Fighter Friday, part 1: Typhoon

I’d been planning to prompt some discussion on The DEW Line earlier in the week about the Eurofighter programme, to coincide with a feature article of mine which appeared as the cover story for the latest issue of Flight International, but a four-day trip to Sweden means it’s now a Friday Fighter topic instead.

Our UK-focused look into the programme included interviewing the RAF’s Typhoon force commander and visiting the service’s Coningsby main operating base for the type. I also got the latest on the production and flight-test situation, from visiting BAE Systems’ Warton site. The feature was, however, finished before Airbus Group chief executive Tom Enders cast a rather gloomy forecast on the type’s future export prospects, after Germany confirmed what everyone already knew some time ago: that a Tranche 3B production deal for the nation, plus Italy, Spain and the UK will not be happening.

After tasting disappointment in nations including India and the United Arab Emirates, the need to score fresh export sales is great, and the UK and BAE are leading the way. But can they succeed in current campaigns in Bahrain, Malaysia and Qatar, and also in adding to a 72-aircraft deal with Saudi Arabia?


Typhoon (Crown Copyright image above) is clearly a fine combat aircraft, but 20 years after its first development example was flown, the phrase “potential” still crops up too often. The Tranche 3A jets now starting to roll off the production lines are, for example, being produced for, but not with, an active electronically scanned array radar, as a production order for that sensor has still yet to be signed. Other key enhancements – such as the addition of the Meteor air-to-air and Storm Shadow cruise missile – are also progressing, but at a frustratingly measured pace.

But as we report, there are some positives to grasp. Any further export success should push production on beyond an expected 2018 end, and also lift international sales into three figures: 99 have been sold to date, to Austria, Oman and Saudi Arabia. And a combined industry and military effort to reduce costs through enhanced support arrangements and some innovative training methods are delivering benefits too. Notably, an RAF-led trial dubbed “Pandora’s Buzzard” has seen several ab initio pilots go solo in the Typhoon with zero prior live flying in the type. While that’s probably a real trend for the future only, the service’s 29 Sqn operational conversion unit is already delivering its syllabus with a 35% to 65% balance between live and synthetic training.

You can read all about the programme by logging on or registering for free to read the feature over on our FG Club, or by getting your hands on the 11-17 March issue of Flight International: either on the newsstand, or via our iPad app.


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30 Responses to Fighter Friday, part 1: Typhoon

  1. Martin bayliss 16 March, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    Tom Enders is in no position to say what the RAF’s position on tranche 3 b is. Germany has always had a belligerent attitude to the UK lead Typhoon program as in not invented here syndrome. With more cracks, delays and underperformance of the f35 and the spectacular success of the Typhoon and Taranis it is looking ever more likely a future RAF will use Typhoons and production developments of the Taranis.

    EADS May not like this but that is the way it is going.

  2. Craig Hoyle 17 March, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    To be fair, I don’t believe that Enders in any way commented on UK Typhoon – the fact that none of the four core nations will go ahead with T3B is just that: a fact. I do suspect that the UK will increasingly take the lead on the programme though, as it has the strongest desire to push ahead with the enhancements.

    I can’t see a future where UK F-35B doesn’t happen, as it’s vital for the aircraft carrier/s, and I’m still undecided on how relevant the future UCAS will be: the feedback I got from people researching my feature was that it’s currently hard to see under what concept of operations you could use the system’s full potential, and that it would also be no good in an air-to-air scenario.

  3. Martin Bayliss 17 March, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    I think the point is the tranche 3b typhoons will operate along side the eventual production Taranis development. A ‘big Taranis’ will be the stealth strike and the Typhoon 3b will be the conventional strike and air superiority.

    The f35 is neither stealth strike or air superiority.

    Stobar Typhoons would be an excellent return on UK investment for the RN, and given the way the f35b is going it has every chance of being cheaper, better and available sooner.

    • Craig Hoyle 18 March, 2014 at 6:39 am #

      But T3B will never happen – the 3A jets will be the last the UK will get, and they’ll be the most capable among a fleet of about 100. But a carrier-based Typhoon is a no-go: no way that would be affordable, the carrier is wrong for it, and it wouldn’t be ready before the F-35B.

