RAF buys F-15Cs. Can they be used in the Falklands War?

SSBN's are great for stopping the other fella launching his nukes at you, they do damn all to stop him parking 2-300 submarines in the Atlantic and starving you into submission.
But without the SSBNs they don't need the 300 Subs to make you submit and anyway MAD (full maybe not the UK light MAD) will make forcing you into submission very dangerous as if you get to the end and running out of food you might easily decide to simply fire a warning shot and ask if they are willing to all die together. They then need to ask if its real of a bluff but probably can't be sufficiently sure it's a bluff to make the payoff from winning worth it?

The real huge payoff from the RN SSBN force (using US missiles) is that I'm not sure that the Soviet can tell the difference from a USN first strike and therefore its likely RN SSBN can force both US and USSR to war.....
 
Last edited:
I asked the question on another forum as to why the RAF didn't ask for Standard ARM from the US, Standard was a much more advanced system than Shrike with better range and the ability to attack a radar that had ceased to radiate. I was told there were two reasons, one was it was thought it would take too long to fit the required boxes on to the Vulcan, the other reason was they had a nightmare vision of a RN unit getting killed by the 220lb Standard warhead if ti went astray.
The were thinking of using the ARM version of the Martel, but were worried that it too might go astray.

The Shrike is a pretty standalone missile, it doesn't need much from the carrier aircraft IIRC, so was suitable for the Vulcan and Harrier GR3 at such short notice.
 
Any sort of thread that proposes significant changes to Britain's force structure to better fight the Falklands quickly arrives at the point that in 1966 & 68 Britain cancelled the capabilities that in 1982 would be at the prime of their service lives and perfect for the job.

CVA01 & 02, alongside a Phantomised Eagle and an austere Phantomised Ar Royal would give the RN 2 strike carriers at sea to at least the 1981 Defence Review when the Eagle would be removed from service, the ARk only lasting until 1975 or so. Indeed the RN going from 3 strike carriers to 2 would send the same signals to Argentina as the OTL Nott Review did.
 
Last edited:
The were thinking of using the ARM version of the Martel, but were worried that it too might go astray.

The Shrike is a pretty standalone missile, it doesn't need much from the carrier aircraft IIRC, so was suitable for the Vulcan and Harrier GR3 at such short notice.
They couldn't use Martel ARM, the seeker head didn't cover the frequencies they needed to hit the US made surveillance radar on the island.
 
With three other carriers to take up the slack and allow proper maintenance Ark Royal could last as long as Eagle. Ark and Eagle would both go in 1981 possibly within weeks of the Nott review, sending entirely the wrong message to Argentina.
 
With three other carriers to take up the slack and allow proper maintenance Ark Royal could last as long as Eagle. Ark and Eagle would both go in 1981 possibly within weeks of the Nott review, sending entirely the wrong message to Argentina.
The difference between Ark and Eagle was the latter's rebuild did the boilers and internal arrangements, whereas the formers was limited to the minimum required to run Phantoms. In a world where CVA01 & 02 were built the Government would be keeping to the 1966 policy to stay east of Suez until 1975 (as opposed to the 1968 update to pull out by 1971), once 1975 rolls around and CVA02 is built there will be no need for the Ark. I'd think the 1974 Defence review would likely confirm this.
 
I can certainly understand the questions around whether the UK could afford F-15Cs; I can imagine the penny-pinching Defence reviews would probably have lead to second hand A/B models being purchased from the USAF if the Tornado ADV was cancelled, if the Eagle was considered at all.

