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Conversion costs to modify carrier for the F-35C soared

The British government has changed its mind again on some of the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets that it intends to purchase. Unlike Canada, the British aren't considering delaying orders or reducing the number of jets they ordered this time around. Rather, the British government is now announcing that it will switch back to the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing version of the fighter rather than the F-35C carrier-based version.
The F-35B STOVL fighter was originally the version that the British intended to purchase, but delays and fears of the program being canceled after the U.S. put the B variant on probation led to the British deciding to use the F-35C instead. Recent improvements to the program have led to the fighter being removed from probation, and its future is looking better.
According to British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, the plan to purchase the carrier-based F-35 versions was killed due to what he calls an unacceptable cost. Delays in the plan to convert the carrier to handle the F-35C had also mounted. According to Hammond, an estimate to convert one British carrier had doubled from the original $1.6 billion to an amount roughly twice that. One British defense official blames the U.S. for that cost increase.
According to the unnamed official, the United States had insisted that the UK purchase the required Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System or EMALS directly through a government-to-government foreign military sales (FMS) deal rather than allowing the British to purchase directly from the manufacturer. That requirement allegedly added about 150M pounds or about 7% to the cost of obtaining the EMALS system.

The British government expects flight testing for the F-35B to begin in 2018 while initial operational capability will commence in 2020. 

Source: DefenseNews

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navalised typhoon
By Bubbacub on 5/14/2012 9:12:38 AM , Rating: 5
i wish we had made a navalised typhoon instead.

the french wouldnt have pulled out of the eurofighter consortium meaning that we would have had this aircraft earlier and for less.

its twin engined and apart from a fairly crap implementation of stealth technology it's much more capable than the f35a/c.

im really really getting pissed off with the pork barrelled monstrosity that the f35 has become.

the uk has pitched for 5% of f35 development costs.

i think we should walk away - consider the 2.5billion pounds spent on it wasted and not order any f35s. we will never be able to afford to buy enough to fill our carrier fleet.

the money we save on f35's will pay for catapaults on the carriers and more typhoons.

a navalised typhoon would be perfect for our nation. we recently offered to build a naval variant for the indian navy - so it is eminently posssible.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Sazabi19 on 5/14/12, Rating: 0
RE: navalised typhoon
By Samus on 5/14/2012 5:52:32 PM , Rating: 1
F-35 sucks in Battlefield 3. Can't manuver at all, very slow. So it must suck IRL

RE: navalised typhoon
By Amiga500 on 5/14/2012 9:39:03 AM , Rating: 3
If they'd any sense whatsoever, they would have had specified the carrier as CATOBAR capable from the start.

Now, they'd have the choice of:
- F-35
- F/A-18
- Rafale
- MiG-29K
- Su-33

But, due to the typical useless MoD procurement system, they have designed and are building a f**ked up carrier which is incapable of real power projection and is dependent on the successful execution of a program which so far has been abysmal - and even if it does execute perfectly from now will still produce a very average fleet air defence and air denial aircraft.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 12:57:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yeesh people slam the Pentagon and our procurement system, but the UK Ministry of Defense appears to be completely inept. To save a few dollars on carrier arrestor gear, they mandate an entirely new class of carrier that's inferior in every way, and doesn't actually save any money because there are no affordable aircraft available to use on them!

Is the situation really as bad as this author makes it sound?

RE: navalised typhoon
By Amiga500 on 5/14/2012 1:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
I would dispute some details... but yeah, more or less. BAe tell the govt to jump and they ask "how high?"

Another instance would be the blatantly criminal actions of the USAF in first taking over then canning the Joint Cargo Aircraft - thus denying the US Army (improved) replacement of its outdated tactical airlift capabilities. There should be USAF generals in jail right now over this - but not a peep.

Corruption is rife within the defense industry and not all of it is on the civilian side either.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Iaiken on 5/14/2012 2:16:44 PM , Rating: 3
Is the situation really as bad as this author makes it sound?