      I disagree on F-35 and stealth strike also – isn’t that its key role? UCAS look great, but I don’t think we’re ready for it for a good while yet.

  4. Dave Burke 18 March, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    I’m sure that RAF Typhoons will receive a mid-life upgrade to effectively T3B standard at some point. By then it’ll be Typhoon for counter-air missions, F-35B for strike, CAS and recce missions and a Taranis derivative for long-range strike beyond the range of CSAR assets, where the only current options are cruise missiles or excessive risk.

    • Martin Bayliss 19 March, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

      Typhoon is more than capable of strike and was designed with it in mind, with a similar range and payload to the Tornado without the penalty of the Tornado’s ho hum performance. And really Tranche 3b Typhoons will have no stealth disadvantage to the F35.

      If a stealth strike platform is required, really only needed against sophisticated defences on day one operations, then a Taranis development is the best way to go.

      And any sane air force will use Typhoon like strike aircraft in combined ops with UCAS anyway.

      AT present the only advantage the F35 in B form has is that it can operate from our outsized VSTOL carriers, which could easily be adapted for STOBAR Typhoon ops by the addition of arrestor cables, the ski jump is there already.

      The only reason the UK is buying the F35 is the one sided special relationship with the US and in return we get an overly expensive and not very good aircraft that is destroying the UK’s indigenous combat aircraft industry. Another Blair legacy. Colgate moments have consequences!

    • Craig Hoyle 20 March, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

      As far as I’m aware, there was no difference between T3A and T3B jets in production standards; it was just a clever split to get at least part of the contract signed.

  5. Martin Bayliss 18 March, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    If Tranche 3b never happens it is becuase of the F35.

    And no, compare the Taranis to the F35 and clearly the F35 is not stealth strike by any stretch of the imagination.

    The F35 is a political aircraft only being ordered by US allies as a means of showing how much on side they are.

    Note the US Navy is ordering more F18 Growlers, allegedly to give their F35′s support it is not supposed to need because it is stealthy stealth.

    The whole F35 stealth thing needs to be knocked on the head. It is not.

    And take away the F35 stealth advantage, and what are you left with, a slow, combersome and late US trojan horse to wipe out foreign competition.

    The least the UK can do is back its own technology and buy more Typhoons, including the Stobar ones for the RN.

    • Craig Hoyle 20 March, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      So many points here, but I disagree – there will be no T3B because none of the nations want it: including the UK, which shaved 24 jets off T3A also for cost reasons. The RAF will balance eventually with a fleet of about 100 Typhoons: enough for five frontline squadrons. While some folks would like there to be more, that’s not the financial reality.

      And talk politics – the USN will get more Growlers partly because it needs them, and partly because the Boeing production line is at risk; let’s see what happens though under the current budget constraints.

      I still don’t get your assertion that the F-35 is not stealthy; that’s not what most people say, least of all the manufacturer and customers!

      • Martin Bayliss 22 March, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

        Comparing the f35 to a truly stealthy platform such as Taranis it is clear it is a relatively conventional aircraft with non-stealthy vertical and horizontal stabilisers and control surfaces, not to mention a blow torch of an engine with no effort to bury the exhaust in some kind of shroud as can be seen on all Ucavs to date and the true stealth strike manned platform developed by BAE, the Replica concept. Blair killed that and saddled the UK with the F 35 at the same time as we were developing fully and trying to sell ( with Germany not very diplomatically trying to unwell) the Typhoon.

        Add to that the essential external hard points the f35 needs to be operationally effective and you may as well compare it to the Sepecat Jaguar.


        The Uk needs Typhoon tranche 3b and additional Stobar capable Typhoons for the Navy.

        Additionally a demonstrator Harrier III should be built to remind the US what a VTOL strike fast jet is all about.

        The f35 is in fission with the establishment hangers on but it will be the modern equivalent of the f104, a super fighter that turned out to be not so super which stole orders from the UK developed Lightning, which all these years later no one denies was the worlds best combat jet until the f15 entered service. The f15 copying the Lightning’s high trust to weight ratio and low wing loading, another fault of the f35 by the way.