This leads me to think an earlier POD may be needed, specifically with the F-111K. Should this order not be cancelled, this should butterfly away the all UK Tornado variants (GRs & Fs), the SPETCAT Jaguar & RAF Buccaneers at the very least, with the TSR-2 & AFVG cancelled as per the OTL too.
This would certainly leave the UK more reliant on US equipment, but I personally don't see that as a disaster (IMHO) & could certainly save money in the longer term.
Certainly the UK should continue with the Harrier & S/VTOL route, ideally with contracts with the US similar to the OTL that their forces will be customers for such aircraft. Personally, I'd like to see the Harrier II / AV-8B never happening & "replaced" by a supersonic Harrier variant or the P. 1214 / P.1216 jets.
However, I'm aware such contracts may not be honoured, as with what happened in the ASRAAM / AIM-9X scenario so perhaps some wishful thinking is present here.

1970s RAF combat aircraft:
English Electric Lightnings.
F-4K & F-4Ms AKA Phantom FG. 1s & FGR. 2s (with Speys if only to learn the lesson that trying to re-engine US jets can be a time-consuming & expensive undertaking).
F-111K replacing V-Bombers & Canberras in the strike role.
Harrier GR. 1 / 3s.

1980s:
F-15C / Ds to replace Lightnings & eventually F-4s. The RAF will probably want a D variant model with a WSO station in the rear seat. The Eagles are designated F. 1s & T. 2s in British service. They're modified with some UK avionics, Skyflash missiles plus probe & drogue refueling capability.
F-4s slowly being phased out by the end of the decade; F-4Js / Phantom F. 3s never bought due to Eagle order.
Supersonic Harrier II / P. 1216 variants replacing the Harrier GR. 1 / 3s RN FAA Sea Harriers.
F-111Ks with incremental upgrades. Order for F-15Es placed in the late 80s to replace the Pigs.

1990s:
F-15C / D Eagles with incremental upgrades such as AMRAAM, leading to Eagle F. 3s. RAF Eagles deployed to the Gulf during 1990 for Op Granby.
F-111Ks being replaced by F-15Es AKA Eagle FGR. 4s. I have doubts that these will be ready in time for the Gulf War though so the Pig will be sent instead.
Supersonic Harrier II / P. 1216 variants incremental upgrades; also deployed to the Gulf.

2000s:
I'm leaning towards the UK never joining Eurofighter (if it even happens due to the prior butterflies) & instead stick with US jets.
Strike Eagles upgraded to FGR. 5 status with the latest avionics & "smart" weapons - Enhanced Paveway, Storm Shadow, Brimstone etc (or US equivalents like LJADM, JSOWs, SDB).
F-15C / D Eagle ASRAAM & avionic upgrades - perhaps AESA radar & Meteor missiles.
RAF Fifth Gen fighter procurement: in an ideal world, RAF F-22As would be bought to replace Eagle Fs. However, due to the technology involved & the cost, this is probably not realistic.
Instead, the RAF's mixed Eagle fleet will start to be replaced circa 2020 with a mixed F-35A & F-35B fleet. The Lightning IIs will also replace the P. 1216 jets for both the RAF & FAA.

I'm also leaning towards, due to the cost of the high end aircraft all mentioned above, to the RAF getting a more operational Hawk variant. Perhaps HM Treasury during the 1998 SDR, after seeing the upgrade costs to the Eagles & the prices of Lightning IIs, forces RAF to reduce those orders to procure a fleet of cheaper aircraft. These could lead an RAF Hawk comparable to the Hawk 200 series. This could actually be beneficial for COIN work during Afghanistan & post-invasion Iraq where higher end jets are realistically overkill.
They wouldn't need to have a WSO. The radar in the F-15 was as good as anything except possibly the F-14s radar but if you took away the '6 simultaneous targets at 100+ miles' requirement that the F-14 radar was designed to meet the APG-65 beat anything else available. Conformal fuel tanks were not generally accepted yet when the requirement would have been written. But the Eagle would still perform better than anything else. The two seaters wouldn't be T.2s but probably F.2s since they retain all combat capability.

