• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

Are VSTOL fighterbombers a solution looking for a problem?

uk 75

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
1,352
Reaction score
46
Del and Sferrin can you start a new thread to discuss battleships iowas etc. This is a discussion about the usefulness or otherwise of VSTOL aircraft.
In practice this means the surviving Harriers and the new F35.
If you ignore my polite ask I will refer to teacher!
 

Foo Fighter

I came, I saw, I drank some tea (and had a bun).
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Messages
831
Reaction score
62
What use would a 20 knot monitor be in a modern theatre of op's?
 

Jemiba

CLEARANCE: Above Top Secret
Staff member
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 11, 2006
Messages
8,001
Reaction score
164
I would agree with uk75, but I think, the 20-knot monitor with 16inch guns would be an interesting topic for Naval projects.
 

uk 75

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
1,352
Reaction score
46
True to my words I have started a thread about battlewagons, can you migrate your excellent discussion there and leave this for the weird and whacky world of VSTOL
 

Hood

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2006
Messages
1,261
Reaction score
137
My view has always been that fixed-wing V/STOL generally and V/STOL fighters especially have been a technological dead end.

It was very much a 1950s/60s techno fad, even more so than VG wings, it was seen to be futuristic and therefore the future. We could ride into cities in them, drop supplies to troops from them, operate fighters from a farmer's barn. But the practicalities have proved harder to attain. Its hard to think of another area of aviation technology that has spawned so many design concepts (certainly hundreds, perhaps a thousand in total?) yet delivered so little; fewer than a couple of dozen research aircraft and from the fighter stable just four operational designs. Arguably the engineers were running before they could walk, for example P.1127 was barely off the drawing board before Hawker was trying to make the supersonic P.1154.
Nuclear survivability was a key driver in the 1960s but it wasn't really until the naval uses were picked up that it really made sense. Almost all successful V/STOL purchases have been made with sea-based operations in mind.

Harrier was so successful because it was a simple basic concept that worked. The USMC were also persuaded to buy it but notably the Luftwaffe who were very keen on V/STOL decided in the end that such operations were not for them and they did not continue their interest past the tripartie Kestrel trials. Other exports were few and far between, a few major navies (India, Italy, Spain) kept a few sales trickling in but it never was a game changer that wowed the Air Marshals enough to part cash for them. Harrier gave the RAF the ability to operate from dispersed locations. But the costs and logistics of doing that were not so simple in practice. Each site still needed a 400-800m long take off strip, it had to be no more than 5 miles from the logistics park and 30 miles from the railhead. It was estimated in 1972 studies that operations with 36 dispersed Harriers could last 6 days, with 70% serviceability they could have sustained 4 sorties per day, totalling 605 sorties. Only 4 spare engines would be held, any losses or major repairs would require cannibalisation or replacements from the UK. The main enemy threat was estimated to come from guerrillas/saboteur groups.

The technical success of Harrier arguably blinded the RAF, they wanted a supersonic all-singing and dancing Harrier; AST.396 and all that followed with the P.1216 etc. The finance wasn't there no the political willpower in the UK and USA to make it happen and trying to get supersonic with thrust vectoring was technically challenging with too many drawbacks. The Soviets managed the supersonic Yak-41 with lift engines but it still wasn't an optimal platform. This desire carried over into the JSF studies, the RAF remained fixated on replacing like for like and of course the USMC did not want to lose its seagoing fixed-wing capability. Should they have followed this path? Were Jaguar and Harrier operations in the early 1990s really that dissimilar that a conventional fighter could not have replaced both? I think probably not, they may be forgiven some naivety when JSF and its predecessor programmes in the early 90s were underway but JSF soon mushroomed into a very complicated piece of kit. The fact Marham has required a lot of rebuilding and capital investment to house the F-35B fleet clearly signals that this is not an aircraft that can be parked up in a barn and run off a dirt track. Its unlikely the RAF would ever risk a multi-million £ aircraft in this way today.