        • Martin Bayliss 22 March, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

          Don’t you just love auto connect :-)

  6. Neil 22 March, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    Once the F-35B is in service with the RAF the Typhoon could be on the way out – not sure they will even bother putting AESA into it looking at the upgrade track record of some previous jets – for example the EE Lightning – even in the 80s stuck with a pulse only radar only and 2 ancient Red Top missiles (AFAIK)

    Obviously any real RCS figures are classified so its difficult to tell one way or another – but the F-35 certainly looks very similar to the F-22 regarding shaping angles – even the nozzle is actually a low observable design (tested on the F-16 LOAN) – so no doubt the 35 is a very stealthy jet.

    Once the F-35 gets in service they will utilize tactics that make it far superior to the Typhoon – that’s its overall capability regarding SA – not outdated and useless individual metrics.

    On the side – basic wingloading is irrelevant in determining how it will turn – that ancient metric might have been useful for the ME109 but is of no use with a pitch unstable CG aft design like the F-35!

    • Martin Bayliss 24 March, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

      Hang on a moment, all stealth designs rely on making radar returns from any part of the airframe or engine geometrically narrow so that unless the detecting radar is exactly in line it sees a small return. All, I mean all, stealth designs shroud the engine nozzle because it is inherently cylindrical, even the fair mentioned f22. But the f35 has a dirty great unshrouded pipe sticking out the back. The f35 is not stealth therefore, period.

      And as for low wing loading, it is just basic physics, a low wing loading design can achieve a given manoeuvre loosing less energy than a high wing loading one.

      On both stealth and wing loading you seem to be indicating the f35 has defied the laws of physics. Forget ripples from the Big Bang, LM’s marketing team would have us believe it evades radar by time travel. You heard it here first.

  7. mike van 25 March, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    The F35B has many problems look it up. The C version (carrier hook version has been postponed for 2 to 3 years due to severe fuselage cracking. The Navy is smiling it has in turn reduced F-35C version numbers by 35. The Pentagon has in turn released 73 million for purchasing F-18 long lead items. In 2015 or before they will order 70 f-18 mix of growlers and fighter. They also will be the ADVANCED F-18. See

    Maybe the RAF should put a cable arrestor on your carriers and buy 20 or 30 F-18 and E/A 18 to be operational in 2016 .

    • Martin Bayliss 26 March, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

      I would rather see Stobar Typhoons on the RN carriers but I will grant you the F18 is superb and would be infinitely preferable to the hopeless F35 in any form.

  8. Steve Taylor 26 March, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    I find this talk of stealth vs non-stealth a little odd. Stealth is on a sliding scale it’s not a case of having it or not. Whilst I’d agree that the vertical tailplanes and rather large exhaust are not going to help the RCS, the aircraft will certainly be much better at flying around unseen than Typhoon. Technologies such as radar absorbing paint and structure are all able to mitigate against problems generated by the shape of F-35, and there’s no doubt the Americans have the pedigree when it comes to all things stealth. The big problem with the F-35B as has already been pointed out is the low internal payload thanks in no small part to the space taken up by the lift fan design; as soon as you start strapping stores to the wings the RCS will go through the roof. Using the F-35 for initial suppresion of enemy air defences before bringing in Typhoons carrying a heavier payload would seem to be the obvious way forward. Taranis is likely to have an even smaller RCS by the look of it, but at time now it’s a science project that’s many years off looking like an operational aircraft with real capability. The areas where we’ll really see the F-35 shine are in the advanced avionics, defensive aids and situational awarness offered to the pilot, it’s a generation ahead of the competition here.

    As for the future of Typhoon, I can’t see the RAF wanting to retire it early. The UK don’t have the power or cash to steer the F-35 programme in a way that suits them, whereas they can drive Typhoon and build on sovereign capability. Capability investment will likely continue, albeit with the problems long suffered due to the 4 nation construct. I’d like to see UK break away from the other nations once the current production run finishes and work with BAE to continue to develop the product to make it more attractive to the export market, we will see. I’m dissapointed with Tom Ender’s comments, but the UK are leading the vast majority of the remaining Typhoon prospects, so perhaps his comments should be seen as applicable to Airbus Typhoon prospects.

    I’d love to see a navalised variant of Typhoon, but can’t disagree with the decision to get into the F-35 programme. Given the projected number of aircraft and the % of work going through the UK the business case is clear, UK plc is much better off for being in the F-35 programme.

