Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A U-Turn on a U-Turn: The Full Circuitous Cycle of MOD waste

The Government has U-Turned on a previous U-Turn decision to pull out of buying the STOVL Version of the F-35 JSF, with millions of taxpayer's pounds being thrown away for no gain.

They had previously decided to drop the STOVL version and go for the Cat- & Trap equipped version, alongside modifying the new QE Class carriers to carry Catapults and arrestor gear.

I've blogged about the operational difficulties of having two dissimilar-equipped carriers, but this decision is wrong, mainly because it rules out the maximum interoperability with other navies. Sure, the F-35 can work off our carriers and any Navy equipped with VSTOL or STOVL aircraft can also work off our carriers, but more capable catapult aircraft such as the F-18 will be unable to.

Being locked into the VSTOL/STOVL operational concept means that all our naval air assets have to comform to the platform type. Including, as I've said before the Airborne Early Warning assets on board the carriers. Cue that massively over-complex and expensive to buy and maintain V-22 based AEW platform (love the program name for the radar/sensor package of TOSS) currently being mooted. We could go for a Merlin-based AEW platform, but the flaws with the airframes of boih these aircraft are well known.

The other fly in the AEW ointment is the limited operational envelope of rotary aircraft, especially the lack of cabin pressurisation and limited ceiling. An AEW asset really needs altitude to see further over the horizon and see threats further away.

It seems that we're taking the worst of all options and hobbling our future Naval Air assets for decades to come, when cheaper and more capable platforms could be had instead.

All that needed to happen was for our government to have a bit of gumption, some foresight and the tenacity to stick with a plan that would have delivered the possibility to operate world-class naval air assets.

Instead I assume the RAF, feeling "well jel" got the rug pulled from under them.

So much for our defence departments working together for the security of the nation. Instead we get departmental back-biting and infighting, attempting to preserve old rivalries.

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