Problem was they needed to buy aircraft from the consortium they were a member of. Costs for Tornados had started to rise and they wanted to spread 'sunk costs' over as many airframes as possible so they were being pushed into making that airframe work. I couldn't see them buying F-22s. They were just too expensive. Supersonic Harriers? The last attempt at that I remember died years ago (P.1154?) Was there ever an attempt to revive it? The advanced Harrier only existed because of the large investment by the USMC and I don't think they would be allowed to get into a supersonic replacement program.
 
Supersonic Harriers? The last attempt at that I remember died years ago (P.1154?) Was there ever an attempt to revive it? The advanced Harrier only existed because of the large investment by the USMC and I don't think they would be allowed to get into a supersonic replacement program.
The P1154 was a particularly poorly conceived programme.

Hawker had the P1150 supersonic VTOL concept, which is what they believed they could achieve, it was bigger than the P1127 and could do about Mach 1.3. However in the first combat aircraft project after the 'no manned combat aircraft' White Paper the British Government wanted to get in on the Nato Basic Military Requirement 3, so demanded the P1150 be scaled up in size and speed to Mach 1.6 as the P1154. Once it got to this size and speed the RN requirement for a fleet interceptor was mashed onto the RAF/NBMR3 requirement for a tactical fighter, which further compromised Hawkers basic P1150 concept.

Little wonder that the project fell over and supersonic VSTOL was never resurrected.
 
The P.1154 was a particularly poorly conceived programme.
FWIW I think that the Royal Navy should have been allowed to buy the Spey-Phantom in 1962 instead of 1964. Meanwhile, the RAF would be forced to accept a developed Hawker P.1127 to replace the Hunter, which is effectively bringing the Harrier forward 3 or 4 years.

Even better, a twin-Spey heavy fighter is developed instead of the P.1154. It might perform better than Spey-Phantom because AIUI the Phantom and Spey weren't an ideal combination. Furthermore, it might have lower take-off and landing speeds as it's being designed to operate from the smaller British aircraft carriers from the start rather that being an adaptation of an aircraft designed to operate from Midways and super carriers. This might mean that Ark Royal and Eagle don't need to be rebuilt to operate it and it might even mean that Victorious could operate it.
 
The difference between Ark and Eagle was the latter's rebuild did the boilers and internal arrangements, whereas the formers was limited to the minimum required to run Phantoms. In a world where CVA01 & 02 were built the Government would be keeping to the 1966 policy to stay east of Suez until 1975 (as opposed to the 1968 update to pull out by 1971), once 1975 rolls around and CVA02 is built there will be no need for the Ark. I'd think the 1974 Defence review would likely confirm this.
I think that 3 CVA.01 class would have been built had the class been built at all.

Paul Beaver, in the Encyclopaedia of the Fleet Air Arm Since 1945, wrote that 3 CVA.01 class were to be built and completed as follows:
CVA.01 1970-72 to replace Victorious​
CVA.02 1974-76 to replace Ark Royal​
CVA.03 1978-80 to replace Eagle​

Unfortunately, he doesn't give a date for this plan. IIRC when the CVA.01 programme began in 1960 the plan was for five 53,000 ton aircraft carriers to replace the five existing strike carriers (Ark Royal, Centaur, Eagle, Hermes and Victorious) between.

Beaver's schedule is what I've based my CVA.01 related posts in this thread on, especially Post 53.

However, this thread is about whether the F-15C could have been used in the Falklands (and I think it's been conclusively been proved that it can't) and not another save the strike carriers thread.
 
Last edited:
FWIW I think that the Royal Navy should have been allowed to buy the Spey-Phantom in 1962 instead of 1964. Meanwhile, the RAF would be forced to accept a developed Hawker P.1127 to replace the Hunter, which is effectively bringing the Harrier forward 3 or 4 years.

