Tag Archives: David Cameron

You won't believe it: UK considered bringing back one aircraft carrier and the Harrier for Libya

Can you remember the famous possible, reportedly imminent, UK’s U-turn on the F-35 version that we already discussed here?

It looks like another resounding decision could have been reversed during last year’s Libya operations, when London considered bringing back to operative service the aircraft carriers and Harrier “jump jets” axed by the much criticised Strategic Defense and Spending Review.

Such admission suggests the David Cameron Cabinet has not clear ideas about the future of the UK military.

In November 2011, 72 former RAF’s Harrier jets were sold to the USMC for a mere 180 million USD.

They will not be used for spare parts: the Marines plan to equip at least two squadrons with some of the UK’s Harrier GR9 models with plenty of upgrades and lot of experience in Afghanistan…..

Harrier GR9

Image credit: Jez B/Flickr

British Prime Minister to use new RAF tankers for future overseas visits after embarrassing trade trip with Boeing plane

The Royal Family and senior UK politicians may consider using one of the RAF’s “Voyager” Airbus A330 tanker aircraft for future foreign trips after a rather embarrassing trade trip to Indonesia caused a huge row.

David Cameron and his aides made the trip during the Easter period to drum up trade for European built Airbus planes (11 Airbus 330 aircraft for Garuda Indonesia airlines) using a “rented” Boeing 747. Insult was added to injury when it emerged that the lease was given to Atlas Air, a US based company, and the plane used for the journey was owned by Sonair, an Angolan carrier banned from European Union airspace over safety concerns.

David Cameron poses in front of a Garuda Indonesia Airlines Airbus during a visit to Jakarta Airport (Photo by Stefan Rousseau – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Cameron’s advisors were quick to point out that they usually charter British Airways or Virgin Atlantic for foreign travel, but both airlines were busy Easter holiday and were unable to support the trip.

Since it is at least weird that a business delegation trying to support Airbus planes sales uses chartered Boeings, Britain’s aerospace lobby group said that proposals were being drawn up to let Britain’s VIP to use one of the modified A330 airliners.

According to Reuters, Robin Southwell, head of the UK aerospace industry’s lobbying association and also head of Airbus’ parent company in the UK said: “he would propose the alternative use of the Royal Air Force jets when not needed for refuelling missions.”

Southwell compared the use of the 747 to a luxury car salesman turning up in a tatty used Jaguar when he said: “If you are trying to sell an Aston Martin to someone and you turn up in a used Jaguar and say that the Aston Martin is the best thing since sliced bread and then drive off in the Jaguar, it isn’t as smart as turning up in the model you are trying to sell.”

The RAF’s fleet of 14 leased Voyager aircraft can be used to refuel other aircraft or carry troops or casualties, pretty much the same as the current VC-10 and Tristar tankers. Voyager takes this one step further in that the refuelling pods under the wings can be removed to make the plane a little less military looking jetliner in RAF colours.

It has to be said that a Voyager in RAF low-vis grey will not look as stunning at President Obama’s VC-25As Air Force One or other European leaders’ Airbus based aircraft.

Anyway, before using them to support diplomatic lobbying, maybe the UK should try to use them to refuel its Tornado strike planes that experienced worrying leakage problems during recent aerial refueling tests.

David Cenciotti has contributed to this article.

ZZ330

Image credit: Martin Hartland

UK to reverse decision on F-35 version. Two aircraft carriers and 72 retired Harriers later.

After the first of the UK’s F-35s took to the air on Apr. 13, it would seem that British Prime Minister David Cameron has been persuaded into going back with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version and reverse his earlier decision to reverse order from the F-35B the F-35C CV (Carrier Variant).

The British newspaper The Daily Mail has reported that Cameron has taken on board military advice and gone with the B version that was controversially axed in 2010 as the British government, following a Strategic Defence and Security Review, negotiated a deal to get the JSF that will equip the American flattops instead of that destined for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Cameron made the U-turn after hearing that the changes needed by the two carriers would amount to £1.8 billion and delay the whole project by 7 years.

The Daily Mail quoted a Downing street official as saying: “The major problem with the conventional aircraft [the CV variant] is that we would be without carrier capability for far too long”.

Obviously, such uncertainity gives us more ammunition to criticise the initial decision to scrap the two small aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Invincible (leaving the UK with no maritime strike capability for a decade or more), the subsequent retirement of the Harrier “Jump Jet” and last year’s sale of the RAF’s 72 Harrier jets to the USMC for a mere 180 million USD.

The (final?) decision is expected to be signed off officially within the next few weeks.

In the meanwhile Lockheed Martin has released a video of the UK’s F-35B inaugural flight.

The one in the video should be UK future’s F-35 version. Until next U-turn on future Britain’s aircraft carrier and naval aviation.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

UK about to launch air strikes to take out the Somali pirates once and for all. With some U.S. help.