    • Martin Bayliss 27 March, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

      Then a naval Typhoon as a all UK project would fit with the UK going its own way once the current four partner orders are finished.

      The F35b is a very poor choice for the RN unless it is going back to small carriers for tactical strike only. To get the most from the large QE carriers a more serious, i.e longer ranged bigger payload strike platform like a Stobar Typhoon makes sense.

      And the UK work share on any variant of f35 is small, most BAE & RR work is done in their inc subsidiaries with UK nationals limited in access to IP. The Typhoon is actually UK lead and therefore has much bigger industrial benefits than the 37 % stake implies. That would certainly be even more so with a 100% UK Stobar variant.

      I think Taranis is rather more than a science project as a stealth strike platform too. It is certainly a lot further down the road than any competing project.

      Also, it always baffles me why the RAF needs short range strike. Surely with limited budgets you get most bang for your buck from a carrier capable strike platform, as then it can operate more or less anywhere in the world without the need for strategic range. Strike only makes sense for the RAF if we are going to get modern day V bombers or we plan to defend Central Europe again or have substantial foreign territories, none of which we do anymore. But fast jet strike from carriers gives you global clout with maximum flexibility. So save money and make the RAF air defence and logistics only and leave the strike to the Navy.

    • Martin Bayliss 27 March, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

      Then a naval Typhoon as a all UK project would fit with the UK going its own way once the current four partner orders are finished.

      And the UK work share on any variant of f35 is small, most BAE & RR work is done in their inc subsidiaries with UK nationals limited in access to IP. The Typhoon is actually UK lead and therefore has much bigger industrial benefits than the 37 % stake implies. That would certainly be even more so with a 100% UK Stobar variant.

      I think Taranis is rather more than a science project as a stealth strike platform too. It is certainly a lot further down the road than any competing project.

      Also, it always baffles me why the RAF needs short range strike. Surely with limited budgets you get most bang for your buck from a carrier capable strike platform, as then it can operate more or less anywhere in the world without the need for strategic range. Strike only makes sense for the RAF if we are going to get modern day V bombers or we plan to defend Central Europe again or have substantial foreign territories, none of which we do anymore. But fast jet strike from carriers gives you global clout with maximum flexibility. So save money and make the RAF air defence and logistics only and leave the strike to the Navy.

  9. Steve Taylor 28 March, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Yes a naval Typhoon would, there’s no doubt it would be an interesting project and the aircraft certainly has the requisite thrust for carrier operations.

    I would have much preferred the F-35C with its higher payload and range, this should have been the decision from day 1. Although the EMALS launch system would have still been expensive; it would have been nowhere near the cost quoted as a result of changing the requirement late in the day, as was recently done. I still struggle to see any sense in the F-35B variant, but we are where we are.

    BAE Systems as a whole has just shy of 20% of the project, with 10% of that going through the UK business. Knowledge transfer from the US is always tricky, but BAE has had a significant amount of design work to do on some key systems. The manufacturing requirements of the programme are particularly demanding given the required production rates. This has led to UK manufacturing know-how coming on in leaps and bounds. UK will probably end up buying around 50 aircraft, which has got us a share in a project producing over 3,000 units. Compare that to the ROI they would have had on investing in a naval Typhoon and the decision is clear from a financial perspective. We would also not have 100% of a naval variant if the UK requested it. I’d expect more than the original 37% to be done in the UK, but it would simply not make sense to bring many of the required capabilities to the UK to do all the design/build work. We would be paying the other nations to do much of it.

    Yes carriers are brilliant for rapid deployments globally, but for prolonged campaigns (as we often get involved in) it makes more sense to set up a forward operating base and conduct short range strikes. The US have more carriers than anyone and that’s their typical strategy. To sustain a constant presence in a particular area using carriers you need an absolute minimum of 3, being realistic there’s no way the UK is going to buy that many. When it comes to planning the capability mix for your armed forces flexibility is king, as our abilities to predict the exact nature of future conflicts is limited.

  10. Steve Taylor 28 March, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    P.S. spend some time on google, there are pleanty of stealthy UAVs with strike capability in the D&D stage. The Avenger C is in an advanced stage, nearing readiness for service. Taranis is a demonstrator, an aircraft may eventually enter service based on the design but that’s many years off. Look at the number of flights and level of investment that has gone into the X-47 programme compared to Taranis.