Even better, a twin-Spey heavy fighter is developed instead of the P.1154. It might perform better than Spey-Phantom because AIUI the Phantom and Spey weren't an ideal combination. Furthermore, it might have lower take-off and landing speeds as it's being designed to operate from the smaller British aircraft carriers from the start rather that being an adaptation of an aircraft designed to operate from Midways and super carriers. This might mean that Ark Royal and Eagle don't need to be rebuilt to operate it and it might even mean that Victorious could operate it.
The study that supposedly pitted the TSR2 against CVA01 talked a lot about the P1154 providing fighter over at 1000 miles from it's base. If the RN won that argument then there would be no need to develop the supersonic P1154, the P1127 and TSR2 would meet the RAFs needs with carriers doing most of the work east of Suez.
 
I think that 3 CVA.01 class would have been built had the class been built at all.

Paul Beaver, in the Encyclopaedia of the Fleet Air Arm Since 1945, wrote that 3 CVA.01 class were to be built and completed as follows:
CVA.01 1970-72 to replace VictoriousCVA.02 1974-76 to replace Ark RoyalCVA.03 1978-80 to replace Eagle
Unfortunately, he doesn't give a date for this plan. IIRC when the CVA.01 programme began in 1960 the plan was for five 53,000 ton aircraft carriers to replace the five existing strike carriers (Ark Royal, Centaur, Eagle, Hermes and Victorious) between.
Given CVA03 wouldn't be laid down until about 1974 I think it would fall victim to the 1974 Defence cuts, which would kick the Eagle can down the road by a decade or so. The Eagle would fall victim to the 1981 defence cuts.
 
Given CVA.03 wouldn't be laid down until about 1974 I think it would fall victim to the 1974 Defence cuts, which would kick the Eagle can down the road by a decade or so. The Eagle would fall victim to the 1981 defence cuts.
That's possible, but I think not for three reasons.

Firstly, as you wrote that CVA.03 would have been laid down in 1974 and the Mason Defence Review was at the end of 1974 beginning of 1975 so the accountants are likely to say that's cancelling her now wouldn't save much money especially if the intention was to maintain a force of 3 strike carriers by keeping Eagle.

Secondly, it's my opinion that CVA.03 would have been laid down in 1973 instead of Invincible and been that bit more advanced which would have strengthened the argument for not cancelling her.

Thirdly, the defence cuts from the cancellation of TSR.2 in 1964 to the Knott Review in 1981 took place because of the state of the British economy. The OP which was expanded by @Tempest II in Post 28 is only going to happen in a TL where the British economy is in better condition.

I made the POD the Sterling devaluation of 1967 to avoid the cancellation of F-111K and the reduction in Phantom orders. (Although, I could have added that it would have also prevented the cancellation of an order for 15 CH-47A Chinooks that had been ordered to replace the Belvedere and the abandonment of plans to buy 15 C-5A Galaxies to replace the Britannias.) The Sterling devaluation also led to the plan to withdraw from East of Suez to be accelerated from 1975 to the end of 1971 which also means that the strike carriers would be kept until 1975 rather than the end of 1971 leading to Eagle's planned Phantomisation not being cancelled in 1968.

You've made it February 1966 with the non-cancellation of the CVA.01 project and the non-withdrawal of the existing strike carriers without replacement in 1975 and the 1968 non-revision to advance the non-withdrawal to the end of 1971.

IMHO the improvement in the performance of the British economy from 1965 required to make the OP and Post 28 possible knocks the OTL defence cuts back a stage or two. IOTL it was:

1966 Cancel CVA.01 class and scrap the existing strike carriers by 1975
1967 Withdrawal from East of Suez by 1975
1968 Withdrawal from East of Suez advanced to the end of 1971. Plus:
Cuts to the aircraft programme (F-111K, CH-47A, fewer Phantoms, no Galaxies)​
Strike carriers to be withdrawn by the end of 1971 and and the Phantomisation of Eagle was cancelled.​
1974 Withdrawal of most of the remaining forces outside the NATO area and most of the forces in the Mediterranean area. Plus big cuts to the RAF's transport force and the RN's amphibious capability.
1981 Cut the SSN force from 20 to 17, the helicopter carrier force reduced from 3 to 2 and reduce the number of frigates and destroyers from 60 to 42.

