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ANALYSIS: F-35B or not – aircraft carriers may be made impotent by sat-targeted diving missiles

10 May 2012, 19:32 UTC
ANALYSIS: F-35B or not – aircraft carriers may be made impotent by sat-targeted diving missiles
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Courtesy: BAE Systems

The UK Government has just reversed a decision on which type of F-35 fighter aircraft it wants for its new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers which are currently under construction. Fearful of any costly development hitches over new technology electromagnetic catapults/traps, the government has decided to go back to the STOVL “jump jet” F-35B version rather than having the longer range US Navy-style F-35C tail-hook/arrestor hook landing type.

The decision has its dangers, not least because the costly-to-develop vertically landing F-35B might still be cancelled as it so nearly was in 2011. In that event, the Royal Navy would be in the unhappy position of having aircraft carriers with no aircraft to fly off them, especially given that the UK’s Ministry of Defence has already sold its remaining Harrier GR7 and GR9 strike bombers to the Americans.

Is bringing the Sea Harrier out of retirement feasible in an emergency?

Of course, the Royal Navy could try and dig its prematurely retired Sea Harriers out of their museums and engineering training establishments (the final FA-2 version of the Sea Harrier fighter was highly rated for its Blue Vixen ...

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