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RAF Bigger than the USAF?

March 16, 2010

Think about it. The mighty and globe-spanning United States Air Force is deploying a new 5th generation fighter in the F-22 Raptor, which is similar to the British purchase of the 5th generation Eurofighter Typhoon. In numbers the contrast comes up less than 200 Raptors, to 200+ Typhoons. Here is British General Lord Guthrie on his country’s use of airpower:

The Royal Air Force has committed to buying 232 Typhoon Eurofighters at a cost of £20 billion. This number will reduce but surely here is an area where we can take a risk. The missions that the RAF have conducted over the last 25 years have hardly ever involved more than a dozen aircraft. We are contracted to buy more aircraft than we really need.

If you take the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter out of the mix, not an entirely unlikely scenario, the British Royal Air Force will soon deploy more 5th generation fighter planes than the entire United States Air Force (187 on order)! This is at an age when individual aircraft can perform so many wonderful things, thanks to modern sensors and precision guided “smart bombs”, meaning you can do so much more with so much less.

So what does the General propose instead?

If we have to take the numbers we have committed to, then we should mothball or sell many Typhoons thus saving running costs, aircrew training and flying costs. A number of air stations could also be closed…

The RAF does however need increased numbers of helicopters, UAVs and transport/support aircraft. They would be expensive but nothing like the cost of 232 Typhoons.

BAE Hawk-Photo author EyOne via Wikimedia Commons.

Many of those “support aircraft” might also be close support planes like the Brazilian Super Tucano, or even BAE Hawk jets, home built in the UK. Once again you have the army calling for an increase in the size of a sister service, in order to prepare for the uncertain future. Instead of the last century aerial onslaughts fought over the Central Front as planned for in the Cold War, there are the myriad threats all over the world. A group of superfighters concentrated at home are distracting from these worldwide threats, causing the Royal Air Force to sink under the weight of its own bloated budget.

I think at least 50 might suffice, if you consider only 4 fighters are helping prevent another South Atlantic Conflict as we speak. Certainly no more than 75-100 of the amazing Typhoons are needed in service at a time. These can be supported by 200-300 light fighters, and numerous UAVs, including land strike and maritime patrol versions. More helos of course, and numerous more cargo planes, like C-130s and C-17s.

A bigger Air Force would actually be cheaper. If the logic of Lord Guthrie’s proposals don’t sink in, surely the sinking economies will decide in his favor.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. David permalink
    November 18, 2015 9:01 am

    It was not that long ago a Russian aircraft carrier and its escort ships anchored in the mouth of the moray firth to shelter from a storm and the RAF had no recconisons aircraft to keep an eye on it and the navy sent a destroyer with only one engine working from Portsmouth as there is no navel vessels in Scottish waters it took 24 hours to get there and when they did.
    The Russians were gone.

  2. Mad scotsman permalink
    July 21, 2015 8:45 am

    We need maritime aircraft to patrol our waters but the arseholes Tories destroyed the next generation nimrod planes to save money this letting our adversaries the Russians a nice open door policy to spy on our country at will our back door is the top of Scotland and arseholes in London have no concept of this as their goal is to preserve them selves instead of protecting our entire country so if any Tory reading this comment think about it as to what I have said because if our country is invaded by any aggressor ,Tory scum I will take up the gun and slaughter your kind without mercy

  3. March 21, 2015 6:28 am

    “ukip in meltdown!” – nonsense! And what’s all this bowlarks about headmaster – headTWAT! – banning primary school children from watching the eclipse for . . . CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS REASONS? Fucking arsehole! Sack it! Put it in a sack, shit in the fucking thing, then dump the fucking arsehole in the sea! Insipid nancy; liberal toadying little shit-wit.

  4. March 16, 2015 5:01 pm

    I’m voting u.k.i.p. A statue of Ghandi and Mandela!/? – I’d those fucking bits of junk. And how many of those commie fuckers who paid for them know of great(er) English genius’s? I mean, WHITE PEOPLE? HITLER WAS RIGHT, SHOOT SHITTY GHANDI! The empire will be ours again!

  5. March 16, 2015 4:47 pm

    Christ, that was a piece from jjs4you2 – a piece of shit! Tee her. Only joking jj. And Debra – yeah, hey, woowoowoo. Ha ha. Join with me in celebratories and chortling. Blog on, or as I might say: SLOB on. Get out foreigners! Now piss off the rest of you! DRUNKS!!! . . . WHORES!!!

