The Great ‘Harrier’ Disaster
The certifiable ‘incompetents’ we call “bankers” could not make as many mistakes as Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) – though some would argue that America’s Dept of Defense (DoD) would run it a close second.
All three deal in money that is not theirs and the amounts of money run into the billons. Not only that but when they’re in a hole they never know when to stop digging.
The difference between bankrupting a company and running a successful company depends not on the company or its product range but on its management.
The competency levels at the Ministry of Defence are woefully low. This is not to make a political point but to wave an accusative figure at policy makers, whether they be retired Armed Forces types or ‘Arts graduate’ civil servants who would never find a job in the ‘real world.’
Left: the iconic battle proven Sea Harrier
Only the MoD could manage to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.
The great Harrier disaster refers to a nation’s self-inflicted wounds brought about by a Ministry that has been out of control for 2 generations. In a badly-run Ministry, deficits haunt the decision process and stalking the corridors of power is the lust for ‘savings.’
In 2010 this led a new government into a panic decision to cut naval and air forces in an attempt to minimise ‘cost over runs’ and ‘budget back holes.’ One of the many notable casualties was the Navy’s aircraft carriers and another was not only the Sea Harriers it used but all the land-based Harriers used by the RAF.
Having very recently spent over £1 Billion in up-grading these aircraft no savings could be made in that direction but future savings could be made by moth-balling some or all of them (given that they had a long serviceable life ahead of them).
The Harrier is, or was, a singularly successful story. So unique were its capabilities – it could not only take-on and out-manoeuvre far faster fighter jets – but the US decided it could no invent anything better and bought the licence to make hundreds of them.
The US Marine Corp is the Harrier’s biggest user and buyer. They plan to keep their version, the AV-8B, operation until at least 2025. And that could yet prove an optimistic date as the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, its intended replacement is hitting all kinds of snags and teething troubles.
Left: Early production F-35 US Navy version
At one point it looked as if the project was on the verge of being cancelled.
This would have put not only the Marine Corp in a dilemma but overseas air forces who have signed up to the development funding of the single engined F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (see below for comparison with the similar looking but twin engined F-22 ‘Raptor’ jet fighter.
Embarrassingly, Britain is one of those signatories. The MoD has chosen the F-35B to replace its Harrier GR.7s and Sea Harriers for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Her 2005 defence plans called for 150 aircraft: the Royal Air Force 90; and the Royal Navy 60. However by October 2010 the Strategic Defence and Security Review stated:
- “We will fit a catapult to the operational carrier to enable it to fly a version of the Joint Strike Fighter with a longer range and able to carry more weapons. Crucially, that will allow our carrier to operate in tandem with the US and French navies, and for American and French aircraft to operate from our carrier and vice versa.”
So having mothballed it operational Harriers in 2010 the Gov’t / MoD decided to compound the bungling by selling them to the US Marine Corps in 2011.  Not only that, but the new government was forced to switch to the non-VSTOL carrier version and then almost immediately reverse that decision because of arrester hook problems.
Former RAND author, John Stillion, has written of the F-35A’s air-to-air combat performance that it “can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.” Although this is only one voice, the Rand Corporation is much respected and if only slightly true it does not auger well for the F-35.
The truth is that the fleet of now ‘ageing’ American Harrier AV-8Bs has to remain in service for several years longer than planned due to the VTOL and STOL replacement, the Joint Strike Fighter jump jet variant, is years behind schedule.
The MoD agreed to buy 8 of the Chinook Mk 3s in 1995 for £259 million but they have been kept in storage since they were delivered in 2001.  Why, because officials negotiating the deal to buy them did not ask for the access code for the software used to fly them and Boeing refused to hand the code over once the mistake was noticed (the current Boeing management are blissfully unaware that they wouldn’t have a global company if they had to pay British patent royalties for the jet engines they depend on).
The ineptitude of the MoD and the obstinacy of Boeing resulted in a situation where eight Chinook Mk 3 helicopters were re-engineered at a cost of multi-million pounds to the Mk 2 standard in order to use them operationally. Final deliveries took place at the end of 2010.
When American needed moral and troop support to legitimise its invasion of Afghanistan one would have supposed that someone in the Dept of Defence would have picked up the phone to Boeing and told them how life really works. What price now Pres. George W Bush call in Nov 2002 for a “Coalition of the willing” ?
No ‘Quid Pro Quo’
Britain’s Harrier have been operational in Iraq and Afghanistan for many months former prime minister came under political pressure for not supplying British troops with enough helicopters, especially the Chinook. But in fact Britain had enough Chinook but could not fly them because of software ‘difficulties’. If American was serious about an alliance of the willing it should have ordered software to be delivered rather than let the American company let wounded soldiers die. 
Alternatively the MoD should have realised that the US has huge quantities of mothballed military aircraft including helicoptors. The British government should have reminded Boeing, or America, of the aircraft carrier USS Robin. After losing the operational capacity of both USS Hornet (sunk) and the USS Enterprise, the Pacific carrier fleet was reduced to just the USS Saratoga. American requested carrier reinforcement and Britain supplied one of its most modern, HMS Victorious (30,000 tons), for operations in the Pacific from 1942 through to 1943.  HMS Emperor is a 1943 example of the reverse of the above; a small (14,400 tons) US aircraft carrier used by the Royal Navy. 
Returning to the Harrier debacle, the ignominy was heightened by the Americans not having the good grace to use the aircraft as they were but to rip out their innards merely for spares. In all the literature detailing this deal, not once is a re-training of pilots mentioned. Apparently, the US high command has such little confidence in its aircrews that anything new, or novel, or slightly different has to be eradicated.
