RAF Bigger than the USAF?
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.
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.