Although at this time this is just media speculation, there are reports in the UK that British Prime Minister is considering some form of air strikes on radical militants in Somalia along with dealing with the piracy issue.

After some 400 attacks and 100 hijackings in three years on international shipping, David Cameron would be drawing up plans to send one of two helicopter carriers loaded with Apache and Lynx attack helicopters, along with Royal Marines, to take out the Pirate camps once and for all.

Britain could also be working alongside other countries to rid Somalia of the pirate problem along with the radical group al-Shabab whom Cameron alleges has links to al-Qaida and is a direct threat to the UK and other  nations.

The plans may have been given the green light by the Somalians themselves at the international conference that has taken place in London on Feb. 23, as the country’s government would welcome the air strikes so long as civilians were protected. Indeed, one of the problem the international community has to face is that the terrorists are even stopping aid and other forms of assistance reaching Somalia.

The intelligence agencies know where the pirate camps are along with the al-Shabab camps (indeed it can seen marked on Google Earth);  the problem is the closeness to the civilian population and the need to keep casualties to the bare minimum.

According to speculations, French and U.S. forces would be involved in direct military action along with Britain and few other supporting nations. Even if it isn’t widely reported, looks like the US has already made a military strike deep in Somali territory and continues to hit al-Shabab with drone strikes (launched also from Mahe, in the Seychelles), every now and then.

Let’s see what kind of threat a coalition could find in the Horn of Africa. There are intelligence reports that 30 SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles have arrived into one of Somalia’s ports, thought to have been smuggled out of Libya and were once part of Colonel Gaddafi’s huge arsenal. This threat has also been backed up by the announcement of a find of a cache of some 43 anti-aircraft missiles composed of a mix of the older SA-7 and newer more potent SA-24s buried in Algeria, near the Libyan border. Most probably there are others in circulation that are currently unknown.

The operation is likely to be more surgical in nature and possibly amphibious as most of the camps are situated along the coastal region or not that far inland.  Indeed the U.S. Special Forces raid that rescued two western aid workers was only some 30 miles (50km) from the coast. The operation could be run from Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti, were several special operation planes are based (among them the recently crashed U-28A) and, although it is unlikely, if fast air is required that could come in the form of Harriers from a U.S. “multipurpose amphibious assault ship.”

Officially no decision has been made but as and when further details become clear, The Aviationist will report them.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: Crown Copyright

India's MMRCA fighter jet deal: illusion and disillusion on the losers' side.

All media outlets have been reporting the various reactions to the news that India is “likely” to award the contract for its MMRCA competition to Dassault as it was the lowest cost bid.

Aviation week’s Robert Wall wrote that the news is “Not going down well in London”.

Although Wall points out that Germany led the Eurofighter campaign, he describes the disapointment amongst British politicians as “palpable”. Indeed, many are complaining under their breath that Britain gives many more times aid to India than France ever has.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had, along with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, lobbied on behalf of the Eurofighter bid and did have to admit “the decision is obviously disappointing”. In an attempt to quell increasing worries from other members of the British parliament he pointed out that “they have not yet awarded the contract”. Cameron also promised to do all he could to persuade the Indians to take another look at the Typhoon and that job losses in the UK are not expected as a result.

Job losses is also a concern for the other three partners of the Eurofighter consortium, Italy, Germany and Spain each building sections of the jet but doing little to sponsor the aircraft in the Indian contest.

Although Eurofighter was believed to have a more political clout because it was backed by four European countries, lack of a united effort from partners could have been a decisive flaw on the Typhoon side. Those countries that were supposed to unitarily support the F-2000, are the same that in times of financial crisis have been much distant one another on the strategy to save the Eurozone.

Anyway, since everybody is claiming that no contract has been signed yet and 6-8 months of (hard) negotiations lie ahead for Dassault, someone has already tried to raise the stakes.

For instance, in a statement to Reuters, Pentagon spokeswoman Leslie Hull-Ryde said there had been no U.S. offer to sell India the stealthy Lockheed Martin F-35, but Washington would provide information on the jet’s infrastructure and security requirements if India showed interest in purchasing the Joint Strike Fighter. Even if it’s hard to believe the U.S. would give the requested technology transfer on its most (costly) and troubled program,  a contract worth 10 billion USD for 126 planes (with 80 more examples on the shopping list), might spur the Department of Defense to knock on New Dehli’s door with the resolve needed to persuade India to scrap its own 5th generation fighter radar evanding plane in favor of the F-35.

In the meanwhile, boosted by the win in India, Dassault has made a new offer to Switzerland where the Rafale was beaten by the Swedish Gripen in the selection for the Swiss Air Force F-5 replacement.

Let’s see what happens.

Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti