet of 15 frontline squadrons (we don't have that many now but it is an easy number to work with).

By Royal Air Force guidelines 3 of those could be sustained on operations.
By Royal Navy Guidelines 5 of them could be sustained on operations,66% more squadrons deployed.

Looking at it another way, to keep 1 squadron deployed by Royal Air Force guidelines requires 5 squadrons and by Royal Navy guidelines needs 3 squadrons,40% fewer squadrons.

That is a big difference.
It got me thinking,is the shortage of helicopters in Afghanistan more to do with harmony guidelines than a lack of aircraft and crews?

The Fleet Air Arm was probable busier than the Royal Air Force between Suez and the Falklands:

Reply length exceeded,continued in next reply....

GrandLogistics said...

....Continued from previous reply:

The Royal Air Force was primarily big a Cold War N.A.T.O. force,you don't need a carrier for a war in Germany.
The Fleet Air Arm did much of the out of area work.
But the Cold War is gone now and out of area is all we are likely to be doing.

I had proposed that we should keep 2 or 3 frontline Harrier squadrons and 3 Tornado squadrons until Typhoons replaced the Tornados,someone else had the same idea:

Look at the Fleet Air Arm's force generation from the Falklands when they had 2 frontline squadrons of 5 Sea Harriers each and a total fleet of 31 aircraft.
Both frontline squadrons and the operational conversion unit deployed with 20 aircraft within 5 days of the war starting with a new squadron formed with 8 more aircraft within a month.
Imagine what they could do with the 74 Harrier G.R.9s we have today and 2 or 3 9 aircraft squadrons.
Probably a carrier setting sail in days with 18 harriers on board and another 18 as soon as the second carrier is ready.
That is Libya taken care of.
More aircraft deployed,more sorties per day and more hours on station at a much lower cost than the Tornado fleet.

How much more slack do we need for emergencies?
How much more have we got with just Tornado?

The carriers have sustained operations in the Persian Gulf for 21 years now,and the Arabian Sea for 10 years.
Land based aircraft only deployed in to Afghanistan 5 months after the carrier aircraft began combat operations.
The Royal Air Force Harriers arrived 3 years after that.
One you have secured air bases and lines of communication,there are 3 options.
Sustain a handful ofland based aircraft in theatre continuously.
Send a full carrier wing to take a turn on station with the American carriers.
Sustain a carrier with a single squadron continuously.
Force protection and logistics costs are the major factors in deciding which is most appropriate.

The sortie numbers you mentioned compare 12 months of operations by 3 tornado squadrons doing 4 months rotations versus a single 10 month carrier cruise.
As the carrier will be rotating too a better comparison would be 12 months carrier operations versus 12 months land based operations.
Tornado 274 sorties versus F18 365 sorties at the rates mentioned.

I looked at an American carrier supporting Afghan operations in an earlier post:

She sustained sortie rates and hours on station comparable to the Tornados.
But,as I said earlier,land based aircraft are often a sensible option for those long term low intensity operations.
It is in the major war fighting operations that they are no longer viable.
We just can't afford enough aircraft to sustain round the clock close air support and combat air patrols from a base 500 miles away.


S O said...


Eliminating the Royal Air Force will result in substantial reductions in overhead costs."

That's the usual conclusion in regard to mergers, but empirically it's proven that mergers damage the profitability of businesses. I think that's a relevant warning, for it's a close analogy while we have almost no empirical results about military mergers.
A similar topic:

Chuck Hill said...

Or, put all combat aircraft and land warfare under the Marines and all Transport and refueling aircraft under the RFA

Solomon said...


you haven't posted in a while. is everything ok? i've been wanting your thoughts on a few subjects. you'll no doubt disagree but i'd love to hear your reasoning.

TheRagingTory said...

dude its been 6 days.....

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Sven Ortmann,

the merging of the Royal Flying Corps and Fleet Air Arm in to the Royal Air Force in 1918 is a good example of the point you make.
Prior to the merger there were 2 provders of air power both closely integrated in to their parent services with minimal overheads.
Now,post merger,there are 3 providers of air power with an additional "head office" to support.
Most imporetantly a desire to prove the "need" for an independent air service has created a perverted over emphasis on long range aviation used independently of the surfacxe arms.
The inefficiency of this approach was central to the British military disasters of the first half of the Second World War.

I noticed you covered the russian approach on your blog,I was planning to contrast this with the British approach from a resource perspective in a future post.
Unfortunately the figures I have are not very comprehensive,British bombers flying about 1 sortie every 3 days versus Soviet fighterbombers flying 10 sorties per day according to Van Creveld.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello Chuck Hill,

prior to 1918,the relationship between the British Army and Royal Navy was very similar to that between the American navy and marines.
If the army needed to go to war it went by ship.
The creation of the creation of the Royal Air Force and long term continentalism seem to have undermined that relationship.

Putting transport assets under an auxiliary force is an interesting idea.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello Solomon and TheRaging Tory,

it has been a while,I had better get back to work.


Topman said...

Hi, got the link for here from over on TD. Just been having a look around. One thing that caught my eye

As the carrier will be rotating too a better comparison would be 12 months carrier operations versus 12 months land based operations.
Tornado 274 sorties versus F18 365 sorties at the rates mentioned.

The Tornado would do more than that in 12 months it would be more like 2000 in a 12 month period. In terms of flying hours it would be 7000-7500 hrs.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Topman,

your figures are spot on for the fleet of 8 aircraft out there but the figures we were giving were on a "per aircraft" basis.

According to official Royal Air Force figures the 8 Tornados in Afghanistan fly 5-6 sorties per day of 3-4 hours duration (it varies over time).

Which is around 0.75 sorties per aircraft per day or 274 sorties per aircraft per year.

274 sorties per Tornado per year is 2,192 sorties for 8 aircraft in a year which tallies with your numbers in terms of both sorties and flying hours.