The F-35B is a technical success, the lift-fan solution is an elegant solution as much as the Pegasus was at finally achieving a supersonic capable V/STOL fighter without many of the previous drawbacks of runway erosion etc. A few members here have mentioned that the F-35B is being brought in some numbers, this is true but I think that is more because of the emergence of a new class of large flattop assault landing ships that have emerged for regional power projection that are relatively affordable and the F-35 is the only aircraft that offers them an cheaper ticket into 'carrier' aviation (the plane is expensive but they don't have to build a CATOBAR carrier). The RAF is probably the only F-35B user that will be using them extensively from land bases. During the Harrier era light carriers were rare and fewer navies could afford them. So the F-35B is fulfilling a niche but its hard to say how long that will last, rising powers like India are moving away from V/STOL into traditional carriers and its not hard to imagine that other aspiring industrial nations following suit within the next 20 years.
 

sferrin

CLEARANCE: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2011
Messages
11,918
Reaction score
269
My view has always been that fixed-wing V/STOL generally and V/STOL fighters especially have been a technological dead end.
What does that even mean?

The F-35B is a technical success,
It what regard is it NOT a success? Price? What can do the same job, as effectively, for less money?

A few members here have mentioned that the F-35B is being brought in some numbers, this is true but I think that is more because of the emergence of a new class of large flattop assault landing ships that have emerged for regional power projection that are relatively affordable and the F-35 is the only aircraft that offers them an cheaper ticket into 'carrier' aviation
"New class"? The USN has had them (amphibious assault ships with STOVL aircraft) since the Iwo Jima class started using them in the 70s. Since then you've had the Tarawa, Wasp, and now America classes. Just in the US. As for "some numbers" the USMC alone plans on buying more F-35Bs than the number of either Rafales or Gripens that have been produced. It will be bought by the USMC, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Australia, the UK, and probably others.
 

Fluff

CLEARANCE: Restricted
Joined
Sep 9, 2019
Messages
17
Reaction score
2
My view has always been that fixed-wing V/STOL generally and V/STOL fighters especially have been a technological dead end.

It was very much a 1950s/60s techno fad, even more so than VG wings, it was seen to be futuristic and therefore the future. We could ride into cities in them, drop supplies to troops from them, operate fighters from a farmer's barn. But the practicalities have proved harder to attain. Its hard to think of another area of aviation technology that has spawned so many design concepts (certainly hundreds, perhaps a thousand in total?) yet delivered so little; fewer than a couple of dozen research aircraft and from the fighter stable just four operational designs. Arguably the engineers were running before they could walk, for example P.1127 was barely off the drawing board before Hawker was trying to make the supersonic P.1154.
Nuclear survivability was a key driver in the 1960s but it wasn't really until the naval uses were picked up that it really made sense. Almost all successful V/STOL purchases have been made with sea-based operations in mind.

Harrier was so successful because it was a simple basic concept that worked. The USMC were also persuaded to buy it but notably the Luftwaffe who were very keen on V/STOL decided in the end that such operations were not for them and they did not continue their interest past the tripartie Kestrel trials. Other exports were few and far between, a few major navies (India, Italy, Spain) kept a few sales trickling in but it never was a game changer that wowed the Air Marshals enough to part cash for them. Harrier gave the RAF the ability to operate from dispersed locations. But the costs and logistics of doing that were not so simple in practice. Each site still needed a 400-800m long take off strip, it had to be no more than 5 miles from the logistics park and 30 miles from the railhead. It was estimated in 1972 studies that operations with 36 dispersed Harriers could last 6 days, with 70% serviceability they could have sustained 4 sorties per day, totalling 605 sorties. Only 4 spare engines would be held, any losses or major repairs would require cannibalisation or replacements from the UK. The main enemy threat was estimated to come from guerrillas/saboteur groups.

