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Royal Air Force [RAF] discussions and updates

Discussion in 'Air Force & Aviation' started by neil, Oct 14, 2007.

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  1. neil

    neil New Member

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    i couldnt find a general thread on the raf.. is there one? my apologies if there is..

    with most people discussing the world super power usaf so much.. some very interesting developments in the rest of the worlds air forces are often missed.. and so is the place of the raf in all this..

    the major air forces of europe are all so close in strength.. with some just a little better balanced than others.. with italy moving towards a fighter force of some 200 planes by around 2020.. germany to around 285.. and france to around 300.. the raf seems to be hanging in space with the possibillity of landing somewhere in between them as far as fighter numbers are concerned..

    with a current front line of 8 squadrons of tornado gr4.. 3 of tornado f3.. 2 of harrier gr9.. 2 of typhoon.. thats 15 fighter squadrons total..
    the raf is looking at a reduction in fighter strength..

    however even with a reduction in numbers.. the future fighter force will be extremely well balanced and completely multi role capable with f35 and typhoon..

    these aircraft will be available in numbers large enough to do what is asked of the fighter force.. although it will continue to require a high operational tempo.. (although a problem is looming when it comes to providing an air group for the future royal navy carriers)

    the raf should still be able to provide a strike force of a size similar to the one it provided in operation granby in the 1991 gulf war.. with the added bonus of weapons like storm shadow.. paveway IV.. and brimstone.. and of course the capability of the well trained professional raf aircrew..

    with significant ISTAR capability to back up this force.. sentry.. sentinel.. nimrod mra4..nimrod R1..(if they are still around in 2020) plus significant uav capability.. predator.. watchkeeper.. and the secritive BAE UCAV lurking in the background..

    all this translates to huge firepower inteligence and presicion capabilities.. if funded properly and it is not allowed to become a bit of a paper tiger..

    looking at supporting assets the lease deal on 14 airbus tankers might be a bit hard pressed to support all the shiny new fighter planes..

    the transport fleet will recieve a significant boost with arrival of more c17 and A400M.. however industry delays might cause slow replacement of old air frames causing difficulties as pressure on the transport fleet is only likely to increase with the war on terror..

    another very interesting development to watch will be uk military flying training system.. contracted out to industry with all the potensial problems this may bring..

    all in all things are looking good for the raf.. and i know i painted a picture here as seen through the rosy glasses of a wanna be optimist.. but feel free to add or detract from my optimism.. :)

    and hey.. if storm shadow or paveway IV is integrated on nimrod MRA4.. we might even see the return of the RAF big wing bomber!!!
     
  2. neil

    neil New Member

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    o.. and i didn't forget the support helicopter force.. but there is already a thread on active uk helicopter strength.. :)
     
  3. swerve

    swerve Super Moderator

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    The C-130J will be good for many years to come, & the A400M will replace the old C-130s at more than 1:1, & each can carry twice the payload, further & faster. That's a big increase in capability.

    14 A330MRTT isn't enough, agreed. Although it'll increase the average capacity of each tanker considerably, it'll be a big cut in hoses in the air. But I think we'd be better off with more smaller aircraft to supplement the A330s, rather than more A330s. Hose kits for a substantial number of the A400M - at least 10 - would be a a good idea (IIRC the A400M comes ready plumbed), though that runs the risk of cutting into the airlift. Perhaps a few more A400M, to make up for it.

    Or (heretical as this may be), some A310MRTT conversions ASAP, as an interim measure to enable us to retire some of the most clapped-out current tankers, & later, supplement the bigger A330s.
     
  4. kato

    kato Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    Not just plumbed for it: according to the Airbus page on the A400M, you simply slap a pair of pods onto the wing pylons, push two fuel tanks in the cargo bay (for an extra 12 tons pushing em to 58 tons fuel) and hook them up - and done.
     
  5. Truculent

    Truculent New Member

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    A few comments on the above posts:
    Will an A400M be able to tank at a reasonable speed/altitude or will it have to do it whilst descending?
    There are very few available/suitable A310s and they are costly to support.A lot of their avionics is becoming outdated and the A300/310 family do not age well.
    An A330 can hold 112 tonnes of fuel in its tanks-this is twice the fuel capacity of a 310.It can achieve an altitude of 35000 feet and a speed of up to 0.86 with this fuel load.A 310 will be altitude limited and can only do a max of 0.81.
    The 330 is a far superior aircraft and would be my choice.
     
  6. swerve

    swerve Super Moderator

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    Yes, it's a far superior aircraft. But with AAR, the capacity of individual aircraft is far from the only factor. A larger number of aircraft will have a higher cycle rate. No point having the best tanker in the world, if by the time your strike group has all tanked up, it's time for the first one to refuel again. The number of hoses in the air counts.

    There is also delivery time to take into account. I've read reports that some of our tankers are in very poor condition, due to their sheer age, & there are real worries that we'll face a shortfall because of forced retirement before the A330s can be delivered. A310 conversions could be available much sooner - or even A300 conversions (more available secondhand) - the A310 conversion should carry over with little modification.

    Even the most heavily used tanker has a low usage rate compared to what airlines put their aircraft through. A secondhand airliner would have many years life as a tanker. The Chilean air force estimates 20 years for theirs. Spares are plentiful & will remain so for many years. And as for aging badly & dated avionics - well, maybe so, but compared to a VC10?

    Remember, this isn't instead of the A330s, but to tide us over (if that's needed) until they're in service, & then as a supplement.

    The A400M will be able to refuel helicopters, which is a capability we could do with. As for tanking fighters - well, the good old KC-130H can do it, & isn't any faster - (scroll down for picture)
    http://force.navair.navy.mil/c130_projects.htm
     
  7. Truculent

    Truculent New Member

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    I have flown the A300/310 family and the A330.
    The 300/310 line is now closed.I suppose if you compare them to a vc-10 they are modern,but the 310 and 300-600 family were used to prove a lot of the systems for the A320.Once Airbus had proved the technology they lost interest in the 300 family.The ecam is still the same as it was in 1988 and it means that you have a very large QRH to sort any technical problems out.They are also prone to electronic interference.
    When the RAF took delivery of the L1011 they were autoland capable.I know a chap who was a TP at Boscombe Down when they did the trials on it.With all the kit the RAF put in it they did not have the time or money to prove that none of it wouldn't interfere with the autoland system so the capability was lost.The 300 is a largely analogue aircraft with some digital bits grafted on, and again this is a weakness of the design.I am sure that trying to modify it to mil standards would be very difficult.
    I currently operate the 300 and trying to keep it serviceable is very challenging.If the RAF did buy some I would suggest a large purchase of hydraulic fluid as they leak very badly.The wing is optimised for short flights and the aircraft doesn't fly very high or fast.Loading the thing to mtow is a very black art and Airbus themselves had one sit on its tail a number of years ago.
    All I can say about the 330 is that it is the best aircraft I have ever flown.Stunning performance and very easy to operate.
    I suppose if you want to refuel helicopters then a turbo prop is the way to go.I am sure that for political reasons we will end up with some A400s. When the 787 appears in a few years time there should be some 330s around.I am surprised that BAs 767 fleet has not been mentioned as a source of aircraft as they must be coming up for replacement soon and would be a good choice.BA will not get a lot of money for them as they are almost unique because they have RR engines.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2007
  8. swerve

    swerve Super Moderator

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    Truculent,

    thanks for the insights into A300 - though note that the Luftwaffe & Canadian Air Force have A310 in service as tankers, & aren't the systems on A300 & A310 very similar? If not, I'd be grateful if you could let me know.

    As for the A400M - it's not a question of "for political reasons we will end up with some A400s" - we have 25 on order, & everything I hear suggests we need them. To meet transport needs, we have to have something bigger than a C-130, but the C-17 is expensive, & bigger than necessary for many loads. We're currently using C-17s to carry loads which are too big for a C-130, but which we don't really need a C-17 for. The A400M will fit in very nicely, freeing up the C-17s to do what only they can do, & costing far less than the number of C-17s we'd otherwise need.

    The BA 767 idea is potentially good, but I'm not sure about the timescales. They may start retiring rather late for a quick fix for a short-term RAF tanker deficit.
     
  9. Truculent

    Truculent New Member

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    You have to look at why the Germans and Canadians have these aircraft.
    The German 310s belonged to Interflug the East German state carrier.After reunification they belonged to the German government so they probably cost the Luftwaffe nothing.
    The Canadian ones belonged to Wardair ,a Canadian company.Wardair merged with a few other airlines to become Canadian Airlines,which was primarily a Boeing operator.The Airbuses were sidelined and eventually bought by the Canadian government.
    Systems wise the 300/310 are almost identical.The other problem with them is simulators.They are starting to become quite rare and my company has to travel to Germany or the UAE from the UK to use one.The German one is shortly going to be modernised as its owner has decided to modenise its A300 fleet.
    Airbus may still have one but it was in very poor condition last time I flew it.
     