The reason also given by the Marine Corp is that the purchase will save them $1 billion. ‘Defense News’ in reporting the sale to theUS cites a Mr. Lon Nordeen as ‘an authority on the Harrier’:
- “There are significant differences between Royal Air Force GR Mark 9s and Marine AV-8Bs, which would be a challenge to overcome, however, the engines and spare parts would be very valuable for long-term sustainment of the Marine Corps Harrier fleet.”
- “I don’t think it will be costly to rip out the Brit systems and replace them with Marine gear.”
From a purely technical point of view ‘Nordeen noted that the British GR 9 and 9As are similar in configuration to the Marines’ AV-8B nightattack version, which makes up about a third of U.S. Harriers. The British planes are also ‘night planes’ dedicated to air-groundattack, he said, and while both types carry Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) sensors, neither is fitted with a multimode radar such as the APG-65 carried by U.S. AV-8B+ models.
However, Nordeen concluded that the sale represented a ‘good bargain’ for the U.S and that in fact:
- “The absence of the big radar, makes the GR 9A (UK) and AV-8Bs (US) a better-performing plane. Weighing less, it’s more of a hot rod.”
British GR 9s, are powered by the Rolls-Royce Mark 105 Pegasus engine. GR 9As have the more powerful Pegasus Mark 107, which is very similar to the Rolls-Royce engine supplied Marine AV-8Bs. The latter is a F402-RR-408 unit which is only slightly down on the thrust from the British Pegasus Mk 107 (24,750 lbs of thrust).
The immediate result is that (yet again) Britain’s MoD has spent £1 billion from which it will never benefit.
There has been a net gain to the US Marine Corp of $1 billion so we might as well have handed over the cash equivalent to them.
This is £2 billion that is benefiting others but not the taxpayer. To off-set this £2 billion gift to others the MoD rather lamely claims that £1 billion savings will be made in staff and stock costs over the coming years.
It doesn’t inspire confidence to read that Rear Admiral Mark Heinrich, the head of purchasing for the U.S. Navy is reported as saying at a meeting sponsored by ‘Bank of America Merrill Lynch’ that“payment dates and amounts have yet to be sorted out.”
- “. . . Payment details were the only outstanding issue on the parts deal discussions . . .”
What kind of business sells its assets but leaves payment details sketchy ?
So far as can be ascertained only $50 million (£34 million)  is being paid for the Harrier spares, but this does not include prices to be agreed for engines, airframes, and completed aircraft (and the non-specific ‘expensive key components’ the US Marine Corp is anxious to obtain). Lon Noreen puts a value of the sale of at least some of these items at $180 million (£117 m?), plus overall savings making a total value of $1 bn.
On this side of the Atlantic the political decision to sell the Harriers has been greeted with hostility and the sale for “peanuts” has induced incandescence, particularly among the Navy. 
Had Harriers still been available in 2011 Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord, believes they would have made the Libya mission more effective, faster, and cheaper.
The cause of the USMC’s need to urgently keep its STOVL (short take off and vertical landing) AV 8B flying is the problem child thatis the F-35B or joint strike aircraft. AV 8B have to be made to last until at least 2025 and all the time the ageing AV 8Bs are not getting any younger.
Right: The VSTOL version of the F-35 earmarked for Britain and the US Marine Corps.
The F-35 was scheduled to be ‘in service’ by 2012 but as Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, warned in Jan of that year, the programme is “not out of the woods yet.”
He said he based his support for the plane on its developers’ ability to resolve a series of technical problems that some had feared might doom the project.
Ten years after first beginning work on the F-35 programme (2002), the total costs have jumped from $233 billion to an estimated $385 billion. And, recent estimates say, the entire program could exceed $1 trillion over 50 years. The F-35 project is the Pentagon’s most expensive – and most troubled (?) – weapons programme ever (plagued by delays and cost overruns).
The developer, Lockheed Martin is building three versions of the F-35 – one for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. They are intended to replace Cold War-era aircraft such as the Air Force F-14, F-16 fighter, the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet and the Marines’ EA-6B Prowler and AV-8B Harrier. International partners, including Britain, are also in line to buy F-35s.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates threatened, in Jan 2011, to put the Marines’ version of the aircraft on a two-year “probation” because it was experiencing “significant testing problems.” Their version is capable of taking off from shorter runways and landing vertically (just like a Harrier). In Gates’ view, if the problems could not be fixed within two years he would cancel the programme.
Right: the family of F35s
Another option at the time was to slow down F-35 production numbers and build only 2 and not 3 variants. This would to save billions of dollars in the short term and save further billion in later years as there would not be so many aircraft to purchase.
It is reported that the Pentagon still plans to buy 2,443 of the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. Production of U.S. jets is expected to continue until the late 2030s (but can a plane designed in the 2000’s still be a worthy adversary in 2030 ?).
Slowing down procurement of the F-35 in the near term, as laid out in DoD’s 2013 budget request, will add nearly $6.2 billion in procurement and development costs. However, the DoD removed 179 units of the F-35s from planned purchases between 2013 and 2017. The DoD is planning to supply fifty F-35 jets to the Marine Corps per year beginning in 2017.
Perhaps, given the economic restraints world wide, the domestic economy, and the F-35’s troubles (which they see a real threat), the Marine Corps have, by clinching the UK deal, ‘boxed clever’ and hedged their bets against being stranded with no aircraft to fly (MoD, please note).
In one of Panetta’s recent statements he said that“sufficient progress” had been made over the past 12 months to merit lifting its probation but he cited no specifics. However, it is known that the plane’s key problems was the inadequate fitting (?) of a pair of doors on top of the plane fuselage that open to allow extra air to reach the engines (see photo below).