The technical success of Harrier arguably blinded the RAF, they wanted a supersonic all-singing and dancing Harrier; AST.396 and all that followed with the P.1216 etc. The finance wasn't there no the political willpower in the UK and USA to make it happen and trying to get supersonic with thrust vectoring was technically challenging with too many drawbacks. The Soviets managed the supersonic Yak-41 with lift engines but it still wasn't an optimal platform. This desire carried over into the JSF studies, the RAF remained fixated on replacing like for like and of course the USMC did not want to lose its seagoing fixed-wing capability. Should they have followed this path? Were Jaguar and Harrier operations in the early 1990s really that dissimilar that a conventional fighter could not have replaced both? I think probably not, they may be forgiven some naivety when JSF and its predecessor programmes in the early 90s were underway but JSF soon mushroomed into a very complicated piece of kit. The fact Marham has required a lot of rebuilding and capital investment to house the F-35B fleet clearly signals that this is not an aircraft that can be parked up in a barn and run off a dirt track. Its unlikely the RAF would ever risk a multi-million £ aircraft in this way today.

The F-35B is a technical success, the lift-fan solution is an elegant solution as much as the Pegasus was at finally achieving a supersonic capable V/STOL fighter without many of the previous drawbacks of runway erosion etc. A few members here have mentioned that the F-35B is being brought in some numbers, this is true but I think that is more because of the emergence of a new class of large flattop assault landing ships that have emerged for regional power projection that are relatively affordable and the F-35 is the only aircraft that offers them an cheaper ticket into 'carrier' aviation (the plane is expensive but they don't have to build a CATOBAR carrier). The RAF is probably the only F-35B user that will be using them extensively from land bases. During the Harrier era light carriers were rare and fewer navies could afford them. So the F-35B is fulfilling a niche but its hard to say how long that will last, rising powers like India are moving away from V/STOL into traditional carriers and its not hard to imagine that other aspiring industrial nations following suit within the next 20 years.
A good summary.

I would suggest the UK F35 decision was more political, than a choice of technology. surely the Air Marshal is hoping to persuade Boris(Or Jeremy:eek:) to take the last 50 as CTOL. Marham has been a strike base for 60+ years, wittering I think is still there, so if the RAF intent was to replace Harrier then they could have gone there.
 

kaiserd

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2013
Messages
667
Reaction score
47
My view has always been that fixed-wing V/STOL generally and V/STOL fighters especially have been a technological dead end.

It was very much a 1950s/60s techno fad, even more so than VG wings, it was seen to be futuristic and therefore the future. We could ride into cities in them, drop supplies to troops from them, operate fighters from a farmer's barn. But the practicalities have proved harder to attain. Its hard to think of another area of aviation technology that has spawned so many design concepts (certainly hundreds, perhaps a thousand in total?) yet delivered so little; fewer than a couple of dozen research aircraft and from the fighter stable just four operational designs. Arguably the engineers were running before they could walk, for example P.1127 was barely off the drawing board before Hawker was trying to make the supersonic P.1154.
Nuclear survivability was a key driver in the 1960s but it wasn't really until the naval uses were picked up that it really made sense. Almost all successful V/STOL purchases have been made with sea-based operations in mind.

Harrier was so successful because it was a simple basic concept that worked. The USMC were also persuaded to buy it but notably the Luftwaffe who were very keen on V/STOL decided in the end that such operations were not for them and they did not continue their interest past the tripartie Kestrel trials. Other exports were few and far between, a few major navies (India, Italy, Spain) kept a few sales trickling in but it never was a game changer that wowed the Air Marshals enough to part cash for them. Harrier gave the RAF the ability to operate from dispersed locations. But the costs and logistics of doing that were not so simple in practice. Each site still needed a 400-800m long take off strip, it had to be no more than 5 miles from the logistics park and 30 miles from the railhead. It was estimated in 1972 studies that operations with 36 dispersed Harriers could last 6 days, with 70% serviceability they could have sustained 4 sorties per day, totalling 605 sorties. Only 4 spare engines would be held, any losses or major repairs would require cannibalisation or replacements from the UK. The main enemy threat was estimated to come from guerrillas/saboteur groups.