  11. Martin Bayliss 1 April, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    I think you will find the interchangeable part production standards were pioneered by BAe on the Typhoon and LM were keen to access the expertise.

    And Taranis is probably the most advanced UCAV to have public ally flown, certainly it is the first supersonic UCAV prototype.

    The typhoon had an operational IRST before any US equivalent and the helmet system on Typhoon is the most advanced of its kind in service with the added bonus it works. As usual the f35 promises better but has yet to deliver.

    And no, BAE inc, which is a US company with UK nationals barred from most of its IP has most of the UK share of the F35 work. Only the stock holders of BAE benefit from the UK’s involvement in the F35, not the UK skills or industrial base.

    It is no accident that as BAE close down more of its UK operations and loses one capability after another, it buys more US defence contractors until one day soon it will be a mostly US company. At that point expect a ‘merger’ before the whole UK operation is turned into a marketing off shoot of the US defence industrial base.

  12. Steve Taylor 4 April, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    Interchangeable part production is an impressive achievement, but not an insurmountable problem given the resources at LM’s disposal. BAE plc would not have had the share they have in the programme had it not been for the UK F-35 buy, as is the case with all the other national partners in the programme. Aircraft buy = workshare.

    Where has this supersonic rumour come from? Taranis has a hawk engine and is about the same size, the company has certainly never said it’s supersonic and there’s no reason to think it is. How are you arriving at the conclusion of ‘most advanced’? The company has not declared or demonstrated any advanced capabilities on the platform, at this point for all we know it’s just a flying wing with no advanced avionics or sensors of any kind. What we know about stealthy UAV platforms from any country is very limited, however given the lower level of investment and number of flights completed for Taranis it’s highly likely that it’s not the most advanced.

    Quite agreed that the IRST/HMSS systems on Typhoon are in service and working well, however the F-35 has yet to enter service at all! It’s going for IOC in 2016, judge it on what has been delivered when it enters service. Well aware that 2016 is later than originally planned, but Typhoon was also late (as was just about every other modern fighter).

    Yes, inc has a larger share than plc, but plc still has approx 10% of the programme. Your assertion that UK skills/industrial base gets no benefit is completely incorrect, just drive past the Samlesbury site near Preston and see for yourself. Talk to the many engineers and skilled manufacturing staff that are directly employed on the F-35 programme and ask them if they think they are benefitting.

    The future commercial arrangements of BAE are anyone’s guess. However based on past and current behaviours, UK Government seem to want to maintain sovereign defence capability. Whilst the demand is there BAE will provide the service, under the existing ‘golden share’ arrangement it will have to be a UK run business. I expect the squeeze on defence budgets to continue in the UK, whether or not this leads to a decline in the footprint/capabilities of BAE plc will depend on its abilities to sell its services overseas. I hope they pull it off.

  13. Martin Bayliss 4 April, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    Taranis does have a Hawk engine, the Hawk being supersonic in a dive, i.e. transonic. The Taranis is much cleaner aerodynamically than the Hawk with the highest swept wing angle of any large UCAV yet seen. It is also clearly area square ruled. Taranis is clearly a supersonic capable UCAV, and given the Adour has no reheat, that is supercruise too.

    Examples of BAE closing or getting rid of its plc capabilities in favour of its Inc activities includes the large aircraft conversion/maintenance/design/build capability at Woodford being closed – now just watch the orders for the P-8 role in. Also BAE plc closed its 155 mm naval gun program and has ended centuries of the UK being in the naval gun business and transferred the whole lot to the US.

    The UK F35 work at Warton/Salmesbury is mostly airframe subcontractor work as a token gesture for the UK being suckered into this program. BAE are not involved in the system architecture and design as a key player would be for the F35. BAE’s involvement in the F35 is pure marketing for LM and if BAE walked away from the program it would have little effect on it. BAE’s UK subcon work would just be moved elsewhere.