Solutions to these problems have been found but not fully validated in all cases.In Nov 2011, a Pentagon study team identified the following 13 areas of concern that remained to be addressed in the F-35:
- The Helmet mounted display system does not work properly.
- The fuel dump subsystem poses a fire hazard.
- The Integrated Power Package is unreliable and difficult to service.
- The F-35C’s arresting hook does not work (Navy version).
- Classified “survivability issues”, which have been speculated to be about stealth.
- The wing buffet is worse than previously reported.
- The airframe is unlikely to last through the required lifespan.
- The flight test program has yet to explore the most challenging areas.
- The software development is behind schedule.
- The aircraft is in danger of going overweight or, for the F-35B, not properly balanced for VTOL operations.
- There are multiple thermal management problems. The air conditioner fails to keep the pilot and controls cool enough, the roll posts on the F-35B overheat, and using the afterburner damages the aircraft.
- The automated logistics information system is partially developed.
- The lightning protection on the F-35 is uncertified, with areas of concern
Former Pentagon manager Paul G. Kaminski has reportedly said thatthe lack of a complete test plan has added five years to the JSF program. As of February 2011, the main flaws with the aircraft were engine “screech”, transonic wing roll-off and display flaws in the helmet mounted display.
The JSF, or Joint Strike Fighter programme, began as the result of the desire for a Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) and for a Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST). Presently, the F35 is proving to be anything but affordable. Its first level flight was on 15th Dec 2006.
Theoretically, using one design, airframe, avionics and engine but with modifications promised an avenue of greatsavings. For the US Air Force there would be the conventional take off variant the F-35A; for the Navy the F-35C carrier variant; and for the Marines the F-35B, with VSTOL capabilities.
For some unexplained reason the seamless system used on the Harrier was discarded and a rather more clumsy Soviet designed mechanical layshaft system was chosen. Rolls-Royce provides this very ‘un R-R’ technology of a shaft driven fan which can be disengaged in level flight but which has to be mechanically re-engaged to enable the Marine’s F-35 variant to land vertically.
The prospects of Viffing (vectoring in flight) which made the Harrier so manoeuverable will be a thing of the past for the Marine Corp. Viffing effectively “slams on the brakes”forcing a chasing high speed fighter to overshoot its target thus turning the tables for the Harrier.
Vertical travel is provided by the Rolls-Royce made “LiftSystem” but in reality this is Lockheed Martin solution rather than a Rolls-Royce one. If the system sounds familiar it is. It was first used for the abandoned Soviet Yakovlev Yak-141 aircraft, designed for carriers, in the 1990s.
Right: The Soviet and now American solution to VSTOL
The latter implies an ability to take-off and land either in ‘vertical’ of ‘short’ take-off mode. The Soviet Yakovlev Yak-141 with its layshafts (see diagram right), had problems hovering for more then a few minutes which would imply limited VSTOL capabilities. However, Sea Harriers, with the aid of the Ski-Jump, are able to lift more into the air than conventional Harriers, so the US Marines may be pleased enough with this capability of the F-35.
Lockheed Martin entered into a funding partnership with Yakovlev for this technology. The disadvantage is that in level flight all the pivots, gears, shafts and fan are dead weight. If it has an advantage it is said that heavier payloads can be lifted using ‘LiftSystem.’
The first F-35s should arrive at the Marine training unit at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in Jan 2012.
Only the F-35A appears to be able to fly unaided. Quite amazingly the carrier version for the Navy, the F-35C is, of all things, having arrester hook problems. Meanwhile the VSTOL F-35B is having problems with its air brake and fan flaps needed for VSTOL (see pictures above and below).
The beleaguered F-35 programme has given US lawmakers an opportunity to blast the Defense Department and Air Force officials (March 24th 2012). The ever moving price tag is a red rag to a bull. Roscoe Bartlett (Rep-Md), described the procurement as an example of what not to do:
- “I hope that when you are pursuing this program that you will keep your records so that when we do a post-mortem when it’s finished [we will know] how not to do this in the future.”
There is a dizzying array of estimates as to how much the F-35 project is costing and will cost.
1. The Government Accountability Office report states that the F-35 programme has a cost overrun of more than $1 billion, about $660 million of which is the government’s share, and production has been delayed by six years.
2. According to a new Pentagon report (circa March 2012) the DoD projects a nearly $17 billion increase in the total cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter above previous estimates.
3. DoD now says the entire program will cost $396 billion, according to Pentagon’s selected acquisition report, which have been sent to Congress.
4. The overall sustainment cost for the program is estimatedat$1.1 trillion, according to the document. The Pentagon is conducting a two-year “should cost” assessment of operation and sustainment costs that will continue in 2012.
5. Another Pentagon press statement (March 29) put the total cost of the F-35 at about $1.45 trillion over the life of the program. The previous year’s estimate of about $1 trillion did not include some of the costs that are now being included in the latest estimate.
6. The Congressional Committee (May 15th 2012) recommended a $528.5 million cut in procurement for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, citing unjustified increases, engine cost growth and contractor delays.
7. DoD requested $8.9 billion for the F-35 in 2013, which includes procurement and research and development.
Fly away price
Comparisons are almost impossible when estimating defence and aircraft costs. The methodologies used vary greatly between countries. However, some attempts have been made in recent years to make such comparisons.
The US is projected to spend an estimated US$ 323 billion for development and procurement on the F-35 programme.Norway’s Rear Admiral Arne Røksund, whose country has ordered 52 of the F-35 fighter jets estimated, in Nov 2011, they would each cost $769 million (over their operational lifetime).
We thus have the outright ‘purchase’ price versus the “fly away price”, i.e. with all the avionics and weapons systems (see Chinook above), and finally we have the “operational lifetime cost” of each unit.