The technical success of Harrier arguably blinded the RAF, they wanted a supersonic all-singing and dancing Harrier; AST.396 and all that followed with the P.1216 etc. The finance wasn't there no the political willpower in the UK and USA to make it happen and trying to get supersonic with thrust vectoring was technically challenging with too many drawbacks. The Soviets managed the supersonic Yak-41 with lift engines but it still wasn't an optimal platform. This desire carried over into the JSF studies, the RAF remained fixated on replacing like for like and of course the USMC did not want to lose its seagoing fixed-wing capability. Should they have followed this path? Were Jaguar and Harrier operations in the early 1990s really that dissimilar that a conventional fighter could not have replaced both? I think probably not, they may be forgiven some naivety when JSF and its predecessor programmes in the early 90s were underway but JSF soon mushroomed into a very complicated piece of kit. The fact Marham has required a lot of rebuilding and capital investment to house the F-35B fleet clearly signals that this is not an aircraft that can be parked up in a barn and run off a dirt track. Its unlikely the RAF would ever risk a multi-million £ aircraft in this way today.

The F-35B is a technical success, the lift-fan solution is an elegant solution as much as the Pegasus was at finally achieving a supersonic capable V/STOL fighter without many of the previous drawbacks of runway erosion etc. A few members here have mentioned that the F-35B is being brought in some numbers, this is true but I think that is more because of the emergence of a new class of large flattop assault landing ships that have emerged for regional power projection that are relatively affordable and the F-35 is the only aircraft that offers them an cheaper ticket into 'carrier' aviation (the plane is expensive but they don't have to build a CATOBAR carrier). The RAF is probably the only F-35B user that will be using them extensively from land bases. During the Harrier era light carriers were rare and fewer navies could afford them. So the F-35B is fulfilling a niche but its hard to say how long that will last, rising powers like India are moving away from V/STOL into traditional carriers and its not hard to imagine that other aspiring industrial nations following suit within the next 20 years.
Well reasoned analysis; I’d just flag a few points;
- In practice CTOL aircraft (Tornado & Typhoon) more or less replaced the RAF Harriers (though the intention had been for F-35Bs to do so). The F-35B buy is now far more tied to and required for the carriers (if end up getting anywhere near the originally intended F-35 buy the RAF likely to take F-35As as well as F-35Bs).
- Any substitute or future naval combat aircraft operated by current or potential F-35B customers are likely to be more or less just as complicated as the F-35B even if CTOL. Even potential naval Gripen would hardly be small cheap uncomplicated pieces of kit.
- So far little to no sign of CTOL light fleet carriers or equivalents making a comeback. I would think a real need for mature EM catapults for such concepts to be viable. US are still working out the kinks for their super carriers; I think that Russian, Chinese & Indian experience with CTOL ski-jump carriers probably mean they are unlikely to be copied.
 

Hood

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2006
Messages
1,261
Reaction score
137
My view has always been that fixed-wing V/STOL generally and V/STOL fighters especially have been a technological dead end.
What does that even mean?
The majority of fixed wing V/STOL designs never left the drawing board. VTOL airliners were an uneconomic non-starter, none even made the prototype stage. About as commercially effective as the supersonic airliner.
Fighters have fared little better; tailsitters like the X-13, XFY-1, XFV-1 and C.450 Coleptere got as far as proof of concept and only proved that tailsitters were not ideal. The VJ-101, VAK-191 and Mirage Balzac V again were prototypes only and soon abandoned, proving that multiple lift jets were not ideal, the SC.1 was a pure research aircraft. The XFV-12 was a laughable failure. The Soviets paralleled these efforts with the MiG-21PD, MiG-23PD and T-58VD-1, again all were experimental testbeds at best. So was the Yak-36 which did lead to the Yak-38, again naval influences played a role here giving Yakovlev's work purpose. If the Soviets had built their planned supercarrier fleet the Yak-38 would probably have also remained on the drawing board.
The combined design teams and air forces of seven countries (USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, USSR) in over 50 years managed around 16 hardware programmes and only three fully operational V/STOL fighters; Harrier, Yak-38 and F-35B. Air forces actually operating Harrier can be counted on one hand, same with F-35B (so far). The production run for the Harrier family is still minuscule when compared against other fighters of the period, the Harrier was a niche, mainly naval, product and the F-35B succeeds that role.

The F-35B is a technical success,
It what regard is it NOT a success? Price? What can do the same job, as effectively, for less money?
I did not say it was unsuccessful. I am viewing it from a purely technical perspective, that making it a workable, practical, reliable V/STOL platform has been possible due to the careful design and the lift-fan layout is simple but workable. Just like the Pegasus was. It makes chucking out four jets of hot air out of a vectored-thrust PCB setup or a RALS type augmenter look rather crude by comparison.

