Mark Collins – The Incredible Shrinking RAF, Fighter Few Section

By 2019 maybe 127 fast jets, including some F-35Bs:

UK fighter numbers to reach all-time low with loss of Tornados and early Typhoons in 2019

While the Tranche 1 Typhoons are slated to be retired in 2019, along with the Tornado GR.4, they should be retained in service to act as a force multiplier in the air-to-air role for which they are already supremely suited so as to ease the burden off the rest of the depleted fast-jet force. Source: IHS/Patrick Allen…

If the RCAF actually gets its planned 65 new fighters (more here–good luck, especially with a different party in power) that would mean, on a per capita basis, it would have about the same number of fast jets.  Weird.


The Incredible Shrinking British Military, US Oversight Section

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


10 thoughts on “Mark Collins – The Incredible Shrinking RAF, Fighter Few Section”

  1. A friend well acquainted with defence matters observes:

    “The UK–always conscious of the glorious history of the RAF–may be driven by costs but also may have made some decisions about the immediate future for combat aircraft.

    Some missions will be the province of UCAVs, attack helicopters and guided artillery. The Afghanistan experience may have taught the RAF that Predators and Apaches did the job of close support as well as, and cheaper than Harriers or Tornados. Most public sources do not speak much of the effectiveness or not of the M-777 gun with smart projectiles but it probably did quite well in support of troops in contact. It is interesting that the two major fleets of fast jets retired without much notice were the Jaguars and Harriers, both essentially bomb trucks and in the case of the Jaguar, a very fine one. (Nostalgia for the next-to-useless Harrier doesn’t count.)

    Interdiction bombing may now be deemed even more costly than in the past and the Storm Shadow cruise missile (carried by Typhoons and F-35s) may be the answer.

    The RAF fast jet force is left with the air defence role and frontal air superiority (with the battlefield protected by SAMs) plus some air policing with smart bombs and the Typhoon can do that, plus some first-day-of-the-war residual role for a small fleet of F-35Bs. So their reduced establishment may reflect careful analysis as well as money problems. Back in the 1960s the UK made essentially the same kind of decision regarding strategic (nuclear) bombing. They retired the much loved V-bomber force and replaced it with SLBMs: a huge Arrow-like crisis in the UK when the TSR-2 was scrapped and the Vulcan allowed to stagger on for a decade in tactical nuclear roles, until the Tornado arrived.

    If there is anything they surely regret, it is the loss of maritime patrol / anti-submarine capability, with the retirement of the earlier Nimrods and termination of the Mk 4 Nimrod.”

    More on British maritime patrol front:

    “Brits Interested in Japanese Maritime Patrol Aircraft?”

    Mark Collins

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