    It is the height of stupidity to have developed a superb aircraft like the Typhoon, as just when it needs developing fully as originally intended we waste money on a US program we have little influence over and frustrate our export efforts for the Typhoon. It simply beggars belief. To make matters worse the F35 is clearly not a particularly good aircraft that even the US does not intend to buy in large numbers as they are hoping to transfer the burden of F35 bulk purchase onto its assimilated allies. Ludicrous. These are all obvious facts and the aviation press would be better off being a bit more journalistic and reporting what is really going on rather than pandering to the establishment line.

  14. Steve Taylor 4 April, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    If Taranis is going to have any credibility as a stealth platform it needs an S-shaped intake duct. Looking at head on views it clearly has one. That plays absolute havoc with the aerodynamics of the engine intake, especially once you go supersonic, and makes it impossible to get the best out of the engine. The shape may be scalable to a supersonic platform with a bigger engine, as you point out it has a decent wing sweep angle, but Taranis itself is unlikely to have supersonic capability.

    Can hardly blame BAE for that, cancellation of Nimrod left no choice. I’d be equally fuming if P-8s were ordered, Nimrod was a fantasic aircraft (a fact also acknowledged by the US) and as an Island nation an important capability for us.

    BAE UK F-35 work:

    Aft fuselages and horizontal and vertical tails manufacture for all three variants
    Nozzle bay doors for the STOVL variant

    One of the most technically challening military manufacturing programmes in existance, has lead to UK manufacturing capability development and sustainment in a way Typhoon could not.

    Fuel system
    Crew escape
    Life support
    Prognostics health management integration

    Yes it’s not the sensors, avionics or architecture, but it is sustaining UK capability in these areas. Overall, a very good deal against an aircraft buy of about 50! In addition we will be able to access a much wider range of US weapons on the platform and improve our interoperability with the US in military operations.

    The US is going to buy in the region of 2,500 of them, in what world is that not a large number!? The numbers that allies are buying are dwarfed in comparison to this figure, the US are still very much carrying the burden.

  15. Martin bayliss 4 April, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

    It is not clear that the Taranis has an s-shaped duct of an intake and BAE have been very careful to make sure no one without security clearance has seen inside it.

    And if you are familier with the internals of the BAC lightning you would know supersonic s-shaped ducts are nothing new.

    And as regards work content it is quite clear, if BAE do nothing other than subcontract to LM on the f35 and manage to sell no further Typhoons beyond tranche 3a to the UK armed forces then aircraft manufacture in the UK will cease in five years or so. But if the F35 is cancelled by the UK this country could not only export more Typhoons but initiate a future manned combat jet program, with Harrier III being the logical choice, given the F35B is such a poor replacement.

  16. Martin Bayliss 5 April, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    The f35 is no air superiority fighter, at best it is a strike platform with similar performance to the Sepecat jaguar.

    It is inconceivable that the US would replace the bulk of its f16/15/18s with such an aircraft without exposing the US to being outclassed by just about all other air forces in air to air.

    I expect the US will wait for a few of its assimilated allies to buy enough to soften the financial burden before buying more f22s and starting a new fighter program to truly replace the f16/15/18. Meanwhile the f35 will have fulfilled its true purpose of killing off better combat jet program’s such as the Typhoon and Rafale, leaving the new US fighter program with no opposition.

    Well I think the world has caught on to this wheeze. I note the UK announcement of its purchase of the next 14 f35s has been delayed. I expect the whole lot to be cancelled about 2015 as the f35b slips even mor behind schedule, increases in price again and has its specifications reduced yet again.

    More Typhoons is the correct answer.

  17. Steve Taylor 7 April, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    If you want to prevent the RCS problems generated by the engine fan blades you need an S-shaped duct, if it doesn’t have one you’ll be able to see that thing coming at you head on from a long way off. I’m not saying that it’s not possible to make supersonic ones, I’m just saying you can’t get the best out of the engine if you have one. With a Hawk engine in a Hawk sized aircraft (albeit more slippery) you’re not going to get supersonic performance with that kind of duct.

    Well yes you’re right on ‘full’ aircraft manufacture, though the only platform we currently have that on is Hawk anyway. If F-35 was cancelled the UK would have to navalise Typhoon for the carriers. Additional UK capability investment in Typhoon certainly isn’t going to harm the export prospects, but would be no means gurantee further orders. I’m confused as to where (in amongst the mess of having to deal with the fallout of cancelling the F-35 work and develop/procure navalised Typhoon with associated carrier changes), this extra money for a new manned fighter would come from.