A few members here have mentioned that the F-35B is being brought in some numbers, this is true but I think that is more because of the emergence of a new class of large flattop assault landing ships that have emerged for regional power projection that are relatively affordable and the F-35 is the only aircraft that offers them an cheaper ticket into 'carrier' aviation
"New class"? The USN has had them (amphibious assault ships with STOVL aircraft) since the Iwo Jima class started using them in the 70s. Since then you've had the Tarawa, Wasp, and now America classes. Just in the US. As for "some numbers" the USMC alone plans on buying more F-35Bs than the number of either Rafales or Gripens that have been produced. It will be bought by the USMC, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Australia, the UK, and probably others.
I was not referring to the USN amphibious fleets. I was talking about the Navantia family (Canberra, Juan Carlos I, Anadolu classes), Cavour, Dokdo, Mistral classes and hybrid destroyers like the Izumo and Hyuga classes. Ships that 20 years ago were only found in the USN are now being operated (or will be) by nations like Egypt, Turkey and South Korea. The only minor navy with grandiose expansion plans in the Harrier period that came to anything was Thailand's Chakri Naruebet. Today the F-35B has a larger potential market base as more nations seek these versatile mini carriers, especially nations that might be buying F-35s already.

Well reasoned analysis; I’d just flag a few points;
- In practice CTOL aircraft (Tornado & Typhoon) more or less replaced the RAF Harriers (though the intention had been for F-35Bs to do so). The F-35B buy is now far more tied to and required for the carriers (if end up getting anywhere near the originally intended F-35 buy the RAF likely to take F-35As as well as F-35Bs).
- Any substitute or future naval combat aircraft operated by current or potential F-35B customers are likely to be more or less just as complicated as the F-35B even if CTOL. Even potential naval Gripen would hardly be small cheap uncomplicated pieces of kit.
- So far little to no sign of CTOL light fleet carriers or equivalents making a comeback. I would think a real need for mature EM catapults for such concepts to be viable. US are still working out the kinks for their super carriers; I think that Russian, Chinese & Indian experience with CTOL ski-jump carriers probably mean they are unlikely to be copied.
True, the Typhoon is the true successor to Harrier via AST.396 and AST.403 and all those studies. And yes, the need to replace Sea Harrier and the current Invincibles I think was the driving factor. At that time it was uncertain what would replace the Invincibles, whether it would be another small carrier or something larger.

Yes, if the Indians do complete Vishal in the 2030s then that will be the first of the next generation of EMALS equipped carriers outside of the major powers. By the time it comes to replace the F-35B in the 2060s-80s, the situation may well of changed somewhat.
 

sferrin

CLEARANCE: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2011
Messages
11,918
Reaction score
269
My view has always been that fixed-wing V/STOL generally and V/STOL fighters especially have been a technological dead end.
What does that even mean?
The majority of fixed wing V/STOL designs never left the drawing board.
The same could be said of reusable launch vehicles, electric cars, electric aircraft, and many, many other things as well. Are they also, "technological dead ends"?
 

JFC Fuller

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Joined
Apr 22, 2012
Messages
3,174
Reaction score
57
I was not referring to the USN amphibious fleets. I was talking about the Navantia family (Canberra, Juan Carlos I, Anadolu classes), Cavour, Dokdo, Mistral classes and hybrid destroyers like the Izumo and Hyuga classes. Ships that 20 years ago were only found in the USN are now being operated (or will be) by nations like Egypt, Turkey and South Korea. The only minor navy with grandiose expansion plans in the Harrier period that came to anything was Thailand's Chakri Naruebet. Today the F-35B has a larger potential market base as more nations seek these versatile mini carriers, especially nations that might be buying F-35s already.
I would suggest that the story is more complicated than that. For a start both Spain and Italy operated Harrier carriers before Cavour or Juan Carlos came along (Giuseppe Garibaldi and Príncipe de Asturias respectively). The uniqueness of the USN/USMC approach was the degree to which Harriers were baked into amphibious, rather than sea control or other CV, operations (the reasoning should be obvious). It is worth noting that in the 1970s the US did look at STOVL equipped Sea Control ships (from which Príncipe de Asturias is actually derived).