  6. March 16, 2015 4:34 pm

    Stop being so fucking rational; so fucking ENGLISH, you cunting wankers. I despise the lot of you! You let all these Muslims in. You’ll rue it. Sharia law for you “men” and your whore women. Now go out and vomit on your tops. Having done that soil your pants, and wet yourselves. Beardless, moisturizing tits!

  7. March 16, 2015 4:23 pm

    Piss and waffle. Without America England would be stamped into the dirt. From empire to this. Too many foreigners here. Christ I’m voting U.K.I.P. Hang much of this scum – the killers of baby p, James bulgers killers, &c. England:you are weak! The army is a joke. They have guns, don’t they? KILL all politicians! Huge armies! Skill not size!/? – and I suppose America is inept due to its size!/? Christ I hate this country!

  8. paracommando permalink
    January 8, 2015 3:14 pm

    I hope the UK as thought through there needs and understanding of a Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers with 40 F35B on board requires at least 4 Types 45 destroyers and 2 Acute class submarines as protection.
    As it stands the UK will have 2 full Fleets not very large for a Country with a ocean mass greater then most Countries
    Given that 1 Fleet will never be based in the UK.
    But protecting our interest in and around the Gulf / Falkland Island.

    I think we need more ships

  9. paracommando permalink
    January 8, 2015 2:58 pm

    The UK requires 80 F35B for Carriers Duty
    They should also match the US commitment of 2 F35 Squadron in the UK at 24 Aircraft per Squadron.
    Making grand total of 128 F35 this is 10 short of there original comment of 138 F35B.
    Plus 160 Typhoons.

    In my opinion the UK should along with Germany and the other Typhoon partner continue to produce the Typhoon and insist on the Baltic States buying them with a package maintaining deal. This way the Baltic States would not need the expense of facilities.
    Simply fly the plane to the UK or Germany Italy or Spain.
    Happy days everyone wins.

  10. December 13, 2014 2:49 pm

    For every front line aircraft one needs at least one to two in reserve , As for the Faulklands being defended by only four aircraft . That is piffle. It only justifies 4 aircraft at the moment, well that is doubtful. This, however, would be increased if the threat level increased. Aircraft have become the decider in ground conflicts these days, they weaken the enemy strong points so that the Army can exploit the weakness. They also protect the Army from being exploited in the same way by their field enemy. In short we need at least 200 front line aircraft and an 100 in reserve to cover for field losses and unserviceabilities

  11. Smelly Anus permalink
    August 3, 2014 1:06 am

    well, the Eurofighter even isn’t a fifth generation fighter. This whole article should be rendered invalid.

  12. July 12, 2014 11:23 pm

    Hello! I realize this is somewhat off-topic but I had to ask.
    Does running a well-established blog like yours require a large amount of work?
    I am brand new to blogging but I do write in my diary every day.
    I’d like to start a blog so I can share my own experience and thoughts online.
    Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas
    or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

  13. Scarface permalink
    October 28, 2013 5:33 pm

    To Jafo:

    1st: Concerning its military budget, the UK suffers from serious constraints. But the difference between the UK and the US is, that the UK lowers its defense budget to hold its social system while the US invests a large amount of money in several questionable defense projects, even though hundrets of thousands americans are suffering from hunger like people in the 3rd world. So no, the UK isn´t bancrupt; the US is.

    In general:
    Of course, the USAF is larger than the RAF. But the Typhoon is indeed a fighter of the latest generation and therefore, it can be compared to the latest american aircraft. But the RAF has cut its order of Typhoons back to 160 pieces aswell, so therefore, the 185 F-22s are numerically superior.

  14. Jafo permalink
    October 28, 2013 1:29 pm

    This article reaks of snake oil. The USAF currently has 187 F-22 and 38 F-35s. With 1500 other fighter jets like F-15s and F-16s, lmfao. Royal airforce bigger and better, lmfao. This article was meant to be a joke. Because I can’t find one piece of it serious, lmfao. The USAF will also get another 20 F-35s before this years end, lol. Hence in 2013 the royal airforce has 105 Eurofighters which are 4.5 Gen, lmfao. This article is a joke and a waste of intenet space. Brits are so funny.

  15. Jafo permalink
    October 28, 2013 1:21 pm

    The USMC has more fighter jets than the Royal Airforce. The USMC also has more Arty, Tanks, Special Forces. The USMC could defeat the active British Army on the ground, and hold their own against the British Army reserves when they enter the battle. The USMC is over 230k strong, and its an entire military force all inside of one. The USMC is land, sea, and air with the Worlds strongest and best navy to back it up.

    The USAF now has more 5 gen figters than the UK. The UK is now bankrupt and the Royal Navy will not have a fully operational carrier until 2028, lol. That’s if the UK even gets it. A lot can happen in 14 years.

    Also, as for this Eurofighter vs F-22 crap. The Eurofighter wouldn’t even see the F-22 coming. Not because of its stealth, because of its fast attack capability. The F-22 would shoot down the Eurofighter 30 miles away. Also, the F-22 is a lot faster than the Eurofighter. The Eurofighter couldn’t catch up with a F-22 in a dog fight.

  16. jjs4you2 permalink
    April 28, 2012 4:33 pm

    The Typhoon is considered a 4.5 generation fighter because it lacks the stealth the F-22’s posses. When you have a fighter that carries all it’s weapons out in the open you have a fighter that will have poor stealth charactoristics. The Typhoon is stealthier than fighters of the past but is not in the class the F-22 heads.

    Having maybe 40 more Typhoons than the US has Raptors does not put the Raptor at a disadvantage when you consider the Raptors stealth and other technological advantages. The US will also have advanced versions of the F-15 and 16 to fill the void along with a large number of F-35’s in all it’s variants.

    If the US can elect a Republican this coming Presidential election we may not have seen our last production Raptor. We will see in the near future upgraded Raptors with engines in the 50 thousand pound class, next generation nozzles that produce 360°vectored thrust, adjustable nozzle deflection from 5°to 45° from the cockpit and thrust reversing of which all are in stage one of testing at Edwards AFB in California. There will also be Gen II and III Radar systems that far exceed what we see now in the AESA radar types.

    The Russian Pak/T50 and Chinese J-20 are not in the class of the F-22’s stealth qualities either and lack the high thrust to weight ratio that the Raptor has (1.75:1 – 2.25:1 at the fight). Both the Russian and Chinese fighters are huge with lengths over or near 75′ (22.8 meters) and pushing 100,000lbs when loaded. The engine nozzles are extremely un-stealthy on both along with poor panel fit from standard fuselage panels that don’t have the Raptors micro grooved RAM material technology.

    You need a close up view of the Raptors skin to see what extent the engineers went to making the skin seamless, the Raptor is the first fighter or any plane to use an over lapping seam where one is recessed over the other while having ridges that grab each other so that there is no need to use rivets or any type of fastener on all four edges, this method eliminates fasteners on two seams of each panel.

    All you have to do is look at what makes a plane stealthy, you’ll see which planes have it and which ones pretend to have it. Stealth is a combination of many different technologies of which the US has been perfecting since the late 50’s with the U -2, mid 60’s with the SR-71 and late 70’s early 80’s with the F-117. With the F-117 came the reality that stealth works.

    The F-117’s stealth at the time (early 80’s) was beyond anything else in the world and was such a leap forward that it changed how strike missions were performed. Now, In most cases you won’t see 60 planes in a package so that 15-20 of them can make their bomb runs while needing fighter, electronic and radar cover. With the F-117 all you needed, and not always was a tanker to top off before your run and on your way home.

    The Russians, Chinese and the rest of the world are 25 to 30 years behind the US and are basically building Gen 1 stealth fighters that are not up to par with the US’s earlier stealth fighters, while the US is already building Gen 4 stealth fighters and bombers. Much of the US stealth technology that the Russians, Chinese and others have stolen in the past is not enough to propel them any where close to the United States level of stealth knowledge and technology

    Gen 1, U-2 which is still in service in extremely advanced versions. Gen 2, SR-71 retired. Gen 3, F-117 which is also retired and gen 4 B-2 and F-22 aircraft.

  17. Neale permalink
    July 22, 2011 4:01 pm

    This is for those of you who say The R.A.F. TYPHOON is not a 5th generation class fighter.
    See It Here:

  18. onepointtwofan permalink
    December 16, 2010 6:24 am

    at todays prices you could replace one euro typhoon with 1200 sopwith camel aircraft

  19. March 18, 2010 5:30 am


    Jed said:

    “As for your numbers – well as the RAF seems to use a full quarter of any single type fleet for the deep maintenance / attrition reserve, 100 Typhoons would mean 75 available to the RAF. That I believe is not quite enough to fulfill training, trials/R & D, air defence of UK and air defence of Falklands requirements (6 x 12 a/c squadrons, 1 being the OCU).”

    The Royal Air Force has just 4 fighter squadrons only 3 of which are dedicated to domestic air defence and one flight of 4 aircraft (plus one spare)in the Falklands.
    These squadrons have 16 aircraft each,giving a total front line air defence strength of 52 aircraft.

    Typically,for every four aircraft with a frontline squadron there is one with an operational conversion unit and two within the depth fleet.
    The minimum number of aircraft required for air defence is therefore about 90 aircraft.

    The Royal Air Force is currently purchasing 144 Typhoons.
    Assuming these fly 30 hours a month,their 6,000 hour fatigue life will give each aircraft a 16 year operational life.
    With the first Typhoons entering service in 2002 and the last probably entering service about 2018,the Typhoon Fleet will peak at 144 aircraft around 2018 and then decline until it is completely withdrawn around 2034.

    Tornados are expected to be withdrawn by 2025 and Harriers by 2018.
    Unless more aircraft are purchased,F35s or more Typhoons being most likely,the United Kingdom will have no combat aircraft left after about 2034.
    The current combat aircraft fleet is about 330 aircraft with around 200 of those with frontline squadrons.
    As the Royal Air Force has not deployed more than 15% of it’s combat aircraft to any war in the 65 years since 1945,there is clearly scope to reduce the size of the combat aircraft fleet.

    The United Kingdom spends about £11 Million per year for each combat aircraft in the fleet.
    Cutting the fast jet fleet to just those needed for air defence and two carrier wings,about 220 aircraft,would save about £1,200 Million a year.
    There would be significant additional saving in tanker support,basing,etc..


  20. Alex Mk.2 permalink
    March 17, 2010 2:33 pm

    I’ll throw my weight on the pile RE: generations of aircraft, it’s a marketing ploy, nothing else, much along the same lines of Lockheed trying to redefine supercruise as capable of M1.5+ without use of reheat so that only their candidate is capable, Typhoon and Raptor are different aircraft with different missions, they cannot compare and will never face each other in combat so childish comparisons are pointless

    of the two aircraft the one I’d task with Air Supremacy or SEAD isn’t the same one I’d task with CAS or CAP

    Both are hugely expensive examples of.. not necessarily over-engineering but deffinitely a case of too many eggs, not enough baskets… think of the aircraft both were designed to replace.. F-22 to replace F-15C… Typhoon to replace various aircraft in various AFs inventories (Phantom/Tonka in Luftwaffe, Jaguar/Phantom/Lightning in the RAF [fair enough phantoms and lightnings were long gone by the time Tiffy finally arrived but originally the plan was to keep AD Tonkas and Tiffies to complement each other in a dual-stage AD network] etc.)

    – Alex

  21. William permalink
    March 16, 2010 12:32 pm

    I agree it probably does make more sense to purchase the full number of Typhoons and retire the Tornado, particularly if the F35 program falls through. Besides the last tranche 3B Typhoons would probably enter service as the Tornados were approaching retirement anyway.

  22. DesScorp permalink
    March 16, 2010 12:08 pm

    First, let me pile on here on the 5th Gen issue; the Typhoon isn’t. It’s 4.5 at best.

    Second, I seriously doubt that the RAF will ever get anywhere near the number of Typhoons that they’re claiming. Britain is broke, too. And the current Labour government is seriously considering cutting the buys of future Typhoons in half.

  23. MatR permalink
    March 16, 2010 10:43 am

    Not sure what this article is trying to say, but I agree with the comments. As the comments note, Typhoon is 4.5 gen – and it would likely be torn out of the sky by the F22 (hey, I’m British, I’m not being biased). More worryingly, how would it do against the PAK FA (even if the PAK FA comes into service ‘late’ in the 2020s)? That might well be a case of the UK’s wonderful fighters being trounced by an opponent’s vastly more capable aircraft. Typhhon does questionably well against current Sukhois, as it is.

    Incidentally, I really have to agree with Jed. Lord Guthrie has made some stunningly ill conceived moves in the recent past, as part of jockeying for a slice of the UK defence budget. (One case in point is his 2009 claim that UK SSBNs can be replaced by ‘putting a nuke on the planes we have’ – as if the approx. 800 nm range Typhoon could get from the UK to the shores of a potential adversary. Another case is his pretty ill-informed pursuit of FRES, an armour programme that has little strategic purpose in the current defence climate, and that has been – as pointed out – stunningly poorly handled, almost like a ‘Mini Me’ FCS.)

    The UK’s Typhoons may not be what we need for the next twenty years, or they might just do ‘in a pinch’ – my point is that Guthrie would be the last man on Earth to make an accurate bet on the issue.

    BTW, Mat S. is spot on about the likely numbers of serving Typhoons being 140 to 170.

  24. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 16, 2010 10:42 am

    Jed said “will you please stop reporting this idiots word verbatim”

    You’re going to hate the next post!

    I think it a stretch even calling the Typhoon a 4.5 gen because I don’t see a Super Hornet faring too well in a contest, concerning speed and maneuverability.

    Matthew wrote “So that they can contribute to the continuing disarmament of Europe and debilitate their ability to contribute to future operations?”

    Reducing the number of high end platforms is not disarming, but a recognition that legacy weapons, like fighters, battle tanks, exquisite warships are so much more capable than in the pre-computer, pre-precision age. Purchasing numerous low tech platforms for the low tech wars we most often fight is a sensible answer to falling force structures, averting the certain disarmament if we only build for old-style conventional warfare.

  25. Matthew S. permalink
    March 16, 2010 10:08 am

    “Certainly no more than 75-100 of the amazing Typhoons are needed in service at a time. ”

    Why? So that they can contribute to the continuing disarmament of Europe and debilitate their ability to contribute to future operations? No one believes the RAF will get 232 anyway. 140-170 is probably more likely with tranche 3 sold off.

  26. Jed permalink
    March 16, 2010 9:58 am

    Jeez Mike will you please stop reporting this idiots word verbatim – he is being disingenuous on a huge level from a single service protectionist view point. He is a bloody soldier trying to protect the armies budget !!

    The RAF does not and will never have 232 Typhoons. That was the original plan. 24 Tranche 2 aircraft were sold to Saudi Arabia. Tranche 3 has been split into A and B sub-tranche’s and only 3A has been contracted for. I believe 3B would be for 40 aircraft, and I doubt very much that the RAF will ever get this final batch. The Typhoon as noted is not a 5th generation fighter, and unlike the F22 it was always planned to be multi-role, with an air-to-ground capability. It has the capability of maturing into a fine multi-role aircraft of the same ilk as US teen series fighters – strangely enough I don’t hear anyone lambasting them as ‘cold war relics’.

    The RAF flies a dwindling number of Harrier GR9/9A and around 140 Tornado. As discussed heavily at ThinkDefence, a good idea might be to actually buy the full numbers of Typhoon and retire Harrier and Torndao early, benefiting from simpler logistics and training.

    The problem with Hawk or Super-Tuc is that they can only do the job in Afghanistan, no where else. A Typhoon might indeed be a costly way of delivering bombs against insurgents, but the point is, it can do many other things too if you need it to.

    As for your numbers – well as the RAF seems to use a full quarter of any single type fleet for the deep maintenance / attrition reserve, 100 Typhoons would mean 75 available to the RAF. That I believe is not quite enough to fulfill training, trials/R & D, air defence of UK and air defence of Falklands requirements (6 x 12 a/c squadrons, 1 being the OCU).

    Perhaps Lord Guthrie would like to comment on all the money his senior army colleagues have wasted on the FRES debacle ? Perhaps if the unused heavy armour (cold war relics ?) like the Challenger II, AS90 and MLRS regiments were passed to the Reserves, then maybe the Army Air Corps could afford a squadron of Super Tucano’s for close air support ???

  27. B.Smitty permalink
    March 16, 2010 8:11 am

    “4.5 Gen” works.

    The USAF can’t really afford to buy fewer F-22s. It just became dangerous to the careers of officers who advocate for them.

  28. james permalink
    March 16, 2010 7:46 am

    Interesting article but I have to agree with the poster that said that the Typhoon is not a 5th generation fighter. It is however, a fantastic (probably the best) 4.5 gen fighter.

  29. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 16, 2010 7:41 am

    Macase said “The UK only has the Typhoon”

    Sure, so you have less superfighters you can afford more multi-role planes and UAVs, which is the future of deep strike. And lets not forget the Tomahawk missiles in those SSNs for deep strike.

    Smitty, 4.5 Generation then? Mostly better than anything outside the US for sure.

  30. B.Smitty permalink
    March 16, 2010 7:12 am

    Nobody considers the Typhoon to be a 5th generation fighter (except maybe Eurofighter marketing execs).

  31. Marcase permalink
    March 16, 2010 6:25 am

    The USAF can afford to reduce its F-22 buy because the US as a whole can also rely on multi-role USN NAVAIR and Marine aviation for power projection.
    The UK only has the Typhoon, as the radar-less Harrier is only CAS capable, and has no deep strike capabilities.

    On those four Typhoons guarding the Falklands; it’s not *just* the planes, the Argies are more impressed by the invisible SSNs which may be lurking about. Belgrano is still an open nerve ‘down South’.

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