Today marks the disbandment of the RAF's last unit to fly the Tornado F3, 111 Sqn. I visited RAF Leuchars last week to prepare a report on the retirement:
The timing is pretty spectacular, given the events in Libya and the RAF's first combat deployment of the replacement Eurofighter Typhoon. Despite all the talk of the new type's multi-role capability, it's only there in an air defence capacity, so has the UK really stepped forward all that much from the F3 yet?
Given that the RAF has just retired the F3 and the Harriers have already been retired, this just leaves us with the Typhoon. The question is, is this the first time since the birth of the RAF that the UK only has one type of fighter aircraft on strength?
The RAF also still has the Tornado GR4, which is every bit as much of a "fighter" as the Harrier GR9 was! My point was that the UK needs to get the Typhoon doing multi-role operations and soon; look at what the Rafale is getting up to in Libya, against the CAP-only role chosen for Eurofighter.
My money would be on the Harrier GR9.You maybe able to put sidewinders on a GR4 but you could also on a Nimrod! I would not be afraid to be in a microlight with a handgun against the Tornado GR4! A bomber yes a fighter no. I totally agree that the Typhoon should be doing these multi-role operations and soon which is why the decision to get rid of the F3s and Harriers before the Typhoons are fully ready is a very narrow minded one indeed. Its interesting that at the start of the Libyan crisis the UK government were saying there was no need of us having an aircraft carrier and they used the example of the fact no one else had one there. Funny now how the French carrier and an American Assault carrier are now being used to launch operations!
I'd have a slight worry with the GR9 as a fighter, given its fundamental lack of a radar! You can also use Hawks with AIM-9s, but things would have to have gone pretty badly for that to happen.
Interesting point re the carrier operations against Libya. France of course didn't have to deploy Charles de Gaulle, as the country is within easy striking range of its air force anyway, but a pretty strong political declaration nonetheless. Maybe the RN could have played a role with a carrier and Harriers aboard, but the GR4s seem to be having ample effect using Brimstones and Paveway Ivs using tanker support, so the early retirements didn't prove to be a show-stopper this time.
They dont have them because the RAF wouldnt put the radars from the Sea Harriers in them(excellent aircraft). With external help i'd still pit one against a GR4. You are right about the Hawk and we would have to be in dire straits to be thinking of doing that.
They werent a shop stopper but with the Cypriot governments reluctance for us to use Akrotiri to launch attacks from and Italy saying if NATO were not going to take control then they would pull out of the actions, we would have been stuck. I know they did a good job coming from the UK using the tankers but it cost a lot more than Harriers flying from a carrier. I am not anti GR4s just anti the scrapping of perfectly good airframes that we do actually still need.
Alas, none of this will lead to a reversal of the decision to axe the Harriers, or the ships to carry them. When you're as skint as we are, you can't change your mind, despite the knowledge that you're taking on some massive risk.
This is true. Lets hope Argentina doesnt see this as a good time to try and take the Falklands! I am sure Four Typhoons and HMS Clyde won't be enough!
There's no way that we could stage a repeat of 1982 today, but given the fact that Argentina's air force hasn't seemed to have moved on much since then it's questionable that anyone there would consider making a fresh push via military channels.
That said, it would be one heck of a stunt to rope in Vulcan XH558 for a long-range mission!