The Invincibles, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Príncipe de Asturias, the Kievs and soon the Izumos were designed to utilise their V/STOL aircraft primarily for extended air defence capability to surface task groups and a degree of light attack capability, not unlike the ASW carriers of the 1950s/60s and thus closer to that Sea Control ship concept (though the Kiev's, with their massive anti-surface armament are a different animal again). In Europe, with the end of the Cold War and the appearance of naval hegemony that role all but vanished. In the UK the result was the extensive changes made to the Invincibles to turn them into V/STOL light attack carriers then the development QE class. The QE currently being unique in that it is a class designed for high intensity STOVL operations (hence its size) - originally in a fleet that had a separate LPH platform. By contrast Juan Carlos I and the soon to be completed Trieste are closer to the US LHD concept.

The Japanese and South Korean situation is really closer to the Cold War European one given the scale and pace of the Chinese naval build-up, hence why the Izumo's seem closer to Invincibles than anything recent out of a European yard. The new South Korean carrier has only just been announced, they are currently calling it LPH-II, it will be interesting to see how close they end up to being an LPH.

With all that said, the only truly viable/useful STOVL aircraft have still only come from the US/UK, I can't imagine any country (outside the Soviet Union) having built Sea Control type ships had the Harrier and F-35B not been developed. LPH's are different, they are generally sized to operate X number of helicopters at Y sortie rate to lift Z amount of men and material, that naturally drives a large ship - large deck for multiple helicopter spots, large hangar to store and service helicopters and large spaces for the men and material to be transferred ashore. Addition of a well-deck, hospital facilities, etc just adds to the size.
 
Last edited:

Forest Green

CLEARANCE: Secret
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
313
Reaction score
95
A good summary.

I would suggest the UK F35 decision was more political, than a choice of technology. surely the Air Marshal is hoping to persuade Boris(Or Jeremy:eek:) to take the last 50 as CTOL. Marham has been a strike base for 60+ years, wittering I think is still there, so if the RAF intent was to replace Harrier then they could have gone there.
Well that's a different matter. The UK is financially restricted to choosing one type and there's a strong argument that the B can't carry a few important weapons internally and has shorter range than the C. That doesn't change the fact that VSTOL has the advantages of higher sortie rates, being easier to operate in bad weather and being deployable on cheaper carriers that have lower sortie costs. The story behind the UK choosing the B is that they asked for a flexible carrier design that could be easily converted from VSTOL to CATOBAR, but what they got was a VSTOL carrier design that cost as much as a new carrier to convert from one to the other and hence the C was no longer an option. Had full details about the internal carry and range of the B and C been available 20 years ago, then things would probably be different.
 

Fluff

CLEARANCE: Restricted
Joined
Sep 9, 2019
Messages
17
Reaction score
2
I was purely looking from an RAF view. I would think they took the B as it had probably got to a nothing or a B phase, I imagine the politicians wouldn't/couldn't accept/understand the need for 2 versions. I think the RAF would love 2x sqn of silver bullets, in a real shooting war. Lets come back to the thread in 10 years, RAF will be receiving them, based at Marham…...
 

Fluff

CLEARANCE: Restricted
Joined
Sep 9, 2019
Messages
17
Reaction score
2
I'm also a big believer in decisions being made, then the reports being written to justify, i.e. how could it possibly cost the same as a carrier, to convert them to catapult, sure there are some complex bits involved, but engineering costs roughly the same to make, design/dev takes a lot, but cutting welding etc, a few million at most. These systems exist, need to be modified to the CV, but not rocket science.
 

Forest Green

CLEARANCE: Secret
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
313
Reaction score
95
I was purely looking from an RAF view. I would think they took the B as it had probably got to a nothing or a B phase, I imagine the politicians wouldn't/couldn't accept/understand the need for 2 versions. I think the RAF would love 2x sqn of silver bullets, in a real shooting war. Lets come back to the thread in 10 years, RAF will be receiving them, based at Marham…...
Well the carriers dictated the aircraft for the navy but the UK may still get the A version for land-based operations.
 