    Well, that idea certainly has been ‘conceived’ and it’s very much the plan for the US right now! Look at the agility of F-22 and F-35 compared to Typhoon, it’s fairly clear that the US see modern air to air battles fought from long range with stealth as the key. Again, look back to the actual numbers of aircraft exported vs those bought by the US. Any ‘softening’ is going to be marginal at best. It’s ‘inconceivable’ that the US would design and develop the F-35 with the primary aim of killing off other combat jet programmes, the financials would never support that argument.

    As I said, with you on the F-35B, payload/range are pretty poor and I’d prefer to see F-35C in service with the UK, but we just can’t afford it. It will be a cold day in hell before the UK pulls out of F-35 completely.

  18. Craig Hoyle 7 April, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    I think you’re making a bit of a bold leap in suggesting that Taranis is supersonic [re Martin Bayliss comments] – nobody I have spoken to has even alluded to that sort of performance, and it doesn’t follow that because a Hawk can achieve supersonic flight that a UCAS demonstrator using the same engine can. How much has the engine performance been degraded by embedding it within the fuselage, and how much of its power is needed to run the aircraft systems in Taranis? We of course don’t know the answers to those, but what would have been the benefit in going supersonic with a systems and design demonstrator: this airframe will never become an operational system, after all.

  19. Martin Bayliss 7 April, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    I would say the UK cannot afford two fast jet programs at once, and hence it was always ridiculous having the Typhoon and F35 program’s going at once when the Typhoon (the undisputedly most British of the two) being more than capable of all the UK’s fast jet needs into the 2040′s, including the naval and strike ones.

    With the production Taranis spin offs coming in about 2030 and jointly operated with the Typhoon and it’s future manned replacement (not the f35).

    And as regards Taranis’s performance, why did BAE go for a higher wing sweep angle than Nueron which is clearly transonic other than to make the airframe supersonic capable.

    And my point was that the Taranis probably does have an s-shaped duct for stealth but that does not preclude supersonic performance, both because there have been supersonic jets with s- ducts before and if the s-duct it has precludes supersonic performance then the Taranis aerodynamics are overkill, which I doubt – it is supersonic and if it has not broken the sound barrier yet it will do so in future testing.

  20. Martin Bayliss 15 April, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    While it is true that any fast jet these days must be capable of strike as well as air to air it is not the case that any fast jet these days can do without sufficeint air to air whilst being optimised for strike, which is the remit of the F35.

    The Typhoon is not, as the pro F35 lobby would have you believe an air to air optimised platform with strike bolted on, it is as much a strike fighter as it is an air to air superiority fighter. And when fully developed with conformal tanks, Brimstone and Storm Shadow it will be a far more formidable strike platform than the Tornado it replaces and arguably every bit as potent as any mark of the F35 without any performance or maneuverability penatly.

    While the F35 has no hope of ever matching even the F16/F18/F18 air to air capabilities it is supposed to replace, and certainly not its contemparies such as the Typhoon and Rafale. And as for the F22 I think it is now clear the Typhoon is at least a match for the F22 in close in and arguably BVR. The problem the F22 has is that in reality it is ever so slightly too big as a fighter, no matter what thrust vectoring it has its sheer size means in air to air it has a disadvantage to a similarly thrust to wieghted & wing loaded jet such as the Typhoon – physics will out. Add to that its cost and the undeniable fact its fundamental stealth characteristics are over 20 years old now so that the latest radars and thermal sensors neutralise any stealth advantage it might have had in the early 90′s.

    In a hot war of well matched adversaries the factors that make a top fighter are the same now as they were in the 60′s. It is just the capability of the jets and missiles has moved on since then, anbaling a top air to air fighter to also be a superb strike platform too. Ironically the US showd the way with the F15E, a masterpiece the seem to be neglecting. A F22E would be similarly be the worlds best strike jet in my opeinion.

    Where stealth really comes in is UCAVS, and operating UCAVS in comobination with high thrust to weight low wing loaded sensor laden multirole fighters such as Typhoon is where it is at.

    The F35 is simply a mistake for all concerned.

    It should be cancelled not just by the UK, but by the US. The US can do far better and it must if it is not to be left behnd.

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