F-35B the right choice and the only choice for the Royal Navy

The F-35 Lightning II has proved highly controversial since the program’s conception in the 1990s. There are still those in the UK who would be happy to see the back of it, but the arguments in favour of the aircraft that is an essential part of the RN’s future are overwhelming.

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HMS Artful roll out

Will 2017 be “the year of the Royal Navy” ?

On New Years Day the Ministry of Defence stated: “2017 is the year of the navy”. The Defence Secretary said, “2017 is the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain’s influence globally and delivering security at home.” There is no doubt that there will be some very significant milestones in the program to deliver new equipment to the RN and there are many reasons to be positive. But this is just one side of the story. While it is very heartening to see new vessels arrive, this must be seen in the context of the size and strength of the fleet as a whole.

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HMS Duncan shadows Russian warships

The Royal Navy – quietly getting on with the job

In spite of frequent claims that the Royal Navy is “barely able to defend its own waters”, two of its escorts are shadowing the largest group of Russian warships to pass near to the UK since the end of the Cold War. Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov sailed from the Northern Fleet base of Severomorsk on Saturday accompanied by seven other surface ships and probably at least one submarine.

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HMS Prince of Wales in the LPH role

Why your CVF should not moonlight as your LPH

In part 1 of this article we argued that HMS Ocean (LPH) should be retained and then replaced. If this does not happen the official plan is for the RN to operate the Queen Elizabeth class (QEC) aircraft carriers (CVF) in the LPH role. Here we look at how this might work in practice and why this solution is flawed.

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F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter

Have the armchair F-35 critics got it all wrong?

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (Lightning II) programme has been one of the most controversial defence projects of all time. The decision to abandon CATOBAR for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers means their credibility rests largely with the effectiveness of the F-35B Lighting II. Born in the internet age where critics can spread negativity in a few clicks, (guilty your honour) the overwhelming public and media perception of the F-35 is of an expensive disaster. Those who dare to champion the aircraft, or are at least willing to give it a chance are ignored, written off as establishment stooges or seen as part of a sinister conspiracy.

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Aircraft Carriers - HMS Queen elizabeth

SDSR implications for the RN – Aircraft carriers: front & centre of UK defence policy

Although far from perfect, the decisions made in the SDSR appeared to offer something good for all the UK armed forces. At first glance the RAF appearing strongest; retaining its Tranche 1 Typhoons, orders for F-35s and 9 new P-8 Poseidon aircraft.  The Economist breathlessly reported “Spies, special forces and the Royal Air Force are the main winners”. In fact the SDSR was very maritime-centric with the RN the main beneficiary.

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Royal Navy Merlin Helicopter on flight deck of HMS Sutherland

The Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopter fleet – bearing a heavy load

Glossy MoD publicity may give the impression the Fleet Air Arm is in rude health with several new types of aircraft coming into service to replace ageing veterans. A new generation of aircraft are indeed being delivered but the actual number of helicopters in RN service will have declined dramatically by 57% (From 194 to 83) in the decade between 2009 and 2019.

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