Forest Green

CLEARANCE: Secret
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
313
Reaction score
95
I'm also a big believer in decisions being made, then the reports being written to justify, i.e. how could it possibly cost the same as a carrier, to convert them to catapult, sure there are some complex bits involved, but engineering costs roughly the same to make, design/dev takes a lot, but cutting welding etc, a few million at most. These systems exist, need to be modified to the CV, but not rocket science.
That was the cost given by BAE. I think the problem was that the design work for VSTOL had already been done and to undo it requires two lots of design work, unbuild and rebuild if you will. But if there was more than one vendor in the UK, I think there would be a strong case for suing them for not making a 'flexible' carrier design. A conversion that costs the same as a new build doesn't strike me as 'flexible'.

Having said that, the design should have been CATOBAR from the off, because you can still operate VSTOL aircraft from CATOBAR carriers but not vice-versa. Plus there are other support aircraft, like AEW, refuelling and ASW that require CATOBAR. It's another case of small cost savings equalling a big loss in capability. Plus, I can think of at least one country that might have been interested in buying one if it had been CATOBAR.
 

Fluff

CLEARANCE: Restricted
Joined
Sep 9, 2019
Messages
17
Reaction score
2
We do that at work, can we have one of these, today, and we have never made one- sure no prob, £4BN in advance.

Usually the customer finds a different solution. BAE didn't by that point, want to make any changes.
 

Forest Green

CLEARANCE: Secret
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
313
Reaction score
95
We do that at work, can we have one of these, today, and we have never made one- sure no prob, £4BN in advance.

Usually the customer finds a different solution. BAE didn't by that point, want to make any changes.
Quite possibly, they had to factor in risk and they were probably influenced by previous cock-ups to come up with a really high figure.
 

Desertfox

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
99
Reaction score
16
True VTOL, as an operational concept, never got off the ground (pun intended). The loss of payload capability has been just too severe.

For land-based aircraft using V/STOL to improve survivability, I would argue that while doable it is not a cost-effective solution. The Saab Gripen was designed to operate away from military airfield, and probably gets you at least 80% of the dispersal capability a Harrier or F-35B brings. It however does this at a much lower purchasing and operational cost and brings much more capability to the table than a Harrier. Without a technological breakthrough, I'd say V/STOL for ground based aircraft is as dead as VG wings, the cost is too great.

Now for sea-based aircraft V/STOL does give you something in the form of cheaper ship costs since an "assault" carrier is cheaper than a conventional one. However, I would like to see a study done comparing the overall program costs of say F-35B + assault carrier vs A-4 replacement + conventional small carrier. We have seen countries successfully operate small carriers with small conventional aircraft for a long time. Is the F-35B + assault carrier combination really the most cost effective one or is it the current one simply because the F-35B already exists and its development costs have already been spoken for?
 

kaiserd

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2013
Messages
667
Reaction score
47
True VTOL, as an operational concept, never got off the ground (pun intended). The loss of payload capability has been just too severe.

For land-based aircraft using V/STOL to improve survivability, I would argue that while doable it is not a cost-effective solution. The Saab Gripen was designed to operate away from military airfield, and probably gets you at least 80% of the dispersal capability a Harrier or F-35B brings. It however does this at a much lower purchasing and operational cost and brings much more capability to the table than a Harrier. Without a technological breakthrough, I'd say V/STOL for ground based aircraft is as dead as VG wings, the cost is too great.