That basically article sums it up exactly...

Where it gets absurd is that the cost differences involved with procuring F-35B's vs F/A-18's + EMALS are mind boggling. Then it becomes patently ridiculous when you realize that the HMS Queen Elizabeth will be completed and ready in 2017 and the Prince of Wales in 2018, but neither will be fully operational until they have a compliment of strike fighters until 2022 or 2023. It just doesn't make any sense...

RE: navalised typhoon
By Mars HQ on 5/14/2012 7:14:17 PM , Rating: 2
RN in my assessment can hardly afford even the operation of 2 modern carriers (plus accompanying task group), let alone their construction. How will UK afford sustainment costs of the F-35B carrier wing?

And this Delivery in 2018 idea, with IOC in 2020 for carrier ops is a little risky. Delivery in 2018 equates to 2016 production - jets which will 'hopefully' have completed SDD phase and all necessary retrofits and design flaw fixes. And in addition, this jet will be a BLOCK III (elementary model) and not the required BLOCK IV (requiring further costly retrofit upgrades)!

Moreover, it will still be an LRIP-priced jet! FRP might not even commence until 2018 and even then the annual production rates (economies of scale) will be substantially reduced from current expectations.

Do not underestimate chances of another U-turn before this is over and done with.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Natch on 5/15/2012 8:04:20 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps the RN should have offered to purchase the USS Enterprise, when she's retired from the USN fleet? Steam catapults should handle anything flying now, plus the requirements of the F-35C.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 12:00:10 PM , Rating: 2
im really really getting pissed off with the pork barrelled monstrosity that the f35 has become. the uk has pitched for 5% of f35 development costs.

You're pissed? How do you think WE feel? Your investment so far has been peanuts by comparison.

the money we save on f35's will pay for catapaults on the carriers and more typhoons.

Now this is irony. The Eurofighter consortium and the Typhoon, as I understand it, was once the target of extremely hostile coverage in the Europe and Australian press. From what I can gather, it was at least as controversial as the F-35 is today because it was certainly not a cheap fighter to bring to the market in it's own right.

"We here on the Reg defence desk have always had a low opinion of the cripplingly expensive, marginally useful fighter: but even we were amazed by the new facts and figures. The Eurofighter, almost unbelievably, is turning out to be even worse value for money than we had thought."

The Typhoon is capable, although the wisdom of continued use of high performance conventional fighters in a period where stealth has hit mass production could be seriously questioned.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Amiga500 on 5/14/2012 1:39:40 PM , Rating: 2
The Typhoon is capable

Nah, not for the money its not.

The Dassault Rafale can do everything the Typhoon can do just as well (within a very small degree of performance differentiation) and it can do a whole lot more besides.

A cost:benefit analysis will show the Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale are streets ahead of Eurofighter.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 1:46:09 PM , Rating: 2
Well I used "capable" as in not to be too insulting, but not overly-glowing in the same sense. Sort of average/mediocre. I guess I could of used "okay" instead, though not as eloquent.

My only problem, well not problem but input, on going with the Rafale is that it's RCS is much higher than the Typhoon while also having much less maneuverability. It's power to weight ration also seems a bit on the low side for a Gen 4.5 fighter.

That and I'm hugely biased toward American fighter aircraft. Those French and British birds...bah! BAH I say. :)

RE: navalised typhoon
By Amiga500 on 5/14/2012 2:45:23 PM , Rating: 2
My only problem, well not problem but input, on going with the Rafale is that it's RCS is much higher than the Typhoon while also having much less maneuverability. It's power to weight ration also seems a bit on the low side for a Gen 4.5 fighter.

You've been horribly misled.

The Rafale has easily the lowest RCS of any in-service fighter bar the F-22.