An aggregate method of comparing costs is the so-called “flyaway cost.” in accountancy terms this is a marginal costing approach – as opposed to the total absorption cost route. “Flyaway cost” values the aircraft atits marginal cost, including only the cost of production and production tools immediately accruing to the building of a single unit. Not surprisingly, advocates who want to minimise the costs of an aircraft the favour will often report the “flyaway cost” as the purchase price.
For example, the flyaway cost for the F-18 Super Hornet made by Boeing and based in 2009 on the 449 units built, was US$ 57.5 million per aircraft – but the weapons system cost was 39.8% higher,at US$ 80.4 million per unit.
Flyaway price for F-35
- – the flyaway cost of the F-35A variant will reputedly cost US$ 197 million (inc. weapons system for the USAF as of 2012.
- – the flyaway cost of the F-35B for the US Marines Corps will cost around US$ 237.7 million (inc. weapon systems cost) as of 2012).
- – the flyaway cost of the F-35C carrier based variant will cost around US$ 236.8 million (inc. weapon systems cost) as of 2012.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence chose the F-35B (VSTOL) with a price tag of US$ 237.7 million p/u (inc. all weapons systems), some years ago to replace some of it ageing fleet of Harriers. In February 2011, the Pentagon put a price of $207.6 million for each of the 32 aircraft to be acquired in the financial year ending 2012, rising to $304.15 million ($9,732.8/32) if its share of RDT&E (Research, Development, Test & Engineering) spending is included. 
An excellent publication of comparative aircraft costs is produced by “Defense-aerospace.Com.”  In their “Sticker Shock: Estimating the Real Cost of Modern Fighter Aircraft” they produce a variety of tables measuring unit price by means of; procurement costs, research costs, by GDP and per capita cost etc (only Table 1 is shown below).
The collaborative “Eurofighter”, also known as the Typhoon is believed to have cost in the region of £125 million (including development + production costs).
* this European ‘agile’ fighter is now in service. The original RAF order was for 232 of the 559+ aircraft planned.  Its first flight was in 1994 and it was operational in 2003 (a gap of about 10 years). It was planned to phase it out as the F-35 JSF 1) came on stream and 2). as a means to win export orders against the F-35.
* the cost of the 3 phases of production is £64 million, £70 million and £100 million (all approx, given currency fluctuations).
* in 1998 it was was soon apparent that a more realistic estimate.
* by 1997 the estimated cost was £17 billion. Earlier it had been put at £13 billion, made up of £3.3 billion development costs plus £30 million per aircraft. However, by 2003 the cost was put at£20 billion, and the ‘in-service’ date (defined as the date of delivery of the first aircraft to the RAF) was 4 years late, i.e. in 2003.
* by 2007, Germany estimated the system cost (aircraft and training, plus spare parts) to Euro 120 million and said it was ‘in perpetual increase.’ On 17 June 2009, Germany ordered 31 aircraft of Tranche 3A for €2,800m, giving rise to a unit system cost of Euro 90 million per aircraft.
F22 – Raptor
The twin engined Raptor is a big plane – see diagram below. It is an interesting comparator with the single engined F-35. Its first flight was in Sept 1997 and it was introduction in Dec 2005 (under 10 years, unlike the F-35 and Typhoon). Production ceased in 2011 with 195 being built solely for the USAF as the government banned exports.
The F-22 is the modern-day equivalent of the piston engined Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II (known as the “Jug”, it was, in its day, the largest, heaviest, and most expensive fighter in history). But for a large, heavy plane the P-47 Thunderbolt was said to be remarkably agile.
The F-35 will not be as agile as the F-22, or fly as high or as fast, but its radar and avionics will be more advanced – and allegedly it will be cheaper than the F-22. The F-22 programme is reported as having cost US$ 66.7 billion with the flyaway cost in 2009 put at US$ 150 million per unit. Compare those figures with those contained in ‘Defense-aerospace.Com’ Tables.
The main competitors of the F-22 are the F-18, F-16, Typhoon and F-35. There are others of course such as Rafale, Gripen and the Russian made Mig 29, Su-27 and the Su-30 range (with its multi-target tracking, 360 degree Snow Leopard radar). In coming years the Chinese made Su-33, known locally as the J-15, may figure in the equation not only on agility and speed but on low price.
The German government which might have been expected to buy the F-22 and or the F-35 are not permitted the one and their horrific experience of being stitched up (plus a huge political bribery scandal) with the single engined Lockheed F-104 Starfighter (nicknamed the Widowmaker and the Flying coffin) has deterred them from anything but twin engined machines. The F-104 was ideal for the clear skies of Colorado and Texas but hopeless in the cloud covered skies of Europe. F-104 appeared unable or follow terrain contours without hitting them (Canada, Germany), and the Lockheed patent C-2 ejection seat was no guarantee either of a safe escape (the Luftwaffe retro-fitted Martin Baker GQ-7A ejection seat after 1967).
Stealth – the New Generation
What has become increasingly clear is the shift of emphasis in aircraft design (since the 1980s, e.g. B-2 and the F-117) towards incorporating stealth or reduced radar profile capabilities. At the same time new radar or scanning technologies have been developed to counter this threat.
Energy absorbing materials, the screening of infa-red signatures and the angling of panels so as not to give a responding “ping” to ground stations are but a few of the techniques used. A selection of ‘stealth’ fighters, from a few years ago, are illustrated below.
What a cost contrast is revealed when we examine British Aerospace’s advanced jet trainer, the Hawk. It shows that ‘multi-role’ capability can come on the cheap; it is used by many countries not only as a jet trainer but as a low-cost combat aircraft (when fitted with 30 mm ADEN cannon and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles).