Now for sea-based aircraft V/STOL does give you something in the form of cheaper ship costs since an "assault" carrier is cheaper than a conventional one. However, I would like to see a study done comparing the overall program costs of say F-35B + assault carrier vs A-4 replacement + conventional small carrier. We have seen countries successfully operate small carriers with small conventional aircraft for a long time. Is the F-35B + assault carrier combination really the most cost effective one or is it the current one simply because the F-35B already exists and its development costs have already been spoken for?
It’s cheaper and better because a CTOL design operating off a ship of the same displacement would (1) likely have real issues with payload and break no-back capacity and (2) likely greatly inferior and less survivable than a F-35.
I’m not sure there is a full appreciation of how limited “light” carriers (or the aircraft operating from them are) are by size and weight constraints in a CTOL context; there is no free lunch in the trade-off between size and capacity of ship versus the capacity of the aircraft they can operate.
So, for example, a ship of comparable size and displacement of these newer larger assault carriers may be able to operate a Sea Gripen or Naval LCA or something equivalent.
But in doing so this aircraft is likely going to be limited in payload in take off and landing limiting its range and effectiveness (and aircraft like the Hawkeye likely to be too large and heavy to operate from a CTOL carrier of this size anyway). And the demands of CTOL operations are going to significantly limit operation of helicopters from the deck, and will bring significant training burdens etc.
And all that for a likely inferior capacity than the F-35B.
This exact trade-off was looked at by the UK when they temporarily switched from F-35B to F-35C then back again. Operating from land airbases the F-35C was potentially the better Tornado replacement (bigger body bomb bays, longer range) but would rarely if ever be available to fulfill this role given the need for aircrew to maintain carrier currency; this is far less of an issue for the F-35B. And the F-35C would have issues operating from a much smaller deck than it was designed to do, particularly with the risks, limits and likely delays of the required new EM catapult system.
So in essence the F-35B is now likely better and certainly less risky than any theoretical CTOL rival that could effectively operate from ships of the size we have discussed.
And lump in the comparable carrier designs the costs and risks of the CTOL ships would also be substantially more, probably more than compensating for any theoretical cost saving of another airframe rather than the F-35B.
 

steelpillow

So many projects, so little time...
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2014
Messages
541
Reaction score
46
Website
www.steelpillow.com
Just my two penn'orth on several different points.

Considering "VTOL aircraft" as an operational capability, the armoured attack helicopter developed roughly alongside the Harrier and ate into some of the role originally envisaged for it. If you pose the question, "would I want a much faster but less heavily armoured cousin to my attack helicopter?" I think most field commanders would say "Yes". But if you ask, "Can you afford to pay for it? Would it be cost-effective?" the answer is less clear.

The Harrier was difficult to fly and US pilots especially gained special skills in crashing them. But modern digitally-assisted flight systems make the F-35 a pilot's dream. That is no longer an issue.

The F-35 is also far more than a drop-in replacement (pun intended with malice) for the Harrier, as it is capable of command-and-control type roles with a mixed force of piloted and drone aircraft at its disposal. In its way it is the first plane ever to embody JW Dunne's dream of a warplane that can fly itself while the pilot is preoccupied with other things. I suspect that operationally it will be too valuable to risk near the front line and the kind of forward deployments of the Harriers in Germany will be out of the question. inflight refuelling will prove essential and the VTOL capability will be used only for carrier deck landings.
I think that ultimately the VTOL F-35 is a mistake: VTOL agility in a fast jet primarily benefits frontline types where endurance is limited and attrition can be expected, while the computer-rich C&C role needs long loiter times and a safe haven to retreat to. The F-35 is an attempt to give the C&C craft the agility and sting of a fighter in order to defend itself, thus saving the need for protective cover. But to me the cost and compromises of all-in-one outweigh the theoretical savings.
 
Last edited:

Pioneer

Seek out and close with the enemy
Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
1,665
Reaction score
33
Interesting uk 75

If I may, I see and have always viewed that the Harrier was designed principly for an expected/imminent full-on European War against a peer adversary - NATO vs Warsaw Pact.
The fact that neither Britian, or for that matter the US have not fought a peer enemy since the conception of the Harrier entered service has in many cases negated it's full spectrum of V/STOL caractoristics/capabilities.
On top of this, with the exception of the Falklands War, air superiority was never challanged, so British/US airbases were never seriously under threat.
Most enemies were inherently unable to conduct the most tokenistic offensive ground operations.
I personally view the steering away from dispersed runway operations and V/STOL by the US as complicit, if not over confidence.
Even when one looks at modern Western combat aircraft designs, with the exception of the Saab Gripen, not many seem to be designed with dispersed operations in mind.

That's just my view

Regards
Pioneer
 
Last edited:
Top