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Author Topic: RAF 100 Conference - Hendon 19-21 Sep. 2018  (Read 577 times)

Offline Harrier

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RAF 100 Conference - Hendon 19-21 Sep. 2018
« on: August 15, 2018, 11:54:29 am »
This has much of interest:

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london/whats-going-on/raf100-conference-programme.aspx

I will be talking about 1985, but looking before and after it too.
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Offline Harrier

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Re: RAF 100 Conference - Hendon 19-21 Sep. 2018
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2018, 02:19:44 am »
I have put the draft I wrote for the RAF 100 conference online as a working paper, '1985 - The Year Procurement Died', on the LCxD web page:

https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/about/cds/low-cost-by-design

I am aware of some typos, but as it takes so long to get a PDF on a work server I will live with them for now!

Comments welcome - I hope to write a longer, proper version soon.
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Offline Hood

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Re: RAF 100 Conference - Hendon 19-21 Sep. 2018
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2018, 06:35:04 am »
Your paper is a very interesting and thoughtful read and one that answers some of my musings why so many studies in the last 20 years have been largely wasted effort.

I think it could be argued that the RAF has never had a totally successful procurement system throughout its existence, though it is clear that greater centralisation and industry input has not had any beneficial impact (if we measure productive output as new equipment and not saving money). I wonder if there has been any recent discussion with the RAF or MoD to change the procurement system as surely its limitations must be evident to those within it?

It might be interesting to compare against procurement of systems as opposed to airframes to see if there is similar correlation.

I feel that procurement in the 1970s is a neglected topic and probably had some impact on these later reforms. The 1970s were fiscally challenging and few new programmes were begun but these were technically demanding, for example AST.396 and the early Sea King Replacement studies by Westland and the MoD. Given the relative success of these itís surprising that the reforms cut the funding for similar work in the future and removed the close cooperation with the end user.

The strength of some of the design teams was probably already waning with the 1970s slump in design activity. Most of the AST.396 projects were based on existing designs with varying levels of upgrades and changes for example, although the work AST.403 was far more innovative. There probably would never of been enough work to sustain multiple BAe design teams. And as NCA, CABE, FOAS, DPOC and FCAS prove, the teams have never been short of work since. Although as you rightly point out, the utility and duplication of this work is open to question.

Internationalisation far preceded Heseltine, it was de rigueur by the mid-60s and was the driving force behind all the major requirements of the later 60s and beyond. The Sea King Replacement was one of the few major aviation projects that wasnít multinational but even it eventually fell to the desire for joint development to reduce costs. Tornado ADV proved possible to do alone, Nimrod AEW was another attempt, but backfired. The attempt to achieve AST.396 or 403 as a national programme seems in hindsight very ambitious given the lack of money and resources available. Joining EFA was the only sensible option open without buying American. Exports were always a driver too for the majority of requirements. Given the history of multinational programmes it is perhaps surprising that the MoD post for defence collaboration wasnít created earlier.


Offline Harrier

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Re: RAF 100 Conference - Hendon 19-21 Sep. 2018
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2018, 12:09:46 pm »
Thanks Hood.

The recent Combat Air Strategy is trying to do things differently:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/combat-air-strategy-an-ambitious-vision-for-the-future

There has been much said about Team Tempest, confusing it with the BAE model at Farnborough, but it is an attempt to change things. My argument is that it needs to break out of the system that has existed since 1985, rather than simply manage within it.

The interesting issue around international projects in the early 1980s was that there were thoughts of going it alone as this would be cheaper or, with exports, provide a larger return for the UK. But Michael Heseltine put that idea to bed. I interviewed him recently about this and the updated article should have some great quotes from him.

BAe P.1216 Supersonic ASTOVL Aircraft: www.harrier.org.uk/P1216.htm

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Online red admiral

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Re: RAF 100 Conference - Hendon 19-21 Sep. 2018
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2018, 09:03:09 am »
After some pondering, I'm not sure how much I agree with the main premise of the paper. The RAF procurement strategy has worked pretty well in hindsight of getting required military capability at the right time and cost.

When you look back;

EFA might not have been wanted in the 80s but this changed. More than adequate Air Defender to replace the F3s for years to come. And the RAF has spent the last 10 years (and the next 10) turning it into a better bomber than GR4. The main problem has been the 4 nation construct eliminating the ability to deliver in a timely fashion.

F-35B was wanted in the mid 90s but that changed in the 2000s. Now we're likely to get F-35As as a better fit to the RAF's needs.

FOAS etc basically came down to wanting a longer range F-35A. No one was willing to spend £20bn to procure this for obvious reasons. UCAS work was to address the cost issue above, but still unaffordable, and technically challenging. How much money should the RAF have spent to get something with a bit more range than F-35A?

Reaper is an interesting one to compare too. RAF quickly procured capability it required.

For me, the RAF's needs have been similar enough to what was available "on the shelf" and it just hasn't been affordable to spend many billions to get something a little bit better.

The issue isn't procurement - it's been the inability of UK industry to deliver an affordable option to "off the shelf".

Now the situation has changed with the combat air strategy; there isn't a good Typhoon replacement on the shelf, and the decline in UK RDT&E capability over the last 30 years has led to the need to reinvest to position the UK to be able to do this Typhoon replacement.

Offline Harrier

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Re: RAF 100 Conference - Hendon 19-21 Sep. 2018
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2018, 03:53:50 am »
There is a difference between our understanding of what happened, rather than the received view, and a teleological justification of events.

Yes, the 1980s RAF plan would have been challenged by the end of the Cold War. I am fascinated by STOVL, but it is no panacea (although the RN would have been happier). However, the issue is how to make a decent requirement, and I think that is harder than it was - they could, until 1985, turn on a sixpence yet still have a depth of information and understanding of the implications of a change. You can see that break apart in the late 1980s, and long-winded studies emerge. That benefited no one.

The event was supposed to be mainly historic, not policy, so the paper is very light on the latter. I would sum it up though as 'it ain't what you do it's the way that you do it, that's what gets results'.

There are many current claims about UK experience with Typhoon etc. based on the technologies in it. I would say understand the world they emerged from better in order to know if such claims are relevant.
BAe P.1216 Supersonic ASTOVL Aircraft: www.harrier.org.uk/P1216.htm

100 Years  - Camel, Hurricane, Harrier: www.kingstonaviation.org