Right: BA Hawk
The aircraft was designed by Hawker Siddeley in 1974 and funded by the company as a private venture in anticipation of possible RAF interest. The company was later bought up by BAE Systems. The Hawkfirst flew in 1974 and was in service by 1977. The unit cost is put at £ 18 million (at 2003 prices) and over 900 have been built. It’s pedigree can be traced back to the Folland Gnatof the 1960s.
An advanced jet trainer role was originally intended to be the role of the Jaguar, made by SEPECAT, but it was soon realised that it would be too complex an aircraft for fast jet training. However, it was found to make an ideal platform for delivering ordinance and other defence related roles.
Of all recent aviation conceptions that of the Jaguar must be almost unique. It was originally conceived in the 1960s as an advanced jet trainer with a light ground attack capability. Requirements, however, changed and the aircraft was needed to have supersonic performance, reconnaissance and tactical nuclear strike roles. The Jaguar was a Anglo-French joint project between Breguet of France and the British Aircraft Corporation. It was exported to India, Ecuador, Oman, and Nigeria.
Its highly flexible undercarriage made it ideal for ‘cross country’ landings and take-offs for many air forces which could not always rely on maintained airstrips and had to fall back on hastily carved out dirt airstrips (in Europe the Cold War assumption was that regular airstrips would also be laid waste by enemy attacks).
The Jaguar first flew in Sept 1968 and entered Anglo-French service in 1973. It was used in numerous conflicts and military operations by various air forces in Mauritania, Chad, Iraq, Bosnia, and Pakistan, as well as providing a ready nuclear delivery platform for Britain, France, and India throughout the latter half of the Cold War and beyond. In the Gulf War, the Jaguar received praise for its reliability. The unit cost is put at US$ 8 million at 1978 prices and 543 were built. Jaguar’s were retired 2005 and replaced by the Panavia Tornado and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Noteworthy in these attempts at European collaboration and unit price reduction is reputedly the negative and self-serving stance adopted by Dassault in all of the above projects Jaguar, Tornado and Typhoon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEPECAT_Jaguar ). European collaboration has a pronounced ‘drag’ on completiton times and costs as incoming governments change the specification their nation requires.
The Harrier programme can be said to have been the progenesis that set in motion work resulting in both ‘agile’ and ‘stealth’ generation aircraft. Agile because of its ‘viffing’ and stealth because of its ability to drop down to earth and steal in below the tree line.
The Harrier programme began in the late 1960s as a child of Cold War mentality which envisaged Germany as the front line of NATO and all airstrips as bombed out of use. Aircraft would need to be re-armed, refitted and repaired alongside straight roads and/or open fields. The Harrier met that need by being capable of VSTOL (vertical or short take-off and landing). One other advantage was that aircraft carriers need no longer be so big or so expensive (with angled flight decks), and arrester gear would become obsolete.
The Harrier is and remains a subsonic aircraft designed to fulfil strike, reconnaissance and fighter roles, however, this subsonic disadvantage has been shown in operational service to be no disadvantage at all (see the Falklands War, Bosnia police action and both Gulf Wars). Over the years the payload of the plane has increased significantly.
No unit costs can be found for the Harrier but some data is available for the Sea Harrier version.
By the 1970s a variant suitable for use on aircraft carriers (HMS Invincible class) was developed and called the Sea Harrier. This is the Harrier variant that fought in the Falklands War of 1982. It entered service in 1978 and was ‘retired’ in 2006. In this role it successfully flew CAP (combat air patrols) as a defensive measure protecting the fleet from supersonic fighter jet attacks.
The unit cost in 1991 of an AV-8B version of the Sea Harrier, made by Boeing, is said to be US$ 18 million (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Aerospace_Sea_Harrier ).
Traditionally, British authorities have always been a little more reticent over research costs, production costs and numbers than their American counterparts. However, from US sources we derive that 323 AV-8B were built by Boeing for the US Marines Corps between 1981 – 2003 at a cost of between US$ 24 – 30 million each; and that the programme cost US$ 6.5 billion at1987 prices. From another source it is stated that the unit price was US$ 18 million in 1991.
The terms Britain was bullied into accepting for working in partnership with Boeing are worthy of separate research. The US Navy threatened to cancel any orders for the Harrier in 1981 despite the DoD having already set a budget for their purchase, but then miraculously the programme was revived when British Aerospace (Bae), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with McDonnell Douglas (McDonnell Douglas was later bought by Boeing). Was this corruption under the guise of ‘lobbying’ or just a coincidence ? Under the agreement, BAe was relegated to the position of a sub-contractor, instead of the full partner status. The first production AV-8B was delivered to the US Marine training squadron at Cherry Point on 12th Dec 1983 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_AV-8B_Harrier_II ).
To read, therefore, that 74 decommissioned Harrier jump jets are to be sold for $50 million and in the next breath that the gross purchase price tag is US$ 180 million (£110 m), might lead one to think that the unit price is a mere US$ 2m, or thereabouts. But we are told by experts not to fret as this is all that can be expected as military commodities are unlike any other and their value is zero’ed once used.
Hawker Siddeley P.1154
The precursor to the ill-fated F-35 was a supersonic version of the Harrier, the P.1154, proposed in 1965 and which would have been in service by now (i.e. 2012). The P.1154 was to have all the Harrier attributes; capable of VSTOL but also of supersonic interdiction. No known photos exists but the two images below are artist’s impressions and show what it might have looked like.
It would, of course, have had no stealth capability.