ITTL
1966 Reduction in the strike carrier force from 5 ships to 3 and that 3 CVA.01 class would be completed between 1972 and 1980 to replace Victorious, Ark Royal and Eagle.
1967 no defence cuts
1968 Withdrawal from East of Suez by 1975
1974 no defence cuts
1981 Withdrawal of most of the remaining forces outside the NATO area and most of the forces in the Mediterranean area. Plus big cuts to the RAF's transport force and the RN's amphibious capability.
 
Last edited:
The study that supposedly pitted the TSR2 against CVA01 talked a lot about the P1154 providing fighter over at 1000 miles from it's base. If the RN won that argument then there would be no need to develop the supersonic P1154, the P1127 and TSR2 would meet the RAFs needs with carriers doing most of the work east of Suez.
I think there's at least one typo in there.

You've written that the P.1154 provided fighter cover at 1,000 miles from its base and there would have been no need to develop the supersonic P.1154 had the RN won the argument.
 
More importantly, how would the RAF been able to afford to buy new kit in an era of never-ending defence cuts?
Well they obtained around 400 Panavia Tornados between the Interdictor/Strike (IDS) and Air Defence Variant (ADV) models. A quick search suggest that the Tornado cost around £14 million per aircraft and the F-15C around £28 million a few years later, so you either spend more or make do with fewer. Of course that figure is from the US production line, so unlike the Tornado you're likely seeing most of the money leaving the country or use domestic licensed production which will drive costs much higher.

Something which hadn't registered until now is this being the single seat aircraft so would the RAF have been interested in the C model? I was under the impression that they insisted on an aircraft carrying both a pilot and navigator as it was felt that its duties such as patrolling the GIUK gap at long distance would have too high a workload for just a pilot. Would the C model be considered advanced enough for both that and the strike role, as there's no way the RAF are getting two different aircraft, with just a pilot?


Isn't the SSBN also the only realistic UK defence capability that can stop/deter the entire USSR/Red Army without US/NATO support?
Up until the second half of the 1970s when the circular error probability (CEP) of Soviet missiles improved enough land based ICBMs in hardened silos were still viable for the UK. The two main drawbacks though were that when first introduced ICBMs weren't as accurate as bombers which limited them to a countervalue – rather than counterforce – role, and that the RAF much preferred the idea of flying around aircraft rather than sitting in holes in the ground.
 
I think there's at least one typo in there.

You've written that the P.1154 provided fighter cover at 1,000 miles from its base and there would have been no need to develop the supersonic P.1154 had the RN won the argument.
https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=1565492 Pages 196-208.

This covers the 1963 British study about the best way to deal with likely east of Suez scenarios in the 1970s; the RAF's Island Stance and the RN's Carrier Replacement Programme.

The RAF's Island Stance relied on bases that were 800-1000 miles from each other and likely conflict areas, and the report talks about the P1154 RAF (non radar) conducting CAPs at this range. This range requirement would be a key driver behind the large size of the P1154, and the Mach 1.6 performance would be a requirement for such CAPs, the smaller, shorter range and lower performance P1150 and P1127 would not meet these requirements. There is no mention of the TSR2 conducting tactical strikes in the documentation.

However, if he Island Stance strategy was not pursued then a smaller, lower performance RAF aircraft could have been developed as a Hunter replacement because the RN could be the intervention force east of Suez. The RAF could put some effort into the Lightning, develop the TSR2 and P1127/P1150 (risky?), drop the HS681 for Belfasts and C160s.
 
https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=1565492 Pages 196-208.

This covers the 1963 British study about the best way to deal with likely east of Suez scenarios in the 1970s; the RAF's Island Stance and the RN's Carrier Replacement Programme.

