Government slashes final Eurofighter order
No more love for outdated planes
The UK is buying only 40 out of an expected 88 aircraft as part of the third tranche of orders for the controversial Eurofighter Typhoon.
The 40 planes will cost £3bn - 24 are replacing RAF planes which have already been sold and sent to Saudi Arabia, and 16 are actual extra planes. The first aircraft should go into active service in 2013.
Quentin Davies, procurement minister at the Ministry of Defence, told the FT that the government was quite within its rights to drop its order for a final 48 planes. The 16 planes destined for the RAF will carry eight air-to-air missiles and six air-to-ground missiles.
It was only in May that Gordon Brown promised to go ahead with the third tranche order. Only he didn't really. He put out a statement that "confirmed that the UK will move ahead... with the final stages of procuring a third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft".
A footnote to the press statement said: "It is not a contract signature: the number and cost of the aircraft are still to be determined."
At that time we were told any cancellation would cost the UK £2bn in penalty payments. We can't see any reason why those penalties won't apply again now. BAE isn't speaking to the press now but watch this space.
The Eurofighter project began in the mid-80s and originally aimed to provide an aircraft to dogfight Soviet jets over mainland Europe. Hit by a series of delays it was then renamed Eurofighter 2000 in a vain attempt to disguise the fact it was meant to deliver planes by 1995.
The RAF got its first squadron ready for air defence in 2007, by which time the original design brief of the aircraft had passed into history.
Maybe the MoD could be persuaded to divert some of the RAF's leftover funds to provide practical support to British troops in Afghanistan. ®
Lewis Page is away but will likely return to this subject next week.
Why do you say the Harrier is overrated? It could be better, yes, but as a means to get steel on target in the minimum amount of time, it's quicker than a helicopter and almost as capable. There are plenty of stories coming out of Afghanistan from UK forces and US Marines who would rather get help from the Harriers than the other, conventional, aircraft like the Hornet.
Tornados have only just gone out there (well, the last couple of months) and we don't have enough trained aircrew and "spare" airframes for Typhoon to be deployed there yet - and with the latest cut in the Tranche 3 buy, the war might be over before we do.
Tornado can carry what, twelve or so Brimstone missiles, five LGBs or a mix of these two, but that isn't why Typhoon will need to replace them eventually. Heck, even Harriers can carry half-a-dozen LGBs or a shed-load of Brimstone (plus all the 'dumb' bombs) and put 'em where they need to go - it's only because the MoD (or, more accurately, the politicians holding the purse strings) don't want to pay the money needed to keep the Harriers flying that we haven't still got them out here.
And the figures for hit probability, while impressive, do not tell the whole story. Don't forget that, back in the day, Valiant, Victor and Vulcan crews would regularly achieve the same sort of accuracy *without* the current generation of whizzo toys like laser designators and satellite (GPS) guidance - the Black Buck "fiasco" was caused by a desire to keep the runway so we could use it without too much trouble rather than any lack of ability on behalf of the crews - we proved we could get a bomber to the Falklands and put bombs down, and that was further away than the Argentinian mainland...
I agree with you about the likelihood of (lack of) decent press coverage happen Typhoon does well in Afghanistan - of all the ordinance dropped to date, the only stuff that gets press recognition is that which ends up in the wrong place. Even then, journos have often failed to point out that the bombs hit where intended, but it was due to one local wanting to get rid of a rival, or ground troops hearing gunfire and assuming that the wedding party was the ones aiming at them and told the pilot to drop in the wrong place, or one lot of troops losing track of another lot of troops and not being able to tell the difference between "good guys" and "bad guys" that causes the problem.
Not sure El Reg comes anywhere near as bad as the Torygraph though - even on Mr Page's worst days!
It's not just a case of how capable the planes are compared to who *you* think they need to fight, there's things like airframe life, servicability, spares and so on to consider as well. I do not know where you get the idea that our current aircraft are (quote) "still superior to what all potential opponents have"(endquote) - bearing in mind that Russia is showing signs of reasserting herself on the global stage, and some of the satellite Republics (especially, but not limited to, Georgia and the Ukraine) are not happy about it, and that nobody really expected the Argentinians to go for the Falklands in 1981, I'd be thinking long and hard about exactly who has what to throw our way, happen I were you (don't forget that the MoD employs people to come up with "worst-case scenarios", then ignores most of what they say anyway.)
Air power is not, despite your suggestion otherwise, only of use during the initial stages of a conflict. While it will never replace the man (and woman) on the ground, air power can get heavier weapons to bear on the opposition than ground forces. It's all very well giving your PBIs heavy body armour, tons of small-arms ammunition and a happy smile to show the locals but if you need to get at a well-entrenched enemy fighting from ambush then there is no replacement for air power. Don't forget, too, that helicopters are part of the "air power" you seem to think unnecessary - air power is not all fast jets and fighter-vs-fighter combat.
I agree that faster air-to-air fighters are not really needed at the moment, but don't forget that few aircraft are still dedicated to that role only - and when you're neck-deep in incoming fire, you want the Big Guns (or bombs and rockets as the case may be) onsite soon as possible. If you've got a ground patrol ambushed by a well-concealed enemy, you don't really want to send in more ground troops because there could easily be another ambush force waiting somewhere between the inital contact and your base - and then you end up with two lots of ground-pounders in the mire. Also, unless your troops are close to their base, it may be some time before relief can reach them - by which time it may be too late.
While you have a government happy to claim for their everyday food bills from the public and give billions to propping up banks or overseas aid and all the useless programs they have created, you will never get decent pensions for our fightin' men. But to suggest that you can cut one part of the military budget to feed another part is wrong - all our armed forces need more money, not less.
Actually, you will find most people who have been in combat do NOT like it and would rather not get involved in it again. There is a world of difference between giving someone a leathering outside your local pub and having someone trying to introduce your internal organs to large pieces of metal moving at high speed...
And regardless of whether people join the Forces because they like fighting or because they want to defend ingrates like you and your right to free speech, it is still down to the elected CIVILIAN politicians to send them in to do their job.
Given my druthers, I'd rather sit and twiddle my toes on the beach than have to think about dodging bullets and IEDs, but since not everybody is as caring and peaceable as you, and feel it is acceptable for them to take whatever they want, when they want and from whomever they want, there is a need for people to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves.
If you chose to walk around covered from head to toe with only your eyes showing, and not have any sort of education, and to be at someone's beck-and-call 24hrs a day then fine - but if you choose NOT to do these things, and someone tries to force you to do them (or, indeed, anything else that infringes on your right to decide as an individual - assuming you are competent to do so), would you not prefer someone to stand up to defend you rather than say "tough shit, Windywoo, I don't agree with what you want to say or do so I ain't gonna defend your right to say or do it"?