Without doubt the Harrier is a ‘lightweight’ (22,000 lbs) among aircraft and nimbler for that attribute. Modern competitors, such as the Sukhoi Su-33 and its Chinese equivalent, weigh in at 66,000 pounds fully loaded, three times as much as the world’s only successful jump jet, the Anglo-American AV-8B Harrier.
The new American F-35B jump jet weighs in at 49,540 lbs (empty weight: 29,300 lbs). To date it has encountered serious problems with weight, engine heat, parts failures. The one advantage that the F-35B offers over the AV-8B is that the extra weight for the Yakovlev designed fan lift system allows it to takeoff with a heavier payload.  The problems the Russian faced was that it’s various systems either were unreliability in operation or could not be advisedly run for more then 5 minutes in the vertical hover.
The F-22 Raptor is also a heavy weight compared with the Harrier; it has an empty weight of 43,400 lbs and a loaded weight of 64,460 lbs.
Russia, Europe and China are the most obvious competitors to US domination of military aircraft production. What the US can’t control it tends to exclude, pushing up unit costs for Europe. All US administration appears to be able to snuff out real competition in the western world, beginning with Canada’s Mach 2 Avro Arrow in the mid 1950s (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avro_Canada_CF-105_Arrow ). Russia and China have always been beyond Washington’s reach and only in recent years is Europe finding its feet with civil and sporadically with military aircraft.
Yak-41 – Also known as the Yak-141 this was an experimental Russian supersonic VSTOL prototype of 1991 produced by the Yakovlev firm. Pictures show it with the same large flap aft of the canopy that is such a feature on the proposed F-35. Lockheed Martin, the makers of the F-22 and F-35, entered into discussions and contractual agreements with Yakovlev immediately after Russia’s announcement it could no longer fund its development.
The Yak-141 was a derivative of the Yak-38 which was the only VSTOL fighter to enter with the Soviet navy.
Following the announcement by the CIS (Russia) regarding the Yak-41M, Yakovlev immediately sought with several foreign partners who could help fund the program (a tactic they were also pursuing for development of the Yak-130 trainer, which was eventually developed in partnership (see LiftSystem at Footnote No 12).
Yak-38 – This aircraft’s first flight was in 1971 and it first appeared in service in 1976. Approx 231 were built for the Soviet navy and it was retired in 1991. The unit cost is thought to be around US$ 18 million at 1996 prices.
Global knock-on effects
Delays in the F-35 program will inevitably lead to a “fighter gap.”America and other countries will find themselves lacking sufficiently modern jet fighters to meet their requirements. Israel and Australia, for instance, may buy second-hand F-15s to cover their gap. Britain is in the same predicament. With one version of the F-35 not available in the foreseeable future the two enoumous aircraft carriers being built will have to undergo expensive structural changes in order to operate catapulted aircraft (non-VSTOL). It also raies the question of why Britain should be selling Harriers and yet not buying or swopping them for F-15s or F-18s ?
The Senate ‘Armed Services Committee’ saw the well known member, Sen. John McCain, claim that such simultaneous testing and production for the F-35 had caused costly design changes and retrofits, and that the project was “doomed to failure.”
The current schedule puts the delivery of basic combat capability aircraft in late 2015, followed by full capability block three software in late 2016. Final delivery will probably be by 2018 – several years late and considerably over budget.
Notwithstanding this to-ing and fro-ing over delivery dates and costs, the geo-poltical background is sifting. To meet firstly the emerging power of China and secondly the very more recent alliance between China and Russia, America has felt compelled to move 60% of its Navy to the Pacific theatre (formerly the balance was spilt 50/50 between the Atlantic and the Pacific).
The overseas conflicts spawned by 9-11 draw to a close. But rarely is the world at peace with itself. Russia and China are drawing ever closer, economically, with technology transfers and the sale of key military equipment. Given these huge arms sales, the modernisation of China smacks more of challenging the West in military power (particularly that of projection at sea) than with the aim of increasing the standard of living. 
This, together with its political rhetoric and promises of being a peaceful and thoughtful neighbour in the Yellow Sea are at odds with its actions towards, for example, the Philippines over Panatag Shoal (islands that lie very close to the Philippines). 
In child-like spite, China has blocked on its docks of thousands of containers of Philippine bananas (New York Times, May 2012).
Not surprisingly, in June 2012, Leon Panetta (US Sec. of Defense) described to a 28-nation security conference how theU.S.plans to “rebalance” its military posture, placing more emphasis on Asia. By 2020 the US fleet would see 40 % in Atlantic waters and 60% in the Pacific.
- “That will include six [out of 11] aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, littoral combatships, and submarines.”
The USN could move its ships overnight to this position but the infrastructure, ports, depots etc would take a little more time to create. However, it’s not just a matter of quantities but of sophistication; America needs to deply its latest warships if they are to counter China’s modern fleet.
For the Marine Corps the new Asia-Pacific posture first begun by Bush, brings them to the forefront of planning. Unlike in Europe and the Middle East, where joint forces have access to an extensive network of land bases. In an ocean that covers half the Earth’s surface distances in East and South East Asia are vast with permanent bases few and far between (Subic Bay and Clarks Airbase in the Philippines were abandoned by the US 20 years ago).
The Marine Corps has a fleet of over 30 ships which makes it more or less self-contained and a return to the Pacific theatre gives it an opportunity to renew its core competency – amphibious operations, meaning the projection of power from sea to land. 
As the Marine gear up for a return to the sea, a debate is bubbling within the Pentagon that may thwart this projection. In the U.S. Naval Institute magazine Proceedings, an article co-authored by defense analyst Frank Hoffman and Navy Under Secretary Robert Work questioned whether the traditional approach to going ashore in wartime had become too dangerous.