P:W isn't great, but I believe there is an M88 upgrade on the way to help with that (unless they traded it off for overhaul cycle times). Besides, (from non published accounts) Rafale has beaten Typhoon in a number of fly-offs in the A2A categories.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 3:31:52 PM , Rating: 2
Wait, did I miss a Rafale update where they added some RAM composites? I admit I don't sit and research exotic fighters like the Rafale much. But the most recent data I could find suggests:

Typhoon RCS = 0.05~0.1 m2
Rafale RCS = 0.1~0.3 m2

That was back in 2005. If they've improved the Rafale with more ARM composites and coatings since then, I wasn't aware of it. Certainly didn't mean to post FUD on the Rafale.

The Rafale has easily the lowest RCS of any in-service fighter bar the F-22.

lol that's exactly what Eurofighter says about the Typhoon! Damnit I'm gonna have to dig into this now and satisfy my own curiosity.

But again, since both fighters have no internal stores the RCS of either in actual combat trim would be 10 or 20 times those numbers. Which goes back to my point about pushing 4'th gen fighter designs in the age of stealth might be unwise.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Amiga500 on 5/15/2012 2:04:03 AM , Rating: 2
In the original Rafale design phase, Dassault developed a semi-stealthy variant of the Rafale, the Rafale D (Discret/discrete). This D model became the baseline for the B, C and M.

If you take a close look at some features, such as the serpentine engine ducts which mostly hide the engine face, or the serrated edges on the wing sub-structure under the skin at the wing trailing edge (you can actually see it in the skin) - it becomes apparent Dassault have paid more than mere lip service to throwing on RAM.

There has been much talk of the Rafale's SPECTRA system, including abilities to damp out hostile radar waves. Supposedly somewhat analogous to active cancellation.

RE: navalised typhoon
By Iaiken on 5/14/2012 2:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
Basically, look at it this way...

The CF-18 is an old plane with modern load-out, avionics and targeting equipment. In Libya, just 6 CF-18's carried out 946 ground sorties and 120 defensive counter-air escorts for 1066 total. The 10 Typhoons and 16 Tornados of the RAF flew only 2,007 sorties between them with the Tornadoes racking up 1523 of those leaving a paltry 484 for the Typhoons. The CF-18's dropped a total of 696 JDAMs with ~89% success and the RAF dropped a total 884 Paveway II's with ~74% success.

Either the RCAF was punching WAY above it's weight, or the RAF was punching way below it's...

RE: navalised typhoon
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 3:37:35 PM , Rating: 2

But are you trying to sell me that the F-18C is superior to the Typhoon? You're preaching to the choir friend :)

Too bad the F-18 just doesn't have the Typhoon's looks! hehe. That's the only area where it loses to it imo lol

RE: navalised typhoon
By Iaiken on 5/14/2012 5:17:39 PM , Rating: 2

This should make you laugh...

All of our official documentation for the fighters still read CF-188A or CF-188B because it was going to cost $477,000 to re-print it all with CF-188C or CF-188D. Instead they printed documentation for just the new/changed systems as errata for a cool $61,000. Every time I see documentation costs from the military, my mind is blown.

Britain is going back on its choice
By sirah on 5/14/2012 10:27:52 AM , Rating: 1
As the programme has matured, and more detailed analysis has been carried out by suppliers, it has become clear that the conversion to ‘cats and traps’ will cost about double what was originally estimated – and would not be delivered until 2023 at the earliest.

By ScottWilliam on 6/1/2012 12:52:47 AM , Rating: 2
i just read some article that the F-35B STOVL is a mistake

Navalised Typhoon
By G777 on 5/14/2012 6:55:46 PM , Rating: 3
Okay, regarding the F35. Britain should not pursue in the purchase of the F-35 as the Naval Typhoon will perform better in all areas.

The Naval Typhoon will be a ton heavier in empty weight and will have AESA radar, TVC and CFT. The Naval Typhoon does not need a catapult and is classed a STOL aircraft.The Naval Typhoon bests the F-35B in wingloading, internal fuel(+CFT), TWR and being the lighter aircraft. Also developing the Naval Typhoon and using the aircraft would be cheaper than using the F35 as the F35 has a lot of problems and is a completely different aircraft for our Navy to get used too. The lack of performance in the F35 is worrying against other aircraft that other countries are developing (never underestimate the other).
The lower performance means there is more chance of the aircraft being shot down plus since the typhoon is super maneuverable it doesnt have to rely completely on electronics to defend the aircraft, typphoon has quicker reflexes and way better heavy loaded agility.
Eurofighter already has missiles like Iris-T that can shoot behind the aircraft and the Typhoon has 4 conformal hard points that reduce RCS and drag. Whereas the F35 can only carry 4 internal missiles, 2 short range and 2 long range, a typhoon typically carrys 4 long range and 4 short range. Eurofighter has the best frontal stealth of all the European fighters however not the best all around stealth.
The Typhoon is BVR optimised, it can supercruise (somthing the F35 does not have), at max reheat can travel at mach 1.6 with three supersonic fuel tanks (excellent for BVR)and has a large radar in which the new Captor E will be mounted on a swashplate and was said by an EADs officer "capable of recognizing F-35 at around 59 kilometers away" and the F35 radar "recognize the Eurofighter or semi-stealth fighter at 120 kilometers or farther based on the assumption both radars have the same capability."
The F35 doesnt have much chance getting near the Typhoon as either the Pirate, Newer Radar or DASS will detect the aircraft regardless of stealth.
Must also note the EADs officer has used the F35s detection against the Eurofighter having a 1m2 to 3m2 RCS and not the full frontal RCS of the typhoon which is far better than what many would think.
Stealth is expensive to repair, the F35 has a single engine which has more chance of the aircraft being lost to either damage or fault, the typhoon has been tested even on the RB199 on one engine.
The F35 has the hottest engine of any fighter aircraft in service and it is twice as noisy as any aircraft in service, this means Infra Red missiles and aircraft IR systems will have much better chance detecting the aircraft at long range, also being a noisier aircraft it raises the problem of alerting ground based targets to the aircraft.
Talking about ground targets, as the F-35 is the best ground attacker however it can only carry 2 internal ground attack weapons as there is hardly any space for more.
Wether or not either aircraft would reach their target, lets say within a combat radius of 400 miles on internal fuel (still using Naval Typhoon BTW) and not having external weapons on the F35 that means:

Naval Typhoon
4 BVR missiles
4 WVR missiles
4 to 12 bombs depending on what they use.
Typhoon could still carry a 1000 liter tank with this loadout.

F-35B (keeping stealth)
2 WVR missiles
2 AtoG weapons
Note, they are trying to fit more internal weapons, trying.
Also must mention that even though the F35 could also carry external weapons, wasnt the whole point of getting the F35 is for its stealth? Not to mention ext weapons would make F35s performance worse.

Prices, well, F35 is more expensive and will probably be more expensive in future with all the problems that still need fixing

Latest problems with the F35 are oxygen related.

There is no point in the F-35B. Just make the Naval Typhoon.

I did not include Rafale M as it cant takeoff the carrier without a catapult.

Forget about catapult launched aircraft, its either Typhoon or the F35. Typhoon has been combat tested btw and is in service. You do not need a stealth plane to bomb targets or shoot aircraft. By the time the F35 gets into service or see a good amount of aircraft UCAVs will have succeeded it in stealth.

Developing the Naval Typhoon also increases chances of export and creating more jobs.


The guy from the register, Lewis Page does not have sufficient knowledge of aircraft. If he did he would have taken into proper consideration on WHY they changed F-35B.

By aguilpa1 on 5/15/2012 4:24:40 PM , Rating: 2
At this stage the F35 is simply a half ass token fighter designed to placate NATO partners while the US quietly funnels funds to stealth drones and yet to be seen fighters. In case anyone hasn't noticed this country is moving away from fleet based fighters with live pilots and has been for about a decade now.

F r e e t r a n s p o r t
By Ashley001 on 5/15/12, Rating: 0
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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