The RAF's Island Stance relied on bases that were 800-1000 miles from each other and likely conflict areas, and the report talks about the P1154 RAF (non radar) conducting CAPs at this range. This range requirement would be a key driver behind the large size of the P1154, and the Mach 1.6 performance would be a requirement for such CAPs, the smaller, shorter range and lower performance P1150 and P1127 would not meet these requirements. There is no mention of the TSR2 conducting tactical strikes in the documentation.

However, if he Island Stance strategy was not pursued then a smaller, lower performance RAF aircraft could have been developed as a Hunter replacement because the RN could be the intervention force east of Suez. The RAF could put some effort into the Lightning, develop the TSR2 and P1127/P1150 (risky?), drop the HS681 for Belfasts and C160s.
Ah! So when you wrote.
The study that supposedly pitted the TSR.2 against CVA.01 talked a lot about the P.1154 providing fighter [c]over at 1,000 miles from its base. If the RN won that argument then there would be no need to develop the supersonic P.1154, the P.1127 and TSR.2 would meet the RAF's needs with carriers doing most of the work east of Suez.
You meant.
The study that supposedly pitted the TSR.2 against CVA01 talked a lot about the P.1154RAF providing fighter [c]over at 1,000 miles from its base. If the RN won that argument then there would be no need to develop the supersonic P.1154RAF. The P.1127 and TSR2 would meet the RAF's needs with carriers doing most of the work east of Suez.
When you wrote supersonic P.1154 it read as if you were referring to the Royal Navy version and that the supersonic P.1154RN aboard the strike carriers provided the air cover 1,000 miles from their base. Therefore, I couldn't understand why the supersonic P.1154RN wouldn't be developed if it was needed to provide cover 1,000 miles from its base.

I've read files in the National Archives dated before the Royal Navy was allowed to leave the P.1154 project and buy the Spey-Phantom that say the RAF was planning to replace its Lightnings with the P.1154 RN. In which case, it would have been more logical for the RAF to argue that the P.1154RN operated by the RAF from shore bases could provide the air cover. Then there'd be no need for the P.1154RAF and the RAF could replace the Hunter with the OTL Harrier.
 
But without the SSBNs they don't need the 300 Subs to make you submit and anyway MAD (full maybe not the UK light MAD) will make forcing you into submission very dangerous as if you get to the end and running out of food you might easily decide to simply fire a warning shot and ask if they are willing to all die together. They then need to ask if its real of a bluff but probably can't be sufficiently sure it's a bluff to make the payoff from winning worth it?

The real huge payoff from the RN SSBN force (using US missiles) is that I'm not sure that the Soviet can tell the difference from a USN first strike and therefore its likely RN SSBN can force both US and USSR to war.....
Actually, a unilateral UK nuclear attack can be quite easily distinguished thanks vastly different capacities and nuclear strategy between UK and US. Google "The Moscow Criterion".

Also, USSR did not achieve parity in terms of strategic nukes until at least mid 1970s.
 
SSBN's are great for stopping the other fella launching his nukes at you, they do damn all to stop him parking 2-300 submarines in the Atlantic and starving you into submission.
There is actually different academic views these days whether the Soviet Navy would actually do that, esp. with the adoption of "Bastion" concept, the high tempo of WP Conventional land operations and the threats of US carrier strikes to USSR strategic assets.

https://www.maritime-executive.com/editorials/mind-the-high-north-gap

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP85T01058R000507440002-5.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwi7xZvPxO3qAhW7KqYKHQHYAMsQFjADegQIAhAI&usg=AOvVaw0yjoGRlVAsVzs6uGM1yn3O&cshid=1595856630077
 
Actually, a unilateral UK nuclear attack can be quite easily distinguished thanks vastly different capacities and nuclear strategy between UK and US. Google "The Moscow Criterion".
Between the full capacities yes, but a single USN sub could replicate the RN in order to disrupt Soviet warning & command systems prior to a full strike in the hope that the retaliation would not be on the US mainland.

And anyway it's not what the US has actually planned it's what the paranoid Kremlin is thinking that matters for committing US to war once UK fires....
 
Top