Left: (above and below) Boeing MV-22 Osprey
This assessment undermines how the Marines see its posture should it be called upon for future amphibious warfare. The Proceeding article argues that future enemies would most probably be armed with short and long-range precision weapons (missiles) that would decimate incoming landing craft, landing craft tenders and dock landing ship, i.e. LC ‘mother-ships’. The alternative was to wait until the other services (Navy and aircraft) had degraded the capabilities of the opposition with bombs and missiles before any landing attempt was made.
This isn’t the type of fighting the US Marine leaders had in mind when they invested many billions of dollars over the last two decades in weapons like the short-take-off F-35B fighter, and the Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor that combines the vertical agility of a helicopter with the horizontal speed and range of an aeroplane.
Left: Convair XFY-1, in flight (1954).
NB. It is not surprising that the MV-22 Osprey has had problems – the blades are out of proportion to any other aircraft and the stresses induced will cause failure. One is put in mind of the still born Corvair XFY-1.
Right: Vertical take off and landing meant pilot entered the aircraft via a long ladder.
The bad luck that has dogged these two projects is compounded by the cancellation of the high speed Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle known as an EFV (expeditionary fighting vehicle) designed to quickly get troops ashore and stay with them. 
It might have been a game-changer except for a new family of guided anti-ship weapons which have an extended target ranges well past 75 miles. The existing family extends from the subsonic Exocet to Taiwan’s supersonic ramjet Hsiung Feng III carrier-killer missile.
But on reflection this is a little surprising given that ‘anti-missile’ missiles have long been available and both the Russian and Israeli forces have developed ‘active protection systems’ (APS), for armoured vehicles to eliminate by shooting down RPGs launched from close by.  One would have thought that these could be fitted to both EFVs and landing craft.
Re-enter the Harrier
Given above political game of brinkmanship, which is inevitable as China bluffs once too often, she will lose control of events as it happened in the Sino-Soviet War era. China’s initial deftness in foreign affairs wording is immaculate but at stage beyond that and the velvet glove falls from the rusty fist it hides.
As a consequence she should not be amazed that her neighbours will seek new alliances and feel they have to be better armed with not just more units but more modern units. In particular they will need military equipment that they know will overwhelm Soviet designed / supplied hardware.
Recent events in Syria, Libya and formerly in Israeli-Arab conflicts will drive these nations towards NATO manufactured goods and thus a closer embrace with the West (which will only exaggerate China’s isolation in the Far East).
Taiwan, to take one example, has long suffered from mainland China’s belligerence and it has always been problematical for the US to supply Taiwan with modern hardware. Its small submarine fleet is not far from being World War II vintage and the balance made up of Dutch made vessels is beginning to age. If Russia can lease lend a nuclear powered submarine to India (a nuclear power) then why not the USA to Taiwan, the Philippines,Vietnam or Malaya ? Polaris carrying submarines are due for retirement soon !
HMS Repulse (left) is on of several British nuclear powered Polaris armed submarines decommissioned but ready to be reactivated.
What might be more politically acceptable is for hunter killer subs to be sourced from the West to neutralise China’s veiled threats. This would not preclude more modern multi-purpose ‘fleet’ submarines, e.g. HMS Warspite. The choice from America, Britain and France for these Asian nations would therefore be considerable.
The fate of many of these multi-million pound projects could be so much better than the all too often seen epitaph: “Decommissioned, in storage, awaiting disposal”. With the general sense of urgency felt even the MoD might realise that these leviathans of the deep could be sold for better than “10 cents on the dollar” to countries in SE Asia.
China would no longer have a simplified battle scenario with Russiaas an ally and America as its main opponents but an alliance of well-armed neighbouring states ready to intercept as and when they chose. The Russian-Chinese alliance (they have recently completed joint naval exercises) while it has successfully counterbalanced the influence of Europe’s and the U.S. to bring aid to Syria and thwarted international moves, will itself be under strain in the South China Sea arena. Any claim for the mineral rights (gas and oil) under the sea and close to other countries is sure to be now blocked at the UN most emphatically.
China is really hemmed in by its own geography. Not one but two chain of island form a necklace and act as choke chain on China’s aspiations (see East China Sea map and the Panatag Shoal map already listed above). Everywhere she looks her territorial waters have to be shared with other nations; Taiwan Japan Korea Vietnam etc. etc.
Formosa, now called Taiwan, lies 100 miles from the mainland coast of China. It shares a “continental shelf” with Communist China, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. All sovereignty claims could be resolved if all agreed to sign up to the UN maritime declaration, i.e. international waters, the Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 miles etc, but China refuses. Technically, any non-Chinese ship sailing in the South China Sea could be inviting an attack and sinking
- The benefits to Taiwan of a Harrier sale are clear and, though arms sales to Taipei have always risked incurring the wrath of the mainland, the relatively light profile of these craft and the potential effect thatthey could have on quelling further requests for arms in the foreseeable future may well make such a sale politically feasible. For the United States, this kind of move could help construct a balanced status quo situation thatwouldn’t risk arms escalation and would allow for more focus on cross-Straits confidence-building measures in the near future. http://the-diplomat.com/flashpoints-blog/2011/11/19/harriers-in-the-taiwan-strait/
Treading on yet more eggshells
China sees America as the perennial threat and is by its actions is preparing to meet them. Naturally, China sees the rise in tensions as something caused by others:
- “As regards the South China Sea tensions, it is some other claimants, whether emboldened by the United States’ new posture or not, that sparked the fire and have been stoking the flames.” 
And so we are almost back to the Mao-style rhetoric of ‘lackeys’ and ‘running dogs.