  10. Truculent

    Truculent New Member

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  11. neil

    neil New Member

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    whilst i whole heartedly agree that a purchase/lease of second hand airframes is the way to go to plug the impending capability gap.. the fact is i believe a company did propose exactly that in the run up to the selection of the airtanker private finance initiative bid..

    however the ministry rejected it after concideration so i fear.. its not gonna happen..

    on the bright side.. even with just 14 A330's the raf would still posses the second most capable air to air refueling fleet outside of the u.s. with the french coming in third..

    i suppose all would be allocated to a single squadron.. here's an interesting question..suppose the raf had just 14 A330's today.. nothing else.. would that be enough to sustain current commitments? (one or two operational deployments plus normal training activities.. taking maintainance downtime into account)

    p.s. i believe the airtanker deal calls for only 9 A330's to be available full time to the raf.. with the raf having first use of the other 5.. (does this mean the ministry of defence believes 9 airframes to be sufficient for peace time commitments?
     
  12. kato

    kato Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    Sorry, but you got the wrong A310.

    The three A310 taken over from Interflug still fly in "passenger configuration" - one as passenger jet with original seating configuration (in particular flying troops in/out of deployments), two as VIP jets for the government with internal rebuilds. BW serials are 10+21 (VIP), 10+22 (VIP), 10+23 (passenger).
    The three aircraft - bought new by Interflug in 1989 - were bought by the government for 25% of their original order cost, after Interflug was taken over by Lufthansa.

    The four A310 that were modified into A310MRT were used aircraft (Airbus A310-304, all ex-Lufthansa) bought for the purpose, and were ordered straight along with the reconfiguration (carried out by Lufthansa Technik and Airbus). BW Serials are 10+24, 10+25, 10+26, 10+27. None of them ever flew for Interflug, they were Lufthansa machines.
    These four aircraft were bought to replace retired Boeing 707s, first two in 1996, third in 1998, fourth in 1999. Between 2002 and 2004, these were rebuilt into MRTT.
     
  13. Truculent

    Truculent New Member

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    The Luftwaffe aircraft were all unwanted airliners regardless of which side of the wall they came from,and I am not sure what this sort of aircraft spotting nitpicking has to add to any debate about a purchase by the RAF.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2007
  14. kato

    kato Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    Not really. Lufthansa operated 25 A310, bought between 1982 and 1991. Which were generally sold after around 10-15 years in service, or leased in and out around the international market (as usual), the last of them only sold in 2004 finally. Common business. It was a well-liked aircraft with state-of-the-art technology of the 80s.

    The Luftwaffe was looking for a straight replacement of its elderly Boeing 707-307C fleet bought in 1968. The A310 MRT was available relatively cheap and perfectly fit the bill, size- and capacity-wise.

    Well, you said "consider where the German A310 come from"...
     
  15. Truculent

    Truculent New Member

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  16. Truculent

    Truculent New Member

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  17. neil

    neil New Member

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    yes indeed..

    this announcement could not have come at a worse time with current raf transport assets stretched as they are..

    the old C130K's may just have to serve a while longer yet..

    one wonders what impact these delays will have on countries in the future selecting as yet unbuilt aircraft as replacements for old planes that HAVE to be retired..

    or perhaps defence planners should stop this practice of starting replacement programmes too late, since in the todays high tech world delays in programmes are inevitable..
     
  18. neil

    neil New Member

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    Just read an interesting article in the Ocober edition of Air Forces Monthly.

    Some very negative comments are made by serving RAF pilots. Apparantly there is some unhappiness amongst the ranks, with members feeling the top brass is letting them down when it comes to speaking out against cuts to force structure etc. with Army and Navy chiefs being much more vocal in their opposition to cuts.

    Further more, according to the article, there is also a negative feeling about the practice of removing squadron markings from individual Tornado GR4 aircraft as they are increasingly operated in a 'pool' of aircraft resembling two super squadrons at the two main operating bases(RAF Marham and RAF Lossiemouth) within the expiditionary air wing concept.

    I suppose these are the kind of problems being experienced world wide by air forces with tight purse strings.

    However to take a positive from all this.. I believe the fact that in spite of these issues, the RAF continues to perform exeptionally well is a tribute to the professionalism of its members.

    According to another article in the same issue, it is rumoured that no 78 Squadron, when taking the new Merlin HC3A to Afghanistan next year, will be operating in the special forces support role since the 7 Squadron Chinooks currently performing this role, are so stretched that civilian Mi - 8 's have to help.
     
  19. Truculent

    Truculent New Member

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  20. Truculent

    Truculent New Member

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