America’s strategic counter to this is to renew and reinforce its ties with those in the southern pacific such as New Zealand and Australia. New ties will be forged with countries that feel intimidated byChinaalready, such as Vietnam.
As China attempts to claims those parts of the sea it believe in her “imperial” days before Mao, the world will see it as faintly ludicrous notion and the laughter will force China to ‘lose face.’
The truth is that China never did command the sea and a brief scan of “China’s Sunken Warships” will reveal her naval incompetency for hundreds of years and against all manner of fleets (https://rwhiston.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/2/ ). Historically, of the 800 warships built over 80% were either sunk, surrendered, scuttled or rotted. None has had a glorious pedigree.
Only in April 2009, did media reports surface indicating that during 2007 and 2008, computer spies had managed to copy and/or siphon off several Terabytes of data related to the F-35’s design. Apparently, Pentagon sources said it involved the plane’s electronic systems. This would have the potential of developing defence systems against the aircraft and thus compromises its planned potency.
Over the last 10 years China has made remarkable technological progress with its aircraft and ships which has been made, one is tempted to say, by reverse engineering and espionage operated against both Russia and America.
The Walker spy ring trial 1985 brought home how easy it had been for an entire family to compromise US Navy secrets and pass on what had cost billions of dollars to develop for a few thousands. The Soviet Victor III class submarine was the first to benefit from this compromised knowledge and was duly dubbed the ‘Walker’ variant (see https://rwhiston.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/10/ ).
A four person Chinese spy ring arrested in Los Angeles later proved to have been operating in the US since the 1990s. This group intended to transfer by CD disk encrypted information about U.S. Navy submarine technology to china.
Another group of spies had possibly compromised a whole range of U.S.weapon systems that included; the Navy Aegis air defense system; U.S.carrier defenses; U.S. submarine silent propulsion systems (including the new Virginia-class attack submarines); details of electro-magnetic pulse weapons and unmanned aerial vehicle technology.
Prosecutors described Chi Mak, 67, as a brilliant sleeper agent who had been passing defence technology secrets to Beijing for more than 20 years. He was arrested in 2005 and sentenced in 2007. 
In 2006 Chinese spy, Ko-Suen “Bill” Moo, pleaded guilty to charges thathe tried to buy military parts and weapons, including an F16 fighter jet engine and cruise missiles. Like Chi, he also worked as an electrical engineer for Power Paragon.
Speaking of the F-35 programme, Russian Today, seen by some as an organ for the Kremlin, quoted the US Government Accountability Office as saying: 
- “ . . . The program which will cost the American people approximately $1 trillion to develop, purchase and maintain until the year 2050.”
Today bothRussia and China have planes that do not look unlike the F-2 Raptor and the F-35. While we may learn of spying against the West we are unlikely to ever be alerted to the spying againstRussiaandChina, except in the broadest to terms, e.g. the capability of tracking submerged subs by satellite.
In conclusion one has to conclude that historically (19th and 20th century) China has been able to purchase the very best naval technology but has not had a cadre worthy of the machinery. Will the 21st century see a continuation of this dismal trend or the birth of a new prowess ? There is one sure way to find out – but is China prepared to test herself ?
It is doubtful. She stands to lose far more from an armed encounter than she can ever gain.
The military build up may be all bluster; it may be a classic Fleet in Being stratagem. This stratagem avoids any decisive but crippling battles and instead draws out the length of a campaign. Essentially it is playing for time; a policy where a fleet avoids being decimated (for more information on Fleet in Being stratagem see https://rwhiston.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/3/ ).
Adopting a “Fleet in Being” policy can be a valid stratagem; however, the circumstances must be conducive and fully warrant it. It is a policy where a less powerful navy (or more politically astute country) stays in port and thereby ties down a more powerful one.
 “MoD software blunder keeps Chinook helicopters grounded” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/6085909/MoD-software-blunder-keeps-Chinook-helicopters-grounded.html
 ‘UK has enough helicopters – Brown’, 22 July 2009 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8162969.stm NB Hansard citation, HC Debate, 23 Feb 2009, c37W Operational and available helicoptor numbers: Army 230; Navy 160; RAF 80 + 40 Chinook (all approx). See also http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/is-gordon-brown-right-on-choppers-in-afghanistan/1100
 Under ‘Lend Lease’Britain temporarily acquired many Escort Carriers for its Atlantic escort needs which were returned a few years later in 1945.
 The Telegraph, 15 Jun 2011
 “Harrier jump-jets sold ‘for peanuts’”, by Con Coughlin, and Thomas Harding, The Telegraph, 15 Jun 2011. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/8576541/Harrier-jump-jets-sold-for-peanuts.html
 The Lift System comprises a lift fan, drive shaft, two roll posts and a “Three Bearing Swivel Module” (3BSM).The 3BSM is a thrust vectoring nozzle which allows the main engine exhaust to be deflected downward at the tail of the aircraft; this is balanced by the fan at the nose. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightning_II
 A small group of rocks or very small islands with reefs forming a triangularatoll. Called the Panatag Shoal by thePhilippines and Huangyan byChina they were originally the Scarborough Reef named after the East India Company tea-ship wrecked there in 1784.
 Forbes magazine, by Loren Thompson http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2012/06/04/shift-to-pacific-bolsters-importance-of-marine-amphibious-skills/
 See Israeli ‘Trophy’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophy_(countermeasure)#mw-head#mw-head and Russian Drozd APS of the 1990s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drozd
 The Vanguard class armed with Trident MRIV replaced in 1994 the Resolution class submarine (Resolution, Repulse Renown and Revenge). The Vanguard class are still in operation with the RN.
 The Australian, May 14, 2007 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/spy-sold-submarine-secrets-to-china/story-e6frg6so-1111113528410